Thursday, February 05, 2009

Times Are Changin'

As Roxy Blue says, "Baby, I know times are changin'." And if you don't know who Roxy Blue is, that is probably because you aren't into obscure hair metal bands that only produced one album of any significance at all with a scantily clad female on the front cover that is no longer available for purchase.

Anyway, the Half Bad Boy Blog is coming to an end.

Yes, I am a little concerned about my readership. Hopefully both of them will see this post and follow me over to, where the blogging will continue, hopefully a bit more free-form. See, the problem with having a themed blog is that it makes it hard to write about what you really want to write about. I want to write about whatever interests me and not a theme - even one as cool as half-badness.

I realized this in a couple of ways. The first was that I was feeling constrained in what I would blog about. For example, I might want to blog about technology or politics, but it didn't fit the theme. Lame! Then as I started poking around at other people's blogs, I found a lot of other themed ones, that seem really interesting in the beginning but after a while seem like they are just saying the same thing over and over again. Either that, or they really start to scrounge for stuff, like "Seven Tips For Reducing Stress In Your Life" (tip #1 - stop stressing) or "How To Simplify Your Life" (such as not using any technology at all - but this does not apply to the blogger who must use technology to produce the blog, etc.).

Uninteresting. The interesting blogs to read, if there are any, are more personal than that. And the interesting blogs to write are about whatever topics I care about, because by definition the categorization of something as "interesting" by my brain is entirely subjective. Suddenly my blog becomes the most interesting of all! If I can only cut loose.

Which I'm doing. Eventually. Not right away. But if you agree that stuff I may choose to blog about could be interesting enough for you to care, you should change your bookmark, or feed, or whatever to instead. If, on the other hand, you are incorrect and don't find this stuff interesting, why are you even here? You should stay away. No offense. It isn't that I don't want you around. I'm just afraid I will have to moderate comments from people who wrongly think that my interests are not interesting. I believe I've made myself clear.

So. In case you missed it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Straight-Through-In-Alpha-Order-Music-Listening Experiment Update, Volume 3

Man, another month has passed on this experiment which has now been underway for four months. So here's where we stand:
  • Current Artist - Album - Song: Def Leppard - Hysteria - Rocket
  • Songs listened to: 1615
  • Total songs: 9691
  • Percentage complete: 16.67%
  • Estimated completion: October 2010
AAAAAAAAHH! Two years to complete this experiment! Two years before I will be listening to Yngwie Malmsteen or ZZ Top! Something has to be done. I've simply got to listen to music more often.

One of the highlights of this period was The Cult a couple of weeks ago. Another highlight has been discovering some different types of stuff that I'd bought on recommendations, and hadn't really listened to all the way through before. So that was good. But the rest of the D's are looking pretty good. If I can get through the D's by next month, then I'll have enjoyed all of Def Leppard, Dokken, Dragonforce, and Dream Theater along with some other good stuff. Stay tuned.

Essential Albums: Y&T "In Rock We Trust"

Artist: Y&T
Album: In Rock We Trust
Year: 1984
Best Song You've Probably Heard: Don't Stop Runnin'
Best Song You Might Not Have Heard: This Time

Say what you will about the cheesy cover, the dorky album title, or the weird band name; Y&T's "In Rock We Trust" is so good that it is my favorite album from 1984, and that's really saying something. Consider other albums that we were all blessed with that year:
  • Scorpions "Love at First Sting"
  • Ratt "Out of the Cellar"
  • The Cars "Heartbeat City"
  • Dokken "Tooth and Nail"
  • Twisted Sister "Stay Hungry"
  • and, of course, Van Halen "1984"
That's some pretty awesome company. So you know what I'm saying when I tell you that this is my favorite album from that year.

Unless you are a pretty serious 80's metalhead you've probably not even heard of Y&T before, so you maybe haven't heard "Don't Stop Runnin'". It is probably the most popular song from this album and apparently still gets air time on radio and MTV. But it isn't the best song. "This Time" is an awesome heavy metal ballad, one of the best ever. "Life, Life, Life" is an example of the common 80's plea-for-peace topic, and is an excellent song. There's not a bad song on the album, but especially the first four songs in a row are really outstanding.

This album is pretty hard to come by legally in CD form, although not as bad today as when I found mine, used. Your best bet might be to just buy the MP3s directly from You won't be disappointed.

(Image credit:

Saturday, January 10, 2009

College Football Wrapup 2008

Well, it was a great college football season.  It included some slight disappointments, like early season favorites Clemson and Georgia.  It included some refreshing surprises, like Utah and Alabama.  And it ended predictably, with yet another variant of intense BCS controversy.

Let's review the major conferences first:
  • SEC - As expected, the SEC was strong.  What was unexpected was the strength of Ole Miss and Vanderbilt, and the collapse of Tennessee.  But the SEC continues to be what I love about football - incredible athletes with tough defenses and hard-fought battles every week.
  • ACC - Clemson was a highly ranked preseason favorite that ended up having a mediocre season, but teams like Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, and Miami had pretty good seasons.
  • Big East - The Big East was a fairly weak conference, with only one team, Cincinnati, nationally ranked at the end of the year, and that team lost their bowl game.
  • Big 10 - The biggest Big 10 disappointment had to be Michigan, who had one of their worst seasons ever.  Many Big 10 teams held higher rankings than they earned all year, based primarily on their name, history, and prestige.
  • Big 12 - The Big 12 was a tale of two subdivisions.  The Big 12 North was comprised of one good team, Missouri, and five other also-rans.  The Big 12 South looked all year like the toughest conference in all of NCAA football, but they went 1-3 in their bowl games, so it makes you wonder.
  • PAC 10 - As everyone expected, USC was really good, and as everyone expected, they lost one game to a conference opponent that they should have won.  But the PAC 10 has some truly awful teams, like Washington.
  • Bonus: Mountain West - I think it's past time that we stop considering the Mountain West a mid-major conference.  The Mountain West went 6-2 against the PAC 10 this year, Wyoming beat Tennessee in Knoxville, and is probably stronger overall than the ACC or the Big East.  Playing a Mountain West schedule shouldn't penalize a teams strength of schedule anymore, and I think if we are going to keep this BCS nonsense, it is time for the Mountain West to have an automatic berth like the others - they've certainly shown over the past several years that they are good enough.

Let's review my bowl picks:
  • Las Vegas Bowl - Correct.  I said whatever team Max Hall played for would win.  He went back and forth but ended up helping Arizona more than BYU, so Arizona won.  Can someone explain to me how BYU ended up nationally ranked at the end of the year and Arizona didn't?
  • Poinsettia Bowl - Correct.  I picked TCU over Boise State.  They had me worried for a while but ended up pulling it off.
  • Meineke Car Care Bowl - Correct.  I picked West Virginia and was right, although they were worrying me a bit also.
  • Citrus Bowl - Correct.  Florida State was way too much for an overrated Wisconsin team to handle.
  • Emerald Bowl - Correct.  Cal beat Miami in a good game.
  • Alamo Bowl - Correct.  Missouri tried to let Northwestern win this one, but in the end they just couldn't give the victory away.
By this time I had gone 6 for 6 and I was having visions of getting all of my picks perfectly right.  Alas...
  • Holiday Bowl - Incorrect.  I'd seen Oklahoma State play a number of times during the year, and I really thought they were better than that.
  • Sun Bowl - Incorrect.  Oregon State surprised me.
  • Chick-Fil-A Bowl - Incorrect.  Apparently LSU in disintegration mode is still better than Georgia Tech at their best.
  • Citrus Bowl - Correct.  Finally I got another one right.  My SEC didn't let me down.
  • Rose Bowl - Incorrect.  Penn State simply made too many mistakes to win.
  • Orange Bowl - Incorrect.  Wow, was Cincinnati disappointing!
  • Cotton Bowl - Incorrect.  Not to take anything away from Ole Miss, but I really thought Tech's offense would be too much for the Rebels to handle.
  • Liberty Bowl - Correct.  East Carolina still is not a state.
  • Sugar Bowl - Incorrect.  And happy about it.  But still, you have to admit that it was a surprise.
  • Fiesta Bowl - Correct.  Ohio State played well but what an awesome drive by Texas to pull it off at the end.
  • National Championship - Correct.  Oklahoma played Florida much better than I thought, particularly on defense.  The whole game came down to a handful of very key plays, and Florida won those key plays.
  • Toilet Bowl - Correct.  ND C&D positively owns this bowl and this year was no exception as they destroyed Western Kentucky by the score of 3 to -17.
So overall, I correctly picked 11 of 18 games, or as my cynical friend said, about the same as picking them at random, which made me feel a lot better.  So what do we take from all of this?

  • The BCS is a complete joke.  Each year it very successfully proves its own illegitimacy, and this year was no exception.
  • The Big 12 South was not nearly so good as they seemed to be.  The high-flying offenses that seemed so amazing only seemed that way because the defenses were so lousy.
  • The PAC 10 is better than we thought, which also means the Mountain West (6-2 against the PAC 10 this year) is better than most people think.
  • This year's national champion, Florida, barely beat an Alabama team that Utah controlled well.  Florida is the national champion, but Utah is the best team this year.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Legitimacy for the BCS

It's popular every year to engage in the debate about the state of the BCS and how lousy a job it does, or not, in determining a national collegiate football champion.  And since I'm all about being popular, I thought I ought to jump in here and add to the noise a bit.  Maybe what I've got to say is a bit different though.  And maybe not.

I'm going to start with a basic premise about any championship series.  That premise is that it is possible for any participant to become the eventual champion of the series.  That's the promise of participation.  At the beginning of the season, every participant starts out at the same level as every other participant, and every participant can believe realistically that they have a shot at winning the overall championship.
Notice, I didn't say an equal shot.  Equality is certainly subjective, and in many championship series, there are many things that are not equal.  Ferrari has a much better chance than Force India to win the Formula One championship, and the Celtics have a better chance than the Jazz of winning an NBA title.  A lot of this has to do with money, markets, buying power, superior athletes, etc.
Still, the series itself gives every participant a fair chance to win.  There is nothing about the nature of the series that will make it so that an inferior competitor cannot win the championship.  If the Utah Jazz win enough games, they will make the playoffs - and if they make the playoffs and keep winning, they can eventually win the NBA title.  The championship is completely within the realm of possibility, something that is realistically achievable.

This, then, is the fundamental problem with the BCS.  I maintain that, in the BCS, not every participant has a chance to win the championship.  More precisely, there are a number of teams for which winning a championship is not possible, no matter what they do, without certain lucky circumstances also taking place that are outside of that team's control.

The recent Sugar Bowl game between Alabama and Utah really brings this into light.  Make no mistake, Alabama is legitimately one of the top football teams in the nation.  They deserved the BCS berth they were awarded.  They deservedly spent five weeks at the #1 spot in the nationwide polls.  And they were soundly beaten in a square, fair fight by Utah.  Soundly.  Beaten.
Consider this:  The only other team to beat Alabama this year was Florida.  Florida did not handle Alabama as well as Utah did - not even close.  And no other team - not Clemson, not Georgia, not Ole Miss, not LSU - managed to beat Alabama.  Alabama is a good team.

Utah is a better team.

Hey, even I wouldn't believe it beforehand.  Oh, I wanted to.  I wanted Utah to win.  But I just didn't think it would happen.

So, here you have Utah, who soundly beat an Alabama team that was the top-ranked team in the nation for nearly half of the regular season.  How can they not at least be considered as a candidate for the national title?

The common argument here is a strength of schedule argument.  Actually, Utah's strength of schedule was not that bad.  But strength of schedule is just an excuse.  Penn State, who lost soundly to USC in the Rose Bowl, very nearly went undefeated in the Big Ten.  Had they finished their season undefeated, this year they would have been playing for the national title.  It doesn't matter that the Big Ten is a relatively weak football conference these days - an undefeated Penn State plays for the national title this year.

The same goes for USC.  Who knows whether the PAC-10 is any good this year or not?  What I do know is that the Mountain West went 6-2 against the PAC-10 this year.  That implies that Utah's schedule is even stronger than it initially seems to be.

This is why I say the BCS as it currently stands is running the risk of being declared completely illegitimate.  Any team from any of the major six conferences has a chance of playing for the national title - all they have to do is go undefeated.  Strength of schedule does not matter for them.  But a team from outside the major six conferences?  That team pretty much has no chance of winning a national title, even if they do go undefeated the whole year.  Strengthening their schedule is a crapshoot - they might schedule a team like Michigan, only to find that they are not any good and did nothing to strengthen their schedule.  And what incentive do the major conference teams have to schedule the mid-majors?  It offers them no upside whatsoever, and is not necessary for them to win a national title.

It's going to be an interesting next few days for the BCS.  If Utah is not awarded a shared national title, in my opinion the BCS will prove that mid-major schools don't have a shot at winning the championship, thus proving that the system is broken.  And they will have to break their current rules in order to do the right thing.  This should provide for some very interesting discussion.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Shanahan's Future

So a couple of days ago the Denver Broncos fired their long-time coach, Mike Shanahan.

I can't say I'm surprised.  I've liked Shanahan, so I personally haven't exactly been hoping for the Broncos to replace him.  But I've kinda been expecting this for a few years now.

There's a lot of talk about loyalties - questioning what two Superbowl wins should be worth, can you really fire a guy that won two Superbowls, etc.  I'd ask the same question of a manager at any business anywhere in the country - does phenomenal success ten years ago, based in part upon the makeup of that manager's team, excuse mediocre performance today?  Or would a business expect continued performance?

The Broncos, admittedly, have a pretty high standard.  Shanahan wouldn't be having this problem at, say, Detroit.  But a .500 record over the past three seasons is just not going to cut it in Denver, especially with the talent there.  Managers are responsible for the performance of the teams they manage.  It's true in business and it's true in sports.  If the coach can't get the team to perform, it is time for a change.

So it's the end of the Mike Shanahan era in Denver.  The bad part of this is, I'm not sure who Denver will get that is any better.

This is, absolutely, positively, good news for Utah State though.  Why?  Uh, really?  You actually need to ask?  Obviously, Mike Shanahan is going to be the new head coach of Utah State University's football program.  And I'm very excited about that.