Coming back soon . . .

I know it's been a long time since I've posted anything. For a while, I just didn't feel like blogging. But that's changed, and I'll be back later this week.

One fervent hope for 2006: the Democrats take back the House, so in January 2007 we can begin impeachment hearings against Bush & Co. [I realize the odds of this are miniscule, but I can dream, can't I?]


Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

Last night's MNF game was, without a doubt, the ugliest game the Patriots have played in quite some time. For once, the Patriots made all the stupid mistakes that the other teams normally make. Rodney Harrison's pass interference call was bad enough. Brady's third interception--after he decided to dump the ball rather than take the sack--was even worse. And then the fourth INT was, of course, the nail in the coffin. Needless to say, I can only imagine what the next team meeting is going to be like. [It's a good half hour after the game ended as I write this. I just watched it, and thinking about it still makes me nauseous.]

And one other scary fact: this is the third week in a row that Vinatieri hasn't kicked a single field goal. . . .

After a couple moments' reflection, though, I can add two slightly bright notes:

(1) Everyone--even Ken Jennings, even #%@&%ing Ben Roethlisberger, has to either lose, or at the very least, play extremely badly sometime. Better they get the crap like this out of their system now than in January or February. In the long run, I think they'll be better for it.

(2) At least they're not the Eagles, who still has to win the Super Bowl--and get there without T.O.--to not be considered one of the all-time great choke jobs.


Hypocrite auteur

Michael Crichton recently wrote an article in PARADE entitled "Let's Stop Scaring Ourselves." This is, in part, because his new book, State of Fear is basically one long argument that the worries over global warming are overblown. This from a man who argued that "genetic engineering will bring about the end of the world" (Jurassic Park), "nanotechnology will bring about the end of the world" (Prey), and "weird viruses will bring about the end of the world" (The Andromeda Strain).

I'd be a little more inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt, of course, if he were actually a better writer; Crichton wields subtlety like a sledgehammer. Unfortunately, since it's likely to show up at TRASHionals, I'll probably end up actually reading the damn thing at some point.

Numb3rs is the new Century City

OK . . . so this show is debuting in January. But Numb3rs still sounds doomed to me:

Morrow stars as an FBI agent who recruits his mathematical genius brother (Krumholtz) to help the Bureau solve a wide range of challenging crimes in Los Angeles. From two very different perspectives, the brothers take on the most confounding criminal cases. Inspired by actual events, the series will depict how the confluence of police work and mathematics provide unexpected revelations and answers to the most perplexing criminal questions.

While I would love to see this show succeed (and the bar ain't that high, if it's airing Friday at 10), I'm still giving it about a 10% chance--at best--of making the fall schedule.


TRASH Regionals

Not quite the runaway that it was last year, but once again, WWJDFAKB? went 12-0 to win the Mid-Atlantic regionals of TRASH, defeating Tim Young's team, Ashlee Simpson's Backup Band (with such team members as Memorex and BASF) twice to take the title.

More on this later, but one quick thought: anyone else now expecting a full bonus on Lost and Desperate Housewives (especially the latter) at TRASHionals?

The streak ends?

Allegedly, Ken Jennings' win streak on Jeopardy will end tonight, if rumors from a couple of months ago can be believed.

I will repeat here something I've said, maybe not here, but elsewhere: it's more likely that Ken defeated himself than that someone else actually defeated him.


Not a postmortem, and not a mandate

This blog has been out of commission for so long for a number of reasons, a lot of which are personal.

Eventually, I'll get around to sports in Boston and other happier things.

But right now, I'm just saddened.

What does it mean when people who have misled and mismanaged this country from the day they took office are not only re-elected, but re-elected with even larger margins and in even larger numbers?

What does it mean when people are willing to vote for a party that doesn't have their best interests in mind, and is essentially willing to let themselves get screwed in the process?

What does it mean when the people who vote in large numbers for the party that stands for a smaller federal government are the very people who have the ~most~ to lose by a shrinking government?

What does it mean when the Vice-President claims that a margin of much less than 5% is a "mandate" and a "broad victory?"

It means a lot. I will get back to this post as soon as I can, though Blogger has (as many of you know) been very busy today.


So long Vioxx

Today Merck announced it is pulling its anti-arthritis drug Vioxx, its #2 seller (after Zocor), off the market. The reason? A study showed that patients who took the drug for more than 18 months had an increased risk of heart attack or other cardiovascular problems.

The irony of this is that the study was designed to show that Vioxx prevents recurrence of colon polyps--which might have led to increased sales. Instead, Merck is going to lose billions in future sales, and will almost certainly have to deal with lawsuits. [That said, I don't know how successful such lawsuits will be, since what I've heard doesn't suggest that Merck knew about this and intentionally withheld the information.]

What bothers me about the situation, though, is why this wasn't caught sooner; after all, the last stage of clinical trials is proving that a drug is both effective *and* safe; in a drug that is intended to treat a chronic condition (such as arthritis), it would need to be shown safe in the long run.

I'll admit I'm not an expert on the subject, but I do know that there is an inherent flaw in the system: the desire for safety requires as extensive testing as possible, while the patent laws give strong incentives to rush drugs to market (since the "clock" on the patent starts essentially from the day the drug is discovered). One potential solution to this problem would be to guarantee a drug company a certain amount of patent protection (say five years or so) from the date of regulatory approval, no matter how long it takes to get to market.

The other problem is that no drug is 100% safe; it's really a question of whether the benefits to a drug outweigh the risks. Clearly, in this case, given that other drugs do essentially the same thing, they don't. But, for a hypothetical example, let's say someone invented a drug for lung cancer that cured 50% of patients, but caused paralysis in 1 in 100,000 patients. Which is more important: maximizing benefit, or minimizing risk? It's something we, as a society, need to discuss, and preferably not with 30-second sound bites.


The streak ends?

Whether or not Ken has lost on Jeopardy!, one thing is true: if the producers wanted to keep the end of his run a secret, the only way to "guarantee" that would be to tape on an empty set . . . and even then, unless they're going to go the route of The Amazing Race (e.g., a multi-million dollar liability suit if they divulge the results), I suspect word would still have gotten out (as it is, the most they'd have to lose is $1,000 or $2,000).


More book sales . . .

A big one this weekend out in Newtown, on the site of a former mental hospital.

I was able to stop by on the second-to-last day ($5 a bag day). Picked up about a dozen or so books, several of which were hardcovers.

One thing I can say: whoever first devised the pricing system for these book fairs was brilliant. Probably a sadist, but definitely brilliant.

I'm looking forward to Danbury's sale Columbus Day weekend.

And a word to you TRASH aficionados: I've found another video to give out as a prize. In some ways, it's even scarier than this video I brought to BU.

Too many losses

A sad milestone, recently: the 1000th combat death in Iraq.

There's not a whole lot I can say about it that hasn't been said.

Jeopardy! returns

Ken Jennings has returned, and, so far, is 0-for-3 in Final Jeopardy!, although it has yet to actually matter.

Internet rumors claim that he just lost recently, in his 75th game. Part of me credits this rumor, for reasons I can't quite pin down, but part of me is skeptical. [In any case, if he does lose in his 75th game, that means we'll be seeing Ken--off and on--through Thanksgiving or so, as the Tournament of Champions airs this month, and the College Tournament in November.]

And, on a minor note, I'm not terribly impressed with the new graphics, but that's just me.


Millionaire: now with 50% more lifelines!

The syndicated version of Millionaire is adding a fourth lifeline, "Switch the Question." In addition, Internet users will be able to play along on the Ask the Audience lifeline via IM, by adding "millionaireIM" to their Buddy Lists.

To compensate for the extra help, they're reducing the $32,000, $64,000, and $125,000 prizes to $25,000, $50,000, and $100,000 respectively. But given how much help this is--among other things, contestants actually can talk about the question without completely wasting the ATA.

On a side note: I passed the audition yesterday. I know I convinced the contestant coordinator of something--either that I should be on the show, or that I'm a raving lunatic (or both). :-)


Caution flag for The Amazing Race

In effect, this week's episode of The Amazing Race revealed not one but two major twists.

First, rather than having a Fast Forward on nearly every leg of the race, there are only two Fast Forwards for the entire race. If it were up to me, I'd have four or five--but only allow teams in the bottom half of the field to go for it.

Second, they announced that there would be a penalty for arriving last on a non-elimination leg. That penalty was enforced tonight: not only did the team have to forfeit any money on hand, but they receive no money for the next leg, either. Personally, that seems way too harsh to me: rather, I'd have given such unfortunate teams something of a Hobson's choice: forfeit the money or take a penalty of six to twelve hours. [As it is, this week's leaders, Colin and Christie, have at least a six-hour lead on the remaining teams; while they arrived before noon, no other team made it to the finish line before sunset.

Personally, I'd have added one other change: anywhere there is a chokepoint (e.g., having to wait for a building to open in the morning), I'd award a bonus to the first team to reach that checkpoint--either money or time.

Dress codes

This fall, high schools in Waterbury, CT will adopt a rather drab dress code: among other things, denim has been banned outright, and the clothes that are allowed are limited to just four or so colors (solid navy, black, gray, and khaki). If you're going to go that far, in my book, you might as well just go with uniforms. If you're going to go so far as to require shirts to have collars and sleeves, you could at least let people choose the colors. . . .


More X and not X

An example of X or not X is easy to understand: “The woman is pregnant, or she is not pregnant.” Obviously arguing X and not X--“The woman is pregnant and she is not pregnant”--is a tougher challenge.

Someone I know is trying to claim that (A) God has foredained all actions, but (B) nevertheless, humans have free will to decide their actions. In other words, there is complete predestination, and there is simultaneously no predestination at all.

Anyone care to take a stab at this one?

Pedestrian thoughts

Just a thought: if you’re going to cross a busy street, for God’s sake, don’t take your sweet time about it. . . .

I may have been reckless as a pedestrian (and I appreciate what drivers go through now a lot more than I did a year ago), but at least I wasn’t slow.


What’s next?

After watching the Rev. Al Sharpton hosting Saturday Night Live (oh, joy, Brian Fellow's Safari Planet. . . .), I have to wonder: which is more likely, Ken Jennings ultimately ending up as a game show host, or hosting SNL?

Nomar, Nash, et al.

The Red Sox traded away Nomar. That move Theo closer to the list of “People I’m ashamed to admit are Yale graduates.”

I feel roughly the same way about Steve Nash leaving Dallas for Phoenix.

Unfortunately, as if this weren’t painfully obvious already, it is extraordinarily unlikely that we’ll ever see another John Stockton (i.e., a marquis player spending an entire career with a single team); such is the economics of the system.

Of course, as someone pointed out, I can’t blame the Red Sox for trading him, since, given what happened last winter, he was likely to bolt anyways; as pissed off as I might be about this, I still want to see the Red Sox win the world series. . . . and, like Ahmed, I’d really like to see Red Sox/Cubs.



Congratulations to Mr. Jennings on making it to the end of the season undefeated. It says many things about the show; I'll leave it to you to decide exactly what (although I'm still surprised that Keith Olbermann, on Countdown, went so far as to compare some of Ken's opponents to inflatable rubber dolls).

At this rate, it wouldn't surprise me if Ken ended up as the host of Jeopardy! before too long. . . . It might cost them less money. :-) Seriously, though, now that Ken's reached $75,000, the only question left may be whether he can reach $100,000 in one show.


SG-1 and Atlantis

Stargate SG-1 had its season 8 première two weeks ago. It was a shame to see both Hammond and Dr. Frasier gone, and perhaps even stranger to see O'Neill become commander of the Stargate project.

Like Matt Roush, I'm glad that I was able to get in on the ground floor, so to speak, with the spinoff, Stargate Atlantis. The scene with the Lost City rising was especially impressive, as is the technology of the Ancients, although I couldn't help but compare the premise of this series to that of the late, great Farscape (humans in a distant part of space, facing the prospect of never going home).

I'm also amused by the description of Major Shepherd as a "closet mathematical genius;" one quick calculation does not a genius make. . . . Will there be more?


One more Jeopardy! note

A thought that occurred to me a while back: if a player’s streak went on sufficiently long, eventually he’d have to play against people who’ve watched the streak on TV. If Ken makes it to next season, the new shows won’t tape into August . . . putting him in that exact situation.

In any case, his streak will almost certainly be harder to maintain at that point than it is now (although defeating him still won’t be easy). I also wonder if they’d pay him the money he won so far this season, or make him wait until the end of his streak to get it all. . . .


Things that make you go arrrggh

For me: when someone complains about both X ~and~ not X. [e.g., “You’re too skinny” when you”re losing weight, and then “you’ve stopped losing weight” once you go off the diet.]

Ken redux

Not surprisingly, Ken’s winning streak has brought more people to my blog over the past week than anything else (at least a dozen searches, including some rather odd--though not unwholesome--ones).

Just a thought: if it were up to me, I wouldn't have had an unlimited wins rule on Jeopardy!. Instead, after 10 games, I’d offer them a choice: take an additional $100,000 and split, or continue playing. After 15 games, make the same offer, except for $250,000; if they win 20 games, they retire undefeated, with double their money.

And to respond to a post on Matt’s blog: your fear actually has come to pass in some European countries, except there the producers hire those people as consultants. . . .

Why, for the love of God, why?

As I was driving this afternoon, I heard an ad on the radio for a company looking for child actors for current/upcoming MGM productions. To their credit, they produce Stargate SG-1, which may be the best SF show on TV right now.

To their eternal detriment, their upcoming productions include Species 3. I only wish I were kidding. [After all, the only reason to watch the original is to see Natasha Henstridge au naturel, and even that doesn’t really make Species 2 worth the effort. . . .]


Car v. pedestrian

Thankfully no accidents involved, but just a not-so-minor irritant: where I live, there are a lot of roads with no sidewalks or shoulders. So, if you're going to run or bike, you need to be on the same road. But, for the love of God, people should remember that they should be facing traffic, not going in the same direction. On my way home yesterday, two cars behind me nearly got into a road-closing fender bender because of a cyclist who was on the wrong side of the road. . . .


Forty Signs of Rain

Forty Signs of Rain is part one of how Kim Stanley Robinson would write The Day After Tomorrow. It’s a relatively slow-paced book; in fact, the great calamity only takes place near the very end of the book, and there’s never really a sense of danger involved.

That said, what makes the book so powerful is the fact that all of this could realistically happen in the near future, even more so than the disasters of Tomorrow.

What makes this book so odd, though, is the fact that even though it is the first part of a trilogy (The Capital Code, which, at one point, was the working title of this book) is that the book makes no mention of the fact, either on the dust jacket or inside; the ending--as disturbing as it is if you remember what was said earlier--leaves many threads dangling; the most interesting of them regards a young boy who is of particular interest to a group of Buddhist monks. [Perhaps KSR has some loose threads left over from writing The Years of Rice and Salt?]

23 and counting

Ken Jennings’s Jeopardy! winning streak now stands at 23 games, although I’m starting to wonder if fatigue has set in: if his opponents had been marginally better, Ken would probably have lost.

On the pro side, Jeopardy! is apparently getting higher ratings than it was before Ken’s streak started; on the con side, some people are starting to get annoyed by the streak. [And, on a related note, can’t they get “National Academic Quiz Tournaments” right?]



The Green Party decided not to put Nader on their ticket as they did in 1996 and 2000. Interestingly enough, Nader is not a member of the Greens.

What I find odd is that John Kasich, on Faux News, is claiming that having Nader on the ballot is a good thing for Kerry, and, thus, this decision is good news for Bush. Can someone explain this (il)logic to me?


16 days and counting. . . .

Once again, Dave Letterman is getting laughs at a QBer's expense (anyone else remember his sketch on Kevin Olmstead’s WWTBAM win?). . . .


What goes around comes around

As this Canuck site notes, Bush still isn’t on the Presidential ballot in Illinois. At the moment, it’s unlikely that Bush has a serious chance of winning there. But what bothers me is the fact that those same Republicans who argued that arbitrary deadlines are essential to a proper democracy are arguing that those deadlines shouldn’t stop Bush from being on the ballot.