Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas 2016

The Gospel of Luke, Chapter 2

  1. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David
  2. To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
  3. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
  4. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
  5. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
  6. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
  7. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
  8. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
  9. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
  10. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
  11. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Night Before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;

And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!

To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;

So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;

A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;

He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,

And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle,

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."

-- Clement Clarke Moore, 1822

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Cutting the cord: Live TV

I've been a cord-cutter for nearly six years. I got a Roku and Apple TV in late 2010 and dropped cable in early 2011. Since then, I've streamed my TV content. But, if you've read this blog before, you probably know that. Unless you forgot. But now I've reminded you, so we're good to get to the point.

Well, in a minute. First, more backstory. Or information. Or something.

Once you drop cable, unless you put up an antenna, or don't really drop cable and get a cheap locals-only package, you can't watch any live TV. Services like Hulu let you watch stuff within hours of airing. Purchasing content from iTunes or Amazon or some such service does too. In fact, apart from live content like news/opinion programs and sports, just about everything you want to watch is available from Hulu, iTunes, Amazon, and the like. When I cut cable, I lost live sports and news/opinion shows, but nothing else.

For me, it was cheaper than paying for cable. It might be for you, and there are Websites that help you with that kind of research and decision. Rather than being rare behavior, cutting the cord, as it's called, is becoming more common. It's a new market for companies. So, what can they offer that Hulu, iTunes, and Amazon can't?

Live TV. For people that want to watch live sports -- me, for instance -- or people that can't wait a few hours to watch Game of Thrones, the live TV option has value. And more and more services are starting up. One of the first was Sling TV, which I've tried and like. There's PlayStation Vue, which I've tried, but don't like so much. And there's DirecTV Now, which I'm currently trying out.

The services are similar, but aren't exactly the same.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Making college football great again

I'm a big fan of college football. I suppose that's only natural. Georgia is a football state, and the major universities in the state are football schools. High school football is big in the state. Even ESPN named Valdosta, Georgia as Titletown, USA because of its success at high school football.

So, football matters to me. Not so much the NFL, but college football. And I don't like what's happening to college football. It's still fun to watch, so that's a good thing, but I'm seeing it go down a bad road, and they need to fix it. Start with the bowl games.

The Bowls

To start with, there are too many bowls. There used to be just one: the Rose Bowl. They count the 1902 Tournament East–West football game between Michigan and Stanford as the first Rose Bowl game, but it really started with the second game, in 1916. It's been played every year since.

Other bowls came along later. There were some small bowls that only lasted a single game, and others that lasted less than 10 years. But some stuck around longer. In 1935, the Orange, Sugar, and Sun Bowls debuted. 1937 saw the first Cotton Bowl game.

By 1937, we had the long-time "Big Four" games -- Rose, Orange, Sugar, and Cotton -- plus a minor bowl with staying power, the Sun Bowl. And, of course, several one and done games. But more long-lasting bowls followed.

The Gator Bowl was first played in 1946, while the first Tangerine Bowl (now the Citrus Bowl) kicked off in 1947. The Liberty Bowl was first played in 1959, as was the now-defunct but long-played Bluebonnet Bowl. The Peach Bowl debuted in 1968. 1971 saw the first Fiesta Bowl. The Independence Bowl began in 1976, and the Holiday Bowl in 1978.

In the 60 years after the first regularly-played Rose Bowl, there were 12 regularly played bowls. In the 40 years since then, that number has grown to 40.

There are 128 Division 1-A/FBS teams. With 40 bowl games, that means 62% of the teams go to a bowl. Even the NBA and NHL only have 53% of their teams in post-season.

Once again this year, every .500 team gets a bowl. And, again this year, some teams with losing records (five this year) get to go to a bowl. A bowl game used to be a reward for a great season. Now, it's little more than a participation trophy. The solution is simple: fewer bowls means it's a bigger, more meaningful reward for a successful season. Cut the number of bowls in half, to 20. I'd be happy with only 15 bowls. It would make going to a bowl a big deal, as it should be. But, and you'll see why in a second, I'll settle for 20 bowl games.

Bowl Eligible

Generally speaking, teams should have to win at least 8 games in order to be invited to a bowl. I would have contingency plans for there not being enough qualifying teams, but with an 8-win threshold, the chances of that are small. And, I would make an exception I'll discuss in a minute.

That would be a big deal for some schools. LSU, for instance, wouldn't qualify this year. Bet they'd find a way to make up weather games in the future.

Okay, that exception. If a team won its conference, it's bowl eligible. And, if a team plays in a conference championship game, it's bowl eligible. For conferences that don't have championship games (this year, there are two), the top two teams would be bowl eligible. That would level the field among conferences, give all conferences two automatic bowl bids, not just the ones with championship games. And that alone could create the 8-win exception. This year, the Sun Belt's co-champions are 9-3 Appalachian State and 7-5 Arkansas State. The Red Wolves would get a bowl, while some 8-4 teams wouldn't. Those 8-4 shouldn've won their conference.

Finally, I would could all wins as wins, even if it's against a 1-AA/FCS or Division II school. Leave it up to the bowls to determine the value of those wins.


How do playoffs figure into all this? Under my 16-team plan, first-round losers would still be able to go to a bowl game. Or, the bowls could sign on to host a playoff game. The quarter-finals could be around Christmas week, where currently, some bowls are already playing. Today, bowls host the semi-finals. Let four bowls host the quarter-finals. And, the first round, if they wish. I don't care.

Under the current 4-team playoff setup, it wouldn't change a thing. Bottom line is, no matter what -- current plan or my better plan -- there's no adverse impact.


You may have an objection. I'm willing to listen. But if the objection is "wah wah wah my team doesn't get to go" then I really don't care. Also, "But, but, but, bowls!" Don't care.

Not everybody goes to a bowl. Not everybody deserves to go. It needs to mean something.

Other than the bowls? Well, there are some rule changes I'd like to see. We'll talk about that another time. Let's get rid of the Participation Trophy Bowl games and we'll fix the rules another day.

Monday, December 5, 2016

About commenting

I've been a little bit of a hard ass when it comes to comments here. There's a reason for it; at least, there was. But, I've thought things through, checked how others are doing it, looked at the functionality available, and I'm modifying the comment policy here at this little blog.

My goal is to have honest, thoughtful, or humorous comments. Trolls? Don't have any use for them.

So, here is the new comment policy.
This is my personal blog. It is not your personal blog. If you wish to comment, I will allow your comment if you meet and agree to these guidelines.
  • You understand that you have no right to comment. If you think you do, you're wrong. And probably a liberal who wants me to pay for your "free stuff." If so, just go away.
  • Don't use excessive profanity. Things like "*******" and "#$%@&$#" are okay.
  • You do not have to agree with anything I say. You should. But, some people. *sigh*
  • Registration may be required. This includes a Google account or an account that supports Open ID, such as AOL/AIM, LiveJournal, Typepad, WordPress, as well as other services. If you use the Anonymous selection, sign your name, or the name by which you are known online.
  • Keep your comments short. If you have a lot to say, say it on your own blog, and leave a short comment here with a link to your post. Don't have your own blog? Too bad.
  • Certain HTML tags are supported. If you leave a link to a Website, include it in an anchor tag. Don't forget to use a full link, including the protocol (such as http://) or else the link won't work correctly.
  • URL shortening services are acceptable for links in comments. If you don't know what that is, don't worry about it.
  • Comment moderation may be enabled for posts, particularly for older posts. That's where most of the spam shows up, and comment moderation helps control that.
  • Comment moderation may be enabled during times a post attracts a large number of trolls. At least until I hunt the trolls down.
  • A spam filter may moderate your comment. Do not leave another comment asking why the spam filter caught your comment. Ask Google. They run the spam filter.
  • When a comment is moderated, I get an email letting me know. I'll review it as soon as I can.
If you do not agree to this comment policy, do not leave a comment.

Multiple violations of this policy will result in all of your future comments being rejected or deleted, regardless of whether such future comments adhere to the policy.
Here's the link to the page:

Now, I'm wondering if I ought to turn comments off for this post, just to mess with you.


Sunday, December 4, 2016

College Football Playoffs as it should be (2016)

There are some fans upset with the College Football Playoffs, and rightfully so. There are more than four teams that have a legitimate claim to a spot in the playoffs, and there are only four playoff spots.

Penn State won the Big Ten, winning their last 8 game of the regular season including knocking off Ohio State, but was left out of the playoff picture.

The Big 12 champion, Oklahoma, won its last 9 games, including three wins over ranked teams, and went unbeaten in their conference.

Western Michigan did everything they could do, winning all 12 regular season games plus their conference championship, scoring 40 points or more in a game seven times. (For those that wish to discount the Broncos, remember the 1984 BYU team, who did less than this year's Western Michigan.)

The solution? The very solution I've been promoting for a decade.

A 16-Team Playoff

The champions from each conference take up the top ten slots of the 16-team playoff, and the field is filled out by the highest ranked teams that didn't win a conference. The seedings would be set by a playoff committee, much as the current College Football Playoff is done, and as Division 1-AA/FCS does.

For my purposes, I propose the NFL model, in which conference champions are the top 10 seeds, and the non-champions are the lower seeds. The point of that would be that conference championships matter. I'm sure Penn State and Oklahoma would agree, as would others.

Had this been in place all along, the recent spate of conference jumps to improve playoff positions wouldn't have happened. The increasingly inaccurately named Big 12 and Big Ten conferences might actually have meaningful names.

The Field of 16

  1. Alabama (Southeastern Conference champion)
  2. Clemson (Atlantic Coast Conference champion)
  3. Washington (Pac-12 Conference champion)
  4. Penn State (Big Ten Conference champion)
  5. Oklahoma (Big 12 Conference champion)
  6. Western Michigan (Mid-American Conference champion)
  7. Temple (American Athletic Conference champion)
  8. San Diego State (Mountain West Conference champion)
  9. Western Kentucky (Conference USA Conference champion)
  10. Appalachian State (Sun Belt Conference champion)
  11. Ohio State (Big Ten wild card qualifier)
  12. Michigan (Big Ten wild card qualifier)
  13. Wisconsin (Big Ten wild card qualifier)
  14. Southern California (Pac-12 wild card qualifier)
  15. Colorado (Pac-12 wild card qualifier)
  16. Florida State (Atlantic Coast Conference wild card qualifier)
The first two rounds would be played on campus of the higher seed of each matchup. Number 1 hosts number 16, number 2 hosts number 15, and so on. Some of these games will be great. Others, not so much. But that's how post-season matchups sometimes are.

The First Round Matchups

Florida State at Alabama
Colorado at Clemson
Southern California at Washington
Wisconsin at Penn State
Michigan at Oklahoma
Ohio State at Western Michigan
Appalachian State at Temple
Western Kentucky at San Diego State

Personally, I don't like the rematches, but in the larger scheme of things, it's more than made up by being a better overall system. At the end of such a field of 16, there should be no doubt about who the champion is.

The losing teams in the first round would still be bowl-eligible. The bowls could bid for the rights to have a playoff-quality team. The second round would follow the same format as the first, with the highest remaining seed hosting the lowest remaining seed, the next-highest remaining seed hosting the second-lowest remaining seed, and so on.

The third round would be the final four, played much as the four-team CFP is today. The championship would follow, as it does today.

Some have been critical of this plan over the years. Too complicated, some say. But it's really nothing more than the ten conference champs at the top, and the best of the rest filling it out.