Wednesday, November 25, 2015

5 Thoughts for November 25, 2015

  1. USC Football: Is LSU going to get rid of Les Miles? What a curious thing, if USC hired Les Miles, and Les Miles brought Ed Orgeron with him, don't you think? Of course, Pat Haden would have to leave before Ed stepped back on campus; Ed is probably more popular with the alumni, than Pat is, right now. It would be nice to hear that gruff voice once again, especially since he doesn't make excuses or sound confused about what went wrong, after games, like the current defensive staff seems to do -- when someone tells you that they need to look at the tape to figure out what went wrong, it seems to me that the team will never be able to make successful adjustments during the game.
  2. USC Football, part II: Six of the past seven years (including the current season), USC has lost at least 4 games in a season. This looks an awful lot like the nearly two decade stretch of Ted Tollner - Larry Smith - John Robinson - Paul Hackett - first year of Pete Carroll. The most successful season in the last 7, was, oddly enough, Lane Kiffin's second year. I just don't have a lot of confidence about the current team's ability to win another game, however, which would likely mean that it will finish as it did in Kiffin's 2012 season, at 7-6, and Clay Helton will definitely not be offered the head coaching job. It's not that this team is lacking in talent; it's that the coaching staff is severely deficient on the defensive side.
  3. Donald Trump: A few days ago, Trump retweeted a misleading statistic that was tossed at me in an online comment section just over a month ago; of course, I responded back easily, but rather than simply cite the same information that media outlets have used to refute Trump, I actually spent some time to go back through the FBI's UCR data, to show what's actually happened the last two decades. Today, I retrieved it from my Drive and pulled up the chart that I had built. What you'll notice is that the gap between black-on-black and white-on-white crimes, has decreased over twenty years:
  4. Netflix: After finishing Jessica Jones, I'm now binge-watching Hell on Wheels. I love Westerns, so this has been a very enjoyable show and it's got lots of twists and turns, with clear antagonists and a protagonist who is troubled and flawed, but knows it, and doesn't give a damn about it. I love it all; it's got Mormons (Brigham Young, no less), Irish Catholics, Blacks, Chinese, corrupted politicians, Native Americans, and Cowboys of course.
  5. Race Issues in America: I truly find it amazing, that this issue has come up and become a very critical issue this year. For decades I've seen racism, and to this day I still see it. Whether it was the outright verbal insults or the subtle act of a vehicle stopped to ensure that I did not enter a condo's garage while its door was closing, or having to wait for service while others were tended to, I've seen and felt its ugly fangs. Does anyone actually think that Black Americans weren't being targeted and killed by police, until just recently? I hope not, because the real problem has always been the lack of attention the media has paid, to these cases. No, as far as I can tell, the only thing that has actually changed, is that now we have dashcams and smartphones with cameras, everywhere, to capture that which had all along been occurring. That people weren't being successfully prosecuted for murder, seems to highlight this problem of not having video of the incident to show to a jury. To many white folks, race issues have improved, but since they were never the targets of racial repression, subtle or overt, they couldn't possibly know the state of race issues in America; to pretend otherwise is paternalistic.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

5 Thoughts for November 21, 2015 (mostly about football)

  1. Netflix: Just one day after it was made available and I've finished streaming Jessica Jones. If you're a Doctor Who fan, David Tennant plays a role that will freak you out and confuse you. There is a precedent for this sort of character: Sylar from the TV show, Heroes. The show's writing seemingly follows the same flaw as OITNB, where the protagonist -- Jessica Jones -- is so deeply flawed and continues to make the same errors, that I have difficulty having empathy for Jones. But at the end, just as it seems like she's yet again failed herself and everyone around her, she shows that she hasn't repeated her errors.
  2. USC Trojans defense: Every media pundit said Monte Kiffin was a brilliant defensive coordinator. His first year at USC, the defense allowed 400 ypg; his second year they gave up 375 ypg; his third and final year they averaged 394 ypg. Every media pundit said that Justin Wilcox was a bright, young defensive coordinator. His first year USC's defense allowed 407 ypg; after the Oregon game, the defense has now allowed an average of 403 ypg through 11 games this season. Meanwhile, his sole year between Monte and Justin, Clancy Pendergast's defense averaged 335 ypg. I'm tired of talking about how bad Wilcox's defenses are; I just wish sports pundits would quit gushing about Justin Wilcox.
  3. Justin Wilcox: No really, people, stop talking about how brilliant he is as a defensive coordinator. In his first season at UW, they averaged 357 ypg; in his second season they got worse, averaging 389 ypg. In three games against Oregon, Wilcox's defenses have allowed 52 (2012), 45 (2013) and now 48 (2015) points. You know, maybe Oregon should hire Wilcox. Wilcox's 3-4 scheme was supposed to help the defense out with greater team speed, and yet the defense looked like it was always 5+ yards behind the play, if they were even near the play; so bad was Wilcox's defense, that it broke the record for most passing TDs allowed, ever, at USC. I'm not saying that USC should have beaten Oregon -- Oregon's a very good team, now that Vernon Adams is healthy -- but USC shouldn't be blown out this badly; had Oregon not taken the foot off the pedal, the score would have been 52 - 28.
  4. Clay Helton: With that embarrassing loss in Eugene, many people think that Helton's chances of getting hired by the Trojans, has been diminished. Seeing how poorly the special teams performed yet again, and how slow the team started against Arizona, Colorado and Oregon, it just doesn't seem like his chances are good. But UCLA beat Utah, setting up a winner-take-all game at the Coliseum next weekend between USC and UCLA. Winning the next two games would mean a trip to the Rose Bowl...wait, who are we kidding? Wilcox is still the DC, so naturally his defense will make the true freshman Josh Rosen look like a Heisman candidate and Helton will be gone at the end of the season.
  5. John Hancock Center: What a cursed building. When it was first built its windows blew out due to the air pressure. Years ago when I was in Chicago, high winds knocked around a loose scaffolding platform, breaking windows, dropping onto the ground and killing several people. In 2011 there was a transformer fire on the 75th floor. Today there was a fire halfway up the tower resulting in some minor casualties. That's a terrible fate for any building.

Final Fallout Shelter.

I got bored. After maxing out the 200-person limit, I was going to hang out and wait until I collected all of the weapons available. But apparently after conquering the Radroaches, Raiders, Molerats and Deathclaws, and despite their strengths suddenly raised and again defeating them resoundingly, the game rarely sent them to the vault, and it got really boring.

So here's my final vault configuration. Note the kill zone I had set up. It turns out that if you add all those elevators, the Deathclaws stop at every floor to break through; it takes a significant amount of time for the Deathclaws to reach the storage room, whereupon they would find two occupants at level 50 (max level), with massively powerful weapons -- that's after they've gone through three rooms with occupants at the top levels with powerful weapons.

It also turns out that you have to have a room at the end of all those elevators, otherwise the Deathclaws will bypass the elevators -- I had to try, just to see how the Deathclaws responded.

Notice the omission of the radio station; I deleted it once I hit the 200-person limit. Notice the guy waiting outside; I got him via a lunchbox and he's just waiting to get in, even though I've maxed out at 200.

See all those rooms? They're all fully maxed out. See how few storage rooms there are? I didn't need a lot of storage space because I always made sure that my occupants had the best weapons and outfits, and sold the rest.

Anyway, after a dozen flame throwers and a few missile launchers, it's nearly impossible to lose to Deathclaws, and that's when it gets really boring.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

5 Thoughts for November 19, 2015

  1. SketchUp: SketchUp 2016 is here, and it's got some really awesome changes! If you extensively use SU, you know about inferencing; SU 2016 dramatically adds to inferencing to slash your time spent on creating reference planes or lines. In Windows, the trays are now very similar to how Adobe uses panels, and can be locked to the application window, instead of floating on your desktop, but best of all, is that the tray section is a flyout -- more space on your screen to use for drawing; you can create trays to separate sections, so for instance in my "Main" tray I have Materials, Components, Layers, Soften Edges and Entity Info, while my "Scenes+Styles" tray has Scenes, Styles, Shadows and Outliner. In LayOut, you can now group objects on different layers, and shared layer objects are highlighted in a different color from non-shared layer objects -- no more accidentally drawing on the wrong layer! Finally, there's a public API available for LayOut, which means that like SU extensions, soon we'll be seeing a lot of third-party tools for LayOut. AutoCAD has officially been deprecated.
  2. Racism: It's hard to believe that the Democratic mayor of Roanoke, VA penned an open letter to Roanoke government workers, suggesting that, like the internment of Japanese-Americans during WW-II, America should protect itself against foreign threats by blocking Syrian refugees from settling in the US. He wasn't just logically wrong, but he directly offended Americans -- Japanese Americans. He was promptly dropped from Hillary Clinton's team; Roanoke should drop him, too.
  3. Political Cowards: The America SAFE bill which House Republicans passed (with support from 47 House Democrats), should not satisfy anyone, regardless of their opinion on the issue of Syrian refugees. This bill does not add additional screening requirements on top of what was already being done; in fact, they're merely reiterating what the FBI already does. The only new requirement in this bill, is to have the heads of the agencies in charge of refugee screenings, to certify that these people aren't terrorists. You should be cynical of Congress, as this bill's real intention is to alleviate political responsibility of Congress, were an attack to occur on American soil -- they'd blame the agencies who signed off. In fact, if you watch the NewsHour's interview of Representative Gerry Connolly (D-VA), he essentially tells us that this bill does nothing to constrict refugees from Syria. If Congress really wanted to make America safer, they'd re-examine the visa waiver program in light of how many EU citizens have traveled to the Middle East to fight in Syria, and have returned to Europe.
  4. USC Trojans football: A reminder to the football players, that if you want Clay Helton (#Helton2016) to remain the head coach next year, you have to outperform your recent work by starting and finishing games on both sides of the ball and especially in special teams. If you need an incentive, by winning out, you'll be able to have a redo with Stanford for all the Roses.
  5. USC Trojans football, part II: Two of USC's most important middle linebackers are out (Lamar Dawson and Cameron Smith), so it appears that they're going with a five linebacker rotation (Anthony Sarao, Osa Masina, Michael Hutchings, Olajuwon Tucker, Uchenna Nwosu). The way I see it, one of the guys in the middle should be Su'a Cravens. He's a junior who knows the system, and with his speed and toughness could easily handle the job in the middle. Sure, it means the loss of a great edge rusher, but on the other hand it means that he'll be able to run the green dog blitz -- Cravens has the knack for getting around blocks -- since you already know that they'll be playing a lot of cover-1 to defend the edge run.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

10 Thoughts for November 17, 2015

10 thoughts, because it's been a few days since I posted a list of thoughts on my mind, and it's time to get them all out.
  1. USC football: USC may have won, but they looked terrible. The first half was a replication of the previous game, noted by a series of comical errors. We saw defensive players lose track of their responsibilities, the offense appear befuddled against the worst defense in the division, and a special teams group that was *special*. And then, from the late 2nd quarter through the late fourth quarter, they went on a 24-0 run. If the players want Clay Helton to be hired permanently, they'll need to perform consistently and better. You can't do this against great teams and expect to win.
  2. USC football, part II: When Robert Woods was a Trojan, he was a solid player and there was no doubt that he'd be drafted very high, even though he was a tad slower and undersized than what you'd want in a premier player. When Marqise Lee lined up opposite Woods, I thought that he would also be drafted very high, as he was a spectacular player, even if a bit undersized and prone to injury. When Nelson Agholor passed through, you could tell that he would be drafted high, even though he always had issues with the dropsies. With Juju Smith-Schuster, he's everything you want in a top-10 draft pick, and is easily the best receiver of them all; he's big, strong, great hands, tough as nails, and more than fast enough. Of all the receivers to come through USC in recent years, he's the one guy I look most forward to seeing in the NFL; the guy already looks the part of an NFL player.
  3. Oregon football: No one expected the Ducks defense to win the day for Oregon, and yet when it counted most, they came up with the stop. With that gritty win on the road in Palo Alto, the Ducks are now 7-3. Next up: USC in Eugene -- both are 7-3, winning their last 4 games, and both have now defeated a top-10 team -- on Saturday, at 12:30 pm. The odds are in Oregon's favor, but here's the thing: Oregon's running the ball again, now 6th best in the nation, while USC's been on a rushing defense tear since Clay Helton's completely taken over as head coach, allowing just 84 yards per game, since. It's going to be an exciting game, I think.
  4. Seattle Seahawks: The difference between a winning team and a losing team, is that in previous years, Russell Wilson was able to direct the team on a late 4th quarter drive to win the game, while this year he's failed in all but one game -- against Dallas. I'm not saying that it is his fault; dropped passes, still terrible offensive line play and lousy play-calling were all part of the problem in those late 4th quarter drives. The team is the same as it was in previous years, with the exception being execution in that late 4th quarter, and it seems it's largely a mental issue that started with the Super Bowl. Of course, we expected this offense to be better than prior years, with the inclusion of Jimmy Graham, but it's not working, and I keep pointing to the OC for that issue. They look like they're able to run on all cylinders about a quarter of the time, and that's about it.
  5. Seattle Seahawks, part II: The lesser problem in Seattle, is that the cornerback opposite Richard Sherman is not in the same ballpark as the rest of the secondary; it wasn't Dion Bailey that was the problem in the early games, but DeShawn Shead and Cary Williams. No, Bailey was never a true replacement for Kam Chancellor, but Kam's presence hasn't been the difference between winning and losing -- they're just 4-3 with Kam back. In five games as a backup SS with the Jets, Bailey's defended two passes and is credited with half a sack. In that same period, Kam's had one interception, no sacks and one pass defended. Kam brings leadership and toughness, but Bailey's four years his junior and is just trying to get comfortable in a scheme. 
  6. Politics of Terrorism: With the Paris attack, American politicians have angrily demanded that the US do more to combat terrorism. Their primary criticism is that the US needs to get deeply involved in Syria, in the fight against ISIS. These are the same people who did not want the US to bomb Syria in 2011, or refused to commit to boots on the ground, let alone push for a vote to go to war with Syria. With some nudging on Sunday's Meet the Press, Jeb! practically issued a policy laundry list of actions that had been under consideration by the Obama Administration years ago, back when politicians were noncommittal about specific plans. It turns out, terrorism is a tool of politicians, which is ironic, given that these same politicians are a bunch of tools.
  7. Politics of Econ: Each political party has a different economic policy, and one is demonstrably worse than the other, but generally people don't understand the basics of Economics that would afford them the ability to judge policy differences, thus most people tend to place faith in their party, ahead of policy. I used to do that, ten years ago, before I decided to do a deep dive into Economics, and then I realized that nearly all of what came out of people's mouths were fabricated assumptions and politically-driven. When speaking to people on economic policy, the first sign that someone has bought into politically-driven policy, is the recitation of trite slogans. Nuance is the enemy of slogans.
  8. Politics of Honesty: As Americans, we're taught the virtues of being honest, from the simple parable of young George Washington chopping down a cherry tree. Yet, unlike George's father who forgave his son, Americans choose to punish those who tell the truth, while rewarding liars. This reinforcing action ushers politicians to tell lies. I tell the truth, because I don't give a shit what people do in response, while in other instances I avoid telling the truth (not blunt) because some people are hurt by the truth; in politics these two are never the case. American politics are not the exception; everywhere you look, whether in Russia, France or China, politicians lie.
  9. Sapiosexual: It's one of those new, amusing labels, in the vein of metrosexual. It does not describe one's sexuality, but rather, the sort of person that one is attracted to: intelligent people. Presumably, the higher one's self-confidence, the more comfortable one is with dating / marrying someone with a higher level of intelligence. Speaking of high self-confidence, what happens if someone suffers from the Dunning-Kruger Effect, and believes that someone, who is actually profoundly dumb, is attractive -- is that a Fauxsapiosexual?
  10. Benghazi: Republicans are planning a European vacation on the taxpayer's dime. I realize that the Dollar is nearing its all-time high against the Euro, but this is ridiculous. If they were concerned about fact-finding on Benghazi at US airbases in Europe, they would have visited those sites, three years ago, not in 2015, after hundreds of interviews. The GOP have already told us that Hillary laid a trap that the GOP stepped right into, during her interview, and yet they persist in doing stupid things.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Review of Sling TV.

I finally got around to using my Chromecast offer for 2 free months of Sling TV. While it's just been two days, I'm confident that I can offer a fairly good review of Sling TV's service.

What it is

Sling TV is a service that allows you to watch a handful of traditionally cable-based TV channels. Its $20 basic service includes the History Channel, TNT, ESPN and ESPN2, AMC, the Food Network, A&E, HGTV, IFC, Disney Channel, TBS, the Travel Channel, Maker, Polaris+, El Rey, Adult Swim / Comedy Channel, ABC Family, H2, CNN, Lifetime TV, Bloomberg, and Galavision. There are multiple add-on packages including HBO, a Sports Extra package, and a variety of Spanish packages.  Immediately, you'll notice that Sling TV is geared towards people who are looking to cut the cord on cable TV, by streaming video through their internet service.

In my experience, I haven't had cable TV for over a decade, so my sensibilities on this are different. As a Netflix, Hulu, Crackle, Viki, YouTube user who binge-watches shows and enjoys on-demand video, SlingTV requires going back to the old paradigm of tuning in at a scheduled time, to watch any given show. Essentially, the primary benefits to me, are live events such as news and sports; I had just subscribed to SlingTV when the Paris attacks had occurred, and having CNN gave me real-time access to what was going on. If you're not a news junkie or a sports fan, this might not be the service you're looking for.

While there is no cloud-based DVR service, there are a few shows / videos that can be streamed, under the "Available Now" section. In some of those videos, you can go forward 30 seconds / rewind 10 seconds. In other videos, typically movies, you're able to simply pick on the timeline to move to that point in the movie.

Also included with Sling TV, is a rental section of movies, with separate prices for SD and HD rentals. They're generally the same prices as what you'd find in the Google Play Store / iTunes, for better or worse. Given the greater flexibility of rentals in Google Play Store, I'm inclined to stick with GPS instead of renting from Sling TV.

There are no service fees or term-based contracts, which is a huge positive, unlike cable TV service. If you only care to watch ESPN for football and football news, you can sign up for service in September, then cancel at the end of February. The money you save, is staggering, compared to cable TV service, but the video quality is not necessarily the best, and you can't record games on your DVR. Even though the app gives you the ability to set the data speed, you're still stuck with issues of network congestion that are irrelevant to your ISP's speeds.

When it's working and there are no buffering issues, the service is fine. But at times, there is significant congestion to the edge network (Sling TV host), even as the ISP's speeds are normal. Therefore, regardless of your device, your Sling TV experience will depend on your ISP's relationship with Sling TV as an edge network -- if you've had problems with your ISP and Netflix, you can probably expect the same issues. Even if you're watching videos at 2:00 am, the video will downgrade at times, which points to my ISP (Comcast) actively scaling bandwidth to edge networks, to minimize the gap between use and capacity.

Sling TV and Chromecast

With a Chromecast plugged into your TV, you can use an Android or iOS device, with their app, to cast their service to your TV (you can also access Sling TV, via apps, in your Amazon Fire TV, Roku Player, Xbox One, and Nexus Player). The Chromecast setup is not ideal; the initial connection takes about 30 seconds or more, while changing channels takes about 10 seconds, and buffering may delay live video by several minutes. With ESPN, there are some live video (games) that are blocked from casting to your TV; there is no way to determine which games will be blocked, making this a significant issue.

Their mobile app also, obviously, allows you to watch videos directly via your device. I used it to watch one football game on ESPN while I was watching another one on the big TV, via OTA digital, but of course I have a tablet with a 12.2" screen so my experience is much better than someone with a 10" or smaller screen.

Sling TV and Windows / Mac

Sling TV also has an app for Windows (W7+) and Mac (10.6+), but as it stands right now, I would not recommend installing it, as it is buggy and has other flaws.

While the app looks nearly exactly like its mobile version, the desktop app does not allow you to cast it to your TV -- that does not make sense to me. However, because I have a 24" monitor for my desktop, it's not too much of an issue, as I often watch videos from my monitor.

Installing the app in Windows 10 will mess with your Chrome's Chromecast extension -- it made my Chromecast device disappear from within my Chrome browser -- and if you enjoy casting from your Chrome browser, at least for now, I would strongly urge you to avoid installing the Sling TV app on your desktop.

While watching videos with the desktop app, there were odd buffering issues where the audio would overlap itself with a separate, delayed track. The video would also, at times, jump around or cut out completely. The only means to fix this, was to switch channels, and that's a terrible option when watching live sports.

In my opinion, they could easily fix this by throwing away their app and making a cloud service accessed via a browser. By doing so, they'd also give ChromeOS users a means to access their service. Why they built their own desktop apps, is beyond comprehension, and seems rather short-sighted.


I think Sling TV has huge promise, but as it currently stands, is hobbled by limited and buggy apps. Also, unfortunately because of my ISP's relationship with Sling TV's owner, DirectTV, it seems that despite FCC's Net Neutrality rules, Comcast will make Sling TV difficult to use as an absolute replacement for cable TV.

If you don't have to worry about your ISP's indignation of edge networks, I'd say that Sling TV is a very good choice for anyone who loves sports, and cable cutters. Otherwise, you might find that the laggy and buggy experience is not worth the $20 a month.

And while they've added some foreign channels in add-on packages, they're desperately missing Asian-language channels -- something that would prevent many people from leaving cable.

I'm making use of my free two months, and perhaps at the end of that period, Sling TV folks will improve their relationship with Comcast and fix their apps. Since I'm not planning on subscribing all 12 months of the year, it's still a palatable service to pay for, even with all its flaws. Still, I wouldn't be able to recommend this to everyone; I'll only recommend this service to those folks I know who can take care of their own technical service issues.

Top row is the live schedule; below is what's available off the schedule.

Hit the "On Now" button and it'll show what's currently showing on each channel.

Under "Settings/Connection" you can set the data speeds.

The race to the PAC-12 Championship.

With Oregon beating Stanford and Arizona beating Utah, the race to the PAC-12 Championship was shaken up quite a bit. To get to the championship game:

  • Stanford: Even though the Cardinals lost to Oregon, they still control their own destiny in reaching the PAC-12 Championship game. Beat Cal and they're in. If they lose to Cal, they'll need Oregon to lose both remaining games (USC, Oregon State).
  • Oregon: Ducks needs to win out (against USC and Oregon State) and have Cal beat Stanford.
  • Utah: Utes need to win out and have USC lose to either Oregon or UCLA.
  • UCLA: Bruins need to win out (against Utah and USC).
  • USC: Trojans need to either win out (against Oregon and UCLA), or if they lose to Oregon but beat UCLA, they will need Utah to lose to either UCLA or Colorado.

I'm sorry, WSU, but you can't make it to the PAC-12 Championship even if you win out.

If Oregon beats OSU and Cal beats Stanford, Oregon is in because in the three-way tie no one owns a head-to-head tie-breaker (Oregon beat Stanford, Stanford beat WSU, WSU beat Oregon), so the next step is the in-division record. By beating the Beavers, Oregon would own a 4-1 North division record while WSU and Stanford would hold a 3-2 record.

If Oregon loses to either USC or Oregon State, Cougars would be in a two-way tie with Stanford, but Stanford holds the head-to-head tie-breaker with the Cougars, so the Cardinals would go to the championship game.

Even though the Cougs can't make it to the championship game, everyone is impressed with how they recovered from that disastrous first game of the season against Portland State, to its best record in 12 years. (And speaking of Portland State, what a turnaround, from a 3-9 season to 8-2 and a very good chance to make the FCS playoffs, making the Coug loss to PSU less shocking.)