On the harsh reality of football

This past weekend, Penn State played Ohio State. I did not watch the game. I was at my sister's wedding, which although I give her credit for not scheduling during a home Penn State game, she still could have chosen the week we play someone not ranked #1 in the country. By the way, Cheryl's wedding was great -- to give you some idea how great, I made it all the way through about 30 minutes of the ceremony before even wondering what the score was!

Anyway... back to football. When I was an undergrad, Penn State was good. It all culminated in the 1994 undefeated season. You can say whatever you want and you will never, ever convince me that we did not deserve the national championship that year (just to remind everyone -- that offense included Kerry Collins, Bobby Engram, Kyle Brady, Marco Rivera, and Jeff Hartings -- who are all still playing in the NFL 12 years later). I think that's where my perspective comes from -- ever since 1994, I expect every year that Penn State will be a contender, that we can win every game, that we are in every game even when we are underdogs. Even during the lowest of the low (which I define as the 6-4 loss to Iowa), I never lost hope. For example, during the 3-9 season, we were 2-6 when it was time to play Ohio State. I was probably the only one in the stadium who believed that we could win, and in fact sat there the entire game thinking we were going to win. I don't know if anyone else remembers that game, but I remember the score being 20-21 with time running out and Joe put us in position to let our rocket leg kicker David Kimball try a 60+ yard field goal attempt. He missed it by a matter of feet. To this day I think that had that field goal been good, things would have been different -- Joe probably would have not gotten as much criticism and there would have been more optimism around the team.

As everyone knows, in 2005 things turned around, we finished 11-1, beat Bowden and Free Shoes U in the Orange Bowl, and except for the extra 2 seconds the refs gave Lloyd Carr, we might have played for the National Championship.

So I was thinking that this year things would continue where we left off -- we might lose a game or two, but we had every reason to believe we would go undefeated, knock off ND in South Bend, OSU in Columbus, and finally get the Wolverine off our back at home. So, how did that work out? Well, ND was bad, OSU was good except for the last few minutes, and for the first time in my life, I am not optimistic about playing Michigan.

I think that I have come to the conclusion that I've been deluded into believing that Penn State is an elite team that should be preseason ranked top 5 every year, considered a threat for the mythical national championship every year, and should be expected to beat both OSU and UM at least half of the time. It is now clear that we are a second tier team (which isn't a bad thing -- it's just that I could never bring myself to admit this before) that should be expected to be a 7 / 8 win team each year, and maybe every once in a while can be expected to pull off an upset over a truly elite team.

I wish it wasn't true, but it is.


On weddings, weddings, and weddings

Shan and I are in bee-yoo-tee-ful East Stroudsburg PA for my sister's wedding later today. So I thought, what better time to get caught up by writing a bit about the Rutherford / Siegel wedding.

The first thing I'll say, is that wedding or no wedding, it was a great UVa astronomy reunion. We had -- thesis advisor Steve, classmate and groom Mikey, classmate and future dad Nak, youngsters Jeffrey Meg & Josh, and former undergrad current UT grad Amy. We had a lot of fun catching up and talking about the golden days at UVa.

I don't know if anyone cares outside of the ~10 of us that lived it, but the years from '95 - '00 at UVa were great fun. I don't know what it was, but our class bonded pretty instantly and had a great time in our years together. I know that grad school is tough for many people, but the camaraderie that we had (and still have) definitely had a positive impact on all of us (I don't care -- I'll speak for everybody).

Anyway -- the wedding was great. It was a chance to reminisce with the UVa folks, but it was also just fun all around. There were something like ~50 people there, and everyone had fun chatting, eating, and doing our best to polish off the beer and wine. I love weddings, mostly because they're such happy occasions that everyone can't help but have a good time. Other than the stripping incident (that thankfully did not involve the groom), I think fun was had by all. I had a great time, although I did have to step out during the wedding for some anti-inflammatories. I was throwing Mikey's nephew up in the air over and over and over and over again, and it got to the point where I felt as though I had just played volleyball for 3 hours. I needed to ice my knees down, but sucked it up, took some naproxen, and got back in the game.

All in all, we added another state to our list of those visited (Texas), we helped Mikey & Sue before, during, and after the wedding, we ate yummy barbecue before and wedding cake during, and survived having to miss the PSU / Akron game.

Congrats to the happy couple, who are now back from their honeymoon, and hopefully we get to see Dr. & Dr. Siegel before too long.


Just back from Baltimore

I'm home again for 3.5 days before leaving town again and don't expect I'll have much time to write more this week. I still owe (and intend to write about) topics I listed on 9.06, but I wanted to mention a few more things here because if I don't I'll forget.

  • Buy Steele Hill's book. Steele is a very nice guy, SOHO is cool, and he let me flip through his book and it looks great. I just added it to my amazon wish list.

  • I got killed in fantasy football this week in both leagues. By some bizarre coincidence, I got to face Peyton Manning in both leagues on the same day he scores 30+ points.

  • 2003 UB 313 is now Eris, the largest dwarf planet or to use the parlance of our times -- the Pluto killer.

  • Yet another reason why my wife is cool (and I guess insane, too). She kicks butt.

  • The result of this week's MNF game (Jags 9, Stillers 0) was disappointing, but it wasn't as painful to watch. The interlude with Wade wasn't nearly as obnoxious as Foxx's last week. The game was pretty boring, though, so I admit to paying little attention. Maybe they were just better during the times I was paying attention, and were bad when I was typing.

  • Scanning the waiver wire again showed that Michael Haynes got cut by the Saints. I turned up an article saying he has a serious back injury, though, and is pursuing a grievance against Da Bears. Here's hoping he gets better and back on the field.

By the way -- reading the Scar by Mieville now -- pretty good as of page 230.


On summer reads

During my time at the beach, I read three completely different books. I enjoyed them all, so I figured I'd give all of them a plug.

I'm actually very surprised that I read this book. I mostly read to escape, so I tend to pick fiction, and I tend not to think too much about the plot. I just read, try to enjoy the story, and then put the book down. I almost never read non-fiction. I have never had a strong interest in history, biographies, or Westerns. I really enjoyed the movie Tombstone, and I also found the TV show Deadwood to be pretty interesting, though, so I've been meaning to read up a bit on the truth behind those two stories. I've had a copy of Tefertiller's book for a while, and so I decided to start reading it right before the beach. I found it to be pretty fascinating. I had no idea at all about the real story of Wyatt Earp. This book definitely paints a completely different picture of "cowboys" compared to what TV and the movies lead you to believe. I got the feeling that the folks who write Deadwood got some of their inspiration from Tefertiller's book, because there are passages in the book that reminded me of scenes I had seen in the TV show, even though Deadwood is a completely different story. The final parts of the book that covered Earp's later life when he was betting on horses and refereeing prize fights were less interesting, but I can see why they were included for the sake of completeness.

On to the next book:

Another non-fiction book -- which makes this twice as many as I've completed reading during a span of a few weeks compared to the rest of the previous year. If you're curious -- the other non-fiction work I spent time reading this year (and also recommend highly) is The Hundred Greatest Stars by James Kaler. Anyway, back to Longitude -- I read this because my job in astronomy outreach has led me to an interest in learning more about the history of celestial navigation, and the use of tools like the cross-staff, quadrant, and sextant. I even have dreams of wanting to teach this topic some day in some format to some audience. Anyway, the natural progression after reading about devices for measuring latitude was to read about the solution to the longitude problem.

I read this book in less than a day. It was definitely a fast read and interesting. One thing that stood out to me was that the book definitely made Astronomer Royal Nevil Maskelyne out to be an incompetent, corrupt, almost Disney-like villain. The real life battle between Maskelyne and John Harrison definitely seemed like the plot of a work of fiction. The author points out that the book came from what was originally an article, and my biggest criticism of the book is that you can absolutely tell that this is the case. There was certainly enough information to fill this short book, but at the same time some of it seemed like filler and it probably could have been shorter than it was. Regardless -- I still enjoyed the book and learned some information useful for my course. I'll let everyone know when I'm going to offer it and in what format. Start holding your breath now.

Book 3, and the only science fiction work in the group:

I bought this book at an airport. I bought it because I've heard good things about Doctorow, I'm on the lookout for new authors to try out, and because I read BoingBoing. If you read the amazon reviews, the book either gets 5 stars or 2 stars, and it's average score is 3.5. I would say that this book can be summarized by saying it is a 2 star/5 star book. I read it quickly, too, because the plot kept my interest, and I wanted to get back to it as soon as I could after having to put it down. However, for every 5 star aspect of the plot, I would read something and think it was a 2 star part of a 5 star book. The biggest problem is the end. I had to go back and re-read the end about an hour later to try to figure it out (which I think I did) and to see if I had missed anything (which I don't think I did). In some ways, I think this is a fault of mine -- I admit that I don't read looking for deep meanings or to try to discern the author's symbolism. I read for fun. I read the surface and don't worry to much about the depths. Given that, it is likely the ending just went over my head, but it just seemed to leave behind way too many loose ends for the reader to try to tie up on their own. Still, it was worthwhile reading.

This ends my book report and what I did on my summer vacation all rolled up into one post. I'm going to go work on my diorama now.


On bad TV

If it is not painfully obvious, let me state here for the record that I am a sports fan. I love watching football, and I watch college games and NFL games. I don't want to spend all my time talking about sports, but I have to make this quick point.

The new season of NFL football has so far had some interesting games, but some absolutely horrible TV. I wanted to gouge my eyes out when they were interviewing Emmitt Smith on the sidelines about his role in the show "Dancing with the Stars". I think I saw about 100 other ads for this show. Does anyone in TV really think that the audiences for a typical NFL football game and the show Dancing with the Stars overlap by more than say 2%? Ok, maybe you show one spot for this show for those 2%, but I saw dozens. I will never watch Dancing with the Stars and you are making me want to turn off a game I love just to escape the endless commercials for this tripe.

Next -- I was thinking that Monday Night Football on ESPN might be a nice change from MNF on ABC. Wrong. Why did anyone think that we wanted to hear the announcers talk to Jamie Foxx for 20 minutes while a game was going on in the background? We want the game! I muted the TV for most of that segment, but even so they had the cameras on the booth more than the field and so it wasn't even like I could watch the game action in silence -- I had to watch a bunch of bobbleheads fawn over Foxx with no sound. It was painful.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but the ridiculousness of this year's NFL coverage has me longing for the days when watching a typical football game simply meant you were going to hear Chevys being described as "like a rock" 67338276 times.


On NFL transactions

My PSU fandom does not end when our players graduate. I really hope that all PSU athletes succeed after they leave Penn State. I'm really happy for Larry Johnson and other successful Penn State players in the NFL (Jeff Hartings, Marco Rivera, Kyle Brady, Kenny Watson, David Macklin, Eddie Drummond, Joe Jurevicius, Bobby Engram, Tyoka Jackson...).

On the other hand, every time I hear someone joke around about Penn State running backs in the NFL or see a list of draft busts with Ki-Jana Carter on it, it bugs me. I really want to see Penn Staters make it to the upper echelon of the NFL. It's been a long time since Franco Harris and Jack Ham were tearing up the league.

Anyway... every year around this time, I cruise the NFL rosters to see what Penn Staters are still in the NFL, and also keep my fingers crossed that some of the free agents hanging on by a fingernail will make a roster. It seems like this was a tough year for Nittany Lions in the NFL. The waiver wire included all of the rookie free agents from this year's class, and a few from previous years -- Tyler Reed, Anwar Phillips, Chris Harrell, Scott Paxson, Matt Rice, and Isaac Smolko were all cut. John Bronson, Sean McHugh, Justin Kurpeikis, and surprisingly, Michael Haynes were also cut. Hopefully they'll get another shot somewhere else in the league, but it looks like the end of the line for 10 ex-Nittany Lions.

I can't help but bring up the 1994 undefeated and uncrowned National Championship team. I think I'm probably the only one who realizes this, but from that team Hartings, Rivera, Brady, Collins, and Engram are all still in the league. I wonder if there is even one player from the 1994 Nebraska team still in the NFL, let alone 5.

On Penn State / Notre Dame in 2046

I am a Penn State sports fan. Specifically football and women's volleyball. I bleed blue and white. I drink the blue Kool-Aid. I want JoePa to coach until he's 100.

Given these facts, you would think that I would be trying to go to see Penn State play Notre Dame this coming Saturday. I am not. Rumor has it that tickets cost about $2k on eBay and that hotel rooms in South Bend are going for hundreds per night with a minimum 3 night stay. I could buy a new MacBook Pro for that much money.

You may think -- he's a season ticket holder, surely he could get tickets for this game? The answer is -- given my current standing in the Nittany Lion Club, I might qualify for tickets in 2046, but even then, probably not. You see, you get points for being in the Nittany Lion Club, and they make decisions based on number of points earned. As of the end of 2005, I had 40 points. I think I gained 6 more this year, so by December of 2006, I will have 46 points. Rumor has it that the only folks who were eligible for PSU/ND tickets were those with > 800 Nittany Lion Club points. If I donate $842.50 each year from now until 2046, I will reach 800 points then, and maybe I can go see an ND game when I'm 73.

Can't wait.


On my list of thoughts percolating through my head

I've been meaning to write, but haven't had time. So, I'm going to make a quick list just to remind myself what I want to post about in the next few days:

  • Wyatt Earp, Cory Doctorow's book, and Longitude

  • The Siegel/Rutherford nuptials

  • The Golden Years at UVa

  • The PSU football & vball seasons beginning

  • Go Pro or Go Home & NFL cuts

On winning the pool

Well, it turns out that the posts at Mini-Shadte confirm that Shan and I won the pool. It seems that all of our friends that are married have decided to procreate, and I picked Ronak in the pool as most likely to become a parent next.

At Mikey's wedding, Count Nakula himself confirmed that indeed Mrs. Nak (aka Sapna) is expecting.

That makes Johnny & Tricia, Gordon & Michele, Ray & Liz, and Ronak & Sapna all expecting this year. So... who's next? Will it be a honeymoon special for Mike & Sue? Or, will Josh & Maria decide Nora needs a sibling? Nate & Sasha have an extra room in their house now, so maybe they will pull ahead? Jeff & Meg are the dark horses in this race.

Get your bets in -- write in candidates will be accepted.

Sorry Dr. D -- puppies & chinnies don't count.