Archive for January, 2007

Ranking injustices

Friday, January 12th, 2007

While I frequently find rankings that I think are a bit off, most of the time most rankings are accurate enough to be in the “marginally debatable” category.  However, every once and a great while I find a ranking that is just unacceptably bad and needs to be brought to light.

The ranking to draw my ire this time is the Sagarin computer ranking.  It’s not Cal’s ranking that bothers me, on the contrary, the #12 w/o margin of victory and #6 with for #8 overall is quite generous in my opinion.  No, it’s the other end of the Pac-10, Stanford:

How in God’s name can they be ranked 104th in the country!?!  It’s even worse for the ranking w/o margin of victory (81st).

This is a team that is ranked six spots above 11-1 (yes, 11 wins) San Diego University, the very school that Stanford’s new head coach was hired from.  Said another way, even the guys at Stanford think San Diego is a better team!?!

OK, that’s enough of kicking a team while it’s down…

(As a short but interesting aside, Sagarin ranks Stanford as having the most difficult  schedule in the country.)

Let it out – ugh

Thursday, January 11th, 2007

I don’t know how many of my readers have seen the following commercial:

If that the absolute worst, most blatent, ridiculous, even condescending attempt at a fake tear-jerking moment, I don’t know what is.  The only thing that saves the commercial from being criminally bad is the song that is used.  It gives the commercial a reflective vibe that saves it from being too serious.  Nevertheless the commercial is bad to its core in my opinion.

To make matters worse, it’s not not a commercial but a marketing thrust.  If you go to (please don’t actually go there, you’ll only encourage Kleenex) you’d see that they have a moderated (aka requires significant people and dollars from Kleenex) forum for people to “Let It Out” as well as a number of videos of people sharing their story that didn’t make the commercials.

What has the world come to when people fall for this kind of crud…

Boise St. mirages

Wednesday, January 10th, 2007

OK, I’m one of those who think the Boise St. win over Oklahoma was awesomely impressive.  However, the number of articles and columns I’ve seen since the champ game saying Boise St. got robbed of their rightful shot to play for the national championship force me to respond:

Are you KIDDING me!?!

First of all, Boise St. played the winner of the Big-12, Oklahoma.  Yes, the same Big-12 that got demolished in their bowl games, going 3-5.  Yes, the same Oklahoma that lost a nail biter (kinda like the Fiesta Bowl) to Oregon.  Yes, the same Oregon that got down-right abused throughout the season by just about any good team including their 38-8 loss to BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl.  You just can’t call a win over Oklahoma, particularly in a close game, an automatic candidate for the National Championship.  Oklahoma is just not that good.

Second of all, I didn’t hear any of the same complaints when Utah did the same thing 2 years ago.  I think what this indicates is that people are over-infatuated with the nature of the Fiesta Bowl victory with all its trick plays and going for 2 points.  As cool as it was, it has nothing to do with who the rightful national champion is.

Third of all, undefeated doesn’t mean anything if you don’t play anyone.  There are two ways one can look at ratings: losses (is who you lost to good enough for the loss not to be damning) or victories (have you beat anyone who is impressive).  I wise evaluation looks at both.  So while undefeated is a convincing argument in the losses category, Oklahoma is BY FAR Boise’s most impressive victory.  Their only other victory of note is Oregon St. who hadn’t yet got their act together when the two teams played.

So, sorry Boise St..  It was an awesome game and if we had a playoff system that gave you another chance to prove yourself I’d be pulling for you.  But we don’t.  You’re going to have to be happy with #5 and the 2nd non-BCS team to win a BCS bowl game.  Congrats.  It is indeed something to be proud of.  Don’t let the pundits rob you of that feeling by convincing you that you were robbed of anything.

Big-10 meltdown

Monday, January 8th, 2007

Well I can’t say I was surprised that Florida stuck it to Ohio State, although holding OSU under 100 yards of offense and 7 points (not counting the kickoff) was beyond what I expected.

Of course what this shows in the end is that the Big-10 is indeed as weak as I suspected.  Both Ohio St. and Michigan got destroyed.  While #3 Wisconson and #4 Penn St. managed to win their games, both the overall record of the conference 2-5 and their top teams showed just how weak the conference is.

At the same time, the SEC, although their #3 and #5 teams lost close cames to the Big-10, the top 2 teams dominated in their BCS bowl games and the overall record was an impressive 6-3 against a pretty tough set of opponents overall.  It definitel cements their position as the top BCS conference.

A final look at the Pac-10, despite being done for a week now, is that we’re quite competitive.  I know this is “college football math” but USC’s smack-down of Michigan was equivalent to Florida’s smack-down of Ohio St., two teams that are very evenly matched, suggesting that USC would have matched up well against Florida.

Apocalypto review

Sunday, January 7th, 2007

Last night I finally saw Mel Gibsons Apocalytpo.  I had extremely high expectations for this movie.  I’m a huge Mel Gibson movie fan and am at the same time very fascinated with the downfall of the Mayan and Aztec empires and the Spanish conquest of Mexico (as a quick aside, I HIGHLY recommend this book to everyone).  When you add to it the rave reviews it recieved, I was nearly besides myself with excitement to see the movie.

Overall, it didn’t live up to the hype for me.

Before I get into the specifics of my review, I’ll address the gore-factor.  One of the few criticisms of this movie is that it is supposedly extremely bloody.  I heard comments from reviewers like “Gibson is one sick man.”  I can say with assuredness that it is significanly less bloody than both Passion of the Christ and Braveheart.  The only part that was unusually bloody was the human sacrifice scenes in the middle of the movie.  Yet those seemed to me to be purposesly, at least from the perspective of a Gibson film where he seems to indulge the viewers in visual depictions, toned down.  For very squeemish people, I still wouldn’t recommend this movie but for your average person that doesn’t mind the gore of your average action movie, I don’t think you need to avoid this movie.

Now onto the review…

I think the movie was good, but not up to Gibson standards.  Both Braveheart and Passion had a very hard-hitting message.  I felt like the message here, although it was there, lacked the impact that I expect from his movies.  The critical scene in the middle of the movie lacked the cinematic impact that both Braveheart and Passion crucial scenes had.  Apocalytpo’s critical scene felt disjointed and confused.

Additionally, the message of the movie was not central to the plot of the movie.  The two were running in parallel.  Additionally, the plot was very simple and lacked significant suspense.  You knew going in exactly what was going to happen and that’s just what happened.

So overall, the message didn’t hit home, the plot was simple and predictable and the key scene of the movie lacked impact.  Sounds pretty bad, eh?  Well, not quite.  Gibson is still a master of movie-making and he did an incredible job with most of the visual images.  The soundtrack was good as well.  Additionally, Gibson yet again found no-name actors who did a remarkably good job.  There are a ton of scenes with great dramatic impact and overall was a lot better than most movies.

In the end this movie suffered, for me at least, from overly high expectations but was overall a good movie worth seeing.

Meeting 95% of 95% of buyers needs doesn’t cut it.

Sunday, January 7th, 2007

Last night I watched the “documentary” Who Killed the Electric Car with by brother and mom.  I put documentary in quotes because it is your standard highly biased account which invalidates it as a true documentary in my opinion.  But that’s neither here nor there.

The point of this post is to point out some of the most overlooked reasons why alternative vehicles have failed in the last 20 years.

  1. 95% of consumers buy their vehicles not based on what they need the vehicle on a day-to-day basis, or said another way what they use it for 95% of the time, but based on all of the capabilities they would like.  The most obvious example of this is 4-wheel drive on SUVs in California.  Most Californians see conditions where 4-wheel drive is valuable about 3-4 times a year.  But those same consumers when they are buying the vehicle say to themselves, “I want 4-wheel drive because I like to go skiing”.  The same principle applies to towing, people capacity, storage capacity and most importantly for electric vehicles, range.  Even though on 350 days a year most consumers don’t drive more than 150 miles a day, it is very important to most consumers that on the remaining 15 days a year they can drive 600 miles if they want.
  2. The low gas prices of the last 20 years.  Everyone forgets that in the mid-eightes gas prices dropped dramatically.  While there was a full head of steam on alternative vehicles but it faultered when gas prices dropped.  Now that gas prices are back up, there is a new sense of urgency and it will last as long as gas prices are high.  However, many people overlook this factor.
  3. Safety regulations.  The car market has a “high barrier to entry”.  In other words, the amount of investment required to become a new car maker is so high that very few companies are even capable of considering it, much less being interested in doing it.  There are numerous reasons for the investment being so high but a big part of it is all of the regulations required to be met including the destruction of a large number of cars for safety tests.  What this means is that Detroit can safely make the same thing year after year because no new car makers are going to be able to come in and steal market share.  As the hybrids have shown, one Detroit is pressured, they will quickly respond.  Figuring out how to allow new car makers into the market would increase the options available to the consumer and force Detriot to be more innovative.
  4. Technology based regulatory requirements.  California and and a few other governments had passed laws requiring electric vehicles be made and sold at certain rates.  That’s the wrong way to regulate because it actually restricts innovation.  The reason is two-fold: one, it gives automakers an excuse for failing.  “You said we had to go all-electric and the technology isn’t available.”  If you instead say “the average emissions of all your car must be less than X” where X is a number that traditional internal combustion engines can’t meet but only slightly so, the car makers are forced to look at other technologies yet bear the burden of justifying their technology decisions.  Which leads to reason number two: By allowing experiementation, excellent solutions that aren’t being considered are given a chance to be vetted out.

There are of course other reasons, but in my opinion, these are the most important yet overlooked ones.

Pictures posted

Thursday, January 4th, 2007

OK, I finally got around to posting the best pictures (I know, pretty pathetic that this was the best I could do) I took as a Cal reporter this season.  You can find them here:

I hope to do much better next season.

My annual Beer

Thursday, January 4th, 2007

Not that this is a surprise to most, but I’m an odd guy to figure out.  A lot of people think I have a strong aversion to alcohol because I almost never drink it.  But that is definitely not the case.  Really there are three reasons I don’t drink much:

  1. I don’t like to drink when my wife can’t (and between pregnancies and breast feeding she hasn’t been able to drink for more than half of our marriage).
  2. I’m a busy guy with lots to do (and I don’t drink outside of social situations)
  3. (and this is the kicker) I’m quite the picky drinker.

See, I’m not interested in a Budwieser or other generic beers (the same applies to wines).  I generally want something really good.  So in most social situations I’m not interested in the alcohol being served.  The result is that if I drink a full six-pack of beer in a year its been a “heavy drinking” year.

As such, there is a growing tradition that on New Years day for me to drink “my annual beer”.  I actively go out ahead of time and find the beer that I want and buy a six-pack.  I’m a big fan of Porters and Stouts (and the occasional quality ale) to the point that last year’s selection, Guiness Draught, was a big disappointment because it is a wimpy watered down beer.

This year I chose Black Butte Porter.

Let me tell you, this is a great Porter.  For starters, it smells great.  I knew as soon as I opened the bottle (with my Cal fight song playing bottle opener) that I was going to enjoy it.  It’s smooth for a Porter with a great after-taste yet not lacking anything in flavor.

If you like either Porters or Stouts, you should give it a try.  Or the next time you come over, you could ask for one of the one’s I bought.  Usually the six-pack of the previous new-years is still has a couple left when the next new year comes around.

Yosemite Vacation photos

Thursday, January 4th, 2007

Other than the bowl game, I went to Yosemite over the Christmas break.  Go to to see some of the scenic pictures I took.

(Note to Brian: they include the pictures I took of you and Sarah)

This is SOOOO cool – go take a look

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2007

OK, this is one of those defining moments for a reporter: the first time your name shows up on a major sports website.  In my case it is Yahoo!Sports.  Here’s the link:

Run, don’t walk!, and go check it out.  In case you missed it, here’s a link to a screen capture of it.