Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hot or Cold?

I was on a date and asked if she preferred to be hot or cold if she had to pick an extreme. She said she preferred hot and I began to react. Before I stated my case she protested that she does not like the position people always take and say, "You can always put on more layers in the cold, but you cannot always remove layers in the heat." She pointed out that this solution is merely avoiding choosing hot or cold, but finding a way to be neutral.

I had never thought about it like that. So I had to stop and consider which I would prefer if I could not correct my situation. It becomes a harder question. If I am hot I get headaches and irritable, but it is bearable. I can put it out of mind. Cold is very forceful and it is hard to think about anything else when it is very cold. Also, I do not know anyone who goes into a refriderator to relax, but people do go into saunas. 

I think the original question would be better stated as "Do you prefer hot weather or cold weather?"

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


At school there are events all the time for various clubs, teams, etc. For some reason, people feel that the best way to distribute information about events is by way of the flier.

This really drives me crazy. When I am walking, and someone puts a flier in my hand, I have nowhere to put it. I do not have to keep it, I can remember a time and date. Even if I did keep it, where would I keep it. It would clutter my wall, my desk or the floor. So I decide not to keep it, now what?

My decision turns to who I have to hurt now with this flier that I do not want. Do I hurt the organization that produced the flier by throwing it away and wasting their money? Do I help the organization and possibly someone who might be interested by placing it on a table; simultaneously hurting the people who have to clean up my litter? I hate littering.

It does not help that the people handing out the fliers sometimes are very prideful and feel like they have to push until you take the flier. So you cannot just walk by without getting called out. Today, I walked by just such a student. My hands were in my pockets and as I walked by I half shrugged and made a false attempt at taking my hands out of my pockets as I said, "Sorry."

I know it was a lame excuse, what I really meant was, "No thanks, I do not want one." Anyway, as I walked by he incredulously questioned, "Was that really your excuse!?" I turned around still walking and did a full shrug (removing both hands from pockets) and chuckled, "I just did not want a flier." Then he said, "Look, you just pulled your hands out! C'mon!" 

While I do not appreciate the aggressive marketing, I think his reaction was classic and I can totally relate to him having proselyted in Taiwan. I was laughing to myself for a few minutes.

Monday, March 23, 2009


When I use a desktop computer, the device I manuever to navigate the arrow is called a mouse. What is the correct way to pluralize that word. Is it mice? Mouses? Mousen?


What percentage of people who watch an entire Nascar race fall asleep during the competition?

I legitimately would like to know the answer to this question. I have a small sample size and my hypothesis is that it is a simple majority.

Double or Triple?

A few months ago on a Sunday afternoon we were having lunch. As Jared made a towering peanut butter and jelly sandwich with 3 pieces of bread and 2 layers of filling, he commented on the bounties of triple-decker sandwiches.

The Conflict:
Josh stated that it was not a triple decker but a double decker. He said because there were only two layers of condiment, it was a double decker.

When I heard this argument, I agreed, because if you think of a building with a floor, a ceiling, an upstairs level and a roof on top, that is like 3 pieces of bread, but two layers of living space. That dwelling is called two story, not three.

The Rebuttal:
Jared said each bread is a deck, and there are three layers or decks of bread. It is a triple decker. And claiming invention of the sandwich, He was authorized to name it as he chose.

The Resolution:
I used Google images search to find out what the general population thought. I typed in “double decker sandwich”, and to Jared’s chagrin sandwiches resembling his now half-eaten one were pictured. However, when I typed “triple decker sandwich” identical pictures were displayed. Not one “triple decker” had four pieces of bread. A toss up. What do you call it?


The second to last play of the playoffs was ruled a fumble and not an incomplete pass. I watched with Cardinal’s fans who groaned in disbelief. The call is not the subject of this difference of opinion.

If the refs called an incomplete pass, the Steeler’s receieved an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and the ball would have been on the 29 yard line with 5 seconds to play. I agree that this would have been a far more exciting play to end the game. I never like to see the last few seconds kneeled away (though I understand why they are).

Here is the conflict: What are the chances that the Cardinals would have scored a touchdown on the last play to give them the win? I think it is less than 10% strictly due to the nature of football, combined with the severely limited options that the offense would face. Touchdown or lose, and they are probably going to throw to Larry F. in the air.

My roommate is convinced that Arizona had a 50/50 shot of scoring a touchdown on the play due to the high apex of Fitz’s leap and the accuracy of Warner’s arm.

I just don’t see it. What do you think?

Clear Path Foul

In the NBA there is a foul called a “clear path foul”. This occurs when there is a fast break opportunity and the newly defending team commits a foul. It is a clear path foul when there are no defenders between the breaking offensive player and the basket. The penalty for a clear path foul is the offensive team gets two foul shots and the ball (before 2006 it was one shot and the ball).

We were watching a Laker game and this foul was committed against Lamar Odom. My roommate could not understand how 2 shots and the ball was a just penalty for the foul.

I was sure that the NBA rule committee carefully evaluates the rules and associated penalties. They are likely approved by a majority of referees, players, coaches and administrators. I am fine with believing that they are making rules to provide a fair and marketable sport.

This article
provides evidence for my point of view:

“The ‘clear path’ rule would be tweaked because statistics showed teams are averaging less than 2 points when clear path fouls are called. (under the one shot rule)

‘The original idea behind the clear path foul was we didn’t want them to occur. But now, when they do occur, the offended team is not getting the yield point-wise that they should be,’ NBA vice president Stu Jackson told”

I wonder what the average point yield is now under the two-shots tweak. I also liked the insight into the team representation that is involved in the NBA rule changing process. It seems like it is a very bureaucratic system.

What is a sport?

This is a question that I revisit from time to time since I was 18. In the lobby of a college dorm hall, this question was surveyed to several people walking in and out by some pals and I. I believe this question originated from a Philadelphian who did not consider golf to be a valid sport. This was poorly received from the nearby chap who was a Californian golfer.

Philly defined sport as strictly games that are endorsed and sponsored by a city associated organization such as soccer, basketball, football, baseball, hockey, etc. (Think LA Lakers, NY Yankees, Pittsburg Penguins, Arizona Cardinals…)

The broadest definition we fielded was “anything with competition.” For further understanding of the justification for this definition, I probed various situations:

JH: “How about Golf?”

PA: “That’s a sport.”

JH: “Grades on a curve?”

PA: “That’s a sport.”


PA: “That’s a sport!”

Over the years I have refined my definition to this:
Sports are games with an objective that are judged on an objective scale, where the athlete does more work than the equipment involved. [There also seems like there should be some minimum energy expenditure requirement as well, because Pool and Poker are not really sports.]

For clarification, this definition rules out several olympic games such as figure skating, gymnastics, diving, etc. I call these competitive artforms. There is a subjective scale of judging. I completely respect the people who participate in these events, I understand that these require physical exertion, stamina, athleticism, practice and high skill level. By not classifying these events as sports, I do not mean any disrespect. I just like to classify things.

This also rules out motorsports. I like to call those MOTORsports. Again, no disrespect, I just do not think college basketball and nascar should be broadcast on the same channel. More on this later. Poker and football also should not be shown on the same channel.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Are champions the best?

I think not necessarily. 
I think that a champion is the winner of a systematic competition. A champion is not necessarily the best.

Conflicting opinion: The champion is the best until beaten. They are the best until proven otherwise.

All events have a random or unexplained element in them. If I flip a coin and it lands heads, do I assume that heads is the more probable outcome? If I cannot repeat the experiment I have nothing else to base it on. I submit that there is not evidence to support any hypothesis.
One competition can tell you absolutely who won that specific competition. The winner of a championship competition is by definition the champion. To find out who the best team is, there needs to be a larger sample size to approach the truth. I see the characteristic of being better or worse than someone as a mean and variance, not a single draw. A single draw from a distribution does not provide evidence to prove or disprove anything about mean or variance of the distribution. Likewise a single elimination championship game does nothing to prove or disprove which person or team is better.

Here are some practical examples. If I play ping pong with two friends. I can nearly always beat Dan, but Dan can almost always beat Landin. Alas, Landin can almost always beat me. So who is the best? I think it is very hard to tell. Is Landin better than me because he can beat me most of the time? The champion depends almost entirely on the systematic set up of the competition, primary which two play first (in single elimination.) 

So the winning team of the NCAA men's basketball tournament is clearly the champion, but are they the best? They might be, but I do not know. There is insufficient evidence to support that claim. Since there is definitely randomness in basketball games, the results will form a distribution if the experiment is repeated. With only one game it is hard to tell. Therefore, the more games that are in each round, the more likely the better team will prevail. The same way that more coin flips will tend to bring the flipper closer to the true distribution of outcomes.

To me this explains why there are less upsets in NBA playoffs compared with NCAA. Honestly, I really like March College hoops and think the randomness adds to the fun. I do not care if the tournament determines the best team or not. I think it is fun to watch and because there are high stakes, there is a high excitement level as well. Champion is good enough for me.