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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Ah, you're just part of that blame-America-first crowd.

Click here for why you're getting Sandsday on Da Blog. This strip is part of a series. You may want to start at the beginning. When finished there, continue reading here. Previous strip. Next strip.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Sports Watcher for the Weekend of 10/18-19

All times PDT.

9:30-1 PM: College football, #23 Vanderbilt @ #13 Georgia (Raycom Sports, available free online from Yahoo Sports). When you think about it, the SEC's new deal isn't much different from their old one. They even have Arkansas-Kentucky on ESPNU this week. Except their syndicator is ESPN Plus now, so it's not even available to everyone online. So they're still screwing themselves out of a good third place game getting national exposure. Maybe ESPNU will become less of the ACC Network, I don't know.

12:30-3 PM: College football, #17 Kansas @ #4 Oklahoma (ABC, not available in most markets). I'd say the Big 12 gets screwed by never getting reverse mirrored on ESPN with the Big 10 game when the craptastic ACC does, but it does have Texas-Missou in primetime going to the whole country.

Alternately: 12:30-3 PM: College Football, #28 Ohio State @ #11 Michigan State (ABC or ESPN). I just realized that somehow, the Week 7 rankings aren't on the web site as I thought. Either they got dropped from the backups in Freehostia's ongoing transfer, or I just forgot them. Sure enough, Sandsday is missing a strip now so it's the former. You might have wanted to make your last backup after shutting off the file manager, guys - unless you still have backups and you're sadistically torturing me with the old copy because it's fresh or something. (Man, how ill-timed is this whole voting sequence, with the cold last weekend and the backing-up this weekend?)

5-8:30 PM: MLB Baseball, Red Sox @ Rays (TBS). Well after that comeback I might actually watch and pay attention to this game. A damn shame it's not on broadcast.

9-12 AM: Ultimate Fighting Championship, UFC 89 (SpikeTV). Same on both coasts. I don't think anyone other than diehards cares about the main event match.

10-3 PM: NASCAR Sprint Cup Racing, TUMS QuikPak 500 (ABC). I've dropped a lot of NASCAR Chase for the Cup races, haven't I?

5:15-8:30 PM: NFL Football, Broncos @ Patriots (NBC). Hey, remember when the Patriots had a half-decent quarterback for a couple of years?

Wait, WHAT? The MLS edition!

Take a look at the "About Major League Soccer" list at the end of the article: MLS is expanding to Philadelphia and no one told me? They're quadrilateraling and no one told me?!? (The WNBA really needs to get on the ball here!)

MLS already has 16 teams as of 2010 - the addition of Philly will re-balance the conferences at 8 apiece - and will add two more later, as will be announced either later this year or early next, which is insane. You might want to think about breaking them up into divisions within the conferences at this point, certainly once you hit 20.

So with Philly, Atlanta becomes the largest Nielsen market without an MLS team, and - ta da! - Atlanta is one of the teams on the short list of potential expansion candidates. (Montreal, Ottawa, and Vancouver are among the others? Is soccer THAT big in Canada?) Detroit is the largest 2000-definition metro area without an MLS team (followed by Atlanta) and is next on the list of Nielsen markets, but isn't on the short list to get a team. Instead, it's Miami (repeating a bad experience and leapfrogging fellow-Florida-bad-experiencer Tampa, along with Phoenix and the Twin Cities, on the Nielsen market list)... along with St. Louis and Portland, the #21 and #22 media markets respectively?!? It's not even as small as #31-33 KC, Columbus and Salt Lake, but... they really are going for soccer markets, and I didn't even think St. Louis was that big on soccer. Maybe they've seen Wizards viewership numbers.

St. Louis is #18 on the metro areas list but, in addition to all the ones above except Tampa, leapfrogs Cleveland (who pays attention to Columbus just like in hockey) and San Diego (weren't they supposed to get Chivas USA at one point?), and Cleveland, Orlando, and Sacramento on the markets list (the latter two are stepbrothers to larger nearby markets everywhere except the NBA anyway - but then again, so is Portland). On the metro areas list Portland also leapfrogs Tampa and Pittsburgh (who's right behind it on the markets list).

(Worth noting: Most of the cities on the list would also be in the Eastern Conference, necessitating Kansas City to move West. Portland and Vancouver are the only exceptions.)

Now, YOU TOO can buy votes!

Click here for why you're getting Sandsday on Da Blog. This strip is part of a series. You may want to start at the beginning. When finished there, continue reading here. Previous strip. Next strip.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I should probably comment on this before I forget again.

So I guess now we know how FSN is going to port its new graphics package to other sports.

Not shown: The logo bug in the corner. Does it, perhaps, as might be expected from other evidence, show the new name of the network, "FS Arizona"? No. From what I've seen on, say, FSN's Final Score program and read on Wikipedia, it would read "FS Coyotes"... and would be displayed in Coyotes colors. That suggests a de-emphasis on regional identities in general (something FSN has waffled on in the past) and indeed, the potential for regional identities to be rendered superfluous.

We can presumably expect a similar bug for the NBA, but as the shot clock doesn't "belong" to anybody, I don't know where it would be displayed. Maybe it would only be shown when needed over the team with the ball? It would get kind of awkward if it kept shuttling back and forth on changes of possession... and I still have no clue how this box is going to work with baseball.

An addendum to my previous posts on global warming

To say the least, I have not been getting in as many posts on these topics I feel so strongly about as I would have liked. I think I started falling behind when I was stricken with a cold over the weekend, and subconsciously started using that as an excuse to goof off once I started losing the momentum. It doesn't help that Blogger-in-draft is still buggy when it comes to pasting in information in IE7; I was working on a post offline, not backing up anything in any way, and found that it is still prone to coughing up on me. I've planned to put up the first part of that post on Sunday, but after starting last Sunday or Monday I haven't started again AT ALL...S Ethejw,hvwgfmjklcxvk

I HAD intended to spend enough time on global warming and mass transit that it would sort of bleed in to a return to more political posts. Given the amount of work I'm about to start on, that's looking unlikely. I'm going to start again tonight, this time using Word as the basis of the post in question, and I have no idea how that will go. Things might start looking a bit iffy on other fronts - I haven't started putting together the next College Football Schedule, and won't start until tomorrow at the soonest.

But I do want to make a clarification for anyone who's seen my rundown of global warming-fixing options and my conclusion that there's only one or two approaches that will green up our transportation paradigm other than mass transit investment. I didn't mention offshore drilling for what should be obvious reasons. Of course I have heard that it won't do a lick to lower gas prices appreciably, but also, my emphasis was on global warming. That's also why I'm skeptical of T. Boone Pickens' natural gas crusade and why I was always skeptical of the biofuels craze and why I'm still skeptical about hydrogen.

I think, when we talk about alternative fuels for our cars, we tend to mix up two different goals: solving global warming, and reducing our dependence on foreign oil. With the latter, any alternative fuel will do. Any one you want. You want biofuels? No problem. You want hydrogen? No problem. It doesn't matter what we pick as long as it stops us from contributing to, as Pickens keeps ramming down our throats, "the largest transfer of wealth in the history of mankind". But for global warming, we can't settle for less. We need to make sure we curb emissions, not just oil use.

If men were angels...

Click here for why you're getting Sandsday on Da Blog. This strip is part of a series. You may want to start at the beginning. Previous strip. Next strip.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sunday Night Football Flex Scheduling Watch: Week 6

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 were scheduled 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. A list of all teams' number of appearances is in my Week 4 post.
Here are the current tentatively-scheduled games and my predictions:

Week 11 (November 16):
  • Tentative game: Dallas @ Washington
  • Prospects: Both teams are 4-2 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 is still on life support and is another nominee for protection. Broncos-Falcons looks good but probably can't compete.
Week 12 (November 23):
  • Tentative game: Indianapolis @ San Diego
  • Prospects: A 3-2 v. 3-3 matchup that pits #9 v. #11 in's power rankings. Not as mediocre as it looked in weeks past, so might still keep its spot, but a lack of 1-loss teams and an overabundance of 2-loss teams means it's too early to make any judgments.
  • Likely protections: Eagles-Ravens (Fox) and Jets-Titans (CBS).
  • Other possible games: Panthers-Falcons and Giants-Cardinals are probably the front-runners. Patriots-Dolphins may well be a dark horse. Too close to call right now.
Week 13 (November 30):
  • Tentative game: Chicago @ Minnesota
  • Prospects: 3-3 v. 3-3, which looks mediocre, but it represents a 3-way tie for the lead in the mediocre NFC North, so it could have playoff implications.
  • 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 may be sliding; the Panthers' better record than the Bears or Vikings is offset by the divisional rivalry. On the off chance Steelers-Patriots isn't protected NBC would probably snap it up in a heartbeat, but if it is they might look at Broncos-Jets for a while as well. Falcons-Chargers is still alive.
Week 14 (December 7):
  • Tentative game: New England @ Seattle
  • Prospects: 3-2 v. 1-4, which looks lopsided. The Seahawks are just too terrible for this game to keep its spot.
  • Likely protections: Cowboys-Steelers (FOX) and if anything, Jags-Bears (CBS).
  • Other possible games: Redskins-Ravens is probably out with the Ravens' losing streak, which means the Eagles and Giants may have a Sunday Night date to look forward to.
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 is in bad shape, and Bucs-Falcons is becoming a game with big playoff implications. Broncos-Panthers probably the best-looking of the potentially protected games, alongside Bills-Jets.
Week 16 (December 21):
  • Tentative game: San Diego @ Tampa Bay
  • Prospects: It's 3-3 @ 4-2 but at the moment, NBC seems to think the Chargers are the best of the three-loss-or-more teams.
  • Likely protections: Panthers-Giants or Eagles-Redskins (FOX) and Steelers-Titans (CBS).
  • Other possible games: Cardinals-Patriots and Falcons-Vikings are still strong, with Bills-Broncos becoming a dark horse, providing the main challenges for the game Fox didn't protect. The standings are so tight, though.
Week 17 (December 28):
  • Playoff positioning watch begins Week 9.

Random Internet Discovery of the Week

I've had several occasions to watch "The Elegant Universe" and found it fascinating as much for its means of presentation as for its subject matter. But I've never seen the third part; pledge-break-filled versions, the only ones I've actually seen on my PBS stations, always omit the third part to get you to buy the DVD, and while I watched it on DVD in my high school physics class the teacher never got to the third part there either, and I'm not sure he even finished the second part. If I hadn't wasted most of my morning and wasn't on a time crunch regardless I might take this as an opportunity to finally see it. Maybe tomorrow.

Should I point out the new label or are you smart enough to figure it out on your own?

This was written before the whole Bill Ayers thing fell apart.

Click here for why you're getting Sandsday on Da Blog. This strip is part of a series. You may want to start at the beginning. Previous strip. Next strip.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I would have at least revised, if not done away with, the third-to-last panel. Awk-ward.

(From The Order of the Stick. Click for full-sized anti-climax.)

Once again, this post has nothing to do with politics, despite my spending two days and a weekend without a word on the subject. I should be returning to it later today.

"I bet everyone was expecting a big battle for strip #600."

Apparently Grandpa really hasn't spent much time looking at the world of the living.

There are a lot of things that people were wondering about for strip #600. Perhaps a return peek at Team Evil, with potential huge ramifications, or a look at some other faction we haven't looked at for a while. Perhaps contact finally being made between the two halves of the Order. Perhaps the prophecied death of Belkar. The previous sequence of strips probably led many to expect either a confrontation or alliance between Vaarsuvius and the imp Qarr. The start of this strip led me to wonder if it was going to end with Roy being called to be resurrected.

But a "big battle"? Not given the state of the OOTS right now, where they'd settle for being in one piece. The closest thing anyone would have predicted to a "big battle" was a confrontation between Haley and the Thieves' Guild's Crystal. Maybe, before #599, a confrontation between Vaarsuvius and the rest of that half of the OOTS plus the remnants of the Sapphire Guard.

Since nothing big happened in #600 (unless you count the start of the switch back to Haley, Celia, and Belkar), it's looking increasingly likely that none of the major objectives of this book will be completed until it's about over. No resurrection of Roy, no union of the two halves of the Order, no retaking of Azure City, nothing.

Now, given the pace at which Rich Burlew writes, it's possible that "it's about over" may be sooner than many of us think. Certainly the union of the Order and resurrection of Roy are things that should probably be taken care of by the end of this book if they are to be taken care of at all. Those are things that need to be set up in turn, and that may take multiple tens of strips. Judging by the last two books, we'd expect this book to end somewhere in the 660s, which means we might expect one of those objectives to be completed possibly as early as the 640s. Or maybe the build will begin about now, considering how much into high gear both plots were starting to move last we checked.

But it's becoming apparent that this section of the OOTS' story is going to have far-ranging consequences that could prevent some of those goals from ever being completely fulfilled. This first really became apparent last strip, where Vaarsuvius announced his departure from the ship to find Haley and Roy's body without distractions, referring specifically to Elan and Durkon. And announcing "I have no intention of returning". And that he might decide to arrange a meeting between Haley and Elan/Durkon elsewhere... "but probably not".

It may well turn out that with this action, Vaarsuvius just unilaterally, in an instant, without Roy even being alive to object, kicked Elan and Durkon out of the Order of the Stick. This is especially likely when you consider this strip, in which Vaarsuvius not only fails to grasp who Therkla is but comes to the conclusion that she was Elan's active girlfriend (despite being present in disguised form when Elan brushed her off). If V can convince Haley of that idea, (s)he might dissuade her from pressing V to chase Elan and Durkon back down.

(Incidentially, early on in my reading of OOTS I had trouble seeing Vaarsuvius as anything but female, partly because of the hair... but as he's grown more insane and his hair has become more frazzled I've found myself using male pronouns more often. Is that worth reading anything into?)

Now comes evidence that Roy hasn't paid any attention to the travails of Haley, Celia, or Belkar since this strip - he's still talking about that group having reached Cliffport by now. Which sort of makes me wonder if he'll even be able to find them. Unlikely, but he will have no idea what's been going on. (And neither will we. No way "weeks" passed between #572 and the end of our last look-in on Haley/Celia/Belkar.) In a more important development, Roy probably will even be confused by something in evidence towards the end of the last check of Haley and Co.: the curse of the Mark of Justice potentially starting to wane from Belkar.

And there are other far-ranging consequences that have been built for a while that seem inevitable. Vaarsuvius' insanity won't be fixed just by finding Haley, or even by finding Haley and a good, long trance, because the last strip seems to suggest V has given up trances for good. Belkar's been afflicted by the curse of his Mark of Justice and "will draw his last breath - ever - before the end of the year. (That's an "in-comic" year, not a real-time year, Oracle fans!)" Unless Roy keeps all his memories of what happened while he was dead, including his memories of his conversation with the Oracle, it's likely that, at the least, something important will happen before he's resurrected.

It is even entirely possible that no one's predictions on the future or ending of the comic are correct, because they all assume that the composition of the Order at the end of the strip will consist of some combination of Roy, Haley, Durkon, Vaarsuvius, Elan, and Belkar, and almost always all of the above. The revelation that Belkar's death would come "before the end of this [in-comic] year" first put a wrench in those plans, but one could easily deal with that. But now that it's possible that, for the moment, Elan and Durkon are no longer members of the Order, we could be looking at a semi-full-fledged Order of the Stick at the end of this book that shares only Roy and Haley with the Order of the first 500 strips or so (with V insane or even a god, Belkar dead, and Celia officially one of the new members), one that spends as much if not more time trying to find and rope back Elan and Durkon than trying to foil Xykon's plot. And the prospect of a very different Order of the Stick becomes especially chilling when you consider the Oracle's prediction of a "happy ending - for [Elan], at least". If Elan is no longer a member of the Order, what does that say about the Order?

And who's to say this wasn't an incredibly important strip... in its very lack of importance?

We are triumphant!

I've finally condensed the label list, so the sidebar should be significantly shorter. (Could that sentence get any more alliterative?) That means, among other things, Da Blog Ad will now be significantly higher up the page. Considering adding a new element for single-label RSS feeds, but I'd like to have a box where you type in the name of a label, or select it from a drop-down, and automatically get that label's feed, and that would require more coding than I have time for at the moment.

Hmm... it appears this is the 100th blog news post.

Important notice regarding both Morgan Wick Sports and Sandsday

Freehostia's servers are moving to a new data center in the name of better performance, which means I can't make any changes to the web site in the meantime. I never did get around to updating the lineal titles; the Princeton-Yale title is now Oklahoma State's after their upset defeat of Missouri (potentially torturing Texas by delaying their shot a week), the 2008 BCS title is now in the hands of Florida, and the NFL lineal title is in the hands of the upset-scoring Cleveland Browns. Hopefully this won't affect the release of next week's rankings.

Obviously this also means for the remainder of the week, you'll need to hit up Da Blog to catch the latest strips.

College Football Schedule: Week 8

All times Eastern.
Top 25 Games
#7 Missouri@#1 Texas8 PMABC
Michigan@#2 Penn State4:30ESPN
#3 USC@Washington State3:15FSN
#17 Kansas@#4 Oklahoma3:30ABC
Mississippi@#6 *Alabama3:30CBS
Baylor@#8 *Oklahoma State3 PM
#9 Texas Tech@Texas A&MNoonFSN
Ohio State@#11 Michigan State3:30ABC/ESPN2
UTEP@#12 Tulsa8 PMCBS CS
#23 Vanderbilt@#13 Georgia12:30R'com/Y'hoo
Colorado State@#15 *Utah2 PMmtn.
Hawaii@#16 Boise State8 PM FRESPN
#18 Georgia Tech@ClemsonNoonESPN
#19 North Carolina@Virginia3:30ABC/ESPN2
Wisconsin@#20 IowaNoonBTN
#21 Wake Forest@MarylandNoonRaycom
#22 Nebraska@Iowa State12:30VS.
Arkansas@#25 Kentucky7 PMESPNU
Watchlist and Other Positive B Point Teams
California@Arizona7 PTFSN
Syracuse@South FloridaNoonESPN+
Virginia Tech@Boston College8 PMESPN2
LSU@South Carolina8 PMESPN
Pittsburgh@Navy3:30CBS CS
Florida State@NC State7:30 THESPN
Oregon State@Washington7 PMVS.
Toledo@Northern Illinois4 PMCSN/Gameplan
This Week's Other HD Games
Miami (FL)@Duke3:30ESPNU
Indiana@Illinois8 PMBTN
Big 12
Kansas State@Colorado7 PMFSN
Mississippi State@Tennessee7 PMGameplan
Mountain West
San Diego State@New Mexico6 PMmtn.
Air Force@UNLV7 PTmtn.
Miami (OH)@Bowling GreenNoonESPN+
Western Michigan@Central MichiganNoonESPN+
Akron@Eastern Michigan1 PMCSD.TV
Conference USA
Memphis@East CarolinaNoonCSS
Southern Miss@Rice3 PMCBSCS XXL
Utah State@Nevada4 PMGameplan
Idaho@Louisiana Tech7 PMESPN+
Sun Belt
Florida International@Troy7 PMESPN+
Arkansas State@Louisiana-Lafayette7 PMCSD.TV
North Texas@Louisiana-Monroe7 PMCSD.TV
Florida Atlantic@Western Kentucky7 PMCSD.TV
San Jose State@New Mexico State8 PMGameplan
Bowl Subdivision
Middle Tenn. St.@Louisville3:30Gameplan

Monday, October 13, 2008

Quick college football ranking note

The new rankings are up, and links should be fixed to the Week 6 full rankings, but there won't be an RTF of the full rankings for this week until I post tomorrow's strip. I should also have a couple more logos up by tomorrow, including TCU's.

I may have a more substantive post later today turning back to politics and/or global warming/mass transit... or I may not. Coming down with something over the weekend has really played havoc with my plans and I'm still recovering.


For much of the day, from 10 AM to 3 PM PT, an incomplete college football schedule was posted on Da Blog. The full schedule won't be posted until tomorrow. God willing, the new rankings will be out today.