29 October 2011

Recapping college football gameday.

I went 7-3 on my predictions. I'm particularly proud of picking the Georgia Tech upset of Clemson, although I got dogged on a few of my Big 10 picks...Michigan State must have sent the squad that played Notre Dame to play Nebraska, because they got skunked in Lincoln. It was a solid performance by the Huskers. In an incredible back and forth finish, Ohio State got the better of Wisconsin. I'm not sure what's happened to Wisconsin, who now seem to have lost their way.

Penn State won ugly over Illinois. Neither team seemed particularly interested in winning that game, with Penn State turning the ball over 3 times and Illinois giving it up 4 times. The anemic Penn State offense could not capitalize on those turnovers or a blocked punt that gave Penn State the ball deep in Illinois territory. Then, after nearly four quarters of impotence, Penn State's offense put together an 80 yard drive for the game winner. Hard to believe, really.

I thought Ole Miss would beat Auburn, because even though Ole Miss isn't exactly good, Auburn isn't exactly as good as their ranking would indicate.

In a bizarre result in a game I didn't even bother noting, Iowa State beat up on Texas Tech, the team that took out Oklahoma last weekend. I mean, Iowa State was 3-4 heading into that game, with their only decent win coming in overtime against Iowa. Since starting the season 3-0, Iowa State had lost four straight to Texas, Baylor, Missouri, and Texas A&M. And none of those games were even close. So their decisive 41-7 thrashing of Texas Tech was fairly surprising.

Getting back to the Big 10, Penn State is the only team undefeated in league play, and in their division, the Leaders, the next closest teams are Wisconsin and Ohio State, both at 2-2 in league play, and both on Penn State's schedule. Penn State's three remaining games are all big challenges: Nebraska, @Ohio State, and @Wisconsin.

It looks to be an interesting end to the season.

It only gets better...

David Stern has announced that NBA games are now cancelled through the end of November.

Sure we've endured floods, hurricanes, bizarre snowstorms, and Fox News, but this news makes up for all of that. 

Now there's something to give thanks for this Thanksgiving!

28 October 2011

College football preview for this Halloween weekend.

Let's take a quick look at the Big 10 matchups this weekend.

The marquee matchup is probably #11 Michigan State v. #14 Nebraska. After Michigan State's win over Wisconsin last week, they may be in for a let down in Lincoln. However, I think Michigan State wins this one.

Purdue is at #18 Michigan. I don't know, but Purdue has been surging. I still think that in an offensive shootout, Michigan wins. Especially at the Big House.

#15 Wisconsin at Ohio State. Ohio State has been struggling. Wisconsin looked unbeatable (at least in the Big 10) until last week. Ohio State's most impressive victory was a 17-7 victory over a flagging Illinois. I think Wisconsin routs Ohio State in the Horseshoe.

Illinois at #19 Penn State. Illinois had a great season going, but have lost their last two games. Their season is collapsing, and I think Penn State will put another dent in their bowl status.

In less, exciting games, Iowa v. Minnesota...Minnesota is so unbelievably bad that Iowa will appear to have a well-oiled offense. Look for Minnesota to have incredible difficulty scoring. Iowa in a rout.

Likewise, Northwestern at Indiana should see a bit more of a high scoring affair by both sides, but Northwestern will outscore Indiana comfortably.

That does it for the Big 10.

#9 Oklahoma at #8 Kansas State should be one of the best games of the weekend. I'm thinking Oklahoma rebounds from last week's loss to Texas Tech and hands K-State a real whooping.

Other than that, the only game of any real interest might be #5 Clemson v. Georgia Tech. G-Tech at home has a chance of toppling Clemson, and I think they'll do it.

Navy has owned Notre Dame recently, but I think this year Notre Dame clamps down on a team that has yet to win any significant games (Delaware and Western Kentucky are Navy's two wins).

I also see Ole Miss taking down #23 Auburn.

I'd like to improve on my record from last week, which shouldn't be too hard.

27 October 2011

Still no excuses.

I'm sure the right-wing readers of the Washington Post -- and there are a surprising many of them, judging from the racist comments on the article discussion boards -- will be wailing about today's article about Black fans embracing the nearly local NFL franchise, the Laurel Redskins.

The Post leads by noting the team's racist past, being the last NFL franchise to accept Black players, which essentially means they were forced to integrate because they could no longer afford to exclude a growing pool of skilled players from consideration, and also because the federal government threatened to ban George Preston Marshall's racist ass from using D.C. stadium. Theirs was no crisis of consciousness.

Missing of course in the Post's celebration of Black fans coming to love the franchise that excluded them the longest is the fact that the Redskins today maintain the most racist name in professional sports (although the Cleveland Indian's Indian mascot and emblem is easily a far more racist graphic).

Seriously. The Redskins.

Why not the Darkies?

24 October 2011

On grading.

I am wading through student assignments, trying to finalize grades for a half-semester course I've been teaching. It's not my favorite thing in the world, but it's necessary, since apparently students expect grades back for the work they've submitted and the university demands it.

Who knew?

I have moved over the years toward rubrics, in part to keep my sanity, but also in part because they give students a fairly clear overview of the areas of emphasis for the paper. No rubric, I've decided, is perfect, but a good rubric can speed the grading process while allowing for reliable grades. Trust me, looking at thirty papers on the same topic without a rubric can be a deadly experience.

I think many teachers dread grading because the nature of one assignment given to the entire class lends itself to repetitive papers, many of which are close to unreadable. I offer as a perverse proof of this thesis the fact that when you do happen upon a well-constructed paper that has a clear argument and uses direct specific support that actually relates to the argument, you are so overjoyed that you want to tell your colleagues and close family members about it.

Not too many teachers get into the profession because they love grading or love the idea of being able to assess individuals and control their futures via the power of the letter grade. I know I initially got into the profession through a love of my subject and a desire to talk about it with other people, both colleagues and students.

Grading is the price we pay to get to do stand in front of a class and ask them what they thought e.e. cummings was up to when he wrote "next to of course god america i."

23 October 2011

As predictions go...

My NCAA football predictions yesterday were less than stellar. Let's see what I predicted:

1. PSU v. Northwestern. I weaseled around this game and didn't make a prediction. PSU won.

2. Wisconsin v. Michigan State. I picked Wisconsin. I picked a solid Wisconsin win. I was wrong. Michigan State was in control most of the game, with Wisconsin mounting a late comeback and nearly getting to overtime. Michigan State's win raises the question, how in the hell did this team lose to Notre Dame?

3. Speaking of which, I thought Notre Dame would win by two touchdowns over USC. Again, I was wrong. USC won by two touchdowns. I probably should have noted that Syracuse beat #15 West Virginia on Friday, but I didn't actually pay attention to that and seriously undervalued USC's victory over Syracuse. Still, I would have picked ND to beat USC even with that information.

4. Auburn v. USC. I predicted a major kill by the LSU Tigers, and I at least got that one right.

5. Texas Tech v. Oklahoma. I thought the Oklahoma offense would keep pace with Texas Tech and the Oklahoma defense would clamp down on the Texas Tech offense. Wrong on both counts, at least until midway through the third quarter, where the Oklahoma defense finally showed a little resistance.

6. I thought Stanford would stomp Washington, and they did.

7. I picked FSU to beat Maryland, even though I wish they wouldn't. FSU beat Maryland.

So I went 3-3, but I'm really puzzling over the games I missed, not so much because I missed them as because it's very difficult to figure these teams out. Notre Dame had looked to be putting together a decent season from the shambles of their first two games, and Oklahoma looked like a machine. As for Michigan State, they're utterly unpredictable, but Wisconsin had been steadily steamrolling opponents.

In a really bizarre turn, Illinois looks to be in freefall, following up last week's loss to Ohio State with a loss yesterday to Purdue. I can only hope that freefall continues next weekend in Happy Valley, where the Nittany Lions play host to the Illini.

Penn State and Michigan State are the only two Big 10 teams unbeaten in league play, but I like MSU's victories (Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio State) more than Penn State's (Indiana, Iowa, Purdue, Northwestern).

Penn State has a tough final four games: Illinois, Nebraska, @Ohio State, and @Wisconsin.

I'm predicting a 9-3 regular season.

22 October 2011

And now a post about NCAA football.

Today looks to be an interesting day in college football.

In the most important game of the day, Penn State travels to Northwestern in only their third road game of the season. They've beaten Temple and Indiana on the road, but both wins were lackluster performances that resulted in very close games (14-10 and 16-10 respectively) against some very weak opponents (I'll grant that Temple is having a good year at 5-2, but it's still Temple...and Indiana, well, they're 1-6).

Northwestern is not having a good year at 2-4, but their offense puts up some numbers, whereas Penn State's doesn't. Penn State's defense will have to be on its best behavior, since Penn State's offense is unable to put up numbers against even weak defenses such as Indiana (95th in the nation in defense).

Penn State has a very good chance of losing four of its next five games. It also has a realistic chance of winning four of its next five games, though, with the one exception being Wisconsin. However, if they drop the game to Northwestern, their odds of winning any of the remaining games goes way down, because of the remaining teams, the weakest is Ohio State, and despite the Buckeyes' woes this year, PSU has a bad habit of crumbling against even mediocre teams from Columbus.

Also playing this weekend:

In the Big 10, the only marquee matchup, aside from PSU, is the Wisconsin v. Michigan State game. It'll be played in East Lansing, which I think is really the Spartans' only hope. You have to remember that Michigan State lost to Notre Dame. Big time, 31-13. I don't know if all the MSU players were smoking crack the night before the game, or simply thought the game was later in the day, but somehow they lost to a Notre Dame team that  hasn't beaten any other team with a winning record. I predict a dominating Wisconsin performance. Wiscy is the class of the Big 10 this year, the only team that I would say is really ready for a New Years Day bowl.

In the SEC, Auburn v. LSU could be interesting, but it would be much more interesting if it were being held at Auburn. Auburn was convincingly stomped by Arkansas, and they haven't been impressive in any win. The only hope for Auburn is that LSU is looking past them to Alabama. I predict a major pounding by the Tigers. The LSU Tigers, that is. 

In the Big 12, or what's left of it, Oklahoma v. Texas Tech is the only interesting game, but it's being played in Norman, and Oklahoma is simply a better team. Texas Tech has hung tough against ranked opponents, but it's lost to them, and it's also allowed crappy teams like Kansas and Nevada to hang around, so I'm again predicting a monster stomping by the Sooners.

In the PAC-10, Washington is at Stanford. Stanford has encountered absolutely no resistance in its 2011 campaign thus far, but then again it hasn't played a single good team (their victims sport a combined 15-25 record), with none of them having a winning record. Washington at least has a winning record at 5-1, their one loss coming to a very respectable Nebraska team. However, Washington can't point to any respectable victories, and I'm going with Stanford in a comfortable blowout.

In other games, I'd love to see Maryland beat Florida State. I don't think it will happen though, even if Maryland pulls out all stops and wears even more unimaginably hideous uniforms than in previous games this year.

The USC v. Notre Dame game, which in many years has major bowl implications, is really an afterthought this year. Neither team is ranked, and USC's seemingly impressive 5-1 record is built upon punching bags such as Minnesota (1-5) and Arizona (2-5). Their most impressive win came against Syracuse, whose 4-2 record will most likely be 5-7 by season's end. As for Notre Dame, I've already noted their convincing win against Michigan State and the fact that MSU was the only opponent they've beaten who has a winning record. However, the two teams they've lost to, Michigan and South Florida, are better than any team that USC has beaten. Or even played for that matter. I'm handing this game to Notre Dame, probably by two touchdowns.

21 October 2011

Still not missing you at all...

I love the NBA lockout.

If any sport could disappear from the American landscape, the one that would do the most good simply to go away would be professional basketball.

Remember, I'm talking sports here. While it would certainly do our nation a favor to dispense with such activities as auto racing, professional wrestling, MMA, etc., we're talking about sports now.

The NBA is still deadlocked between greedy-ass owners and pampered athletes, with neither side having any sort of justification for the outrageous sums of money they command. Of course, that fact alone doesn't set them apart from any other professional league. What sets the NBA apart from other leagues is the amount of damage the league does to the sport it supposedly plays.

Basketball is a beautiful game when played in high school and college. However, in the NBA, the game has been diluted in the interests of "watchability" to the extent that it is substantially different than its feeder system games. In the NFL, the game becomes harder -- two feet must be in bounds on a catch, rather than one, for instance -- but in the NBA it becomes easier: walking is redefined to allow more steps (2) and then is rarely enforced.

The NBA court should be, if not longer, then wider than NCAA courts. Already the NBA game resembles a pick up game in converted church basement or school cafeteria, with the players too big for the court.

However, the major problem with the NBA is the awful effect it has upon its viewers, who seem compelled to leave their sofas and migrate to gyms once the season rolls around. Note to all of you: watching the NBA doesn't make you a better player. You don't jump higher, shoot straighter, or play better defense. All the NBA does is teach you bad habits.

Grabbing my shirt is not defense.

Sticking your elbows out like you're an old electronic football lineman is not good defense.

Turning the ball over while you dribble is, believe it or not, a violation.

While deliberately attempting to draw a charge is bad form in a pickup game, that doesn't give you the right to drive to the basket as if no one is in your way.


I can only hope the NBA stays off the air.


The Republican Party certainly has no monopoly on scoundrels and liars, but it's always nice to be reminded that they do seem to have the most shameless scoundrels and liars. Now Marco Rubio's family story of his parents fleeing Cuba in the wake of Castro's liberation of the island from decades of U.S.-backed business friendly dicatatorship (alas, only to see it founder into a state with about as much freedom of expression, if a more equitable distribution of income, than the one it replaced) turns out to be a big fat lie.

Apparently, Rubio's parents have immigration papers from 2.5 years before Castro's takeover of Cuba.

Not terribly concerned about having been caught in a lie, Rubio retreated into the "family lore" and "I didn't carry around their passports" weaseling that's so familiar to anyone who follows political liars. In other words, he built pathos for his campaign and solidarity with his community around a story he simply made up. The defense that perhaps his parents didn't remember correctly would appear incredibly unconvincing to all but the most stalwart ignoramus. We aren't talking about what day you dropped off your dry cleaning here; we're talking about perhaps the single most important event in Cuba's 20th century history coupled with a relatively major decision to leave the land of your birth for another country. To put it in perspective, I may not remember whether I bought a pair of shoes before or after September 11, 2001, but I can sure as hell tell you where I was living.

He took advantage of the Cuban exile community's trust in his origin story and duped them into thinking he, too, was a product of forced exile, rather than choice. Hell, Castro wasn't even in Cuba when Rubio's parents bid farewell to the island that he cynically claims they were forced to leave.

An even uglier side to this story appears to be the cropping up of yet more "birther" bullshit from those who want to make hay of the fact that Rubio's parents weren't officially U.S. citizens when Marco Rubio was born. So what? He was born in the U.S. and that's good enough to make him a citizen. Rubio may be an opportunistic liar, but he's one of ours still.

18 October 2011

The Washington Post: If you don't get it, sometimes you write for it.

Anne Applebaum has a piece in today's Post that goes a long way toward highlighting the real problem of the supposed "liberal media": they stop at corporate liberalism and think that they represent the limits of rational thinking.

In her critique of the protests, which utilizes the now dominant trope of mainstream media both right and center (there is no left mainstream media) that the protesters "don't have a program/don't know what they want," Applebaum believes the protesters, by exercising their rights under our democracy, are in fact undermining democracy. It's a profoundly conservative argument that usually comes from knee-jerk reactionaries and those who think that anyone who protests inequality in America should "see what it's like in [name your third world dictatorship]," as though those are models we really aspire to.

It's essentially a lack of vision. Applebaum cannot see around her belief in theoretical democracy to understand the critique is leveled at a gamed system, a democracy that unfortunately has come to resemble more and more, as V.I. Lenin put it a century ago, a "political shell for capitalism" (State and Revolution 14). Applebaum actually -- and in proof of what many a deconstructionist might argue -- admits what she can't admit, recognizing in the Occupy movement a coherent message that the process is broken: "national democracy cannot command the allegiance of a billion-dollar global hedge fund, with its headquarters in a tax haven and its employees scattered around the world," she writes, but she simply can't sustain the critique, because that would call into question all the "economic and spiritual benefits" of globalization (I assume she alludes to her ability to purchase cheaply the products of child/slave/prison labor and her ability to take those products with her to a spiritual retreat in some ancient ruins).

Unable to think beyond the boundaries of our corporatized democracy, Applebaum retreats, after throwing a gratuitous dig at the Occupy movement's claims of solidarity with and affinity to Arab Spring, into a laughable conclusion:
“Global” activists, if they are not careful, will accelerate that decline. Protesters in London shout,“We need to have a process!” Well, they already have a process: It’s called the British political system. And if they don’t figure out how to use it, they’ll simply weaken it further. 
One could have said as much about the American colonists. They also "already had a process," it it also was called the "British political system." The fact of a process's existence isn't the point. Serial killers "have a process." The issue is whether the process works.


Lenin, V.I. State and Revolution.1917. New York: International Publishers, 1932. Lenin does a fairly good job of describing our current situation: "A democratic republic is the best possible political shell for capitalism, and therefore, once capital has gained control [...] of this very best shell, it establishes its power so securely, so firmly that no change, either of persons, or institutions, or parties in the bourgeois republic can shake it" (14).

11 October 2011

No harm, no foul.

The cancelation of the first two weeks of the NBA season is great news, because it will keep armchair athletes off the courts for at least that long. You can always tell when the NBA starts up by the sudden influx of no-talent ballers, looking like little caricatures of their NBA counterparts, wearing replica jerseys and sporting two inch verticals.

Let's save basketball by canceling the rest if the season as well.

03 October 2011

Proving that you're damned if you do, damned if you don't.

So Michelle Obama went to the Alexandria Target over the weekend.

Big whoop.

Outside of the usual complaints you'd expect to hear from the right wing (or really the left if a Republican first lady were to make a shopping trip) about taxpayer money being spent on security and how the money saved at Target was wasted on the security detail etc., I wouldn't think the trip would garner much attention.

However, because Michelle Obama dresses elegantly on many occasions (apparently unlike previous first ladies, who to infer from the right wing's frothing all wore off the rack stuff from the Kathy Ireland Collection at K-Mart or did all their shopping at Frumps-R-Us), she shouldn't be seen in Target.

What really has the right wing press machine in an uproar though is the fact that someone from AP got a photo of her shopping. Apparently, this fact amounts to a conspiracy nearly as deep as the CIA/Mafia/KGB assassination of JFK. Rush Limbaugh, himself no stranger to fraud, had this gem to contribute:
 “What a phony-baloney plastic banana good-time rock-and-roller optic photo op.”
Coming from one of the most powerful men in media who constantly pretends he's outside that whole machine, those words seem a bit hollow.

Of course, Limbaugh is also the guy who had the gall to claim Parkinson's sufferer Michael J. Fox was "acting" when he shot an ad for stem cell research in which he very noticeably twitched and rocked. Limbaugh, who accused Fox of skipping medication so that he would appear more damaged than he was, was perhaps thinking of his own experience with withdrawal from Oxycontin. However, Fox's medicinal intake was not recreational, but rather legally prescribed, unlike Rush's.