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Showing posts from January, 2010

We're all doomed

By which I mean all of our House IM sports teams for this quarter have managed to lose so many times that we have no chance at any playoffs. In essence, if I want to go to the playoffs, I have to basically win two matches of table tennis. Lame.

So this is what it feels like to be 80% of all sports fans.

Things to accomplish this weekend

1. Finish all of my homework before Sunday ends.
2. Find and apply to 10-20 internships.
3. Finish writing for Derive Politics (shameless promotion here!) before Monday starts.
4. Watch a play.
5. Not really go out.
6. Play some basketball.
7. Find something interesting to write aside from lists.
8. Make a few good posts for this website.
9. Change the selected writings website.
10. Think of something to write for the Chicago Maroon.

Superbowl prediction

I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that the Saints are going to win the Superbowl. Their defense have managed to hold both Kurt Warner and Brett Favre down. Granted, Peyton Manning is probably better than both of those quarterbacks, but the Saints defense has been rising to the challenge every week. Plus, Peyton could barely escape the Jets, who had a tough defense and a mediocre offense. With Drew Brees going at full throttle, and as long as the defense holds up, the Saints will win.

Of course I've been wrong before, many times, but hey, these predictions are fun to make.

Shameless cop out instead of another real post

All credit goes to the creators of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.

Five thoughts on GWU II

1. The tournament was run very well, although slow as always.
2. Going 4-1 at a tournament is really sweet. Not breaking while going 4-1 sucks.
3. GWU throws some good parties.
4. American University throws some great parties.
5. The final round was the funniest round I've seen in a long time.

Review: Miracle

Not to be confused with the theological phenomena known as miracles, Miracle is a movie about the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. Yes, the movie has been out for over half a decade by now, but since the Winter Olympics are coming up and since I'm running out of material to write about I figure now is as good a time as any to write about this movie.

So there's really no point to recapping the plot. If you want to figure it out, just look at the results from the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. Here's a hint: the movie isn't about a group of underdogs losing. The plot of real life in this case lends itself to a good story, and as far as sports movies go, this is by far the most realistic in terms of plot.

The action itself is also very nice. It doesn't seem like any of the hockey is fake, and in general the process looks authentic. Granted, there is the standard training montage with the people getting slowly better and eventually coming around to being as compete…

Some resources on Haiti...

So if you want to learn more about Haiti, find information about people you know in the country, keep up with the latest news on the country and donate money to worthy causes, you've obviously been bombarded with many different sources. Add another one to the list: Google has a comprehensive page detailing who you can donate to, how to find out what happened to anyone you might know, and news about recovery efforts. The link is here.

Ha ha ha

The economy sucks.

All credit goes to the creators of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.

The Big Bang Theory without laughter

All rights belong to CBS. No infringement is intended.

Turns out this show isn't nearly as funny with the laugh track. Then again, it's designed to work with the laugh track, and the show actually is funny. I guess the laugh track is actually just important to this form of situational comedy. Hell, there's no way that all of those shows with laugh tracks could have been bad, right?

Things not to do as a cab driver

On a recent cab ride back from downtown Chicago, a bunch of friends and I took a cab. So I compiled a list of things not to do:

1. Do not try to recruit people into voting in the Republican primaries, especially if they're your passengers.

2. Do not get upset if, after being told that you are driving college students in the city of Chicago, that they are liberal or anti-conservative and laugh at the radio ad about a cruise trip for conservatives.

3. Do not try to pass off some random conservative radio show as a show about "people, who if were put in charge of this country, would make our economy and our liberties better."

4. Do not just randomly mutter and whisper to yourself when passengers try to make small talk that might not be as funny as they imagine.

5. As the first thing you talk about, telling us how business is terrible doesn't set a very good mood.

Otherwise, good job on driving us back.

Rank of the teams remaining in the NFL playoffs

Holy shit. There were definitely some upsets that were unexpected this weekend (some of which were very good for me personally) as well as some clear reassertions by powerful, powerful teams. Here's where the four remaining teams rank:

1. Minnesota Vikings: This team is scary. Yes, I remember that I put them as the weakest team in the NFC playoff picture a while back, but I kind of overestimated Favre's weaknesses and forgot to take into account his schedule. Obviously the two big issues that have affected him down the stretch just weren't there this playoff season. For starters, the injury that hurt him while with the Jets seemed to have been a serious contributor to his decrease last year, explaining why his production fell. More importantly, the fact that the Vikings have not and will not play any more cold weather games means that Favre is set. He doesn't have to worry about the cold, he clearly can throw well in moderate temperatures, as evidenced by his 4 touchdo…

Review: Up in the Air

A movie about a guy who travels around the country just firing people all the time would generally be thought of as being either very funny or very depressing. Of course, if the movie has George Clooney, it's going to be a little of both. The man, of course, is in more places than the character he plays, Ryan Bingham. I think there has been a period of possibly half a year where there has been at least one film with Clooney in it and several months where at least two were played in wide release. Seriously, did the man receive some kind of terrible medical news? Is he going bankrupt? Does he just enjoy hogging all the acting spotlight? Who knows.

The movie's plot is relatively standard fare, as far as movies go. Bingham is a consultant who flies around the country firing people. As a result of the high amount of travel of his job, he is constantly flying, rarely stays at home, and has essentially no personal life. But (shock of shocks) this could all change when a new hire at t…

So a bunch of school administrators acted like idiots...

And an 11 year old kid gets badly treated as a result. A kid brought in a motion detector for a science fair, and the genius vice principal of the middle school thought that it was a bomb. Nevermind that it was simply a bunch of wires, electronics, and an empty bottle of Gatorade (which is impossible to make a bomb out of), or that the kid was 11, or that there was no reason to call the cops and the fire department, but the school then has the gall to say that the kid did something wrong and recommend that he and his family get counseling, when it was entirely the mistake of the school for not being able to recognize that students at a science and technology magnet school might be making something with electronics at a school science fair. The vice principal should be fired, though that goes almost without saying. I feel sorry for the kid.

Review: Cool Runnings

You might be tired of seeing all of these movie reviews, but they're easy for me, they're relatively evergreen given the fact that I can write them whenever, and I want my opinion heard. So here goes another review of a movie that's been out forever. Of course, given the upcoming Winter Olympics in Vancouver, I think that there is some relevance to reviewing Cool Runnings.

If you haven't heard of or watched Cool Runnings, you've missed out. The movie, inspired by the real life Jamaican national bobsled team, tells a fictionalized account of the first team's entry into the 1988 Seoul Winter Olympics. There are, of course, significant changes in details as compared with real life, so the movie is very much Disneyfied, but nonetheless it's still worth watching.

The story basically starts with some Jamaican sprinters who failed to qualify for the Summer Olympics because of a fault on the track. One of these sprinters, desperate to become an Olympian like his fa…

A Bunch of NES Games Played and Reviewed: Tecmo Bowl

This game is most notable for both being the first significant football game on the NES and also for Bo Jackson's utter dominance on offense. Both are equally important, but this game hasn't aged very well (as opposed to its sequel, Super Tecmo Bowl). The game is not as much fun to play as its sequel, it's incredibly difficult to play defense, and overall the game is only moderately enjoyable.

It is, however, an important part of any NES gamer's collection, granted that they cannot find a copy of Super Tecmo Bowl. Seriously, this game is not worth it compared to that one. The latter plays very similarly, except it's more realistic, features more teams, has a real full season, and keeps track of stats. It even has the ability to play in the preseason and the Superbowl directly since it's fully licensed. It might seem like an unfair criticism to make, but this is genuinely one of the cases where the game's sequel makes such a huge leap that even going back fo…

Review: Dodgeball

This is going to be kept really short because almost all of you have watched this movie. If you haven't, then it's a bit late, but you should find it somewhere and watch it immediately. Go buy the DVD, it's been out for a while now.

The premise of Dodgeball is relatively simple if a bit contrived: the Average Joe's Gym, run by Vince Vaughan's character, has defaulted on its mortgage. It needs to find a way to raise $50,000 to pay it off or else the gym will be bought by their rival Globo-Gym. Those of you who see the eerie parallels to today's credit crisis clearly are facetious, as this film's situation is nothing like our modern financial times. In order to raise the money, Average Joe's fields a team to compete in a dodgeball tournament, the grand prize being, of course, $50,000.

The acting in this movie is great. The dialogue is hilarious and as a comedy the movie is almost unparalleled. Even after watching it multiple times I still found it funny. …

Review: The Rocker

Did you like the movie School of Rock? If you did you'd probably see the resemblances to The Rocker. In it, Rainn Wilson plays an aging drummer who almost hit it big with an 80s rock group, but didn't. After living like a loser for 20 years, he's given the chance to play for his nephew's band, which becomes a viral sensation. With some nuance, that is the entire plot of The Rocker. There are a few moments worth watching, and the entire film gives you a feel good feeling, but it's at best worth watching only once.

The plot, while being somewhat predictable, is occasionally intriguing. Yes, the ups and downs of Wilson's character could almost be seen beforehand, but it is just different enough to keep you interested. The same goes for the ending. At best, the plot is somewhat above average, and ultimately seems to resolve with an "oh, that's cool" rather than any genuine excitement. What I'm trying to say is, the plot isn't the most interest…

Review: 500 Days of Summer

So obviously reviews on this website are coming out on a delay: that is, long after the movies are out and other reviews are done. If you don't like it, too bad. I think my opinion is interesting and I'm only going to watch these movies at the pace I want to. Hell, I'm not making money off of this, so it's not like it matters when you read this.

That being said, I think that 500 Days of Summer was definitely among the best movies of 2009. (The fact that it's 2010 right now should give you an indication of my delay) It is thoroughly well constructed and well produced movie whose plot goes exactly where it needs to and ends up with a satisfying (though not typical Hollywood) ending. The dialogue is witty, the overall movie is really funny, and the pacing sets up everything well. Even the nonlinear presentation, while seemingly confusing at first, serves to draw viewers in well without leaving them completely in the dark. There is little I can say about what is wrong …

This is why economics is my backup major...

All credit goes to the creators of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.

Review: The Invention of Lying

The premise and the appearance of Ricky Gervais lent this movie an air of excitement that ultimately led to disappointment. There's no shorter way to say it than that. The Invention of Lying, the latest effort by the creator of the original Office in the U.K., is far from his greatest work. Though the movie has redeeming qualities, it is not necessarily worth owning or paying money for.

The basic premise of the movie is that Gervais' character, Mark Bellison, is the first person in the world to discover the ability to lie. Up until this point, Bellison has been a loser, having lost his job, failed to impress a girl that he likes, and is constantly losing a war against his most hated rival, Rob Lowe playing Brad Kessler. Kessler's success as a movie writer is compared against Bellison's, who simply cannot make a successful script while Lowe's character is considered the best in the business.

In these scenes, the first flaw of the movie comes out. The major disadvant…

Review: Avatar

So obviously this review is pretty late, and if you're like most people you've made up your mind about the movie and whether you're going to watch it, or if you've seen it already you've made up your opinion on the movie. Nonetheless, if you haven't because all the theaters had been sold out, then you must definitely go watch this movie. It is a great movie that will probably define a new era of film making.

Let us be clear, the plot for Avatar is pretty much the same as the plot for any other movie involving whites and foreigners: one white guy realizes his culture does bad things and ends up switching sides, "betraying" his own race and becoming the savior of the other one. This is of course, the same plot as any number of movies, ranging from Dances With Wolves to Pocahontas. It is not a unique or original plot. It is relatively well constructed, but you've seen this plot a million times. It's still a plot worth watching, however.

It is the…

Thoughts on the BCS National Championship

Yes, I did say that you shouldn't watch the BCS National Championship, but as a college football fan I did so anyway. And I have to say that I was impressed, mostly by the Alabama defense, but also partly by Texas' backup quarterback. Yes, he ended up throwing somewhere in the vicinity of 4 picks and dropped the key fumble that sealed up the game, but for his very first game starting under such heavy pressure it wasn't altogether too bad. At least he kept it close.

Of course, the game belonged to the Alabama defense and running game. The defense intercepted four passes, caused crucial fumbles (one returned for a touchdown) and even knocked out Colt McCoy on Texas' first drive. You could not have asked the defense to do more. They won the game as much as Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson did. Congratulations to the Alabama Crimson Tide: they clearly deserved this win.

My HIST reading list

Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville
Abraham Lincoln, Slavery, and the Civil War by Michael P. Johnson
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An America Slave: Written by Himself by Frederick Douglass
A Fool's Errand by Albion Tourgee

A mix of new books and old classics. I think this is a perfect mix, and I eagerly await reading them all. What do you guys think?

Is today's BCS Championship game worth watching?

Usually college football's unofficial national championship game (since the NCAA doesn't sanction an official champion in FBS football, the BCS system doesn't count) would hold great interest. In most years it matches the two most dynamic teams in the country against each other, and this question would rarely be asked. However, there are two cases in which the championship game is meaningless. The first is if the matchup is between teams with losses and there is a serious contender sitting on the outside. The second is if there are many undefeated teams, and even one loss teams that are worthy of playing but are not. One weakness of a system without a playoff is that under both of these scenarios, the BCS national championship game counts for nothing.

There is no question that Alabama and Texas, the two teams playing tonight, are good teams. The question is whether they are the best. Texas has romped through a Big 12 this year that is far from strong, and has had unimpress…

Just a few minor quotes from my classes earlier this week

"It's incredibly hard to do algebra with 40 people staring at you." - TA for an ECON class I was auditing.

"They'd be interested in swine flu, or bird flu. Actually I guess not bird flu, because that's solved or something." -Harry Crane, statistics 23400 professor.

"Alright, that's all there is for today." "Wait, don't we have ten more minutes?" "Yeah, we're done for the day." - An exchange between Crane and another student.

"This quarter, compared to the last one, will be easy *makes airquotes*." - Francisco Gancedo, my math 20400 professor.

"Now who here doesn't know how to take the derivative of a function in one dimension? *Girl next to me raises hand*" - Exchange between Gancedo and another student, in a class where basic calculus is a prerequisite.

One of my writings on Derive Politics: China

I've written a piece for another blog that I co-founded with another individual called Derive Politics. This week's piece is about China. An excerpt:

"Ever since Deng Xiaoping liberalized China's economic policies the country has experienced rapid economic growth. Such growth has helped to fuel China both internally and on the world stage. It has allowed the country to lift many of its citizens out of poverty and to earn the country legitimacy on the world stage. The positives of economic growth, however, has also fueled many negatives for China."

Read more here.

First day of winter quarter...

And that means it's time to put my first resolution to the test. With that in mind, here are my classes for the quarter and my one line feelings about them:

1. MATH 20400 (Analysis in Rn-2): Oh boy, more math that I think I understand but that I really won't and will instead have to spend hours in the library studying. Crap.

2. ECON 20100 (Elements of Economic Analysis-2) Seriously? This better be harder than ECON 200, and I hope to God that I get a teacher that'll actually care.

3. HIST 13600 (America in World Civilization-2) Yay, readings and essays. I don't know how I'm going to pull out another A in this one.

4. STAT 23400 (Statistical Models and Methods) As long as I don't have two problem sets a week, I feel set.

Ranking the NFC playoff teams

1. Philadelphia Eagles

Why not the Saints or the Packers, you ask? Because the Eagles have been on a six game winning streak. They come into the playoffs the hottest team out of all of the ones in the NFC. They have the playoff experience along with veteran players and hot new talent. If things play out the same way that they have, the Eagles would easily make the Superbowl.

But the playoff field in the AFC is rough. No teams can be counted as pushovers, and the weakest teams, the Vikings and Cardinals, are both strong enough to reach the Superbowl. So while the Eagles are the favorite, they are not that strong of a favorite.

Projection: Superbowl loss

2. New Orleans Saints- They have the second best record in the NFL, who else would I put here? Even with their recent two losses, the Saints show the form necessary to reach the Superbowl themselves, and if it weren't for the fact that the Eagles are riding much higher, the Saints would be the prohibitive favorite.

Their weaknesses …

Ridiculous Videogame Sports Statistics

Whether through the fact that the games were unbalanced or because of a person's preference for using one set of players repeatedly, sometimes sports videogames tend to play out in ways that are entirely contradictory to the real world. Take, for example, the 1998 Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Playing Mike Piazza's Strike Zone (a game made in 1998 for the Nintendo 64). In this current season, about halfway through, I have managed to get Dennis Springer, a knuckleballer for them in their inaugural season, to these statistics:

Wins: 15
Losses: 5
ERA: 1.97

Compare that with his real life stats that season:

Wins: 3
Losses: 11
ERA: 5.45

So yeah, he's doing a lot better.

Review: New Super Mario Bros. Wii

So imagine a game that is a cross between Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World. If you can't imagine it, such a game would basically play like the two aforementioned games, with tight controls, challenging but fair stages, excellent secrets to be discovered, and fun power ups. Oh, and because it's 2010 and not the early 1990s, the game is basically all in 3D, so the graphics look nice.

But then imagine if the people who designed the game also invented a cooperative multiplayer mode. It would be unlike the ones in Mario 3 and World, in that instead of taking turns finishing levels, up to four people at once could play in the same level and help each other complete it. That sounds like fun, and it is.

That generally summarizes New Super Mario Bros. Wii. It is a classically fun game that is good when you play by yourself and great when played with others. The game has no problem handling up to four players at once, and is well designed so that even if you've never played…

New Year's Resolutions

What better way to start a new year at this blog than with a list of things I plan to do the coming year?

1. Straight A's, both quarters.
2. Find an internship.
3. Win an IM sport for the T-shirt
4. Find an apartment for next year and this summer.
5. Declare majors.
6. Qualify for APDA nationals.
7. Start tutoring.
8. Update this website daily.
9. Figure out what I want to do after college.
10. Get more publicity for Derive Politics (done!).

Share your New Year's resolutions below. Later today there will be a review of New Super Mario Bros. Wii.