24 March 2011

What I'd like to see this weekend

The you-take-it-no-you-take-it ending of that Pittsburgh-Butler third-round game last Saturday will go down as one of the NCAA tournament's most exasperating moments ever.  While you wait for Butler to complete another shocking march to the men's Final Four, enjoy this shining moment from Spain's pro-basketball league, courtesy of Awful Announcing (which doesn't seem to cover much awful announcing these days).

Overdue update (6 April):  That Butler-UConn mess?  Did not want!

21 March 2011

Hitting a new bracketologic low

With all the bad news, I was hoping that I would at least get my predictions right for this year's NCAA men's-basketball tournament.  No such luck.  My primary bracket fell completely apart, with the right side almost completely wiped out.   Among the actual eighth-finalists in the Southwest and East regions, I correctly picked only Kansas.  I've never had a bracket fall apart like that on the first weekend.  I also picked Richmond in a secondary bracket, but that one has sucked, too.

The only comfort is that with the vaunted Big East crapping out so thoroughly, not many other people have decent brackets this year.   Bleah.

14 March 2011

A fantasy episode for The Outer Limits

Trust me, I'll get around to explaining the title of this post.

The latest I'm hearing from Fukushima, via MSNBC, is the following:
  1. Reactor 2 has suffered an explosion, that's reported to be worse than the ones that preceded it.
  2. Prime Minister Naoto Kan has widened the exclusion zone around the Fukushima Daiichi complex from 20 to 30 kilometers.
  3. Now a fourth reactor at the complex is on fire.
Even if the situation doesn't get any worse and there's no major meltdown, it's already a crippling blow to Japan.  The outlook for the rest of the world just got an order of magnitude worse, as nations start abandoning nuclear energy altogether.  Without a serious nuclear-power capability to tide us over, I'm beginning to worry that our civilization no longer has enough time to develop alternative sources of energy.

Not that some Dominionists aren't celebrating.  They look at disasters like Fukushima Daiichi and Deepwater Horizon and see a sign that they'll be magically whisked into heaven, while the rest of us endure one catastrophe after another.  [To paraphrase Barack Obama, they worship a truly awesome douchebag of a God.]

Discussion of the legendary End Times invariably reminds me of the later version of The Outer Limits, which ran from 1995 to 2002.  Its predecessor from the 1960s was a serviceable science-fiction anthology, which did well with a special-effects budget not much bigger than the original Twilight Zone had.  The 1990s series had better special effects, but it took Zone's penchant for climactic twists to an awful extreme.  Occasionally, as in "The Deprogrammers," the twist truly worked.  Unfortunately, for most episodes, I spent less energy actually watching than calculating the nature of the twist.  [Even worse, I was usually right.] It wasn't too difficult, then, to write a framework for my fantasy episode for The Outer Limits.

The teaser describes a major environmental disaster that's irreparably polluted a large portion of the Earth.  We see people in mourning all over the world... except in Uplift, a medium-sized American suburb populated whose main factions are the followers of two Dominionist mega-churches.  There, an angelic figure descends from the sky, sending the residents into an ecstatic frenzy.  Surely, this is the angel who will take them to Heaven, safe from the Tribulation that is to follow.

Cue the intro:  "Do not adjust your television set... ."

As even more catastrophes unfold elsewhere, the Dominionist factions of Uplift fight each other for the favor of this "angel" (and a trip to Heaven).  Both sides spend most of the episode wondering what the rest of the world will think when Uplift suddenly becomes empty of people.  They're too delirious to notice that the "angel" is actually talking to only one resident, a surly Teenager who's ready to leave Uplift at the first opportunity.  Of course, this lone dissident tries to warn his/her fellow townsfolk about the plans the "angel" truly has -- and, of course, (s)he's almost stoned for the trouble.

Only at the end, when the Rapture actually take place, does either faction realize that the Teenager they both hate was right.  The "angel" even announces it to the holier-than-thou people of Uplift.  The Rapture has come, all right -- and, except for the Teenager, they're not to be saved.  They get only enough time to mourn their fate for the voice-over announcer to start pontificating on the Human Frailty of the Week.  [It wouldn't episode of The Outer Limits without such a pronouncement!]  After that, a tornado starts ripping Uplift to shreds.

In the very last shot, it turns out that every man, woman, child and pet companion animal has suddenly disappeared from San Francisco, California.

09 March 2011

Another 90 seconds closer to midnight

This will be a day that will be long remembered.  To riff on the rest of Darth Vader's famous line near the climax of Star Wars: A New Hope, it has seen the end of collective bargaining in Wisconsin, and it will soon see the end of National Public Radio.

When I woke up today to the news that NPR has forced out its CEO, Vivian Schiller, I was furious.  Yet another institution had collapsed under the least pressure from con man James O'Keefe and his teabagger allies.  The timing of this latest Obama Administration capitulation was especially galling:  it took place right in the middle of a pledge drive.  Needless to say, a lot fewer progressives feel like staying on this sinking ship.  [It doesn't matter whether I care to pledge anymore.  I don't have the spare money to pledge.]

And that's going to suck.  Away from larger cities, the listening choices on ordinary radios are limited to lousy country-music stations, lousy pop-music stations, right-wing talk-radio stations1... and the local NPR station.  What's going to happen to public-radio stations in places like Jonesboro, Arkansas, or Elko, Nevada, once the funding stops from (a) the Federal government and (b) frustrated progressives who've decided to quit NPR?  KASU in Jonesboro might do okay, as might its sisters in other college towns.  But what about KNCC in Elko?  Will the University of Nevada still be able to maintain a signal 400 kilometers from its Reno campus?

I'm sure the Dominionists running the GOP would love to see public radio banished from as much of rural America as possible.  What are rural listeners who don't care for right-wing-dominated radio supposed to do?  Subscribe to satellite radio?  Rely on broadband Internet connections?  Move to larger towns where public radio has survived?  Are those even options for cash-strapped small-town residents?

Maybe Darth Vader had the right idea.  Then again, he did utter that famous line shortly before the Death Star blew up.  There's always that two-meter-wide conduit of hope.

1.  No need to precede "right-wing talk-radio" with "lousy."  That would be redundant.

05 March 2011

Scooter blogging: (3) The blanket is mine!

As Scooter has been demonstrating all winter, cats aren't completely colorblind.

I make my bed when I get up on weekday mornings.  On some weekends, though, I do laundry.  Since I have to climb onto the bed to get to the clothes I'll be cleaning, it makes sense to leave it undone until I'm done putting away the newly cleaned articles.

That pale green patch at the bottom of this picture is Scooter's blanket.  She's grown to love it since inheriting it from her late stepsister Galadriel.  I keep it folded on the corner of my bed, and that's where she spends much of her day, asleep.

The bed itself is on the same wall as a window that leaks cold air on windy days, so one side needs insulation.  That's why the electric-blue comforter is present.  This winter, it's served as the insulation by day, and as an extra blanket by night.

One night last October, I left the blue comforter, freshly cleaned and folded, on the bed.  Within minutes, Scooter got up from her usual blanket and laid down on the blue comforter.  Ever since then, whenever I lay the comforter out, she's moved to lie down on it.

Must be the color.

01 March 2011

Someone proven worse than Dick Vitale

I don't know why I bother watching the men's basketball games ESPN puts on its marquee.   Within a few minutes of tuning in, Dick Vitale, Jeff van Gundy or Bobby Knight will utter something so mind-numblingly stupid, I have to punch a button on the clicker.

During tonight's Kansas State-Texas game, Knight went off on his sideline colleague.  All poor Holly Rowe did was remark that some player told his coach "my bad" in response to a mistake he made on the court.  "I know that," sneered Knight, as though saying "my bad" were a cardinal sin.  Even when he was still head coach at Indiana University (and I actually admired him!), he would fault his young players for not taking responsibility for their mistakes.  What does he do now?  Criticize young players for admitting they made a mistake.  [Thank Jeebus for Rachel Maddow.  I had somewhere to click to.]

It's power trips like this that have reduced one of the sport's greatest coaches to an arrogant, unlistenable snot.  No one knew it when it went down in 1985, but here's the moment Bobby Knight's status as a public figure jumped the shark:

While I'm here, I might as well post the highlights of the men's bracket I updated today.
  • There aren't as many cute early matchups as last week, and only one (BYU-Utah State) that's a replay of a regular season game.  But I have sent Ohio State, Xavier and Cincinnati all to the same octave.  They all play in Cleveland, but only one can advance to the regional semifinals.
  • As I thought might happen, the Big Ten contingent is shrinking, from seven teams to five.
  • First Four games:  Florida Atlantic-Hampton, Texas Southern-McNeese State, Marquette-Richmond, Wichita State-Washington. 
  • At-large changes from last week's bracket:  Virginia Tech replaces Boston College, Richmond replaces Colorado State, Gonzaga replaces Minnesota, Wichita State replaces Penn State.