Muttroxia: Best of 2008

The presidential race:
Edwards quits, so I change from Edwards to Hillary. An analogy on choosing my candidate. I switch to Obama. Hilary gets screwed again by the media. Is McCain Bush’s lapdog? What do you think of Sarah Palin (lots of good comments)? We learned more later about howshe was picked. McCains fundamentals. I called the election on Oct 20th, and gave some perspective on American elections.

Other politics:
Torture Update
(By the way, recent document dumps confirm that the torture policies were agreed on and implemented by the very very top people.)
Senate Holds (though Coburn has steadily been gaining points with me)

Social Security Update, with a couple of key graphs (1 and 2).

Random Funny:
Fountain drink and buffet lines.
Restaurant floor managers
Nice Brains
Gender prediction
Crazy marketing
Arguing with Papa Johns.
Disney World, and the worst ride ever.
Building Security
Analyzing basketball names at the Olympics, and my favorite Olympics moment.
Dumb T-Shirts
Too much Excel

Childrens Wisdom: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. And a bit from the wife.

Semi-serious:
Applied Math
Muttrox’s Day in Court
Benfords Law
New Years Resolution and update.
Led Zeppelin are cheaters
Ignorant letter
Sign of the Times

More…
I started giving updates on every poker game starting in March. Search for “Poker Updates.”
Search for “Links o’ Interest” to get my many links to the wonders of the internet.
Here are the previous best of editions, 2005/6 and 2007.

New Years Day: Our Stupidist Holiday

New Years Day is a pathetic excuse for a holiday. What is it celebrating? The arbitrary reset of our consensus calendar system. Who cares? This is a remnant of our superstitious past, where we thought the way we measured time affected the way time passed. This is cut from the same cloth as stupid Russians revolting when the change to Gregorian calendar moved them from Jan 1st to Feb 14th overnight. Hey Nikolai, it’s just bookkeepping, you didn’t really lose six weeks of your life!

We might as well have a holiday every time there is daylight savings time, or they add a leap second.

You want to drink and party? Do it any ol’ day. You want to mark the turning of the seasons? Use the Winter Solstice – you’ve just passed the shortest day of the year and you’re now turning towards spring. You want to make a resolution? Make it on your birthday – it makes more sense.

Bah Humbug. Just a stupid idea for a holiday.

Patriots Wrap-up

In 2009, the Patriots were both the best team ever to lose the Super Bowl, and the best team since 1985 not to make the playoffs.

A couple posts ago I asked if it was good that an 11-5 might not make it, while (for example) the 8-8 Chargers got in. Even though my own team got screwed, I’m going to say it’s a good thing.

  • As soon as Brady went down, the season was written off by most people. Even with as good as we did, the Pats were never going to win the Super Bowl. They weren’t even going to make it there. Not being in the playoffs doesn’t matter so much.
  • We had an easy schedule. Not as easy as it should have been (four games against the Jets and Dolphins were expected to be all wins), but still. Our 11-5 isn’t as meaningful as it would have been the last few years.
  • It’s not as fair, but it makes sports more interesting. It’s kind of neat that a good team doesn’t make it every once in a while.

For whatever it’s worth, Yglesias agrees with me while Easterbrook calls it Armageddon.

I suppose I’ll have to root for Atlanta the next couple of weeks. Or maybe New York – if they win, then their victory over the Patriots has more legitimacy.

Celtics Lakers

The preview of the finals was a great game. Too bad the refs were horrible. In the last few minute they called a charge on Rondo when Fisher wasn’t even close to set, and called a block on Pierce when he clearly was. The last one iced the game for the Lakers.

That puts the Celtics at 27-3, or a 90% win rate. That projects out to a 74-8 season, two games better than the Bulls’ record. I don’t think it’s going to happen. But it’s nice to think about.

Speaking of Rondo: Yes, he’s much better this year. But let’s be honest, it’s not hard to look good when you’ve got Garnett/Allen/Pierce around. All you have to do is be competent. Which he is. The weirdest part is that every part of his game has improved except that little floater move of his. His rookie year it was a great tool, this year it never goes in. Never. I think he is zero for sixty on it this year. Stop it!!

Patriots Update

After Week 1, I predicted the Patriots would finish 10-6 or 11-5. With one game to go that counts as a bullseye prediction for ol’ Muttrox.

The Pats need to beat the Bills. Assuming they do, then we need the Jets to beat the Dolphins. If that happens, we’re automatically in as division winners. The Jets have been eliminated (I think). Mangini and Bellicek hate each other. Would Mangini actually throw a game just to keep the Pats out? I don’t think so. I don’t think anyone throws games in the NFL.

In baseball or basketball, no individual game means that much for job security. In the NFL, every game is huge. For a coach, the difference between 10-6 and 9-7 could mean his job. Throwing a game would be very very risky. I also believe the most players are incapable of throwing games. I have tried to throw poker games and for the most part I just can’t. And I’m certainly not a professional who got there partially because of my killer competitive instinct.

This season once again shows how the division structure is unfair. The Pats, Jets, and Dolphins are all good teams. Certainly better than the crappy Cardinals we humiliated last week. Nevertheless, the Patriots could easily go 11-5 and not make the playoffs. Is that bad, or part of what makes football interesting?

AirTran has no Advertising Credibility

AirTran charged me $15 to check one bag for two people. It was expected but that didn’t make any less annoying.

Inside the terminal they had a coffee area. Above it was a big sign that said, “Free Coffee. One more way AirTran is saving you money.”

Screwing me for $15 and giving me a $2 cup of coffee does not even out. Also, I don’t drink coffee.

Links o’ Interest

The best viral videos of 2008

Tom the Dancing Bug at it’s best

European Scams ‘05

The Shoe attack on Bush. Try it yourself! And the Bushtrix version.

Most likely to succeed:
Malcolm Gladwell on predicting success

Oh, that’s sneaky

Mad Scientists

A different take on It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s terrible.

As Megan said, these guys managed to shorten “Don’t be evil” by one key word.

Evander Holyfield is trying to regain the title at age 46. I don’t see Mike Tyson following that.

Women’s car gets stuck on train tracks. She dials 911 and asks for help instead of getting out of the car.

Real life Dilbert Manager quotes

2008 in pictures.
Parts 1, 2, 3.

Barack Obama’s campaign manager gives a rare interview.

America the melting pot: A neat visualization of immigration to the USA since 1820.

Poker Update

I never had my mojo tonight. My semi-bluffs got called, my bluffs got called, my one good hand did not. Blech.

Already whittled away, I have Ah-6h in the small blind. I call a min raise, the flop is 9-6-4. The raiser raises again. I looked him over and made a read that he was full of it. He often is. I called. The next card is 9h. He raises again putting me all in. I have the sixes and four cards to the flush and what the heck, I call. He did not have much. J-9, so the turn had given him trip 9s. I didn’t get my flush on the river. I rebought.

The next round treated me much better. I wasn’t playing any better, just the cards were falling clearly. I usually either had something or I didn’t, which is much better than marginal hands.

I call a raise with Ac-10c. The flop is Kc-xc-xc. I have the nut flush! It’s me and the same guy who knocked me out. He raises, I call. The turn is nothing. He raises, I call. I glance at my cards — uh oh! I misread my cards! My Ace is the Ace of spades, not clubs — I don’t have a flush at all! But now I have to call, the pot odds are with me. The river is the Qc. I have the flush (again!). It’s not the nut flush anymore, but only Ac and Jc beat me. He raises once more. I again figure, what the heck and call. My 10c beats his 9c. I get my revenge and double up.

I have about 4K, blinds are 3-6. I am having a conversation with another player whether short stack should be thought of as how much you have relative to other people (that’s the way I see it) or relative to the blind amounts. He thinks it’s blinds, and since he has only 10 blinds he is short-stacked. The next hand he goes all-in. Everyone folds to me, I have 6-6. Hm. This guy can play anything. And he thinks he’s short-stacked. I figure him for two high cards. But mainly it’s 10:45 and I have to get home and print and stuff and fold and organize our holiday cards. What the heck, I call. He has A-K. He gets his Ace and knocks me out.

Way too much “what the heck” playing from me tonight. I was definitely making some bad plays just to get some action.

Tonight: -$40
Running Total: $515

Good Customer Service Uses Sympathy

A few weeks ago my beloved TiVo broke. It did not break all the way but it was not recording all shows properly. I called their support line. The person diagnosed the problem quickly – it was a “known issue”. The fix was to reset my entire system, which would unfortunately delete all my season pass and preferences. They would all need to be redone. I was annoyed. I have 55 season passes. You heard right, 55 of them. Can’t I back this up somewhere? No. Can I export the list somehow? No. Can you save off my info at TiVo central and send it back to me in some format? No. I would just have to suck it up. Man, that’s annoying. I was angry.

Suck it up I did. I took a pad of paper and carefully wrote down all the season passes. I reset the system (this takes about three hours). I started entering all the season passes back. I hadn’t thought to record my thumbs up and thumbs down, so it has taken a few weeks more for TiVo to learn my likes and dislikes.

Thinking about it later I realized how the support person could have done a better job. At not point did she show any sympathy that this was a giant pain. If she had simply said, “I’m sorry but we don’t have any easy way to back up and re-enter your season pass information. You’re going to have to that manually yourself. I know it’s a lot of trouble for you.” I would have been much more calm about it. A simple admission that she was asking me to do labor to fix their problem in their product would have helped a lot.

Links o’ Interest

You wouldn’t buy…

Things I’d like to tell students that would probably get me fired.

Poor kid. Girl Accidentally Text Messages Her Dad After Losing Her Virginity. And the internet is hot on the parody trail already…

10 Greatest Videos of Animals Playing Sports

The Drug Czar is forbidden, by law from supporting any drug legalization. I did not know that.

Spin the Black Circle. That is one hard game.

Carol of the Old Ones

Why Rickey Henderson should get 100% of the Hall of Fame vote

I found him!

5 Job Interview Questions That Mean You’re Not Getting Hired…And One That Means You Are

Tow truck revenge

This is why Jon Stewart is the best political host out there. He respectfully argues about issues of substance.

Human Slinky

Christmas Lights

The first ever escapee from a North Korean prison camp

Programming a small car with genetic algorithms. Let it run, check in every once in a while.

Wondering how much a Senate seat goes for? The opening bid is $500,000.

In an earlier recorded conversation, prosecutors say, Mr. Blagojevich said he was approached by an associate of “Candidate 5” with an offer of $500,000 in exchange for the Senate seat.

How Obama brought down Blagojevich

This Isn’t Journalism

I hate sentences like this:

I resolved to return to Lealtad in an attempt to understand the despair at Joys, but also in the conviction that the secret lexicon of 50-year dictatorships can be read only in the details of daily life.

What a load of crap. What you mean it that you’re writing a journal and want to make it seem more important. You walk around a couple areas of Atlanta for a few days and look at the details of daily life and you will know next to nothing about the “secret lexicon” of the United States.

Facebook

So far I am not super-impressed. It has one deal-killer flaw. Everyone is either friend or not-friend, there is no in-between.

It does a good job of showing me who’s in the system that I might want to contact. But there is no intermediary step where I can catch up, see their basic profile, and then stop. Nope, it’s either full access or nothing. I don’t want to give everyone full access. I don’t mind putting semi-personal stuff out there, but I see no reason to tell 150 people how I blew my fantasy football season. An old buddy sent me an invite. I haven’t seen him for 15 years, I want to know what he’s up to, but I don’t want to give him the same access as my real friends. Mrs. Muttrox is peeved because she crossed the line of professionalism – she has too many colleagues on her friend list. Now she feels that she can’t do anything fun because her next employer will know about it. I am friends with lots of people at work in the real world but I am reluctant to add most of them to my Facebook friend list.

This problem is doubly stupid because it’s so easily solved. All you need to do is add a layer called “acquaintances”. Or add a few layers, you can set any person to be friend “level” 1-4. Or you could have separate access for friends and colleagues. Then you decide what levels can see anything that goes up on your wall and such. It’s a trivial programming issue.

Feel free to send me a friend request. If I don’t accept it’s nothing personal. Unfortunately I am unable to merely dip my toe in the friendship water, it seems you have to take a full dive. I don’t want to.

Links o’ Interest

World War II

Smoking sign fail

Why you should check your kids homework

December 9th is pretend to be a time traveler day. Excellent.

Times are tough – the rich are cutting back on mistresses

What causes War. Could have come straight from Collapse.

Can all conflict be reduced beyond even team aggression and resource competition, down to the single factor of population growth? It’s not quite that simple, but a deeper investigation of the role of population increase shows quite clearly that growth rate and population demographics function as significant triggers for raiding, wars, and even terrorism. …. Their study suggests that population growth accounts for a powerful 80–90 percent* of the variation between periods of war and peace.

What if Starbucks was run like a church?

Sarah Palin on the $10,000 pyramid

Michael Vick bankrupt in prison. How’d that happen?

8 Best recurring gags on Arrested Development

Neil Gaiman on free speech for icky things.

This is where we live

The front fell off. So real, I have no idea what it’s from.

Lunch

Prop 8: The Musical. Heck of a cast. By the way, Neil Patrick Harris is gay. Boy, can he act.

Using electrostimulus to feel the beat. Very weird.

Google shows Microsoft how to connect the dots

Something’s different about you… you’re going bald!

I don’t know the facts, but I’m on the side of the Satch

More Stupid French tricks

Tips for clueless people who get mugged

Poker Update

Things started off great. 20 minutes in I got K-K. I upped the blinds from 50 to 150, got two callers. The flop was K-x-x. I put in another 150. I was raised to 500. Gave the acting job of my life to reluctantly call. The turn was nothing. I checked, he checked. The river was nothing. I checked again, he put in 500. I went all-in, he called, I busted him out. He had K-Q and never saw it coming.

And then it all fell apart. Two factors.

  1. The law of small numbers. In one hand I had A-10, the flop was K-x-x. I had bet heavy preflop and semi-bluffed postflop getting lots of action. There was an all-in. I figured him for K and nothing else. I had 2 cards to get an ace and I was getting 4 to 1 on my money. Had to do it. I did it and lost. On two other hands I had pushed big on bluffs, gotten a huge raise back and found myself with the pot odds right to call even though I figured I was well behind. I was both times and lost both times. The lesson is: Pot odds only work when the pots are fairly small in relation to your stack. If they are big then you can get busted out with only one or two hands going the wrong way. Playing a 20% hand with 7-1 on your money is a winning bet over the long run, but if you only have enough money to do it twice, the odds are you’re going home.
  2. I was out of it. I woke up at 5:00 am and couldn’t get back to sleep. I had a ongoing firefight at work in the morning. I broke my glasses. Then we had layoffs announced. In the midst of all this, Mrs. Muttrox called to let me know that the 3-year old had fallen off his bike and was at the hospital getting stitches. By the time I got to the game I was mentally done already.

So I got knocked out. I was packing up to go home when we decided to change house rules and allow later buy-ins, because we had started with only six. Muttrox, you in? Um. Yeah, sure, why not. It’s only money. I lost that stack pretty quickly too. Went all in with 9-9 on a short stack, J-J called me and won. Oh well.

Tonight: -$40
Running Total: $555

Did we Win in Iraq?

From Yglesias:

…it’s worth observing that absolutely integral to starting to achieve success in Iraq was the rolling strategic decision to abandon our main war aims. In particular, we’re now neither trying to create a strong Iraqi state, nor trying to create an Iraqi state that isn’t dominated by pro-Iranian forces, nor trying to create an Iraqi state that’s a base for American military power, nor especially trying to create a stable Iraqi democracy. I think all of those decisions were the right decisions, based in smart pragmatic thinking about Iraqi realities and American interests. But if we didn’t want to do that stuff, that we could have just not invaded in the first place. Which is exactly what we should have done!

But this is an important point. It seems that Bill Kristol is running around saying “we won the war” in Iraq. In the real world, back in 2004 when liberals were proposing that the United States radically curtail its objectives in Iraq and agree to a firm date for leaving, conservatives called that proposal “losing.” I’m glad they’re now willing to lower their horizons and accept less. But the implausible partisan spin doesn’t change the fact that the war’s been a strategic disaster. Nor does it change the fact that Iraq looks to me more like a lesson in the limits of counterinsurgency than its promise. But it doesn’t seem to me that it’s being read that way. America is a country of optimists and a country that loves the uniformed military and the idea of success, so I think folks are going to look at the very equivocal “success” of 2007-2008 in Iraq and possibly reach some very unsound conclusions about the prospects for succeeding at other ventures.

Yep.

Georgia Senate Election: And if I’m Wasting My Time

I voted yesterday in Georgia’s runoff election for Senator. I did it, but it felt like a duty I needed to fulfill rather than the palatable excitement on Nov 3rd. Mrs. Muttrox felt the same way. We already knew Martin was going to lose. And if he did, so what? Sure Chambliss is a complete scumbag but the Dems control all three branches either way.

I didn’t look at the result until early this morning. Sure enough, Martin got creamed. It wasn’t even close, 57% to 43%. It’s clear that the only reason he was close in the first round was the spillover from Obama voters. Participation went from 3.7 million to 2 million.

That leaves the Democrats with 58 Senate seats, 59 if Franken comes through. That’s more than enough. For all the partisanship talk, you will not see 41 Republicans fillibustering on a regular basis. Even in these last years there were usually a few congressman from either party crossing lines for any particular vote.

Lastly, I’ll add that political advertising is just awful. This is the first time Georgia has been in play and the airwaves have been deluged with both parties ads. All of them are terrible. I wish I could say they’re dishonest, but that’s besides the point. They are so devoid of any content that they can’t be judged on truth. Any nugget of factual information has been distorted beyond the point of recognition. Even the ads on “my side” were no fun to watch. As a fairly educated citizen interested in politics, the level of discourse made me a little ill.

(Title reference here)