Saturday, December 10, 2011

How Badly Do You Want to Play in the NHL?

How badly would I want to play in the NHL? Not this bad.

From the New York Times:
"Derek Boogaard: A Boy Learns to Brawl" by John Branch

Friday, December 9, 2011

Google Calculator

Do you have one of those fancy graphing calculators? Or know a student who is forced to take one of those classes where he/she is forced to buy one of those things? I've never understood that, by the way, because I don't think it truly helps to teach mathematical concepts but that's another discussion.

Anyway, did you catch that Google is now a graphing calculator? Yes, among many other things, you can now do your graphing from a simple Google search box. From Google's Inside Search Blog:
"Showing some love to math lovers"

Give it a shot, it's very cool. And don't feel as though you need to buy one of those fancy calculators.

It's not quite "there" yet, though. I was hoping to be able to tell you that this feature also worked on Android phones, so that there really would be no need for a fancy graphing calculator. Alas, no. Notice the wording near the end of the article: "This feature ... is available in modern browsers."

When I saw this, I wondered what a "modern browser" was. Nowadays people access the web via browsers on their phones and on tablets. So, first thing I did was try this on my phones. On my Droid X, with the stock Gingerbread browser, this graphing feature did not work. Entering a mathematical function (that plotted easily on my computer) into the Google search bar merely did a Google search, no plotting. So I tried on my Nexus S, running Ice Cream Sandwich, supposedly with a fancy new browser. And it didn't work, either. So, Ice Cream Sandwich apparently does not have a "modern browser" by Google's own definition. Which made me a little sad, given how much they are hyping it.

Anyway, the ability to graph mathematical functions from a the Google search bar is great news for nerds like me, even if it doesn't yet extend to phones.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I Raced a Harley Today

Here's a classic post to the old VFR (that's a motorcycle, by the way--you should know that!) e-mail list. I'll reprint it here, verbatim. Still gets me, after all these hears. I wonder whatever happened to Bill...

From Bill, originally sent on April 20, 2006:

I raced a Harley today and after some really hard riding I managed to PASS the guy. I was riding on one of those really, really twisting sections of canyon road with no straight sections to speak of and where most of the curves have warning signs that say "15 MPH".

I knew if I was going to pass one of those monsters with those big-cubic-inch motors, it would have to be a place like this where handling and rider skill are more important than horsepower alone.

I saw the guy up ahead as I exited one of the turns and knew I could catch him, but it wouldn't be easy. I concentrated on my braking and cornering. three corners later, I was on his fender. Catching him was one thing; passing him would prove to be another.

Two corners later, I pulled up next to him as we sailed down the mountain. I think he was shocked to see me next to him, as I nearly got by him before he could recover. Next corner, same thing. I'd manage to pull up next to him as we started to enter the corners but when we came out he'd get on the throttle and outpower me. His horsepower was almost too much to overcome, but this only made me more determined than ever.

My only hope was to outbrake him. I held off squeezing the lever until the last instant. I kept my nerve while he lost his. In an instant I was by him. Corner after corner, I could hear the roar of his engine as he struggled to keep up. Three more miles to go before the road straightens out and he would pass me for good.

But now I was in the lead and he would no longer hold me back. I stretched out my lead and by the time we reached the bottom of the canyon, he was more than a full corner behind. I could no longer see him in my rear-view mirror.

Once the road did straighten out, it seemed like it took miles before he passed me, but it was probably just a few hundred yards. I was no match for that kind of horsepower, but it was done. In the tightest section of road, where bravery and skill count for more than horspower and deep pockets, I had passed him. though it was not easy, I had won the race to the bottom of the canyon and I had preserved the proud tradition of another of America's best bikes.

I will always remember that moment. I don't think I've ever pedaled so hard in my life. And some of the credit must go to Schwinn, as well. They really make a great bicycle...

Bill in Brooklyn

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Rodgers versus Favre

As a Green Bay Packer fan, I have had the pleasure of watching Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers play quarterback. Incredible to watch, both of them.

It wasn't always so, not for me anyway. Consider this list of Packer quarterbacks, from Wikipedia.
"List of Green Bay Packers starting quarterbacks"

I missed the Bart Starr days, unfortunately, although I remember Starr showing up at many Packer functions at the Pfister Hotel when I worked as a banquet waiter there. Always amazed me what good shape he was in considering how long ago his playing days had ended.

Anyway, I never watched Starr play live, only on film. The first Packer quarterback I remember watching was Lynn Dickey. Dickey could throw the ball, and I still remember the Monday Night Football shootout versus the Redskins in 1983, just an amazing game.

After Dickey there was a very forgettable group including David Whitehurst, Randy Wright, Anthony Dilweg, and many others. Very frustrating watching the Packers in those years. I remember nothing but draw plays on third and long, essentially giving up. Pathetic.

The one bright spot, before Favre, was Don Majkowski. Majkowski could really play, but his career was ended by a shoulder injury. Well, he came back after the injury but he was never really the same, unfortunately.

And then came Brett Favre. What else can I say about Favre. Lots of great plays, and lots of ... interesting plays, too! Favre was a fierce competitor. When Warren Sapp or John Randle would knock him down, he would come back twice as determined.

Randle, in particular, had an interesting rivalry with Favre. From Wikipedia:
"To play off the rivalry with Brett Favre, Randle starred in a commercial which featured himself sewing a miniature version of Favre's #4 jersey which he put on a live chicken. The commercial then showed Randle chasing the chicken around what was supposed to be Randle's backyard and ended with Randle cooking chicken on his BBQ, leading to fierce protests from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals."
I remember that commercial well. It was hilarious.

We Packer fans were worried when Favre left. How can you replace a player like Brett Favre. Compounding our concern was (is?) the fact that Aaron Rodgers was quite frail. In the limited action he saw during the Favre era, it seemed like he would get hurt every time he stepped on the field.

I should add that I'm not an overly emotional Packer fan like those who either hate the Packers for pushing Favre out the door or hate Favre for not being loyal to the Packers (whatever that means). Point is: I can see the Packers' point of view. Rodgers was ready to play and Favre was not willing to be a backup. Tough, but that's the nature of competitive sports. I can also see Favre's point of view: I'd play as long as I could, too, even if it ultimately meant going to a hated rival like the Viqueens.

Well, so far so good in the Rodgers era (knock on wood). Although I realize I'm probably jinxing him now just by writing this (just before the NY Giants game on December 4th). I simply can't believe how well he played last year, and he's doing even better so far this year. Just amazing.

What prompted me to reminisce like this? It was an article I saw on
"It's Mr. Rodgers' neighborhood now" by Rick Reilly

Reilly is a very good writer, and I really enjoy reading his articles. But I can't agree here that one must be either a Favre guy or a Rodgers guy. I happen to be both, I appreciate both. I won't choose between them.

The article makes a number of good points, though:

"Rodgers picks his spots better than Favre ever did. Favre always figured a football could fit easily into a USB port from 40 yards away. Not Rodgers. He knows the value of a perfectly thrown spiral to a cheerleader."

"On prime-time TV, Favre is the gutsy cop who wants to throw a grenade and go running in after it to save hostages. Rodgers is the guy in the bow tie who talks it out on the headset with the kidnapper, all the while cleaning his rifle scope with his pocket square."

This I disagree with, totally:
"You really have to go a ways to cause a little town like Green Bay -- a place where football is the side dish served with every meal -- to turn against you, yet Brett Favre did it.
People are always emotional at first. Green Bay does not hate Brett Favre. Time heals little spats like this. Whatever was said when Favre left Green Bay will be forgotten and only the good memories will remain. Favre's battles with Sapp and Randle. The Super Bowl win, and loss. The crazy celebration after Favre's early touchdown pass in the Super Bowl, when he took off his helmet and ran around like crazy. All the great wins at a snowy Lambeau Field. That's how I'll remember him.

Reilly makes up for his mistakes in the final lines of the article, though, which are pure genius.
"'Oh, yeah?' Favre men usually say. 'If Green Bay doesn't love Brett Favre, why is there a Brett Favre Pass in town?'"
"To which we Rodgers men say, 'Wait a couple of years. Soon you'll be driving on the Aaron Rodgers Championship Beltway. You'll like it. It's safe, smooth and takes you where you want to go.'"

Monday, December 5, 2011

Song of the Day: Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Maps

Another song that I love. Just a beautiful, intense love song.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Maps