Begging The Question

Saturday, March 19, 2005

TourneyBlogging: What the Buck(nell)?!
I'll begin with a few thoughts about the early evening games. First, Gus Johnson is the perfect announcer for an upset like Vermont's. That guy goes crazy. He's like the guys you usually just hear on local radio as "the voice of the whatevers." I think he gets a little too worked up over nice plays early in the game, but he's great for late-game big moments.

About that Vermont game, congrats to the 'Mounts for the big win. I'm not saying it made an ultimate difference, but I think the technical Terrence Roberts got for hanging on the rim was a bad call, and it cost Syracuse two points. Now, it happened with about nine minutes left, so it wasn't like it was a make-or-break moment, but it's still a tough call to swallow. I don't want to take anything away from Vermont, though. They didn't let Gerry McNamara go off, and Hakim Warrick wasn't enough. I think they'll give Michigan State fits.

Louisville had a heck of a time getting by Louisiana-Lafayette, and Wisconsin had pretty much the same story line against Northern Iowa. I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but it's almost as if someone were scripting these games where the higher-seeded team struggles but pulls away in the last few minutes. It's like a wrestling match where the bad guy gets in a few good shots but in the end the hero slips away unscathed.

Duke looked like it was going to play by that script until it pretty much shut Delaware State out for about fifteen minutes. Even though Duke wasn't scoring a lot, it was playing a lot more efficiently and wasn't in danger in the second half. Plus, point guard Sean Dockery seems to be blending back into the offense after a long absence from a torn knee ligament.

Other than the Duke game, the endings of the three early games were all worth watching, and happened at the same time. I had one on the tv and was flipping between two on the computer, and they all wrapped up within seconds of each other. Nice. This is what the CSTV deal was made for.

A word about Louisiana-Lafayette. I love seeing teams like this in the tournament, those tiny directional or branch schools that get their moment in the sun. And they have a great nickname, the Ragin' Cajuns. There ought to be a rule that they have to have an actual Cajun on the team, though, and I don't know if Ross Mouton counts, but he's listed on the roster and he's from Louisiana, and Mouton might be a Cajun name. They better warm up to Beausoleil just to be safe. But their jerseys are another story. You can sort of see them in this photo, and here is the home version. They've got an interlocked "UL" at the neck, a large block-letter "LOUISIANA" below that, and below that, a tiny script "Lafayette." You can barely see the "Lafayette." I'm not familiar with the team, so maybe they're trying to pass themselves off as the University of Louisiana (period), but you kinda miss the Lafayette part. Oh, well. That's just my little vexation.

Two other quick things. My power flickered briefly, and I had that split-second reaction like my computer was going to blow up in my face because the speakers popped and the screen went blank. That's never fun. Luckily, it came right back. But one thing that I've lost forever are some of the games on the CSTV feed. I knew that some of them were blacked out because my local CBS affiliate was showing them. Fine, whatever. But CSTV also lets me go back and play old games later. But the catch is that it won't show me the previously blacked-out games even after they're over. What is the justification for that? Even if you can justify blacking them out simultaneous to their airing, why keep me in the dark forever? Irritating.

Okay, let's move on to the late games. The big one, of course, was Kansas's loss to Bucknell. Even though the Bison beat Pittsburgh earlier this year when Pitt was ranked seventh in the nation, this was still a huge surprise, one of the biggest tournament upsets ever. I had Kansas in the Final Four, so I was really not expecting this. But Bucknell played great defense and none of the Jayhawks stepped up when it was needed. I thought Kansas might be able to pull off a huge comeback in the last minute when Bucknell turned it over and got whistled for an intentional foul. I thought it was a bad call -- yes, the player grabbed the jersey and didn't really go for the ball, but it wasn't egregious, and he let go. And it wasn't like a shove -- a hold is a fairly routine foul when someone is, say, curling around a screen, and it wasn't a hard foul. I think an intentional call there, which gave KU the ball back, was overkill in a tight game. But it's moot now.

After thinking about it and watching a good chunk of the game, I have to agree with Scott's comment that George Washington got hosed in being made a 12 seed and paired against a hot Georgia Tech team. The Committee must have really disdained the Atlantic 10. And I hear that Karl Hobbs is on Virginia's search list for its coaching vacancy, although Hobbs just signed a contract extension through 2011. Anyway, GW played hard and made a good showing of themselves, but Tech is pulling together and looks really strong now. They didn't have a lot of trouble holding off the Colonials. And Mississippi State really blew out Stanford, which surprised me. The Bulldogs will be a tough test for Duke Sunday.

On to the wrap-up.

Best Game: Yeah, the Bucknell win was exciting, but in some ways it was more surreal than "good." The Ohio-Florida game was like a race to the buzzer -- could Florida hang on long enough? It was like that scene in American Flyers where the chain on David's bike breaks and he has to carry his bike across the finish line before the other cyclists catch him. And yes, I just dropped a reference to a 1985 Kevin Costner/Rae Dawn Chong bicylcing movie on you. (And don't forget Alexandra Paul looking better than she ever did on "Baywatch" and a brief appearance by Jennifer Grey!) If you're tired of basketball, I'll let you discuss amongst yourselves whether American Flyers or Breaking Away is the best bicycling movie ever. And no, Pee Wee's Big Adventure is not a candidate.

Where was I? Oh, yes. The game of the day was Vermont v. Syracuse. It was taut and well-played and fun and exciting, and for a while looked like it might be the only huge upset of the first round.

Worst Game: I don't know that the Iowa State-Minnesota contest had anything to commend it, but I'm going with the Villanova-New Mexico ugly-fest. Not a pretty game. I'm glad I didn't have a rooting interest and felt free to turn away.

Best Individual Performance: Honorable mentions to Syracuse's Hakim Warrick, who had 21 points and ten boards in a losing effort and to NC State's Julius Hodge, who had 19 and 7 in a win over Charlotte. Runners up are Francisco Garcia, who carried Louisville with 27 points, and Lawrence Roberts of Mississippi State, who had 23 and 14 in the rout of Stanford. The winner is Vermont's Germain Mopa Njila, who came through for 20 big points and ten rebounds for the Catamounts.

Biggest Disappointment: Kansas, hands down. They have senior leadership, great coaching, played a tough schedule, and are tournament-tested. And they looked lost and flat on the court. This one will sting in Lawrence for a long, long time.

Biggest Surprise: I have to say Mississippi State, for being the only team besides North Carolina to have an easy win today. I had picked them, but I didn't think it would be such a mismatch. And I'm a little surprised Florida didn't totally choke.

Best Name: Honorable mention to Matt Haryasz of Stanford. I'm not sure how he pronounces it, but I know how everyone else will. The runner up is Germain Mopa Njila, which usually sounds like "moba-jee-la" or something. But the winner is George Washington's Nana (Pops) Mensah-Bonsu.

Looking ahead...

I'll have more about Saturday's games if I wake up in time. In chronological order, they are: #6 Texas Tech v. # 3 Gonzaga at about 1:00 eastern; #8 Pacific v. #1 Washington and # 6 Utah v. #3 Oklahoma around 3:30 eastern; #12 Wisconsin-Milwaukee v. #4 Boston College and #9 Nevada v. #1 Illinois and #11 UAB v. #3 Arizona at about 5:30 eastern; and finally, #7 West Virginia v. #2 Wake Forest and #7 Cincinnati v. #2 Kentucky about 8:00 eastern.

I think there are some interesting aspects of several of these games, but I'm most looking forward to Texas Tech-Gonzaga and Cincinnati-Kentucky. Gonzaga looked mighty vulnerable against Winthrop, and the Red Raiders played pretty well against UCLA. Gonzaga is now the "Cinderella Emeritus" (feel free to use that if you credit me!), and big bad Bobby Knight wants to get back to the Sweet Sixteen. I predict another game according to the script -- close throughout, Zags pull it out late.

Apparently, Cincy feels a little bit in the shadow of the Wildcats. I'm sure the Bearcats would love to knock off Kentucky and maybe take the long way home from Indianapolis so they can drive through Lexington. That's another game where the lower seeded team played a lot better than the higher seeded team Thursday. Of course, past performance isn't always a predictor of future results. I tell you what, though -- if this game is tied at the end of regulation, I say forget overtime. Let's settle it by having Bob Huggins v. Tubby Smith in a stare-down!

Enjoy the weekend slate, folks. I'll be back when I can, but fewer games will probably mean fewer updates.

Friday, March 18, 2005

"King of the Hill" Quote of the Day
Buck Strickland, arriving at the new development where Hank is building a Habitat for Humanity house: "So, this is going to be 'Arlen Pines.' Didn't recognize it without all the tombstones!"

TourneyBlogging: Friday Night Lights
Bill Simmons is taking the night off, so I declare myself, at least for this session, "America's most-read NCAA running diary."

This afternoon, St. Mary's made a nice comeback on Southern Illinois before losing. That's been the way a whole lot of these games have gone: a team makes it sort of interesting late, but very few keep it close till the end. It's driven Simmons (and probably many other viewers) crazy, but I'm still playing the Ployanna and arguing that it will give us more competitive second-round games. We shall see.

Villanova won an ugly game against New Mexico, and UConn held off a late rally by Central Florida. So, pending the Syracuse game against Vermont, Pitt is the only Big East team to lose so far, and they were the lower seed against Pacific. Here's the thing about the UConn game -- they would have lost it (or at least faced or a buzzer-beater) if UCF had managed the end of the game like it had ever been in a close one before. UCF had a shot-clock violation in the final minutes, and was down seven with about 45 seconds left, but dribbled around as if time weren't a factor. It was really odd. A lot of that was the Huskies' defense, of course, but UCF didn't help itself much. My CSTV feed seems to be fine, although it's a bit behind the CBS station, which can be weird.

I have been to a few first- and second-round games, and they're a lot of fun. I love that free period between the afternoon and evening sessions on day one. If you're in a good city, you can wander around, get a bite to eat and a drink, check out some other games, and get revved up for the night games. If you're in a bad city, you have to drive to the next county to find a liquor store and a Burger King.

Okay, let's get to the evening games.

Duke: WTF? The Devils aren't playing their usual defense. It looks like they might be in for an Illinois or Wake style game, letting Delaware State hang around too long. Joy, joy.

Billy Packer and Jim Nantz noted early on that Coach K could tie Dean Smith's mark for the most wins in the NCAA tournament tonight. They also noted that John Wooden, despite winning ten titles, didn't have as many overall wins because the field was so much smaller then. They went out of their way to say this "takes nothing away from Wooden," implying that he would have had more wins if he only had more teams to play. I've said before that I think the opposite conclusion is more supportable: Wooden wouldn't have won ten titles against a 64-team field with balanced regions (back then they were geographic, so UCLA rarely had to play eastern teams before the Final Four). He surely would have won a lot -- at least six, I think -- but ten would have been incredible. Of course, not that Packer would want to "take anything away" from Krzyzewski.

Another Packerism: He noted some Delaware State player had 59 fouls in the regular season, but "interestingly," he hadn't fouled out of any games. Really, Billy? They probably played 30 games or so. And you're telling me that a guy who averages about two fouls per games never fouled out? You don't say.

Another announcer thing. It's weird to see CBS's Greg Gumbel and ESPN's Dick Vitale in a commercial together. It's no wonder they don't have any chemistry; they ought to have some kind of rule against this kind of cross-pollination. With an exception for Jay Bilas, normally of ESPN, who is calling some early-round games for CBS this weekend.

And now the round-up. Duke pulls away a bit to lead by 8 at the half. They look like they're starting to figure things out, and Shelden Williams will make a difference in the second half. Syracuse is up by 4 on Vermont at the half in a low-scoring game. I expect McNamara to start making some shots. Louisville is leading Lafayette by only one at the half, and that would be another bracket-killer for me if the Ragin' Cajuns come through. Is it just me, or does it seem like forever since Rick Pitino's had a late run in the tournament? How many Sweet Sixteens has he made since he won the title with Kentucky in 1996? Also, rumors are that Wisconsin and Northern Iowa are playing a game, but I can't bring myself to verify it.

Vermont has been leading most of the second half against the 'Cuse, and that looks like it's going to be a great finish. And if Duke and Vermont somehow end up playing each other in the Sweet Sixteen, they might set some kind of modern-era record for white players on the floor at the same time.

More later...if Blogger lets me post it.

Friday Spies
This week's questions are in italics, and my answers are in plain text. I'll just repeat my answers for the ones I've already had. Fitz will probably get around to them later.

1. Who is an author whose work you've never read, but want to?

I've never really been able to get into Faulker, although I have read a couple of his shorter works. I don't feel too bad about the "great authors" I've missed, though. There's only so much time in the day. I started some Jane Austen once, and liked it, but for whatever reason didn't finish. I do that a lot -- I have a lot of books on my shelf with bookmarks halfway in. I guess I'd like to read more legal theory -- I'm a law nerd, but not enough of one to have read much of the jurisprudence canon.

2. Can men and women be friends?

Outlook not so good, but there are exceptions. I think the answer is yes, but it depends on your definition of "friend." For example, I know women whom I am attracted to, but have resigned myself to never landing, and I consider myself their friend. But I'm sure people would say that by virtue of my attraction, I can't really be a friend, only a wannabe-lover or something. I think it's dumb to assume that friendship and attraction are incompatible. Even if it doesn't rise to the level of "mancrush," I like spending time with my guy friends -- the "attraction" isn't physical or romantic, but something about them attracted me enough to want to hang out with them, even if it was just their big screen television. I think "attraction" is just an affinity, and that can take several forms. Actually, thinking about it, I don't know if I have any female friends to whom I am not attracted. I don't have any female friends whom I don't find at least minimally physically appealing, although that's not to say I would rather have these women as my girlfriend instead of just-friend in every case. I'm not sure what that says about me. But back to your question. For me the answer is yes, but I'm not sure I'm typical.

3. If you could choose to live in a different time period, would you?
If so, when would live and why?

This depends on how much knowledge I would take with me in my time travels. Would I be able to live in the 1700s and still know about the germ theory of disease, and know about the course of constitutional interpretation? (Say, Mr. Madison, you might want to clarify a little more about that whole "due process" thing, and you know what a penumbra is, don't you?) Conversely, would I be able to live in the future and not be constrained by the limits of current knowledge? (Think of Stallone in that god-awful movie with Sandra Bullock and Wesley Snipes, although Sly is probably no better off in this day and age.) All in all, I feel pretty good about living in the here and now, so I won't press my luck. I'll stick.

4. Have you ever sold anything, bought anything, or processed anything
as a career? Have you ever sold anything bought or processed, or
bought anything sold or processed, or repaired anything sold, bought,
or processed, as a career?

I worked for a few weeks at a McDonald's, which involved more processing than selling for me. Otherwise all my jobs have been thinking/sitting around type jobs. One job I look back on with fondness was my stint at a university press. I wrote a lot of rejection letters (the most memorable was to a guy who had written a manuscript on shy-bladder syndrome and his therapeutic technique to help guys be able to pee in public), read a lot of esoteric academic books, and tried to shop our books to reviewers. I worked in the editorial department and the marketing department. There's nothing better than working in marketing at a non-profit insitution, because you're not really worried about sales. Our press had a reputation as being very liberal (even among academic presses!), so much so that when I told a conservative friend I worked there, he said, "Oh yeah. Their books are so long because they only write on the left side of the page."

5. They're going to make a movie about your life. What's the theme song?

This is a thinker. Some days I wish it was more like Bob Seger's "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" ("I ain't good lookin'/ But you know I ain't shy/ Ain't afraid to look a girl/ Yeah, right in the eye/ So if you need some lovin'/ And you need it right away/ Take a little time out/ And maybe I'll stay") but I'm afraid it's more often Bob Seger's "Beautiful Loser" (He's your oldest and your best friend/ If you need him, he'll be there again./ He's always willing to be second best/ A perfect lodger, a perfect guest./ Beautiful loser, read it on the wall,/ And realize you just don't need it all"). Okay, I'm mostly kidding. I do think "Beautiful Loser" would be a good sitcom name, though. But hey, at least my theme song isn't Warren Zevon's "Excitable Boy" (or, sadly, "Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me"). If the song were about my priorities (and not my realities), it might be the bluegrass standard "Roll in My Sweet Baby's Arms." Hmm. You know, I'm going to have to think a lot about this one. I will try to come up with a definitive answer soon. Actually, reading Kristine's answers over at Divine Angst reminded me of the Rolling Stones. Given how much time I've spent in the ast decade thinking about my ex-girlfriend, maybe the answer is "Angie." And I've always liked "Tumblin' Dice ("I'm all sixes and sevens and nines" and "There's fever in the funk house now" are great lines). But since my policy is not to dicker over these questions needlessly, I'm just going to go with "Beast of Burden" as my theme song and be done with it. I'm sure I just can't think of the perfect song right now. Oh well.

Comment or send a link here if you've answered these, and I'll try to collect them all. So far, thanks to Scott, THL, Kristine and E-Spat for tackling these. And Stag. And F&D (and props for picking a cool tune, a nice one to shag by). And Blond Justice, who chose another great song. And now Coob too. And Jack at Jack & Coke. And kmsqrd at Quo Vado.

TourneyBlogging: Nothing to See Here
Actual work interceded this morning and prevented me from watching much of the early games. Darn wheels of justice turning! I went home for lunch, and when I got there, CSTV's feed wasn't working. Oh, the horror! It told me that I needed the newest version of Windows Media Player even though (a) I have it, and (b) I was watching the feed yesterday. So, I called customer service and was on hold for fifteen minutes while I kept trying to start the feed. Just before I had to go back to work, it came on, so I hung up on customer service and just left the feed running.

William at Southern Appeal thinks the NCAA should get rid of the automatic bids and just take the top 64 teams. I'll leave aside the fact that this will never happen. It would be a bad idea for at least four reasons that I can think of right off. First, it gives the smaller conferences nothing to play for. Just getting to the Dance is their national title, in the same way that just getting to some minor bowl game is the focus of a lot of football teams that can't ever compete in the BCS. Second, it would rob the tournament of many of its biggest upsets, which are the most fun things to watch. Cinderella is one of the most important players in the tourney. Third, it would end the incentive for a middle-of-the-pack team from a major conference to make a run in its conference tourney and play its way into the tournament. There are always a couple of teams that wouldn't have been picked (or certainly wouldn't have been picked as high) before their runs in conference tournaments. If they know that even winning the tournament might not get them in the NCAAs, conference tourneys would be less exciting mini-dances. Finally, the NCAA tournament isn't about choosing the 65 best teams. It's plainly about rewarding the 31 conference winners and trying to pick the 34 best remaining teams. Those are two separate goals. They get conflated because, quite often, the conference champions would be among the best 34 or 65 teams. But this is why the NIT winner isn't the "66th best team in America" -- it's probably closer to the 35th best. So, does having teams like Oakland and Delaware State lead to a minor chance that the best teams won't be playing in two weeks? Sure. But teams like Miami and Florida State have to play Duke in football, too -- everybody has to deal with some preliminary tuneups with the potential for disater. That's one thing that makes the game so fun.

I like Verne Lundquist as CBS's main football play-by-play man, and he does a good job with basketball too. It's funny to think that Bill Raftery and Al McGuire would have set the standard for off-beat color commentators if Dick Vitale had never been born. Also, I noticed Len Elmore was working a set of games -- yet another ACC alum commentator. And I almost forgot the doyenne, Billy Packer. Is any other conference so heavily represented? And would any eardrums be safe if Gus Johnson and Dick Vitale were ever paired up for a game?

In early game action, NC State beat Charlotte in a game I didn't get a chance to see. I'll watch it at home later and see if I missed a good one. Oklahoma State and Iowa State seemed to have relatively easy wins, although the Cowboys probably would have liked to put Southeast Louisiana away a lot earlier. After yesterday's games where high seeded teams couldn't shake teams like SE Louisiana, though, it almost seems normal.

Florida-Ohio is an early candidate for game of the day. Ohio was down 20 but came back to tie it with two minutes left before falling by 5. Florida has done this way too many times in the past five years and might not get away with it against New Mexico or Villanova. And I bet that the folks who thought they would pick the huge upset by calling for the Gators to beat UNC were sweating.

I try not to put too much stock into conference affiliation once we get to the tournament. You can have a good team from a conference that is down overall. I thought Illinois and Kentucky fit this bill this year. So I never gave much credence to someone who picks solely because one team is from a certain conference. It's a factor, sure, but hardly the only one. All that said, maybe the Big Ten and SEC really were that bad this year. Illinois and Kentucky haven't played as well as their seeds would ordinarily demand, Florida had all it wanted from Ohio, and LSU, Alabama, Iowa, and Minnesota are all gone. Make of that what you will.

Last thing for now. The tv time-outs (don't tell me it's times-out, you pedant) happen at the first dead ball in each half after the 16-, 12-, 8-, and 4-minute marks. It's been that way for a long time (background here), but this year they've changed things up. If the dead ball results from a foul leading to free throws, they used to shoot the foul shots before the timeout. That meant that if the player missed, no timeout until the next dead ball. I don't know who was responsible for changing it this year (and they did it all season, on all networks, so it's not a CBS thing for the tournament), but now they take the timeout before the shots. On the one hand, this leads to more predictability about the timeouts, which was the whole point of having them at standard times anyway. But on the other, free throws are a huge part of the game (I would argue that the three most important on-court indicators of success in the tournament are good point guard play, good rebounding, and good free-throw shooting) and taking the tv timeout between the foul and the shots messes up the rhythm of the game. They come back from the commercial and I've forgotten why we're at the foul line. The old-fashioned three-point play can be a dagger, but it loses something if the momentum is broken up by a timeout. It's not a major peeve, but on the whole, I don't like it.

In early action from the afternoon games, UNC, Villanova, UConn, and Southern Illinois are up by a lot early. Nova-New Mexico and Southern Illinois-St. Mary's might get closer later, but early indications are that today might be as upset-light as yesterday. More later....

Oh, and thanks to Scott for the shout-out! Bill Simmons opened his diary today by calling it "America's most-read NCAA running diary." This could be seen as a response to CBS's self-promotion as "America's most-watched network," which Simmons thought was dumb. Why not just say "America's number-one network"? However, I think it might be a crack at me, too. Simmons has competition, and he's scared! By the way, I did a little counting (read: I copied into my word processor and hit "word count") and Simmons wrote about 6400 words on the first day, as compared to my roughly 4800. Of course, all mine were about the tournament, whereas he spent a lot of time talking about the Shaq-Kobe game last night, the steroid hearings before Congress, "The O.C.", and the Playboy Channel. Hmm...the NBA, drugs, sex, and the O.C. Why not just say "The Clippers" and save all the typing?

Texas, sometimes I worry that I don't even know who you are
Texas Lawmaker Wants End to 'Sexy Cheerleading'

I've seen my share of stupid proposals for legislation - it's part of my job - but this one may take the cake.

(link via Fox News)

Thursday, March 17, 2005

TourneyBlogging: First Day Wrap-up
Illinois leads Farliegh Dickinson by only one at the half. If FDU wins this one, it's the biggest upset in college basketball history. Go Knights!

OK, never mind. The Illini snapped out of it. Still, an inauspicious start for the consensus team to beat.

I'm already tired of hearing "Chances Are" puns about Creighton's Johnny Mathies (pronounced like the crooner). Well, Creighton just lost to West Virginia, so I guess we won't be hearing that pun any more.

The other games aren't really contests. It's funny. We're so used to upsets that it's odd when most of the higher seeds win, which if you think about it, is how it should be if the seeds are right.

So, a few final thoughts for tonight.

Best Game: I guess Creighton-West Virginia, almost by default. It was the only one that came down to the buzzer. Pitt-Pacific and UTEP-Utah were close late, so they get runner-up honors. Honorable mentions to Wisconsin-Milwaukee for its upset and to Eastern Kentucky for keeping its game close.

Worst Game: Was BC-Penn ever interesting? Was it just my impression, or did UAB-LSU set some kind of record for stinky shots? Those were both pretty awful. Several games had close first halves, but most of them ended up wide margins. Really, though, with a set of games like today's, you're all winners.

Best Individual Performance: Nobody looked ready to set the world on fire, but Cincinnati's Jason Maxiell had 22 points and nine rebounds in a strong game against Iowa, and Andrew Bogut of Utah had 24 and 11 in their win over UTEP.

Biggest Disappointment: That Wake Forest, Illinois, and Oklahoma were ever in trouble. It's one thing to be a little cold out of the gate, but those games were way too close for way too long.

Biggest Surprise: That Bob Knight and Bob Huggins won NCAA games on the same day.

Best Name: A tie for honorable mention to West Virginia teammates Kevin Pittsnogle and Joe Herber ("err-bear") and Milwaukee's Mark Pancratz, because they're fun to say. A tie for runner-up to UTEP's Giovanni St. Amant and Kentucky's Kelenna Azubuike. And the winner is Pacific's Guillaume Yango.

Game I Haven't Mentioned Yet That I'm Most Looking Forward to Watching Friday: #7 Southern Illinois v. #10 St. Mary's. I don't know a lot about these teams because I didn't see a lot of them during the regular season. But they both got decent seeds as at-large entrants after losing in their conference tourneys. I picked the Salukis because I thought the Missouri Valley Conference was a bit tougher than the West Coast Conference, but I'm hoping for another 7/10 tilt like Thursday's Creighton-West Virginia tussle.

Final Thoughts: I don't think we'll see many more upsets than we saw Thursday, but I hope the games are closer. Just remember, folks -- if most of the seeds hold for the first round, that should give us more great second-round and Sweet Sixteen games. Lastly, I know I'm about the bazillionth person to say this, but I wish the NCAA would give up the stupid convention of naming the regions after the host city of the regional finals, rather than the tried-and-true directional names of days gone by. I'm sure they worry that we won't be able to comprehend that a team could start playing in Nashville or Cleveland even though it's in the "Albuquerque Region" if they just called it the "West Region." Look -- we're able to wrap our pea-brains around the notion that the "Big Ten" conference has eleven teams; I think we can handle this one. Just go back to the directional names.

OK, so sixteen games down, and sixteen to go tomorrow....

UPDATE: I almost forgot the Feel-Good Story for Friday: Delaware State Coach Greg Jackson. The theme is that the Hornets' game against Duke is nothing compared to the fight the Jackson family is in off the court. Jackson's wife died of a brain aneurysm a few years ago, and his son was diagnosed with sickel cell anemia. Greg Jr. has become a little brother to the players, who will all be pulling for him this summer when he undergoes a rare cord blood transplant operation in the hopes of curing his sickle cell disease. In a this-could-only-happen-in-the-NCAAs coincidence, the surgery will be performed at the Duke hospital. I wish the Jacksons good luck, although not so much good luck that they give Duke a scare. (Link via DBR.)

"King of the Hill" Quote of the Day
Bobby: "You guys go on ahead without me. I'm sticking to my New Year's resolution: ice cream once a day."
Hank: "Attaboy, Bobby. Nothing tastes sweeter than self-discipline."

TourneyBlogging: What's On Besides "Jake in Progress"?
First, I was incredibly wrong about Iowa and Cincinnati. If the Bearcats play Saturday like they did today, they'll beat Kentucky. Their problem this year, though, has been that they've put too few back-to-back efforts like that together. Still, an impressive performance.

A few thoughts on this evening's games.

1. I am already tired of the seven commercials CBS keeps airing, apparently from the only seven companies that can afford the ad rates. I need some variety, folks! And the Army needs some new ads.

2. I will never get tired of Jay Bilas as a color commentator. He and Dick Enberg are a great combo. You can tell Enberg is really impressed, too. He just asked Jay to repeat something he said during a break, and I've noticed a few times he's seemed speechless, unable to top a Bilas comment. It's really amusing to hear Enberg hype "C.S.I." and talking about the Tony Hawk guest appearance there. "Skateboarding? Do they still call that 'sidewalk surfing'?"

3. Is there an ACC bias in hiring announcers? Besides Bilas, today we've had Dan Bonner, Jim Spannarkel, and Matt Gminski, all ACC grads.

4. If Wake Forest loses, my bracket is shot. Chattanooga (learn more about them in this slate item) has been playing well. As good as Wake's guards are, the Deacons aren't going to win unless they get Eric Williams more involved -- the Mocs can't answer him.

5. Speaking of Wake's guards, it's nice to see the replay of Chris Paul's gonad-shot against Julius Hodge every time Wake plays. Hee hee hee, Paul's a thug.

6. It looks like Arizona is finally pulling away from Utah State, whom they had no business trailing if they're as good as Lute Olsen claims they are. And what is Gonzaga doing with Winthrop? My goodness. Everyone says that the Zags have been good enough for long enough that they're no longer eligible to be a "Cinderella." So how soon before we start treating them like every other regular-season power that crumbles in the tourney?

7. I may be able to watch two games at once from the comfort of my home, and I may be a better blogger than Bill Simmons (debatable, but he's the pro), but he has high-definition Playboy Channel to augment his tournament experience. Or, since he lives in L.A., otherwise known as looking out the window.

8. Nevada and Texas is shaping up to be a good game, but one I don't care about, so it's hard to get too excited about. Some of you readers might have a rooting interest in that one, though, so I'll keep an eye on it. As of this posting, Texas is up two with under two minutes left. Update: Oh, man...Brad Buckman missed a chippie that would have tied it in the last few seconds, and Nevada holds on to win, 61-57. A close game, but it didn't seem like a great game. Maybe that was because the winner gets Illinois, and neither team could be too excited about that. For Texas, though, a tough end to a tough season. At least it looks like they'll keep their coach -- Rick Barnes has said he's not interested in the Virginia job.

9. This morning, I thought about offering my last-minute tips for making out your brackets, but there's no use. The more you think about them, the worse you'll do. If the tournament was set up as a set of series between teams (or even double-elimination), the best teams would eventually win out. But in a one-shot deal, anything can happen and there's no use trying to predict it. I really think a 16 seed will eventually beat a 1, as has already happened in the women's tournament. I don't think it will happen this weekend, though. I said before that I pick with my heart, but that only goes for the winner. The other games I pick with my head. So there are plenty of times that I'm happy with either outcome: either my pick wins or the team I don't like loses. Another magical aspect of the Big Dance.

10. Oh, just to be clear about what I'm experiencing: CSTV won't let me watch the game that's playing in my region, so I can't have it on two screens. And I can't get more than one feed on the computer at a time. But the download is working pretty well, the resolution is good, and toggling between games is pretty easy. I could hardly be happier with this. One drawback is that when CBS switches away from my local game, they don't tell CSTV, and it's still blacked out for me. That could be a problem down the road.

11. I'll have a wrap-up of today's action and some thoughts about tomorrow's games later, if I can stay awake. Intermittent updates possible.

TourneyBlogging: The First Teams in the Round of 32
As predicted, the Kentucky-EKU battle was close all along but has just gone final with a Kentucky win, 72-64. And the Niagra-Oklahoma game was pretty close for a while, but Oklahoma is about to salt it away unless Niagra makes a heck of a run. (Update: Nope, Okie wins 84-67.) My guess is that people whose brackets had the Sooners and Wildcats making deep runs are feeling kind of nervous right now. Part of this can be chalked up to first-game adjustments and a big underdog playing with nothing to lose. But these two are vulnerable. Of course, if they lose early, I guess it will all part of the conspiracy to get Duke to the Final Four again, right?

The Pitt-Pacific game has gone exactly as I expected. Maybe the Big East wasn't the best conference after all. Pacific-Washington in Boise should be a great game if the Tigers can hold on. (Update: They did, by a 79-71 final score.) And for all of you who pick your brackets based on the masoct battles, are tigers and panthers natural enemies?

The Alabama game surprised me. (Update: Just went final -- Milwaukee 83, Alabama 73.) I guess I should have looked into Milwaukee a little more. But I'm glad that we got our 12-over-5 seed upset out of the way early, because pundits like Andy Katz act like they couldn't have a Sweet Sixteen if all those pesky 5 seeds won. I think Milwaukee can beat BC if it plays like this again. I'm not too upset about not picking this upset because I had Illinois coming out of this half of the bracket, anyway.

It's time for the second set of games to get started. Cincinnati-Iowa is up first. I predicted an Iowa upset. The Hawkeyes have been able to pull themselves together after Pierre Pierce's dismissal, and made a nice run in the Big Ten tournament. The Bearcats have been up and down all year, but Bob Huggins is another one of those coaches I just can't bring myself to pick in the NCAAs.

TourneyBlogging: I See Blue, and He's Glorius!
This is the first update of TourneyBlogging '05. I am already in love with CSTV, and the fifteen bucks was so worth it. I am watching one game on my computer and have another game going on the "Gametracker," which is a running box score play-by-play thing.

I'm watching UW-Milwaukee v. Alabama now. The Tide is going to need somebody besides Kennedy Winston to do something. Milwaukee is hot -- it's 30-15 now and Milwaukee is shooting 65%. If they keep that up, I don't think Bama can score enough to keep up. This is another way that the long tv timeouts in the tournament make a difference -- they can kill a hot team's momentum. The crowd in Chicago seems pretty heavily for the underdog Panthers.

The other game right now is the in-state blood feud between Kentucky and Eastern Kentucky. UK has a recent tendency to let these first-round games stay too close for comfort for 'Cats fans. I can recall games against Holy Cross and St. Bonaventure, so maybe it's only Catholic schools. EKU has the feel-good story in guard Zach Ingles. The Colonels are committing a lot of fouls, though, and Kentucky is a good free-throw-shooting team -- and free throws are often critical in NCAA games. This one looks like it's going to be one of those games where EKU gets it down to about an eight- or ten-point lead but can't close the gap, but even that's probably tight enough for Kentucky "fans" to be calling the talk-radio shows tonight calling for Tubby Smith to be fired.

I've been typing long enough that the other two noonish games have started -- Pitt-Pacific and Oklahoma-Niagra. Those are still close early. Not much to report, although it looks like Pitt is coming out cold, which would be understandable given the weirdness of this game (I mentioned in my previous post).

Oh, it turns out that ESPN's Bill Simmons has the same idea I did about blogging the Big Dance. I predict that mine won't be as funny, but he's getting paid to do nothing but that, so it's not really fair. Also, the Sports Guy is running a contest for an intern. Since he copied me on the tourney-blogging thing, I'm going to steal his intern idea. So I'm hereby announcing the search for the BTQ Intern. Send a comment or an email if you're interested in participating, and if there's sufficient interest, I'll dream up a contest and some duties for the winner.

I'll be back with further updates as news warrants and time allows. Fitz has become unfortunately indisposed at work (the phrase "handed two assignments that were due last Monday" came up), so don't expect much from him for a while. He will, however, be sending out tomorrow's five questions later tonight. Enjoy.

TourneyBlogging: Preliminary Thoughts
I think I've decided to blog the crap out of the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship Tournament -- for at least as long as I have something to say. Of course, my threshold in that regard is pretty low. So expect as much blogging as I can get away with, more if I'm not glued to the screen during the games and/or I don't drink too much for St. Patrick's Day. (I have a good friend from college who is going to Vegas with some gal pals this weekend. Between the holiday and the tourney, she's calling it "the perfect storm.")

I've signed up for CSTV's online streaming video of the games, which will destroy American productivity Thursday and Friday. The regular price is $19.95, but I saved five bucks by signing up via the premier fan site on the internets, the Duke Basketball Report. All right, all right, if you really want to save the dough but really can't stand to give Duke a measly $5 kickback, you can get the same offer via the invaluable Yoco's College Hoops Blog.

CBS does a better job with tv coverage than they used to, but I don't trust it. For one thing, I'm living in a different part of the country than during previous tournaments, and I'm not sure what "games of local interest" they might foist on me. Second, they only switch to close games when (a) your game is way out of hand, and (b) the close game is very late, like under a minute. I want to be able to see more of the close games and less of the blowouts. So I shelled out so I could have the mega-remote control. Also, frankly, I want to see more of Duke's games than they will show me, regardless of score. It remains to be seen whether I use the CSTV feed as a compliment to CBS's, or in lieu of it.

Turning to the bracket, a few thoughts. I don't quibble a lot with the Selection Committee, because they watch a lot more games than I do, crunch a lot more numbers, and pull it all together a lot faster than I could. (And for the record, I would be fine with a selection committee picking 16 or 24 teams for a Division I-A football playoff, like they do for Division I-AA. But to do it right, you'd have to completely end the bowl system, and that won't happen anytime soon, so let's not get into it now. Football season will come soon enough, so save it for then, ok?)

Yoco and Joe Lunardi thought that Buffalo should have been invited instead of UAB. UAB's bid might be this year's piece of evidence for the theory that, contrary to what the Committee says, past results matter. UAB was a major Cindarella last year, and video of their wins last year will get played a lot during their first-round game this year. On the other hand, nobody knows Buffalo. I watched the MAC Championship game between Ohio and Buffalo, and both teams played very well. Ohio won on a last-second tip-in, and it seems a shame for Buffalo to lose a bid that way. I wasn't sold on Indiana, but I thought Notre Dame, despite its struggles down the stretch, had a decent case given their big wins over Boston College and UConn. But if you go that route, then you have to argue for Maryland, and no team that loses to Clemson three times in a year (and badly, I might add) deserves anything, and I don't care what they did to Duke. So, by and large, I wasn't bothered much by the teams in the Dance.

But some of the seedings seemed odd to me. Washington gets a 1 and Arizona gets a 3? Is it safe to assume that those would have been switched had the Pac-10 final turned out the other way? That kind of disparity is too broad for two teams that have been very even this year. And if conference tournaments are so important, Florida and Syracuse are way too low at 4 seeds, and UNC didn't play like a 1 seed in the ACC tourney. I agree with Gregg Doyel that the top 16 seeds in this bracket look awfully good. So dickering over, say, a 2 versus a 3 is really pointless since I think almost any team seeded 5 or above could make a deep run. (And to be clear, I think UNC deserved a #1 seed, but it makes no sense if the conference tournaments are as important as they seemed to be for other teams.)

Do you remember a few years ago when Duke and Kansas played in the second round, and it was a thriller? I think we could see a game like that between Georgia Tech and Louisville this year -- it's my early prediction for game of the tournament. I spent a lot of time agonizing over which team to go with in that one, especially because I think either one could beat Washington and/or Wake Forest and get to the Final Four. Ultimately, I had to go against the ACC and pick Louisville because Tech seems to have too many scoring droughts at inopportune times. But it was really a toss-up.

I know the tv people, if not the Committee (they also claim not to seed based on compelling story-lines), are hoping to get Duke v. Kentucky and UNC v. Kansas and UNC v. Duke. In my bracket, I had only one of those games actually happening. I had Oklahoma beating Kentucky -- I figured that if Billy Donavan can figure it out twice in a week, Kelvin Sampson could piece something together -- and Kansas beating UNC to spoil the UNC-Duke Final Four wet dream. I think if Kansas and North Carolina meet in the round of 8, Roy Williams will get outcoached. Face it: If you've made a practice of betting on Roy Williams losing at some point in the tournament, you're batting 1000 right now, and I'm going to wait until he proves me wrong before I'll pick the Tar Holes over a team as solid and Kansas. (I should say that while I don't exactly weep when Carolina loses, I like to see the ACC do well in the tournament, so I'm not making too much fuss about rooting against the boys in baby blue.)

I guess I've jumped ahead of myself a bit. Here are some other first-round games I'm looking forward to. (1) #8 Pacific v. #9 Pittsburgh. There are all sorts of oddities in this one. Pitt was stuck in the Souix Falls, South Dakota airport most of Tuesday, trying to get to Boise. After facing that hassle, they have to play the game at 10:40 a.m. Thursday local time for all the east-coast tv-watchers. Pacific is a worthy foe who would love to take down a team from a major conference. The winner gets a Washington team most people see as the most vulnerable #1 seed.

(2) #6 Texas Tech v. #11 UCLA. This one is Thursday night. Bob Knight is rumored to be interested in the Tennessee job. His teams haven't done well in the tournament lately -- I think his last Sweet Sixteen was in 1994, and his last Final Four was in 1992. I think this team might be a little overseeded because of its run in the Big XII tournament, but I just have a feeling that UCLA is a little too young and untested to pull the mild upset. Still, I would not be surprised to see Knight flame out yet again, especially if his mind is less on the Red Raiders than the Big Orange.

(3) #7 Charlotte v. #10 NC State. This is a Friday afternoon game. Charlotte has long felt like the mistreated step-sister of the Big Four (that's the four ACC schools in North Carolina). None of them will play the 49ers regularly, and with good reason -- Charlotte can beat them! However, I haven't been overly impressed by Charlotte or Conference USA this year, and State is playing its best ball of the year at the right time. I think the Wolfpack will reassert the Big Four dominance (but these two really should play more often, especially given Herb Sendek's tendency to schedule weak non-conference slates).

(4) #4 Syracuse v. # 13 Vermont. Taylor Coppenrath and the Catamounts are fun to watch, and CBS knows what it's doing by scheduling this game in prime time Friday night. But Syracuse is too good for them. I don't think this one will be that close, but I think it will be worth watching, if only as a scouting tool for the possible Duke-Syracuse game in the Sweet Sixteen.

Let's talk about the Blue Devils for a minute. My rule is that I will pick with my heart first. So I pick Duke to win it all unless I am in a pool where I can enter more than one bracket, in which case picking with my head becomes an option. I can take this tack because I don't play for money -- if you do that, picking with your heart is a sure way to end up with a broken heart and an empty wallet. It's always better to have just one of those. So, the heart says Duke. The head says that Duke could lose in any round after the first. Lawrence Roberts and Missisippi State are tough and could provide a big challenge. Michigan State has been up and down, but it's a senior-laden team that won't be intimidated. Syracuse has Hakim Warrick and Gerry McNamara, although Duke will love to see that zone defense the Orangemen play. I think Duke matches up well with Oklahoma (whom Duke beat handily earlier this year) and Kentucky, but could lose to both of them. And Andrew Bogut of Utah is the kind of player who have a Danny Manning-type tournament and mess up everybody's brackets. And that's just in their region! The point is, Duke is capable of winning the whole thing, but could have a night like their loss at Virginia Tech, or run into a team that creates matchup problems like Maryland did. Getting their point guard back will be a major boost, and it sure don't hurt having Krzyzewski on the bench. I've been so pleased with what Duke has accomplished this year that I won't be angry (or surprised) if they suffer an upset. I don't expect that to happen (and I don't consider losing to a 2 or 3 seed this year an upset), but I can't say it won't. Duke is beatable, although I'm not concerned about depth. For one thing, they're deep enough to get by, and for another, the tv timeouts during the tournament are so long that running out of steam is rarely a problem. Anyway, I don't really know what to expect from them in terms of results, so I'll just enjoy the ride.

What other teams do I have some high expectations of? Like I said above, the winner of the Georgia Tech-Louisville game should go far. Illinois is an obvious choice. They're not invincible, but they're very good. If I had any guts, I'd pick Oklahoma State to beat Illinois (so give me half-props if it happens). I picked Wake Forest to get to the championship game. I think they have all the tools, especially such good guard play, and the neutral-conference refs might not know to keep an eye on Chris Paul's low blows. Overall, I didn't pick a lot of big upsets. I didn't have any low-seeded teams breaking through to the Sweet Sixteen because I think this is a top-heavy bracket. I know it will happen -- upsets always happen -- but I will be shocked if we get a seriously blown region. My prediction is that there will be no more than two teams with double-digit seeds in the Sweet Sixteen. If I had to predict them now (even though my bracket doesn't have them going this far), I'd have to say that of those lower-seeded teams, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, New Mexico, NC State, and Iowa have the best chance of playing next weekend. Print out this post for handy reference of how many wrong statements I've just made.

I'm excited about every tournament, but I'm really excited for this one because I think we will see some really outstanding games. My heart pick is Duke. My head pick has to be Illinois, but if I had four brackets to play, I'd take Kansas and Wake Forest too. I think I have a feeling about Wake if only because I know how much it will make my ears bleed to hear Wake alum Billy Packer hype them. I hope to have more to say once The ball is tipped...and there you're running for your life...and you're a shooting star!

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

"King of the Hill" Quote of the Day
From one of the best-ever episodes, "Dances With Dogs":

Bobby: "It's called 'Musical Canine Freestyle.'"
Hank: "Liar."
Bobby: "No, it's a real thing. They have contests and everything. It started up in Canada."
Hank: "They're supposed to be our allies!"

Heh. You said tool.
Soupie queries, "Three tools every man should own and know how to use?" I'm no expert, but I'm happy to offer my opinions.
1. A good pocketknife. Every man should own a lock-blade pocketknife and he should keep it sharp. Not a damn Bowie knife or anything, but just a solid knife with a 3 or 4-inch blade like this or this. Or, if you're a grand dad or just a really classy guy, maybe one of these.

2. A multi-tool. Leatherman and Gerber make excellent multi-tools (that's multi-tool, not multi-pass). It's more like 50 tools, but it's one device. No one should be without a multi-tool.

3. A cordless drill. Makita or Craftsman. Maybe a Black & Decker, but the batteries on B&D tools have had such short life spans in my experience.

On with the show this is it!
thl asks, "As a child, what was your favorite Saturday morning cartoon, and why? Did you eat cereal while watching it, and if so, what was your favorite cereal?"

My favorite Saturday morning cartoon was Looney Tunes. Bugs Bunny was okay, but I liked Foghorn Leghorn and Wile E. Coyote best. Foghorn for his mouth and Wile E. Coyote for his fantastical schemes for catching that stupid Road Runner. I pulled for the coyote, but I never understood why he didn't just shoot the bird. Other than Looney Tunes, I didn't really care for a lot of the Saturday morning cartoons. They're just so much fluff. Afternoon cartoons were my thing: G-Force, G.I. Joe, Scooby Doo, and Star Blazers. Now those were some cartoons you could seek your teeth into. But I digress.

Cereal? Yes, I ate cereal. Not exclusively, but more often than not. Given that our choices were Cheerios, Rice Krispies or Honeycombs, I chose Honeycombs. More sugar than a kid should be allowed to eat - but just the right amount to keep you going until lunch time. My favorite cereal, if I had to choose, would probably be Honey Nut Cheerios. That's about as exciting as cereal gets for me. I've never eaten any of the candy cereals like Fruity Pebbles and Cocoa Krisps, and frankly, I don't see the attraction. You want candy? Eat a piece of candy. You want cereal? Eat something that doesn't turn the milk pink or brown. But that's just me.

Yeah, they're so funny and so comfortable with each other. And I could be comfortable too, if I had pants like that.
Steve asks, "Your favorite pants?" The short (and perhaps inappropriate) answer, "Any pants I can get into."

Actually, my favorite pair of pants are these boot-cut vintage-wash jeans from J. Crew. They are cut straight through the hips and thighs, just like me. They are classic, medium-dark, with a light sandblasting. Also, just like me.

I don't really consider myself cool enough to wear anything from J. Crew, but I'm glad I bought these jeans. They are comfortable. They have held up well after a year of near-constant use and they fit me perfectly. I don't wear them with suede wingtips like the model on the website, but then I'm not a tool. I don't wear them with white sneakers, either, but I do scratch out the "32" on the waist and write in "31". And by "32" I mean "34". And by "do" I mean "don't".

Your wish is my command
Yeah, so I am free from work obligations for the next several hours. I'll try to spend that time blogging. Got any requests? Let's hear them. Got questions? I've got answers. You name it, I'll blog it - except for Social Security reform.

Milbarge at Large: Prisoner of the White Lines on the Freeway Edition
What I am doing at work: Fun stuff, for a change. But that means I really can't talk about it much. I'm working on a death penalty opinion -- okay, not fun in the laugh-riot sense, but more interesting than the usual fare -- and a published opinion in a cutting-edge area of the law -- you know, the kind of issue that people write whole blogs about, if you get my drift. It's nice to endeavor to read every (published) opinion there is on a subject and feel somewhat assured you can find them all and manage to digest them. Of course, that means I really have to trust Westlaw. One day someone's going to write a legal thriller where the twist is that someone plants a fake case on Westlaw or Lexis in order to get a court to issue a mistaken ruling because it relies on the fake case as precedent. The more dramatic plot would be the release (or execution) of a death row inmate based on the fake case, but a more plausible one would be something like a fake securities case that allows a large faceless corporation to make a bunch of illicit money. Think about it: If some brief cites an old case that appears to be legit on Westlaw, how long am I really going to worry over the fact that no other case has cited it? I'll just assume they missed it, and I'm all the more clever for finding it (never underestimate the law clerk's vanity). What are the odds that the judges know every securities case out there, or check every case their clerks cite against the books? By the time the other party files for rehearing and we discover the error, the villainous CEO and his (or her) Westlaw-hacking minion have made a killing on the stock market's reaction to the opinion and have jetted off to their beach house in Argentina. I've even got a title for this one, which all you Westlaw junkies will get: "Negative History." I just need to figure out a way for the "hero" law clerk to wrangle the nefarious CEO out of Argentina to face justice. Hey, maybe that's what that Sosa case was all about! Anyway, in between daydreams of the best-seller list, I'm trying to write some law.

What I am doing at home: I've been working a lot, and I was out of town a little, so it feels like I haven't been there much lately. But, at least that keeps the place from getting more cluttered. One new thing around the house is my latest impulse buy, the Gillette Mach 3 Power razor. You all know Gillette from its sponsorship of Soup's BBQ & Daycare. Listen. I've done a lot of shaving, and I hate doing it, so I'm always looking for ways to make it better. And Gillette has it figured out. In my experience, their average razors are better than any other company's best. And every new line of Gillette razors seems orders of magnitude better than the last. The Sensor, the Sensor Excel, the Mach 3, the Mach 3 Turbo -- each one better than the one before. At some point, though, it gets a little crazy. Like when the dang thing vibrates. I would have thought a shaky razor would be a bad thing, but it seems to work fine. And that's all...fine. It doesn't seem so much better than the Mach 3 Turbo to justify the considerable additional expense. And plus, my hand gets a little numb from holding the buzzing contraption. I think Gillette may have reached the point of diminishing returns. Besides, the real key to a close, comfortable shave is this: rinse cold. Use nice steamy hot water for the shave, but when you're done, rinse your face off with cold water. It constricts the pores. Figure out which direction you need to shave in, and rinse cold, and you'll be fine.

What I am reading: I've got Tom Wolfe's tome I Am Charlotte Simmons going in the car via compact disc. It's read by actor Dylan Baker, and it's a treat. I'll have a review of it once I've had enough commutes to finish it, but a few thoughts. I can very much identify with a lot of this book, being a mountain-dweller who went off to Duke. Sometimes I even have to cringe in recognition. It's often amusing and sometimes insightful. (Hey! Like me!) But one problem I have is that is covers so much ground, which is another way of saying it's a Tom Wolfe novel. One drag of listening to it this way is that I can't let my eyes glaze over some of the more off-topic and esoteric passages -- or the truly bizarre passages wherein Baker channels Wolfe channeling gangsta rapper "Dr. Diss." Another problem is that Charlotte's naivete, which is a useful device to show us college life in the '00s sans ironic detachment, seems to know no bounds. I grew up not too far from Charlotte's home of Sparta, North Carolina, and unlike Charlotte's family, we didn't own a satellite dish, but even this country bumpkin had heard of "Cosmospolitan" magazine, which we are told Charlotte has not. There's sheltered innocence, and then there's living in a cave. Also, one wonders if Wolfe has an editor who makes actual editing suggestions. I think I've caught a couple of continuity errors that an editor should have changed. And Wolfe's description of the basketball games, while nice on the details, has a glaring problem with the big picture: references to quarters, not halves, in a college game. Perhaps none of the editors at FSG watch basketball. Overall, I like it, but when something is quite accurate you tend to notice the little inaccuracies, I suppose.

What I am listening to: In the car, the book. At home, nothing special...some easy-going mellow stuff like CSNY and Jackson Browne and some old Tom Petty and some Emmylou Harris.

What I am watching: I watched Vertigo for the first time, after years of hectoring from my Mom that it's one of her favorites. It's worth watching, so I won't reveal the plot twist. In that same category, Witness for the Prosecution. I thought it had one twist too many, but Charles Laughton is brilliant, and Billy Wilder had a real touch for comedy. This one would have been great to see in the theater. Let's see...what else? Oh, the Ladykillers remake: poor. Martin Scorsese's film of The Band's final concert, The Last Waltz, which is what got me to find my Emmylou. The Last Waltz may be the best music movie ever. Also, I happened to catch an episode of "Two Guys and a Girl" the other day. I kinda liked that show. The girls were cute, Ryan Reynolds is a funny enough guy, and it rarely took itself too seriously, like "Friends" did too often in its dotage. What's weird about the show is that even as the title got smaller (dropping the original "...and a Pizza Place"), the cast got bigger. By the end of the show's run, I can think of seven or eight regular characters. That includes, of course, the poor man's Puddy, Nathan Fillion, who later showed up in Joss Whedon's sci-fi tale "Firefly." I'll leave occasional co-blogger Sebastian to expound on the greatness of that show, but note that a film version is coming soon.

What I am thinking about: Little other than college basketball. I love this time of year. March may well be my favorite month. I'm thinking of blogging the first round of the NCAA tournament if I can figure out a good way to do it. But here are a few other things on my mind. 1. Has George Bush ever attended an execution? I'm not trying to pick on him -- has any executive? Has Bill Clinton? I wonder if capital punishment in this country would be any different if the executives had to watch it be carried out. 2. If the past tense of "find" is "found," why isn't the past tense of "mind" "mound"? 3. Here's a way to detect whether the media is liberal: When Bill Frist gets his 2008 presidential campaign up and running, see how often stories about him mention that when he was in medical school, he would adopt cats from the local shelter so he could kill them and dissect them to study their internal organs. (It's in his autobiography.) After "soccer moms" and "NASCAR dads," maybe "cat fanciers" will be the next swing-voting bloc. 4. My new goal is to be listed in slate's "Today's Blogs" feature. Never let it be said that I didn't aim high. 5. I haven't been checking blogs much in the last week or so, and I feel like I've been missing stuff. Feel free to let me know if there's anything out there you think I need to see. And that doesn't include the lastest tiff between Feddie and Publius. Sorry, guys.

What I am not thinking about: Michael Jackson, although via CrimLaw, I saw this nice post from Public Defender Dude about the case. I'm not thinking about the steroid hearings. I'm not thinking about why Paul Wolfowitz might be qualified to lead the World Bank. I'm not thinking of how much money I'll save at the gas pump now that we're going to drill in ANWR. And I'm especially not thinking about the rejection letter I got Monday from the job I really, really wanted.

Shout-out: Like I said, I haven't been keeping up lately, so I don't have much to include here. I neglect to check my email for a couple of days, though, and suddenly we're trend-setters with our five-questions-for-Friday thing. We'll get the next set out tomorrow afternoon, folks, and thanks for playing along.

This post's title is from the Joni Mitchell song "Coyote," which she sings with The Band in The Last Waltz. No regrets, Coyote.

Previous bio posts.

Coalition for Darfur
[Ed. note: We have joined the Coalition for Darfur, a group of bloggers committed to raising awareness of the crisis in Darfur and raising money for her suffering citizens. Part of this effort involves posting a short update on the crisis once a week, provided by the Coalition for Darfur founders. For more information, or to donate, please visit the Coalition for Darfur via the logo to the right.]

Many seemed surprised when UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland recently updated the estimated death toll in Darfur upwards from 70,000 to 180,000. Egeland estimates that 10,000 people have died, and continue to die, per month since the start of the genocide 18 months ago. He also admitted that the new death toll might be even higher (more than 200,000) and stressed that this new figure does not include those who have died violently at the hands of the Sudanese government or their proxy militia, the Janjaweed.

The original figure of 70,000 was an estimate, or rather an underestimate, as it covered only the mortality in camps accessible to the World Health Organization between April and early September 2004. As such, it did not include mortality rates prior to April 2004, nor did it include mortality rates among the more than 200,000 refugees in Chad, nor the mortality rates in regions inaccessible to humanitarian organizations.

It is in these inaccessible regions where most of the violence is taking place. According to Sudan expert Eric Reeves, whose ongoing analysis of the situation in Darfur has been vital to understanding the widening scope of the crisis, an estimated 240,000 others have died as a direct result of government and/or Janjaweed violence.

If these numbers are correct, and we really have no cause to doubt them, it is safe to assume that some 400,000 Sudanese civilians have died in the last year and a half from direct violence, disease, or starvation.

That is more than 22,200 per month.

That is more than 740 per day.

That is more than 30 per hour.

That is one death every 2 minutes ... for 18 months.

Despite the seemingly hopeless nature of the crisis, we at the Coalition for Darfur believe that together we can raise awareness of the situation and, at the same time, raise money for the vital work that Save the Children is doing by providing food, water, shelter, and protection to over 200,000 children and families in Darfur each month.

Together, and with your support, we hope to make a small but meaningful contribution to alleviating the massive suffering that continues to plague the region.

Monday, March 14, 2005

"King of the Hill" Quote of the Day
Hank: "I can't believe you're giving him breakfast in bed. Breakfast was his only motivation to leave his room."
Peggy: "Hank, we are the parents of a gifted child. It is our job to nurture him."
Hank: "But the whole point was to get him out of the house."
Peggy: "If you were Einstein's father, we would not have the bomb."

Shining, Gleaming, Streaming, Flaxen, Waxen
I got a haircut today and I have decided that I'm disappointed with my hairstyle. I've had the same one for a while, but it's not the staleness of it that bothers me. When I find something I like, I tend to stick with it. What gets me is that I'm not sure if this is the best haircut I could have. In other words, I think I could get something more flattering or less dorky or whatever. I've actually had a woman tell me that I was decent-looking except for my haircut, which makes me think it must be especially bad.

For those of you who know me but haven't seen me in a few years, I've got a part in it now that it's getting thinner on top. It's not a combover, a style I will never adopt (and shoot me if I do), but it's easier to deal with thin windblown hair when it's parted. I have just enough natural curl to cause problems when it gets longer or the weather is humid, so I think it looks better shorter, although my Mom thinks that makes my head look too big.

But I'm not sure what to do about it. I am loathe to spend a lot of money on haircutting and hairstyling if I have to do it over and over forever. I guess I would be willing to spend a lot of money one time if I ended up with something that the gang at SuperCuts could approximate every couple of months. Really, though, I have doubts that there's much anyone could do with me. I don't want anything spiky or trendy, not only because of my job but also because that's not me. Oh, and I don't ever want to have to put "product" in it, or use some special $90 bottle of shampoo that has rain forest water and essense of koala in it.

So I guess what I'm looking for is suggestions for how to go about getting a better hairstyle within these narrow confines. It's probably all moot, because my hair is going the route of George Costanza eventually. But it would be nice to have something that looks better than Kramer's hairdo until then.

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