Month: March 2021 (Page 1 of 2)

March Media

Don’t think I’m going to add anything new in the next 24 hours, so I’ll go ahead and drop this and knock one item off my new month checklist.


Shows and Movies

Spring Baking Championship
It’s been awhile, but I finally decided to watch one of these shows that didn’t wasn’t focused on Halloween, Thanksgiving, or Easter. I’m not sure why I enjoy these so much. I’m not a huge baker. These shows are all kind of the same. But the same people have been watching The Bachelor for 20 years. I can watch a damn food show mindlessly.

B+

Formula 1: Drive to Survive, season two
After I blew through season one in February I wondered if L might want to watch season two with me. Indeed she did. She loved it, although I think she enjoyed all the f-bombs that get dropped as much as anything. We’ve both taken a greater interest in F1 in general, which is apparently the new, hip thing to do. I watched much of Sunday’s first race, while she popped in-and-out. I think the show might be more exciting than the races, because it’s still auto racing. Plus I still have no idea who I support. Am I rooting for the driver or the car or the team?

I didn’t think season two was quite as compelling as season one, but providing some good father-daughter time balances that out. We started season three as soon as we got back from spring break.

B+

Coming to America
Coming 2 America
In anticipation of the new Eddie Murphy movie in early March, I had to watch the classic. I tried to get the girls to watch with me, but they weren’t interested. Even when I told them it’s one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. Kids…

Good news is that Coming to America still holds up, for the most part. There are some pacing issues; a few scenes drag on just a little too long and some closing shots would cut away much faster today. But otherwise it remains a classic. S laughed at me laughing in anticipation of my favorite parts.

As for the new version? I read two reviews after I watched. One was effusive, saying despite some obvious flaws it was still a highly entertaining and funny movie, just the flick we needed right now. The other blasted the movie for being lazy, having too many call backs to the original, and generally being mediocre.

Fortunately my view was much closer to the first opinion. I laughed loudly and often. I watched almost the entire movie with a smile on my face. Yes, there were some lazy moments and some plot elements that did not work well. There was almost no way this movie could stand up to the original, though. I went in expecting to be disappointed because of the comparison. The fact it was competent, entertaining, and pretty damn funny made it a success.

A+, B+

Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse
I got down a Wikipedia rabbit hole one night that ended up with me reading about Marlon Brando and, eventually, Apocalypse Now. I did a quick search and found this documentary of the making of that movie on YouTube and fired it up right away. At first I could not remember if I had ever seen it. By the end I knew I had, but it’s probably been 15 years or so. AN is one of the greatest movies ever made, and this is an excellent companion as it shows what madness the main of the film was.

A

’71
An absolutely harrowing story (fictional, I believe) of a British soldier who, on his first day serving in Belfast in 1971, gets separated from his unit during a riot and is forced to spend the night working his way from a Catholic neighborhood back to safety. After seeing a platoon-mate shot and killed next to him, he is chased and shot at, hides in a public restroom until nightfall, finds a friendly bar that explodes when a bomb intended for an IRA target goes off too quickly, is wounded by shrapnel and then stitched up and hidden by a sympathetic former army medic, kills one of the men trying to capture him, and is on the verge of being executed by IRA men when he is “saved” by undercover British officers who, in fact, also want to kill him because he saw that they were behind the bomb that had blown up earlier in the night.

Whew. A lot of shit for one dude in one night. The riot and chase scenes are wonderfully shot, making you feel like you are right in the midst of the chaos.

A-


Shorts

Why Mount Everest’s Height Keeps Changing
This month’s Science! entry.

A

Bee Removal: Backyard Shed
Equal parts fascinating and horrifying.

A-

The Commute: Walking 90km to work

Beau Miles is back at it again, doing weird stuff in the name of changing his perspective, upsetting the routines of his life, and making his viewers open their eyes to the world around them. This time he walked 90 kilometers from his home to his office. This was not the first time he had done this, which somewhat reduced the impact of this walk. But I still enjoy watching him do his weird shit.

B+

Lost Track New Zealand
Two mates from Australia travel around New Zealand on motorcycles in search of remote surfing locals. Just a beautiful piece to watch, although the guys themselves are not super interesting. What struck me was the courage in people like them, who live lives that are focused on just earning enough money to fund their travels and the gear required for their journeys. I’ve read dozens of books about people like this, but when I was in my 20s I never had the nerve to take even a year off and get out and see the world. There’s nothing wrong with taking family vacations and seeing other places from the very limited perspective that can offer. I’m not big on regret, but I do have a sliver of angst that I was not bold enough to take even one trip like this in my life.

B

Reaching for the Stars, Vol. 55

Chart Week: March 26, 1983
Song: “I Know There’s Something Going On” – Frida
Chart Position: #13, 21st week on the chart. Peaked there for three weeks.

One great thing about The Number Ones series is how it has forced me to re-evaluate artists I soured on over the years. Phil Collins is a perfect example.

I forgot how many massive hits he had. Dude had seven number ones and six other top tens as a solo artist. At one point six out of eight singles topped the Hot 100. He added six more top tens and a number one with Genesis. He was a menace!

I probably forget about how big he was because, like Whitney Houston, many of his songs were Adult Contemporary schmaltz. But where Whitney elevated her songs with her once-in-a-generation voice and fashion model looks, Collins was a pasty, balding British guy with a passable but not terribly impressive voice. He didn’t force his music into the cultural memory through the genius of his overt talent.

After reading Tom Breihan’s write-ups of Collins’ early Number Ones, though, I’m finding a new appreciation for his work. I still mostly hate his ballads. But when I hear his more up-tempo tracks, I no longer switch away immediately, and am able to find enjoyment in them.

Although Collins’ voice may not have been as unforgettable as Whitney’s, he did make an indelible mark on ‘80s music. While working with Peter Gabriel on his former Genesis bandmate’s 1980 solo album, Collins, along with producer Steve Lillywhite and engineer Hugh Padgham, accidentally developed what came to be known as the “gated reverb” sound. I don’t do well with technical descriptions of music. The easiest way to understand gated reverb is to listen to “In the Air Tonight.” The epic drum break near the end of the track is the ultimate gated reverb moment. Collins continued to use that sound on many of the biggest songs of his career.

Included in that list are songs he produced for or appeared with other artists. “Easy Lover,” his duet with Earth, Wind, & Fire’s Phillip Bailey is one example. His drums on “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” are nearly as memorable as Bono’s line.[1]

And then there was this track. Somehow I didn’t remember until recently that Collins produced the biggest album of former ABBA member Anni-Frid Lyngstad’s solo career. The drums should have been a dead giveaway. There is no mistaking the classic Collins sound in those primordial beats that anchor the song. In a track that is all about discovering your partner is cheating, the drums are as impactful as any of Frida’s words. Something is going on, and some shit is about to go down.

It’s interesting (to me at least) that several of Collins’ biggest hits of the early 80s were about the end of his first marriage. I don’t know if there was any carry over, but I can’t help but think some of the power in his drumming for Frida came from his own romantic pain.

Oh, and this song is an absolute banger. Loved it when I was 12, and I still love it today.


  1. Other famous songs that used gated reverb: Duran Duran’s “Wild Boys” and “A View to a Kill;” “Some Like It Hot” by the Power Station; “Born in the USA;” and a ton of Prince and Prince-influenced tracks.  ↩

Spring Break 2021

Another spring break has come and gone.

We spent the week on Anna Maria Island, Florida, just outside of Tampa. Although we planned our trip independently, it turns out AMI and the surrounding communities are one of the most popular destinations for families from Indy area Catholic schools. Our girls were very excited to learn how many of their friends would be staying nearby. Easy access to folks we know changed the entire week for us.

Our first two days the weather was subpar. Each day it was cloudy and breezy. Sunday it was rather cool – in the low 60s – so we only spent a couple hours shivering on the beach. Monday was a little warmer, but still very cloudy. As you might expect, the clouds gave us pale Midwesterners a false sense of security, and there were a lot of nasty sunburns early in the week.

The other downside to these first two days was that we could not crank up the heater on our pool, which was locked at 82. We are big wusses and keep the heater on our pool cranked between 90–95 until it truly gets hot in June. Eighty-two degree water plus clouds plus breeze meant we couldn’t really hang in our pool, either.

Fortunately on Tuesday the sun finally came out and we spent a ton of time on the beach the remainder of the week. Wednesday it was crazy windy, almost too windy to be on the beach as we were constantly scoured by blowing sand. Having already lost two days of sun, we stuck it out and accepted that every sip of beer would be a bit gritty.

C hung with three of her closest friends all week, one of whom had a birthday on Friday. That got kind of crazy, as the birthday girl talked her parents into taking the group to two different dinners and parasailing on Thursday. Another mom in that group also booked a henna artist so the girls could all get designs done. We barely saw C for most of the week other than to give her money as she set off with her pals.

M had some friends who were staying about 10 minutes south. She spent every day with them.

L had two different groups of friends that she bounced between, although she spent more time with the boy group. I guess she was more interested in going to the candy store once a day to buy sweets and baseball cards, digging huge holes on the beach, and trying to capture lizards than whatever the girls were up to.

That meant S and I pretty much had the days to ourselves. We hooked up with one group of St P’s parents and spent most of our beach days with them. I knew several of the families pretty well, a couple others very casually, and two more I could nod to and say hello but didn’t really know at all. It was fun to get to know some people I knew well even better, and to expand those rather casual friendships.

There were at least four other groups of St P’s parents scattered up and down the beach. I didn’t do a lot of mingling, mostly because they were all 10–15 years younger than me. A couple of the moms coaches for me, so I did make sure to check in with them.

Getting around the island is pretty easy. We rented both a car and a golf cart, generally using the car only to get M down to her friends and for grocery runs (and for the round-trip to the airport). The rest of the time we ran the golf cart all over the place. Highly recommended if that is ever an option on your travels. AMI is ideal for using a cart rather than car. Our house came with bikes that the girls used daily as well.

M was sad that you have to be 25 to drive a golf cart. Since we were on a side street we let all three girls have turns buzzing up and down it in the evenings when there was no traffic. They took to calling it our “whip,” which I thought was hilarious. L did pretty good, going a little too fast but generally keeping it under control. C was kind of a mess, which does not bode well for her beginning the drivers ed process this summer.

All week were were comparing/contrasting our surroundings with Captiva Island, where we have stayed three times. There are certainly a lot more people on AMI and many more things to do. The big negative is that evening meals are kind of a disaster. If you don’t get your name on a list before 5:30, you will be waiting at least two hours for a table. And because there is a strict 10:00 PM noise ordinance, a lot of restaurants stop serving around 9:00.

We got carry out our first three nights without issue. But the next couple nights we had to make last minute scrambles when every place we called to put an order in was so busy that they weren’t answering their phones. We ended up making dinner at home one night and just eating leftovers from other meals two other nights to avoid the hassle. It’s hard enough to wait two hours for a meal when you’re sunburned and tired. Throw in Covid and a lot of folks not being super observant of mask rules and the last thing you want to do is sit with hungry kids and have a few drinks hoping a table opens up for you.

So our only real meal out was lunch Friday at The Ugly Grouper, which everyone told us we hd to go to. We had a fantastic lunch without anyone sitting near us. Kind of ideal. The manager came over and talked to us as we ate. Turned out he was a Purdue grad and had managed restaurants in Indy. So the typical “How’s your meal, how ya doin?” conversation turned into a 10 minute exchange.

The other slight negative of the week was we could never get all our girls together in one place for a family picture. They probably took a collective 1000 pictures on their own but we couldn’t get them dressed and presentable and all in one place to get even one family shot. That’s a bummer, but I guess they have the pics to prove they were there.

Travel was pretty easy. We had a late afternoon flight down, so the Indy airport was no busier than normal. And we must have had just the right flight coming back because it took us five minutes to check backs and then about as long to get through security in Tampa. A couple friends who came back later Saturday evening came in during some heavy storms and said there was horrible turbulence on the way in, and then they had to sit on the taxiway for over an hour until the lightning had passed. Sounds delightful. Some other friends who were driving back got stuck in Georgia when the interstate was totally shut because of a large accident. They were parked in one spot and throwing a football around for two hours as they waited for the road to re-open.

Our flights were full, people seemed to be wearing masks. And, honestly, people mostly seemed to be following the mask rules on AMI. We did hear from others who braved the crowds more often than us that plenty of people were not being as cautious.

So, a very good spring break. If memory serves, this was the sixth time we’ve gone someplace warm for the week (Captiva twice; Orange Beach, AL; Mexico twice). Every trip has its minor annoyances, but once again we were lucky that it was a pleasant, relaxing, refreshing week.

Oh Yeah…

Gonzaga, Texas, Baylor, Illinois.

Zags over Illini in title game.

KU loses to USC Monday. Unless they play Drake. Then they sweep the Iowa schools and lose by 12 (again) to the Zags in the Elite 9.

Friday Vids

I have a busy day of spring break travel prep ahead of me, so just a video for this week. We shall reconvene for our weekly listening party on Good Friday.

“A Quick One (While He’s Away)” – The Who
I’ve heard about this performance before, but had never watched it. Two different people referenced it over the past week which got me searching to find it. The hype was legit. I can think of several Who songs I would rather have seen them play live, in their prime, but this is an incredible performance.

The legend behind this is fun, too. This was part of the Rolling Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus, an event that was recorded on December 11, 1968. The rumor was that the Stones, wiped out by their efforts to organize the show and impaired by hours of drinking and drugging, were ashamed that The Who’s performance blew theirs away. Because of that, they cancelled the planned BBC broadcast and sat on the footage for over 20 years before finally releasing it. Funny thing is, folks who have watched the Stones’ performance from that night say theirs was just fine. It did not match the perfection of The Who, but there was no need to hide them from the world for two decades.

As a bonus, I’ll throw in this 1970 performance of “Young Man Blues,” which should melt your mind. For an extra level of ass kicking, search in the music app of your choice and find the original, performed by jazz musician Moose Allison. Pete Townsend is a musical genius, but I’m not sure how he was inspired to go from that to what The Who played.

Reader’s Notebook, 3/18/21

Well, shit. It appears that I’ve lost what was supposed to be my most recent Reader’s Notebook entry. I remember writing it and swore I posted it. (The books included were N.K. Jemisin’s The City We Became and John Le Carré’s The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.) Since this entry references one of those books, I was looking back for the post to link to and could not find it. I checked the local folder where I keep all my posts after I put them online and it is not there. So looks like I never posted it and must have deleted my draft. My bad. This post should still make sense, other than the one refence.


The Fifth Season – N.K. Jemisin
The Obelisk Gate – N.K. Jemisin
The Stone Sky – N.K. Jemisin
Inspired by reading Jemisin’s The City We Became, I decided to tackle her The Broken Earth trilogy. My intention was to sprinkle those books in with others I planned to read. However, I enjoyed the first book so much that I plowed right through the next two in short order.

It’s been a long time since I have attempted to read a fantasy novel. As I said in my notes on The City We Became, that book felt more like a Stephen King novel where elements of fantasy were swirled into a more traditional, modern thriller.

This trilogy, however, sits more firmly in what I expect for fantasy. It takes place in another time – Jemisin never overtly identifies it, but it seems to be in a far future era after a massive ecological disaster has ravaged the earth – in a world that has elements that are somewhat recognizable. It is populated by humans, but there are different kinds of humans with very different abilities. Technology is much more limited, but there are hints of advanced technologies from a long-ago past. It’s not quite hobbits and elves in Middle Earth, but I would assume fans of traditional fantasy were comfortable with the framework she placed the story in.

In Jemisin’s imagined “future” earth, the continents have all been shoved back together, the moon has escaped from close earth orbit, and life on earth is in constant danger due to seismic activity. There are near constant earthquakes, volcanic activity, and tsunamis that wreak havoc. When these are especially strong they create “Fifth Seasons,” or extended winters brought about when weather patterns are interrupted, causing food shortages and mass starvation. Sometimes these Seasons last a matter of months, sometimes years, while others have lasted hundreds or thousands of years. The inhabitants of earth have learned to always be preparing for the next Season, stocking away food, water, and other supplies needed to attempt to survive.

One group of humans in Jemisin’s world are called orogenes, people who are able to tap into the seismic power of the earth. They can both control that power, stopping earthquakes and eruptions before they happen, and convert it into wizard-like abilities. Because of the mystery of how they tap into the earth’s power, orogenes are viewed with suspicion and contempt. Children who demonstrate orogenic powers are routinely killed to prevent them from harming their relatives and neighbors. The lucky ones are taken for formal training and then used to help keep the world as safe as can be.

At the center of these stories is an orogene named Essen. We learn about her upbringing, her training to be an imperial orogene, her mission with her mentor that reveals how she is more powerful that the average orogene, and their subsequent adventures. Eventually she has to flee for her life, taking on a new identity. She starts a family and when her children begin to show orogenic abilities, her husband, who is not an orogene, kills their son and flees with their daughter. Just as this happens there is a great rift in the earth, causing an unprecedented level of seismic activity that seems likely to start a Season that could last for thousands of years. As the world slowly begins to wind down, Essen begins a quest to both rescue her daughter and kill her husband in revenge for his act of murder.

During her travels she falls in with other humans who have strange powers. She stumbles into a community that is uniquely designed to survive the Season. Meanwhile her daughter, Nassun discovers more about her own orogenic powers while her father seeks a place where she can be trained to tamp down those powers and “be normal.” Jemisin also reveals more about the history of this earth, how it came to be what it is and the dangers that the upcoming Season holds for humanity. There is the obligatory great battle, and a final quest in which both Nassun and Essen race to be the first to save the earth, but in very different ways.

I’ve tried not to get too deep into the weeds of the stories, but that still feels like a pretty shitty summation of this series. Despite the poor overview, for the most part I really, really enjoyed these books. They cut through a lot of what turns me off about fantasy while still being true to what one expects of a fantasy story. I think what I enjoyed most about them – aside from the overall story which is really good – is how Jemisin writes as if the characters are of the current moment. Yes, she invents all kinds of new elements for her world, including enough phrases and words to require a list of definitions in the back of each book. But her characters speak like they were picked up from 21st century earth and thrown into whatever place and time the stories reside in.

I did have some issues with an aside in the third book that took a huge jump back in time. While it was vital to making the entire story work and understanding the motivations of one character, it was a bit hard to follow. Especially when Jemisin revealed that a handful of characters that had appeared at different moments in the series were actually three different characters appearing under different names. Or maybe three or four. I couldn’t keep straight who was who when this became apparent.

Jemisin also tackles a lot of modern concepts, like racism, stereotyping, and the existence of structural impediments that prevent equality, but without being ham-handed about it or making it obvious that she is MAKING A STATEMENT. Whether in her imagined world or the America of 2021, she makes it clear that just because people look different, sound different, have different abilities, or follow different cultural touchtones, there is never an excuse for exclusion or persecution.

Whoa, We’re Halfway There…

One shot down, one to go.

That’s right, I am 50% of the way to being fully vaccinated against Covid 19!

Indiana dropped the age limit to 45 yesterday. A friend, who also turns 50 this June, told me Monday night he heard rumors the state would be dropping the requirement below 50 Tuesday morning. He got up early, checked the state health department’s website, and just before 8:00 it updated to say Hoosiers 45 and up were now eligible. He and his wife signed up, then texted me the news.

While most of the vaccine sites on our side of town are booked out for weeks, the big facility on the IU-Methodist medical campus downtown had plenty of times that day. I immediately grabbed one at the same time they were headed down. Seconds after I booked my time I got a notification from the Indy Star saying the age limit had dropped. About an hour later the health system S works in sent me a text saying I could sign up. I felt like I had gotten one over on the world!

M had not left for school yet, and when I told her she got super excited, which was nice.

I texted S, telling her that I had an appointment and her response was “Today?” You might wonder if she had given me some inside dope on when the age limit would drop, but being in the pediatric world she has no idea what’s going on in adult medicine. She, too, was happy when I confirmed that I indeed had an appointment later in the day.

Around noon I headed downtown, got in line, waited about 20 minutes to get checked in, got my shot, then waited with my friends in the auditorium until our 15 minute buffer period had passed to make sure we didn’t have reactions.

My arm was sore last night, and again this morning. More sore than from any recent flu shot, to be honest. Worth it, though.

S had no issues after her first shot in December, but the second knocked her out for a day. I scheduled my second shot for a Friday just in case I have issues, too. I’d rather waste a weekend day on the couch than have to navigate a day filled with pickups and drop-offs while feeling like shit.

The lady who was checking my insurance information asked if I was excited. I told her that I was. In fact I was a little surprised at how excited I was. The past year has had its struggles, but no one in our immediate family has been sick. I like to read and watch movies and hang out in our home/yard, so being home hasn’t been a huge burden on me.

I have, though, been worried about catching Covid. Odds are high that I would be fine, or maybe suffer for a few days and then bounce right back. I know it’s not just a “strong flu,” though, and was not interested in putting myself or my family through a situation where my body could not fight the infection and it became a problem. Our family, like most of you, have done some things that probably aren’t super safe. We’ve flown to Florida once and are about to do it again, for example. We’ve let our girls go to small sleepovers and birthday parties or just hang out with friends. But we have generally done a very good job of minimizing situations where we put ourselves at risk. A lot of that has been my insistence.

What has bothered me has been our inability to eat out, our lack of face-to-face socialization with friends, and not being able to go to the gym. Especially the gym. I’ve worked out at home but it’s not the same, especially on the cardio side of things. I can’t run much anymore, so not being able to use an elliptical machine has taken away my one way to really burn some calories. Throw in vertigo, which has prevented me doing from much cardio at all the past four months, and I’m pushing the most I’ve ever weighed. It’s nice to be tall and be able to hide it a bit, but I’m not sure I’ll go shirtless on the beach much next week.

The first thing I thought of when I scheduled my second shot was that I can start going back to the gym the following week. Hopefully my vertigo will continue to get better over that span. That, combined with three weeks of vaccine in me, will make me feel comfortable enough to un-pause my Y membership. I have several friends who have continued to work out, and they say the Y does a really good job of keeping equipment clean and the people inside safe. That just seemed like too much risk to me, though, so I’ve not been inside the gym in 53 weeks.

I’m excited that after another three weeks I can end that streak.

Also, hooray science!

KU Week in Review

Some week for KU sports, huh? Let’s review!

Monday: fired a football coach for the fifth time in 11 years, this time for lying/covering up allegations of allegedly/likely putting female student staff members in uncomfortable situations at his previous job. Gross.

Tuesday: Idiot athletic director gives press conference to show that he’s in control and deserves the chance to hire the next football coach. It does not go well. Well, not for him, at least. Jeff Long’s exchange about the lack of success of his last two football hires, “On the field,” with the Kansas City Star’s Sam Mellinger was likely the tipping point that led to Wednesday’s news.

Bill Self announces that David McCormack and Tristan Enaruna will not play in the Big 12 tournament because they are in the Covid–19 protocols.

Wednesday: My (and many other KU fans’) prayers are answered: KU fires idiot athletic director!

Thursday: KU makes the smart choice (for once) and names assistant football coach Emmett Jones as interim head coach. Jones has played a huge role in bringing in the best recruits KU has signed over the past three classes, is popular with the entire team, and seems best situated to keep the roster together until a new head coach is named.

Later that night the KU basketball team plays one of their best halves of the season to build a 23-point, first-half lead against Oklahoma. They blow 20 points of that lead but hold on to advance to get a third crack at Texas in the semifinals.

Friday: Self announces that an unnamed player has tested positive for Covid–19 and the team is dropping out of the Big 12 tournament. There is immediate worry about whether KU will be able to play in the NCAA Tournament.

Sunday: KU is named the #3 seed in the West region, the school’s 31st straight appearance and 20th straight top four seed. Self says, based on what he knows Sunday evening, that all but the positive player will be ready to go on Saturday afternoon.

That is one jam-packed week! I have thoughts.

Long: Thrilled he is gone. KU has made a lot of bad hires in the lsat 20 years. I’m hoping he is the last in that run and someone competent is soon running the athletic department. Not holding my breath, though.

Covid: Well, shit. KU got through the entire regular season unscathed. They had a non-conference game in December cancelled when the opponent had to shut down for a week, then had to reschedule one of the Iowa State games when the Cyclones were dealing with their issues. But KU played every Big 12 game, and never had a player or coach miss a game because of Covid. And, as the KC Star reported, the program was insanely strict about how players even interacted with their relatives after games. Then they suddenly get hit at the worst possible time.

Now all the fingers are crossed that McCormack is able to play this weekend and the one positive player, who should miss the first week of the tournament, is the only positive the team has.

NCAAs: I was a bit surprised by the three seed, but that was just because I figured the NCAA would give KU no grace if it came down to them and another squad for a seed, so I expected a four. Getting a three, or even a four, is a terrific accomplishment for a team that looked just about dead six weeks ago.

As we get more and more numbers each year, it gets easier and easier to pick apart the NCAA seedings. USC was the first one to jump out at me. In the KenPom ratings, they are eight spots higher than KU, yet are the six to KU’s three. Loyola-Chicago is ranked ninth in the KenPom ratings, but only got an eight seed. And so on.

If KU can beat Eastern Washington and play USC, I think that’s an incredibly tough matchup. USC isn’t as good as Texas, but their size and athleticism reminds me of Texas. That’s very bad for KU and means a season-ending L in the round of 32. But USC is one of those tricky teams that are loaded with talent but you can’t entirely trust them. At first glance I put them in the Elite 8, based on matchups alone. But they could easily lose to Wichita State/Drake, either of which would be a much better matchup for KU.

KU’s success will come down to health and shooting. The health is kind of out of their control at this point: if more players were exposed it’s just a matter of time before they test positive and wreck the roster. I’ve given up thinking this team will shoot as well as they should. But, as every KU fan knows, a team can get hot at any moment and go deeper than you expected.

So I’m calling a round of 32 loss. But not ruling out a Sweet 16 or even Elite 8 run if the three-point shooting swings from cold to hot.

I know the question many of you are asking this morning: with all the games in Indiana, will I be making an effort to get out and support the Jayhawks? The answer is no, and not just because the ticket situation is weird and I’m guessing none of my KU buddies will be willing to come back to watch a game this year.

The reason is we depart for Florida Saturday afternoon. I should just get to see KU’s first round game before we hop on a plane to spend a week on Anna Maria Island. I suppose I could attend a potential Elite 8 game a week from Sunday, but that’s not worth considering for longer than it took to type this sentence.

Also at first glance, it’s tough not to go chalky with my Final Four picks. There are a couple one seeds I’d like to pick against, but when I look at the twos and threes in their regions, I can’t get fully onboard either. It will take some more research and investigation before I lock those picks in.

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