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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Why Title IX is hopelessly broken in brief: the post that will get me flamed by (some) feminists forever

Title IX was never intended to be the protector of women's sports. It was intended to ensure women's access to all education and educational services. But thanks in part to myopic administrators, its identity has become entirely consumed with college sports, and a misreading of the law (not only did the law not refer to athletics it begins with "no person...") has led to even well-meaning regulators becoming misguided - the modern interpretation of the law obsesses over how much sports schools offer in proportion to the student population, and - in part to schools today having a gender imbalance in favor of females, and the lack of female football programs when football teams are massive compared to other sports - actually calls for, if one gender must have more sports than the other, that gender being the female.

This is totally bass-ackwards.

If a girl wants to play lacrosse, let her play lacrosse, assuming she can find enough other girls to field a team. But bringing bureaucracy into the mix and enforcing insane hard limits and reverse discrimination not only misses the point of the law, it misses the point of sports.

Sports is rooted in the spirit of competition: in beating the other guy to achieve dominance. It's a modern expression of our ancestors fighting each other to woo the women. It's an inherently male institution; in some sense, there are not only cultural but biological reasons for women to have less interest in sports. Women are, generally, more interested in cooperation than competition; when women do turn against one another, it tends to take more subtle, less physical forms. (It is shocking to me that two of the three most popular female sports in this country, golf and tennis, are individual rather than team sports. Then again, golf doesn't involve direct competition and the appeal of women's tennis isn't in the game.)

Part of the problem is deeper, of course, and points at the bureaucratization of society...

Truly, the end of an era. Hopefully, not of the earth.

If I'm going to give my critical thinking skills a workout, I need to give my critical thinking skills a workout. And since I hope to do a lot of thinking over the course of my life, this should be an important and positive excersize for me. So you know what? I don't care anymore that no one's pitching in at the Global Warming Open Thread, or e-mailing me with their arguments. It's going to be a bit more work for me, but it's work I probably should do. ... It'll be a more fulfilling experience for me, building skills I'll need to do more of these series in the future, perhaps even skills that will prove useful for snagging a real job or at least doing well in college. ... If there's a downside, I might not have as much information as I'd like if it doesn't pop up right away in Google, and I want as complete a picture as possible for this heady issue. But I think it's worth the risk from a personal growth point of view, and I hope you're all along for the ride.
-Me, in April
Do me a favor: Next time I say something like this, give me a good smack upside the head.

Seriously, I actually thought this would be a "personal growth" experience instead of my own personal hell?

I've been in a bit of a schedule crunch for the past few months, with a lot of stuff on my plate and some of my school studies starting to suffer a bit. The worst part, and the part that I think has been dragging me slowly insane, has been the global warming series. You may have gleaned some evidence of this from the increasing lateness of the strip (seriously, I posted the strip at 7 PM PT yesterday?) and from some of my Twitter posts, but I haven't been in the mood to do research for the series as much as I've needed since entering the second phase. Research for the series started out as not too bad if time-consuming and sometimes shied away from, but it has since become an obligation I really haven't wanted to do, a job I tack on as an afterthought after doing everything else, especially since starting my recent summer class. I told myself, as was hinted in a recent strip, I had to maintain a daily schedule to finish the series as fast as possible, but for most of the second phase I've rarely worked more than one strip in advance.

What's more, the sheer weight of the research required has started to wear on my brain. You've seen me start to give a more pro-global-warming bias than I ever intended to give, failing to properly explore arguments, and breaking them off prematurely - or over-relying on waiting strips that move the argument precisely zilch, often essentially repeating prior arguments. This series hasn't "given my critical thinking skills a workout", it's worn them down to nothing.

All that might be excusable if I had touched off the open debate I hoped to start, or attracted the people I hoped to attract to Sandsday to explore the debate for themselves as I present it. But not only has none of that happened, readership has actually gone down compared to the preceding video game strips. Previously the strip, according to Project Wonderful stats, averaged about five page views a day; right now I'm lucky to get two. The Sandsday ad box has actually been delisted, something that never happened before - suspended for no one loading the box, but not out-and-out delisted for poor performance.

So all that leads to the development at least hinted at in today's strip: I am suspending - not aborting - the global warming series for about three weeks, maybe four. During that time we'll go back to the sort of strips that characterized Sandsday before the series began, that is to say, video game strips. Afterwards, the series will start up again. However, once the series starts up again I will not hold myself to a daily schedule, but will instead do research when I feel like it and release strips accordingly. There may be long swathes without any strips at all, or periods where a lot of strips are released, one a day for weeks. I will allow the series to play out more organically and naturally from here on out until it reaches a conclusion. Once the series reaches an end I will end Sandsday right then and there with my final verdict. I've considered ending the strip before - at one point I was considering ending it at #500 - but the inability of the global warming series to increase readership and its increasing job-like nature have convinced me that I probably will never get the readership I'd hoped for and probably will never find the strip as enjoyable as I would need to to continue with it.

Sandsday will not be the last comic I do, not even the last webcomic; I have at least two other ideas I'd like to bring down the pipeline, although they almost certainly won't be ready before the site relaunch. I still stand by the basic gimmick of the strip even if I was not able to utilize its potential in the way I had hoped for, and I feel like I've tarnished the gimmick in some way by working on it myself instead of leaving it for other, more talented writers to pick up. I would like Sandsday to go down as an experiment that I used to help build my writing abilities by getting in over 500 reps over a period of nearly (if not over) two years. I've gotten some appreciative comments about the strip; I have also gotten some comments that have told me to, essentially, get some art lessons and abandon this hopeless carcass. Through it all, I maintained a streak of consecutive days with a strip that will run to over 550 by the time I start dropping strips. I don't take the decision to end the strip lightly, but I trust that with the time I'm freeing up by ending the strip, there will be more and better stuff to come into the Morgan Wick Online Universe that will make up for the loss.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

I'm sure the only reason the pigs aren't airborne is because it's heavy overcast.

Day 94 of the BottomLine watch. Over three months since an ESPN spokesperson told Sports Media Watch the new BottomLine would be back "soon". I'm starting to think it may not come back at all, or at the very least it'll probably be another six months...

...what's that? What's that thing at the bottom of the screen? The... the new BottomLine is back! I knew it was only a matter of time! Naturally I have some thoughts:
  • When the BottomLine first disappeared I gave a list of some things that maybe they were adjusting it for. It certainly appears it now has "SCORE ALERT" functionality, but it also has a bunch of graphic spiffiness involving the divider between the score and stats - which, while I liked the shrinking of the score, if adopting that functionality is part of the reason the return of the BottomLine took so long, they need to take another look at their priorities.
  • Looks like ESPN2 isn't losing the last vestiges of its identity after all, as the ESPN2 BottomLine still says "ESPN2", albeit because my SD TV has problems with centering (or that could just be my cable box) it's partly cut off. They're clearly locating both logos differently vis-a-vis the right side of the screen (and each other) compared to the old BottomLine.
  • It appears that, regardless of program, it's simply "ESPN BottomLine" except on SportsCenter. Granted, I only noticed the change on Jim Rome Is Burning, Around The Horn, and PTI, not on studio shows like NFL Live and Baseball Tonight.
  • Why is it, say, "RANGERS VS ORIOLES" for baseball when a game hasn't started yet, but for, say, the Gold Cup, it's "USA" and "HONDURAS" in separate boxes as though showing the score, as in the old BottomLine? If it's to condense the display to show when a game is on an ESPN network and 360, why is it condensed for the other baseball games, and why isn't it condensed for soccer? Personally I prefer the separate-boxes approach, the other way is just gimmicky...
While we're here, let's take a look at other developments in the world of sports graphics:

Remember when Versus introduced a new banner at the NHL Conference Semifinals? Well, for the Conference Finals, and continuing through its Stanley Cup Finals games, Versus changed its banner. Again. So, which was the banner they originally intended to adopt for the long haul? Was the change a response to people's criticism of the old banner, or was the old banner always a placeholder until the new one was ready and they were too embarrassed about the previous banner to wait?

Or is this the placeholder while Versus updates the other graphics? Because if there's one thing that marks this graphic, it's the return of the old fonts. Beyond that, the main features are the addition of black-on-white boxes for the period number and time left in the period.

Meanwhile, it's official: the gray, two-line box is becoming a trend. Fox adopted it not only for FSN, but for its own baseball broadcasts as well, and ESPN turned it into a strip; now TBS has joined in on the fun. But TBS seems to be insanely protective of its video; not only can't I find any video of the new TBS box online that I can embed, ESPN and other outlets (even!) use local feeds for their highlights of TBS games (which means there aren't even any highlights I can't embed). But they can't shake this forever, and you will see a full analysis of the TBS box come this October.

In tennis, ESPN moved the banner it introduced at the Australian Open to the top of the screen at the French for some reason. Somehow I think that wasn't the only change; the strip seems bigger for some reason. Whatever it is, it seems more amateur.

At Wimbledon, however, perhaps as a result of realizing that the banner was potentially confusing and maybe even in preparation of transitioning tennis onto the new MNF-styled banner, ESPN rolled out a small, compact box, but kept the "scoreboard" aspect of, among other things, showing deuce as 40-40 by placing the points alongside the game count and abandoning server-first order entirely (again). It's a big improvement over the Australian/French banner in my opinion, one of the better tennis graphics ESPN has yet tried that isn't a carbon copy of the norm in this country.

It appears ESPN took one lesson from the world feed, but not the one I suggested last year upon seeing their abomination of a Wimbledon graphic - the points display here is similar to that used by the world feed. All that's left is showing number of sets instead of score of sets and abbreviating last names! Okay, not so much...

Random Internet Discovery of the Week

I'm linking to this even though I'm not sure how useful it would be (I use an Excel spreadsheet as a "checkbook" of sorts) and I'm announcing right now that this will be the last RID under the status quo. That sort of violates the Da Blog Poll, on which the only vote I received was the one I was least a fan of - "leave it as is" - but that's no longer an option.

StumbleUpon has either radically broadened the choice of categories to the point that it now requires categorization of the categories, or has merely broadened the choice of categories available to me. There is a cap of 127 categories, and there are far more categories than that to choose from. The previous thesis of the Random Internet Discovery was that I was opening your horizons to stuff from every category.

If the RID is to continue, it will have to involve some sort of cap on topics, some form of selectiveness. I'd really rather not have my topics determined by the fact I was subscribed to them before getting a broadening of my options. That's practically the same as having them determined at random. So I'm reopening the Da Blog Poll I conducted when the RID was just beginning. Selecting all the topics is not an option, so the question simply asks whether I should select the topics myself, poll you, discontinue the RID, or something else. (If I was scared at a potential 78-topic poll a year ago, imagine the chaos that would ensue with hundreds of topics! That may have to be a comment thread, not a poll!) The poll will run for two weeks and the topics will be self-selected next week, along with a list of the topics I would select.