Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Five Dumbest: things said about health care reform

I don't often write about politics, primarily because I consider myself a radical moderate and a proud non-voter.  (Yeah, you read that right.)  But once in a while, a topic comes up and people (usually, on both sides) say things that are so insanely stupid that... well, read on.
1) We're looking to reform the system so that everyone can have affordable insurance.

Maybe I'm wrong (I am married, after all), but it seems that all of the other things that I buy with the word "insurance" on the end do very different things than "health insurance" is supposed to do. As a rule, Americans don't really want health insurance. Sure, insurance is nice, and I want to be covered if a major medical catastrophe happens, the same way that I want to be covered by my car insurance if I have an accident. But that's not really the point of medical insurance. Consider what Americans want in a "good" health insurance plan. Doctor visit fees covered. Prescription drugs covered. Hospitalization expenses covered. In essence, there should be little or no out-of-pocket expense for any health care procedure. Essentially, Americans want an all-you-can-eat medical buffet. They want a health subscription service.  A lot of commerical health plans are set up in this way.  Someone (not you, of course) pays the subscription fee and you get access to whatever medical services you need.  That's nice covereage if you can get it.  After all, the nice thing about an all-you-can-eat buffet is that you don't have to think about whether you want to pay 60 cents for that scoop of mashed potatoes.  You can just scoop it on and figure out whether you wanted or needed them at the table.  In medicine, where you're dealing with silly things like your life and well-being, it's nice to have to not make decisions based on out-of-pocket cost, but someone is paying for that additional bloodwork your doctor ordered.

Then there's that interesting word "affordable" which is conveniently never defined.  Putting aside the massive "government" expenditure (i.e., your tax money... either taxes will go up, programs will be cut, or... and this is probably what they'll pick... we'll put it on the national credit card) that will be required to finance this plan, what exactly is an "affordable" premium.  Considering that this program seeks to be "universal", part of the population you're going to be looking at are people who have no job, no income, and no skills.  They live from day to day.  (Don't get romantic about "the spirit of the American people."  There are plenty of folks out there who don't have anything going, some of their own fault, some by circumstance.)  It doesn't seem sporting to exclude them, but what exactly do you charge that guy for a premium that's "affordable" to him?  Or will it simply be free?  Come to think of it, ask Americans who have health insurance through their job how much their premiums are.  You'll probably get a blank look.  My guess is that people think that health care is simply free already, because the company pays the premiums.  They'd probably balk at even a small fee that they really can afford.  After all, it's more than they're paying now.

Something I have yet to get an answer to on this "health reform" bill is whether the "public option" will be more like the "all-you-can-eat" policies that are out there or one that's more like the catastrophic coverage that I have.  It's said that there are 46 million uninsured people in the United States.  To quote that number is something of a sleight of hand.  For political purposes, it makes for a great tagline to draw up pity points.  But, when figuring out the costs of the plan, the important question is "what sort of plan will this be?"  If the answer is anything more than "catastrophic coverage", then you're also paying for an upgrade for however many million people fall below that level.

Bottom line: it's not that health care isn't worth spending money on.  It's that it's not free.  We can have a rational conversation about whether it is an appropriate use of government resources to provide health care to everyone and if it is, if that's high on the list of priorities.  But let's stop the fiction here.  This costs real money.  Sometimes, something can be a really good idea, but if you don't have the resources to do it, then it's a dumb idea to go ahead and do it anyway.  (That, however, does sum up American consumer behavior in a nutshell.)
2) You can keep your current plan, if you want to.

Personal experience: This past year, I was working for a company (no longer work for them) and as part of my pay package, I got health insurance coverage through one of the big major insurance brand names.  The plan was nice enough.  Decent coverage for what I needed.  However, the economy wasn't going so well, and so the company decided to make some cutbacks.  They re-evaluated the health coverage they provided and found that another company was cheaper.  They sent around the usual memo that goes out to employees when you're getting screwed on something ("Almost the same coverage at great savings!"  Always the exclamation point) and sure enough in January, we switched over.  No one asked me whether I wanted to keep the old plan.  Why?  Because most Americans don't actually pick their health insurance plan.  At best, they pick from 2 or 3 plans provided by the same company.  And because it's hard to find/switch jobs in general, most people don't look at exactly which plan they're getting when they sign on to a job.  It's usually enough to see "medical/dental/vision" in the want ad on  It's not like there's a giant Facebook fan club for Aetna insurance.  If they happen to have my coverage, that's nice.

Then why the insistence on saying "you can keep your current plan?"  I think there are two reasons.  One is that Americans are generally (and probably properly) reluctant... perhaps proud is a better word... to take something that is labeled "government aid."  It's not that the government wants to re-assure people that they can hold on to whatever policy they have (if they even know what it is!), but that they can stay the heck out of the government one.  The other is that people would rather "the devil they know than the devil they don't."  People are afraid of change, even if you can make a reasonable case that the alternative is better.

But then, they might not have a choice.  President B-Rock speaks of the government plan as a competing insurance company.  OK, fine.  The plan will probably be, in one form or another, administered by Congress, the 535 people in America who never say no to anyone, because they might be kicked out of the best job in America: spending other people's money.  Sure, there will be some "health review panel" but it will be staffed by political hacks who can't say no to anyone either.  It doesn't matter which party is in control.  They've both shown that neither has any fiscal restraint.  Eventually, the coverage provided by the plan will be outstanding.  Premiums will be subsidized by the taxpayers, and when Americans inevitably cry that they are "too high", Congress will pass a tax to lower them right before election time.  (In a brilliant feat of accounting logic, people will see that they pay $300 more in taxes per year and see their health premiums go down by $200 per year and will say that they have saved money!)  Eventually, the government plan will be very attractive.  Even before that point, when they're still working out the kinks, why should I, as an employer pay for something that the government is going to either give you outright or sell at a low cost, particularly when economic times are hard?  Since most people have their coverage through their employer, they'll end up like me this past January, switching coverage not because I wanted to, but because that's the way things work.

3) There will be rationing of medicine!

This qualifies as stupid despite the fact that it is technically true.  The romantic notion that you will walk into a hospital, and immediately be tended to by the world's greatest doctors, highest tech medicine, and have 24 hour monitoring in a guest room with wi-fi is sci-fi.  The world's greatest doctors only work so many hours.  There are only so many of those high tech machine thingies that my brother sells.  There will be a line, and not everyone can be first in line.

What gets me about this one that when people decry the probability that there will be rationing, what exactly do they think is happening now?  The only difference now is that it's not a bureaucrat who's doing the rationing, but the market.  There are things that I can get done based on my insurance covereage that other people can't.  There are things I can't have done that other people who have better insurance can.  Generally, it comes down to what sort of job that I have.  I agree (see above) that what is now "health care reform" eventally becomes a national health care plan (if you want to call that "socialized" be my guest... frankly, that word is used primarily as a scare tactic... but again, probably technically proper.)  The thing about a national health care plan is that I would have the same coverage as you, no matter what my job/income.  I'd have no claim to jump in front of you in line because I have better insurance.

Claims of rationing are usually followed by examples involving Canada, in which people who would have to wait 4 months for a procedure come south to the US to have it done in 15 minutes.  Usually, they forget to say "because they can afford to pay for it."  In the US, you can jump ahead in line if you can pay more.  That's a market system.  In Canada, there's probably a system of assigning places in line, perhaps based on medical need, but eventually, places are assigned by something that boils down to "first-come first-served."  And for some procedures, the line is very long.  Which is the more just system.  That's what the whole debate boils down to.
But the reason that I think cries of "rationing!" are so effective is that it gets people thinking about how decisions on rationing would happen.  Rationing requires a system of who should go first.  Whether that's first-come first-served or whether it's based on age, medical need, etc., there's the very real thought that we're dealing with people's lives and the possibility that in putting someone toward the back of the line, they may die.  We all like to believe that we value all life equally, but this is a case where you just can't do that.  Having those conversations is really really really uncomfortable.  It's a lot easier to let the market do it for you because you can honestly say that it wasn't your fault.

4) Anything said by Sarah Palin

Sarah!  Good to see you again.  See that clock over there that says 14:59?  Can we talk about what's actually factually in the bill?
5) Just about any of the details of the plan.

Americans have a curious and well-documented pattern of answering that they would like "less government" but would like more spending on specific government programs such as education or infrastructure.  This holds even if you ask the same person.  We want one thing overall, but when it comes down to the details, we want another.  Selling the brand of "health care reform" is a winner.  Everyone has something that they don't like about the health care system.  The problem is that they all have things that they do like.  The more details you release, the more likely you are to be stepping on something that someone doesn't want changed.

What's strange is that people will oppose something that is 90% what they like and 10% what they don't like.  So, the more vague you are, the more likely you are to get people to line up behind whatever it is you're selling.  One would think that the human teleprompter himself (B-Rock... or President Obama, as some of you insist on calling him) could give one of his trademark speeches of pure fluff which sound great (remember "Yes We Can!  Hope!  Change!  Pickles!"... OK, I made the last one up).  He's good at that sort of thing.  Herein lies B-Rock's weakness.  He's a smart guy and so he's interested in the actual details.  Can't say that I blame him, because more people should be interested in the details.  But B-Rock makes an awful salesman when it comes to details and in any case, the more details you give, the more people will find some fault with one of them.  If B-Rock really wants this bill passed, he should come up with a slogan ("To your health!") and ram it through that way.  It's horribly cynical politics, but it's about the only thing that's going to save him.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

QB controversies, horses, and babies

Tuesdays used to be "Take a look around" day where I would look around and note all the things that were happening that weren't news:

  1. People are taking this whole Twitter thing way too far. The OR? (Side note: I never understood Twitter. No one's life is so interesting that I need minute-to-minute updates on what they are doing, and 75% of all Tweets consist of "bored. txt me."

  2. Governer Swarz... Schwartzen... Arnold said something stupid. Apparently, the entire state of Kuhlifornia is on fire. And then oddly, he just spouts off a bunch of numbers. Today, I asked my wife, "How long has he been governor of Kuhlifornia?" She said, "Way too long."

  3. Opposites really do attract! And then they fight. You know this couple.

In other words, nothing new is happening.

Stuff I've been thinking about:

I used to write at a Sabermetrics (advanced baseball analysis) blog called Statistically Speaking. There's a decent chance you already know that. When I was there, I used to warn about the dangers of reading too much into a small sample size. I live in Cleveland right now, a town which theoretically has a professional football team, and its fans are currently arguing over which quarterback will lead them to the 5-11 season that they are bound to have this year. Will it be Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson? It seems that three pre-season games in (out of four!), the competition is still on. Everyone in the town who follows football, and some who don't, have an opinion on which mediocre quarterback is slightly better.

Here's what I wonder: the "competition" was being staged in the pre-season, and folks seem to be basing their opinions largely on what they see in the four games, in which each man will probably throw a total of 30-40 passes. Against second stringers. And no one thinks that this is a bad way to evaluate a quarterback?

Real headline:
Best selling Bible to undergo revision. (They can do that?) via ABC News.

Real headline #2:
Pantless man accused of harassing neighbor's horse. (I don't want to know... yes I do...)

FINLEY, Wash. – A man who apparently wasn't wearing pants has been accused of harassing a neighbor's horse. The Tri-City Herald reported the horse's owner spotted a bald man without any pants chasing the horse about 3:30 a.m. Friday in a corral. Benton County sheriff's deputies identified a 26-year-old man, who lives next door, as the suspect and he was jailed for investigation of trespassing.

Deputies also were called to the home Thursday evening when the owner saw the same bald man scaring the horse enough to break through an electrical and barb-wire fence. He was wearing a black T-shirt and blue shorts at the time.

So... he did this more than once? I think we have enough information to declare this the week's "alcohol was involved" story.

On to the news:

Man robs back to get away from wife
(DJ Chia Pet, if you're reading this... well, wonder where that extra cash came from?)

Church gets endorsement from Satan
(Pastor: "Jesus wants us to be creative.")

  • Something to warm my Cleveland heart. Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez have been reunited on the same team. Thome was traded from the White Sox to the Dodgers for a minor leaguer.

  • Since someone is bound to ask, I am still doing Sabermetric work, and if I have something that I want to share with the world, for the time being, it will probably go here. I promise that I'll mark my Sabermetrics posts with a Sabermetrics tag.
And finally:
My wife (DJ Chia Pet) suggested that I make a blog all about her and Narlie, our daughter. And because cute pictures of babies get traffic:

Monday, August 31, 2009

The magnificent return of FIF

I've decided to re-open this old blog. The most likely people to be reading this are the people who know me as Pizza Cutter, the guy who does Sabermetrics (advanced baseball analysis), formerly at Statistically Speaking (and occasionally elsewhere). Maybe you remember when I used to write regularly here at FIF about Kevin Federline. You might also just know me from actual life. Maybe you just stumbled in here. Any way you got here, welcome.

FIF was my first foray into blogging, back when I actually had time to do daily blogging. Oddly enough, I didn't often talk about baseball on FIF. It was a continuation of my old college radio days when I would do weird news stories on the air. It's been about 2.5 years since I regularly updated FIF. I'm actually rather surprised that Blogger kept it active.

I'm not entirely sure what direction FIF will take at this point. To be honest, I think the best mission statement that I can make is that I'm going to write for my own amusement and hope that other people find it somewhat interesting. Knowing me, I'll probably write on the following issues:

  • Baseball in general, Sabermetrics in particular
  • Funny news stories
  • Bright, shiny objects that I find while cruising through the internet
  • Kevin Federline
  • Funny things that my wife says
  • Trips that I take to Walgreens during which I see signs of the apocalypse
  • Incredibly cute things my daughter does
  • Random political thoughts that I have (not very often)
  • Statistical tutorials
  • My life

Live and indirect from the world's first, international interactive ziggurat for endangered species and auto parts superstore. I am the Pizza Cutter. This is the Foreign Intelligence Files.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Live Blog of the All-Star Game

I wanted to. All times Central.

7:04 pm - Eric Byrnes is in McCovey Cove. Shouldn't he be... oh I dunno, at the game?

7:07 pm - Let the Barry Bonds lovefest begin! Tonight marks the time when America decides that it's not the end of the world if someone cheats and gets ahead. That's what America's about.

7:08 pm - What's with the Jeter and Griffey interview Willie Mays thing. Nice... but Mays isn't much of an interview and Jeter and Griffey are doing the worst delivery of scripted questions I've ever seen.

7:11 pm - And now a man from San Diego in a Taco Bell jersey is playing Tee-Ball on national TV.

7:12 pm - Swing and a miss and he doesn't put any of his three balls out of the infield. Fox throws it to Homer Simpson, who does the outro to the commercial break. This is going to be a long night.

7:17 pm - Ah, my favorite time of the year. The All-Star intros. Rafael Belliard finally made it to an All-Star Game.

7:19 pm - Gil Meche just got introduced and gave the usual "Yeah, I'm here because the Royals had to send someone look." The Giants fans booed the Angels players (why?) and they couldn't help but chuckle.

7:21 pm - How did the Diamondbacks get two All-Stars? How is Alfonso Soriano an All-Star? How is Brian Fuentes an All-Star? Was Tony LaRussa not watching his last two weeks?

7:24 pm - Ah, the All-Star game where we get to see David Ortiz actually play in the field. And they said interleague play was bad.

7:25 pm - Are they sure that Placido Polanco isn't there to sing the National Anthem? Speaking of, it's almost time for my favorite two minutes of TV of the year...

7:28 pm - Did anyone else notice that David Wright is wearing his pinstriped Mets jersey while Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran are wearing their solid white Mets home unis? (Update: nevermind, I just need a new TV.)

7:32 pm - Chris Isaak(!!!) is singing the National Anthem. He looks like a cocky jerk doing that. He only sorta knows the words (perilous night, gave proof through the fight.... close enough) And I think they cut out the Canadian anthem again. *sigh*. There's no better awkward TV moment than the Canadian national anthem at the All-Star game.

7:36 pm - Willie Mays gets brought in from center field. A few years ago, in Boston, another outfielder of note was carted in and toasted. He died a little while later and his head was apparently frozen. Here's to hope the same doesn't befall Willie.

7:40 pm - And now he's throwing baseballs into the crowd. Ummmm... can we get the game started.

7:45 pm - Joe Buck introduces himself and the game by saying "You know the matchup already, the American League vs. the National League." Thanks Joe. Tim McCarver already sounds wasted.

7:47 pm - Taco Bell has run the very odd marathon runners eating tacquitos commercial twice in about 5 minutes.

7:51 pm - They're having Cal Ripken read the AL Starting lineup, despite the fact that we just had a big ceremony on the field that gave this information already.

7:54 pm - The plate umpire is 67 years old, and he's #2 on the all-time games umpired list. They keep that?

7:55 pm - Ichiro singles and Brad Penny starts warming up. Joe Buck just mentioned that Jeter has won three Gold Gloves. Hahahahahahahahaha!

7:57 pm - DJ Chia Pet just got home and asked if I would like her to make me dinner. I got to yell 6-4-3! She still doesn't get it.

7:58 pm - Buck calls Ortiz "clutch." And blames Ortiz's "down" season on the fact that Manny Ramirez hasn't been having a good year. Two Sabermetric fallacies within thirty seconds.

8:00 pm - Prince Fielder has a Steve Sax moment.

8:05 pm - Barry is up. Storybook moment ready to happen?

8:07 pm - Nah, fly ball to right.

8:09 pm - I was about to remark how Tim McCarver had actually not said anything stupid. Commenting on Carlos Beltran making catches in Minute Maid Park or Enron Field or whatever it's called, "He made a lot of catches for the Astros and against the Astros."

8:12 pm - Griffey drives in a run. NL up 1-0.

8:14 pm - DJ Chia Pet wants an iPhone. No.

8:19 pm - Fox outros the top of the 2nd with a shot of a girl picking her nose. Now that's cute. DJ Chia Pet just brought me a cupcake. Yesterday was our second wedding anniversary.

8:23 pm - Prince Fielder was named after The Artist Currently Known As Prince. Where do they come up with this stuff? Russell Martin's father was a buskler.

8:28 pm - DJ Chia Pet asked me what league the Cleveland Indians (my beloved team) are in. Then she asked which one the Braves are in (she's from Atlanta). I will now divorce her. Dan Haren strikes out Miguel Cabrera to end the 2nd.

8:31 pm - I don't know if anyone is actually reading this, but I realize that I haven't written in FIF since March. I miss it. I've been actually cheating on FIF with a gig doing Sabermetrics blogging at

8:34 pm - A one-question interview with Dan Haren. Now that's journalistic excellence on the part of Fox.

8:36 pm - Fox is belaboring the thought that Ichiro will probably be a free agent at the end of the year. Then, they throw it over to Ken Rosenthal who points out that Ichiro is actually close to re-signing.

8:38 pm - David Ortiz is up with two runners on and two out with his team down one. Now, this would be a time for a clutch hit, because Ortiz is soooooo clutch. He lines to right. 1-0, middle of the third.

8:41 pm - Josh Beckett comes on for the AL. Jose Reyes greets him with a double that A-Rod just... well, missed...

8:43 pm - Joe Buck suggests that Jim Leyland intentionally walk Barry Bonds. Bonds squares to bunt. Bonds hits a fly ball to left field. Destiny and Magglio Ordonez get in the way.

8:45 pm - Shameless, "I'm from Cleveland" moment. C.C. Sabathia is warming up!

8:48 pm - Josh Beckett has to strengthen his middle finger using Stan's Rodeo ointment. I did a Google search on the subject. Apparently, this is common.

8:50 pm - I will pay someone a million dollars if they eliminate all copies of John Mellencamp's "Thiiiiiiis is Our Country" from the planet.

8:52 pm - Alfonso Soriano comes on for Bonds. A-Rod just got a "Clutch" award from Pepsi. Hahahahahahahahaha!

8:55 pm - A-Rod just got thrown out at home by about 20 feet. Now that's clutch! 1-0, middle of the fourth.

8:57 pm - The Japanese hot dog eating guy (Hideki Okajima?) is now a spokesman for Coors. Even though he lost on July Fourth.

9:02 pm - Fox is wringing their hands over whether or not Barry Bonds used steroids. He might have, he might not have. I have an idea. As a culture, let's all agree that it doesn't matter. Further, will Bonds please just break the record and get it over with?

9:04 pm - "In the years from 1920-1965, there were 12 players who hit more than 50 HR in one season. In the last twelve years, there have been (I forget what number he said). Did that just happen? No." - Tim McCarver.

9:06 pm - DJ Chia Pet just IMed me from our bedroom. Ain't technology wonderful?

9:09 pm - Derrek Lee and Chris Young (who's actually suspended right now!) enter the game at the same time. After getting into a fight with him a week or so ago. Tim McCarver, desperately tries to make two references to the movie 300. For Sparta!

9:10 pm - Eric Byrnes just tossed his dog into the water. I'm glad that he's on my fantasy team. He hits, he runs, he does weird things.

9:12 pm - The most interesting thing of the night happens. Ichiro hits a ball off the wall and manages an inside-the-park-homerun. Tim McCarver says "It's a rare rare rare thing." Indeed, it's never actually happened before. 2-1 AL. Can the AL win their tenth straight, with one tie... not that I'm still bitter about that?

9:17 pm - C.C. is pitching!

9:19 pm - Tim McCarver: "Sometimes you catch the ball. Sometimes the ball catches you." Thanks Tim. Carl Crawford makes a nice catch.

9:21 pm - C.C. gets the third out to end the fifth, and Eric Byrne's dog is safe. All is good in the world. Is it just me or is Fox casting about for any story line at all tonight?

9:27 pm - Francisco Cordero is facing Carl Crawford. Yawn. It's the sixth inning.

9:29 pm - Of course, right after I type that and submit it, he hits a home run. 3-1 AL. Tim McCarver exclaims "Cordero got it up, and so did Crawford." Hahahahahahahahaha!

9:30 pm - Friend Steve recommends the movie Transformers. He says that if I'm looking for "a good movie, combined with a desire to feel like you're 6 years old again and a serious geekout," then I should go see it. Hmmmm... Isn't there a baseball game going on here?

9:34 pm - Carlos Beltran triples. Steve and I are talking about Underdog: The Movie which is coming out soon. My review after seeing the preview: "That's wrong. Not genocide wrong, but definitely double homicide with an overdue library book wrong."

9:36 pm - Griffey hits a sac fly. AL is up 3-2.

9:40 pm - Russell Martin hits a San Francisco cop with a foul ball. No word on whether he also hit the construction worker or the cowboy. If you get that joke, I love you.

9:44 pm - MasterCard is doing their Actober contest (horrible pun) where you act out a great moment from the World Series. Can I do Julian Tavarez after Game 6 of the 1995 World Series?

9:47 pm - Riveting TV from Fox. Tony LaRussa talking to Bruce Froemming (the home plate umpire) about all his lineup changes. Yeah... great...

9:49 pm - And we're working along at a nice little clip. Middle of the seventh. And out comes Paula Cole to sing God Bless America? She's still alive? DJ Chia Pet likes to watch Dawson's Creek in the morning, so I'm often reminded of her, but I figured that she had just waited and her life was over.

9:50 pm - Apparently, the keyboard is malfunctioning. This is more awkward than the Canadian national anthem could ever be. Paula should have just belted it out a capella. She finally gets to singing (overdone), but for some reason, the camera man felt the need to give us a close up of her right armpit.

9:55 pm - I just checked who it was that sang the Canadian anthem. No one. The San Francisco orchestra just played it. They didn't even bother having Avril Lavigne come in and do it. She probably would have introduced it as her own song.

9:58 pm - Soriano swings a big bat and hangs right out over the plate. We know what you mean.
10:04 pm - Grady Sizemore is up! (update: Sizemore goes down on strikes.)

10:05 pm - Friend Steve asks whether we can get David Ortiz on Iron Chef. This after we learn that Ortiz (who's been out of the game since the 4th or so) likes cooking and the Green Bay Packers. Victor Martinez is up!

10:07 pm - Oh if only Cleveland Indians announcer Tom Hamilton had been there for Martinez's home run: "A swing and a driiiiive, ta deep left... A waaaaaaaaaayyyyyy back.... gone!"

10:11 pm - I cast my very biased vote for MVP for Victor Martinez. Ichiro will probably get it. Which means that the Japanese guy will get the Chevy.

10:13 pm - Papelbon comes in to start the bottom of the 8th. Tim McCarver says that he's a good closer because he's got a good sense of humor. Yeah... Strangely enough, McCarver's having a good night. He hasn't said that many stupid things. For him.

10:16 pm - We're at the point in the game where the game will be decided by those who are there because their team had to have one guy in the game.

10:20 pm - Papelbon (Red Sox) is pitching to Jorge Posada (Yankees). Is world peace that far away? Middle of the eighth, 5-2 AL.

10:23 pm - Maybe it's just because I'm a psychologist, but does the Burger King barbecue bacon Tendercrisp commercial ("SHUT UP") scare anyone else?

10:24 pm - OK, I give up. What is the decal that's been mowed into the grass in center field?

10:31 pm - My wife and I just had a conversation about popping zits. I love my wife.

10:32 pm - We're having a festschrift for Bruce Froemming.

10:37 pm - Bottom of the ninth. Putz in. The AL looks like they're going to put it away. You know the game is coming to an end when they start doing the credits.

10:41 pm - The last hope for the NL rests with a member of the Washington Nationals. And we're rehashing all of Dmitri Young's problems apparently as a nice way to end the game.

10:44 pm - Young singles to second base. Roberts would have had a tough play. Alfonso Soriano is up with his team down 5-2. If he hits a home run, my neighborhood will go nuts. Cubs fans are that loyal and that bad at math.

10:47 pm - Lest anyone accuse me of writing things after the fact, I have a witness that the previous entry was written before Soriano's HR. Things just got interesting. 5-4 AL, with J.J. Hardy coming to bat.

10:49 pm - A boring game finally has a tense moment. Hardy walks.

10:50 pm - Jim Leyland actually makes a pitching change mid-inning! Not just that, a double switch! Derrek Lee could actually become a hero here. Wrigleyville really would go nuts if he hits one here.

10:55 pm - K-Rod is snapping off curve-balls that I can only dream about. 3-2 2 outs, 1 run game, ninth inning.

10:56 pm - D Lee walks on a check swing... bringing up Orlando Hudson... why is Albert Pujols still on the bench?

10:57 pm - K-Rod loads the bases with a walk to Hudson, and we're actually getting a visit to the mound from the pitching coach in an All-Star Game. Now, it's Aaron Rowand.

11:00 pm - EXHALE! A thriller ends with a fly ball to right, and Albert Pujols sitting on the bench. The AL wins the All-Star game for the tenth straight time. 5-4.

11:02 pm - Flash forward to October. Game 7 of the World Series is in Cleveland, and the Indians come back in the bottom of the ninth to win the game against the Mets or Padres or whoever. The Mets think to themselves, if only LaRussa would have put Pujols in the All-Star game, this game would have been in New York.

11:05 pm - Ichiro gets the MVP. The guy from Chevy is addressing Ichiro even though he can't understand it.

11:06 pm - The interview between the Fox anchorette and Ichiro is amazing unintentional comedy. Apparently nobody told her that he doesn't speak English.

11:07 pm - Apparently, no one told her that he probably won't be a free agent either. I also think that the translator guy basically was just making things up.

11:09 pm - With that said, it's time for FIF to sign off. I don't know if I'll be reviving FIF, but I want to. Catch me on MVN, though. Until next time because this time was better than last time, I am and will continue to be the Pizza Cutter. Say good night, DJ Chia Pet.

Friday, March 23, 2007

My kind of tattoo

I realize I haven't seen an episode of Gilmore Girls in weeks. My wife gave up TV for Lent, and I've been teaching on Tuesday nights, which means no Gilmore Girls. Plus, we haven't been watching the DVD episodes for Gilmore Girls either. Is my guy card going to be permanently revoked if I say that I'm in Gilmore Girls withdrawal?

On to the news:

How to scare away coyotes
(Use an airhorn? Now, how to scare away the jerks with the air horns...)

Thieves steal $12,000 in underwear
(For... what?)

Pizza Cutter, meet Pizza Head
(Now that's commitment to a job!)

Thief uses his own credit card to open a lock
(Guess what happened...)

Bright, shiny objects:

Senior prank
(Didn't anyone... notice?)

I'd laugh, but those who know me would tell you that I could have easily written this
(If I knew anything about physics, that is)

T-shirt of the week:

For sale
(I'm sure there's a few of you out there who are tempted)

And finally:

My wife knows Hebrew. Last weekend at the Bar Mitzvah, she claims that she was following along. On the other hand, while the cantor was singing a song and tapping out a beat, all I could think of was, "Wouldn't it be cool to remix this?" I'm so reverent.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Chinese food is bad for you?

Being a professor is nice around finals week. Unlike my students, who are cramming for three or four different tests, watching their immune systems crumble, and enduring a week and a half of anxiety and agony, all I have to do is write a test, copy it, and then hand it to them and read a book while they sweat it out.

But, then again, I have to grade them.

On to the news:

But I went there for a healthy alternative
(Pope may also be Catholic, film at 11)

Speaking of the Pope, he had a visitor today
(The mental image on this one is astounding)

Karma 1, Enron 0
(Actually, Karma, 182M)

More "old people smuggling drugs" stories
(This one happens with alarming frequency)

Bright, shiny objects:

Mario Brothers, done with legos
(A full minute of giggling!)

Actual useful information
(What to have in your car in case you get stranded in the snow)

Today's strange anniversary:

March 21, 1860 -- US extradition treaty with Sweden. Someone apparently felt the need to write that one down.

Fun fact of the day:

Why do they call it Latin America?

And finally:

Happy equinox to you all. It's the first day of spring, which means that the days are finally longer than the nights, and it only gets better until June!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Kevin Federline, the search engine

It's time for our Tuesday look around the world to see what's going on!
  1. Boss makes call to beleaguered employee to console them in his time of need.
  2. Good IT workers are so hard to find
  3. Here's another thing that Keanu Reeves can't do
  4. Politicians engage in both bribery and lying
  5. Harry Potter loves the environment
In other words, nothing new is happening.

Something so odd, it gets its own section:

As I'm someone who deals in the odd, you may be wondering what on earth might actually qualify as "too weird" to be included in the general weirdness that is the Foreign Intelligence Files (FIF for short!).

Kevin Federline is starting his own search engine.

On to the news:

Win a date with... Alan Greenspan?
(What would you talk about?)

Food story, not for the faint of heart
(Would you?)

Headline: Lingerie-clad prowler hit in the head with frying pan
(I'm not making this up)

Bright, shiny objects:

It's a dog... riding a bike
(In Japan)

Political figures in drag
(Perhaps there was some use of Photoshop... nah)

Today's random "next blog":

Business News
(This might be a flog, but it's what came up)

Today's strange anniversary:

March 20, 1969 -- Beatle John Lennon marries Yoko Ono in Gibraltar. I mean, if I was John and you were Yoko, I would gladly give up musical genius...

Fun fact of the day:

In Chinese, the words for crisis and opportunity are the same.

And finally:

The Baseball Psychologist.

How Jewish is your home?

So this weekend, I went to a Bar Mitzvah. My first one. My college roommate's little brother was officially being inducted into Jewish adulthood, and so I was invited to witness it. It was three hours of Hebrew, followed by a sermon (?) on the theme, "How Jewish is Your Home?" My wife and I could only look at each other and stifle a laugh.

"Do you have a Mezzuzah over your door?" (No, but we have crosses...)
"Do you have a Tzedakah box?" (No, but my wife likes to play Sudoku boxes...)
"Do you have a Shabbat tradition? Maybe dad lights the candles or maybe..." (Maybe I'm in the wrong place...)

If you've never been, the service is nice once you actually figure out where to follow along with the translation. The people there were kind and understanding to the two goyim. But, try as I might, whenever they would do a prayer, being Orthodox (Christian... yeah, that was a fun one to explain), I wanted to end it with the Sign of the Cross. Probably the wrong thing to do in those circumstances.

Also, this was on St. Patrick's Day, the day that Americans celebrate the Christianization of the country of Ireland by engaging in large public acts of excessive drinking while wearing green. Waiting for the train, I had to step in and politely request that a very drunk man (in a plastic green hat) stop hitting on a girl who clearly was not into it.

On to the news:

An update on a story I did a few months ago
(Breahalyzers for teachers! It works!)

Today's most creative thieves

Throwing celery now a crime
(At least at a soccer match)

Bright, shiny objects:

How it should have ended
(How your favorite movies should have ended)

Where to shop in Japan
(Once again,! While we're at it, here's a report on St. Patrick's Day in Tokyo.)

Today's random "next blog":

Alexandra Michel
(A midwife serving in the Phillipines)

The Monday playlist feature:

Wednesday marks the Vernal Equinox, the first day of Spring. Spring Training is in full swing. On the subject, I am trying to research the ill-fated Spring of 1995. Remember the replacement players. Wonder what they were listening to after the game?

5) Dionne Farris -- I Know

4) Soul For Real -- Candy Rain

3) Brandy -- Baby

2) Sheryl Crow -- Strong Enough

1) Madonna -- Take A Bow

It wouldn't be a Monday playlist without Madonna. Will someone tell me who Dionne Farris and Soul For Real are? Is Brandy still alive?

By the way, I found a few other chart review sites. This one has Madonna, Hootie and the Blowfish, Dionne Farris, Des'ree, and Boyz II Men. This one has most of the same plus Green Day's "When I Come Around." (Who knew they'd be the only ones still around from that group?)

Today's strange anniversary:

March 19, 1883 -- Jan Matzeliger invents 1st machine to manufacture entire shoes.

Fun fact of the day:

The Chinese ideogram for 'trouble' symbolizes 'two women living under one roof'.

And finally:

I think I'm really gonna do it. Not a daily blog, but a new blog to highlight my Sabermetric interests. I need to plan it out a bit, but check back for an announcement soon.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

5th Annual NCAA Picks

It is the surest sign of spring that there is. Better than a woodland creature poking his head out of a hole. (Let's be honest. There will be six more weeks of winter either way.) Better than the stores putting out Easter candy for sale. (Let's be honest. They put that out in mid-January. And we eat it in April.) Not quite as good as spring training baseball, but no one bets on spring training baseball. (Let's be honest. That "pool" you enter is nothing more than a cleverly disguised gambling ploy.)

It's time for the NCAA Men's Basketball tournament. (It's apparently also time for the women's tournament, but no one watches that one. Or bets on it. Incidentally, while I'm in these parentheses, the Women's Final Four is in my beloved Cleveland. How did that happen and no one told me?) Once again, millions of men (and twenty-three women) will be attempting to show how knowledgeable they are about college basketball by filling out their brackets. This always ends in a great deal of hilarity, as most men know little about college basketball.

I, on the other hand, revel in my ignorance. I know nothing about college basketball. Absolutely nothing. I go to DePaul University, and I don't even know if they're any good this year. (Seeing that they didn't make the tournament, apparently not.) The thing is, I pick my games the same way that you do, based on stupid reasons like "I have an aunt who lives in Arizona" or "I'd rather go to Texas than North Carolina for vacation." Actually, you pick games based on reasons that involve your "knowledge" of basketball, and I win the pool every year. Life isn't fair.

This year, my fifth year doing this (seriously), I can get a little more interactive with the picks because I'm putting it in blog form. So sit back and enjoy as the master picks all 64 games for you and tells you the reasons for why the game will end that way. As always, don't use these as the basis for any real wager. It's not that I mind that you'd gamble, it's that I just don't want you to lose money.

Thr first round or the "So you won an irrelevant conference tournament" Sixty-four:

St. Louis Regional

(1) Florida over (16) Jackson State

Let's think about all the famous Jacksons that there have been. Seventh President Andrew Jackson. Abstract artist Jackson Pollock. And, of course, Michael Jackson (who for some reason is in the news greeting U.S. troops in Japan.) I think the last thing we need is another famous Jackson.

(9) Purdue over (8) Arizona

When was the last time you got a good chicken from Arizona?

(5) Butler over (12) Old Dominion

Everyone knows that the butler is always the killer.

(4) Maryland over (13) Davidson

One of those iron-clad rules of NCAA tournament picking (#3): Never pick a school if you don't know where it is.

(6) Notre Dame over (11) Winthrop

A thought: Had Old Dominion and Winthrop changed places (or ND and Butler), then Butler could have played Winthrop. An Englishman's delight! Rule #6: Never bet against God.

(14) Miami of Ohio over (3) Oregon

A friend of mine went to Miami, and I actually talked to him earlier tonight. He told me that MofO (read that carefully) got in. I said, "So I'm gonna have to pick them to go to the Final Four, aren't I?" He said yes.

(10) Georgia Tech over (7) UNLV

This year, the Final Four is in Atlanta. Tech is in Atlanta. I'm starting to see a pattern here.

(2) Wisconsin over (15) Texas A&M - CC

I have no idea what CC means. Did they let a community college in? Corpus Christi? (Kristy, Kristy, Kristy!) This really confused me when I saw that the "real" Texas A&M is also in the tournament along with the University of Texas, Texas Tech, and North Texas.

San Jose Regional

(1) Kansas over (16) play-in game winner

I went to KU for a conference. Nice place. Yes, that's my entire reason for picking them.

(8) Kentucky over (9) Villanova

KY. Giggle.

(12) Illinois over (5) Virginia Tech

I took a look around at where I was sitting. Never bet against your own state. Besides, Virginia Tech sounds like something that Bible Belt girls say about themselves. (Think about that one for a minute.)

(4) Southern Illinois over (13) Holy Cross

Yeah, I don't know either. So, rule #9 applies. Pick the team ranked higher.

(6) Duke over (11) VCU

Rule #5: Never pick a school if you have no idea what their acronym stands for.

(3) Pitt over (14) Wright State

Wright State. Rong city. Nothing wrong with Dayton, mind you...

(10) GONZAGA! over (7) Indiana

Every year, Gonzaga gets in, and everyone loves screaming "GONZAGA!" Well, by "everyone", I mean "me."

(2) UCLA over (15) Weber State

Weber is not actually a state. And we all know that Webber doesn't have a good history in the NCAA tournament.

East Rutherford Regional

(1) North Carolina over (16) Eastern Kentucky

RHIP. The tournament committee put this game in Winston-Salem instead of Lexington. Coincidence? Rule #1: Never bet on a "directional" state school. Except for Northern Carolina.

(8) Marquette over (9) Michigan State

True story: I picked Marquette because I was concerned that there wouldn't be a team in the second round with a Q in its name.

(5) USC over (12) Arkansas

Since we're talking about people who live in Southern California, Pamela Anderson has come forward and stood up for Britney Spears. It's too bad that there's not a team named "Britney" or something like that, and that I already eliminated Jackson State.

(4) Texas over (13) New Mexico State

I know that Mexico is talking about the whole Reconquista thing, but doesn't that part of America sound better as "Texas" than an as-yet-unnamed-New-Mexico-State? Was that too high-level of a joke?

Did anyone get that?

(11) George Washington over (6) Corneilius Vanderbilt.

(3) Washington State over (14) Oral Roberts

Do I even need to make that joke?

(10) Texas Tech over (7) Boston College

God vs. Bobby Knight. I know that Rule #6 says never bet against God. But, this is Bobby Knight. (Long time readers of this annual festival of ignorance will surely groan that my Bob Knight fascination hasn't gone away. Neither has my Kris Benson fetish.)

(15) Belmont over (2) Georgetown

Here's my entire reasoning for why I picked Belmont. We live near Belmont Street. It's a sign! Remember, someone like me wins the pool every year.

San Antonio Regional

(1) Ohio State over (16) Central Connecticut State

A memo to Central Connecticut State: Congratulations on winning the NEC and getting an automatic bid to "The Dance." After 40 minutes with Ohio State, you'll be singing this song. (CCSU's motto: "Start with a dream. End with a future." Catchy. Relevant.)

(9) Xavier over (8) BYU

God vs. God. Draw. Yes, but Ohio vs. Utah. No contest.

(5) Tennessee over (12) Long Beach State

It's Spring Break time and Long Beach State is being punished by being sent to Columbus. Right there, that's plenty of reason to think that they'll throw the game.

(4) Virginia over (13) Albany

Guard play? Better perimeter defense? Trap blocking scheme? Hydrostatic emissions? If I keep this up, I'll eventually say something that sounds intelligent.

(6) Louisville over (11) Stanford

A school's basketball ability is always inversely proportionate to it's IQ. Stanford gets screwed on that one every year... so does...

(3) Texas A&M over (14) Penn

Or whoever comes out of the Ivy League. But then again, if Stanford and Penn both pull upsets, will this be the nerdiest game of NCAA basketball ever played in the second round?

(7) Nevada over (10) Creighton

Problems with Creighton: 1) In Oklahoma. 2) Sounds like a packaging supply store. 3) Not spelled the way it sounds. This will cause them to lose. Also, my exact thought process on picking this one: I picked the #10 teams in the other three brackets. I felt I was being unfair to #7,

(2) Memphis over (15) North Texas


The Round of 32, The Second Round

Which could be a reference to the NCAA toruney or the fight over who Anna Nicole Smith's baby daddy is.

Meet Me in St. Louie Regional

(1) Florida over (9) Purdue

What do you mean I spelled it wrong?

(5) Butler over (4) Maryland

A butler hasn't gotten this much love in prime time since Mr. Belvedere.

(6) Notre Dame over (14) Miami of Ohio

Omar, if you're reading this, I gave Miami one game. C'mon man, there's a limit to how far a #14 seed from Ohio can go. Then, they get beaten by Notre Dame, who ran our high school. Besides, you can't bet against God. Also, a story that I heard from a friend who went to the Michigan-Notre Dame football game this year: Before the football games, the ND players all go to Mass together. A quick reminder that God has better things to do than block field goals. Afterwards, they all emerge to a bunch of cheering ND fans... and jeering Michigan fans. Have we gone so far as a society as to cheer people coming out of church?

(10) Georgia Tech over (2) Wisconsin

When I was in Atlanta last week, I sat down for a dinner with me and eleven Russians. The guy I was sitting next to worked at Georgia Tech. (Not shocking considering that I was in Atlanta...) but he seemed like a nice guy. Ramble on Wreck.

Do you know the way to San Jose regional?

(1) Kansas over (8) Kentucky

Rock chalk, Jayhawk.

(4) Southern Illinois over (12) Illinois

This is breaking another cardinal rule of NCAA picking. Never pick a directional school over it's non-directional counterpart. But, Southern Illinois is the Salukis. You gotta give it to a school that has a mascot that no one knows what exactly it is.

(6) Duke over (3) Pitt

I always pick Duke.

(2) UCLA over (10) GONZAGA!!!

Becuase you know that Dick Vitale will be there, baybee!

There aren't any songs about East Rutherford regional

(1) North Carolina over (8) Marquette

I asked my wife. She said North Carolina. I figure she knows about as much as I do.

(4) Texas over (5) USC

I don't see any horns on your head.

(3) Washington St. over (11) George Washington

I love it when matchups like this happen.

(10) Texas Tech over (15) Belmont

Did I really pick Belmont over Georgetown? What on earth was I smoking at the time? I don't even know where Belmont is.

Davey Crockett regional.

(1) Ohio State over (9) Xavier

Hang on sloopy, sloopy hang on. O! H! I! O! Also, will someone please tell me why North Carolina gets to play in Winston-Salem, but OSU can't play in Columbus?

(5) Tennessee over (4) Virginia

Here was my actual thought process: Tennessee has a nice orange pattern going on there. I don't know what Virginia's colors are. Therefore, Tennessee wins this game. Something to note: I have yet to name one basketball player throughout the entire course of this entry.

(6) Louisville over (3) Texas A&M

Maybe because the game is in Kentucky.

(7) Nevada over (2) Memphis

When I saw these two in the bracket, I thought of Elvis Presley. Do I go with the young Tennessee Elvis or the older Las Vegas Elvis. The post office already tried that one. Then I remembered that Marc Cohn went walking in Memphis and no one has heard from him since. Not a good sign.

The Sweet Sixteen (That awful MTV show)

(1) Florida over (5) Butler

Where would you rather be on March 22nd? Florida or Central Indiana. Thought so.

(10) Georgia Tech over (6) Notre Dame

Georgia Tech have to approach this like any board game. The goal is to move along home, and so Tech stays true to the goal. Has anyone noticed that I haven't yet mentioned Paris Hilton?

(1) Kansas over (4) Southern Illinois

Jayhawk vs. Saluki. Stop and think about that one for a while. The dodo bird meets the wild dog. Kansas gets the edge because there's not only a band named Kansas (and none named "Southern Illinois"), but there's also a band called the Jayhawks.

(2) UCLA over (6) Duke

We've gotten to the point where I start feeling guilty for always picking Duke. Besides I can't spell Krzyzewski.

(1) North Carolina over (4) Texas

Prettier uniforms.

(3) Washington State over (10) Texas Tech

I suppose I could have had Texas play Texas Tech. At this rate, Washington State will have beat Oral Roberts (hehe), George Washington, and Bob Knight. Not bad. Perhaps they will also lull Dick Vitale into a deep sleep and drop him off in Antarctica. Now that I think of it, I'll say six words and it will scar you for the rest of the day: March of the Pengins. Dick Vitale.

(1) Ohio State over (5) Tennessee

Special guest appearance by Ted Ginn, Jr. Wait... Greg Oden. There! I know an actual college basketball player! I'm sure there's no relationship (not that anyone will catch that reference, except my wife.)

(6) Louisville ties (7) Nevada

Why not? Like it matters.

The Elite Alliterative Eight. Why does Alliterative start with a vowel?

(1) Florida over (10) Georgia Tech

You know how when you play Candy Land, you have to get a purple card to get to the finishing square. However, no matter how hard you "try", you can't get one. It's like that with Georgia Tech. Florida somehow pulls out a Blue, Orange, and Purple card.

(2) UCLA over (1) Kansas

Quick, name three cities in Kansas. You can't do it. Out of the tournament.

(3) Washington State over (1) North Carolina

Does a 3-seed count as a Cinderella? Watch, Wash St. will be dumped out in the first round by Oral Roberts. That happens in everyone's brackets. One of your Final Four teams will lose in the first or second round. Count on it.

(1) Ohio State over (6/7) Louisville/Nevada

Is it baseball season yet?

The Final Four

This final four features four fine and favored franchises. Why do they call it the final four, when it's really the semi-final four?

Florida over UCLA

Ohio State over Washington State

Funny how those things work out, eh?

The Final

Ohio State over Florida

If this final happens, I will personally enroll in Ohio State and play for them to ensure that they win. More to the point, I will enroll at UF to make sure that OSU wins.

And finally:

The play in game winner

(16a) Florida A&M over (16b) Niagara

Headline: Niagara Falls.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona...

It's time for our Tuesday look around the world to see what's going on!
  1. Bob Dole finally got a job in the health care field.
  2. Mariah Carey is making a movie in which she plays an aspiring singer.
  3. We're all going to die.
In other words, nothing new is going on.

On to the news:

Teenagers scare ostrich to impotence?
(With firecrackers?)

Sword fight breaks out after man breaks into his ex-girlfriend's apartment
(The fun of doing this blog is that I have no idea what awaits me in the morning)

Bright, shiny objects:

More from the "creative ways to recycle" department
(Someone, Lindsey, linked these as a comment. They're in German, but you'll get the idea.)

Can you name all 50 states?
(You have ten minutes. Go.)

And finally:

The word in Russian for "red" is the same as the word for "beautiful." I learned that one this weekend.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

My baseball addiction

A few observations on life:

For those of you who saw the previous post and wondered, Allendale is officially off the radar (they dropped out on Tuesday morning). A big thanks to those who were following along and commenting. My mom was even watching it. It means that I'll be around for another year in my graduate program. I'll apply next year.

Chad Six was released.

I can finally use this page again. I missed baseball. The best test of whether you're a baseball junkie. If you've ever looked at a spring training box score, you have a problem. Seek help immediately. Failure to do so may result in this.

In other news, did you ever wonder what would happen if Avril Lavigne covered Toni Basil's "Mickey" and Fergie's "London Bridge" at the same time? It would sound something like this. Catchy. Creepy. Because America really needed a soundtrack to endless teenage catfights. Why'd she have to go and make... nevermind.

(Tsk tsk Avril. Not that anyone will remember this, but the song that she's blatantly ripping off is this one by The Party, "I Want To Be Your Boyfriend." For those of you who don't remember the early 90s, The Party was a "band" manufactured out of former members of the Mickey Mouse Club. It's just that they had a slightly better personal trajectory than others who followed the same career path.)

*Drool* Anyone want to get me a St. Patrick's Day/April Fool's Day/Birthday (even though it's in December) present? This looks absolutely gorgeous. Warning to wife: You wouldn't see me for two weeks. (Only downside: Who licensed Nirvana's "Breed" to this game?)

Am I a nerd for the fact that I'm trying to design a better post-hoc test for significant moderator test for fun?

While I'm in the neighborhood...

On to the news:

Headline: "Beer-drinking duck understands Chinese"
(Do I even need to add anything to that?)

Here's to multi-tasking!
(I need to be able to write my dissertation like this)

Dog gets college degree. So does cop.
(In Ohio)

Man tries to cash check from God
(Hey, God, while you have your checkbook out...)

Who Wants to be Keanu Reeves?

And finally:

I get to see my nieces this weekend!!! And oh yeah, the rest of my in-laws.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Live-blogging the Clearinghouse

Well, I suppose a traumatically-induced, frenzied search whose possible outcomes are a year of separation from my wife or a complete failure of one of the primary objectives of my professional life for the last eight months is the sort of thing that might make for some good comedy. This is a case where we would do well to heed to words of the great prophet, Jimmy Buffett, who taught us that if we couldn't laugh, we would all go insane. So, here I will live-blog my navigation through the Clearinghouse process.

The rules of the exercise:

  1. The places I will be applying to will be in the Clearinghouse for the same reason I am: they didn't match up. No matter how they try to spin it, I am picking from the leftovers.
  2. It's unlikely that there will be positions open in Chicago. A lot of big schools tend to be in the middle of nowhere, and people want to live in the big city. Chicago is likely sold out.
  3. At 10:00 am Central, a list goes out of all the programs that didn't match. Additionally, on an e-mail listserv, training directors can also post openings. This means that I will be a slave to my e-mail account.
  4. So, I need to find a psychology internship that deals with kids, one preferably in the Midwest that at least pays something (some places are "unfunded"... which translates into "slave labor."), and is APA-approved.
  5. Applications are basically done by e-mail, with my CV and my cover letter as my only materials. Places then might call me back for a quick interview. I'm told that positions are offered fairly quickly, to the point that some people start the day at 10:00 unmatched and have a job at 11:00.
  6. An internship is necessary to graduate from my program. So, failure to secure one means that I'll have to postpone graduation for another year (From June '08 to '09). Right now, it's not sounding like such a horrible thing, given the alternatives.
  7. Other than that, there are no rules.
As always, all times Central.

Sunday night -- I explained it to my father this way: "Remember when we had the fish tank and we would drop a couple of fish food flakes into the tank and all the fish would come zooming to the top to try to grab some food? It's like that. We're the fish. The programs are the fish-food flakes."

9:18 am -- I believe as a way to taunt those of us in the clearinghouse, APPIC just sent out their match statistics. 75% of those who applied matched. Of those, 45% matched to their first choice and roughly 80% to one of their top 3. There are now 296 positions unfilled at 150 programs, and 842 folks who are looking to fill them. That's about a 35% chance.

9:29 am -- Just got a call from my faculty advisor. She advises me to delete the tagline from my e-mail, "Ask me why I'm a Christian." This is non-negotiable. If you'd like to know the answer, click here.

9:51 am -- Tick tock, tick tock. At 10:00, the floodgates open.

10:10 am -- Florida, Texas, and California have the most openings. There's one in Atlanta that looks interesting. Free room, board, and Russian lessons sold separately.

11:34 am -- Sent out a flurry of e-mails. Got bites from two programs near Chicago (yay!), although one is strictly adult, the other is very psychodynamic (think Freud). Got nibbles from a place in NYC. May be asked to go to Allendale, Illinois for an interview at a site. At least someone is returning my phone calls.

11:55 am -- Prospects so far: Two sites in Chicago, as mentioned above. Two in California, one in Miami, one in Atlanta, one in NYC, one in upstate New York (Frederic Church country!), one in Providence (near Quahog), and one at Baylor in Houston. Unless others come through via e-mail, this might be the list.

11:59 am -- Already, the first e-mails are rolling in saying that positions have been filled. My, those fish sure swim fast.

12:24 pm -- Consulted with director of our mental health center. She gave me the scoop on Allendale, and said she'd make some phone calls. I've also been in almost constant contact with my research advisor. My poor cell phone. It's not gonna like me after today.

12:32 pm -- One possible option for folks out there is to do a military internship. You get 63K a year, but are then commissioned as a Captain in the Army and must serve 3 additional years. In other words, this is a sneaky way of recruiting.

12:39 pm -- Alright, a rundown of the places:

River Oak in Carmichael, CA. They work with kids, and their site is wonderfully non-helpful! Update from my advisor: "She sounded interested!" but "She had a few offers out."

Sharp Healthcare in San Diego. Seems to be mostly inpatient/hospital stuff. Not bad.

Marcus Institute in Atlanta. Mostly developmental disabilities (autism, MR), but it's in Atlanta...

Alexian Brothers Health Care in Chicago. Mostly adults. Talked to the DCT there, who said she wasn't ruling me out, but I'm not a really good fit...

Allendale Association in Chicago. My #1 choice. In Chicago (sorta, 50 mile commute each way...) Deals with kids. Big into Freud. Can't have everything in life.

North Bronx Healthcare Network in NYC. Hospital based. They at least e-mailed me back! Could be a lot like the time I spent at Cook County Hospital. ER fans in the room, the actual hospital looks nothing like that. And I didn't sleep with any of my co-workers.

Ulster County Mental Health in Kingston, NY. Seems fairly general. Anyone know where Kingston is?

Brown University Medical School in Providence, RI. Pediatric HIV Clinical Research. Not exactly my specialty, but then again, I am working as a stats consultant to such a project...

Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Adult and Adolescent Psych rotation. Well, at least I know how to do one of those two things.

1:00 pm -- Alexian Brothers is filled. Another one bites the dust.

1:19 pm -- After about 50 messages from the Clearinghouse e-mail server, I've gotten my first spam message of the day, exhorting me to buy stock in some Canadian mineral company. I never thought I'd be that happy to get spam!

1:29 pm -- My faculty advisor has been calling a lot. So, every ten minutes, I have the hope that it's a program calling me. It's her. However, it's because she's basically taken up a position on my wing to call everyone at all of these sites. Back in high school, I founded a small cult to the worship of zebras. The work that she has put into today on my behalf makes her a candidate for the cult's highest honor, the Order of the Emu.

1:32 pm -- Over the weekend, having nothing else to do, I finished up a manuscript and sent it out to American Psychologist. I doubt it will be published there, but I figured that it's worth a shot. I've also crossed into the time zone where I should be working at my real job.

1:41 pm -- A position pops up on the e-mail in Massachusetts. I'll bite.

1:50 pm -- We're now reaching the point where nothing is happening. If you've ever watched "Without a Trace", you know that this probably isn't a good thing. Well, since I'm in the neighborhood, enjoy this.

1:52 pm -- A nibble from River Oak, which I found out is in Sacramento. Imagine me moving to the C-state.

1:56 pm -- And now a note from Allendale that says that they are processing all the applications they've gotten. All? Oh dear...

2:18 pm -- The silence is deafening.

2:24 pm -- San Diego and Houston are both out.

2:26 pm -- So is upstate New York.

2:36 pm -- There goes Atlanta. That one hurts, because I would have at least had some connection back to my wife. I could have lived in her old bedroom. Is that weird?

2:38 pm -- Friend Steve points out that there could have been multiple "Stay Classy San Diego" jokes... To that, I can only say, "Lou, how's the weather gonna be?" (Nice.)

2:46 pm -- RIP River Oak. No California sunshine for the Pizza Cutter.

2:57 pm -- I have the websites for each of the sites that are still in the running up on this computer. There are, sadly, only four little Windows left (Allendale, North Bronx, Brown University... please no jokes about friend Omar..., and somewhere in Massachusetts.)

3:05 pm -- Goodbye Boston... although I'll be there in a few weeks.

3:16 pm -- You know that point in the party where it's just time to go home? I think I've finally hit that point.

3:26 pm -- Another period of eerie silence. Most of what I'm getting is e-mail from friends telling me to keep my head up. Thanks much, to all of you.

3:28 pm -- Brown Medical School has decided not to fill their position at all. Only Allendale and NYC remain.

3:33 pm -- Last night, I did my usual Sunday night grocery run and call to my parents. I got to the store and as I was walking to the car, I noticed that something was awry. If you're the sort of person who takes the same things in your pocket each day, you know what I mean. I'd forgotten my wallet at home. Thankfully, this wasn't in the check out line.

3:48 pm -- Nothing.

3:56 pm -- A metaphor, if you will.

3:58 pm -- News out of New York. They've filled their spot. One place remains.

4:22 pm -- No word from Allendale. I called them and they are reviewing things. So, I'm now holding my breath to see what happens there.

5:09 pm -- Well, I'd love to post something here, but there are only so many ways to describe waiting in limbo. I've got no more bullets to fire. There's nothing left to do but sit and wait.

8:00 pm -- Resignation. It's not gonna happen this year. Looks like I start again here.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

In the Clearinghouse

I don't often do full on diary-blog entries, but this one is a big one. I might be moving to a random U.S. city in June, sans mon femme. It's not a matter of any relationship problem: We're doing fine, and in fact, that's what makes this such a heart-breaker. Yesterday, I received news from the organization that matches psychology graduate students with psychology internships. An internship is the final piece of a Ph.D. in my field, and the application process has been going on for the last eight months or so.

I didn't match. My biggest problem is that I applied exclusively in Chicago, primarily so that I could be near my wife. That was both for the fact that she's my wife and that after a hard day on the job (and in my field, I have plenty of them... calling in allegations of child abuse is a thrill a minute), she's amazing at calming me down. The Chicago internship market, on the other hand, is brutal. There are only a few internship programs (or at least, fewer than might be expected), and a lot of people are drawn to them because they want to live in a big city after spending five years at a university in the middle of nowhere. Plus, many of them are hyper-specialized, and I'm not a specialist by nature.

Those who don't match go into what is euphemistically called "The Clearinghouse." What it means is that Monday morning, a free-for-all starts among those applicants who didn't match and those programs who still need to fill spots. Signs point to none of those spots being in Chicago. It forces me into a position of either waiting another year and doing this all again next year, or trying to find something in another city. The latter means a new city in June, for a year long posting. The former basically means a year of a holding pattern (I refrain from using the phrase "a year wasted") professionally.

This was not part of the master plan. But, the Good Lord has sent me many blessings dressed in ridiculous packaging before.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Back for a quick check in

I've been struggling with an ethical issue: Should I talk about the Britney Spears case or not? As something of a pop-culture connoisseur and this being the biggest pop-culture/celebrity meltdown since Michael Jackson, maybe I should say something. It's odd because she's actually made Kevin Federline look like a fine, responsible, upstanding member of the community.

On to the news:

Meetings actually make things run worse
(Note to all bosses out there)

Next time someone wants to give you a hug, mace them
(Or something like that)

Man robs building next door to police dog training facility
(Could this be your future cellmate?)

Bright, shiny objects:

What Jim Henson really sounds like
(The Muppet Guy)

Jedi house party gets out of hand
(Alcohol and light sabers... not a good combo)

And now a word from our sponsors:

And finally:

Because I can: Eiffel 65.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Love Lobster? Beatboxing flute player?

A few observations on life:

Yesterday was Forgiveness Sunday in the Orthodox Church, which marks the beginning of Great Lent. On this day, everyone in the church bows down before everyone else and asks forgiveness. It is the most powerful thing in which I have ever been involved. My hamstrings hurt, but to humble myself and ask even the 3-year-olds if they will forgive me what wrong I have done is something that I should do more often.

In other news, the Walgreens theory of the apocalypse is still alive and well. My wife and I went to buy a few supplies this weekend and saw this, a "Love Lobster", which seems to be a three-foot tall plush stuffed lobster in a questionable state of chemical enhancement (i.e., it looks drunk...) And it was half-off because Valentine's Day is over!

Because I can: Craig Ehlo.

And to make yourself feel out of breath and less than adequate, check out the beatboxing flute player.