Sunday, October 04, 2015


It's funny.  For years, the Detroit Tigers were a lousy team.  Then about ten years ago, things changed, and they became a winning team, regularly making the playoffs.  But now, after four years straight finishing first, they fell apart and are now the worst team in their division.

During this time, Michigan--as regular a winner in college football since the late 60s--fell apart.  The final year of Lloyd Carr then were 9-4, which used to be considered a weak season.  Then coach Rich Rodriguez took over and they were 3-9--unbelievably bad for a team that hadn't had a losing season since 1967.  Rodriguez then got the team up to 5-7, followed by 7-6, before he was let go.  Brady Hoke took over and the team went 11-2, and it looked like they were back.  Instead, they kept getting worse so that by last year, the team was under .500 again, finishing 5-7.

It seemed like the Wolverines, after 30+ years of glory, had settled into being a mediocre team.  But there was one last hope, Jim Harbaugh.  A former Michigan and NFL quarterback, he became a top coach, turning around Stanford and then doing a fine job with the San Francisco 49ers.  Could he save his alma mater?

The season started inauspiciously with a 24-17 loss to Utah, but even then the team showed some fighting spirit.  Since then, it's been four big wins, including yesterday's 28-0 defeat of Maryland.  I've been burned too many times in recent years, but I'm a believer again.

The team is full of exciting players, like QB Jake Rudock, (even if he has thrown too many interceptions) and Jabrill Peppers.  But Michigan has always had great recruiting.  The trick is--thanks to Harbaugh, I assume--they're finally playing like a team.

The best numbers are the points scored against the team. After a shaky start, there were two games with one touchdown apiece, and the last two game have been shutouts.  The best Michigan teams have always made it on their awesome defense, and that's the best sign the team is back.

Now that they're back, I think this team may be worthy of the top twenty, but top ten?  Not yet.  Still, for better or worse, they'll soon be tested (which is why I need to write this now). The Big Ten is the toughest conference in college football, and next week they're going up against an undefeated Northwestern ("undefeated Northwestern"--a phrase you didn't hear much in the 70s or 80s.) The week after, they'll play a top five team, nemesis Michigan State.  That'll be something.

I'll be surprised if they get through both games unscathed, but if they did, it would be amazing.  It would likely mean final game against arch enemy Ohio State could be another classic, like the old days.  Hasn't been for a long time.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves.  One week at a time.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

New England shall rise again

So I'm watching various football games in my favorite, er coffee shop, and Michigan who had been up 6-0 at the half has moved well ahead 21-0, nice, but lo Purdue is shockingly close to Michigan State with two minutes left, and given the noise in the, er, coffee shop, there is closed captioning. Turns out this is all significant to a New Hampshire championship.

I'm not as smart as LAGuy, so it took awhile. My first thought was, what stadiums are in New Hampshire, and why in the world would they play the title game there?

I blame it on the fact that they're letting women be announcers. President Trump will fix this.

He's The Man

Fleetwood Mac has three major songwriters--Christine McVie, Stevie Nicks and today's birthday boy, Lindsey Buckingham.  He not only adds his only special sound to the mix, he's also an accomplished singer, musician and producer.

Friday, October 02, 2015


Is Martin O'Malley a Democrat or a Republican?

A Little Chubby

Hey everyone, it's the centennial of bluegrass fiddler Chubby Wise.  You didn't think we'd forget, did you?

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Eat A Peach

Today is World Vegetarian Day.  I don't think it's widely celebrated by non-vegetarians--or vegetarians, for that matter.  But still, there it is.

It's hard to pin down the number of vegetarians in America.  Various studies suggest anywhere from 2% to 13% of the U.S. population identify as vegetarian.  Of course, identifying as one doesn't make you one. (Reminds me of how many people call themselves writers.)

A lot of people try it out but apparently most go back to eating meat.  It's understandable, since, as tasty as vegetarian and vegan food can be, nothing quite tastes like meat.  Perhaps it depends on the reason why people become vegetarians.  Some for moral reasons, some for health reasons, some for religious reasons, some, I suppose, because it's hip or because the person they live with is a vegetarian.

If you're doing it for health reasons, it'd be pretty easy to slip back and say "okay, I'll cut down, but let's not go cold turkey." And if you're doing it for certain moral reasons, you can probably get meat from animals that were treated alright.

So anyway, eat what you want today, but you might try a vegetarian dish.  And November 1 is World Vegan Day, so start thinking about that.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

2050? I say March, at the latest

"We will start to see some forms of robot sex appearing in high-income, very wealthy households as soon as 2025"

I think we've been seeing some forms in lower income houses for decades.

Going to the member

". . . one person, identifying himself as a 26-year-old male working for a 40-year-old female chief of staff, to share his own situation. “She has slapped my ass, talked about her vibrator, and has asked me sexual questions. I have ignored them but I am thinking about going to the member,”

That whistleblower better be careful. That's not much of a data mining problem.

And he should realize by now, doing so might feel good for awhile but it never solves anything.


I recently read a short essay on punishment in our criminal justice system.  Unfortunately, I can't find it any more, so I can't link to it, but I remember its essence well enough.  First, it noted the five reasons for punishing criminals:

1.  Retribution
2.  Incapacitation
3.  Deterrence
4.  Rehabilitation
5.  Restitution

There are a few other reasons sometimes given, but they tend to be sub-reasons of these five.

Anyway, the argument was that though retribution is often considered primitive and not worthy of a modern society, without it, there's no point to the other reasons.

I disagree.  It's easy to imagine taking action without a hint of retribution.  Imagine a machine that has flying blades that cut off people's heads.  We'd turn that machine off, and perhaps lock it in a room, to make everyone safe.  No retribution involved, just getting it out of everyone's way.  Same with a wild animal that eats people. We can treat humans the same way, if we choose.  We're not getting even with you, we just recognize you're too dangerous to live among people.

I'm reminded of a thought experiment that tries to separate retribution and deterrence.  We gather all our worst criminal in a stadium and blow them up in front of all society.  But it's actually a magic trick where they're transported to a paradisiacal island that no one knows about (except a few people in charge), and that they can't escape from, where they will live out their natural lives.

Does this bother you?  Apparently it's supposed to, but I never had too much trouble with it.  Seems to take care of the problem quite well.  The dangerous criminals are gone from society, and we get maximum deterrence from their disappearance, even though there's no retribution involved.

I've always seen retribution as collapsing into deterrence.  Retribution is a primitive but very understandable instinct.  When someone does you wrong, you've got to take action (just as when someone does you a favor, you owe them something). If you don't have this tit for tat, bad people will go around figuring they can do anything they want.  Thus this instinct develops as a form of deterrence.

But, perhaps, once we recognize where the need for retribution comes from, we can move beyond it.  The fear, though, is if we don't include a large dollop of retribution in our punishment, then no one will understand why it's wrong to do these things.  A good point, but one which breaks down into another deterrence argument.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Meghan plays her cards

Meghan must be Anonymous--that, or you've got some competition, LAGuy. Meghan thinks Boehner was the last best hope against President Rodham, too.

It's really true. Why can't these nimrods just follow the compromising, generous style of Barack Obama?

Credit due

Much as I have mocked Geoff Stone over the years, this is something truly remarkable. The reason we have such slipshod institutions and such fools as Obama in office is because too few leaders stand up for principle when it is called for.

Doubtless Stone supported Obama, I understand, but everyone is entitled to support fools, and Stone's having been foolish doesn't take away from standing up and doing the right thing. (Nor has Stone repented, since he cites Obama's obviously bad faith lines against the very sort of bullying that made him what he is. Oh, well.)


I just checked out the new drama Quantico.  Some have called it the first Shonda Rhimes show not created by Shonda Rhimes.  It's hard for me to say, since I don't regularly watch Rhimes' shows, but it is full of beautiful young people involved in mysteries and scandals, so perhaps ABC is expanding that franchise.

There'll be spoilers ahead, though they can't be that bad since I've only seen the pilot, designed to pique your interest.

We start with protagonist Alex Parrish (Priyanka Chopra) awakening from a smoldering pile in the middle of New York City.  There's been a major terrorist attack.  Then we cut to nine months earlier.  (It's funny, since the Rick And Morty episode shown the same night discusses scripts that have a teaser followed by a title saying "Three Weeks Earlier." Rick says just start the story where it starts, and gets so annoyed at the screenwriter that he pushes him down the stairs to his death, saying "You like that? You want me to cut to three weeks earlier when you were alive?")

The flashback, which seems to be the main story--at least we spend most of our time there--is Alex and a bunch of others coming to Quantico to become FBI agents.  They're going through boot camp, and many in the class will likely wash out.

It's a diverse group, in every way--race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation.  The only thing that ties them together is they're young and incredibly good-looking.  We get to know several of them, though how many will be regulars I'm still not sure, especially since one shoots himself.  It's that kind of show, where the twists and turns are fast and furious (like a Shonda Rhimes show?).

All the students have secrets. We even get flashbacks (flashbacks within a flashback).  In fact, their first assignment is to discover something secret about a fellow classmate--a chance for plenty of easy exposition, and the cause of that suicide.  We also get to meet the two main instructors, who've got their own problematic history.

But back in the present of the show, Alex is being questioned by the FBI.  It becomes clear to her that she's the main suspect, and soon after that she's being framed.  So she's apparently going to have to spend the rest of the season uncovering who among her class actually did it.

There's a lot to like about the show.  Above all there's Chopra, who is beautiful, of course, but also projects intelligence and resourcefulness. It's easy to believe she could hold the center of the series.  The rest of the cast, so far, is getting lost in the shuffle, but the action is lively and clean, and there's enough mystery to keep it going, at least for a while.

On the negative side, this is essentially a whodunit.  A lot of people like whodunits, but they tire me out.  I don't mind them if I know I'll discover who did it at the end of the play or movie, but to have to wait an entire season or more to discover something that's already happened can get tiresome unless done really well.

Worse is the back and forth in time.  This, along with the whodunit aspect, may be what sold the series, but I like my action in the present.  That way, things can move along and we discover them the same time the characters do. In the Quantico type of set-up, it looks like the main story has already happened, and we'll have to revisit all the pre-ordained action that everyone in the present already knows.

So, in general, a thumbs up.  But Quantico better watch it--I already have a bunch of shows I check out on Sunday, and if they expect me to add one more, they can't afford to slip.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Movie Motive

There's a documentary on the Black Panthers just out. Haven't seen it, but it's been getting great reviews.  Of course, looking at the squib review by Alan Scherstuhl in the LA Weekly, you've got to wonder if the critics are reviewing the film or the politics:

What do you think scared the powers-that-be more, the Panthers' allure or their avowed program, which called for the end of the ongoing "terror, brutality, murder and repression of black people"?

I'm not sure what "scared" the powers-that-be--you remember those powers-that-be, the ones that passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 just before the Panthers were born?--but maybe it was something else, like the threat of violence.  Perhaps they misread the Panther's motives, but if Scherstuhl thinks they did, all the more reason not to assume the worst motives on their part.

Since J. Edgar Hoover declared the Panthers the John Dillingers of the late 1960s, Official America has found black anger a useful excuse to crack down on blacks and keep whites terrified. Never mind the Panthers setting up breakfast programs for local kids, or Bobby Seale himself proclaiming, "We don't hate anybody because of their color. We hate oppression."

No matter what you think of this argument (excuse me, "argument"), please note that Scherstuhl isn't even pretending to review a film any more.

The film, with its traditional mix of talking heads and vintage footage, is honest about schisms between party members favoring armed insurrection and those who found community improvement a more satisfying and achievable goal than the overthrow of the U.S. government.

So Scherstuhl is aware that some of the Panthers favored armed insurrection and the overthrow of the U.S. government.  Why was he wasting our time noting they had breakfast programs and said they only hated oppression, as if that meant no one should be worried?

There is reason to hope here. Compare the on-message clarity of #BlackLivesMatter, and it's easy to see that the revolution remains a work in progress — and that it had a clear vanguard.

He's not even editorializing about the past any more, he's editorializing about the present.  Mr. Scherstuhl, your political acumen is wasted on the film pages.

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