Archive for November, 2005

Historic hurricane season ends — sort of

Wednesday, November 30th, 2005

The National Hurricane Center has issued its final Atlantic Tropical Weather Outlook of 2005:

TODAY IS THE OFFICIAL END OF THE 2005 ATLANTIC HURRICANE SEASON… AND THIS IS THE LAST TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK OF THE SEASON. ATLANTIC TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOKS WILL RESUME ON JUNE 1 2006.

So, that’s it. The historic, tragic, cataclysmic 2005 Atlantic hurricane season — which killed thousands, submerged a city, spawned the most intense tropical cyclone ever recorded in the Atlantic basin, and forced us to bust out the Greek alphabet for the first time ever — is finally, mercifully over. A record 26 tropical storms, 13 hurricanes, and 3 category fives later, the season is officially finished.

Sort of.

The thing is, Tropical Storm Epsilon is still out there. As the Outlook points out:

WHILE THIS IS THE LAST OUTLOOK…ADVISORIES ON TROPICAL STORM EPSILON WILL CONTINUE UNTIL THE STORM DISSIPATES.

And indeed, far from imminently dissipating just because the calendar has turned from November to December, there is a chance that Epsilon will briefly strengthen to a hurricane tomorrow — making it the record-extending 14th hurricane in a season that supposedly “ends” at midnight tonight!

The November 30 cutoff date for the “official” hurricane season is essentially arbitrary. Tropical activity in December is rare, but certainly not unheard of. If Epsilon does strengthen — it’s already almost there, with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph — it would be the sixth December hurricane in recorded history, and the fourth storm in recorded history to become a hurricane in December, according to this article and its accompanying links. (The most memorable December hurricane in history is Hurricane Alice, which formed on December 30, 1954 and lasted straight through to the new year! It didn’t dissipate until January 6, 1955.)

Just last year, Tropical Storm Otto formed on November 30 and lasted until December 2. Two years ago, tropical storms Odette and Peter formed well into December.

So really, this climatological milestone doesn’t mean all that much. We could still get more storms — Zeta and Eta are next on the list — and indeed, the way the 2005 season has been going, it’s probably a good bet that we will! If we do, they’ll be added to 2005’s tally. The season isn’t absolutely, positively over until January 1, at which point any additional “out-of-season” storms would be considered 2006 storms, starting with Alberto.

Still, the “end” of the hurricane season does provide a useful opportunity to reflect on the season that was, and look ahead to what might come next, something that lots of people in the media are doing.

The most interesting hurricane-related news I’ve read today is this story:

Meteorologists used up so many Atlantic storm names during the 2005 hurricane season that they may have to create a new back-up list in case supplies are exhausted in future busy years, U.S. forecasters said.

Meteorologists said the busy 2005 season was part of a natural cycle of heightened Atlantic hurricane activity that could last for decades. …

The busy seasons expected over the next two decades raise the prospect of dipping into an incomplete Greek alphabet [in the event Greek storm “names” need to be retired] the next time all 21 official storm names are used up.

“I think the safest thing is to come up with another list and we’ll discuss that,” said hurricane center director Max Mayfield.

According to Bryan Woods of The Storm Track, the current proposal is to continue using the six annually rotating lists of names, but to “have…a seventh alphabetical list of names which would be used as a backup, preventing any issues with retiring Greek letters.”

“The World Meteorological Organization will meet in Puerto Rico this winter and will discuss the list reorganization and name retirements,” Woods adds. Possible name retirements for 2005 include Katrina, Rita, Stan, Wilma, and Alpha.

Anyway… in light of the awful human toll that this season has taken (and that’s just the U.S.; the deadliest hurricane of 2005 was Stan, which probably killed upwards of 2,000 people in Central America), I won’t end this post with some sort of pithy witticism. Instead, let us all say a prayer for the many victims of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, and hope against hope that — contrary to the predictions — there will be far less death and destruction in the years to come.

Katrina killed more people in U.S. than previous 48 years of hurricanes combined

Wednesday, November 30th, 2005

As the incredible 2005 hurricane season winds down, I’ve been doing some research on hurricane deaths in the United States, trying to put the devastation that our country has suffered this year in some kind of historical perspective. (Actually I started this research some time ago, and just finished it tonight.)

I used this list of “All Hurricanes which Affected the Continental United States” as my starting point. I then looked at the individual NOAA Tropical Cyclone Reports for each of the listed storms. Occasionally, I supplemented those reports with numbers culled from this list, this article and/or relevant Wikipedia articles. Wherever there was more than one reported death toll, I used the higher number.

My result? In the 50 years preceding the 2005 hurricane season, from 1955 through 2004, 1,788 people died as a result of hurricanes that affected the continental United States.

In the 2005 hurricane season alone, 1,492 people died in the continental U.S. from Hurricanes Dennis, Katrina, Ophelia, Rita and Wilma. That’s 83% as many in the preceding half-century!!

Wow.

And the only reason the preceding half-century even exceeds this year’s toll at all is because of Hurricane Diane in 1955, which killed 184 people, and Hurricane Audrey in 1957, which killed 390. If you “count backwards” from Hurricane Katrina — this year’s most devastating U.S. hurricane by far — to see how far back in time you can get before the combined U.S. death tolls of all prior hurricanes exceeds Katrina’s toll, you can make it all the way back to 1957 and Katrina still has the edge. During the nearly 48-year span between Carrie in 1957 and Irene in 2005, Atlantic hurricanes killed a grand total of 1,202 people in the contintental United States. Then along came Katrina, which killed 1,332 and counting.

(Note: This analysis does not include mere tropical storms, because they’re not included on the NOAA list. We’re talking purely about “All Hurricanes which Affected the Continental United States,” as defined by NOAA.)

I’m far too lazy to format my raw research into something more readable, but if you want to take a look at my typed-out notes (and double-check my math, if you wish), click here.

Did Osama bin Laden die in the Pakistani earthquake?

Wednesday, November 30th, 2005

Harry Reid seems to think so.

Hurricane Epsilon?

Wednesday, November 30th, 2005

The 2005 Atlantic hurricane season officially ends at midnight tonight… and yet…

…EPSILON CONTINUES TO STRENGTHEN OVER THE CENTRAL ATLANTIC…

MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS ARE NEAR 70 MPH…110 KM/HR…WITH HIGHER GUSTS. SOME SLIGHT STRENGTHENING IS POSSIBLE TONIGHT OR EARLY THURSDAY… AND EPSILON COULD BRIEFLY BECOME A HURRICANE BEFORE GRADUAL WEAKENING BEGINS BY LATE THURSDAY OR ON FRIDAY.

The Storm Track has more.

This is the hurricane season that never ends… yes, it goes on and on, my friends…

Colorado’s dream is Fiesta Bowl’s nightmare

Wednesday, November 30th, 2005

Re-reading my BCS scenarios, it occurs to me…

If Colorado upsets Texas in the Big 12 championship game Saturday, the Fiesta Bowl could go from hosting Notre Dame vs. Ohio State to hosting Colorado vs. West Virginia.

Heh.

You think the folks in Tempe will be rooting hard for the ‘Horns?

Firefox 1.5

Wednesday, November 30th, 2005

There is a new version of Firefox out today. It has various new features. More here, here, here and here.

UPDATE: Oddly enough, when I click the “Download Firefox” link on this page, I get a screen full of garbled characters, like Safari is trying to interpret the .dmg file as a text file, for some reason. An anti-Firefox conspiracy by Apple, perhaps? :) Anyone else having this problem with Safari?

“It’s Gutenberg!”

Wednesday, November 30th, 2005

Digging through old CDs yesterday, looking for backed-up MP3 files in the wake of my recent laptop theft crisis, I stumbled upon a six-year-old video clip that ought to bring back memories for some of my fellow USC ’03 grads — and give everyone else a chance to laugh at us.

My freshman year at USC, I lived in Trojan Hall, which is one of the two “honors dorms” that comprise Deans’ Halls. In other words, I lived in the nerd dorm. :) Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of the normal college dorm stuff going on — you know, sex, drugs and rock & roll — but there was also lots of nerdiness. And rarely has nerdiness been so perfectly encapsulated than in this video clip: the “Gutenberg” tape.

It was the fall of 1999, and the A&E network was unveiling its list of the “100 most influential people of the millennium” — the “Biography of the Millennium.” Nick and Neil, who lived across the hall from David and me, tuned in at some point during the top 10, and began watching with considerable interest. Naturally, a vigorous debate started over who would be #1. Nick was convinced it would be Johann Gutenberg. Big Mike, one of the more colorful characters on our floor, was also watching, and he was convinced it would not be Gutenberg. (Since we had tuned in fairly late in the game, it was plausible to think that Gutenberg might already have been picked, and we had just missed him.) As I recall, Mike insisted that Gutenberg wasn’t all that influential because “someone else would have invented the printing press eventually.”

Sensing the potential for a dramatic moment, I set up my video camera to capture the reaction to A&E’s announcement of the #1 person. Nick is in the middle, wearing the dark shirt; Big Mike is at right. Neil is at left, relaying the results to someone via phone, and I am hovering in the background. Enjoy:


source file

Hehe… NERDS!

How Notre Dame could still end up in… the Meineke Car Care Bowl?!?

Wednesday, November 30th, 2005

I just thought of a scenario where Notre Dame gets left out of the BCS!

Okay, suppose #4 LSU and #5 Virginia Tech both lose their conference championship games on Saturday. They drop in the BCS, and Ohio State, currently #6, rises to #4. Under the “Kansas State rule” — the same rule that got USC into the BCS three years ago, and that pushed Texas ahead of Cal for the Rose Bowl last year — the Buckeyes, as a non-champion from a BCS conference, would now be guaranteed an at-large spot (unless there is another non-champion in the #3 spot — more on that shortly).

Now suppose #1 USC and #2 Texas also lose. Remember that USC, by virtue of tiebreakers, is the Pac-10 champion despite losing to UCLA. But Texas, having lost the conference title game to Colorado, is not the Big 12 champion, and thus is fighting for an “at-large” spot, just like Ohio State… and Notre Dame.

Penn State, currently #3, jumps to #1, leaving the Trojans (11-1), Longhorns (11-1) and Buckeyes (9-2) to fight it out for the #2 spot and a trip to the Rose Bowl.

If USC gets the #2 spot, Notre Dame has no problems, because both of the teams playing in the national title game are conference champions, and only one team can receive an automatic at-large bid under the “Kansas State rule.” If Texas is #3 and Ohio State is #4, the Longhorns get the automatic bid, and Ohio State is just an “optional” at-large team, which means in practical terms that Notre Dame gets in ahead of them. (The mirror image would happen — with the same result for Notre Dame — if Ohio State is #3 and Texas is #4, but I think that’s unlikely.) The Orange Bowl gets first pick, and is free to choose Notre Dame. The Fiesta Bowl and Sugar Bowl are left to divvy up the scraps (Texas and West Virginia).

But now suppose Texas gets the #2 spot, with USC #3 and Ohio State #4 (or vice versa — it doesn’t matter, so long as Texas is in the top 2 and Ohio State is in the top 4). The eight BCS bowl slots are now filled: there are six conference champions, plus two at-large teams: Texas in the national title game, and Ohio State as an automatic at-large qualifier. There are no more at-large spots available — no room at the inn! Notre Dame is left out of the BCS!

(The same holds true if you reverse the Buckeyes and Longhorns — Ohio State gets the #2 spot and Texas is either #3 or #4 — but that seems far less likely. Similarly, it also holds true if USC beats UCLA and stays at #1, while Texas, despite losing to Colorado, finishes ahead of Penn State for #2, leaving the Nittany Lions at #3 and Ohio State at #4. But I don’t think Texas would stay ahead of Penn State after losing to Colorado, so USC probably needs to lose — and fall to #3 or lower — for this “Notre Dame gets left out” scenario to happen.)

The BCS rules are clear. There’s a “Notre Dame exception” the “top six” rule (which applies to non-BCS teams, like Utah last year), but there is no “Notre Dame exception” to the “top four” rule (the “Kansas State rule”), the one that would give Ohio State the final at-large spot under this scenario. See for yourself; the “Kansas State rule” is explained at #4 and #5:

(1) Any at-large team ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the final BCS standings will play in the BCS national championship game. If both the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the BCS standings are at-large teams, those teams will play in the national championship game.

(2) Any team from an independent institution, or Conference USA, the Mid-American, Mountain West, Sun Belt, or Western Athletic Conferences, which is ranked third through sixth in the final BCS standings, shall qualify for a berth in one of the BCS games unless more than two teams meet this criterion. If one team other than Notre Dame qualifies for selection under this provision, Notre Dame shall also qualify for automatic at-large selection provided it is ranked in the top 10 in the final BCS standings or has won at least nine games, not including exempted games. If two or more teams other than Notre Dame meet this criterion, Notre Dame shall also qualify for the at-large pool provided it is ranked in the top 10 of the final BCS standings or has won at least nine games, not including exempt contests.

(3) Should the number of teams satisfying the criterion of (2) above exceed the number of available at-large slots, the bowls shall fill the available at-large slots by selecting from among those teams that have met the requirements of (2) above.

(4) If any at-large slots remain unfilled after application of the procedures in (1), (2), and (3) above and the team ranked third in the BCS standings is an at-large team, then the team ranked third in the BCS standings shall automatically fill one at-large slot and play in a BCS bowl.

(5) If any at-large slots remain unfilled after application of the procedures in (1), (2), (3), and (4) above and no at-large team qualifies for automatic selection under (4) above and the team ranked fourth in the BCS standings is an at-large team, then the team ranked fourth in the final BCS standings will automatically fill one at-large slot and will play in one of the BCS bowls.

So there you have it. Notre Dame is left out!

Admittedly, this is all extremely unlikely to happen, since it would require four major upsets on Saturday, two of them absolutely colossal (Colorado over Texas and UCLA over USC). But… what if it does? Where would the Irish, barred from the BCS, go?

To the Gator Bowl, right? Wrong! The Gator Bowl has already invited Louisville!

Okay, then, how about the Insight Bowl? Nope! They’ve already invited Rutgers!

The only bowl with a Big East/Notre Dame tie-in that hasn’t extended a formal invitation yet is the Meineke Car Care Bowl (formerly the Continental Tire Bowl), which is expected to invite either UConn (if the Huskies beat Louisville on Saturday) or South Florida (otherwise). But one supposes they could be “persuaded” to take Notre Dame instead, if the Irish became available. :)

Is it really possible that, if this (again, admittedly extremely unlikely) scenario plays out, Notre Dame could end up playing the #4 or #5 ACC team in Charlotte?!? Or, if not, perhaps one of the bowls whose affiliated conferences don’t have enough bowl-eligible teams, like the Emerald or Music City bowls, could try and snatch up the Irish? (The Emerald, formerly known as the San Francisco Bowl, used to be affiliated with the Big East, but now it’s affiliated with Pac-10 and Mountain West… but thanks to ND’s win over Stanford, there aren’t enough bowl-eligible Pac-10 teams.)

It seems impossible that the 9-2 Irish could conceiveably be headed to such a crappy bowl as the Meineke Car Care, Emerald or Music City, but I can’t see any way around it, unless the Gator Bowl’s offer to Louisville can be rescinded. [Quick, somebody call Professor Kaveny! -ed.]

On the other hand, perhaps the Cotton Bowl — which is supposed to match up a Big 12 team against an SEC team, but which has to wait until after Saturday’s games to extend its invitations anyway — would throw caution (and contracts) to the wind and make a play for Notre Dame, with which it has a historical, if no longer a contractual, relationship. That would make Brooke happy, and it would certainly be better than the Meineke Car Care Bowl!

Anyway, I really have no idea what would actually happen in this ridiculous scenario, and it’s almost certain that we’ll never find out. But it sure is fun to think about. :)

UPDATE: There’s another, slightly less crazy way this could happen. It still requires USC, LSU and Virginia Tech to lose, but not Texas. (Hey, I said slightly less crazy.)

Okay, so USC loses, which means the Trojans, as Pac-10 champions, automatically go to the Fiesta Bowl. Texas is #1, and plays #2 Penn State in the Rose Bowl. USC and Ohio State are #3 and #4, in whatever order. Again, under the “Kansas State rule,” Ohio State is guaranteed an at-large bid. This time, though, both of the title-game participants are conference champions, so there is still one other available, “open” at-large bid, which any team in the BCS Top 12 can fill.

The Fiesta Bowl, picking an opponent for USC, gets to choose from among the entire range of available at-large teams. They could choose Notre Dame, and as I discussed below, I think they probably would. But what if they decide they don’t want an Irish-Trojans rematch? Bowl rematches are usually bad, after all. So now they are left to choose between Ohio State, Auburn and the other available teams. If they pick the Buckeyes, there’s no problem for Notre Dame — the Orange Bowl can proceed to snap up the Irish. But what if the Fiesta Bowl doesn’t like a Trojans-Buckeyes matchup either? What if they want to match up USC against Auburn, to “settle the score” from 2004? Or what if they prefer a USC-Miami showdown, the Team of the ’90s against the Team of the ’00s? That would leave the Orange Bowl in a bind; it would be forced to choose either West Virginia (guaranteed a spot because it’s the Big East champ) or Ohio State (guaranteed a spot because of the “Kansas State rule”). Notre Dame would not be an option, and the Irish would be left out of the BCS.

I said this scenario is “less crazy,” but I suppose it’s probably also “less likely” because, unlike the everybody-loses scenario, it wouldn’t all happen automatically; it would require an affirmative decision by the Fiesta Bowl selection committee that I think they’d be disinclined to make anyway, and even if they were tempted, I strongly suspect that such a decision would never happen because there would be an enormous amount of behind-the-scenes pressure and deal-making, if necessary, to avoid this situation. And anyway, it doesn’t seem like it would take that much convincing to get the Fiesta Bowl to stage a USC-ND or USC-OSU bowl. Neither of those matchups are exactly unattractive.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: I just realized something. If both LSU and Virginia Tech lose, they will probably both fall behind Notre Dame — which is currently #8 in the BCS standings. That would raise Notre Dame up to #6… and the “top 6” rule gets applied before the “top 4” (“Kansas State”) rule. So the Irish would automatically qualify ahead of Ohio State!

In order for the Irish to get squeezed out of the BCS, both LSU and Virginia Tech must lose, but at least one of them must stay ahead of Notre Dame in the BCS rankings.

That seems unlikely, given Notre Dame’s favored status in the human polls among two-loss teams. (Only Ohio State is ranked higher.) The most likely possibility would be for LSU, currently ranked #3 in one human poll and #4 in the other, to lose a very close game to Georgia, which is itself ranked #12 and #13 in the polls (unlike Virginia Tech’s opponent, Florida State, which is unranked). LSU, coming off this close loss to a quality team, might perhaps only drop to #6 or #7 — either ahead of Notre Dame, or just barely behind the Irish. The computers might then take over; they don’t like the Irish much, and they might help LSU cling to the #6 spot in the BCS, just ahead of #7 Notre Dame.

But I doubt it. In all likelihood, if LSU and Virginia Tech lose, Notre Dame would be ranked #6 in the BCS, and they would get an “automatic at-large bid” ahead of even a #3 or #4 Ohio State.

IMPORTANT UPDATE #2: No wait, I’m right! I just had another brainstorm. UCLA is currently ranked #11 in the polls and #12 in the BCS. But if they beat USC, obviously they will move up! Indeed, they will probably move ahead of Notre Dame in the polls, won’t they? A one-loss team that beat USC should be ranked ahead of a two-loss team that almost beat USC, right? It’s hard to predict exactly what would happen, but bottom line, I bet UCLA moves up to #5 or #6 in the BCS, leaving Notre Dame at #7 — and out of luck. My crazy wacko scenario lives! :)

Opposition boycotts Venezuela election; says vote rigged for red Chavez :>

Wednesday, November 30th, 2005

And here I always thought it was only the conspiratorial Righties who jimmied the Lists and snookered the Software. ;] Diebold, thy name is Sellout. :} Evidently Lenin was, essentially, correct: when it comes time for to hang the Capitalists, they will sell the Communists the Rope with which to Do it. :> Joe Loy, guestbolsheviking. :}

BOGOTA, Colombia, Nov. 29 [what, even The New York Times can’t get in to Caracas? :] ~

Accusing Venezuelan electoral officials of favoring that country’s populist government, three opposition parties announced Tuesday that they would pull out of congressional elections scheduled for Sunday.

Democratic Action and officials of two other parties, the Social Christian Party, or Copei, and the smaller Project Venezuela, accused the electoral authorities of failing to correct errors in the voter registry and in electronic voting equipment, opening the door to fraud and discrimination against opponents of the government.

“Across this country, there is a profound lack of confidence in the electoral arbiter because it does not say the truth,” said Cesar Perez Vivas, secretary general of Copei, which had asked that the elections be delayed.

Mr. Chavez, though, called the opposition pullout “political sabotage” and said it would not discredit his government. Other officials said the vote would take place as planned and harshly accused the opposition of withdrawing because it faced a dire outcome at the voting booth.

“Very well, let them go to hell,” Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel, told reporters. “They know they are defeated because they see the polls, too.”

Read the whole thing. “Any way you Look at it, you Lose.” ~ Simon & Garfunkel ;>

BCS scenario derby: Lions-Buckeyes? Longhorns-Lions? Trojans-Tigers? Irish-Trojans? Irish-Mountaineers?

Tuesday, November 29th, 2005

I just thought of something. What happens if (heaven forbid) fUCLA beats USC, Colorado beats Texas, Georgia beats LSU, and Florida State beats Virginia Tech next Saturday? The Nittany Lions, currently #3 in the BCS behind the Trojans and Longhorns, would go to the Rose Bowl, but who would they play? #4 LSU and #5 Virginia Tech would drop out of the picture. #6 Ohio State is next in line. Could it be an all-Big Ten title game in Pasadena between the Lions and the Buckeyes, a rematch of October’s memorable “white out” game?

Probably not. I suspect, in such a scenario, the voters would not drop either USC or Texas — who would, after all, have only one loss — behind two-loss Ohio State, which lost to Texas in September. It’s harder to predict what the computers would do; they do like the Buckeyes a lot. But then again, Texas’s undefeated status is part of the reason OSU’s computer ranking is so high. More likely than not, it would be #1 Penn State vs. #2 USC for the title. Sorry, Buckeye fans. [UPDATE: I punched this scenario into the Colley Matrix, which allows you to add hypothetical games. The result is exactly as I expected: #1 Penn State, #2 Texas, #3 USC, #4 Ohio State. I suspect most of the computers would come up with a similar result… but the Trojans would stay ahead of Texas in the human polls, unless they got totally creamed by fUCLA or something, and thus would be #2 in the BCS.]

In such a scenario, the Orange Bowl would have first pick, and would choose Notre Dame to face Florida State. The Fiesta Bowl, stuck with Colorado, would be left to choose between West Virginia and either Texas or Ohio State to face the Buffaloes. (Either Texas or Ohio State — whoever is ranked higher — would have an automatic at-large berth under the “Kansas State rule,” since they’d be in the Top 4.) If the choice is between Texas and West Virginia, the Fiesta would take the Mountaineers in order to avoid a rematch of the Big 12 title game (itself a rematch of a regular-season game). That would leave the Sugar Bowl with an unexpectedly attractive Georgia-Texas matchup. On the other hand, if the Fiesta’s choice is between Ohio State and West Virginia, obviously they would take the Buckeyes to face the Buffaloes, and the Sugar Bowl would have Georgia-West Virginia.

(On the other hand, if either Texas or Ohio State were to finish ahead of USC and earn a spot in the Rose Bowl, the Fiesta would get Colorado vs. USC, the Orange would be forced to take either Texas or OSU — whichever one isn’t in the Rose Bowl — and Notre Dame would be left out entirely, as explained above.)

But of course, that’s a freakin’ nutty scenario. What about the slightly more plausible scenario — emphasis on slightly — which requires only one of those upsets to occur: fUCLA over USC. Assuming Texas beats Colorado, and assuming the Trojans drop behind Penn State in the BCS (which I think they would), it’d be Longhorns vs. Lions in the Rose Bowl… and USC, which has already clinched the Pac-10 championship via tiebreaker, would automatically head to the Fiesta Bowl. (In years when the Rose Bowl hosts the title game, the Fiesta Bowl becomes the Pac-10’s “host” bowl.)

But who would the Trojans play? fUCLA grad Mike Tran posed this question to me via e-mail earlier, and here’s what I came up with:

The Fiesta still gets first pick, and they can choose whoever they want to play against USC. Penn State is out (because they’re in the Rose Bowl) so the choices are Ohio State, Oregon, Notre Dame, Miami, Auburn, West Virginia (if it beats South Florida), UCLA, and maybe LSU and/or Virginia Tech (if they lose their conference championship games but stay in the BCS Top 12) or maybe TCU and/or Alabama (if LSU and/or Virginia Tech lose and fall out of the Top 12, or if West Virginia loses).

Obviously Oregon and UCLA are not going to be chosen to play USC in a bowl game.

And obviously, West Virginia and TCU are not going to be chosen because they are way lame.

That leaves Ohio State, Notre Dame, Miami, Auburn, LSU (maybe), Virginia Tech (maybe), and Alabama (maybe) as options for USC’s opponent in the Fiesta Bowl.

LSU, Virginia Tech and Alabama would all be coming off a loss (two losses, in Alabama’s case), so even if they’re available, I seriously doubt they get chosen. Although, an LSU-USC Fiesta Bowl would appeal to LSU fans who hold a grudge from two years ago… but I still doubt the Fiesta Bowl picks them off a loss, to play a USC team that’s also coming off a loss.

So… Ohio State, Notre Dame, Miami or Auburn?

Ohio State-USC is an early preview of a 2008-2009 home-and-home series, and it’s a Big 10 vs. Pac 10 game, albeit not in the Rose Bowl. Two big-name teams with big-name players and large fan bases that will travel well. A pretty damn good matchup.

Notre Dame-USC is a rematch of one of the greatest games in college football history. It would be a HUGELY hyped game. Charlie Weis vs. Pete Carroll, part two. Its ratings might exceed the national championship game. Again, both teams would travel well. A very attractive matchup.

Miami-USC is a matchup between the Team of the ’90s and the Team of the 2000s… although that storyline would be somewhat less attractive given that USC would seem slightly less like a “dynasty” immediately after the loss to UCLA ended the winning streak. Still, another good matchup.

Auburn-USC would be great for the Auburn fans who hold a grudge over getting left out last year. And unlike Miami, the Fiesta Bowl has been actively considering Auburn anyway. Plus, Auburn has been on a roll. A lot of people think they’re the best team in the SEC right now. On the other hand, the Tigers and Trojans did play twice recently (in 2002 and 2003)… but I don’t see that having too much effect on the decision. This is another very attractive matchup.

All four matchups would be attractive to the Fiesta Bowl, it seems to me. It’s hard to predict what they would do… but I bet they go with Notre Dame-USC. Like I said, that game would rival the national championship game in terms of hype and ratings. Usually, having a “rematch” in a bowl matchup is a bad thing, but not this time, says I.

Can you even imagine how freakin’ intense my wedding would be? LOL! Irish and Trojan fans mingling, three days before the USC-ND rematch 30 miles away in Tempe? I would predict a major food fight! Hehe.

Another scenario to consider: what if USC and Texas both lose, but LSU wins? Presumably the Trojans and Longhorns fall out of the top 2, and it’s Penn State vs. LSU in the Rose Bowl. The Fiesta Bowl is set: USC vs. Colorado. This is the nightmare scenario for Notre Dame, as the Sugar Bowl — having lost the SEC champion Tigers to the title game — would get first pick, and would undoubtedly snap up the Irish. Then the Orange Bowl would pick Texas (or perhaps Ohio State, Oregon or Auburn, if Texas falls out of the top 4) to play Virginia Tech (or Florida State), leaving Notre Dame to play in a thrilling showdown with… yup… West Virginia.

On the other hand, if USC, Texas and LSU all lose, but Virginia Tech wins, I wonder if the Hokies, currently #5, would manage to move ahead of the Trojans and Longhorns to claim the #2 spot in the BCS? If so, it’s Penn State vs. Virginia Tech in the Rose Bowl, and the Orange Bowl gets the first two picks, which you’d think would mean it can set up whatever damn matchup it wants… but most likely, Texas would stay in the BCS top 4 and would be guaranteed an at-large bid… so the Orange Bowl, if it wants Notre Dame (which of course it does), would be “forced” to stage a Brady Quinn vs. Vince Young showdown. Heh. You think anyone would tune in to watch that game?

Of course, this is all purely academic, because USC is going to crush fUCLA this Saturday. Indeed, Tran and I are working out the details of our bet right now. BEAT THE BRUINS!!!

Incidentally, if Texas loses but USC wins, it’s a USC-Penn State Rose Bowl, and the Orange Bowl gets first pick — so the Irish go to Miami to face Virginia Tech (or Florida State). What happens next depends on whether Texas stays in the top 4. If they do, the end of the bowl selection process plays out much like the crazy everybody-loses scenario at the top of this post: the Fiesta hosts Colorado vs. West Virginia and the Sugar hosts LSU (or Georgia) vs. Texas. If, on the other hand, the Longhorns fall out of the top 4 (behind USC, Penn State, LSU and Virginia Tech), the Fiesta Bowl would choose a more attractive opponent for Colorado, like Ohio State, Oregon or Auburn, sending West Virginia to the Sugar Bowl and leaving Texas out of the BCS entirely. Hello, Cotton Bowl!

Greatness

Tuesday, November 29th, 2005

Andrew sends along this link to an awesome Reggie Bush highlight video (direct WMV link), and also this NYT article, which features some of Bush’s high-school highlights.

Illini, Heels battle it out again

Tuesday, November 29th, 2005

It’s a 35-35 tie at halftime as North Carolina hosts Illinois in a rematch of last year’s national championship game.

The Tar Heels-Illini battle is also part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, which the ACC leads thus far, 2-1, thanks to Florida State’s 40-point win over Purdue. Yikes.

UPDATE: Illinois wins, avenging their title-game loss (which I was in Champaign for). I-L-L! I-N-I!

White’s injury just a bruise

Tuesday, November 29th, 2005

Good news:

Running back LenDale White’s bruised left shoulder isn’t expected to sideline him Saturday when top-ranked Southern California faces UCLA at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

White has rushed for 1,024 yards and a team-leading 19 touchdowns this season.

“The doctors think he shouldn’t have trouble playing,” USC coach Pete Carroll said after practice Monday. “He had an MRI this afternoon, so he missed being out here today. I’d say he won’t practice Tuesday and we’ll see how he’s doing Wednesday. We’ll take it one day at a time.”

White, a junior who has carried 163 times, was in obvious pain after being hit while carrying the ball during a team drill early in Sunday’s practice. He was later carted to the locker room. After having his shoulder iced, he said he felt better.

C.S. Lewis opposed non-cartoon Narnia movies

Tuesday, November 29th, 2005

A newly published letter reveals that C.S. Lewis vehemently opposed making movies of The Chronicles of Narnia — or at least, he opposed making live-action TV shows, and we can probably extrapolate that he would have opposed live-action movies as well.

“Anthropomorphic animals, when taken out of narrative into actual visibility, always turn into buffoonery or nightmare. At least, with photography,” he wrote in 1959. “Cartoons…would be another matter. A human, pantomime, Aslan would be to me blasphemy.” (Letter here.)

This isn’t exactly shocking. J.R.R. Tolkien also opposed turning The Lord of the Rings into a movie (or movies), believing that it couldn’t be done in a way that would do justice to the books. And yet, Peter Jackson’s movies literally elevated the cinematic artform, creating an epic trilogy that will be revered by audiences and film nerds for generations. From one work of fiction, two artistic masterpieces in two artistic genres were born. Perhaps Tolkien still would have opposed creating the movies (and he surely would have taken issue with some of Jackson’s decisions, like cutting out the scouring of the Shire), but there can be little doubt that his assessment of what a LOTR movie would look like was based on a now-outdated impression of what movies are capable of.

Similarly here, Lewis’s distinction between cartoons and non-cartoons seems rather outdated in this age of CGI effects. Perhaps 10 or 20 years ago, and certainly 50 years ago, it was true that a movie Aslan would inevitably “turn into buffoonery or nightmare.” But, in light of what is now possible with computer graphics, this seems an unfair statement today. Certainly, Aslan will not be “human, pantomime,” nor will he be primarily an object of “photography” — he’ll basically be a very realistic-looking cartoon.

Tolkien thought it was impossible to create a reasonable movie rendition of Treebeard, and he probably had his doubts about Gollum too, but look what Peter Jackson managed to accomplish! The real question is whether the people who made The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — which comes out next Friday — are up to the task. A movie epic with the artistic quality of Lord of the Rings doesn’t come along every day. But I’m not convinced the movie is doomed to suck merely because the books’ author was protective of his work and didn’t believe that anyone would be able to do it justice. Artists are like that. :)

(Hat tip: Briandot.)

Senator Joe: stay the course

Tuesday, November 29th, 2005

Here’s a great op-ed by Joe Lieberman explaining why a premature troop withdrawal from Iraq would be such a mistake. Money quote:

I am convinced [that] almost all of the progress in Iraq and throughout the Middle East will be lost if those forces are withdrawn faster than the Iraqi military is capable of securing the country.

The leaders of Iraq’s duly elected government understand this, and they asked me for reassurance about America’s commitment. The question is whether the American people and enough of their representatives in Congress from both parties understand this. I am disappointed by Democrats who are more focused on how President Bush took America into the war in Iraq almost three years ago, and by Republicans who are more worried about whether the war will bring them down in next November’s elections, than they are concerned about how we continue the progress in Iraq in the months and years ahead.

Here is an ironic finding I brought back from Iraq. While U.S. public opinion polls show serious declines in support for the war and increasing pessimism about how it will end, polls conducted by Iraqis for Iraqi universities show increasing optimism. Two-thirds say they are better off than they were under Saddam, and a resounding 82% are confident their lives in Iraq will be better a year from now than they are today. What a colossal mistake it would be for America’s bipartisan political leadership to choose this moment in history to lose its will and, in the famous phrase, to seize defeat from the jaws of the coming victory.

Lieberman adds that “mistakes, some of them big, were made after Saddam was removed, and no one who supports the war should hesitate to admit that; but we have learned from those mistakes and, in characteristic American fashion, from what has worked and not worked on the ground.” He also catalogues examples of the tangible progress that has been made, some of which will probably come as news to those who believe everything they see on TV (and who, more importantly, believe they’re getting the whole picture from TV).

Read the whole thing, please, before you bash it. (Hat tip: Adam Russ.)