Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Soul Smothered Food

Mrs. Hall got me thinking more about cooking and eating out. I do like eating out but I also like to cook, but besides a few family recipes that I have learned growing up I wasn't too impressed with the food that I could make at home. That was before I found the third most important website in the internet: AllRecipes.com. (#1 is Google, #2 is Wikipedia)

AllRecipes is a recipe warehouse that instantly makes all cookbooks obsolete. There are thousands of recipes and for each specific dish there are many versions of it. For example there are 121 recipes for peanut butter cookies. Now that many recipes might sound overwhelming but this is where AllRecipes really shines, all of the recipes are open to rating and reviews. That means that the good versions rise to the top and the mediocre fall by the wayside. Not only that but the reviewers almost always have a couple of suggestions that make the dish even better.
Ever since we have found this website our cookbook purchases have gone down and the amount of awesome food produced in the kitchen has gone way up.

To get you started on your new path to cooking glory here are a couple of my recent favorites from the website:
Soul Smothered Chicken - Simple chicken dish that is awesome over mashed potatoes.
Orange and Lentil Soup - A very easy soup that I could eat day after day.
Ultimate Twice Baked Potatoes - They aren't healthy but they are yummy.


Friday, September 26, 2008


I just noticed that I have now passed 50,000 visitors to my blog. I have heard that you only need 100,000 visitors a month to be able to make $75,000 a year from blogging. I would say that I am almost there.

Thanks everybody for stopping on by to see what I have to say! Here is to another 4 years and another 50,000 views! Huzzah!

Also enjoy the first weekend of Fall.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Never trust a fat chef

When I moved to Tulsa I was happy to find that the restaurants per capita* was above average of the rest of the nation for major cities. As you may know I love eating and I love eating out, so I was looking forward to trying all the restaurants T-Town had to offer. After living here for a couple of months I am kinda disappointed, the average quality of restaurants here is below that in other cities.

I got to thinking about why this is, and the best I can come up with relates to my own personal idea of "never trust a fat chef". I figure if a person is a chef and is skinny he will be more likely to only serve good food where as a fat chef may be prone to serve any food, be it good or not. Since the fat chef eats a lot I assume that it means that he cares less about what he does eat. (I know that is morphing the original meaning of never trusting a skinny chef, but it works.)

So why would a city with more restaurants have worse restaurants on average? I think the best way to think about this is to imagine the opposite: why would a city with less restaurants have better restaurants? I think that this would happen because if there are less restaurants to keep track of the quality of each restaurant will be more widely known and thus bad restaurants will fail sooner. Now if there is alot of restaurants it is harder for people to know about all of them so that means that bad restaurants will get some business just because nobody has heard anything about them. This prolongs the life of the restaurant and thus drags the average quality down overall.

*(astute readers may raise your hypocrite flags, although it is a pretty standard phrase)

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Central American Super Conference

Like a soap opera there is constant talk about what colleges are thinking about leaving their conference to join another. For a couple of years there has been talk of Mizzu getting picked off to join the Big Ten, or Colorado State jumping the Mountain West ship to join their Colorado rivals in the Big XII. I have been thinking about possible solutions to the big TV contract that the Big 10 has and that the Big 12 would like to have, and here is my solution: merge the Big Ten and Big 12 into one super conference, with a big TV contract and many powerhouse teams.
I would break the Central American Super Conference into four divisions of 6 teams each, based on location. Here are the alignments:

CASC North (Prev. Conf.):
Illinois (Big Ten)
Iowa (Big Ten)
Iowa St (Big 12)
Minnesota (Big Ten)
Northwestern (Big Ten) *Notre Dame?*
Wisconsin (Big Ten)

CASC East:
Indiana (Big Ten)
Michigan (Big Ten)
Michigan St. (Big Ten)
Ohio State (Big Ten)
Penn (Big Ten)
Purdue (Big Ten)

CASC South:
Arkansas (SEC)
Texas (Big 12)
Texas A&M (Big 12)
Texas Tech (Big 12)
Oklahoma (Big 12)
Oklahoma St (Big 12)

CASC West:
Colorado (Big 12)
Colorado St (Mt. West)
Kansas (Big 12)
Kansas St. (Big 12)
Mizzu (Big 12)
Nebraska (Big 12)

The structure for a football season of a member of the Central American Super Conference would be:
3 games out of Conference
5 games inside division
3 games in other divisions (one in each other division, based on a rotating schedule)
1 floating game

The extra floating game would be used to seed the championship game, where each of the top teams in each division would play each other, the winner of which would play in the CASC Championship game (for example the North Division winner plays the East Division winner as a play in to the CASC championship game). All of the other teams in the CASC will choose who they play on the last week by draft. So the best CASC team that does not lead it's division can pick any other available CASC teams to play at home, then the next best remaining team can pick, until the final week of the season is set. This will allow teams decide what they need to get accomplished in their last week of the season, do they need to rest their players, or do they need to make a statement win? It will allow the better teams to get home field advantage and make the last week of CASC play very interesting.

Since the Big Ten and Big 12 are merging I would hope that the BCS would grant 2 BCS bowl bids to the Super Conference, so both teams that play in the CASC Championship game get into BCS bowls. The winner of the CASC Championship would almost be a shoo-in for the NCAA Championship.

Just imagine the power that the Central American Super Conference would have in sports. Especially if they could swing some sort of revenue sharing deal including TV coverage and Bowl games. The SEC would tremble in their swamping boots (and then quickly eat the ACC. Also the Pac-10 and Mountain West would merge.)

Bet we see this happen before we see NCAA football go to a playoff system.

Edit: Switched the North and East division teams to match geography, added Norte Dame as a replacement for Northwestern. There is possibly a better spot for Notre Dame in the East, but that would take a bit of team shuffling.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Pro Screw Yourself

My job is sort of like a statistical game show, where I get asked random questions about random statistical things. Most the time I don't have a problem, but sometimes I have no clue about the procedure the customer is asking about and I have to do a bit of research.

Unfortunately if I haven't heard about a procedure at all it means that it is either new or not used. And unfortunately that means that information on it is limited. To add further complications the information that I can find is usually provided by somebody who holds the idea dear. And to add one more layer of suckage, if the idea is flawed then the person will compensate by trying to complicate the idea by using fluff words to describe the process. And since that is the only resource for the topic I must read it and sift through the plies of crap words.

For example today I did some searching about a topic that some economics developed. The person writing the article felt that he needed to sound smarter than the average bear so he kept on using the term "pro rata", which I have never heard before, but It turns out that pro rata means in proportion. Would it have been that hard to just say in proportion?

General rule of thumb: "If the reader understands it, it is written correctly. If there is any confusion then it is written incorrectly." Inserting pro rata and a priori and mumbo-jumbo does not make you prove your point, it just confuses the reader about what you are actually doing.

I guess that might be the point.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


My office bro, Kent, broke out some vintage Cinnaburst gum today in celebration of becoming a "Ratings Master" on Yahoo Music. He estimates that the gum is more than 12 years old. The gum tasted like I remembered, however the flavor is already all but gone. Good times.

One of the things I remember the most about the gum is that ads that they ran during Channel One. Channel One being a "news" program for kids that schools would show during home room, in exchange for the news and free tv's for the school, the kids get 5 or so minutes of commercials with a very captive audience. Needles to say almost all of the ads during Channel One rocked, probably because they were aimed directly at my age group.

Anywho, thanks to the wonderful world of YouTube I can relive my favorite ad-at-school moments:

Monday, September 15, 2008

Campaign Game

November is a only a couple of months away (mental note, register to vote in Tulsa) and that means General Election time! To get in the mood for mud slinging and money bagging you should check out Campaign Game.
The game is somewhat like chess, where you are trying to capture the opponent's king piece, however there is an element of area control. The more regions you capture the more money you raise which you can use on better attacks. It is a cute game, fun for a play or two. Clicky.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Don't Call it Ping Pong

Friday over lunch Nicole and I participated in the annual company table tennis tournament.

We did ok and won the "Just for fun" bracket. Then we went on to play the winners from the "Good players" bracket. They beat us soundly and won some sweet Hulk gloves.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Large Hadron Collider

The big story in science news these days is the start of experiments with the Large Hardron Collider. I had a general idea about what a particle accelerator did, but here is an excellent video that explains how the LHC works:

Knowing that it is real makes me fell like we are living in the future; A future that is void of hovering cars.

Check out the Large Hadron Collider webcams here.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Made it through the desert.

One of the features that I really looked forward to when I got my cellphone was that I could upload pictures to blogger automatically. And for awhile I posted many pictures. However, something changed inside of Blogger and the pictures uploaded looked bad, so I stopped. Well it looks like they got some things fixed and mobile pics look good once again. Long live the mobile picture post!

The tea that I am drinking is Arizona's Black & White Tea, and it is the best tea to ever be put in a can. Unfortunately I can only find it at the local Walgreen's here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mind = Blown

Every once in a while I learn something that just changes my whole world view. Today I found something out that I still haven't even come to terms with yet, and part of me thinks that the whole world is playing a prank on me.

What did I learn?

There is more than one Casa Bonita. AND the other one is in Tulsa.

Yeah, that just happened.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Waist high and knee deep

I currently am [title] in NFL data. I figure that I need a data set that I know the quirks of so I can do some better testing, so I have decided to type up the NFL data for this year. Since week one is almost done I have enough data to start playing around so I have been seeing how things look. Here is an example of a graph I have made for factor loadings to predict wins:
Basically the way to road this graph is that the further right you go the more that stat helps you win NFL games, so Rushing Attempts are good, Kick Return Yards are bad. (Think about why getting Kick Return Yards are bad, it makes sense.)

In other news: Lollipop by Mika is a song that is one huge hook and nothing else, I'm not saying that the song is good, but it is brilliant. And to top it off the music video is a visual version of the song. This is as close to candy as you can get while listening to music (diabetics beware):

Friday, September 05, 2008


Sometimes when everything lines up and the music is just right, everything is right. Hope you have a good Friday.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Thoughts on running a fantasy football league.

The skies are overcast, the weather is cold, and there is a familiar tune in the air. Tonight the football season starts in full swing.

With NFL football comes fantasy football, and since my job leaves me with some down time while at work I have been looking at how other people run their fantasy football leagues, I am surprised by what I had learned. So I thought that I would share with you my thoughts on fantasy football.

This year will be the sixth year for the Pirate Islands Fantasy Football (PIFF). The league is a "keeper" league that has 14 teams, and I know personally each of the coaches. The league averages about one new coach a year, which is a nice low turnover rate. Even though I had been playing fantasy football for a couple years p
rior to PIFF the origins of the league actually started when my friend 
Newgen invited all of us Garden City buds to play in a league. After that first year I stole the idea and set up the PIFF.

Currently I only play fantasy football in PIFF. For a couple of years I played in a couple of other leagues as well, but having so many players to track was not fun. It wasn't that there was just too many players- at times I would want a player to do good for one league and then also hope he doesn't do good for another. That just isn't fun.

I think my overall philosophy with running the PIFF is to try to make it as close to real football as possible. The biggest departure from traditional fantasy football leagues is the scoring system that we use. I won't get into the details here but I did my master thesis on finding a good scoring system, keeping in mind that fantasy football should be as close to real football as possible. Using a modified version of the scoring system devised in my paper we end up with game score totals usually ranging from 20-40 points.

Another rule that keeps the "realism" up in PIFF is to require all the teams to have names that follow the standard NFL convention, i.e. Place Name, Team Name. So my team is the Tea Republic Steepers, and the newest team in the league is the Berry Isle Rum Runners. I have been poking around on some other leagues and found the team names to be similar to: "Urine Trouble!" or "Messin' With Sasquatch" (true story). I just don't get why people would play in a league (and some even pay money) when the team names are just throwaway phrases.

The most time consuming thing that I do to try to increase the realism of the league is to make helmets for each of the teams. This takes awhile to do on my part, but I think that it is always worth the effort.

PIFF seems to have a good since of involvement with the coaches. All the teams are up kept and everyone tries to win, but no one is a jerk about it. I think that the main reason that the league rums so smoothly is that we all know each other, well I know everyone, some coaches don't personally know all the other coaches. But having a relationship with the coaches of the league outside of fantasy football makes everything run better in the league.

Another thing that makes the league run smoothly is that there is no money involved. We play for free on Yahoo, and I do not require an entry fee. Generally an entry fee is collected to ensure that there will be no dud coaches, and to add a bit of "excitement". Since the league is invite only we don't have a problem with deadbeat coaches, however I have pondered different ways to reward the championship team, so that there is some extra incentive to win the league. Sometimes I make a championship T-shirt or a trophy, but it seems that just the fact of being the league champion is enough to make the playoff exciting.

Speaking of playoffs that is the area in which PIFF has had the most disagreement. We have always had the last week of the NFL regular season be the championship game, however there has been some objections about this since many all-star players sit out the last week. I can see why this is a concern, however I believe that making the championship game on the last week of the regular season rewards the teams that have depth, and don't just rely on one or two key players to push them through the season. After scoring changes the decision to keep the last week as the championship week is issue that I think about the hardest each year when I set up the league.

Another playoff topic is how many teams to include. In the past Yahoo allowed 4 or 8 teams to get in. The first year of PIFF the playoff field was 8 teams. I found that allowing this many teams to get in the playoffs diminishes the importance in the regular season, so from year two on PIFF has a 4 team Championship Playoff (and 4 team consolation playoff). I believe that Yahoo now offers a 6 team playoff option that mimics how the NFL handles its playoffs. I would like to move to that format, however it eats up one more week of the regular season. But if the NFL axes some pre-season games in favor of more regular season games I will strongly consider moving to a 6 team playoff structure.

After each season each team is allowed to keep any number of players on his team, as long as they have room under the imposed salary cap. The value for the salary cap for each team is found by taking the current NFL cap value and removing some zeros from the number. Also money that was not spent from the previous years is added to this figure. The cost to keep each player is based on well the player performed in PIFF as well as how much the player cost his NFL team. The reason that I chose to use the salary cap as a method to keep players is to allow teams to keep some of their good players while allowing weaker teams to pick up some of the trimmings from the roster cuts. It seems that this has worked so far and some of the crafty coaches have been able to stay on top of the league by keeping key players while dropping expensive players that underperform. But also there is always at least one different team each year that makes a run of the championship. Helping the weak teams is also addressed by having the draft for new players run in reversed finish order, without snaking.

I won't talk too much about the scoring system that we use, you can read my paper for my ideas on that. But one big change for this year is that defensive teams will score negative points based on how many points they allow. I think that this is the best way to represent how actual NFL defenses work. The down side to this is that nobody wants to play a team defense since it will only hurt the total score. So have to impose a rule that each team must play an active team defense each week or face a hefty 20 point fine. I picked 20 points because it is more than what a team defense can lose in a game if they were played, so you can't gain any bonus by not playing one, however there is still a slim chance that you can win your game if you do happen to forget... and by slim I mean I doubt anyone could ever win a game if they don't play a team defense, but there is a chance.

I have many more thoughts on the minor parts of running a fantasy football league, but I will stop here with just some of the major topics. But enough talk, it is time to sit down watch a good game of football and hope Eli Manning doesn’t have a good game but Plaxico Burress does. Yaaarg!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Happy 4th Blogday!

Four years ago today I started down the path of ironically blogging on a blog called "I don't like the word blog".

2,356 posts later I still don't like the word blog.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Bowl Game for K-State? Mayhap.

This weekend I caught a K-State football game on accident. Well, I had gone to Manhattan on purpose, but not with the intent of seeing a game, but when the opportunity arose I couldn't pass it up. So here are my thoughts on how the team looks:

Offense: Freeman is holding up well. He definitely has learned to stay in the pocket, but still has the ability to make a run for it if he needed to. I don't think that he made too many bad passes, and none of them were horrible, so that is a plus. Our running back situation is a bit shakier. Leon Patton is suspended indefinitely, which left the running game to fall on Valentine's shoulders. Although Valentine is a bit slow, he seems to be able to pick a good line when running. I was really impressed with him last year when he got a shot and I think he will be an adequate back, however he is not a show stopper. Overall K-State was able to put together sustained drives that resulted in points, this is a change from the past where K-State relied on big gains to move the chains.

Defense: I am a bit more worried about us in this category. The 6 points North Texas scored was off of a turnover while the second team was in. However the lack of scoring was more of an indication of a lack of offense for North Texas than a good defense by K-State. The defensive line had problems wrapping up running backs. Play fakes worked a bit too well. And the big thing I am worried about is that our defensive backs gave way too much of a cushion. If our guys are worried about getting burned against the North Texas wide receivers we are going to have huge problems against better teams. Back in the day of Dylan Meier I used to be relieved when our defense was on the field, this year I will not be.

Special Teams: Ah, K-State's unrecognized bread and butter. For some reason we have always been able to crank out the good special teams players, and recently there has been 4 NFL teams using K-State players for kick and punt returns at the same time. So you know we are all set in the special team’s area right? Yup you guessed it; we were unimpressive in the first game of the season. Besides Deon Murphy's first good punt return it seemed like he was much more interested in running parallel to the lines instead of perpendicular. I don't mind trying to get a bit of running room, but always ditching your blockers so that you can run 40 yards back and forth to net a minus two yard return is not a sound plan to keep the spot. After awhile Murphy was replaced by a different returner that didn't have the charisma of Deon, but also would safely get a 10 yard return. We are going to have to work on this.

So how do I think we will do? Well let's look at the games:

North Texas... W 45-6
Montana St... Win
at Louisville... Loss
Louisiana-Laf... Win
Texas Tech... Loss
at Texas A&M... Win
at Colorado... Loss
Oklahoma... Loss
at Kansas... Win
at Missouri... Loss
Nebraska... Loss
Iowa State... Win

So it looks like it will be 6-6, with an iffy win at KU, and a chance to grab a couple of more wins from Colorado, Nebraska, and Louisville. Not too bad considering that our schedule is pretty harsh this year. Texas Bowl here we come!