On-the-field IQ 

You can call it cognitive quickness, awareness, or whatever. Some players have it, and some don't.

Sadly, Michigan tight end Tyler Ecker doesn't have it. When we last left our tragic hero, he had been tackled two yards inbounds on a Michigan last-ditch drive against Ohio State; the clock subsequently ran out.

This time, Michigan stood 63 yards away from a game-winning score against Nebraska in the Alamo Bowl with :02 left, having been wanged out of two timeouts, at least 10 seconds, and a possible earlier touchdown by a set of Sun Belt referees who probably had money on the game. (They also somehow decided that Chad Henne fumbled a ball forward 15 yards on a tight spiral.)

Michigan quarterback Chad Henne threw a 13-yard hook pass to Jason Avant, who lateraled the ball back to a teammate.

After an amazing show of rugby tactics and techniques (eight lateral passes in all, including a period of three seconds when the ball was actually on the ground), Tyler Ecker ended up with the ball on the Michigan sideline, running straight for the endzone. Unfortunately, he was hemmed in by two Nebraska defenders. He attempted to squeeze by them/run over them and failed. Apparently he was oblivious to the fact that Steve Breaston was running five yards behind him and would have had a clear path to the endzone. Well, except for 80 other Nebraska players, coaches and student trainers. (At least one Michigan player from the sideline also wandered onto the field, meaning the best call would have been to rule illegal participation on both teams, and replay the down.)

What was most disappointing was that the officials never bothered to stick around and attempt to clarify the situation -- they just ran into the locker room as if they couldn't wait to get dressed and go home. Thoroughly unprofessional job by the officials.

Props to Mike Tirico and Kirk Herbstreit for calling the officiating as it was.


Bah humbug 

I hope the chump who composed "Carol of the Bells" died a slow, painful death.

And any movie that uses Tchaikovsky's "Russian Dance" (from The Nutcracker) in a promo or trailer deserves to go down in flames. I feel very strongly about this.


Dark side 

So Johnny Damon signs with the Yankees for 4 years, $52 million. Apparently the Red Sox' best offer was 4 years, $40 million.

Excluding all other factors, this contract is probably too much for a guy who is 32 years old, hit the wall resoundingly (in every sense of the word) late last season, posted a good but not great OBP for a guy who plays in Fenway, and whose power numbers will probably go down sharply. But since the Yankees are a prime divisional rival (perhaps it adds 5 wins to the Yankees and takes away 5 wins from the Red Sox), it may have been worth it for the Red Sox to match the offer.

Either that, or the Red Sox are firmly committed to rebuilding in 2006.


From a Patriots fan:

May God comfort Tony Dungy and his family, and may God have mercy on James Dungy's soul.


UPDATE: Anybody else think calling James Dungy a "troubled" teen based on the contents of his MySpace page is a stretch? Plausible deniability my ass.


I just threw up in my mouth 

Apparently Fender has a licensing deal with Sanrio whereby they produce Hello Kitty Squier guitars. Squiers are super-cheap models of Stratocasters, and this Hello Kitty one is even worse -- lousy tonewood, one pickup and one volume knob. It's basically a toy guitar.

If you buy me one of these for Christmas, I will hate you forever.

(Link no thanks to Josh Foust.)


Awkward situations 

I briefly saw a piece of some Full Tilt Poker show on FSN. (I swear I was just surfing by, not watching the whole thing.)

A bunch of poker pros were talking about the refined art of trash talking at the table, and how it plays on TV. Mike Matusow and Phil Hellmuth were there, of course. Matusow was briefly talking about getting into it with Greg Raymer back in 2004.

Also sitting next to each other were Howard Lederer and Daniel Negreanu. That must have been really uncomfortable.

Thank you. But our Princess is in another Castle! 

Jack Florey strikes again, turning Buildings 7 and 10 into Super Mario World.

(HT: mpaik)

I'm disappointed that Jack didn't put something around the Stata Center, though.

Gold rush for NY cab drivers 

The NY transit workers' union has gone on strike.

The TWU has a blog post that's been piling up comments. There might be some useful information (or misinformation) in there, but it's mostly a flamewar with occasional fits of snark.

My gut feeling is that the TWU has overplayed their hand here, but I'd have to know quite a bit about the current contract, the proposed contract, the difficulty of the job, and the educational background of the average worker to really decide if they're getting a fair shake.

A lot of people in the TWU blog are savaging the workers by claiming that they make more money for doing less work compared to a lot of New Yorkers. At its core, that argument isn't pertinent to the contract debate, but it could turn public sentiment against them. Conversely, others claim that the Metro Transit Authority is sitting on a huge surplus and can easily afford to pay more. Again, that assertion has more bearing on the public perception of the strike than on the supply/demand question of wages.

Okay, so this post was mostly meta-analysis instead of analysis. I don't live in New York, so I can't really say much more.

UPDATE: The strike is, technically speaking, illegal. As such, it carries with it severe penalties, as we are no doubt aware by now -- a $1,000,000 fine to the union per day, two days' wages for each day missed by each worker, and so forth. (I won't speculate on the relation between the legality of the strike and the morality the strike -- indeed, I've tried to refrain from moralizing throughout this post.)

I have heard that some businesses are planning to sue the union, because the illegal strike has hurt them. I wonder if it's plausible for a bunch of people to band together and file a class-action lawsuit against the union.


Predictable polls 

These ESPN SportsNation polls never cease to amuse me.

Coming on the heels of the Indianapolis Colts' loss to San Diego this Sunday, this latest poll asks what the likely fate of the Colts in the playoffs is.

Most of the nation thinks they'll win the Super Bowl.

50% of the state of Washington thinks they'll lose the Super Bowl.

50% of New England thinks they'll lose the AFC Championship game.

Gee, never woulda seen that coming.


Another one from the log 

I'm terribly sorry, but you will not see pictures of Jorge Posada naked on this blog.

End of quarter rant #2: if you need help, ask for help 

If you have some serious (family, medical, personal) emergency that prevents you from performing satisfactory academic work during the term, please let me know *before* the last week of classes so that I can maybe do something about it.


End of quarter rant #1: Finance 101 (Cash-Flow Analysis) 

Apparently at large state schools like UCLA, a good number of students hold down one or more menial part-time jobs. Sometimes it's to pay for tuition and living expenses. Sometimes it's to pay for luxuries (where "luxuries" is defined relative to the standard of living of a college student).

I have to say that with few exceptions, this is unwise. (I'm talking about jobs like stuffing envelopes, sitting by phones, and operating cash registers, as opposed to TAing/grading, working in a lab, or managing a store). The salary is minimal. The job does nothing to increase your future earning potential, and skipping class surely does a lot to decrease it.

Let's say you have a job that pays $10 an hour, and you work 20 hours/week for 30 weeks a year. That's $6000 for the year. Let's also say you invest in some amazing money market account that pays 5% interest per annum and is risk-free. (Like I said, amazing). That ends up as $7300 in 4 years. A decent amount of money, but not if it means lowering your post-graduation salary by a few thousand bucks annually.

If you really need the cash, get a loan from a bank or play online poker.

If you don't need the cash, you could not work and blow off class and do something fun like play Ultimate frisbee. That's what I did.


Sportsman of the Year 

Had to pass this one along...Bono congratulating Tom Brady on being named SI's Sportsman of the Year for 2005.



The UCLA ultimate frisbee team is definitely geekier than the Harvard team. The worst that ever showed up on the Harvard ultimate email lists were (1) a thread about one guy's economics term paper on fantasy league statistics for winter league and (2) a thread about a brainteaser involving people wearing blue and red hats.

Currently on the UCLA board (sadly not open to the public), there's a thread comparing mathematicians to baseball players. There is a dispute over whether Leonhard Euler is the Rickey Henderson of mathematicians, or whether that honor should go to Paul Erdos. Erdos seems a better fit to me -- extremely itinerant guy who specialized in a fairly lightweight field (stolen bases / elementary number theory) and had a thing for framing checks instead of cashing them.


If former Saddam loyalists are laying down their guns (at least temporarily) to vote people into the new Iraqi government and rejecting the cause of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, that's a good thing. But methinks that their anti-American paranoia may have reached new heights, if the following quote is representative at all:

"Zarqawi is an American, Israeli and Iranian agent who is trying to keep our country unstable so that the Sunnis will keep facing occupation," said a Baathist insurgent leader who would give his name only as Abu Abdullah.


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