Archive | November, 2012

Here’s a story about some stuff that happened on Monday

29 Nov

In my last post I mentioned that I was hanging out in a hip coffee shop in Berkeley. That’s only part of the story of what I did that day. This post is about the rest of the story. It’s not particularly noteworthy, but it was sort of an interesting series of events. So I’m going to tell everyone about it. One of the great things about having a blog is that it allows you to indulge in this kind of narcissism.

My plan on Monday was to go to the grocery store. There are two places I buy groceries: Safeway and Berkeley Bowl. I generally buy produce at Berkeley Bowl and everything else at Safeway. The cost of living in California, and especially the Bay Area, is pretty high, but one place that isn’t true is produce. Produce at Berkeley Bowl is very high quality and cheap as shit. This is because most produce sold in America is grown in California’s Central Valley, which is very close to the Bay Area.

Look at all these vegetables!

So Berkeley Bowl is a great store, but it’s a bit of a drive from East Oakland, so when I go up there I like to tack on some other activities in addition to grocery shopping. There are two locations. The one I usually go to is on the other side of town from the University of California-Berkeley campus and downtown Berkeley. It’s right off the freeway and close to the Berkeley Marina and César Chávez Park, which is on a peninsula in the Bay and is a beautiful spot. There’s also a fairly large commercial strip near there. So my plan was to go have lunch and a cup of coffee, then go to the park and read, then go to the store and pick up some vegetables. I left at about 1:30.

I already wrote a bit about the Local 123 Cafe on Monday. I ordered a cup of coffee and a sandwich. The sandwich was just a sausage and mustard on a bun and had some kind of goofy name. Of course we’re talking about an artisanal sausage, housemade whole-grain dijon mustard, and a fresh-baked roll from a local bakery. This was a really good food item. But there was a snag in my order. Oh no! There was some kind of computer snafu so my sandwich order didn’t get communicated from the register to the person who makes the sandwiches. By the time I figured out my sandwich wasn’t coming, I was almost finished with my cup of coffee. I wasn’t paying very close attention. I was reading Under the Banner of Heaven, which is about two Mormon polygamist brothers who killed their sister-in-law combined with a breezy history of Mormon fundamentalism. So I was paying more attention to the book than my sausage. When I realized what was going on I went back up to the counter to ask about my sandwich and I got a refill on my coffee. This was probably a bad idea. I don’t drink coffee all that often, and I certainly don’t have any daily caffeine intake regimen. This won’t be relevant until later.

Eventually I got my sandwich and they gave me a free apology cookie for the delay. The cookie was also really good. So a delicious meal. Not a very large meal, though. Just a sausage on a bun and a small cookie. I could have eaten two. But I’m not going to order two $6 sausages. That’s crazy. I’m not made of money.

This is a cool location for a park. It’s also very windy there.

After I finished, I drove over to the marina. It was now around 3. When I parked, I noticed steam coming out from under my hood. Those of you who are car experts may already know that your car is not supposed to do this. I looked at the dashboard temperature gauge and it was up near the red line. Then I opened the hood and the engine coolant expansion tank was empty. Oops. Luckily for me I am a conscientious driver and I keep a jug of special Volvo brand engine coolant in the trunk. It’s bright neon green and looks like toxic waste of the type that comes in giant barrels in cartoons.

Another thing Volvo coolant looks like is the ooze from the Ninja Turtles movies

I keep the coolant in the car but that’s not good enough. You’re supposed to add coolant mixed 50/50 with water. I’m not smart enough to keep water in the car. So I was parked out at the marina and I needed to find a way to get some water. Also a receptacle for the water so I could carry it back to the car. I walked around a bit and found a water fountain by the public restroom. Jackpot. Of course there were no cups or anything at the drinking fountain. Lucky for me there is a hotel right by the marina. A Doubletree. Doubletrees are pretty nice hotels. I made my way to the lobby, hoping for complimentary coffee and equally complimentary coffee cups. I walked in and the three employees manning the desk greeted me. I explained my predicament and saw that they had a fancy glass water jug and cups. Hooray! Unfortunately these were tiny plastic cups. Boo. I was hoping for big paper cups.

I grabbed a bunch of cups and took off. These were maybe three-ounce cups. Not ideal. I walked back to the drinking fountain and filled four cups. I carried them back to the car and put in four cups of water and four cups of coolant. The tank was still empty. Shit. Back to the fountain. Four more cups. Still empty. Back to the fountain. Four more cups. The coolant level was now a bit above the minimum line. This was awesome because I was now almost out of coolant. I poured the rest of the coolant in. Problem solved. Except now I have to find a local Volvo dealer so I can buy more special Volvo engine coolant. Sometimes owning a car is horrible.

San Francisco skyline view from the park

I grabbed my book and started out to the shoreline. It was now past 4 and there wasn’t much time left before sunset. I figured I still had plenty of time to sit and enjoy myself. It was about this time that I started to feel the negative effects of my lunch. This was some fucking supercharged coffee. Also I was hungry again. That is a bad combination. Being high on caffeine on an empty stomach is not my favorite. Jittery, hyperalert, stomach growling, yuck.

Golden Gate Bridge from the park

So I was walking down the shore with my book when I saw an old guy sitting on the ground. Or lying. He was sort of reclining and propping himself up on his elbows and maybe trying to roll over or something. I didn’t pay too much attention. There are all kinds of goofballs in parks in Berkeley doing all kinds of crazy shit. As I came near he said, “Young man, can I ask you a favor?” Turns out this old guy was walking in the park and had become dehydrated and lost his balance. He asked if I could help him up and walk him back to his car. I said that would be fine and we set off. He was pretty shaky at first, but he got his wits about him pretty quickly. He was a talkative guy. His name was John. He and his wife had just moved to the Berkeley Hills from Los Angeles. I pretty much got John’s whole life story. He’s from Wisconsin. He went to Marquette. He went to law school. He decided to move to LA to be an actor. He did some TV work in the 60’s. His wife got pregnant. He needed a steady income and became a teacher. He retired. He had a bout of hydrocephalus. He moved to Berkeley. He decided to go for a walk. Pretty nice guy. I didn’t feel great about putting him in his car to drive home, but he was pretty insistent. At this point I also wasn’t too confident about driving my car around without it overheating. I said goodbye and he took off.

Follow my route on this detailed map

Now it was close to 5. Dusk was approaching. There wasn’t really enough light to read by comfortably. Off to the store I went. I was still feeling uncomfortable from the coffee. I made my rounds. I bought a bag of apples, a bag of oranges, three orange bell peppers, a green bell pepper, a bunch of green onions, a bunch of celery, four stalks of broccoli, a bag of mushrooms, and a big can of tomatoes. $14. This is a fantastic bargain compared to every grocery store in the Midwest.

It was now dark. I didn’t want to take the freeway home in case the car overheated and I needed to pull over. We’re now in rush hour, which means substantial traffic anywhere you go. I drove down through Berkeley and Oakland. Driving at night while hopped up on crazily-caffeinated organic fair-trade locally roasted coffee is not fun. Most of my experience doing this kind of driving is on freeways at the tail end of road trips. I remember doing this a couple times on the Penn Turnpike on my way to Philadelphia. What a horrible experience that can be. Never drive on the Penn Turnpike if you can help it. Especially not at night while exhausted. I did this once on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. It was practically bumper-to-bumper all the way from Pittsburgh to Philly. That was just about the worst day of my life.

Notice how there’s no left shoulder and only a small concrete barrier separating eastbound and westbound traffic. This isn’t a stretch under construction, this is how the whole highway is. The one-way toll from the Ohio border to Philly is like $30 if you can believe that.

I got home around 6. I wish all my days could be that interesting.

The perils of licensing your song for use in an advertising campaign

26 Nov

This afternoon I was at a coffee shop in Berkeley. This was the kind of establishment that is almost a self-parody of every stereotype there is about Berkeley and places like it. They have several specialty varieties of fair-trade coffee that they brew by the cup. They have organic raw sugar next to the half-and-half. Their menu prominently features the word “housemade”. The clientele was similarly spot-on. Skinny jeans, Toms, ear gauges, tattoos, Macs.

In my estimation there are two main types of hipster music. The “oh, you probably haven’t heard of it” type (TV on the Radio, Neutral Milk Hotel, etc.), and the ironic oldies type. This coffee shop was playing the second variety. Lynyrd Skynyrd, Stealers Wheel, that kind of thing. At one point the song “The Wanderer” came on. This is the kind of song that is easily recognizable even if you don’t know the title and artist. I know I didn’t until I looked it up later. It’s also the kind of song you almost unconsciously sing along to in your head. Have a listen:

 

So I was unconsciously singing along. Except I wasn’t singing the song’s actual lyrics. Anyone who watched as much TV as I did in the mid-90s knows where I’m going with this. “I’m the snake light, from Black & Decker, I get around around around.”

 

Poor Dion. In addition to “The Wanderer”, he recorded “Runaround Sue”. That’s a pretty good claim to fame. And yet for anyone under the age of, say, 40, when his signature hit comes on they think of an advertisement for a hardware product. I’m sure Dion made some money from the commercial. Maybe it extended his career or some such thing. Who knows. I still feel bad for him. Not just for him. It makes me feel bad for myself and for all of America. The whole thing is shitty and makes me hate our society.

The influence of advertising on American life is insidious and noxious. It seems bizarre to me that marketing is such a popular career field. I understand that there’s a lot of money to be made in it. Is that the only appeal? Do marketing majors really feel good about what they’re doing in college? Do they really like coming up with new ways to expose people to ads they don’t want to see? It totally baffles me. I’m going to stop here before this post turns into a poorly-informed and incoherent rant that offends all of my loyal readers on Madison Avenue.

I’m just glad I didn’t hear “That’s Amore” this afternoon. “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s logistics.” Fuck me.

Today in copyediting

23 Nov

One thing that I like is The New Yorker. I think it’s a great magazine. I subscribe to it and I read it cover to cover every week. I don’t read the New York cultural listings at the front and sometimes I skim the theater/dance/movie reviews, but other than that I read it all.

The New Yorker is famous for its fussy and particular house style. This is one of my favorite things about the magazine. I think I’m a lot more conscientious about grammar and usage than most people, and I like that The New Yorker makes it such an emphasis and is so willing to eschew convention to do things the way they think are correct.

The New Yorker used to be much more fussy and particular. The magazine hewed very closely to Fowler’s Modern English Usage and had a woman who “Fowlerized” pieces for publication. Apparently many famous fiction writers would re-edit their own stories when they were published in collections because they didn’t like the way that the magazine treated their punctuation and such. I think that has waned some, but there are still some giveaways that you’re reading The New Yorker. Coördinate instead of coordinate. Vender instead of vendor. The New York Times instead of The New York Times.

One of the more common grammar/usage quirks in the magazine is the British way they spell suffixes. Travelled instead of traveled, for example. I notice this most often in the word focus. Focussed, focussing, etc. This is present in some form in most issues. Last week, focussed appeared in a way that stood out. It appeared three times in an article about education policy. One of these was in a quotation from another publication. Not a spoken quote, but a transcription. The sentence in question:

A Harvard University study concluded that “achievement rose when leadership teams focussed thoughtfully and relentlessly on improving the quality of instruction.”

There’s no citation of the study so I couldn’t look it up, but I guarantee that no one who publishes academic education studies uses “focussed”. And this is a direct quote from the study. The New Yorker retroactively edited another publication to fit its house style. That’s amazing to me. There’s no [sic] or note. They just threw in an extra s like it was no big deal.

I’m kind of in awe of that. “Fuck you, Harvard professors who are published in academic journals. This is how we do things.” What a bunch of badasses. One more reason to like The New Yorker.

The Eastern Catholic League

20 Nov

Yesterday I wrote a long post about NCAA conference affiliations. I have an addendum. It’s related but I thought I would make it a separate post. Most conferences are mainly about football. The exception has been the Big East, which has seven members who don’t even play FBS football. Ever since the Big East started sponsoring football twenty years ago, this has made it a weird mishmash conference. Especially after it expanded to sixteen schools, a bunch of whom are only marginally in the East. The whole thing is a disaster. As a former athletic department employee of two Big East member institutions, I say this with confidence. Everyone involved knows it and that’s why any school with an opportunity to leave does. The only original Big East football member left is Temple. It’s documented kind of hilariously in this Wikipedia chart. Even schools who haven’t started playing in the Big East yet are trying to leave. The tentative football lineup going forward is:

Boise State*
Cincinnati
Houston
Louisville*
Memphis
Navy
San Diego State*
SMU
Temple
UCF
UConn*
USF
*Schools almost certain to leave. And let’s be clear: every single one of these teams would bolt if they got an invitation from the Big 12 or ACC.

This is a bad conference. There’s no logic or sense to the teams involved. The fact that most of them are bad teams doesn’t help matters. The basketball lineup is even stupider:
Cincinnati
DePaul
Georgetown
Houston
Louisville*
Marquette
Memphis
Providence
Seton Hall
SMU
St. John’s
Temple
Villanova
UCF
UConn*
USF
*Again, likely to leave.

Do you notice a pattern in the basketball lineup? It’s like two conferences mashed together: the football schools and the basketball schools. It doesn’t make any sense. It used to sort of make sense because the conference had a lot of basketball schools who also had football teams (Syracuse, Boston College, etc.). They’re all gone. The current football members don’t fit. Except for UConn, who will probably end up in the ACC, and Temple, who actually fits pretty well except for one big thing. That thing is it’s not a Catholic school. DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John’s, and Villanova are.

Those schools should bail on the Big East and start their own conference. I bet you can guess what I think it should be called. Here’s the beauty of the Eastern Catholic League: there are a bunch of other schools that could also join. Here are the Catholic universities that aren’t on the West Coast:

Big East
DePaul
Georgetown
Marquette
Providence
Seton Hall
St. John’s
Villanova

ACC
Boston College
Notre Dame

Atlantic 10*
Duquesne
Fordham
LaSalle
St. Joe’s
St. Louis
St. Bonaventure
Xavier
*which is also a big clusterfuck of a sixteen-team conference

Horizon League
Detroit
Loyola-Chicago

Patriot League
Holy Cross

MAAC
Almost the whole conference but they’re tiny and irrelevant schools.

NEC
Same as the MAAC. The NEC is notable for containing two St. Francises. St. Francis (NY) and St. Francis (PA). I enjoy this.

The ECL would be a conference that competed in every sport but football. None of these schools have FBS football teams except for BC and ND. They’re not leaving the ACC for the ECL so forget about them. The primary reason for this league’s existence is basketball. The ideal basketball conference would have ten teams. You could then play an eighteen-game double round robin conference schedule. You could still have the conference tournament at Madison Square Garden. It would be awesome. So who would be in it? Here’s my lineup:

DePaul
Georgetown
Marquette
Providence
Seton Hall
St. Joe’s
St. John’s
St. Louis
Villanova
Xavier

This is the Big East schools plus St. Joe’s, St. Louis, and Xavier. The Big East teams are easy picks. So is Xavier. St. Joe’s is next. That’s a good program. Remember when they had Jameer Nelson and Delonte West? That was a fun team. The last spot was tricky. I went with St. Louis. I didn’t want to add LaSalle and have three teams from Philadelphia. The Philly schools are a whole different ballgame and I think it’s good to split them up a bit. Some of the other omissions also have a lot of basketball history. Loyola and Holy Cross even have national championships. But I don’t think they can really compete at this level. Too bad for them.

This is a fun conference. It would be unique in the NCAA. Fans would love it. There would be good rivalries. There would be a good TV contract. It makes at least a little geographic sense. This is a good idea.

College sports are out of control

19 Nov

So Maryland and Rutgers are joining the Big Ten. The Big Ten now has fourteen teams. This is stupid. The whole march of recent conference expansion is stupid.

The Big Ten used to be important. Not just athletically, but culturally. I grew up in a Big Ten city. I’m a proud alumnus of a Big Ten university. The Big Ten represented a geographic place that was distinct. This is the part of the country that’s now called the Midwest. Before that it was called the Middle West. Before that it was called the West. You might think of it as the Great Lakes region or something similar. That geographic identity was formed, in part, by the conference when it was established as the Western Conference in the 1890s. When Michigan State replaced the University of Chicago after WWII that identity remained intact.

What a conference meant then is far away from what it means today. Then, it was a group of academically, geographically, and culturally similar colleges that decided it would be good to be associated with each other. Now, with the addition of Penn State, Nebraska, Maryland, and Rutgers, the Big Ten is more a group of partners in a cable TV network than anything else. I hate everything about it.

It’s not just the Big Ten–conference expansion and consolidation have been ruining college sports for awhile now. I think that trend is likely to continue until the major conferences all have 16 teams. Everyone seems to have decided that’s a good number for some reason. I wish we could go back to a simpler time. If I were in charge, things would look a lot different. Conferences would look like this:

Conference USA is eliminated and absorbed into the new conferences.

ACC
Clemson
Duke
East Carolina
Maryland
North Carolina
North Carolina State
South Carolina
Virginia
Virginia Tech
Wake Forest

This returns South Carolina to the ACC and adds East Carolina. All of the Carolina schools are now together.

SEC
Alabama
Auburn
Florida
Florida State
Georgia
Georgia Tech
LSU
Mississippi
Mississippi State
Tennessee

Goodbye Kentucky, hello Georgia Tech. This makes more geographic sense. Florida State is a natural fit. Tech also replaces Vanderbilt as the SEC school with some semblance of an academic reputation.

Big Ten
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Michigan
Michigan State
Minnesota
Northwestern
Ohio State
Purdue
Wisconsin

Big Ten Classic.

Southwest Conference
Baylor
Louisiana Tech
New Mexico
Southern Miss
TCU
Texas
Texas A&M
Texas Tech
Tulsa
UTEP

Like the old Southwest Conference, sort of. Dominated by the big Texas schools just like the old Southwest Conference.

Big East
Boston College
Kentucky
Marshall
Pitt
Rutgers
Syracuse
Temple
UConn
UMass
West Virginia

Adds UMass, Kentucky, and Marshall and returns the current ACC defectors.. Hopefully UMass’s football team can improve. Kentucky’s here because they don’t really fit anywhere, if you ask me. Marshall is a nice complement to West Virginia.

Plains Conference
Arkansas
Iowa State
Kansas
Kansas State
Missouri
Nebraska
Oklahoma
Oklahoma State
Wyoming
Rice

Sort of like the old Big Eight. Adds Arkansas and Rice, because Rice has to go somewhere. Same with Wyoming.

Pac-10
Cal
Oregon
Oregon State
San Diego State
San Jose State
Stanford
UCLA
USC
Washington
Washington State

The old Pac-8 plus San Diego and Jose State.

Mountain West
Arizona
Arizona State
Boise State
Colorado
Colorado State
Fresno State
Nevada
UNLV
Utah
Utah State

I think this is as good a geographic fit as is possible in this part of the country.

Metro Conference
Cincinnati
Houston
Louisville
Memphis
Vanderbilt
SMU
Tulane
UAB
UCF
USF

There used to be a Metro Conference in basketball. The conceit was that it was schools in big cities (DePaul, Marquette, et al. were involved). I think it’s a pretty good idea for these misfit football schools.

Independents
Air Force
Army
Navy
BYU
Notre Dame
Miami
Penn State
Hawaii

Service academies. Religious flagship universities. Traditional independents Penn State and Miami. Hawaii, which doesn’t really fit anywhere. I like independents. There should be more of them.

So that’s how I would like things to be. There would be no conference championship games. For the national championship, you could do two things: a reasonable playoff system, or the old bowl system where polls decide things. I kind of liked that. It was unapologetically inconclusive and chaotic. There’s something endearing about that. The BCS is a terrible middle ground and no one likes it.

—–

But things will never be like that. Conferences just a loose affiliation of schools trying to maximize their athletic department revenue. The Big Ten would rather add Maryland than, say, Pittsburgh. Obviously Pitt is a better fit in every way. Maryland is perceived as better precisely because it’s a bad fit. Pitt doesn’t “expand the conference footprint” or “grow the Big Ten Network’s subscriber base”. Maryland does. Did I mention I hate this? Unfortunately, this is the world we live in. That being the case, why don’t schools go all the way with it in a way that would also be awesome for fans? Well, some fans. Maybe even most fans. I have a radical proposal. If this blog is good for nothing else, it’s new sports proposals.

Introducing the Superconference. It’s a new breakaway league of powerhouses that would be the best conference ever. It would dominate college football. It would be fun to watch. Lots of colleges who are left behind would be pissed, but you know what? Fuck ‘em. This is how college sports works now. I would so much rather have my team in this new conference than the new Big Ten. In the current landscape, you need at least twelve teams so you can have a championship game. You need compelling matchups and built-in subscribers for your new TV network. You need a lot of programming for said network. The Superconference has all that and more. Here it is. Get ready for your mind to be blown.*

Superconference
Clemson
Florida State
Miami
Michigan
Nebraska
Notre Dame
Ohio State
Oklahoma
Oregon
Penn State
Texas
USC

Can you imagine how great this would be? If I was the President of any of these universities, I would start making phone calls tomorrow.

*When designing the Superconference, my assumption was that no SEC teams would want to join, since SEC schools have their heads so far up their asses and love the SEC so much that they would never leave. Now obviously if certain SEC schools wanted to join, they’d have a compelling case for membership.

These are twelve schools with giant stadiums and huge and passionate fanbases. Oregon and Miami are the exceptions here. My assumption is that Phil Knight will keep Oregon funded with Nike money in perpetuity and Miami will go back to being Miami at some point with a run of average Miami recruiting. Penn State is obviously going to be in a bit of a hole for awhile, but in ten years, they’ll fit right in. For now they still have the fans etc. even if the team isn’t good. Texas and Notre Dame would be the two toughest gets, since they’re both in love with themselves* and have their own sources of independent TV money.

*I think Texas would do this, even if they had to forfeit the Longhorn Network. I can’t imagine them willingly giving up a seat at the new premier conference. Notre Dame loves being independent, but they just signed an agreement to play five games a year against the ACC. Which do you think they’d prefer, that or eight games (including their biggest rival USC, and traditional ND opponents Michigan, Penn State, and Miami) in the Superconference? They could still schedule Navy, Stanford, and BC with room left for one more.

Speaking of TV money, there would be giant piles of it. Way more than any of these schools makes now. The Superconference would easily command the largest TV rights contracts of any conference. There would also be a Superconference Network. The Big Ten Network is a resounding financial success. It shows games like Illinois-Purdue. Imagine how the Superconference Network would fare broadcasting games like Texas-Florida State every weekend. The following cities are Superconference home media markets:

Chicago
Cincinnati
Cleveland
Dallas
Detroit
Houston
Indianapolis
Los Angeles
Miami
Oklahoma City
Omaha
Orlando
Philadelphia
Pittsburgh
Portland
San Antonio
Tampa

It would be simply a matter of time until the Superconference Network was on basic cable nationwide. Imagine the phone calls cable companies would get when people found out that they couldn’t watch that weekend’s USC-Oklahoma game. As things are now, that would be a highlight of college football season. On the Superconference Network, there would be matchups like that every week.

The conference schedule in the Superconference would be a murderers’ row every year. Part of what makes this feasible is an assumption that the forthcoming playoff system makes any kind of sense. Instead of simply trying to avoid losses, it will be to a school’s advantage to play a difficult schedule. Teams would play eight conference games. It doesn’t really matter how divisions are aligned; the only consideration would be putting rivals (Michigan/Ohio State, USC/Notre Dame, etc.) together. Ideally you’d reconfigure the divisions every ten years or so to keep things interesting. With eight conference games, there’s room for four other games so teams could still schedule whatever rivalries they wanted or needed. Michigan-Michigan State, Florida State-Florida, USC-UCLA, etc.

The only drawback is that the Superconference wouldn’t be great at basketball. But I think that would be a temporary problem. Remember the giant piles of money I mentioned? Nothing helps to build a successful basketball program than giant piles of money. New arenas, elite coaches, the exposure of the Superconference Network–it’s an inevitability that all of these schools would be able to recruit elite players in basketball just like they do in football.

It’s not just football where the Superconference would excel. Half the teams in the league are baseball powerhouses. There are elite Superconference programs in every sport from water polo to men’s volleyball. Baseball would be an anchor for Superconference Network programming. So would hockey and lacrosse. Affiliate members in those sports would make them the best in the country. It would be easy to get affiliate members to join because you could write them giant checks. Plus the existence of the league could be incentive for Superconference members to add new sports. It would look something like this at first:*

Hockey
Michigan
Notre Dame
Ohio State
Penn State
Boston College
Boston University
Maine
Miami (OH)
Michigan State
New Hampshire

Lacrosse
Michigan
Notre Dame
Ohio State
Penn State
Denver
Johns Hopkins

*Obviously you couldn’t poach programs from stable existing conferences for just one sport. So Denver and Johns Hopkins in lacrosse; the cream of Hockey East and the CCHA in hockey. I don’t think anyone from the WCHA would bolt–it’s like the SEC of college hockey.

Football in the fall, basketball and hockey in the winter, baseball and lacrosse in the spring. Plus Olympic sports, softball, etc. The Superconference Network would be a must-have for college sports fans. I’m getting excited about it already.

Back to the main attraction: Superconference football. This would be one of the biggest things in American sports. It would dwarf the rest of college football. Every high school kid would want to play in it. Every fan would want to watch it. It would complete the decades-long trend in college sports from quaint and local to corporate and national. There are a lot of good reasons to be uneasy about this trend, but the simple fact is that things are already fucked. Why not just admit it and remove any pretense?

Pittsburgh

17 Nov

Introducing a new blog feature in which I talk about different places I’ve visited.

Doesn’t this look like a fun city?

The Rust Belt has a pretty dismal reputation. A lot of people seem to think Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, etc. are all interchangeable and terrible cities. I don’t think this is true. I’ve been to Pittsburgh a couple times. I like Pittsburgh. I’d be happy to go back to Pittsburgh.

This is the Southside Flats neighborhood. I’m pretty sure there’s a Cheesecake Factory somewhere in there.

Pittsburgh is known for its three rivers, the Allegheny, the Monongahela, and the Ohio. The first two meet to form the third. Downtown Pittsburgh is on the triangle created by the meeting rivers. There’s a big park right at the tip of the triangle. The park was closed for some kind of construction when I was there. Still it’s a cool geographical feature. The other thing the rivers create is cool riverfront neighborhoods all over the place. A lot of them are gentrified and lame now,* but there are still a lot of good views everywhere.

*I ate at a Cheesecake Factory in one of these neighborhoods once.

Bring your binoculars

Pittsburgh is has a lot of good sporting venues. PNC park is supposed to be one of the best baseball stadiums around. I wasn’t there during baseball season but I walked around it. I also walked across the Roberto Clemente Bridge, which has a (not very good) view of the field. That’s a good piece of stadium design. Heinz Field is just down the road. They’re both right across the river from downtown which I like. There’s also a new hockey arena, but who cares. The old building, Mellon Arena, was awesome. It was torn down after the new one was built. A shame. It was a unique building. I staying at the Marriott across the street once and there was a Penguins preseason game. I tried to scalp a ticket, but by the time I got there the first period was over and all the scalpers had left and the ticket office was closed. Bogus. I wish I had gotten in. I was very curious about the arena’s interior and I bet Penguins fans are a good time.

Tell me this isn’t the coolest-looking arena ever. Too bad they tore it down.

I’ve spent most of my life living in cities laid out on a simple square grid. This is the ideal city layout. It’s easy to get around, neighborhoods and business districts follow a logical pattern, you always know how to get to the highway. Pittsburgh is not like this. Lots of hills. Kind of an odd layout. I was in a charter bus driving to Pittsburgh once and the driver got lost. We were driving around what seemed like a hip neighborhood and this bus driver had no clue where to go. He had a talking GPS and after every intersection it said “turn left” but he couldn’t because we were in a huge fucking bus on these tiny surface roads and then he did turn and it was too late and we were even more lost and it was dark. What a disaster. The direction problem is compounded by the rivers. There are a lot of bridges and following the highway is kind of complicated. At least it was for this bus driver. There’s a weird maze of highways downtown. The Penn Turnpike bypasses the city completely so it’s all state highways and offshoots of I-76 and 79. Could have been done better.

This is an impressive retaining wall

Duquesne University and the University of Pittsburgh both have interesting campuses. They’re sort of cut into the hills in places. Big urban colleges are very underrated. There should be more of them. Pitt also has an old-school fieldhouse which is the kind of venue I enjoy. The basketball team doesn’t play there anymore, which is a shame.

I think it would be a lot better for basketball than volleyball

One of the downsides of my various travels is that I haven’t had as much of a chance to sample local cuisines or do fun local things as I’d like. Lots of Applebee’s-type restaurants and bland suburban hotels on itineraries. Which sucks. Primanti Brothers in Pittsburgh is famous. I’d like to eat there. The Andy Warhol Museum is also in Pittsburgh. I could have gone there I guess, but my visit would have had to be brief and I’d have needed to take cabs there and back. Hailing cabs in cities like Pittsburgh isn’t easy and calling the dispatcher isn’t quick. So that’s on my list of things to do if I’m ever there again.

Hooray for unnecessarily large train depots

Old industrial cities like Pittsburgh have a lot of cool buildings. More cities should have huge train stations and Beaux Arts skyscrapers. Walking around the city is interesting, which isn’t the case for a lot of cities. Downtown has a lot of Beaux-Arts buildings and masonry and all the other things that make you feel like you’re in a historic place. I like that feeling.

Fancy

There’s a neighborhood in Pittsburgh called Squirrel Hill. Ha.

The Pittsburgh airport is not very busy and has free Wi-Fi. I can’t think of another airport with free Wi-Fi. Score one for Pittsburgh.

An unacceptable outrage

15 Nov

Look at this screenshot of Carter Pewterschmidt from an episode of Family Guy I just watched.* Did you notice what’s wrong? If you didn’t, get ready, because once you notice it it’ll drive you crazy just like it drives me crazy. If you wear a striped necktie, the stripes on the front of the knot face the opposite direction of the stripes in the body of the tie. No one who draws cartoons seems to realize this. I’ve been noticing this for years. My uneducated guess is that 90% of cartoon ties are drawn incorrectly. It’s such a glaring and obvious error that I can’t believe no producer or the cartoon equivalent of a script supervisor notices it.

*Please read my last post about Family Guy. It’s sort of uneven and scattered. Oh well.

What really drives me crazy is when the knot stripe is broken by the border of the knot and the stripe still faces the wrong direction. It’s one thing if an animator is lazy and just draws all the stripes the same way because they don’t care. It’s another entirely when the animator takes the time and care to accurately render the tie knot and stripe pattern and fucking does it wrong. Has no cartoonist ever worn a striped necktie? Have they never seen anyone else wear one? Even in the movies? Do they take us all for saps?

I’ve had it. I won’t stand idly by while this outrage continues. Get ready for me to document instances of improper cartoon tie stripage. Get ready for me to write angry letters to TV shows and cartoon strips who cannot get this simple thing correct. I’ll be here in the trenches fighting for all of us, readers.

I’m not even going to talk about how all the stripes I pictured in this post are going the wrong way. They’re all facing down to the right. American tie stripes go down to the left, like the one pictured. Stripes on ties in England go down and to the right. But we’re not in England, are we? I’m just going to let that one go. I probably have to pick my battles here.