Monday, December 22, 2008


After hearing Paramore's "Decode" on an internet radio station, I decided I'd like to see Twilight. The song was really good, and even a bad movie with a good soundtrack can be worth it. (And it helped that my wife really loved the book and was eager to see it.) It turns out the movie was played as the second song in the closing credits - but we sat through the very end. The movie was ok. Things seemed a little disjointed, and the Edward's character did not seem all that interesting. (Though Bella seemed to be pretty good.) There also seemed to be a lot of holes in the 'Vampire-lore' that was spun around the story. My wife told me that the book was better and would fill in a lot of the wholes.
So, I went ot the library to get the book.
Only, the didn't have any copies in stock, and had a gazillion holds on every copy that was checked out. But, they did have a Spanish copy in stock. It had been a while since I read a Spanish book, but I figured a teenage fiction book wouldn't be too hard. (And it helped that I had already seen the movie!) It was actually a pretty easy read. I had to grab the dictionary for a few words. (And then it seemed those words were used over and over again.)
After reading the book, it seems that both leads were horribly miscast. In the movie, Bella was way too cute, and Edward was not nearly cute enough.
The script, however, seemed to do a good job of distilling the essence of the book in two hours. It somehow managed to also include just about all the key scenes from the book. (Though this probably led to the jumpiness in the movie - if you don't pay attention to minute details, you wont catch what's happening unless you have read the book.)
The book itself, I found somewhat tedious. It seemed to be overly repetitive. (Not necessarily in plot, but in the the way that things were explained.)
The vampire lore and the characters of Carlisle and Alice seemed to have a lot of potential to be explored in greater detail. Even more history of Edward could have really helped add to the book.

College football: Pac-10 vs Mountain West

The Mountain West was 6-1 versus the Pac-10 during the regular season. Add in the bowl games, and it comes to a still respectable 6-2. Is the MWC really that much better than Pac-10? Well, probably not. Half of the wins were top teams in the MWC defeating bottom-feeders in the Pac-10. If we exclude those, and include just the teams in similar positions in the standings, it looks much closer. In a battle of 6th place teams, the MWC's UNLV edged the Pac-10s ASU. Arizona (#5 in Pac-10) came out even, beating MWC #3 BYU, and losing to MWC #7 New Mexico. Then it comes down to the two remaining games - #1 Utah over #3 Oregon State and #4 Cal over #5 Colorado State. In both cases, the higher ranked team won. However, Cal's victory was a blowout, while Utah squeaked out a last second win over OSU. In the end, head to head competition looks pretty much even.

*(1) Utah > (3) Oregon State
(3) BYU > (8) UCLA
(3) BYU > (10) Washington
*(5) Arizona > (3) BYU
*(6) UNLV > (6) Arizona State
*(7) New Mexico > (5) Arizona
(2) TCU > (7) Stanford
*(4) Cal > (5) Colorado State

Comparing the teams by conference standings yields similar results:

(1) usc > utah
USC has done great in big games, but let its guard down a bit in the 'easy ones'. Utah has managed to pull off some 'last minute miracles' against the two best teams it has played. If they played in Salt Lake, Utah would have a chance. Otherwise, it would likely be a USC blowout.
(2) oregon < tcu
Both teams have two losses to to 10 BCS teams. Oregon also has a loss to Cal.
(3) oregon state = byu
At the start of the season, BYU had a clear edge. During the late middle season, the edge was OSU. At the end, they both came off bad rivalry loses. Both lost at Utah, though Oregon State was closer. Both blew out UCLA, though BYU had a wider margin.
(4) Cal > Air Force
Tough one to call. Both have only lost to teams with winning records. Both are 8-4. However, Cal beat Colorado State by wider margin. Cal also had a good win over Oregon, while Air Force's best win was against Houston.
(5) Arizona = Colorado State
Another tough one to call. Both had some bad losses, but have been finishing strong with a bowl wins over higher rated opponents (both of which had BCS aspirations at the season's start.) Colorado State handily beat New Mexico, got blown out by Cal, and narrowly lost to BYU. Arizona lost to New Mexico, got beat handily by Cal and beat BYU.
(6) Arizona State < UNLV
UNLV beat ASU in the regular season
(7) Stanford > New Mexico
Both had some good wins and some bad losses. Head to head, Stanford lost badly to TCU, and narrowly beat Arizona. New Mexico beat Arizona by a decent margin, and lost badly to TCU. Stanford did have a nice win versus Oregon State, so that gives them the edge.
(8) UCLA = Wyoming
Both beat Tennessee. When UCLA won at the start of a season, it was a sign of how good UCLA was. When Wyoming did at the end, it was a sign of how bad Tennessee was. Both were also shut out by BYU. Neither beat a 1A team with a winning record.
(9) Washington State < San Diego State
Washington State's victories were against winless Washington and a IAA team with a losing record (Portland State). San Diego State actually showed some signs of life at the end of the season by beating UNLV (and keeping them out of a bowl). Their other victory was against a 2 win Idaho team.
(10) Washington < Nobody
Washington is so bad, the Mountain West gets credit by not having a 10th team.

Pac10 3
Draw 3

By both measures, the MWC is slightly better than the Pac-10, though it comes down mostly to the Pac-10 having some really pathetic teams in Washington.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Drive through transit

Stanford University offers free Caltrain GO passes and VTA ecopasses to all its employees. The audience for these passes would seem to be employees who take transit to work, and then rely on the free Stanford shuttles and walking to get around campus. However, to get the passes, one has to go to the parking office. Hmm...
And to make things worse, the parking office is on the edge of campus, next to, well you guessed it, a big parking lot.
The campus shuttles don't stop near the parking office, though they do stop only a couple of blocks away. However, there is no crosswalk or sidewalk connecting the route from the bus stop to the parking office. I guess you can just chalk it up to another half-hearted effort to accommodate transit without hurting cars.

It's all about when you lose

One thing clear from the final BCS ratings: if you are going to lose, lose early, and do it before your big win. The Big-12 is a great example. Oklahoma was the first of the top-3 to lose. They followed it up with their 'signature' wins over Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Missouri, and are now ranked #1. Texas had great wins over Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas. However, they were all before they lost to Texas Tech. After losing to Tech, their best win was over 7-5 Kansas. That puts them at #3. Unfortunate Tech lost to Oklahoma near the end of the season. They had no signature win after that (beating only lowly Baylor). That leaves them at #7. USC had a signature win over Ohio State early in the season, before their Oregon State loss. Afterward, they proceeded to blow out most of their remaining opponents, including #17 Oregon. Florida, however, had the benefit of having their big games after the Mississippi loss. Their signature win came at the end of the season. Thus, they are playing in the championship game.

Alabama, TCU, and Oklahoma State show there is one exception: it is ok to lose after your signature win as long as the team is ranked above you. TCU is a nice example. Their Oklahoma loss dropped them from the rankings. Then their BYU victory propelled them back up. The loss to Utah had them fall a little - though they seemed to recover most of the fall.

1. Oklahoma 12-1
L: #3 Texas
W: #7 Texas Tech
#13 Oklahoma State
#21 Missouri

2. Florida 12-1
L: #25 Mississippi
W: #15 Georgia
#4 Alabama
#26 Florida State

3. Texas 11-1
L: #7 Texas Tech
W: 7-5 Kansas

4. Alabama 12-1
L: #2 Florida

5. USC 11-1
L: #27 Oregon State
W: #17 Oregon

6. Utah 12-0
W: #11 TCU
#16 BYU
#27 Oregon State

7. Texas Tech 11-1
L: #1 Oklahoma

8. Penn State 11-1
L: 8-4 Iowa
W: #18 Michigan State

9. Boise State 12-0
W: #17 Oregon

10. Ohio State 10-2
L: #8 Penn State
W: #23 Northwestern

11. TCU 10-2
L: #6 Utah
W: 8-4 Air Force

12. Cincinnati 11-2
L: 7-5 Connecticut
W: #20 Pittsburgh

13. Oklahoma State 9-3
L #3 Oklahoma

14. Georgia Tech 9-3
L: 8-4 North Carolina
W: #15 Georgia

Monday, December 08, 2008

How close did the BCS get

The final BCS rankings are out. How close did they get to choosing the best teams? And who got left out?

The table below shows how the top 27 BCS teams did against other teams in the BCS rankings. (#26 Florida State and #27 Oregon State since they showed up frequently and seemed to be before a big drop off in points.) Only wins against the top 27 are counted, while all losses are shown. The other loses of ranked teams are also shown.

If a team lost to a lower ranked team, they were docked their highest ranked win (x). Extra credit is given for nonconference wins (*). If a team lost to more teams than it has good wins, then it gets multiple x's. Teams playing in BCS bowls are marked with (+).

Oklahoma looks like a clear bet as the best team. Even after docking their best win (due to the Texas loss), they still have 4 wins over top 27 teams, including two wins over non-conference teams. There are five teams with 2 non-docked wins. Texas Tech beat the best teams. Even if they were to move up to 2nd, they could still keep both wins. However, moved there, Texas wouldn't be penalized for the loss, and would move ahead. A solution would be to take next-in line Utah. They are also have the highest quality wins that include a non-conference opponent. Florida does have a quality nonconference win, but they don't appear until after Utah. Statistically, Oklahoma vs. Utah would be the best championship game. However, Oklahoma vs. Florida is not too far off.

As for BCS bowl participants, having 6 games would make things clearer. There seems to be a pretty clear separation between the top 12 and the remainder. Since there are only 10 teams, the simple formula is to take all schools, order them by number of non-docked wins. In each group, order those with non-conference wins first, then in each subgroup, order the teams by highest ranked wins. If a reordering would cause a team to drop, then we go back to the BCS rating. (In this case, Texas is before Texas Tech - if Texas Tech were moved ahead, Texas would no longer be docked for its Texas Tech loss, and would thus moved ahead, which would cause it to be docked again... Similarly, Ohio State would move in to the 'two win' category, ahead of USC. However, by doing so, it would be docked its best win, and USC would get a good non-conference win, and move ahead.) The teams that got 'shortchanged' from the BCS were all non-traditional powers: Boise State, TCU and Texas Tech. The 'rules' give the spots to less deserving conference champions (Cincy and Virginia Tech) while excluding Texas Tech. Pure politics denied TCU and Boise State the spot going to Ohio State.

Team Rank of 'undocked' victories
------------- ----------------------------
+Oklahoma: *11,*12, 13, 21
+Utah: 11,*27
+Florida: 15,*26
+Penn State: 18,*27
+Texas: 13, 21
Texas Tech: 3, 13
Boise State: *17
+Alabama: 15
TCU: 16
+USC: 17

+Ohio State: 18, 23
Oklahoma State: 21
Georgia Tech:
Michigan State:
+Virginia Tech: xx
Pittsburgh: xx
Missouri: x
Ball State: x
Northwestern: x
Boston College:
Mississippi: xx
Florida State:
Oregon State:

Complete details

1. Oklahoma
W: x#7 Texas Tech
*#11 TCU (other loss to #6 Utah)
*#12 Cincinnati (other loss to 7-5 Conecticut)
#13 Oklahoma State (Other losses to #3, #7)
#21 Missouri (others, #3, #13, 7-5 Kansas)
L: #3 Texas
2. Florida
W: x#4 Alabama
#15 Georgia (other losses: #14 Georgia Tech, #4 Alabama)
*#26 Florida State (7-5 Wake Forest, #24 Boston College, #14 Georgia Tech)
L: #25 Mississippi
3. Texas
W: x#1 Oklahoma
#13 Oklahoma State (#1, #7)
#21 Missouri (#3, #13, 7-5)
L: #7 Texas Tech
4. Alabama
W: x#15 Georgia (#2, #14)
L: #2 Florida
5. USC
W: x*#10 Ohio State (#8 Penn State)
#17 Oregon (#9 Boise State, 8-4 California)
L: #27 Oregon State (#6 Utah, #8 Penn State, 5-7 Stanford)
6. Utah
W: #11 TCU (#1 Oklahoma)
#16 BYU (#11 TCU)
*#27 Oregon State (#5, #8, 5-7 Stanford)
7. Texas Tech
W: #3 Texas
#13 Oklahoma State (#1, #3)
L: #1 Oklahoma
8. Penn State
W: x#10 Ohio State (#5 USC)
#18 Michigan State (#10 Ohio State, 8-4 California)
*#27 Oregon State (#5,#6, 5-7 Stanford)
L: 8-4 Iowa
9. Boise State
W: *#17 Oregon (#5, 8-4 California)
10. Ohio State
W: #18 Michigan State (#8, 8-4 California)
#23 Northwestern (#18, 3-9 Indiana)
L: #8 Penn State
#5 USC
11. TCU
W: #16 BYU (#6 Utah)
L: #1 Oklahoma
#6 Utah
12. Cincinnati
W: x#20 Pittsburgh (7-5 Rutgers, 6-6 Bowling Green)
L: #1 Oklahoma
7-5 Connecticut
13. Oklahoma State
W: #21 Missouri (#1, #3, 7-5)
L: #1 Oklahoma
#3 Texas
#7 Texas Tech
14. Georgia Tech
W: x#15 Georgia
x#24 Boston College
x#26 Florida State
L: #19 Virginia Tech
5-7 Virginia
8-4 North Carolina (#28)
15. Georgia
L: #2 Florida
#4 Alabama
#14 Georgia Tech
16. BYU
L: #6 Utah
#11 TCU
17. Oregon
W: x#27 Oregon State
L: #5 USC
#9 Boise State
8-4 California
18. Michigan State
W: x#23 Northwestern
L: #8 Penn State
#10 Ohio State
8-4 California
19. Virginia Tech
W: x#24 Boston College
x#14 Georgia Tech
L: #26 Florida State
9-4 East Carolina
#24 Boston College
7-5 Miami
20. Pittsburgh
W: xx
L: 7-5 Rutgers
6-6 Bowling Green
#12 Cincinatti
21. Missouri
W: x
L: #1 Oklahoma
#3 Texas
#13 Oklahoma State
7-5 Kansas
22. Ball State
W: x
L: 8-5 Buffalo
23. Northwestern
W: x
L: #18 Michigan State
#10 Ohio State
3-9 Indiana
24. Boston College
W: x#19 Georgia Tech
x#26 Florida State
L: #14 Georgia Tech
#19 Virginia Tech
7-5 Clemson
8-4 North Carolina
25. Mississippi
W: x#2 Florida
L: 6-6 Vanderbilt
7-5 Wake Forest
#4 Alabama
7-5 South Carolina
26. Florida State
W: x#19 Virginia Tech
L: #2 Florida
#14 Georgia Tech
#24 Boston College
7-5 Wake Forest
27. Oregon State
W: x#5 USC
L: #8 Penn State
#6 Utah
#17 Oregon
7-5 Stanford

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Is the internet making us dumb?

I stumbled across this article in the Atlantic monthly (ironically, while googling something totally different.) The author notes that the ability of so much data online allows us to get information quickly, greatly reducing what were once long hours in the library. However, in the process, we have lost some of the ability to concentrate in deep thoughts and long text.
It was funny, that I even found the article itself to be much longer than a typical internet read. It sounds like he is right on. Google is in fact making us stupid - while at the same time augmenting our intelligence in other areas, just as writing and publishing have done earlier.
The scariest part about this is the strong interdependence. With more and more dependent on the net, we find it difficult to function without it. I've seen an office pretty much shut down when the internet connection goes down. What work can you do without the net? I remember 10 years ago finding it a real challenge to work when the company had blocked outgoing internet connections. And that was back when offices were not nearly so net-dependent. Attempts to serve as a company gatekeepers can be a challenge both to productivity and morale. But, the lack of connectivity can be devastating. And even more worrisome is the central 'google' gatekeeper. It seems search results have been getting worse - probably as a result of more junk out there. But other times, the junk filtering eliminates the valuable results that you are in fact looking for. Will we one day have a great index tied in to our brains? By that time the computers may just decide they've had enough of this 'slavery'...

Monday, December 01, 2008

BCS rankings, November 30, 2008

The new BCS rankings were released today. This is the second poll to include the US News rankings. At the top, Texas and USC seem to be marching towards the championship game. Only a disaster against UCLA or a huge jump by Florida could keep USC out.

For at large teams, the loser of the SEC championship game should be a fairly sure bet, as should Oklahoma. The last spot could be more interesting. For the last spot, Ohio State, Boise State, Georgia Tech, TCU, Ball State and Boston College are all eligible for at-large selection. Boston College is probably out of the mix - if they win the ACC championship, they'll be in, while if they lose, they'll likely fall out of the at large range. Georgia Tech is a possibility. However two of their 9 wins came against IAA teams. Would this even count? This leaves 3 non-BCS teams and Ohio State. OSU is slightly ahead of BSU (do primarily to higher US News score), and thus should get the bid.

Last week's ranking

RankTeamHarrisUS NewsComputerBCS Score
6Penn State0.77060.28850.67000.5764
7Texas Tech0.73980.00000.87000.5366
9Ohio State0.65700.19230.59000.4798
10Boise State0.68570.00000.74000.4752
11Georgia Tech0.37700.38460.45000.4039
13Ball State0.54020.00000.55000.3634
14Boston College0.29520.40380.38000.3597
21Notre Dame0.00000.71150.00000.2372