Monday, November 1, 2010

A wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen

I got up at 6:30 to walk the dog. I was feeling good about being up early, getting the day started right. And then I considered my choices of attire for a pre-dawn walk in 40-degree weather.
  • pants: black, dark gray, or navy
  • jacket: dark gray or navy
  • gloves: black
  • hat: brown, black, or dark gray
At least the dog is reflective.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Here's your headline: Bunnies Bite Breslin, Breslin Bleeds Badly

I am pleased to announce that this blog has been named one of the top Pre-K teacher blogs in the Midwest! Thanks to Teacher Salary Info for the much-deserved, if geographically iffy, plaudits. We wear our badge with pride.
If you're coming here looking for information about preschool teaching, I should warn you that you may have to dig a little to find it. Also, please ignore the post entitled "Britney Spears Sex Riot."
New trivia coming soon. Really, this time I mean it.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Also, that two-week-old grilled cheese could not have been tasty

We begin this week with Finn, praying to his newly created Cheesy Savior for a win in their first football game...

... and I'm out.

Last season's timeline was... flexible, but Murphy & Co. could at least plead poetic license for stretching the last two weeks before each competition over five or six episodes. But what school, at any level, has its first football game of the season after a month of classes? This time last year, the team was already 0-6. And while we're on the subject of football, Sam gets leveled by a defensive back who was "cheating right all night," then we come back from commercial to a bit about him being injured by a 23-year-old left tackle on steroids? Left tackle is an offensive position, for Pete's sake. If we're not even going to pretend to get the details right, I'm not going to pretend to watch this as anything other than a 70's-style sitcom in which time does not exist and every episode ends with no permanent changes to anyone's world. It's a shame.

Trivia returns later this week.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Britney Spears Sex Riot

Today's Glee post is unnecessary, as there was no temporal placement (not to mention no real plot advancement). I give you instead the following link.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

All coffee, no omelet

That didn't make any sense.

Okay, let's get past the strange character turns, particularly Quinn's and Santana's. High schoolers are teenagers, and they do things even they can't fully explain all the time. The whole Sunshine subplot was absurd, but we needed to introduce new characters. The lack of Jayma Mays is distressing, but only slightly so, particularly since this particular episode was so concerned with catching us up with the kids and stuffing as many songs as possible into a single episode like frat boys into a phone booth. Lots of this episode didn't make sense, but what I talk about here is temporal issues, and so that's where I'll focus.

The new football coach comes in to practice and announces everyone is cut, and it's time for new tryouts. That's great and all, but if classes have started, the team has been practicing for weeks, and has probably already had a game. It's not unheard of for a new coach to show up after the season has started (particularly if the old coach has a breakdown), but school budgets don't get set after the students show up. When does this episode take place? If it's before classes start, what is everyone doing in the halls? If it's after, why are all of these little subplots just happening now? Did anyone associated with this show actually go to high school?

Speaking of going to high school, are all of these kids in the same class or what? We know that Rachel is a junior (sure, she looks like she's in her twenties, but John Hughes did this all the time), but all we know about the rest of the cast is that none of them graduated. Even Matt, who we could have graduated in a nod to the fact that people are only high schoolers for a short time, transferred. Finn was the star quarterback for the football team last year, and Quinn the head cheerleader, and Santana her replacement, so one might have thought at least one of them was a senior, but that wasn't going to happen. Perhaps this is their graduation year? Certainly, the school's best football players, the captains of the cheerleading squad, not to mention the school's #1 "power couple," weren't all sophomores last year?

Anyway, there were funny bits, but mostly this episode was a steer with six teats and no oink. Hopefully, this is an aberration, and we can get back to some actual plot, instead of six music videos interspersed with whatever filler is deemed necessary to get to the next song.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Quick Tip

I'm not sure who it is that has decided that I am a "Mom Blogger." I'm not a mom. I'm not a parent at all, but the point is that, if I were, I still wouldn't be a mom. Maybe having my gender mis-identified shouldn't be offensive, but it is.
As thrilled as I am to get mail in the blog's inbox, sending the Preschool information about your site, and then telling me how great it will be to "connect with other moms in [my] area," is a good way to ensure that you're reported as spam.
Thanks for your attention, and happy back-to-school week.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Just Put Some In My Hands For A Dime!

Actual conversation at Jimmy John's this weekend:

Manager: Hi folks, I'm afraid all we've got left is wheat bread.
Me: Wow, really?
Manager: Yeah, we just got slammed and are trying to catch back up.
(this is backed up by the large stack of trays containing uncooked bread)
We have enough bread for one sandwich.
Me: Oh. Okay, well, in that case... (scanning the menu board) I'll have an Italian Club.
Manager: Would you like it on wheat?


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Summer School, Part II

It's been a while since I've been to trivia (my reduced schedule for the summer quarter lasted three weeks), but I did save up a few misses, and have spotted a few cool tidbits. Here's a new set to tide you over for a while.

  1. What was the name of Little Anthony's backup band?
  2. In Chico and The Man, who played The Man?
  3. What is Maxwell Smart's agent number?
  4. What 1978 album was The Who's last studio album?
  5. Who co-wrote "China Girl" with David Bowie?
  6. Who directed the films Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, and Punch-Drunk Love?

Summer School

I'll post new trivia in a bit, but since I do claim to talk about math here, I would be remiss not to point out a shocker in the world of mathematics: A possible proof that P ≠ NP. There's been no confirmation that the proof is correct (the paper is only two days old), but it certainly doesn't appear to be a joke.
The shock is not so much the result (I think P=NP would have been the bigger surprise), but that there was little warning that anyone was close to proving it. This has big implications for computer science. For example, data encryption that relies on factoring large numbers (a problem known to be in NP) is secure, in that there is no algorithm that will allow an adversary to quickly find the decryption key.
We do live in interesting times. Here's hoping the proof is correct.

(HT: This guy.)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I'm A Winner, And You're Fat

WARNING: As always, Glee spoilers ahead. Go watch the season finale before you read.

Well, that's the end of that.

The majority of this episode takes place over one day (specifically, Saturday, April 17), so there's no need to hash out an episode timeline. So, instead, let's talk about the end of the pregnancy plot line, which I (and millions of others, no doubt) called a month ago.

We start with Quinn saying she isn't due... for a month?

This is not so. Terri's whole fake-pregnancy scam operated on the premise that Quinn was due during Spring Break, and thus the switch could happen without a lot of questions. Carmel High, I might remind you, had its Spring Break five weeks ago. There just isn't that big a window for high schools to have a week off. It should have been three weeks ago. It's conceivable that it was last week. It certainly isn't still a month away.

On top of that, no matter when Quinn is due, she got pregnant during the summer, which leads me to the second annoyance about this scene - her uniform. It's one thing for the Cheerios to still be in uniform every single day, even though Nationals were a week ago - I'm sure they're just practicing for next year, and Sue Sylvester isn't the kind to give them time to rest on their laurels - but surely they don't wear those uniforms every single day all summer long. Were the writers afraid that if Quinn was wearing street clothes, we'd forget that she was a cheerleader?

The birth itself actually illustrates pretty well a point I've been making most of the season, about the difference between "suspension of disbelief" and "bad writing." Quinn goes from backstage to the hospital to having the baby in the time it takes for Vocal Adrenaline to perform (Rachel tells Shelby about the baby while the judges are deliberating), and everyone gets back to the auditorium in time for the results to be announced. That's a mighty close hospital, and a mighty short labor, but that's what suspension of disbelief covers. Putting a date on something and then ignoring or changing that date is bad writing.

And that's what you missed on Glee. Season One of the show, much like New Directions' first season, was a good start. Tune in this fall and see if the kids, and the show, can build on it.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Youth League basketball needs replay NOW!

I hereby demand that the following calls be reversed:
1) Don Denkinger calls Jorge Orta safe, Game 6, 1985 World Series.
2) A Dennis Rodman layup called back because the referee claimed that the shot clock should not have been reset after a Kareem miss (this was incorrect, and he admitted this after seeing replay), Game 6, 1988 NBA Finals.
3) Two calls at second base during the 1999 ALCS (games 1 and 3).
4) The "fifth down" game, Colorado vs. Missouri, 1990.
5) The in-the-crease-call against Tim Thomas during the 1998 Bruins-Caps series.
6) Kenny Anderson's "buzzer-beater" against Michigan State, 1990 NCAA tournament.
7) At least three of the fouls that Bryan Gildea called on me in a GLYBA game in 1988.

If the commissioners and directors of the various sports involved do not correct these clear injustices that everyone agrees are wrong, then they are spineless.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


WARNING: Minor Glee spoliers ahead. If you haven't seen this week's episode yet, consider coming back later. Please do come back, though.

Lima, Ohio, has become unstuck in time.

How else can one explain the muddled temporal mess that was this episode? For that matter, how else does one explain Vocal Adrenaline's twenty-something female lead? (Actually, we were shown a while back that VA plays with the eligibility rules, so I suppose that one can pass.)
I guess I'll begin where the show begins, with the gang looking forward to, and I quote, "Regionals next month." People, Regionals were next month last month. Regionals should be next week at the latest. At least we do find that Cheerleading Nationals are on Saturday. Saturday is, based on the last episode, April 4. That's about as late in the year as Spring Break could be, so we seem to have missed that. It couldn't have happened already, because everyone is hanging out in the school. Spring Break is a fairly important plot point for this show, remember?
Anyway, let's move on to Will and Sue's "date." This takes place, per Will, on Wednesday. This is three days before Nationals, but we soon find out that the Cheerios are all upset because Sue won't leave her house and they haven't practiced, and I quote, "in days." By "days," Kurt surely meant, "almost one day," because no way does this take place later than Thursday afternoon, if Will manages to get Sue back to practice in time for the weekend.
And then there are the multiple showdowns with Vocal Adrenaline. Will throws down the gauntlet, and invites VA to the McKinley auditorium on Friday. This invite takes place after Nationals (there's a big ol' trophy in the rehearsal room), so we've actually taken up two weeks, and it is now April 9. Regionals, clearly, have been postponed, as has Spring Break.
I've said this before, but what truly annoys me here is that it doesn't have to be this way. You don't have to write yourself into a corner by putting one event on Wednesday, and another on Saturday, and then forcing us to believe there's an interminable stretch of days between them. You don't have to set a date for anything. You don't have to put everyone in a new outfit every single scene. Because when you do, it looks shoddy, and when the Universe ends and then begins again, it will always be shoddy.

And that's what you missed on Glee. Next week, the whole charade ends.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Frailty, thy name is plot

WARNING: Minor Glee spoilers ahead.

Here we go again. Much like "Road to Sectionals," this show has set a timeline, and then ignored it in an attempt to cram as many songs as possible into each episode. The show is funny (though less so than it was early in the season), and it usually hits the right notes, but did anyone in charge of this show actually go to high school? You don't get to show up at your convenience (actually, given the behavior of my students, perhaps you do, now). It takes place within the confines of a five-day week. Every time you have a scene with people milling about in the hallways, that's a school day. Every time you change everyone's outfit, that's a school day.  Every time you have five of them, that's two days of weekend you've also used up. It doesn't bother me that we never see these kids doing anything that would indicate that they have classes besides Glee Club, but it bothers me that they live in an Ohio that's always warm and sunny and has a 400-day year.

Anyway, this episode's timeline:

Day one: The assignment for the week.

Day two: "Funny Girl." This isn't day one, because everyone, as usual, is wearing different outfits.

Day Three: "Bad Romance." Per Mercedes, the scene at Carmel High took place the day before. "Shout It Out Loud" takes place the same day.

Day Four: Burt Hummel Is Awesome. Kurt skipped school to decorate the room, so it isn't day three.

Day Five: "Beth." We can assume that "Poker Face" occurs the same day. By the way, Rachel was born in the middle of the first season of Friends.

Day Six: The confrontation in the hallway. To think this was day five, we'd have to assume that a) Shelby came over to McKinley in the middle of the school day and b) Rachel changed outfits in the middle of the day, then changed back into her Gaga outfit. Nope.

This is six school days we've seen, so we could be at March 25... BUT, during day six, Artie states that it's the end of the week. So it's Friday, March 26. Next week, Regionals!

...Right? It has to be. They're next week. Actually, so is McKinley's spring break, but I can't imagine anyone has paid attention to that.

Two notes:

1. Jesse is gone again. No one even makes note of this, much less attempts to explain it.

2. Are we going to see the Cheerios at Nationals? That should have been this week, but Mercedes and Brittany were never absent.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

That's the name of that tune

Trivia is back again, and the questions have gotten tough. Plenty of misses this week, which should tide you over if they decide not to hold it next week.

1. What sport's athletes compete in the Coronation Cup?

2. Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell and members of Rage Against The Machine combined to form what group in 2001?

3. Who wrote the Peter, Paul, and Mary hit "Leavin' on a Jet Plane?"

4. What group performed the 1965 hit "Do You Believe in Magic?"

The next four questions all have answers starting with "B."

5. What is Charlie Brown's father's profession?

6. What was the name of the mechanical shark(s) built for the filming of Jaws?

7. What watch company had the first television commercial?

8. What is the name of the dog on a box of Cracker Jack?

The final four questions all have answers starting with "F."

9. What was the name of Tony Beretta's cockatoo?

10. What Ohio town was the setting for the comedy "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman?"

11. Which actress is the daughter of Maureen O'Sullivan?

12. Which Hemingway novel was made into a 1929 movie starring Gary Cooper and Helen Hayes?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Another day, another destiny, this never ending road to Calva-wait for it!

WARNING: Minor Glee spoilers ahead. If you haven't seen this week's episode yet, what are you waiting for?

When we last saw the gang, it was early March, and we were starting down the road to Regionals. This week, time marched on, even if the plot didn't. Let's take a look.

First of all, Jesse is back from Spring Break, so it's after last week's episode. Let's say he gets back on Monday; this would make sense, seeing as he has to go to school and all. It doesn't really matter, though, nor does the first fifteen minutes, because, per Will, auditions for Les Miz take place on Friday, so the rest of the episode must take place over the week after that. Let's assume we learn about Sue's "secret room" on Monday. She's wearing the same track suit (I think) in the next scene, so that's Monday, too. Will gives up his part on Tuesday, and the club is saved, yet again, on Wednesday. That puts us, at the very earliest, at St. Patrick's Day. McKinley's Spring Break, cheerleading Nationals, and show choir Regionals are all coming, and fast. Not coming so fast, apparently, is baby Fabray; my theory is Quinn only gets one line a show in an attempt to make us forget about the baby plotline until it's convenient.

One other temporal clue of note: Rachel was born December 18, 1994, so Sectionals took place... the day after her fifteenth birthday? It's certainly not unusual for students to turn fifteen during their sophomore year, but I was having enough trouble buying Lea Michele as an underclassman without knowing she spent the entire Road to Sectionals playing a fourteen-year-old. You know, writers, sometimes the gun goes off accidentally, and sometimes you load it, cock it, and take aim at your toes.

And that's what you missed on Glee. Next week, Kurt gets a brother!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

There's never an excuse for stirrup pants

WARNING: Minor Glee spoilers ahead. The show was on two nights ago, though, so if you haven't seen it yet, you've probably been spoiled already.

This show is glorious. Here I was, thinking they weren't paying any attention to timeframe, and they go and hand me an episode so time-specific they might as well have hung calendars on the walls.

As far as how long the episode takes, it's just the standard week-long episode, so there's no real point in trying to pin down the specific day that everything happens. However, we are treated to a couple of juicy facts. Fact one is that Jesse is not around. Specifically, he's not around because he's on Spring Break with his Carmel High buddies.

I'll give you a second to process that.

Jesse is on Spring Break.

I've been worrying that it's already mid-February and that they're not going to have time to cram in any more plot and get to Regionals before summer vacation. I've been thinking that the writers are completely ignoring the calendar or inhabiting some weird universe where it's still October or something. All of a sudden, I find out that a) they are keeping track of when things happen, and b) it's actually later than I thought it was, because Spring Break does not happen in mid-February. We are at least at the first week of March. McKinley's Spring Break could be up to four weeks away, I suppose.

Fact two is that National Cheerleading Championships are in three weeks. This gives us potential for a show's worth of subplot, or it may make us scratch our heads in a couple of weeks when Santana and Brittany and possibly Kurt are still rehearsing 24/7 with the Glee Club instead of at Nationals. Fact two, though, is really just a lead-up to fact three:

Regionals is in a month.

That puts Regionals at the beginning of April, possibly during Spring Break. You know what else happens during Spring Break? Quinn's due date. This is too good not to be a major plot point in four weeks. That is still the due date, right? That baby bump is mighty small for someone finishing up her eighth month. At least we know (and this, I suppose, would be fact four) that she's living with the Puckermans (Puckermen?) after Finn kicked her out, and not in a refrigerator carton somewhere.

And that's what you missed on Glee. Next week: NPH!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Your Lucky Day

After much searching, I have finally located the Famous Floating Monday Night Trivia Game, which means that we have non-Glee content!
Trivia will be sporadic for the next two or three weeks, but I expect several updates over the summer. For now, though, here are last night's misses, plus several lucky non-misses.

1. Who was the narrator for the film Stand By Me?
2. What actress co-starred with Sean Penn in the 1983 film Bad Boys?
3. In 2006, which quarterback became the last USFL veteran to play in an NFL game?
4. Name the only father and son to hit back-to-back home runs in a major league baseball game.
5. Which Beatle has his back turned on the back cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band?
6. Whose 1980 album Emotional Rescue spent seven weeks at #1 on the U.S. Pop charts?

Friday, May 7, 2010

You had me at "sex tape"

WARNING: Minor Glee spoilers ahead. If you haven't seen this week's episode yet, consider coming back tomorrow.

I've been dealing with a nasty stomach virus, but the public needs to know, so I'm here to tell them. Where are we? Or, rather, when are we?

Monday: Sue Sylvester goes viral! Sadly, I can find no links to this performance, on YouTube or elsewhere.

Tuesday: Rachel has an idea. Will is a slut.

Wednesday: U Can't Touch This, but Olivia Newton-John can.

Thursday: Sue goes viral again. Rachel, not so much. Again, there's no link to the "Physical" video, except for something someone pulled off their TV. I gotta think Fox missed an opportunity here.

Friday: Will, Quinn, and Rachel are all sorry.

Assuming it was the 5th or 6th at the end of the last episode, it is now February 12. I stand by my statement two weeks ago that I won't be bothered when they don't mention Valentine's Day next week.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

I haven't had a drink in almost 45 minutes

WARNING: Minor Glee spoilers ahead. If you haven't seen this week's episode, consider coming back tomorrow.

After last season ended with lots of temporally ambiguous episodes, this season has come out swinging, with two straight episodes of references to days and recaps of the past and just the generally casual treatment of the space-time continuum that you know I love, because ever since I asked where we were in the semester, I haven't been able to let this go. Last time, we were getting close to the end of January. Where are we this week?

We begin with the revelation that there's someone coming to interview Sue in seven days. That gives us the standard one-week timeframe for this episode, so we just need to figure out what day the show begins. The last episode ended on Wednesday, so this week's episode could plausibly start that day, or Thursday, or Friday, and still only advance "show-time" by a single week. There are two clues:

  1. After a weigh-in, Sue informs Mercedes that she has four days left to lose her weight before the pep rally. If said rally was on a Wednesday, that would place this scene some time during the weekend. Thus, Wednesday is out. Thursday is possible; the weigh-in could be Monday, and Sue could then have included Monday in the four days. More plausibly, the opening and pep rally could take place on Friday.
  2. The pep rally happens, and the reporter offers to finish the interview the next day. This day includes a Glee club rehearsal, so one assumes it was a school day, which would end the show on a Friday. However, I lean towards the pep rally being Friday, and the interview being on Saturday; there are no hallway conversations to indicate that it's a school day, and there's no reason to think that a dedicated show choir wouldn't practice on Saturday. Either way, we're at the end of the first week of February, either the 5th or the 6th.

Two other temporal clues of note:

  1. Kurt states that Parent-Teacher Conferences took place "about a month ago," but then states that he expects the Hudsons to be moving in with to the Hummel residence "before mid-terms." The first statement would put conferences smack at the beginning of January, but the second would make me wonder when else those conferences could have been. Thinking back to my own high school's schedule, January basically starts with first-semester final exams, so I guess right before finals is as good a time as any for conferences. Right?
  2. April mentions that, right after her last appearance (yes, I've linked to the same post twice, so save your emails), she spent "a couple of months" in a bar. This, excitingly, lines up with the estimate that that episode ended in late October.

Finally, let's talk a bit about poor Quinn. It's lovely that she actually got a few lines in this show, but she's largely a forgotten plotline so far. She's seven months pregnant (she's due during Spring Break, which is the end of March/beginning of April) and barely showing, which has me concerned about the health of her child. Worse, she's no longer living with Finn, and there's been no word of her parents taking her back, so one assumes the poor girl is living on the street. This would, come to think of it, explain her sad-but-defiant stare in almost every scene, but the pregnant girl shouldn't be shunted aside like Ross and Rachel's baby. Free Quinn Fabray!

And that's what you missed on Glee. Next week... well, I forget what's happening next week. Maybe T-Pain shows up, and the show won't have to pretend it isn't using autotune for a week.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tick Tock Tick Tock

WARNING: As usual, minor Glee spoilers ahead. If you haven't seen this week's episode, consider coming back tomorrow. It's okay, we'll still be here.

Sometimes, this whole chronology-of-Glee business can be a grind. Most of the episodes take place over the course of a week, and no amount of minute analysis (not that I'd ever be guilty of that) will move things more than a day, so it's easy enough to just move the date ahead six or seven days and say that's where we are and golly shouldn't they be talking about [insert holiday] here?

They shouldn't be talking about [insert holiday], of course. It is a goal of the show, at least implicitly, to be "timeless;" we rarely hear about actual dates, only days of the week. That way, it can be any time of year. More to the point, it can be any year; the show doesn't have to take place during the 2009-2010 school year. It does, however, take place during a school year, and that's the sort of thing that has schedules and rules, and that's what makes these posts worth doing to me. But I digress.

This week's episode, far from being a grind, is chock-full of juicy temporal clues. We begin with a reference to a Rachel-Jesse date, which took place on a weekend, and had to have happened after last week's episode. That gives us a starting point. If we assume that the opening conversation, and first Cheerios' routine, take place on Monday, then Will hands out the Madonna assignment on Tuesday. The Rachel/Finn duet and Will/Sue hair-joke-off take place on Wednesday. The "Vogue" video could be Thursday, or maybe Friday. None of this matters, of course, because we know that everyone has sex (or possibly not) on Friday night. We know this, of course, because Finn asks Rachel directly about her date with Jesse on Friday. This conversation, takes place on Monday, at which point New Directions gets a new member (snicker). Kurt and Mercedes see Sue on Monday, and presumably join the Cheerios then, but the "4 Minutes" number would then have to take place on Tuesday, which makes it Wednesday when the boys sing about being girls. That moves the show through almost two full weeks. If we allow the Wiggles concert to be on the first weekend after the last episode (i.e., January 15th or 16th), we are now at least at January 27. They really do have to start talking about Regionals soon, or Nationals won't happen until next Christmas.

And that's what you missed on Glee. I promise not to harp on the fact that they're not talking about Valentines Day next week.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

It's Date Night!

Previously on Glee: The team won Sectionals the weekend before Christmas, then came to school that Monday (which we assumed was due to having to make up snow days), then took a long and well-deserved break. Will broke up with Terri, then made out with Emma, who, presumably, un-resigned. What shenanigans will we get into in 2010?

It's a new year and a new season as we head towards Regionals, but that doesn't mean we can't circle some dates on Glee's Crazy Calendar, now, does it? Let's review the chronology:

Actually, let's start with an aside, in which I point this out to the watchers, the writers, and most especially, the wardrobe personnel of this show: There are way too many outfit changes for the characters. This, in and of itself, provides fodder for this particular batch of posts. I can accept that people might change clothes when they get home from school, but, other than Rachel (who, I assume, keeps several lockers full of clothes around the school), if someone is wearing a different outfit, it is a different day. I get that it's TV, but even on TV there are rules to the non-cartoon world, and one of those rules is that time keeps moving forward, and there are only so many days that people actually spend in school. Suspension of disbelief can cover Rachel telepathically telling the backup band that she's about to sing "Hope it Gives You Hell," and the fact that everyone else in the already knows the words and has thought out the choreography. It cannot cover saying "Sectionals are in two weeks," and then having 30 days' worth of plot before Sectionals. If Regionals takes place in July, and then next season is an interminable march to Nationals, then... I suppose I'll have to write a very stern letter to... someone.

Anyway, thanks to the aforementioned outfit changes, and the fact that people can't be in two places at once and don't live at the school, we go through no fewer than six, and possibly seven, different days:

1) Sue's back! She'd have brought you coffee, but she doesn't like you. Will finds out that he has to place at Regionals.

2) Will hands out the week's assignment, Finn sings his Hello song. Brittany and Santana ask him out.

3) Finn goes on a date with Brittany and Santana. Meanwhile, Rachel meets Jesse.

4) The rest of the gang tell Rachel she can't date Jesse. Will goes to the VA performance and makes out with Idina Menzel. I cannot blame him for this.

5) Emma fixes Will dinner and runs into Terri. (This cannot happen on the same day as 4, by the way, because Will and Idina are clearly at his apartment.)

5ish) Sue brings Rachel to the "Old Maids' Club," Rachel sees Jesse and we find out he's playing her. These could be the same day, or they could be the same day that the Glee Club threatens Rachel, but in three scenes, she has—see previous rant—three different outfits. Not that it really matters, because they don't really have to bleed into a sixth day.

6) Emma confronts Will with a yearbook.

6ish) Final "Hello" sequence. Is it a fantasy sequence, or a rehearsal? I'll go with fantasy, because if it's an actual rehearsal, then this is day 7, because—you guessed it!—Will and Emma are in different outfits.

So, we've gone through at least a week of school days. However, we have a further temporal cue, because the scene with Terri and Emma takes place on Wednesday. Thus, we are at least at the second Thursday of the school year. In Ohio, that means it's January 14.

A few more temporal items of note:

  • Jesse mentions having watched McKinley at Sectionals, which immediately struck me as odd, though I suppose it's not out of the question that their own competition would have been on a different day.
  • By pointedly telling Finn that she's met "a senior," Rachel implies that Finn is not one. Thus, we have to assume that he is a junior, and by extension, so are Quinn and Puck. This makes little sense to me from the standpoint of high school social hierarchy, but at least they've figured out how to keep them around an extra season without going 90210 on us.

And that's what you missed on Glee. Next week: Madonna!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

TWIFB Notes - April 11

Transaction Report:

On Thursday, red-hot shortstops Cliff Pennington and Edgar Renteria finally made it to rosters. Other pickups of note include St. Louis rookie hurler Jamie Garcia (6 IP, 1 ER and a win in his first start), and Joel Zumaya (notable mostly because Ryan Perry, who actually got the Tigers' first non-Valverde save, was dropped on the same day).

Sunday, though, saw the first closer replacement of the season, and the Athl3tics won the bidding war for Jim Johnson at a whopping $4. A month from now, they may wish they'd just used that money on a year-old Happy Meal, but maybe Johnson is this year's Ryan Franklin. We also saw the second closer replacement of the season, but because Neftali Feliz was (rightly) drafted, no bidding ensued.

Meanwhile, the league played Musical Middle Infielders, as Clint Barmes spent three days on waivers, and Jerry Hairston spent three days on a roster. The other Hairston (Scott) slipped on to Duke Silver's roster for $0, which will look good as the Padres' other outfield options continue to struggle. Also of note is Mouse Rat's acquisition of Jeff Mathis, as popular sleeper catcher Miguel Montero gets an early DL stint.


Jeff Clement Report:

I have proclaimed Pittsburgh 1B Jeff Clement "this year's Brandon Inge." Like Inge last year, Clement is a catcher-eligible player who is playing another position. In theory, the extra playing time garnered from playing a non-catcher position allows these players to be more valuable than your average catcher, because they can accumulate more counting stats. I'll be tracking this proclamation throughout the season.

Through week one, Jeff has accumulated one home run, two runs, and three RBI. While this does put him among the top 15 catchers in all three categories, he's a bit behind Brandon, who homered in his first three games last year, and had 7 runs and RBI by the end of the first week. The .294 OBP, though, is quite Inge-like.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

This Week In Fake Baseball

The Preschool returns from our latest two-month hiatus with what I hope will be a weekly feature here (mainly, because it would give us some regular content). I am participating in ALOTT5MA's absurd 16-team, 400-player head-to-head baseball league.

Draft Recap

The major story of the draft is the drink I came up with: fresh-squeezed tangelo juice with bourbon and a splash of club soda. Serve it on the rocks. I call it a John McLaughlin, because I can't hear the word tangelo without thinking of a Saturday Night Live "McLaughlin Group" parody (the linked transcript is not the one with the tangelo reference).
The other story was the fact that this league uses on-base percentage as a scoring category instead of batting average, and a couple of teams didn't adjust to that (or, they planned to punt OBP in favor of other offensive categories). In a batting average league, Ichiro is usually goes by about the 25th pick, even though he's only a plus contributor in three categories. This is because he not only gives you a high batting average, his contact-heavy style means he does it over 50-60 more at-bats than the Pujolses of the world, which can more than cancel out a low-BA slugger later in your draft. In an OBP league, he still gives you runs and steals, but his OBP is much closer to average, and he doesn't give you the weight of a lot of extra plate appearances. There's nothing wrong with speedy leadoff guys, but they don't carry as much cachet in this setup. Carlos Peña, on the other hand, goes from a late-round utility player to just outside the top 10 first basemen (depending on what you do with guys who are eligible elsewhere).

I was all set to hand the "best pick" prize to Duke Silver's Moustache for snagging OBP-machine Jack Cust in round 19, until the A's went and designated him for assignment on Saturday. No one really wants to read 25 rounds of draft highlights, anyway, so let's move on.

Transaction Report

Most of this league hasn't played with an acquisition budget (each team has a mythical $100 to bid for free agents twice a week) before, and we're all getting used to it.

With Jose Reyes due to miss the first week, and Freddy Sanchez out longer than that, the Chicago American Giants needed some help at middle infield. Fifteen dollars on Juan Uribe, though, was probably not what they had in mind. Only two teams bid for John Bowker, so the Pawnee Possum Tacklers overspent a bit at $5. However, given the number of fourth outfielders (hello, Seth Smith!) on starting rosters, more teams should probably have been bidding for Bowker's services. Similarly, $2 for C.J. Wilson was $2 more than the Athl3tics needed to spend, but with only four healthy starters, this team was a rainout away from missing the starts minimum for the week.

Among the $0 bids, Vicente Padilla's two-start week makes him worth the pickup. Ziegler will be a nice add if Andrew Bailey steps awkwardly off a mound again. Kudos to the Bowling Alley Lawyers for snagging Chris Getz after teams with better bids or higher priority had already filled their rosters.

Coming Soon

Rather than continuing to fill up inches with the season preview, we'll save that for the next couple of posts. If you're not into the fake sports, there should be a new post about Scat this week.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Who are three people who have never been in my kitchen?

I've run into two separate discussions based on this article about Jeopardy! and baseball questions (er, answers). The relevant quote:
Let's say you're on 'Jeopardy!' and you're absolutely routing your two opponents. You have $40,000 going into the final round, while one of your opponents has, let's say, $15,000. You're guaranteed to move onto the next day, but the final category comes up and it has something to do with baseball, which is your favorite sport. How much — if anything — do you risk?
The discussions of this article go along two paths. One is to compare how many of the ten Final Jeopardy! answers everyone got right (most participants have gotten at least seven of the ten - both sites have a fair number of people who are very knowledgeable about baseball). The other is to loudly decry the article's premise that, since you should be fairly confident that you will respond correctly (the article, on the Yahoo! Sports site, assumes you're a baseball fan), you should bet your entire $40,000 haul, rather than the $10,000 that will guarantee a win. Since the Preschool is all about the math these days, let's look at this in a little more detail. Specifically, let's look at the following situation: you have $40,000, the second-place competitor has $15,000, and the Final Jeopardy! category is something squarely in your wheelhouse. How much do you bet?

This (like the Scat decisions I'm supposedly writing about) is a problem of expected value. Suppose that you estimate the probability you will respond correctly as p; for example, if p is 0.8, it means you think you're 80% likely to be correct. If you respond correctly (as you will do 100p% of the time), you gain whatever you've bet; call this number b. If you respond incorrectly (which will happen 100(1-p)% of the time), you will lose b dollars. Your expectation for this decision is then 40,000 + bp - b(1-p), which simplifies to 40,000 - b + 2bp. If your only goal is to maximize your expectation for this decision, then the answer is simple: if p is at least 0.5, you should bet everything; if it's less than 0.5, you should bet nothing.

However, this is not your only goal, because if you win the game, you get to come back tomorrow, and try to win more money. Thus, we must also factor in your expectation of future winnings. (Incidentally, the primary argument I'm seeing against betting everything is that "you're risking a lot in future winnings.") Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that the second-place competitor will bet his entire $15,000, and will respond correctly. Thus, if you bet $10,000 (or less), you will win (or tie), and come back tomorrow, regardless of your response. If you bet more than $10,000, and respond incorrectly, you will lose.

At this time, I should point out that we could make this a more complicated model, estimating the probabilities that the other competitors will respond correctly. Also, you could bet something other than $10,000 or $40,000. Even if you factor in the chance of the other competitors missing, betting something like $20,000 seems a doubly bad idea; you leave $20,000 "on the table" if you are right, and risk losing if you are wrong. You could bet slightly less than $40,000, thus improving the probability that you will win if everyone misses the final answer. In fact, I think $39,998 might be the best bet if you're "going for broke." That said, complicating the model takes time, and might be better suited to a paper than a blog post—any undergrads looking for a thesis, this might be a starting point! Once we decide to stick with a simple model, betting anything other than $40,000 or $10,000 makes the math work out less nicely, and a couple of dollars here and there isn't going to make much difference, nor will the tiny probability that you'll win with $2. Let's assume, then, that this is a binary decision: bet $10,000 and always win, or bet $40,000 and lose if you're wrong.

Assume that, if you win, your expected earnings from future shows is x (we could take some time and figure out what x might be, but let's wait to decide whether or not to deal with that). Now, we can look at two different expectations: one for playing conservatively, and one for betting everything. If you play conservatively, and bet $10,000, you will always win, thus adding x to your expectation. Using the formula above, your expectation is now 30,000 + 20,000p + x. If you bet your entire $40,000, you will lose everything, including future winnings, if you respond incorrectly. However, when you respond correctly, you double your money, and you still get to come back tomorrow. Thus, you add px to your expectation, which is now 80,000p + px.

An aside: I think this is what a lot of the folks making the "future winnings" argument miss—you aren't giving up your future winnings, just a portion of them. If you can win more today than you're likely to get on future days, there's a strong incentive to go for it.

Anyway, let's see what that incentive is. The difference between playing recklessly and playing safe is 60,000p - (30,000 + (1-p)x). Economists refer to this as an opportunity cost - by betting only $10,000, you are forfeiting whatever you could have earned by betting everything. If this cost is positive, then, economically, you are making a mistake by only betting $10,000; if it is negative, then playing it safe is the right call. Your decision is based on whether 60,000p is larger than (30,000 + (1-p)x).

Let's look at an example: Suppose you think you're 80% likely to get the Final Jeopardy! question correct. You are then comparing 48,000 to 30,000 + .2x. If x is less than 90,000, then 48,000 will be larger. In other words, you should bet everything unless you think you'll make at least $90,000 from future shows; given that $50,000 is a pretty hefty one-day total, this would require a fair amount of confidence on your part!

Does this mean Jeopardy! players should be wagering more recklessly? Well, perhaps. The example above is pretty solidly in favor of betting it all, but the big issue is estimating that probabilty. I managed to get 8 of the ten questions posed in the linked article (nine, actually, but I had to think about one for more than 30 seconds, so I'd have been hosed in Final Jeopardy), but that doesn't mean I'd be 80% confident I could answer a question based only the fact that it would be about baseball. Also, the necessary value for x in order to play conservatively goes down very quickly; if p = 0.7, then you're comparing $42,000 to 30,000 + .3x, and x only needs to be $40,000 to break even; considering that you've got $40,000 right now, this is getting to the realm of possibility. If we knew x (and we can probably come up with a statistical value, given the probability that the previous day's champion wins again, and the mean winning total), we could come up with a "break-even" value for p. I might return to this, but for now, I think the risk-averse behavior is better, unless you are very very sure of yourself.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Another Post Just To Prove I Still Post

The latest post on Scat strategy has been half-finished for over a week, as I have been working on presentations of old and new research. Also, I'm still trying to find a new trivia night; I may give up soon and just start posting my own stuff. For now, here's a fun definition:

Let Ak be the set {1, 2, ..., k}. A graph G has an optimal t-tone coloring if each vertex can be assigned a t-element subset of Ak in such a way that if vertices u and v are distance d apart (in other words, the shortest path in G connecting these vertices contains d edges), then their subsets have at most d-1 elements in common.

For example, vertices adjacent to each other can have no shared elements in their subsets, while if the distance between two vertices is greater than t, they may be assigned identical subsets.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Sometimes, a pendant vertex is just a pendant vertex.

I had a dream last night, in which I saw the proof of a mathematical theorem. It involved copies of K5, with pendant vertices arranged in such a way that all of the graphs linked perfectly together into a larger complete graph. It was a simple, beautiful proof, and I can still see the end of it now, hours later. A few of the details are fuzzy, but I'm sure I could work them out. There's only one problem.

I have absolutely no idea what it was I was proving.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

You Know What I Mean

The Naboo half of Phantom Menace, stretched out to two and a half hours.
Total Recall, but without the cool perception-vs.-reality philosophy.
An evening of watching someone else play Halo and they won't let you play and they watch all the cut scenes.
An Inconvenient (and Ham-Handed) Truth.
Like Star Trek IV, but when they get back to the present, Kirk helps the whale-aliens blow up Starfleet Headquarters.
Courtesy of the w: A live-action remake of Ferngully: The Last Rainforest.
A late addition: Pocahontas in space.

Probabilistic Filler

Some important probabilities related to Scat:

As I mentioned last time, your chance of getting scat (no 1's) on your first roll is 3125/7776, or (5/6)5, which is just over 40% of the time. The probability, then, of having scat as your final hand is (5/6)15, or 6.5%, which works out to about twice every 31 turns.

The probability of rolling five 1's within three rolls is, in theory, about 1.3% (the exact probability simplifies to (91/216)5, which I think is kind of neat—not because that ratio has any significance, but because the otherwise-complicated calculation ends up simplifying so neatly), or about once every 75 turns. In practice, though, this probability is smaller, because of situations which dictate abandoning the all-1's strategy.

If there are k people still left to roll, then, the chance that at least one person gets scat is 1 - (1 - (5/6)15)k; and the maximum probability that at least one person rolls all 1's is 1 - (1 - (91/216)5)k. If, for example, four players were still to roll after you, there would be a 23.5% chance that at least one would roll scat (thus saving you from elimination, if you had a fairly low roll), and as much as a 5% chance that someone would end the game prematurely by rolling five 1's.

The main factor we must consider when deciding which dice to re-roll is the expectation of each decision; this expectation is specifically based on the probability of winning or losing the game after this decision. The probabilities above are part of calculating the expectation - you can make riskier moves (i.e., keeping only your 1's) when there are more players still to roll, because there is a higher chance that someone after you will get a bad hand, and because there is a higher chance that if you don't win right now, someone else will do so before you get another roll. I'll get more into the decision-making process next time.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Roll the dice, don't think twice

I'm a little behind on everything these days, and Scat strategy is one of them. Go back a month to review the rules.

When it is your turn, you have two strategies available:

  1. Attempt to roll five 1's, thus winning the game.
  2. Obtain a hand which is not likely to be the low hand for the round, thus avoiding elimination.

After your first roll, you have two opportunities to decide which dice to keep, and which dice to re-roll. This decision is a choice among three options:

  1. Keep only the 1's, and re-roll all of the other dice.
  2. Keep the 1's and your highest-ranking die or dice.
  3. Keep the best hand you can make with the current dice.

For example, if your roll is 1-3-3-4-6, you can keep only the 1 (option 1), the 1 and the 6 (option 2), or the 1 and both 3's (option 3). There is no reason, ever, to keep the 4, or to not keep the 1.

In many cases, the decision is not even as complicated as the previous example; if the roll had been 1-3-4-6-6, or 1-3-4-5-6, options 2 and 3 would be the same. In fact, a little over 40% of the time (3126/7776, to be exact), there is only no decision to make - either you roll no 1's (3125 times), and must re-roll all five dice, or you roll five 1's (1 time), and win the game.

For those times when there is a decision to make, several additional factors should be considered:

  • The current low hand. The low hand in each round is eliminated, so you will often (not always) choose the option with the best chance to beat the current low. More importantly, you will want to avoid options that have a very low probability of beating the low hand (keeping three 2's when the current low hand is four 4's, for example, is usually a bad plan).
  • The number of players still to roll. Remember, you only need to beat one player each round, so if there are several players still to roll, you can choose a riskier option, based on the chance that not all of those players will beat you.
  • The number of players still in the game. Without taking strategy into account, if there are n players at the beginning of the next round, your chance of winning by avoiding elimination this round is roughly 1/n.

I'll start getting into the probabilities of the game next time (and I hope that next time comes more quickly than this time did). However, I expect we'll find that, early in the game, the expectation gained by winning the game immediately will outweigh the risks of being eliminated early. In other words, rolling five 1's is the primary strategy (in my limited experience, most players make avoiding the low hand primary, and rarely go for the outright win unless they have already beaten the current low). This means that option 1 will frequently be the correct decision, because the other two options necessarily abandon the primary strategy. This will be particularly true after the first roll, because committing to any die other than a 1 restricts the ways for a hand to improve. I also expect that avoiding the low hand will become the primary strategy later in the game, when simply staying alive represents a greater increase in the probability of winning—my guess is that this happens when there are three players remaining, but we'll see.

Finally, and perhaps unfortunately, I expect we'll find that, while skillful play does increase one's expectation of winning, the overall effect won't be that great against people who do not play as well. In other words, you'll be able to win an n-player game against "normal" players more often than once every n games, but you'll likely need to play a few hundred games to see that result. Also, since each player's hand is independent of the other hands, we may find that there is a single pure strategy that maximizes one's probability of winning. In this case, the result of all players adopting that strategy makes the probability of winning an n-player game exactly 1/n. This is all conjecture for another time, though. Stay tuned.