Tuesday, November 15, 2016

When was your NFL team last mired in futility?

One of my favorite sayings as a Packers fan is that there are literally college graduates who have never experienced back-to-back losing seasons as a fan of the team. I, of course, remember the 80s, so I have vastly more humility than your average under-30 Packers fan.

I started thinking about it, though, and I feel like back-to-back losing seasons aren't enough to invoke feelings of futility in the fan base. There's still a hope that the team is about to turn it around (after all, it was only two seasons ago you were competing for a playoff spot). But three straight losing seasons ... that's when you start to wonder if your investment in a Tim Couch jersey was really a good idea. So I decided to track when each NFL team last had three losing seasons in a row. I debated back-and-forth whether .500 should be considered part of the futility, but in an era where 8-8 (or even below!) can win a division and make the playoffs, I feel like most fans won't get depressed too much with the occasional 8-8 season.

THE ALMOST FUTILE

The Chicago Bears are the only franchise that are not considered futile by this metric that will be if they finish with a losing record in 2016. At 2-7, it appears futility is in reach.
For the record, the last time the franchise experienced futility was in 2004.

THE CURRENTLY FUTILE

The following teams have had three straight sub-.500 seasons heading into 2016:
Cleveland Browns
Jacksonville Jaguars
New York Giants
Oakland Raiders
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tennessee Titans

Oakland is only one win away from escaping futility, and the Giants need only two wins to do so. Tennessee at 5-5 can still escape. Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, and Cleveland, however, look to continue their streak (I'm not counting Cleveland as futile in 2016 yet because there's still a scenario where they make the playoffs, believe it or not).

THE ONCE AND CURRENT FUTILE FRANCHISE

When the Los Angeles Rams left town in 1994, they were in the middle of a futility streak. When they left St. Louis in 2015, they were also in a futility streak. So by themselves the Rams have left two city's fanbases with feelings of football futility.

RECENTLY FUTILE

The following teams ended their futility streak between 2010 and 2013 (no team ended their streak since):
Detroit Lions (2010)
Washington Redskins (2011)
Carolina Panthers (2012)
Miami Dolphins (2012)
Buffalo Bills (2013)

For fans of these franchises, the feelings of futility still linger. That said, there's cause for optimism in most cases, and they don't appear to be heading back to futility any time soon.

THE FUTILE PLAYOFF TEAM

The Seattle Seahawks technically were futile until 2011 ... but it's kind of hard to consider them as such since they made the playoffs in 2010 despite having a losing record. So you'll have to keep reading to find out when they were last truly futile.

The Carolina Panthers were not in a futile streak when they won the division with a losing record in 2014.

FUTILE THIS MILLENIUM

These teams ended their futility streak since 2000:

Atlanta Falcons (2001)
Cincinnati Bengals (2002)
Dallas Cowboys (2002)
Chicago Bears (2004)
Arizona Cardinals (2006)
Houston Texans (2006)
San Francisco 49ers (2008)
Kansas City Chiefs (2009)

This ends up being a weird list, because as an NFL fan some of these franchises have been associated with losing so long (Cincy, Arizona, Houston) that they haven't escaped that label despite not having endured a recent streak of futility. But if you're a fan of one of these franchises (excepting the Bears, as noted above) you've had a good stretch of optimism.

HAVEN'T BEEN FUTILE SINCE HAMMER PANTS

There's a good number of teams that were last futile in the 90s, including one surprise (in fact, some of you may have already noticed their exclusion):

San Diego Chargers (1991)
New England Patriots (1993)
Seattle Seahawks (1994)
New York Jets (1996)
Baltimore Ravens (1998)
New Orleans Saints (1999)
Philadelphia Eagles (1999)

That's right: it's been twenty years since the Jets have been futile. Granted, they haven't been remarkably successful, but they've been competitive often enough that they haven't had three losing seasons in a row.

It feels like the Chargers have the most bad luck of this group, although some Eagles fans will disagree. For the Eagles, 1999 was their first season under Donovan McNabb; they haven't been futile since. That was also the year that the Saints traded their draft for Ricky Williams, and while it wasn't the best of times, it ended up being the end of their last futility streak.

The Patriots were also a team who last experienced futility in the rookie season of a new QB: Drew Bledsoe was chosen #1 overall in the 1993 draft.

WHAT DOES FUTILE EVEN MEAN?

And here are the 5 most blessed franchises in the NFL when it comes to competiveness.

5. Green Bay Packers (1988)

The '80s were rough as a Packers fan. But 1989 and Majik Man was still probably my favorite season as a fan, despite the Super Bowl victories since.

4. Indianapolis Colts (1986)

It almost seems unfair that a city that stole a team from another city could go so long without losing hope, but the Colts have somehow done so. They've had some bad stretches (including back-to-back 3-13 seasons in the late 90s) but never three seasons in a row.

3. Denver Broncos (1972)

Here's exhibit B on how playoff success defines your franchise; the Broncos hadn't been futile for over 20 years when the Simpsons made fun of them in the mid-90s, but their constant issues in the postseason (including some spectacular Super Bowl blowouts) defined their pop culture identity. For fans of the team, tho, it's been a very good run despite the losses (and of course, the jokes stopped once they won they started winning Super Bowls).

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (1971)

Not a surprise; the team has had only 3 coaches in over 45 years and even with the occasional down season, the Steelers pick themselves right up and get competitive again. And while you'd think they'd be #1, they're not, for the team that has gone the longest without a futility streak is ...

THE MINNESOTA VIKINGS

And here we have Exhibit A on how playoff success defines your franchise: the Vikings, despite never winning a championship, have also never had three losing seasons in a row since their first three years in the league: 1961-1963. Over 50 years of optimism! That's insane. Granted, they've had some runs where they couldn't reach double digits, but even if you include 8-8 in your futility assessment, you'd have to go back to 1985 before they'd be considered futile.

So kudos to the Vikings fans! You may not have picked a perennial winner, but at least you have had hope almost since the start.

...

Final Thoughts: Some may argue with my methodology of determining "futility", but I feel like it's a solid one. There are other viable metrics, of course, including the alluded-to playoff success. If you wanted to do deeper analysis you definitely could; for example, you may want to look at when a team was eliminated from playoff competition (because that way hope is incremental within the season, not binary).

But I think this is as far as I will go with this analysis. Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 7, 2016

#NaNoWriMo: Why I stopped doing it (and a quick #YesShaveNovember update)

My presentation proposal for the Oracle Applications Users Group annual conference was accepted, so I don't have time to work on much else for the next three months. It was a tall order anyway, but it's nice to have a professional excuse.

I didn't shave this weekend, but I'm using a bad cold as an excuse. Did shave today, tho, so I hope to continue to keep it up.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

#NaNoWriMo and #YesShaveNovember: Why I'm doing them

I'm participating in one November social media event and contra-participating in another.

#NaNoWriMo for those who don't know, is National Novel Writing Month. The idea is to get people who struggle to find time to actually write to focus; I'm not sure how effective it is (and it may even be counterproductive long term according to some commentary I've read) but I'm doing it anyway. I'm hoping to use it as a way of getting better organized as lord knows that's a huge problem for me.

There's one huge problem tho: I don't know what I'm going to write yet. I also kind of wish it was National Writing Month, as I have some minor Warcraft essays I've been bouncing around in my head, but alas it's a novel I need to do. I'll be posting weekly-ish updates on my progress on this blog while annoying everyone on a Twitter on a daily basis.

As for #YesShaveNovember, I'm working off the idea of #NoShaveNovember, in which men grow facial hair in support of prostate cancer awareness (and whatever other concerns of the day tag along). However, in the past year or so I've grown lax with my own shaving (sometimes even going a week without doing so), and while I wouldn't mind growing a beard, it's not a great look on me. So instead, I'm turning it around: my plan is to shave every day this month as a way of getting back into the habit of keeping my face smooth.

And yes, I shaved today, so I'm 1 for 1.

...

I have a couple other things planned for November, but I'm still trying to figure them out (plus I have a work conference the next two days that may impede any progress/organization). Ultimately I hope to be a much better person at the end of this month than I am today. Let's see what happens.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Some thoughts on The Force Awakens, and a prediction for Episode VIII: Return of the Jedi...Again

SPOILERS OF COURSE

Like many, my initial impression of TFA was that it adhered too closely to A New Hope in terms of plot duplication. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized this was done on purpose not to just satisfy nostalgia, but to also put into starker relief the things that are different.

Because there are differences, and the differences are crucial and they tie into the two main characters of the film - Rey and Kylo Ren.

For Rey, what we see is an alternate path to the one Luke took in A New Hope. Instead of wanting to leave her desert home, she wanted not only to stay but to return as well after events took her off-planet. She even rejects a potential surrogate family because she longs for the return of her real family. You compare this to Anakin ("Bye Mom") and Luke's recovery from his aunt and uncle's death and you see an entirely different personality at play here.

As for Kylo Ren, what we actually get with him is what we should've gotten with Anakin back in the prequel: The Moment He Went Full Dark Side. And this moment is key to everything in the film with him; in many ways the whole point of the film is for Kylo Ren to kill Han. The scene itself is a double contrast to Return of the Jedi: first, you have the father trying to bring his son back from the dark side; and then you have Kylo choosing to kill his father where Luke does not.

And of course, for that scene to work you have to believe that either possibility can happen. That's why the complaints regarding his character aren't legitimate; if Kylo Ren was more like Darth Vader, there's absolutely no suspense in that scene. It's his temper, his struggle with the light side, his inability to successfully mind-probe Ren - without these, you expect Han to be dead the minute he steps on the catwalk. Instead, there remains a struggle inside Kylo Ren that doesn't get resolved until the light goes out both figuratively and literally.

This is why I'm not sure I like the idea of there being any redemption for Kylo Ren. We got a dual origin movie, and in the end the final confrontation between Rey and Ren is where it should be heading (but not yet; see below). Any redemption would feel hollow, for any chance truly should die with his father.

But my conversations with people online show that there are many who feel Ren can be redeemed. And if we go along with the idea that Episode VIII will follow the same "very similar to highlight contrast" direction that Episode VII did, then we may be able to predict what will happen in VIII.

And that is Kylo Ren killing Snoke, but not for redemption purposes.

The other big moment that the prequels didn't give us is a Sith apprentice turning on his master. Now, the Sith are gone (probably), but Kylo Ren still takes his cues from Darth Vader, who was a Sith. 

So the fight is Luke vs Snoke and Kylo Ren (I'm saving the final Ren vs Rey fight for Episode IX: The Last Movie ... For Now - in fact, I kinda don't want Rey even as a spectator for the fight because then it'd be the second movie in a row that she witnesses the death of an old cast member. Maybe Poe Dameron transports Luke there while Rey is off fighting other knights of Ren or Phasma or something).

Snoke and Ren defeat Luke; still alive, but dying. Snoke will be injured, and Ren will take advantage of it and slay Snoke. The audience (and Luke, maybe?) will think its a redemptive act, but then Ren will say something to Luke (e.g. "I've had enough of my teachers") and finish him off to a collective gasp from the crowd.

Rey senses Luke's death, but his disembodied voice calms her (like Obi-Wan to Luke in ANH) and she fulfills whatever mission/fight she's in the midst of. And then we get to see Mark Hamill as a ghost in Ep 9.

Obviously there are some details to work out, but this is the trajectory I feel the film is on.

Unless they give me my dream of a two hour dual training montage for Rey and Ren a la Rocky IV.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

An Intercepted Transcript from Deep Within the World .. of Warcraft

Time: 12 May 2015 09:15 PDT
Location: Deep in the heart of Blizzard Corporation, in the Warcraft division for the Retention Of User Subscriptions


Operator: Sir, we may have an issue with subject 1959.
Supervisor: What's the issue?
Operator: We're seeing a significant decrease in in-game activity, and he's one of our biggest cheerleaders on-line -- he's even been accused of being a "fanboi".
Supervisor: Has he gone on vacation maybe?
Operator: No, we're still seeing activity, it's just mostly regarding Diablo 3 now.
Supervisor: [Expletive deleted]
Operator: I know. It doesn't make much sense, either. We had detected his desire to log in less with his alts, but even his main is being neglected. He doesn't even log into his garrison daily to do missions.
Supervisor: Is his sub active?
Operator: Yes, it looks like he used a token to extend his time for a Heralds of the Titans run.
Supervisor: Did he get it?
Operator: No, sir.
Supervisor: Well, that's a positive, although not as much as one if he's using tokens.
Operator: If he's using tokens, should we write him off then?
Supervisor: No, look at his services expenditures. The last thing we want is for him to limit his interest. What is he currently logging in for?
Operator: It looks like he's farming a couple Legendaries and transmog pieces.
Supervisor: What does he need on the Legendary front?
Operator: He's down to just the Warglaive off-hand and Thori'dal.
Supervisor: Flag his account. I want them both to drop next run.
Operator: Sir?
Supervisor: I've seen his type before; we give him one he'll go full bore on the other. But instead of feeling joy, he'll feel relieved of a burden. That won't keep him in the game, but this ... this will.
Operator: Are you sure?
Supervisor: No, I'm not sure. But I'll do anything I can to keep him from those demon-worshipping wankers in the basement. You have your order.
Operator: Understood.

Later that night

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Age of Bingetron: Hitting the Home Stretch

With only two days left, I thought I'd do an update on my progress.

First off, I stopped doing the recaps/reviews. I hate writing reviews to begin with, and trying to force myself to do it was just a bad idea from the get go. So instead, I'll just talk about what I've done and not done in each of the different categories.

For the Marvel movies themselves, I have been successful! Well, I still have Captain America 2 to watch, but I'm all set to watch that tomorrow night. So the main impetus behind the Age of Bingetron has been a success ... ok, mostly. I did not finish Daredevil yet (only completed 5 of 13 episodes) and at this juncture I'm not even planning to. That's ok, tho; that was going to be a tough requirement anyway (it's essentially 6 additional movies).

As for Reading, as I noted in the first (and only) update, I put aside Bully Pulpit to read the other books. This has been successful as well, as I've completed all the books in the list except for Great Hiking Trails (about 3/4th done) and Bully Pulpit. I expect to complete the former in the next two days, and I would think Bully Pulpit will be finished by the weekend at the latest.

Exercise has been a mixed bag. I have completed 4 of 6 walks; my plan is to complete walks 5 and 6 tomorrow and Thursday (a dental appointment today precludes me doing it today, and grocery shopping prevented me from doing it yesterday). As for the back exercises, that's been a complete no-go. I'm going to completely revisit my exercise plan this weekend.

For World of Warcraft, I did complete the two legendary questlines I had pending. Jarvin hasn't reached 10 yet, and I decided against Rairdan and the toon cleanup.

I'm going to do a final writeup at the end of the week, but so far I feel like this has been a positive experience in terms of reclaiming my free time.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Age of Bingetron: First Update

DAY 1
Daredevil Episodes 1-3

Besides planning out the Age of Bingetron (see previous post), I spent the first evening of the challenge watching the new Daredevil series on Netflix. There are 13 episodes in total, so getting a good jump at the beginning isn't a bad idea.

Plus, it's a damn good series.

It's not great, because the humor seems to be limited and I like more levity amidst all the [bones cracking] subtitles on the screen. Foggy is fine (and well cast), but there's more time spent on Daredevil than on anything so far so the squeam factor is high.

There have already been two brutal (read: lots of online commentary) moments in the first three episodes, and while the first-the hallway fight in the second episode-was transcendent, the resolution of episode three was rough. I get that the series is TV-MA, but I'm hopeful there aren't that many more moments like that in the series.

The flashbacks were great (especially as a father to a young son), and the casting has been superb. My only casting concern so far is that Karen Page is being played mousier than I expected (wasn't she an actress/model at one point in the comic book?), but I'm adjusting. Rosario Dawson was really impressive in her appearance in episode two, and I hope she returns later in the series.

As it currently stands, I would rank it a 9 of 10.

DAY 2
Lunchtime Walk (1 of 6)

It had been raining overnight, and I was concerned it would still be wet on the greenway. But I went anyway, and I'm thankful that I did.

I started from Jamestown Park, and walked towards the PEC (thus crossing East Fork Road twice). I didn't get as far as I normally did, and that was due to the wildlife.

My first encounter was with a heron. While not an atypical appearance (I joke that the heron that hangs out by the boardwalk closer to PEC is a friend of mine), what was cool was that the lake was higher than normal and so the heron was feeding closer to shore. It was walking, which I don't think I've ever seen a heron do before (typically it's just chilling and/or flying away). It bobs its head as it walks. It was eating something in the grass poking out of the overflowing lake, but whether they were stranded fish, small frogs, or insects I do not know. It may actually have been drinking, but the move seemed a little too aggressive to just be drinking but as I'm not an expert I don't know for sure. I was able to watch it walk around for about five to seven minutes before something (I'm guessing a boat in the lake) caused it to take off.

There were also birds hanging out at the island in the lake, but I could only see silhouettes due to the cloudiness and distance (plus no camera/binoculars/etc). There may actually have been a young heron based on one profile I got a good look at, but it's impossible to say. Definitely weren't Canadian geese (too thin), and seemed too long-necked to be ducks.

There were turtles, too, which was also a nice surprise because typically they prefer it to be sunny when they're out. Sadly I got too close (turtles in that lake are skittish, I don't even think I was closer than 20 feet away) and they dove for it.

On the way back of a walk that wasn't as long as typical (since I spent so much time watching wildlife), I spied a couple deer back in the woods. I think it was a doe and a fawn, but either it was a small doe or a large fawn because they seemed pretty close in size. It's possible they were both does or both fawns, but the latter seems very unlikely. They were pretty well concealed, so I didn't get much of a look at them, but it was nice to see them out.

And this is why I like to go for walks at lunchtime.

Thor: The Dark World

The first movie in the Age of Bingetron was Thor: The Dark World, which I got from RedBox. I had already seen it in the movie theater, and my general opinion/analysis of the movie didn't change much in the second viewing.

My biggest concern with the film is how contrived it is with some aspects (getting Aether, the cave at the end). It strains realism, which is saying much for a film starring norse "gods" and infinity stones.

That said, it is a fun movie, with two sequences standing out: first, the interwoven plotting/execution of the escape plan was really well done and a lot of fun. Second, the portal fight between Meliketh and Thor was great.

It also has a great quote by Erik Selvig: "There's nothing more reassuring than realizing that the world is crazier than you are."

So I definitely recommend seeing it if you haven't already, but I don't think I'd ever buy it.

Reading Update

Continued reading The Bully Pulpit and Painkiller Jane.

Reality Check

I'm going to end each day with a "reality check", where I talk about the important condition to this whole Age of Bingetron: namely, not taking away time from my family/work/responsibilities in order to complete it.

I did a good job with this on Day 2: the family attended a baseball game in the evening, and when we got home (and put my son to bed), I finished watching Backstrom and Whose Line Is It Anyway? with my wife. The only portion I "failed" at is because I stayed up to watch Thor: The Dark World I didn't get myself into bed until after midnight, which is something I want to avoid, even on Friday nights.

DAY 3

Guardians of the Galaxy

What a great film (which I got for Christmas but hadn't watched yet). Not as impressive when viewed on a smaller screen but still a rollicking good time. It was nice to have captioning because I missed fewer jokes this time.

I'm not really sure what else to say about the film here; all the superlatives have been said by many others, and I can't think of any major criticisms outside my need to buy a bigger television.

Painkiller Jane

Painkiller Jane is a former cop that due to some sort of drug overdose regenerates super, super fast so it's very hard to kill her. So she uses that ability to wear bandages and be a vigilante. My problem is, she's not very good at it. And while occasionally she uses her nigh-invulnerability for a clever move, more often than not she's just getting injured (and being eventually attended to by the doctor who has a crush on her, a fact we know because the writer can't help point it out every time he shows up). In a way, it's practically torture porn (augmented by the Liefeld-inspired rendering of the females).

Not my cup of tea. I gave it 2 stars out of 5 on Goodreads.

Reading Update

In addition to finishing Painkiller Jane, I did more reading of The Bully Pulpit.

Reality Check

Like Day 2, I did a good job of not sacrificing family time in order to work on the Age of Bingetron. I did beg off doing yardwork due to the threat of rain, but it's arguable I would've done that anyway. I did immediately take care of a lost diamond earring in a sink trap; my goodness the stench was horrible.

I did read Painkiller Jane while my son was watching TV, but that's not atypical (he doesn't mind as long as he can still lean on me while watching).

I dislike waiting until the morning of Day 4 to write this entire post up, so I'm going to work on making sure I write in a more timelier fashion.

I also have an issue with The Bully Pulpit; it's too long, and it's taking me forever to read. Not because it's bad, but because I'm actually reading it to learn so I don't want to speed read it like I do fiction. I may also not be able to renew it from the NC Digital Library in three days (I can get around that by turning off the wireless on my Kindle), so I'm faced with a choice, and the choice I'm making is to put it aside until I've completed the other books on my list.