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Uncertain Principles

Physics, Politics, Pop Culture

Friday, January 17, 2003

Break Out the Tinfoil Hats

One more comment on the INS registration debacle, which really does irritate me to no end. Pop-culture stuff after this, I promise.

I've hung around Usenet and the Web long enough to have seen a dozen different incarnations of the Neverending Gun Control Flamewars (my favorite posts on the subject are "Charles Dodgson's" (scroll up for more), for whatever that's worth), and one of the things that's always sort of puzzled me about those arguments (other than the weirdly dissonant combination of fear and machismo involved in a lot of pro-gun arguments) is the hard-core wing nuts' insistence that any attempt to control guns is Eeeevil, and only a prelude to confiscation and oppression.

The idea is that, once you make everyone register their privately-owned machine guns, it's only a matter of time before the government uses the handy database of gun owners thus produced to go round up all the heat-packing free thinkers, and then the last defense against tyranny will have fallen, and we'll all be forced to kneel before the Antichrist. Or something like that.

This has always struck me as ridiculously paranoid, but the recent round-ups of Arabic undesirables have made it seem less like paranoia, and more like a policy statement...

Posted at 11:15 AM | link | follow-ups | no comments

One Hundred Media Math Problems, #137

Michael Jordan scored 32 points in a game last night, 28 of them in the first half. In reporting this on SportsCenter, they used this to hint that, you know, he's getting older, and gets tired more quickly than he used to. Fine.

However, to bolster this, they made the following comment (slightly paraphrased):

In the last two games, Jordan has scored 40 points in the first half, but only 14 in the second.

Now, last night's game accounts for 28 of the 40, and 4 of the 14. Meaning that in the previous game, Jordan scored 12 of his 22 points in the first half, and 10 of 22 in the second half. This shows him wearing down... how, exactly? Twelve in the first half and ten in the second looks pretty balanced to me...

Posted at 10:56 AM | link | follow-ups | no comments

When They Came for Me, I Said, "Hey! You Forgot the Jordanians!"

In this morning's Washington Post, under the headline U.S. Detains Nearly 1,200 During Registry, we find this note:

The statistics were released as the government added five countries -- Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan and Kuwait -- to the list of 20 whose male citizens, 16 and older, must register and be fingerprinted.

Fifty years from now, this is going to be the chapter after Korematsu in the class where law students learn what not to be remembered for.

Posted at 7:46 AM | link | follow-ups | 4 comments

Thursday, January 16, 2003

I Paid to View This?

While I'm very happy to have moved back into the heart of the Northeast (I know that the DC area is, strictly speaking, the last bastion of Yankeedom, but it's as far South as I care to get...), there are some things I miss. Bombay Bistro, for example, and Hard Times Cafe, and Louisiana Express, and also Taste of Saigon. What I miss most, though, are the Raycom/ Jefferson Pilot ACC basketball broadcasts.

Back in the day, I used to get to see every Maryland game, and almost every ACC game of note, and best of all, I didn't have to listen to Dick Vitale in the process. Since moving back North, though, I've been stuck with the paltry handful of Maryland games ESPN picks up, and Vitale more often than not.

I finally got sick of not being able to see my Terps in big games, and plunked down the money for ESPN's Full Court pay-per-view package. Which is really ideal for a hoop junkie like myself-- at one point last night, I had my choice of six different college basketball games on tv (sadly, four weren't particularly close, but you can't always get what you want...). Best of all, one of the games available was Maryland at Wake Forest. I was a happy hoop junkie.

Until the actual game started. Ye gods, what a dog of a game this was for the first thirty-odd minutes. Maryland usually plays reasonably well at Wake, but turned in the sort of shooting performance I usually associate with the legendarily unkind rims at Virginia's University Hall-- they couldn't hit an eight-foot jumper last night if their lives depended on it, and Tahj Holden and Ryan Randle played like they'd had a pre-game meal of elephant tranquilizers. Wake got to every loose ball, and every rebound, while Maryland players stood around and watched.

Gary Williams actually benched the starters for a long stretch of the second half, which contributed to Wake building an eighteen-point lead, but also seemed to light a fire under them, and the Terps actually rallied to within two points. They couldn't get over the top, though, and things fell apart again in the last minute, with more missed shots, stupid turnovers, and a technical foul on Steve Blake, for a comment made to an official. This was Ugly with a capital Ugh.

I'm not sure there are any actual lessons to be drawn from this game-- in the end, it was such an awful performance that you sort of have to hope it was an aberration. Particularly since the next game for Maryland is against Duke, who won a barn-burner at home over UVA.

One worrying thing about this game, and the Duke game: Maryland came in in their signature "pound-it-inside" mode, which worked not at all as Randle and Holden were completely out of it. They went back into this mode late in the game, and I don't think it's a coincidence that the end of the rally came when they started trying to force the ball inside and draw fouls on Wake's big men again. I'm not sure what they saw in the scouting reports, or on film, but something made them think this was the way to beat Wake, when the only half-court play that actually worked worth a damn basically amounted to spreading the floor and having Blake create something off the dribble.

The problem? The one thing I took from what I watched of the Duke-UVA game is that Duke's vulnerable in the paint. Virginia pounded it inside all game long, and Duke didn't have any success in stopping them (that I saw, anyway-- Vitale had the call, so I did a lot of channel-surfing...). Which means we can probably expect more pound-it-in play from Maryland this weekend, which could spell disaster if they don't get the Body Snatcher pods out of Holden and Randle's rooms...

We'll find out Saturday, one way or another.

Posted at 2:40 PM | link | follow-ups | 2 comments

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

She's a Good Girl, Loves Her Mama, Loves Jesus, and America Too...

I'm teaching introductory mechanics this term, which is largely a matter (in the early weeks, at least) of finding clever ways to demonstrate concepts that students already know, but don't know that they know. Such as free fall motion, the idea that everything falls at exactly the same rate, regardless of mass.

I used two demos for this, both of which end up coming off sort of like party tricks:

(The first of these I got from a colleague here, the second from one of Robert Ehrlich's books of demos (I don't remember whether it was Why Toast Lands Jelly-Side Down or Turning the World Inside Out, but they're both good...).)

Posted at 2:30 PM | link | follow-ups | no comments

Imitation Weight Loss Blog Item

Contrary to what I said in a previous post, I managed not to play one more basketball game than I should've at lunchtime today. I played two, with the second highlighted by diving on the floor after a loose ball, so now my knees are all bruised up. I'm going to be limping a bit for the rest of the day...

I was guarding and being guarded by a student, though, and wasn't going to let myself get shown up. Which meant throwing my weight around a bit more than usual, and a whole lot more banging around in the post, which is hard goddamn work... Not to mention having to scramble to keep up with somebody ten or twelve years younger than I am, and in much better shape...

In addition to just liking the game, lunchtime basketball is my half-assed weight loss program-- I'm not nearly as dedicated to the whole idea as Jim is, but I could stand to shed a few pounds. According to the locker-room scale, I'm at 285 lbs (give or take a couple-- it's not the best scale), consistent with the 285 lbs I was at in December, and November, and October, and September . Maybe it's not that much of a weight-loss program after all, though it is at least down from 295 lbs when I started playing again back in August...

Posted at 2:27 PM | link | follow-ups | no comments

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Random Notes

Were I less preoccupied with home remodeling, I'd probably spin these off into a bunch of separate lengthy posts. As it is, though, I really don't have the time, so short comments are all you get:

And that's about enough of that.

Posted at 3:05 PM | link | follow-ups | 2 comments

Quick Hits: Hoops

Comments on a few basketball-related topics that have attracted my notice in recent days:

That's about it for now. Future topics may include Maryland's Wednesday night game with Wake Forest, which could be interesting. Maryland comes in off a blowout win, Wake off a thrashing at Duke. This game should shed some light on how things really stand in the ACC this year... Assuming, of course, that I get to see the damn game...

Posted at 2:19 PM | link | follow-ups | 2 comments

Monday, January 13, 2003

All About Perspective

Even before we acquired a house, the show Trading Spaces held a certain sick fascination, like watching a slow-motion aesthetic train wreck. Predictably enough, it's acquired the usual collection of Internet accoutrements, from the fan sites linked above, to a fairly good parody site to the obligatory personality quiz. Someone in a comment thread at Making Light (where I got all these links...) mentioned the existence of Trading Spaces fanfic, both regular and slash varieties. While this raises vaguely interesting questions of taxonomy (can slash fanfic involve characters who are already known to be gay?), I'd just rather not know...

It's amazing to see how the show changes when you actually have a house, and are occupied with undoing the dubious aesthetic decisions of the previous owners. Spending a day or two spackling holes in every goddamn wall in the house adds a new dimension to the episode in which hundreds of vinyl albums are arranged to cover one wall-- that means that anyone attempting to undo the damage will need to contend with a regular array of screw holes, one every twelve inches, end to end, floor to ceiling. At which point, it's probably easier to rip the whole wall down, and put up new sheetrock...

Worse yet was the episode the other night in which they painted a fireplace. I was on the phone when the before-and-after shots were shown (really, those are the best part of the show-- the host is too slappably chirpy to watch for very long), and couldn't stop myself from yelling "Die!!" at the tv. After five or six applications of a paint stripper containing chemicals so toxic that their names have been found to cause cancer in rats, and liberal use of a paint stripper attachment for a power drill, we've finally managed to clean all the brick, leaving paint only on the mortar (which is proving damnably difficult to get rid of-- I've borrowed a Dremel tool from work, which I'll try on it tomorrow...). Anyone who wants to paint brick should be forced to drink the paint first...

In related news, I'm now prepared to list random-orbit power sanders among the great accomplishments of Western civilization...

Posted at 3:01 PM | link | follow-ups | 6 comments

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