Sunday, January 29, 2006

I just wanted to bring forward into the main body of the text something from Thursday's comments--namely, the movie Lisa passed on.

I know "hearsay exceptions" does not thrill everyone here--but if you are fan of Lego, Schoolhouse Rock generally, and "Interjections!" in particular (and y'all know who you are), you might want to check it out anyway.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Things I have learned so far this semester:

  • The hearsay evidence rule is hard.
  • If you ever find yourself in an Icelandic saga and someone tells you that, based on a dream they had or one of yours that they interpret for you, you should stay away from a particular person, place, or thing, you really really should. But you won't.
  • You should not count on your 20-something colleagues to understand what you mean when you say, "Spotlight on John Rawls, y'all." (Speaking of this, between Lou Rawls and Wilson Pickett, isn't this a horrible time to be featured in "Sweet Soul Music"? If I'm Sam, Dave, or James Brown, I'm staying very far away from any avoidable danger, and certainly avoiding medieval Iceland.)
  • If you ask nicely but not too nicely, Dell will ship you a new power cord. (But thanks for all the helpful suggestions!)

Monday, January 23, 2006

I have a Dell Inspiron laptop (I still can't get behind "notebook") and I like it. A lot. It has worked consistently well despite the abuse of getting toted around all the time, having coffee in its immediate vicinty much of the time, etc. Yes, I have periodically gotten some error message from almost day one saying that something called Framework Services needs to close and do I want to send an error report, and I dutifully do so and nothing seems to be bothered. And the spacebar occasionally fails now, as close readers will probably notice from time to time over the last few months. Otherwise, great.

The new quirk that has developed over the last few months is that the power cord is, well, quirky. It doesn't seem to acknolwedge the exist of certain outlets at all. Others it likes pretty much all the time, others it will take to with some jiggling, etc. It's basically on the "just blow on it" phase of an old Nintendo.

So far I've lived with it with minimal hassle. I did contact the Computer Showcase here on campus where I bought it, and they said it's a Dell issue. Then I played the procrastinating waiting game.

I just called and went through an extensive talk with a very chipper computer ("I think I heard you say, 'suck it.' Did I hear that right?") that eventually deigned to let me queue up for a human. I was quoted less than 3 minutes wait time, though it was closer to 7, but that was fine. Less fine was that the incidental music and talking parts were getting increasingly staticky. Finally I get a person who requests my name, some number from my computer, some other number from my computer, etc. When we finally get to the point where he's supposed to say, "So, what can I help you with today?" or somesuch, company policy apparently required him to press a special button to resume the static, so the following conversation ensued:

DellGuy: bzzzzt bzzt bzzzt bzzzt bzzzzzzzzzt bzzzt bzt?
Me: I need to replace my power cord
DG: bzzzzt bzzt bzzzt bzzzt bzzzzzzzzzt
Me: I'm sorry, I couldn't make that out, the line got very staticky
DG: bzzzzt bzzt bzzzt bzzzt bzzzzzzzzzt
Me: Um, I don't know if there's anything you can do on your end but I can't
DG: (presses extra static button, then proceeds to speak in a manner such that I can't even make out "bzzzt" anymore)
Me: OK, I'm just going to hang up and try the online chat service
DG: bzzzt bzzt
Me: (click)
I then go back to the webpage and find, of course, that the online chat service option the chipper computer was so eager to point me to does not, in fact, exist. Or at least it's very verrrry well hidden. So I send the following through the email submission, hoping it's polite enough to get a response while still registering sufficient annoyance:

Hi, I've had a very frustrating experience trying to get someone on the phone or any information off of your website for a ridiculously simple question: is my power supply cord covered under my warranty, and if so how do i replace it. It works about 30% of the time, for no obvious reason why it sometimes does or does not work. If someone could get back to me quickly, I'll be somewhat less angry about the whole experience.
Is it stupid to turn against companies that make products you like just because of this? Or should I think thrice before buying another Dell?

Sunday, January 22, 2006

A year ago today I wrote something here I called "Snapshots of victory and defeat" where I cathartically spewed forth at length on Pittsburgh sports and big losses and (occasionally) big wins that have stuck with me. I think these games are, like Rilo Kiley said in Science vs. Romance, "those things that act as markers in your life, but in between you can't remember." As I get further away from certain times, the stark memories of the games remain as the details of my actual life fade. The '94 championship game stands in for junior year of college, the '97 game for my time in Pittsburgh after college, the '01 game for my first California time, etc. They also invoke memories of important things that may have been going on contemporaneously.

This Tuesday, my dad starts chemo; today, I'll shout myself hoarse for Kimo. It's times like this that sportscasters perform the perfunctory and apparently self-effacing gesture of saying that sports don't matter at a time like this, and that these things put sports in perspective.


What are we in life other than the things we love, the things we like, the things we do? Why should we participate in the ritual denial that those things matter? "Matter" is all relative--if you care about something, expend energy on it, and prioritize it, it matters. It's absolute value in the world in some abstract sense probably tells you how many people it matters to, or perhaps tells you about society's priorities and orientations, but the least significant thing in the world matters to the people who care about it. That's not to say that this game is more important to me than my dad's prospects in the coming months; that would be stupid. But the game doesn't matter less to me just because something else matters a whole lot more. And since the two results are wholly independent of each other, it's not like I'm making some demented Hobson's Choice by pouring my energy into cheering on the Steelers. And I don't want them to win for him; I want them to win for themselves, and for all of us fans, and what that really means is that I want them to win for me.

On Tuesday I'll start rooting for chemo; hopefully, I can also spend two more weeks cheering on Kimo.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Joe's week so far by the numbers:

1: hours of class skipped in order to go to bar night
6: number of 135-minute long South Africa classes left
7: approximate percent of brain spent paying attention in South Africa class
10: number of days been to the gym out of the last 11
45: number of minutes spent looking in vain for the updated version of that ridiculous Steeler song
99.57: percentage of waking hours spent thinking about the Steelers
327: approximate number of times listened to the 2004 version of said song
2000: daily caloric goal, enough to sustain average-sized person normally, and at which rate the Internet tells me I should lose 5 pounds per week
2230: actual average caloric intake
4,325,395: actual number of times sworn at self for taking 4-week accelerated course

Monday, January 16, 2006

I don't know if there are any Colts fans out there, but if there are, sing along...

I know what you want
I know what you need
But I'm gonna screw it up
'Cause I'm an idiot
And I'm your kicker...

UPDATE: No more lyrics, but two quick lines for you Craig (and others may read too):

  1. Manning is lucky--normally when a guy tries to avoid responsibility by blaming failures in protection, he still has to pay child support for 18 years.
  2. Roethlisberger vs. Plummer: the first conference championship game between two QBs with beards since Troy Aikman and Steve Young battled in out in the early '90s.

Friday, January 13, 2006

My class schedule is now set, and a weird, wild semester it should be. It's hard for me to imagine a broader array of classes without going out the law school. The classes:

  • Evidence (basic meat and potatoes litigation course)
  • Mergers & Acquisitions (meat and potatoes upper-division corporate law course)
  • Constitutionalism in South Africa (intensive case study of the mid-1990s Constitution-making process in South Africa)
  • Bloodfeuds (or, Icelandic Sagas 101, or The Ultimate Form of Alternative Dispute Resolution)
  • Seminar: "What Makes a Good Life? and What Should Government Do About It?" (heavily philosophical, contemplative readings and discussions)
One nicety/pain is that South Africa is a four-week accelerated class, which is what you live with in exchange for getting a Human Rights Commission member and a Constitutional Court justice to teach it. So my Tuesday-Thursday nights are gone for 3 more weeks, but for the last three months of the semester I get to take 12 credits in a 14-credit semester. So it's a mixed bag. The other important scheduling fact is that I have nothing between 12:15 and 3:30 on any day, so I have gym time built right into my schedule. So far so good on that front, and the daily record-keeping is definitely helping. Finally, I only have 2 finals during finals week, to go along with a mid-semester take-home final and two shortish final papers. I'm sure I'll something to gripe about from this schedule, but so far I can't see it.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

So DEK and I created the side project a while back, and part of the goal was to keep my 6 loyal readers and 10 occasional ones from having to deal with Steeler minutiae unless you absolutely wanted to. And I mean minutiae--no one is more interested in, say, long-snapper related news and discussion than we. Then the latter part of the semester and other unpleasantness came and the side project stopped getting updated. So now, I feel entitled to finally rant about the Steelers a bit.

While I was home over break, I heard a fair amount of talk that while this year's team is lower seeded and has a much worse record than the 2004 edition, this year's team has the advantage of "peaking at the right time" and the main evidence for this is the 4-game winning streak that has now run to 5 thanks to our flawless strategy of injuring the other team's good players. I thought this was the dumbest argument of all-time, given that it conveniently ignores the fact that the 2004 team rode a 14-game winning streak into the playoffs, which by my math is more than 4.

My analysis is that the team is roughly where it was last year at this time, but I like the propotions a bit better; that is to say, last year at this time the offense was better than mediocre but not good, and the defense was great. This year the defense is good, and the offense is pretty close to great.

Offense better than defense? What? The Steelers? Yes, it's absolutely true, despite what you think you know. And I don't just mean the running game. Check out the bizarro world stat of the year:

The Steelers led the league in offensive plays over 40 yards.

I'll let that one process for a minute. Got it? OK.

Antwaan Randle El
only caught 35 passes this year, but averaged almost 16 yards a catch. Cedrick Wilson only caught 26, but for over 17 yards per. Ben Roethlisberger averaged 8.9 yards per attempt this year; by comparison, Peyton Manning averaged 8.27, Tom Brady averaged 7.08, Carson Palmer averaged 7.54, and gunslinging Kerry Collins averaged 6.65.

The Steelers offense is misunderstood as a slog-it-out, running offense, but actually it's the true successor to the great Steeler and Raider offenses of the '70s--lots of running, but lots of big plays in the passing game too. The proliferation of West Coast offenses has gotten us accustomed to dink and dunk football, and combine that with lots of carries and you assume a run-heavy offense is pretty vanilla. Not the 2005 Steelers. As a team, the Steelers completed 46 passes to running backs, 43 to tight ends, and 139 to wide receivers. This, plus the averages of the 4 receivers (14.1, 15.9, 16.7, 17.3) tell you that when the offense is throwing, it's throwing medium and long routes. Roethlisberger's 62.7 completion percentage isn't great by modern standards, but modern standards presume a lot of dinking and dunking; 62.7% with a long-passing game is outstanding. The Cincy stat line is typical--commentators point to the 19 attempts, but what stands out is the 208 yards in 19 attempts. That's efficiency.

People who haven't looked at any of these number say that the Steelers' only chance to beat Indy is to run 40 times while passing 15, playing excellent defense, and winning a 16-13 game. I say the Steelers win with a carbon copy of the Cincy game out of Roethlisberger--14/19, 208 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, coupled with 34 team rushing attempts and 31 points. That's the formula to win--31-28, with the defense doing just enough and the offense doing what it does.

Of course, rolling over Peyton Manning's knee couldn't hurt either...

Monday, January 09, 2006

Instead of coming up with some very generic New Year's resolution ("this is the year I finally lose the weight!"), I decided to be more specific. I resolved to be more systematic about my approach to weight loss, fitness, and eating. Accordingly, I now have a somewhat-detailed Excel spreadsheet so that I can be accountable to myself. We'll see how that goes. I also resolved to be more aggressive (b-e aggressive) in going after the things that I want; I'm not totally sure what I have in mind there, but I think I just mean I'm hoping to ask more girls to sleep with me.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Wow, so, long break. Both from blogging and from school, that is. Let's just say that school will be more of a break from my break than my break was from school. It was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, dealing with dad's poor health basically every minute of every day--either directly or thinking about it. I have a lot of thoughts about it, which I'll keep to myself for the time being, but maybe more on that later.

In completely unrelated news, the 22nd annual Trite Trophy column was posted a few weeks ago and if you missed it, then you should get there ASAP.