Clevis the slack-jawed yokel 

Samir Patel, according to many people (Ed: According to whom? The Bellagio sportsbook?), was the favorite to win this year's National Spelling Bee. Sadly, he got bounced today after he misspelled "clevis" as c-l-e-v-i-c-e, probably thinking that it was similar to "crevice". His mother unsuccessfully filed an appeal, claiming that the second syllable of "clevis" has an alternate pronunciation which he should have been given.

I don't really know the rules of the spelling bee, so I don't know what the proper procedures are here. To Samir's credit, he took full responsibility for the loss.

Suddenly I feel a lot better about losing in the finals of a high school quiz bowl tournament on the final question because one of our players claimed that Spock was the first officer of the Enterprise. The official's script claimed that the correct answer was "science officer". We filed a protest, and the official ended up calling a local librarian and confirming that the correct answer was "science officer". (However, according to Wikipedia, Spock holds both titles. ZOMG Quiz bowl is rigged!!!!!!!eleven)

Finally, spelling bees are completely trivial and dumb. Quiz bowl is slightly less trivial. The geography bee is probably the most meaningful of the K-12 trivia contests.

UPDATE: Evan O'Dorney of Danville, CA is the winner of the spelling bee:

The winner of the spelling bee sounded as if he'd rather be at a math Olympiad.

Thirteen-year-old Evan O'Dorney of Danville, Calif., breezed through the Scripps National Spelling Bee with barely a hitch Thursday night, taking the title, the trophy and the prizes in a competition that he confessed really wasn't his favorite.

Evan O'Dorney, 13, is the big winner of the 2007 Scripps National Spelling Bee after spelling the word "serrefine"on Thursday.

The home-schooled eighth-grader easily aced "serrefine" -- a noun describing small forceps -- to become the last youngster standing at the 80th annual bee. He triumphed after a tense duel with Nate Gartke of Spruce Grove, Alberta, who was trying to become the first Canadian to win.

Afterward, Evan spoke more enthusiastically about attending a math camp in Nebraska this summer than about becoming the English language's top speller.

"My favorite things to do were math and music, and with the math I really like the way the numbers fit together," he said. "And with the music I like to let out ideas by composing notes -- and the spelling is just a bunch of memorization."

The author of this piece just called the USA's training camp for the International Mathematics Olympiad "some math camp in Nebraska".

As if we needed further confirmation 

In case anyone was wondering whether or not Slappy "Alex" Rodriguez is a total chump, here is further proof:

Alex Rodriguez helped the New York Yankees end their five-game losing streak with his bat -- and his mouth.

Rodriguez distracted Toronto third baseman Howie Clark by shouting at him on a key popup in the ninth inning, touching off arguments all over the field, and the Yankees beat the Blue Jays 10-5 Wednesday night.

"I just said, 'Hah!' That's it," Rodriguez said. "Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't."

It definitely worked in rankling the Blue Jays.

"The thing about the Yankees, one of the reasons they're so respected, is they do things right. Always have," manager John Gibbons said. "They've got a lot of pride and a lot of class. They play the game hard.

"That's not Yankee pride right there," he said. "That's not the way they play. I thought it was bush league."

Rodriguez hit an RBI single with two outs in the ninth that made it 7-5. Jorge Posada followed with a high infield pop and Rodriguez ran hard, cutting between Clark and shortstop John McDonald.

Replays showed Rodriguez shouting something, and Clark backed off at the last second. McDonald was only a few steps behind Clark, but couldn't make the catch and ball dropped for an RBI single.

"I don't know what my intention was," Rodriguez said. "I didn't say, 'I got it' or anything like that."

Clark claimed Rodriguez called for the ball.

"I heard a 'Mine' call and so I let it go," Clark said. "It wasn't Johnny Mac. What do you do? It makes you mad."

After the play, McDonald started jawing with Rodriguez, and third base umpire Chad Fairchild got between them.

Gibbons came out to argue, and exchanged words with Rodriguez and third base coach Larry Bowa before leaving the field as plate umpire Eric Cooper intervened. Rodriguez stayed on the bag with a smirk.

As Jason Giambi stepped up to hit, he seemed to get into it with catcher Jason Phillips and Cooper settled them down.

Giambi followed with a two-run single. When the game ended, many of the Blue Jays stayed on the bench, staring at Rodriguez and the Yankees.

Rodriguez brushed aside the Blue Jays' anger, saying the Yankees were "desperate" for a win.

"Honestly, I couldn't care less," he said. "They have their opinions. We're looking not to be swept."

Clark said he'd never seen -- or heard -- that play before. "This is my 16th season and it's never happened once," he said.

Rodriguez said he's often heckled by opposing players.

"That play happens to me three or four times a week, except it's not at third base, it's over in foul territory by the dugout," Rodriguez said.

The Yankees didn't quite know what to think.

"I wasn't sure that was allowed," outfielder Johnny Damon said. "If it is, maybe we'll keep on doing it."

Said manager Joe Torre: "I don't know what to feel for it. It's not like he said, 'I got it.'"

An act like this is pretty clearly offensive interference and is illegal according to the Official Baseball Rules:

(a) Offensive interference is an act by the team at bat which interferes with, obstructs, impedes, hinders or confuses any fielder attempting to make a play. If the umpire declares the batter, batter- runner, or a runner out for interference, all other runners shall return to the last base that was in the judgment of the umpire, legally touched at the time of the interference, unless otherwise provided by these rules.

I think these kind of antics happen (and get punished) all the time in Little League. I figured that by the time players reached the big leagues they knew better than to try stuff like this, but I guess not.

More generally, in team sports it is expected that teammates have the right to communicate verbally with each other. For example, in the NFL it is illegal for a defensive player to simulate a quarterback's cadence in an effort to induce a false start.


Kevin Youkilis for president 

Despite being fifth in the American League in OPS (ahead of guys like Justin Morneau and Mark Teixeira), Boston Red Sox 1B Kevin Youkilis is not on the MLB All-Star ballot this year. Apparently only one player per position per team gets to be on the ballot. Since the All-Star Game is being played in San Francisco, a NL city, there will be no DH. As a result, MLB put some guy named David Ortiz on the ballot instead of Youkilis.

Fortunately, write-in candidates are accepted, so vote for Youkilis. Vote early and vote often.

Sometime last year, comedian Denis Leary appeared in the NESN booth during a Red Sox game, as you can see in the video below. Despite his Greek-sounding last name, Youkilis is actually of Romanian descent and is Jewish. For some reason, Denis Leary got very excited about this fact. (That, plus he was probably piss-drunk at the time.) The big loser, of course, is Mel Gibson.



I just got back from a church retreat up in Big Bear mountain. Good speaker, good people, good times.

I thought playing basketball at 7000 feet was a little bit taxing. Apparently FIFA has the same opinion about soccer.


Double standard 

I just got back from the UCLA faculty club. The math department had a lunch there in honor of S.T. Yau, who is visiting our department this quarter and giving a series of keynote lectures this week.

I wore a nice shirt and slacks to the lunch.

Terry Tao wore a rugby shirt and jeans.


Hey funboys, get a room 

Manny Ramirez and Julian Tavarez share an intimate moment in the Red Sox dugout. Don Orsillo completely loses it while Jerry Remy stoutly affirms his non-gayness.

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