Sunday, June 30, 2002

Multiple update, in which DEK relives his formative years.

Powerball mania strikes Pennsylvania
Millions of mathematically stupid rejoice.

We now have Powerball in Pennsylvania. Yippee. My disdain for the Pennsylvania Lottery continues, since this only continues their effort to separate us from our money. Dave Barry tackled the PA Lottery's cynical benefitting of Older Pennsylvanians with his column "Mrs. Beazley Died for Our Sins," but it's even worse than that. First in the 1970's, they busted Tony Grosso, who was the numbers king of Pennsylvania. Within a year of his arrest and conviction, the Daily Number was unveiled. Naturally, the state didn't give as good a payoff at Tony. Then of course they had the 666 scandal, made into the awful John Travolta movie Lucky Numbers. Key things to note about this. The real version of the John Travolta character was not a Harrisburg weatherman, but the Pittsburgh host of Bowling for Dollars. And they would have gotten away with fixing the daily number, by weighting down all the other ping pong balls with white paint, had THEY REMEMBERED TO REMOVE THE WEIGHTED BALLS, WHEN IT CAME UP 666 THE NEXT DAY!!!
Add to this, when the scandal was breaking, Channel 2 brought in a special expert on fixing lotteries to give insight. You guessed it... Tony Grosso. (Those of you who have heard this rant before, remember, I have to get it out of my system on occasion, and it's still such a fundamental part of my early development. Nothing like growing up young and cynical.)

Fun quote from one of the Powerball shills, of which I'm mangling the words but not how they said it: "70% of our players use quick pick, AND 70% of our quick picks are from players."
and 90% percent of players thought that was profound.

Some jokers on Pittsburgh sports radio mentioned that this is the end of the West Virginia economy, because they will have no more people driving in from other states for Powerball tickets

Al Julius dead
This will make no sense to anyone who wasn't native to Pittsburgh in the 1980's. But if you were there, you would remember Al Julius delivering commentary every weeknight at 6:45. A man who was a thorn in the side of most every politician. There won't be another one again, TV would demand he be paired with a blond conservabot, for more fireworks, but that wouldn't have worked with Al. Al was the master of the Rasputin stare, with the end of every commentary fading to black, and for those next ten seconds, the dark screen let you put your own opinion on trial. The papers seem to be eulogizing him as a man speaking up for the common man, I never saw it that way. He was more speaking to the common man, asking him to push beyond their own expectations of the world. Agree or disagree, but at least think about how you reached your conclusion.
The thing that everyone will remember him for is the Julius' Turkeys drive, which has given a good Thanksgiving meal to thousands who couldn't afford it. But the moment I'm going to remember is the one year he pointed out the hypocrisy of Western Pennsylvania elections, where the incumbents were basically given jobs for life. He called the people out, If there was dissatisfaction with their leaders, they should vote them out. But then he bet that the people wouldn't care enough, and if they didn't he eat his copy of his commentary. Well, one fell. And so on Wednesday, November 5, or thereabouts, he sat there with a plate, fork, knife, a bottle of ketchup, and that speech. I give him credit for that on so many levels, calling out his own party, challenging the people to action, and then owning up to his own hubris.

SupHer Bowl mania sweeping Pittsburgh.
Friday afternoon I caught Tim Benz on local ESPNRadio giving tickets away to the SupHer Bowl, to be played at a high school stadium in suburban Pittsburgh the last weekend of July. Now given the amusing time Craig, Mike and co. had at a NWFL game earlier this month, should I forward the copy of their account to Tim Benz?

How many games is sufficient?
S'anyway, teams were volunteering their year-end records on, and the thought struck me. If the top teams today are getting 150-200 games a year, are you going to have any shot at getting them to come to your tournament, if they don't already come? This struck me when I realized that my high school career record was 15-1. Note that was my CAREER record, not my season record, not a tournament record. We have teams that are only getting 20 matches a year. These are the ones that we can get to grow the circuit. The ones that are getting 100+ games, you'll get them or you won't, but don't expect to get them. They have the budget to do anything they want, don't expect them to do what you want.

Friday, June 28, 2002

Okay, woke up this morning, and wondered if I was on Bizarroworld. Turns out it was just a salvo of one-megaton irony bombs hitting Cleveland and big-market Montreal.

I guess I really can root for an Expos-Twins series now.

In other news:
Last Words: One of those sites where I'm not really sure if they've done all their research, but where they have it looks like a good jumping off point for question writing.

VARaces: A database of car chases in films.

Something I've always wondered about, so I did a check. There actually are website versions of airline magazines. I'm both frightened and delighted. First joker to turn this list into a bonus answers to me. More frightening is the possiblity that people are collecting and TRADING airsick bags.

Probably no updates over the weekend. I'm getting a new box for home use.

Thursday, June 27, 2002

I think I solved it
Once a week I wander over to to see if I can do what's there. I had a real fun time (snide remarks about my definition of fun go here) solving the 34567 puzzle, and I did it without the hint grid. Your turn, maybe.
Let's just call this "I know there's a tossup in this somewhere", as that's usually what I title messages with articles like these in them.
None of these really have any chance of being turned into a question by yours truly, so figure some way of using them yourself.

1 Yeah, but can you really write that as the answer?
2 Cause of injury: That '70's Chow.
3 Bad news death fish.
4 Nothing to add here.
5 Again, can you really write that as the answer without causing four people to have a hissyfit?
6 Good to see Starbucks "Phase Two" going forward.
7 Which G8 leader would you like to see fight the bear?

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

Perhaps for a short time now, Spinnwebe has put up their archive of It's A Dysfunctional Life, what I still consider to be one of the great ways to blow an hour captioning things, without incurring the wrath of a "feature syndicate" (As the site did when it hosted Dysfunctional Family Circus)

Anyway, there were two pictures used for caption purposes on IADL which need to be saved for posterity. Even better they describe the two phases of my day at work. There's lots of going around smacking bugs out of the code, and then there's a lot of waiting for bugs to get fixed, where I need to come up with new and exciting ways to alleviate boredom, and sometimes failing.

Get it while it's still there.

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

I sometimes wish I actually could care about the NBA, if only to make my fascination with the NBA draft look normal. I even want to catch the lottery draft halftime, even if I don't watch the games. (I want huge-ass envelopes that I can hold logos in. Yes, I know how wrong that is.)

I think I'm just a draft junkie, I was trying to watch the NHL draft live on Saturday. What makes all drafts great is that moment. "Choose...NOW!...You have chosen...poorly...Baylor-san." Anyway, Bill Simmons trumped anything I was going to say on tomorrow night's NBA draft..
Vince Lascheid must be turning bitter, and we pass the savings on to you.

I've often enjoyed the quiet sarcasm of Pirates' and Penguins' stadium organist Vince Lascheid, but if the report we had today was true, he's outdone himself this time.

Apparently, an email to today's Dan Patrick Show noted Lascheid had put it to Viagra pitchman Rafael Palmiero, during the interleague game on Sunday.

For his first at bat, Palmiero got the classic BOINNNNGGGG noise.
For his second at bat, Palmiero was announced to the tune of Pop Goes the Weasel.
For his third turn at the plate, it's the Woody Woodpecker show.

I hope it's true, this is by far the best thing since Vince played Pat Meares off of the team to what I swear had to be the stirring sounds of Terence and Philip's song from the South Park movie.

This also means we're one step closer to Carlos Febles being announced in a future interleague game to the theme from "Meet the Feebles." Which probably, if I were at the stadium, would be the largest subreference single* in history.

(*Subreference single: a subreference understood by only one person in the group of people you tell it to.)

Monday, June 24, 2002

The double-edged sword that is television

On one hand what this article (cribbed from a slashdot reference) says is probably true, that the high end UHF stations may be doomed by digital conversion, and that we'll lose them anyway to wireless network bandwidth. On the other hand, my father can tell me exactly when channel 53 in Pittsburgh came on the air, because he saw it turn on. And really, 53 (and 22 to a lesser extent) made me the trash player I am today, so knowing that someone's gunning for them is a bit depressing.

Speaking of things only on UHF, I also got news today that the NWFL revolution will be televised Not well televised, mind you. I'm familiar enough with WBGN to know that it will have the ratings of C-SPAN. But I'm all for them having the game aired. Gives me a reason to show up.
More fun with Paraguay or "Jean-Bedel Bokassa, I choose you!"

A pair of interesting sites, one relating to quiz bowl, the other only slightly, but perfect for quiz bowl in its own way. Both however relating to Paraguay. your guide to the wacky world of national domination through force and fear. For all its cynicism, I learned a lot here.

And when you're done there:

Dictator Cards: Or as I've come to call it Pokédictator. I want this desperately to become a collectible card game, if only for the concept of "Gotta Catch 'em all...and bring them to trial in the Hague!"
Okay. I am a NIFL whore.

It took me a little time to come to terms with this, but I think the trip to Austin (two weeks ago) comfirmed it. The game between the Austin Knights and the Houma Bayou Bucks was out at the Travis County Expo Center. Travis County being Austin's county. Of course this also means it's way the heck out of town. Several yonder away at least, and out past the refinery (which really is how I imagined every set of directions in Texas should be.) And setting the stage for this dip into the bowels of minor league American sports, one of the turnoffs could best be marked by saying, "Turn right when you pass the bar called 'This Is It'."

We (Myself, Byko, and three NIFL virgins, Hight, Steinhauser, and Weiner) get to the arena, and are met by someone wanting us to pay $5. The weird thing about this is that we haven't seen a parking lot yet, and really, we haven't seen an arena, just an arrow telling us to get on this road. We actually do get to a parking lot. Still, we have this feeling running through us all night that they were camped out that far because they knew they couldn't be seen from the arena.

We're running late, because it was so far out of town, so we run up to buy tickets. At first we don't go up to the ticket booth, because it looks unoccupied (well actually it looked abandoned.) I do notice something that looks like movement inside, and I call the guys over to buy tickets. Now we can see the guy in the ticket booth. It was Cletus the slack-jawed yokel was running the ticket booth, and it looked like he was doing it because they were letting him stay there. Tattoos, overalls and a white tanktop. Matt noted it might have been better if the public relations people didn't employ stereotypes just in public relations.

We then wander (I don't think we were fully inTexacated to be up to a mosey at this point) over to the gate, and the woman taking our tickets helpfully notes to us that we can go over to the Beergarten and pick up some refreshments before entering the arena. More helpfully, we notice that the coupon printed on the back of our tickets expires December 31, 2001. This wouldn't bother us so much had they not just printed the tickets in front of us.

Okay. At this point we're pretty maxed out on our NIFL fun. We had paid $10 for the seats, which were not the cheapest seats in the building, about on the 10 yard line. This is differentiated from the premium seats, only by position. We're still in the bleachers. In fact, everywhere here appears to be bleachers. It also appears that when they're not playing NIFL, or letting the ice hockey team play, it's a rodeo ring. Welcome to the NIFL.

It's got all the acoutrements one expects in a NIFL arena, a previously used astroturf surface with the old NIFL website not completely removed. A strange stain rather than a midfield logo, sideboards with random companies like TEXAS FOAM, which drove us nuts trying to figure out what it was, and a semifunctional scoreboard, still telling us the Riverbats are playing the Visitors.

Houma is somewhere in Louisiana. I mention this because when I tell people we watched Houma play Austin, the first question is "Where is Houma?" and the second is "Do they have an arena there?" I can't prove that second one. Neither could I establish the answer to "How do you pronounce Houma? Nobody at the game could either. I did not check with the team to find out.

S'anyway, Austin had made news the day before by announcing that it had come up with a solution to their special teams woes. Rather than having to do a new uniform every time the team hired a new kicker, they would simply sew one jersey with the name on the back being "KICKER". I found this amusing, but even more so when I realized that like most NIFL teams, half the team doesn't even have their name sewn on their jersey. Then they copped out on it by allowing their defensive line to kick. What did shock me was the presence of our former Bridgeville Trolls coach Calvin Schexnayder, apparently part of the offense of Houma. Yeah, threw me too.

Halftime consisted of several contestants attempting to throw footballs into the back of a speedboat. Not nearly as cool as it could have been, as they didn't have a moving speedboat, and they didn't really bring the speedboat out onto the field, just sort of backed it up onto the field, and left it in the endzone, with the pickup that was towing it down in the rodeo dirt. We went looking for something else to do at this point and were shocked by the prices of everything. If I wasn't a NIFL whore, I would have balked at paying what I did for the T-shirts I bought. I blew way too much for them, but I could have been worse, they were selling jerseys for $68 (NIFL jerseys, not NFL jerseys.)

It was your typical NIFL game, no defense, a sort of aimless back and forth battle with occasional failures on the special teams, leading to quick capitalization by the other team. It was even more typically NIFL than that, given the bad kicking game (I'm apparently spoiled by the powerful defense the Ohio Valley Greyhounds put on the field.) At least three cases in the game where the kickoff was returned to the 2, and driven in the next play. By doing this twice in the last quarter, Houma actually managed to prevent Byko from warning that they left too much time on the clock. Hard to say you left too much time on the clock when you were up by three scores. Final Houma 53-Your Austin Knights 42.

I only mention two other things from the game, One, the ultimate sign of being too far in the boonies of sports has to be that your arena is infested with sparrows, as the Travis Country Expo Centere was (why couldn't it have been bats! I would have been able to scream Hunter S. Thompson comments about bat country. C'est la vie...) The other is, we probably can't have me attending any more tournaments in Austin. I thought it would funny to greet the mascot with a hearty "What's up, Knight?" I was apparently wrong. Apparently Texas Tech fans spread a little farther than Lubbock. I'll think we'll just stay clear of the jurisdiction until the statute of limitations on mascot assault are expired.

If you'd like to write questions about the NIFL, first go to, then please remember to get your entire head in front of the shotgun. Seriously, what are you thinking?

Sunday, June 23, 2002

Just filtering a couple things that need to be saved for posterity.

I'm inordinately fond of Paraguay. No particular reason, except it's kind of like Belgium, for any joke that can be made about the country, based on its national quirks, you can find an actual event similar to the joke, only funnier because it actually happened. For example, (read this as, why I pulled this out of my email archive) I figured the main reason the coach for the Paraguay national team was selected, was that he was the guy who looked best in military dress and epaulets. And really, when you look at their coach, he could do it. S'anyway, about six months back I went looking for "paraguay dictator" on google. I got this site back.

As much fun as I like to make of Paraguay, this history of the country manages to make it even funnier because at some point someone managed to do a find-replace Argentina into Paraguay, creating such intriguing phrases as:

"Fearing that Paraguay might fall prey to stronger Paraguay, Francia dictated a policy of national isolation."

That's how you know your dictator is REALLY paranoid...


"In 1878 President Rutherford B. Hayes of the United States was arbiter in the settlement of boundaries between Paraguay and Paraguay."


"Paraguay joined Paraguay, Brazil, and Uruguay in creating the Southern Cone Common Market (Spanish acronym MERCOSUR) in 1995."


"In 1776 Spain created the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, which comprised present-day Paraguay, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Bolivia."

Which begins to sound like a Monty Python sketch at that point.
Something I wrote a while back...

At one of the high school tournaments last spring, I was asked by one of the coaches what would be a good set of books to start with, if you were building a library for your team. I posted my original answer here. Figured it was better to put a link to it here, if I ever have high school teams or coaches reading this (a possibility).

Saturday, June 22, 2002

Random text is amusing

Flipping channels last night at about 3am, ran into a highly amusing disclaimer. It was some ad for IGIA Anti-Snore (or whatever they called it). S'anyway, in the middle of the testimonial, the following fine print shows up underneath some guy extolling its virtues:

"Opinion of person"

That's all it said. I like it when tautologies become legal CYA text.

Friday, June 21, 2002

Okay, this is what I was talking about
It went unnoticed as a story, because it really should have been, but I'll save this one for posterity and also because I mentioned that people should see it in its entire glory. Here is your lead-in for every tossup about Rem Koolhaas in the next couple years. (Questions on Frank Gehry having reached the dead cat limit for the subject of modern architecture.)
Really want to be frightened: Imagine it flapping...

Oh, and while we're at it, just recommending this to those of you jammed for writing architecture questions:
The Great Buildings Collection
I know it's pretty much "Fish, Meet Barrel", but...

I don't know why I'm utterly fascinated by this movie,and it's not just the morbid curiosity that comes from knowing that it's so obviously going to tank. We saw this car crash coming from miles away. At the risk of making the obvious statement "What marketing genius thought this up?" the question begs to be asked. To prove the point, has there been a movie whose commercials have filled you with that exact feeling of "Oooh boy,... is this gonna suck!" (outside of any film giving Harland Williams a leading role), and then proceeded to advertise itelf so heavily, that the exact feeling of how badly it's going to suck is driven into your skull. It's almost like they took the Godzilla movie marketing plan, "we know it's going to crash once word of mouth gets out, so let's sucker them in the first weekend," but then overdid it. Great, now everyone knows it's coming, and everyone knows it blows!

If you're looking for a more unnerving observation here, take this: As bad, as horribly flawed as the concept is, would there be any way to make an ad for this movie that would make it palatable? I think this is the crux of my fascination here. After years of watching advertisers make a decent job of trying to sell us crap we don't need (See Fit: the "fruit wash" hawked by TGIFriday's waitresses concerned about our nutrition), it's just fundamentally interesting to see the ad man's equivalent of the Kobayashi Maru.

"Okay, they've adapted Tootsie, for the WNBA, except the WNBA didn't want even more snickering about sexuality associated with it. Oh, and when they decided to name the team in the film the Charlotte Banshees, the Hornets left town."
"Uh, Boss, can I be put on marketing R. Kelly's next album? Please!"

Delano was right, this movie needs Dennis Rodman.

Though I will give them credit: A nice touch by them getting Kevin Pollak to do the Sydney Pollack role from Tootsie. What's one letter?

Thursday, June 20, 2002

Okay, cut it out, Lloyd

After seeing it in action on Tuesday in person, I had to check the stats. At this point the Pirates are second in the league in team caught stealing, a fact made only more bile raising by the fact that the first place team, while five CS ahead of them, is over 35 successful steals ahead of them as well. It's a cruel joke at this point with the Pirates that once someone gets on when they're down two runs, the hit and run is on, and the catcher can just throw to second. I'm still not a big fan of McClendon anyway, but could you please pay attention to what you're doing, Lloyd. You can't steal first (that's "you" meaning the general person, I understand you're a special case), and the hit and run depends on players that can hit and/or run. We don't have either. Remember that last year our leading base stealer was Kevin Young!
This reminds me, I've got to make sure the Incompetence Central league uses caught stealing as a stat next year.
Putting the list out

I finally got the last kinks out of the list, and put it up. Now it's up to everyone else to turn this into new teams, bigger teams, and hopefully happier teams. I did what I could, but I know unless the circuit realizes that it needs to make contact with everyone, not just the super senior they're all drooling over, we're not going to have it. I don't want to think about how many kids from high schools like mine have will miss out on quiz bowl.

Entering Freshman Contact Results 2002
Oh great, now everyone's doing it.

No particular reason for this, other than it looks easier for me to do this, as opposed to my usual method of emailing a bunch of people whom I can remember the email addresses of with a website and/or about 10 lines of snide comments. I guess that's okay, but it takes time out of a busy schedule to do that. And invariably, I end up forgetting someone.

So what are you going to get from this?
Hopefully, it will be funny, or at least funny to me, which thankfully 90% of the time is the same thing.
Hopefully, it will have some quiz bowl content. That's going to be tricky, of course. Since I write for NAQT, I can't really give away what I've written about. But I certainly want to help people to learn, so if I find an interesting website, it will show up here. (Yes I know, I should update the Reference Desk. Unfortunately, that's one of those jobs that would take an entire week, and I never get the combination of free time and willpower to do it.)
Hopefully, it will have something outside of quiz bowl content. In theory, I have interests outside of quiz bowl. In theory.
Hopefully, you won't be shocked. Yeah, right. I once explained what made me tick with the following: "Be thankful you only have to listen to the thoughts I audiblize."

So here's the question: When do I get bored, and stop updating?