Monthly Archives: March 2013

How our credentials may be holding us back.

Ex-lab chimps improving with anti-depressants. Also, monkeys controlling robots.

Anti-semite Joseph Stalin accidentally saved some of Poland’s Jews.


Megan McArdle’s piece about “American’s New Manderins” is worth reading.

Are we reaching the end of product placement? I wouldn’t guess it from how characters seem to have a new smartphone every episode.

A lot of parents have a favorite child, and other interesting tidbits from The Telegraph.

Reading fiction can make us more empathetic.

I don’t know how I am going to handle my smoking habit when it comes to Lain. According to LiveScience, I shouldn’t admit to it even if I’ve quit.

Will the unraveling of genetics and IQ happen in China?

Dave Schuler: The politics of feeling good.

How stressed and screwed are the Millenials?

Given the same constituency within the US senate, you really wouldn’t expect pairings like this.

Romantic comedies suck. Why? Sexual liberation?

The case against junk food is itself junk, according to Barton Hinkle. The toll of overeating is quite scary, though.

Honeybee democracee.

Category: Newsroom

USA522letterBWPrintAccording to the Herald-Dispatch, a West Virginia paper, the long-expected departure of Tulsa from Conference USA is on the horizon. Chuck Landon, the writer of the piece, had apparently been hoping that Tulsa would see no percentage in the move due to the fact that it has taken so long. As I said a while back, however, no Conference USA team is going to turn down an invitation to the conference soon to be formerly known as the Big East (henceforth referred to as Conference TBA, a perfect nickname that Landon came up with), as long as they can afford it. The exit fees to Conference USA are hefty, and it will take a while for the TV contract differential to make up the difference, but none of that matters. What matters is that Conference TBA will have more prestige and for the more desirable of the C*USA schools, will be full of more of the teams with which they have more and a better history than that of Conference USA. That’s leaving aside the possibility that Conference USA’s TV contact is about to take a serious hit. More on that in a minute.

(Those of you that have been on top of realignment can skip the next two paragraphs.)

So, what next for Conference USA? For those keeping score, of the twelve teams that were in Conference USA last season, six (Houston, SMU, Memphis, and Central Florida this year, Tulane and East Carolina in 2014) are committed to join C-TBA. Tulsa will make seven. Of the six Conference USA teams to win either a conference or a divisional title, four are among those leaving and Tulsa will make five. That’s assuming that there isn’t any more movement.

In exchange, Conference USA has eight incoming teams: UTSA (WAC), Louisiana Tech (WAC), North Texas (Sun Belt Conference), Middle Tennessee (SBC), Florida Atlantic (SBC), Florida International (SBC), Old Dominion (Colonial Athletic Association), and Charlotte (Atlantic 10). Florida Atlantic and Middle Tennessee were late additions, but they will be starting next year. Old Dominion will be starting football in 2014, and Charlotte won’t be ready for football until 2015, though both will be starting other sports immediately (I will be ignoring this for the rest of the post, focusing on football). These schools will be joining UTEP, Rice, Southern Miss, UAB, Marshall. The conference is currently slated to have fourteen football teams next seasons, thirteen the season after that (ECU and Tulane leave, Old Dominion joins), and then fourteen the season after that (Charlotte joins). I leave Tulsa in there because it is unknown whether they would be leaving in 2014 or 2015.

It is important for Conference USA to keep twelve teams because their TV contract almost certainly depends on it. That’s why, when four teams initially left, they replaced them with six. They couldn’t dip below twelve while waiting for ODU and Charlotte. Likewise, when Tulane and East Carolina announced their departure, they added two more. However, since Old Dominion will be joining the conference in 2014, I’m not sure that they technically have to replace Tulsa. Depending on how things shake out, it may be in there best interest not to. Losing Tulsa now and, say, Southern Miss or Rice a year from now would allow them to stay rock-solid at 12. Replacing Tulsa now would mean that they would have to replace Southern Miss a year from now unless they want to stay at 13 (and it doesn’t appear anybody wants to stay at 13).

To be honest, Conference USA does not have good candidates to choose from. Their four initial choices were actually pretty solid. They all represent either a good market or, in the case of Louisiana Tech, a good football tradition that’s on the upswing. Also, solid or good academics all-around. When Tulane and ECU left, they had to dip a little bit lower (FAU’s redundant market, MTSU’s academic profile). The only remaining candidates all have significant, potentially dealbreaking problems.

When evaluating teams, there are basically three areas where conferences look. In no particular order, it’s athletics program quality, academic profile (including academic culture), and TV market (including geographic expansion). BYU had every advantage over Utah, but the Pac-10 invited Utah because of culture. Florida State was a more natural fit for the SEC than was Missouri, but Florida State didn’t represent geographic expansion and new TV markets.

The problem with the available programs generally fall into one or more of the following categories: Either they are good on the field but do not suit the conference academically (Troy, Arkansas State, Louisiana-Monroe lately, Western Kentucky), are fine academically but field poor teams (New Mexico State, Georgia State), or hover too closely to existing programs (Louisiana, Troy, South Alabama, Texas State). Only one of them has a good market, Georgia State, where they are overshadowed by Georgia Tech (and the Falcons).

Rumors surfaced a while back that Conference USA’s next candidates were Western Kentucky and New Mexico State. Landon says that Western Kentucky is in. Western Kentucky is a good candidate because of their superior athletics budget and recent football success. They recently demonstrated their commitment to winning by hiring Bobby Petrino as their coach. They are also natural rivals to Middle Tennessee. WKU has three main problems, however. First, they do not represent any significant TV market. Second, their academic profile is well below that of everybody in the conference except for Marshall. Third, it screws up the divisions because it would force UAB to the west and create a division that is almost entirely made up of Sun Belt and FCS implants.

My preferred candidate is New Mexico State. NMSU is a solid academic institution. It’s a land grant institution. Geographically it’s not a great fit, but they would be good travel partners for UTEP. NMSU produces their own football and (at least some) basketball games which means greater exposure for the conference (it’s easier for me to watch New Mexico State games than it is University of New Mexico games). Unfortunately, NMSU’s football program is terrible. They’ve had four winning records in the last forty years. Their coach just left to take a positions coaching job in the NFL and the replacement appears to be a cast-off from Kent State.

The last time Conference USA was at this crossroads was almost a decade ago. They had just lost Louisville, South Florida, and Cincinnati to the Big East. The schools they chose to bring in were SMU, Tulsa, Rice, Central Florida, and Marshall. Of these, only Marshall truly stood out as a football program. The others had mostly struggled. Flash forward, and SMU, Tulsa, and UCF all became very competitive. Marshall, on the other hand, did not live up to expectations. So the conference was left with an academic outlier (not in the good way) that added little value to the conference. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. There is no reason for NMSU to be as bad as it is (their basketball program is actually pretty good). They could grow in the conference. WKU could wilt.

It may well be that Conference USA simply can’t afford to go my preferred route. Conference TBA has taken many of their best programs and up to this point they have avoided the Sun Belts best programs for one reason or another (academics, markets, or a nearby rival). Of the four bowl-playing teams in the SBC, C*USA has taken… none of them. Middle Tennessee is the first bowl-eligible team from the SBC they took. Louisiana Tech is a good grab and FIU and FAU have had success in the non-too-distant past, but they are already counting on schools like North Texas and UTSA to step up their game. If they don’t, it is not inconceivable that if C*USA doesn’t start taking the Sun Belt’s performers, they could be surpassed (the Sun Belt is elevating FCS powerhouse Appalachian State and Georgia Southern, both of whom could do really well). And of the Sun Belt’s performers, Western Kentucky and Louisiana (Lafayette) are the best options. Louisiana has had some success lately, and they are a research school. But their athletics budget is tiny and their success has been on the shoulders of a single coach.

When Big East lost Louisville and Rutgers, and in exchange took East Carolina and Tulane, that was a tipping point. Tulane in particular. That was when people stopped looking at it as even a somewhat hollowed out Big East and started looking at it like something else. I fear that Western Kentucky will be that tipping point for me. WKU may be the best of available options, but that will be the point at which I will start to really look at Conference USA differently.

Category: Theater

Back when I was in high school, I used to carry a massively heavy bookbag. I can’t remember how much it weighed, but it had the books for all of my classes in it. I never used my locker. It was a pain, but no less a pain than having to make trips to my locker in our sprawling high school.

It wasn’t until I saw myself on campus news that I saw the problem. I looked terrible carrying it. I loved the utility of it, but I was wading through the hallway hunched over in a way that accentuated my weight (which, by that point, wasn’t all that bad, but made all the worse by my posture). I bought a reasonably-sized bookbag the following week. I immediately started getting compliments. Only some actually pointed to the bag. With a couple of girls (and this was important), it was “You look different, Will.”

I bring that up as a reference point. I’m big on big bags, by nature. Even if it’s forty pounds and I can’t carry it upright. I overpack on trips. It’s a character flaw trait.

Shortly before Lain was born, I purchased a new dufflebag to replace the one I had recently purchased where the shoulder strap had snapped (because, ta-da, I was putting too much in it). Anyhow, I had purchased the wrong size of bag. It wasn’t nearly big enough. Then Lain was born and I looked at it and saw “Hey, this is the perfect diaper bag. It has pockets for everything and I can fit sooooo much inside it. Diapers. Clancy’s breastfeeding stuff. Bum cream. A changing pad. With room to spare!

Clancy and I have been playing tug-of-war ever since. She keeps taking what little we need and putting it in a smaller bag. Then, when I am taking Lain somewhere, I move it all to the bigger bag. I think her bag is too small and not nearly comprehensive enough. She thinks my bag is cumbersome and overkill whenever something smaller would do.

But seriously, why go smaller when you can have something bigger? It’s not even affecting my posture!

Category: Home, School

The existing template made it difficult to respond on my phone, which made it difficult to respond more quickly.

That problem aside was a little too gadgety for my tastes at the expense of the basics (like showing how many comments were on a given post without having to click or hover over something. It was also really hard to tinker with the code. This one has fewer options, though, and will require more going into the code myself (but so far, seems easier to tinker). But before I do, thoughts? Better? Worse? Is the green-on-blue legible?

Category: Server Room

Old photos of Singapore.

How the U-Boat was sunk. Science!

The case for a hippie-dippie approach to education.

It’s interesting the extent to which the internet and social media may inhibit, rather than promote, free behavior. I am Trumwill largely on the basis of googlability.

How much is China’s relationship with North Korea revealed by meth?

No, cable does not have a 97% profit margin.

How police departments are using lapel cameras to watch the watchmen. (WSJ subscription required, unfortunately.) It’s good that the cops are recording the interactions, since we’d run a risk of going to jail if we did.

The skyscraper of the future?

The Dutch’s efforts to legalize prostitution has not been without its problems. My impression is that it’s been working out well in Nevada?

For sale! Girlfriends on Facebook. For a real girlfriend, perhaps you should photoshop yourself onto a Centaur.

Even the Internet is better when you’re rich.

How we might be able to reconstruct early human languages with software.

The pingpong machine and the industrial revolution. Also, the legacy of Fredric Wertham.

How to combat bullying. The notion of teaching kids to “step in” was undercut by every policy that every school I ever attended had. Not without reason, but getting involved at all was more likely to get you detention than any accolades.

Category: Newsroom



David Frum wants to know… what happened to Peak Oil? Are we passing Peak Renewables? Will geothermal change the game?

Mall cop, Internet hero.

Does the (ostensibly supportive) press has a tendency to be harder on female executives than male ones? They certainly get more scrutiny. It’s unlikely Yahoo would get nearly the attention if their CEO was male (or a less photogenic female). That’s a double-edged sword, to say the least.

Some of the biggest obstacles of women in the workplace are other women. Avivah Wittenberg-Cox thinks young men won’t help because they’re on the defensive. AM Slaughter thinks we need to take gender out of the work-life equation and focus on improving the balance for everybody.

Immigrant courting and marriage in the Age of Skype.

Claire McCaskill is my new favorite senator for the moment.

Something seriously must be going on at Microsoft if they are even remotely considering Office for Linux.

Will we be severing area codes and areas? It seems to me that “national area codes” are an unquestionable good, though I do have an attachment to local area codes, too.

Is the S4 Samsung’s last attempt to ape Apple’s success? They seem to have big plans. Plans that may not involve Android. Google is apparently worried about Samsung.

Public opinion on anti-obesity laws is mixed.

Cutting Medicare payments can backfire.

When I find myself worrying about the end of antibiotic effectiveness, I find myself feeling better when I read things like this. It gives me hope that we will have some tricks up our sleeves.

Even congress gets a good idea occasionally. In this case, helping startups the same way we help established companies.

Category: Newsroom

I just discovered this guy a few months ago and he’s been playing on my radio off-and-on ever since. The first is a really catchy tune. The second slower and more soulful, for lack of a better word.

Category: Theater

I’ve long believed that universities that don’t want to play the football rat-race ought to focus their energy on rugby. I like the existence of college football even at very low levels (I’d rather my school have a team in Division III than no team at all) as a unifying pageant for alumni and students. I don’t think basketball works quite as well. This, though. This would work.

Very important: The Dos and Don’ts of time travel.

How virtual fences may change the rural landscape.

I’ve always found it a bit sad that Hootie and the Blowfish, who actually had a number of good songs, their #1 single will always be “Only Wanna Be With You.” Here is a list of five songs hated by the artists that made them famous or that they made famous.

Work smarter, not harder. No, stop trying to work so smart. Either way, your employers are counting on your productivity.

The case for forcing extroversion on introverts. I have mixed feelings.

A look at British patriotism.

Do flattened companies actually consolidate upper management control?

This is not news, but cable companies that provide internet are sort of at cross-purposes with themselves. It’s cause for concern.

A while back, Dave Schuler explained why immigration and education aren’t going to save us.

Category: Newsroom

Paris… at the turn of the 20th century.

A part of me thinks that a possible return of serialized novels would become really cool. The other part of me likes to buy (and consume) in bulk anyway. It does seem to me that ebooks ought to allow for more experimentation, though.

Parenting has become a vehicle for parents’ self-expression.

Britain appears to be getting a grip on speeding.

This is a neat demonstration: A simulation of the sensation of giving birth, so men can find out what it feels like.

Tablets still have a long way to go.

Sometimes, auto insurance rates aren’t actually based on how you drive. As some of you may recall, back when we moved northwest, some “problem” on our credit our rates to spike up 33%. Our credit ratings at the time were both above 700. To this day, we don’t know what the problem was. It disappeared when we moved to Arapaho.

There is an ongoing war between DMV’s and people who want dirty acronyms on their license plates.

The science and economics of chain restaurants.

I have posted favorably on moveable houses and moveable hotels. How about… moveable cities.

Americans have an obsession with ninjas.

Category: Newsroom