Sunday, August 31, 2008

I'm sick of college football already

Once again, tremendous matchups like Illinois-Missouri and Alabama-Clemson are the exception, not the rule, of opening weekend. Exciting nailbiters like OSU squeaking by Ohio 43-0, Oklahoma nipping Chattanooga 47-2, and PSU eeking out a 66-10 victory over Coastal Carolina were the order of the day. Announcers are reading the tea leaves, debating the strenghts and weaknesses of conferences and teams, discussing the merits of blowing out cupcakes to impress pollsters.

And we call this a sport?

It's time, it's time, it's long past time. Time for a unified schedule. Here's one very simple idea that would make every week of college football meaningful and fun:
  • Expand each of the six BCS conferences to 12 teams with 2 subdivisions of 6.
  • Each team plays 7 conference games: the five members of its subdivision with two rotating members from the other subdivision.
  • Each team plays 5 non-conference games: the equally ranked team in the other five BCS conferences. So the #6 SEC team plays the #6 Big 12, Big 10, Pac 10, Big East, and ACC teams.
  • Each conference has a championship game between the winners of the subdivisions.
  • Do something similar for six lesser conferences, like the MAC, WAC, Mountain West, etc.
  • The winners of the six BCS conferences, along with two selected winners of minor conferences, advance to an 8-team playoff.

Easy, clean, simple, fair. What could be better? Then maybe I'd care about college football again.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Roster cuts in, no big surprises

I got all the numbers right, even if I got one or two names wrong.

McDougle was the one to go at DE, and I reiterate that it's a mistake. It would have been a stretch to keep seven, but he couldn't have played any better during the preseason. Rocky Boiman gets the nod as the 6th LB, even though he showed nothing at all. It will be interesting to see who picks up McDougle...I'm not sure the Giants could really use him since they're moving Kiwanuka back to DE, so maybe Houston?

Hunt won the job at FB, but he can't feel very secure. If a good FB shows up on the waiver wire, he might replace Hunt. Collins will make the practice squad for sure, ready to take over if there's a misstep.

No word on Max Jean-Gilles, but the fact that he wasn't put on IR is a great sign. That looked like a season-ending knee injury for sure, but instead a couple rookie OLs developed mysterious ailments and landed on IR. King Dunlap and Mike Gibson will spend a year learning on the sidelines. Both will contribute heavily next year. Scott Young didn't make the team, which is another indication that Jean-Gilles should be good to go in short order.

The only other name I got wrong was Kris Wilson. Not terribly surprised that they kept Schobel, since he's familiar with the offense and has good hands, but I'd have gone with the younger, more athletic special-teamer in Wilson.

The practice squad will be filled tomorrow, and I suspect final cuts Arrington, Collins, and Studebaker to be back. Roland and McBride are possibilities as well, but usually the Eagles grab quite a few players from other rosters.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Final Cuts - Guessing at the Roster

53 active, 8 developemental squad.

Rocca, Akers, Dorenbos are the specialists.
QB (3) McNabb, Kolb, Feeley
RB (3) Westbrook, Buckhalter, Booker
FB (1) Hunt. Davis to the DS if he's eligible, if not then it's Collins.
OL (9) Runyan, Thomas, Jackson, Andrews, Herremans, Justice, Young, Cole, McGlynn. Gibson and Dunlap to the DS, Jean-Gilles to IR (probably). A surprise or two is possible here, with Justice and Young both fearing the axe. The injury to Jean-Gilles saved at least one of their jobs. Dunlap may be too valuable for the DS, so one of them could be cleared anyway.
WR (6) Curtis, Brown, Jackson, Baskett, Lewis, Avant. Gasperson has improved, but it's not enough to make this team. Maybe he can catch on in Miami or somewhere, but probably his NFL career is over. Jamal Jones and Bam Childress dropped too many passes, they're gone. Shaheer McBride to the DS.
TE (3) Smith, Celek, Wilson. Schobel is the better pass-catcher at this point, but Wilson is a better special-teamer and has more altheticism. Unless the Eagles deal Wilson for a low-round pick, Schobel's gone.

That's 25 for the the defense:

DE (6) Cole, Parker, Smith, McDougle, Clemons, Howard. Abiamiri to IR. This has been one of the most fascinating position battles of camp. Frankly, I'd IR Clemons over Abiamiri, his 'calf strain' is pissing me off, but Abiamiri's injury is more serious. You simply can't cut McDougle after the preseason he had, not when you know he'll be lining up for the Giants against you twice a year. Howard probably goes if they don't IR anyone, although I'd love to have a guy around who can play both ends and tackle.
DT (4) Patterson, Bunkley, Laws, Klecko. This is a little light, but one of the ends - Howard or Parker - will play some nickel tackle. Marquardt played well last night, but he never really had a chance.
LB (6) Gocong, Bradley, Gaither, Mays, know, I just had a thought. Conventional wisdom says you keep six LBs, but no one has jumped up and taken the job this camp. Maybe you can DS both Studebaker and Ruland, keep only 5 LBs active, and then have 7 DEs? Yeah, I like that idea. Boiman's been a disappointment, and Togafau has not shown anything special, so let's not waste a roster spot on them.
CB (4) Samuel, Brown, Sheppard, Hanson. Someone to the DS - I'd guess Arrington over Fontenot, but they're pretty even.
S (5) Dawkins, Mikell, Considine, Reed, Demps. Demps is athletic enough to fill in at CB if needed, although his technique sucks at this point. Considine and Reed are core special-teamers, and can play both S positions, so they aren't going anywhere.

This looks to have been a really good draft for the Eagles - 5 or 6 (outside shot at 7) of their draft picks will make the opening roster, and the rest have shown enough promise to find a spot on the DS. A lot of these guys will contribute in big ways this season.

The Eagles always have a surprise or two for us on final cuts, but I feel like I have a pretty good handle on the roster this year...we'll see how close I get tomorrow.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Eagles Notes

Did you notice that Andy Reid actually called running plays last night? The run/pass ratio was 50/50 in the first half, and the Eagles responded by moving the chains and racking up yards. Let's keep our fingers crossed that he carries the running philosophy into the regular season.

DeSean Jackson continues to be impressive. He deserves a ton of credit for showing that he can handle the offense intellectually and press coverage physically, but let's again give some credit to Reid...the WR screen last night is something the Eagles rarely run, and it was both perfectly timed and perfectly executed. This is just a guess, but I also suspect that the coaching staff has done a better job integrating first-year players. After watching the Giants win the Super Bowl with significant contributions from seven rookies, it was obvious the Eagles needed to do a better job. First-year players Jackson, Lorenzo Booker, and Quintin Demps will make real impacts this season.

The special teams finally looked good, for the first time in the preseason. Both the coverage and return teams were excellent. If the Eagles special teams can be a weapon, instead of a weakness, it will take a lot of pressure off McNabb and the offense.

Still no word on the Dawkins injury - the X-ray was negative, with an MRI scheduled for today. Considine promptly gave up a 47-yard PI on the next series, so here's hoping that Dawkins is back for Week 1. At 35 years old, though, it's hard to imagine he's going to recover quickly. At best, I smell an ankle sprain that lingers for most of the season.

Meanwhile, last night's game highlighted some very interesting roster battles. The Eagles always have a couple surprises for me, but here's my read anyway:

  • Fullback has been a real disappointment so far. Five different players have been unable to claim this job, and last night they gave HB Tony Hunt a turn. He seemed to be a willing blocker, but clearly needs to work on his technique. Several times he met a LB in the hole and ended up moving backwards. He continues to run well enough to deserve a roster spot, but keeping four HBs would mean one less DE, S, or OL.
  • Jerome McDougle finally, a mere five years after he was drafted, looks like a first-round draft pick. Can the Eagles afford to keep 6 DEs? Or does Chris Clemons take his $5 million signing bonus with him out the door? Does Victor Abiamiri find his way onto the IR?
  • Good for Dan Klecko, who looks to have sewn up the fourth DT spot with a great performance last night. For a guy who started camp as a FB, he's made the transition back to DT amazingly well.
  • It looked like the Eagles were keeping 6 WRs anyway, but the Kevin Curtis injury assured it. Curtis, Brown, Jackson, Lewis, Baskett, and Avant all make the team.
  • Could Considine be a surprise final cut? Otherwise, five safeties should make the team. J.R. Reed is a valuable special-teamer who played well on defense last season.
  • Do you see a fifth corner on this roster? Demps got a shot and didn't do well. I wouldn't be surprised if the Eagles stuff Arrington and Fontenot on the practice squad and grab a CB off the waiver wire after final cuts.
  • Is Rocky Boiman doing enough to hold down the 6th LB spot? Sixth-round pick Joe Mays seems to be a lock, so it's either Boiman or Togafau, and neither one is playing good enough on special teams right now.

Next weekend college football starts, and then the NFL will be here for real. Is anyone else excited?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Are you speaking bat?

Enunciate...Do you even know what that means? It has nothing to do with physical contact!

It's safe for work, although you might find yourself laughing like an idiot.

The First Casualty of War

So what the hell happened in Georgia this weekend?

Is this the opening move in Russia's gambit to re-establish the Eastern Bloc? Is it a justified response to Georgian aggression? Or was the root cause false promises made by diplomatic genius George W. Bush?

However you look at it, when one powerful nation invades the sovereign territory of another, it's disturbing. And since we've done that twice so far during Bush's term, we lack both the moral and military capability to respond to Russia. Not that the U.S. should play world policeman, but a viable threat of action would do wonders to keep Putin in check. He's well aware that we have no choice but to let him romp through the Caucuses, justified or not.

The EU's record as a useless mouthpiece remains unbroken. Since they get all their natural gas from Russia, and Putin can (and has) shut down the pipeline at any time for political purposes, whatever meek armies they might muster are hostage to Russia's whims. (Tell me again why we have a defense treaty with these posers, please.)

China, meanwhile, a huge country that sits right on the border of this war and has a history of fighting with Russia, has remained strangely silent. I'm severely worried about a nudge-nudge wink-wink agreement between these two giants that I'll look the other way while you trample Georgia, as long as you look the other way when I invade Taiwan.

Also disturbing is the lack of media attention this crisis has garnered. Thousands dead, cities bombed, and a humanitarian nightmare for the survivors has taken a back seat to John Edwards and Michael Phelps.

So what's the proper response? Hard to say, since the truth is so elusive. But I do know that better diplomacy would have left our options open. We need to engage the Russian authoritarian regime diplomatically, and be prepared to make some concessions. For starters, we could stop pushing the useless missile defense shield that Bush has been rubbing under Putin's nose for years. If we're not prepared to play nice with the big kid on the block, even if it annoys us because they aren't a true democracy, then we need to get ready for the biggest war the world has ever seen.

Maybe it's just me, but I like the first option.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Skeptics? What Skeptics?

This article, found in the July/August Columbia Journalistic Review, is damning evidence of a systematic and institutionalized journalisitc suppression of dissent on the topic of anthropogenic global warming.

This article proclaims that it is journalists' duty to be "helpful" in guiding the audience to understand The Truth (caps mine) as represented by today's "scientific consensus". The author rails against the presentation of "debunked theories" and giving airtime to "well-known skeptics". She encourages whenever counter-consensus views are portrayed, that the journalist present AGW rhetoric as the "last word".

Well-meaning or not, this woman and other people like her are ensuring that the public does not get enough information to make a decision on their own (not like many people would take advantage of that intellectual opportunity, of course.) Imagine the difficulty of a teacher trying to provide responsible dissenting views to her students - different from the textbook material, the views of the parents, and the unified voice of the skeptic-free media. As a result, our children are learning a lie.

Both of our presidential political candidates support carbon-cap-and-trade legislation, which has no purpose other than making Al Gore rich. Yet where is the cry against this nonsensical position? Where is the healthy dissent?

The reach of the CJR does not apparently extend to Australia, where we find an article by the environmentalist in charge of monitoring Australia's adherence to the Kyoto Protocol proclaiming the Earth has actually been cooling since 2001. (Sorry bud, but I had the story first.) He goes on to say that a greenhouse effect would create a "hot spot" in the atmosphere 10km above the tropics, and no such hot spot has been found, to the chagrin of AGW alarmists. Their latest spin dances on the line between hilarious and sad:
Recently the alarmists have suggested we ignore the radiosonde thermometers, but instead take the radiosonde wind measurements, apply a theory about wind shear, and run the results through their computers to estimate the temperatures. They then say that the results show that we cannot rule out the presence of a hot spot.

So there you have it - the IPCC conclusion that we are 99% certain to have caused global warming through a greenhouse effect is not based on scientific evidence (ie: actual temperature readings), but instead comes from a computer model based on a theory that "cannot rule out" a hot spot.
The cooling evidence also sounds cut-and-dried, and explains why even now in 2008 the infamous hockey-stick graphs of temperature end at the turn of the century.
The satellites that measure the world's temperature all say that the warming trend ended in 2001, and that the temperature has dropped about 0.6C in the past year (to the temperature of 1980)...[removed explanation of urban heat island effect]...NASA reports only land-based data, and reports a modest warming trend and recent cooling. The other three global temperature records use a mix of satellite and land measurements, or satellite only, and they all show no warming since 2001 and a recent cooling.

Finally, he sums up the article with this sharp-witted bit of prescience:
When it comes to light that the carbon scare was known to be bogus in 2008, the [government] is going to be regarded as criminally negligent or ideologically stupid for not having seen through it.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Thin, Thin Line Between Lame and Cool

Gears of War 2 is coming out in November, and as I may have mentioned before, I can't wait. This badass trailer contains a chopped-up version of Alan Seeger's poem I Have a Rendezvous With Death.


And then there's this, available at

This toy gun/chainsaw combo can be yours for the low, low price of $139.99! It includes:

  • Trigger Activates Motorized "Chainsaw" Sound and Vibration Feature
  • Side Handle Folds In & Out and Slides Back & Forth
  • Removable Clip
  • Created from the actual 3D data used in the Gears of War 2 videogame
  • Powered by 3 "C" Batteries (not included)

The truly terrible thing, of course, is that I want the gun. Motorized "Chainsaw" Sound and Vibration Feature could not sound any lamer. And I can't under any circumstances envision myself running around the house pretending to chop up the Locust Horde (no doubt scarring my children in the process.)

But I still want it. And since I saw Christmas decorations in Cracker Barrel today, that must mean the season for giving is right around the corner. Thank you in advance, dear friends.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Book Review: Collapse

This post is insanely long, sorry.

Jared Diamond's Collapse reviews archaeological evidence of the collapse of ancient societies and relates the lessons learned to the modern world. You may not believe that the disappearance of the Classic Mayan civilization, Anasazi native Americans, or Greenland Norse have any bearing on present-day life, but this book will change your mind.

The topic is a fascinating one, especially if you like history, but this was slow reading. I can appreciate the depth of knowledge the author displayed, and the time he must have spent researching for this book, but that doesn't mean I need multiple-page explanations of swamp core sampling, acid heap mining, soil salination, and rat nest analysis. Stuff that in the Appendix and reference it, but let's stick to the discoveries in the main chapters, not the process of discovery, ok? For this reason alone, I couldn't recommend Collapse to anyone except as a reference. It took me a couple months to choke it down, when I'll normally tear through a novel over a weekend.

Still, I give a lot of credit to Diamond for presenting the material as scientifically and apolitically as possible. He's obviously got some liberal leanings, but he avoids criminalizing business, even those who have done tremendous environmental harm. He bends over backwards to explain that business is a for-profit enterprise, and that CEOs who fail to maximize profits are replaced by someone who will. He doesn't use the rationale to excuse the damage, but instead hammers home the point that economic incentives are more effective than moral ones. (If that line sounds familiar, I shamelessly repeated it in a previous post.) He never utters the shudder-worthly phrase 'social responsibility'.

Enough with the review stuff, I want to talk about lessons learned.

Collapsed societies follow a familiar arc. As civilizations grow, their demand for resources and economic complexity grow also. (Simple = everyone farming their own land, providing for themselves. Complex = highly specialized, interdependent.) The collapse of a civilization rarely takes the form of a gradual decline, but instead quickly follows the peak of that civilization, ie: the point of the highest resource consumption and economic complexity. High resource consumption and waste generation means a lot of stress on the environment to provide food, wood, metal, etc. When something bad happens during this time of maximum stress and complexity, like a prolonged drought, collapse of a trading partner, or invasion of foreign army... societies must adapt quickly (by agreeing to consume fewer resources) or die in a violent competition for dwindling supplies.

Have you figured out how this might relate to today yet?

The average First World person has an environmental impact (resources consumed + waste generated) 32 times higher than a Third World person. As globalization stimulates the economies of China, India, Brazil, and a host of other countries with a large percentage of Third World living standards, the environmental impact of those nations increases dramatically. If China alone achieves a standard of living similar to that of Europe and the U.S., it will double the demand for resources of the entire world. That number assumes zero population growth and ignores completely the 1 billion residents of India.

Double the environmental impact sounds scary, but it's absolutely terrifying when you consider that we can't sustain our current pace of global consumption, let alone a 100% increase. Our highly specialized world economy has created small zones of land that produce most of the food...places like Punjab in India, the Green Belt in Australia, and of course the Great Plains in America...all of these places are suffering environmental degradation that takes thousands of years to revert naturally. Salination, soil erosion, and overuse of pesticide makes this land less fertile every day while the demand for food only increases. Of course there are, and will continue to be agricultural breakthroughs that increase yields, but if the land isn't managed properly, it will reach a point where it is beyond repair. The birthplace of man, the Fertile Crescent in Iraq, once the richest agricultural soil in the world, is now desert due to deforestation, salination, and erosion.

It's easy for us, for me, to live in a land of plenty, and drive around to different enviornmentally-protected parks, and buy food in the grocery store that is grown without pesticide, and think that these problems are overblown. Because within the borders of First World countries, they largely are. Environmental regulations have slowed down or stopped the pollution of rivers by mining companies and reforested much of America, Japan, and Europe. Sustainabile logging and fishing practices are enforced by governments and in the best interest of long-term corporate health.

But with all this regulation, all this pollution cleanup, all the planning and investment required for sustainable practice, did you ever wonder why the relative cost of resources has remained cheap? Why we still live in a society where it's more cost-effective to buy a new thingy than pay someone to fix your old thingy? Because globalization has allowed us to export the unregulated environmental rape to Third World countries - so that we can have our cake and eat it, too. We get the moral satisfaction of regulation and national parks while maintaining astronomical rates of consumption.

Japan, once almost completely deforested, now has forest cover over 70% of its land. They also import all of their timber from places like Indonesia and Malaysia, which are clear-cutting at a rate that will leave them bare by 2025. Mining regulations are much more relaxed in China, Africa, and Mexico, so the orange rivers of West Virginia have simply been relocated to other places around the globe. Eventually, we will run out of places to exploit, either because the resources themselves have been completely removed, or because those countries will legislate sustainable practices. When we reach that point, supply will shrink dramatically just as demand is reaching new peaks.

That's just the kind of scenario that has caused civilizations to collapse in the past. Strong, vibrant, wealthy, powerful societies filled with intelligent, hard-working, forward-thinking people have vanished because of exactly the same circumstances we're going to face.

I don't want to join the long list of environmental doomsayers. They've been proven wrong time and time again. But it's also foolish to ignore potential problems and expect new technologies to rescue us from an unsustainable path.