2017 NCAA Tournament: A retrospective

Well, as expected, the NCAA tournament came to an abrupt end yesterday afternoon when the South Dakota State Jackrabbits were defeated by Gonzaga 66-46 in the only game of any interest to me.

South Dakota State, who entered the game after winning the Summit League tournament by sweeping conference rivals Nebraska-Omaha, the St. Aloysius Parish Children’s Choir, and the Swanson Family Reunion, accidentally led for the first 17 minutes of the game before remembering that they were a #16 seed. The coach attributed the oversight to lack of sleep due to the uncomfortable seats on the bus. Fortunately, the Jackrabbits were able to bounce back in the second half in order to avert having to stay and play a second game, as the team did not pack additional socks and underwear for the trip.

With the NCAA tournament effectively over, the other 63 teams are apparently going to fritter away the next few weeks playing basketball in God-forsaken places like Utah. Meanwhile, the Jackrabbits will be enjoying the buffet at Golden Corral before the prices change, and then heading back to wherever they came from.

Interesting side note: The South Dakota state university system has about 32,000 students, which comprises about 4% of the state’s population. (The corresponding numbers for North Carolina and Pennsylvania are 1.8% and 0.77%, respectively.)

Disclaimer: The interestingness of the previous side note was calculated relative to my interest in any remaining NCAA tournament games. The results were a landslide.

And for the record, my bracket prediction remains on track. Go two #1s, a #2, and a #4 or #6!

2017 NCAA Tournament Preview

As the NCAA tournament begins, my Final 4 prediction is that it will be two #1 seeds, a #2 seed, and one team seeded either #4 or #6. I don’t care which teams or who wins.

My interest in this year’s tournament begins and ends with South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits (18-16) play in the Summit League, which is apparently a Division 1 shirts-vs.-skins pickup conference that includes such legendary basketball programs as North Dakota State, Oral Roberts University, the indecisively named Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (which calls itself IUPUI, apparently on purpose), and the Bismark Kiwanis Club.

South Dakota State finished 6th in the Summit League regular season before accidentally winning their conference tournament and earning themselves an overnight bus trip to Salt Lake City, Utah to be crushed by Gonzaga (31-1), followed by an overnight bus ride back to South Dakota.

The Penn State Nittany Lions have been named this year’s designated survivor for the NCAA tournament, and will sit in the bowling alley under the student basketball arena until the tournament is over.

Go Jackrabbits. (An exclamation point seems excessive here.)

Inadvisable use of hands

There is a picture going around the internet of me holding my friend Stephanie’s baby during a recent lunch.

This photograph, which is evidence of something that probably really occurred, should not be taken as a license for people to start handing me babies willy-nilly. The incident in question was triggered by exigent circumstances where mommy had to go get more napkins, and should not be considered an endorsement of the holding of babies in general.

Science has shown that, regardless of their cuteness, babies are notoriously squirmy, drooly, and fragile. In addition, babies have only one diagnostic message (“wah”) which they report in any situation, from “mysterious childhood ailment” to “It’s 2:47 AM. Do you know where I am?” to “mommy went to get more napkins”. Science does not understand why they do this.

It is my position that babies should only be handled by professional baby wranglers, or parents who have received extensive baby-management training, such as Lamaze.  (From the French ‘lamaze’, which possibly means “I don’t know, have you tried changing him?”)

Also, make sure you have plenty of napkins.

(Note: The characters Squirmy, Drooly, and Fragile did not score well with test audiences for Walt Disney’s reboot of Snow White and the Ten Dwarves. Their scenes are being reshot. The Squirmy Drooly Fragile ride at Disneyworld has been delayed until 2019.)

Epilogue: There are rumors that a picture exists from three years ago of me holding Stephanie’s other child (code-named ‘Hrothgar’). This probably also happened, but I have written it off as a youthful indiscretion.

I think my sister also has a photo of me holding my nephew as a baby, using the traditional “running-back” technique (below)**. I am pleased to say that I did not fumble him, although I did suffer muscle cramps from trying not to move my arm, out of fear I would break him. (Disclaimer: This is not me.  Picture courtesy of “Google man holding baby”.)

babyhandler

** Not to be confused with the “immaculate reception” technique (below) popular in Pittsburgh during the 1970’s. This style of baby holding was discontinued after extensive controversy as to whether the baby touched the ground.

107-immaculatereceptionstatue

 

 

I am become App, the Destroyer of Sleep

Around 10:30 morning I received a text from an unknown number, indicating I was 9 minutes late for a video chat with my friend Laura.  As I did not have a video chat scheduled with Laura, and the text had come from a number in South Dakota (a state known for Laura not being there), I texted her directly to find out if she had sent me an invite to some weird new social media platform.

She indicated that she had not, and that “these are the first text messages I’ve sent today and I haven’t been on any social media.”

I was surprised by her response.  You see, Laura is a Millennial.  As I understand it, Millennials exist on a sort of virtual Island, and if you don’t press the ‘Send’ button every 108 minutes, the Internet (represented by Oceanic flight 815, above) will crash.

When I asked how it was possible for her to still be unconnected at 10:30AM, she replied that she had slept in.

While I applaud her for catching up on much needed Zzz’s, I found myself wondering if there was some way to stay in touch with the digital world without the need to remain conscious.  (Disclaimer: Other than Twitter).

To meet this “need”, I envision the creation of two new apps.

The first is an app which will allow Millennials who talk in their sleep to stream their unintelligible mumbling directly to their friends.  I call this app Napchat.  (Disclaimer: The name Napster was taken.)

The other app allows Millennials to post pictures of themselves not having gotten out of bed yet, so they don’t have to respond to texts.  I call this app Slumblr.

As I write this, I feel a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of sleepless Millennials suddenly reached for their iPhones, and went to bed.

Author’s Note: I have already inadvertently caused my phone’s auto-complete function to begin suggesting the words Napchat and Slumblr.  We are doomed.

Being of sound(ish) mind and body…

Today I had a meeting with my lawyer to do some estate planning.  My family has been dealing with some of the ambiguities of my father’s estate, and I realized that there were ways to add complexity to the estate planning in order to simplify things for the heirs.  The process is fascinating, and in some ways similar to designing software.  (Everything has to be spelled out in detail; the default conditions are usually wrong; some user will screw up and blame you for not being clear, etc.)

In the process, I learned some important things that I wanted to pass on, no pun intended. (Disclaimer:  I didn’t actually go out of my way to avoid a pun.  It just sort of happened.  I have no regrets.)

  1. If you have stuff in your life (friends, family, money, classic comic books in plastic bags that you never read*), you should have a will.
  2. In North Carolina, if you kill someone to inherit their estate, you are automatically disinherited.  (Note: I am sending a copy of this statute to everybody in my family.)
  3. Apparently, in the case of foul play, you can not set up a trust to pay for someone to find your killer and avenge you.  This seems unreasonable in light of point #2 above.
  4. You cannot leave your entire fortune to your cat if you do not have a cat.
  5. You cannot instruct the executor to buy you a cat for the purposes of inheritance, because then the estate owns the cat, and you can’t leave the estate to itself.**
  6. The same provision might also be true for dogs, but I didn’t ask, because I don’t like dogs.
  7. You cannot add a section indicating what should be done with your estate if you have faked your own death.  This seems like an oversight in the law, considering how often people on TV fake their own deaths.
  8. The law does not require that the attorney assemble all the heirs in a musty drawing room for the reading of the will.  (Disclaimer: I have mixed emotions about this, as I do not have a drawing room, and I’m not sure where to rent one.)  This means that if you plan to make a video recording of your will, you will have to post it to YouTube.
  9. If you have a living will, make sure it is specific about the conditions for withdrawing life support.  Do not, for example, allow your loved ones to pull the plug if you fall asleep in front of the TV.  It won’t make you die faster, and it may take a few minutes for the TV to reset when you plug it back in.
  10. Many attorneys are reluctant to include scavenger hunts with cryptic clues as part of the will.  My lawyer indicated that she did not want to become a case study in some law textbook where the client wrote a crazy will and the lawyer screwed something up.  (Disclaimer: This was her reasoning, not mine.)  I was hoping that my legacy would include an entry in the syllabus for Estate Planning Bloopers and Practical Jokes 101, but she was adamant.

* If you have a bunch of comic books in plastic bags that you’ve never read, you may be interested to know that many comic books contain colorful pictures and words which tell a story.  These stories are in many ways reminiscent of the stories you find in Wikipedia entries for the same comic book issues.  Also, if you’re a grammar Nazi, I invite you to spend time reading the plastic bags.  There is valuable information about whether or not they are suffocation hazards for children.

** Doing so would rip a hole in the time-space continuum, which might not matter to you if you’re dead, but the rest of us are trying to live here, thank you very much.

The Shriek

A few weeks ago I had business at my church one weekday morning.  As I was walking by the fellowship hall, I saw that the preschool kids were having races across the room.*  The kids were very quiet and well mannered until the teacher shouted “Go!”  At that moment, the kids took off running, and each of them began emitting a paint-peeling squeal that immediately stopped when they reached the other side of the room.

I don’t have children of my own, so I have never studied the phenomenon of why children scream while running.  However, this does not stop me from making up two theories about why this happens:

Theory 1: Children have small torsos.  As a result, their legs are much closer to their vocal chords than with adults.  It is possible that the vibrations of their feet hitting the floor as they run are transmitted directly to the vocal chords, causing them to vibrate at a much higher frequency than normal.

Theory 2: Children are inexperienced.  Children as young as three years of age may have been running for as little as three years.  The screaming may be a reflex reaction caused by the sudden realization, “Holy crap!  I can’t believe I’m moving this fast!  How did that happen?”

Little-Known Made-Up Fact: On the TV show Arrow, the “canary cry” sound made by the Black Canary is an actual recording of children playing tag** during recess at St. Mary’s Preschool in Vancouver, British Columbia.

*Child safety disclaimer 1: Racing is a form of competition, and may result in winners and losers.  No children experienced loss of self-esteem due to the fact that they were raised by actual grown-ups and not emotionally stunted overprotective weenies.  No participation awards were presented in the running of this race.

**Child safety disclaimer 2: Tag is a form of competition, and may result in winners or losers.  All children participating in this game were provided with juice boxes and a nap, after which they didn’t even remember playing tag, because it was time to feed the hamster.

(Trigger warning: Although Trigger was a three-year old stallion, he never screamed like a banshee on fire while running. This may be due to the fact that his feet were further away from his vocal chords.  Or possibly that his parents were not emotionally stunted overprotective weenie thoroughbreds.)

 

Quality communications

I’m always amused when I call some customer service place, and they start the conversation with “This call may be recorded for quality purposes.”  Since the quality of customer service never seems to improve, I assume that it is the quality of my requests that is being studied.  “Listen carefully, and you can tell riiiiight… there… that he didn’t explicitly decline the Platinum Package.  That’s just a rookie mistake that will cost him $99 a month until he’s dead.”

So I’m driving to work this morning, and my car rings.  My cell phone is connected to my car via Bluetooth, so it feels very high-tech to me when I can answer the phone with my car.  (Disclaimer: I’m old, and I still think this is cool.  Leave me alone.)  The following is the entirety of the conversation.

Me: Hello?

Synthetic voice on the other end: You have reached an invalid extension.  Please hang up and try your call again. <click>

I really wish I had recorded the call for quality purposes.  I have no idea what I did wrong.

Disclaimer: Yes, I really want to do this to someone else.

I’m of two minds

Sometimes the only thing that makes an earworm tolerable is if it’s a song you like.  My current earworm is the Proclaimers 1988 hit I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles). Part of my brain has decided that it wants to hear the refrain over and over again.  I’m fine with that.  I really like the song, and the tune is catchy.  And it’s only been a couple hours.

Unfortunately, another part of my brain has decided it wants to play too.  It’s probably angry because I made it walk on the treadmill at the gym today.  So while my secondary auditory cortex is playing the song, my left frontal lobe is singing the following lyrics:

I would walk a couple miles
And I would walk a couple more
Just to be the man who walked four miles
And stopped because his feet were sore.

I guess I just lack the commitment and the endurance to continue.

Creative creativity

In “you-can’t-make-this-up-but-we-did” news, first dates could become much less stressful and awkward thanks to an emotion detector that could tell if a person has the hots for you. If such a thing existed. Which it doesn’t.

The new device features an earpiece which measures body functions (top), and a sort of combination electric fan/death ray that attaches to the the bottom of your cellphone (below).  Neither actually do anything.

Ear-piece

However, the plausibly real device is at this stage still pure fiction, and while not creating it has inspired imaginative use of the word “plausible”, it has been not built to convey a serious message.

The device is inspired by the Voight-Kampff machine (created by designers Jon Voight and Mine Kampff) featured in the film Blade Runner. And the new machine bears notable similarities to that machine, such as being fictional. Also, as in the movie, the prototype device causes thick billows of smoke to emanate from the wearer’s head (below), which reduces the awkwardness of first dates by giving the couple something to talk about. “Hi, Harrison, I’m Callista. It’s very nice to meet you. Why is your head on fire?”

Harrison-Ford-stars-as-Rick-Deckard-in-Blade-Runner

The design team — which includes the Centre for Spatial Analysis (CASA) at University College London (UCL) — insists it has been (not) built created to convey a serious message.

“How many times are we going to have to keep saying this? We (not) built created this device to convey a serious message!  We know there’s an extra ‘A’ in the acronym CASA. It’s not like there’s even one A in our acronym before the S. But when we used our original acronym CSA, oversensitive campus radicals kept confusing us with Confederates for Spatial Analysis, and claimed that their hurt feelings were causing global warming. Rather than mock them mercilessly, we decided to change the acronym and leave the mockery to others.  And yes, I did say ‘built created’!”  (The design team was granted anonymity in case they ever wanted to get real jobs.)

Neat, bright, compact and totally fictional, the detector clips onto a smartphone or tablet, according to neat, bright, compact and occasionally fictional scientist Natalie Portman (below, right).

thor__the_dark_world__thor_and_jane_keyframe_by_andyparkart-d75x0of

(Disclaimer: The picture above shows Ms. Portman being bright, compact, and fictional. Her appearance is also surprisingly neat, given how hard it’s raining.)

The nonexistent device comes in flaming screaming bright yellow, making it nicely inconspicuous on first dates when worn by everyone from Minions to Moe (pictured below).

 

Team leader Professor Paul Coulton, Lancaster University’s design fiction expert, hailed the potential of the imaginary device, which he says is attracting a lot of attention. “Not as much attention as my cancer-curing cold fusion time machine, but close. Maybe if we picked a color that wasn’t so inconspicuous.”

Design fiction is, in broad terms, a combination of Powerpoint slides and outright fraud which heralds what might come about in a future world where research grants can be generated by wishing really hard.  In narrow terms, it’s just making stuff up.

“The factor that differentiates and distinguishes design fiction from other approaches is the word ‘fiction’. By making our products 100% reality-free, we cut down on development costs and product defects.  Plus, our fantasy process is entirely eco-friendly.  Well, mostly. There’s still a lot of smoke coming from Harrison Ford’s head.”

“But this is actually a tool for creating some pretty serious discussions around the dorms at 2:30 in the morning, once we’ve decided who would win in a fight: Tris from Blade Runner or Cameron from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.” (below)

The research team presented a paper in San Jose at CHI, the world’s leading conference on Completely Hallucinatory Inventions.

Click here to read the amazing untrue story.

Editor’s Note: University College London did not respond to our queries about why the Centre for Spatial Analysis employs a design fiction expert, or what emotion detectors have to do with spatial analysis in the first place.  We hope their silence is because they’re too busy analyzing space.

Making a name for oneself (or others)

Earlier today I was at Barnes and Noble.  As I was leaving, I passed the maternity/baby section, and one title caught my eye: 100,001 Best Baby Names. I didn’t have time to stop and check,* but I’m really hoping the last name on the list was “Irrelevant”.**

Actually, I did have time to check, but the names were listed in alphabetical order, not rank order.  The last name in the book was “Zygmunt”, which while being a bad name for a baby, is certainly not worse then “Dweezil”.

** For those who don’t follow football, the last person selected in the NFL draft each year is given the nickname “Mr. Irrelevant”.  He is always cut during training camp, but as a consolation prize, his mother gets a nice picture of him in his NFL uniform.

Trigger warning: “Trigger” did not make the list of the 100,001 best baby names.  It came in at 100,003, right behind “Cruella“.

By “football”, I of course mean football.  The kind played in the United States and Canada (and London in weeks 4, 7, and 8).  You’re thinking of “fútbol” (pronounced “SOCK-er”), which is an endurance match in which a dozen men see how long they can run around a field in shorts without scoring any points or doing anything interesting.  The current record is 60 minutes, plus two 15-minute overtime periods, held by every soccer game that ever went into double overtime.

Notice of Total Justification Anecdote:  One time at the gym, I was on the treadmill, and the TV in front of me was showing a World Cup semifinal match between a European team and a Latin American team.  (I believe it was Germany vs. Argentina, but it could have been the Holy Roman Empire vs. the Incas for all it matters.)  There was about 5 minutes left in the game, and the score was tied 0-0.  I walked away as fast as I could, but as I was on a treadmill, I didn’t get far.

So I watched the rest of the game, rooting for a final score of 0-0, so that the semifinal game of the world’s most inexplicably popular competition would have to be decided on penalty kicks.  (For Americans, this would be the equivalent of having the NFC Championship game end 0-0 and be decided by a punt, pass and kick contest, or the NBA semifinals end 0-0 and be decided by a game of Horse.)  I knew little about soccer, so when they announced at the end of regulation time that there would be an overtime to break the tie, I was very disappointed, but I was still on the treadmill, so I kept on rooting.  Eventually (15 minutes later chronologically, 7 weeks later subjectively), the overtime ended at 0-0.  I was devastated to find out that there was another 15 minute overtime period, but at least it would be the last.  To my great dismay, one of the teams (either the Toltecs or Austria-Hungary, I don’t remember) scored with less than 2 minutes (subjective time: 3 months) remaining.

I remember two things that reinforced my preconceived notions of soccer (the best kind of notions):

  1. Since the purpose of soccer is to avoid scoring points, one of the important statistics they maintain is “shots on goal”, the number of times a player accidentally kicks the ball toward the goalie.  In this game, at the end of regulation time, the Mayans had 0 goals on 12 attempts, and the Merovingians had 0 goals on 13 attempts, for a combined Futility quotient of 0-25.
  2. At one point, the color commentary guy (who was British, or possibly English), made the following statement after a missed shot on goal:

That would have been a splendid goal had it occurred.

When you have been reduced to subjunctive commentary, it’s time to go watch cricket.  At least it’s confusing enough to hold one’s attention.

Public service announcement: While searching for a baby wearing Carolina Panthers gear, I stumbled upon this picture of a baby wearing a Cleveland Browns helmet:

baby browns helmet

The child is clearly waiting for the Browns to make the playoffs, or possibly got confused and is watching fútbol.  Child Protective Services has been made aware of this abuse in either case.

Author’s note: This post was written in the style of Edgar Allen Poe, who apparently didn’t like soccer either.