Category: Uncategorized (Page 1 of 311)

Thursday Notes

Snow Day

We had the first snow day of the year yesterday. It was kind of a dud. The storm that was supposed to drop 5–8” of snow here could only muster about 2.5 inches. As the storm was expected to hit right at the morning rush, most area schools had either cancelled classes or jumped to e-learning well before bedtime Tuesday. M and C found out they would be home Wednesday while they were still in class Tuesday. St P’s didn’t call it until about 10:15 PM.

That was still probably the right move, as the roads were not great right when high schoolers would be driving and younger kids would be waiting for buses. But once the heavy snow ended, it was a letdown to still see grass poking through in our yard.

The real bummer was that the snow that fell was very wet and heavy, making it difficult to move. It was too thick for the snowblower and too heavy to pick up with a shovel. So L and I spent about 30 minutes struggling to shove it off the driveway. Even that was tough, since if you pushed snow for more than 10 feet it compacted into big lumps that didn’t want to roll any farther. But it was good for snowmen and snowballs! Once we were done L spent about two hours at a friend’s house playing in it.

She was upset she didn’t get to use the snowblower, though. Ours broke two years ago, then I gambled, and won, by not getting it fixed last year, a season we avoided any big snows. I got it fixed before Christmas and she was fired up to get a chance to use it.

After nearly a month of relatively mild weather, looks like it’s going to be more typical of winter here for the next few weeks. Not super cold, thankfully, but lots of chances for snow. So L may well get her chance to unleash mechanized fury on some snow.

She was done with her school assignments pretty early. Or maybe it’s because she’s been getting up at 5:30 AM lately that she was done so quickly. Her sisters slept much later but were still pretty much done with their work by mid-afternoon.

I spent most of the day and evening reading a very good book. I started it late morning and was done by 10:30. You’ll hear more about that soon.


Twitter

Twitter has been a huge part of my life for 12–13 years now. I can’t remember exactly when I signed up; my current account was not my first so its 2011 start date wasn’t my true introduction to the service. I just remember that was when I listened to a lot of tech podcasts, and they were all raving about the platform, so I logged on pretty early in its life.

My experience with Twitter was always through using some of the great Mac and iOS apps that were made for it. Tweetbot and Twitterific were the two I used most, although I know I dabbled with others over the years. These were great because they were much more user friendly than either the Twitter website or the official apps. As the company moved into areas like promoted tweets and advertising, these third party apps kept those out of my feed. Until two weeks ago, I had never seen an ad in my Twitter feed or Tweets the company thought I should see based on their algorithm. And I could completely avoid the For You feed.

When Tech Karen suddenly shut down access for third party apps two weeks ago,[1] I suddenly had to see how most Twitter users live. And it sucks. A hostile interface that is constantly pushing things on me I don’t want, and forgets changes I’ve made in my personal settings to reflect my interests. It’s pretty much the same way that Instagram has gone from one of the best and most enjoyable platforms to one that shows me more ads and Reels, which I never asked to see, than photos from people I choose to follow. Only Twitter has Nazis and people complaining about Furries and constant suggestions that I need to gamble on sports.

Because of all of this, I’ve been using Twitter less and less. I still check it a couple times a day. Where it was once my default time waster, I have reached the point where I often realize “Hey, I haven’t looked at Twitter in 12 hours.” Because my feed was so carefully curated, I got a lot of good info out of it without being weighed down by things I didn’t have time for. So that’s a loss. But I’m realizing it may not be as big of a loss as I feared it would be when Tech Karen took over and began tearing the company apart like the toddler he is.

I’m hoping that TK either bails and someone else saves Twitter, or some other service pops up to replace it as my favorite virtual water cooler. I’ve signed up for Mastodon, which a lot of techies are jumping to. But it seems very weird and not functionally ready to scale to the size of Twitter so I’m not spending any time there. I guess as long as the people I get the most value from on Twitter remain there, I’ll keep checking in occasionally and tolerating its many issues. And hope that if/when it is saved, rationality will return and third party apps will be allowed again.


  1. Based on lies about violations of their policies and with no communication for nearly two weeks after the fact.  ↩

Reaching for the Stars, Vol. 81

Chart Week: January 23, 1988
Song: “Don’t Shed A Tear” – Paul Carrack
Chart Position: #21, 11th week on the chart. Peaked at #9 for three weeks in February.


It feels like I’ve lost the momentum for this series lately. After reviewing the numbers, I did add 15 entries in 2022, which was three more than 2021. Perhaps it seems like I’ve slacked off because I have a bunch of drafts where I’ve jotted down ideas, but, for one reason or another, haven’t been able to turn them into completed posts. Hopefully I can get back into a more regular rhythm with these in 2023.


Aside from my biggest music geek friends, I doubt the name Paul Carrack will mean much to most of you. However, I bet every one of you knows his voice.

In 1974 he hit #3 with his band Ace on their debut single “How Long.” Later he sang lead on Mike + The Mechanics’ two biggest hits: “Silent Running (Dangerous Ground),” which hit #3 in 1986, and their 1989 chart-topper “The Living Years.

Throw in “Don’t Shed a Tear” and Carrack hit the top ten performing with three different acts.

What isn’t included in that list is Carrack’s most enduring single. In 1980 he joined Squeeze to play keyboards. A year later, on the suggestion of producer Elvis Costello, he sang the lead vocals on “Tempted.” Despite becoming a classic in the decades since, that track stalled at #49.[1]

Wanderlust was a theme for Carrack’s career. Reading through his Wikipedia page is a dizzying experience, as he was constantly hopping around, performing with different groups or different sets of musical friends. Roger Waters, members of the Eagles, Roxy Music, Nick Lowe, and The Pretenders to name just a few of the other acts he worked with. His career path reminds me a little of Marshall Crenshaw’s.

I can’t find any evidence that he had an abrasive or difficult personality, so I think it truly was wanderlust, a desire to perform, and a lack of ego that allowed him to work with so many others.

For years I thought that Carrack must hold some kind of record for singing lead on the most Top 40 songs with different acts. However, last summer I randomly came across a note that proved me wrong. Turns out the person who holds the record is even more obscure than Carrack.

In 1970, British session singer Tony Burrows had one of the most remarkable runs in chart history. What took Carrack 15 years to accomplish, Burrows topped in a matter of months.

In March of that year he hit #5 on “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” fronting Edison Lighthouse. In mid-June he reached #13 with White Plains, singing “My Baby Loves Lovin’.” The week of July 4 he again hit #13 sharing co-lead vocals for the band Brotherhood of Man on “United We Stand.” And two weeks later he peaked at #9 with “Gimme Dat Ding” as frontman for The Pipkins.[1]

Four singles with four different acts in five months. That’s pretty good work.

He wasn’t done.

In 1974 he hit the top ten one last time, on First Class’ Beach Boys-esque track “Beach Baby,” which topped out at #4.

Amazingly, not one of those acts ever hit the US Top 40 again. Burrows also released his own music throughout the 1970s. Not one of his solo singles ever cracked the Top 40.

You can make an argument that Tony Burrows is the biggest one-hit wonder in chart history for taking five different acts into the Top 40 exactly one time and then basically disappearing. There aren’t retrospectives of his work, tributes to the “Tony Burrows Years,” or modern artists who seek him out as a collaborator. He had his five little moments and then was gone.


“Don’t Shed a Tear” is a solid if unremarkable song. Phil Collins once said that Paul Carrack could sing the phonebook and make it sound great. You definitely hear his talent here. His vocals are terrific. I probably sang along with them back in the winter of 1988. Not much else about the song is memorable, though. I would not have been able to recall it without hearing this countdown. At least Carrack has one song we all remember, even if it doesn’t bear his name. 6/10


  1. “Gimme Dat Ding”? Seriously?  ↩

Jayhawk Talk: 1-2-3, Time to Panic?

Perhaps THE thing that has set Kansas apart and made their Big 12 success so consistent in the Bill Self era is their ability to avoid losing streaks. Lose one? They almost always win the next. On the rare occasions they lose back-to-back games, a win in the third is about as easy money as you can find. There might be momentary panic among the fanbase after a loss. But normally that is quickly quashed.

Today, though? I’m not so sure.

Suddenly the Jayhawks are in the midst of a three-game losing streak, with no easy wins in sight.

Jalen Wilson has been fantastic, on as hot of a streak as any KU player since at least Paul Pierce in 1998 if not Danny Manning in 1988, averaging a hair over 30 ppg over the last week. I’m wondering, though, if that’s kind of the plan against KU: let J-Will get his and make sure no one else goes off.

If so, it has worked pretty well.

Since halftime of the game in Manhattan, it’s as though KJ Adams suddenly remembered that he is KJ Adams and has kind of stunk. Kevin McCullar has looked thoroughly shook. Although he had 14 points and 12 rebounds last night, he still had some really bad moments.

We saw signs of life from Gradey Dick. He was only 2–5 from 3, but he was finally aggressive in getting to the rim again and dropped a game-high 24. If he can get people to even halfway respect his shot fakes and drives, that should give him space to get a couple more good looks per game. Which opens things up for his teammates.

DaJuan Harris? Yikes. He hasn’t been the same since he smacked his head on the Bramlage Coliseum floor. He somehow was only charged with four turnovers last night, but it seemed like more. Several of those were just bad decisions/plays, not the product of good Baylor defense. He’s not getting to the rim as often, either, and when he does he seems more interested in passing out than trying to get a shot off or seek a foul. He went through a phase like this last year, but that was more survivable since he was surrounded with better, or more consistent at least, scorers. There’s less room for error this year, especially from him.

Monday night in Waco was frustrating because KU did a lot wrong, and still did enough right to make two big runs in the second half, briefly taking the lead midway through. But in each of those moments, it was little mistakes by KU that gave Baylor back the momentum. Bad passes. The inability to hold onto a ball that hit them in the hands. Getting beat and being forced to foul on drives. All little things that add up quickly on the road against a very good team.


My random, postgame, half-assed theory is that KJ Adams’ development in December may have actually hurt the Jayhawks long term. He was great for 5–6 weeks, meaning Self had no reason to give any of the other bigs meaningful minutes. Zuby Ejiofor and Ernest Udeh might get a look here and there, but as soon as they missed a defensive rotation or blew up a play on offense, Self would sit them down.

Now, when defenses are taking away what made KJ successful during that stretch, his lack of size becomes a real problem. But Self doesn’t trust Ejiofor or Udeh to come in for more than spot duty. KU really needed a longer player on the court in each of the three losses. Had those freshmen played more minutes in December, would Self have the trust to play them more now?

The answer to that question is always “Well, he sees them in practice and we don’t, and they obviously aren’t doing enough there to warrant the minutes.” I just wish Zuby and/or Ernest did enough of something – rebounding, blocking shots, playing solid D – to get on the court for 5–10 minutes a night and force teams to deal with their size.


Of course the real source of angst among KU fans isn’t losing at Baylor. It’s getting waxed at home by TCU Saturday. I kind of saw that coming – I warned you that TCU was the worst matchup in the league for KU because of their size and speed – but I did not expect such a thorough ass kicking. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen an opposing team go on a 19–0 run in Allen Fieldhouse before.


In my personal preseason rankings, I had KU third in the Big 12, behind Texas and Baylor. Baylor and KU have both suffered through three-game losing streaks. TCU lost three of four. The league is so tough there’s no reason to think that the other contenders won’t go through similar spells. The Ken Pomeroy prediction for the Big 12 currently has a four-way tie for first at 11–7 with two teams at 10–8. The challenge for KU is can they get their issues figured out so they can stay in that top six.


I’m not the first person to think about this, but over the past week I’ve been considering losing streaks in the era of NIL. What happens when a kid who is making money to play in college isn’t performing well, or his team is losing, or he’s just sick of his coach’s BS? Are they more likely to look for their own at the expense of the team, to mentally check out, or even flat-out quit? I think most kids who earn a big NIL deal have enough built-in pride where that won’t be a factor. But I hate how that’s in my mind now.

Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis shared a message he received from a “fan” a couple weeks back, calling him out for his play and using NIL as a specific argument for how he didn’t stack up to the legends of IU who came before him. I doubt he is the only one getting those messages.

Players like Jackson-Davis, who is making well into six figures this season, don’t deserve pity. However, when they have track records of playing hard, they also don’t deserve to have their motivation questioned when they go through a cold spell.


Every January KU goes through a rough stretch. Now it isn’t always losing three (or more) straight, obviously. But it is a rite of passage this time of year for KU fans to rip on the team, bemoan the recruits we missed out on, and start wondering about who will fill those holes for next season. Bill Self usually figures out a way to get KU right again. The path is certainly tougher this year.

A week ago some KU fans[1] were suggesting this year’s squad was/could be better than last season’s national champs. Now I think most of us are wondering if they aren’t more analogous to the 2020–21 team. That team also had a three-game losing streak and ended the year getting humbled by USC in the round of 32.[2] At least for today that seems like an apt comparison.


  1. Not me!  ↩
  2. That team lost five of seven from Jan. 12 to Feb. 6. Hmmm…  ↩

Friday Playlist

This was the week when I tried to figure out what my new normal listening habits are. The Bridge went back to playing their regular rotation of music, so while I still listened to their stream often, I wasn’t quite as obsessive as during their Z to A countdown. But I also didn’t completely fall back into listening to mostly newer music on Spotify. Throw in a lot of appointments and my listening time, in general, was reduced. But we’ll get there.

“Sideways Skull” – The Hold Steady
We got new music from a couple giants of indie rock over the past week. As always with THS, this will never match their peak, but it’s still pretty damn good.

“Tropic Morning News” – The National
What is it, 2007 around here? I generally run hot-and-cold with National tunes. This one falls on the hot side.

“Blood Rushes” – CIVIC
Your occasional reminder that if I could have any job in the world, being a DJ in Australia and getting to play music like this before anyone else would be pretty high on the list.

“Dreams” – Brandi Carlile
Another song from the list of ones I discovered during the Z to A countdown. I’m not usually a big Carlile fan, but this track is terrific.

“Up the Down Escalator” – The Chameleons
Last Saturday while out driving kids around, I discovered The Bridge’s Sonic Spectrum show, where DJ Robert Moore takes a listen back to music of a certain moment. That show was focused on 1983. In the 20 or so minutes I listened, I heard a couple classics and a couple that were new to me. This was one of the new ones, which totally blew me away. Apparently The Chameleons were big influences on later bands who rose out of the Manchester scene, including Oasis. This song is amazing and I’m mad I had never heard it before January 2023. It would have made so many mix tapes/CDs/playlists better over the past 40 years.

“The Magic Number” – De La Soul
I was annoyed that I didn’t read the news about De La Soul’s music coming to streaming services later this spring until well after I posted last week’s playlist. I could have included this, the first of their classic songs to hit Spotify. I guess a week late is better than never. Crank this up and get your weekends off to a proper start.

“Gloria” – Patti Smith
Despite my love for many of punk’s originators, I’ve never really gotten into Patti Smith. I’ve never had a problem with this song, though. I was reminded of its brilliance, especially the band’s performance behind Smith, during the Z to A countdown. Her voice may have been unconventional, but the passion in her performance is irresistible.

Jayhawk Talk: The First Slipup

Well, KU’s end-game luck had to run out eventually. After winning 15-straight games that were decided by less than 10 points, KU came up a point short in overtime in Manhattan Tuesday night.

KU missed 10 free throws and 23 3-pointers. They had the ball at the end of regulation and overtime and didn’t get a shot off either time. They had the ball at the end of the first half and a chance to run out the clock. Instead Gradey Dick drove into traffic, was fouled, and hit one of two free throws. Seconds later Keyontae Johnson hit a short jumper at the buzzer to put the Wildcats up by five at the half.

The Jayhawks still only lost by one on the road to a top 15 team. With three starters fouled out and another (possibly) playing concussed.

It takes a lot to kill this KU squad.

The only true bad luck of the night was Bill Self calling a timeout with about 40 seconds left in overtime, just before Jalen Wilson swished a 30-foot shot that would have put KU up four. After the timeout KU couldn’t get a shot off and the Wildcats hit the game-winner.

Sheesh.


That was, by almost every measure, a good loss. But it coming to the Purples makes it sting a lot more than it should, and makes the replaying of the dozens of little moments that cost KU a point or two even more bitter.

There’s also the specter of what lies ahead. Any loss in the Big 12 can quickly turn into a nasty losing streak. KU hosts TCU Saturday, probably the team they matchup with the worst in the conference. Then go to Baylor. Then to Kentucky. Then host K-State. Then go to Ames. Then host Texas. Shit can get sideways really fast, so every close loss seems even bigger than normal.


After the first few minutes, when he had his shot blocked at least three times, Wilson was fantastic. Had his late 3 counted, he would have tied Andrew Wiggins for the most points scored by a KU player under Self. He’s been super inefficient in recent weeks, but was nails last night. A W in Manhattan on his shot would have propelled him back into the national POY conversation.[1]

The rest of KU? Everyone had their struggles. Well, not KJ Adams, who was incredible during KU’s first-half comeback but disappeared in the second half.

DaJuan Harris had 11 assists but three terrible turnovers in crunch time. I really wondered if he was concussed after hitting his head on the floor. Maybe that explains that poor decision making late?

Gradey Dick had a horrible night shooting from behind the arc, going 1–8. That will happen. But, man, some of them were wiiiiiide open. He still managed to pitch in 16 points, grab seven rebounds, and get four steals and two blocks. K-State kept picking on him on defense, and he either got beat badly to give up layups or committed cheap fouls. I don’t know if he was ever going to hit another 3, but it sure would have been nice having him on the court instead of fouled out thanks to three soft fouls that came from being in bad position instead of making any real effort to stop his man.

Kevin McCullar had been poor for a couple weeks, but was flat-out bad Tuesday. I wondered if he was sick. He looked literally shaky. He nearly air-balled two free throws. He did airball a 3 and hit the side of the backboard with another. He seemed a step slow on defense. Hopefully he did just have a bug of some kind and can rebound Saturday.


I had to laugh when KC Star beat writer Shreyas Laddha Tweeted that he had never seen a team as good as KU miss as many layups as they do. If you didn’t know he was new to the KU beat, that would be an obvious tell. Seriously, KU misses a TON of shots right at the rim. At least three on the break last night, as guys got stuck between laying it up, dunking it, and worrying about the defense. Easy for me to say sitting on my 51-year-old ass in Indianapolis, but come on, fellas!


I’m guessing for a neutral this was a great game to watch. Well, except for the officiating, which was atrocious. Now, it was called pretty evenly. But it was as if the refs decided about 30 minutes in, “OK, this is a rivalry game, it’s close, we need to blow the whistle on every play.” KSU’s Johnson was called for two fouls when he was just in the vicinity of someone falling down. He was given an and-one, and fouled out McCullar in the process, when he flew by McCullar and Adams without being touched. Nae’Qwan Tomlin fouled out on a play when another K-State player clearly was the guilty party. Wilson had a clean steal in overtime that a ref decided he needed to blow the whistle on. He was also hammered on one drive, a shove from Tomlin nearly knocked him over, with no call. Two possessions later he flipped a runner at the rim with the mildest contact and drew a foul.

Oh, and worst call of the night was when they stopped play, with K-State driving to the hoop, because Wilson was cramping in the backcourt. Pretty much everyone in my various KU chats said “Oooh, that was a really bad call. And lucky for us!”

Those are just the examples that I can think of immediately. Worse than the bad/wrong calls were the sheer number of whistles. There were 49 fouls called in 45 minutes. The game was physical, but never egregious or nasty. It was just two really good teams battling. And the refs decided they needed to take it over. Even then they couldn’t do it with any consistency. Quite the commercial for the Big 12!


You always laugh when your rival hires a new coach and the fanbase gets irrationally excited about it. That’s a fundamental part of rivalries. “Oh, sure, Roy Williams is shaking in his shoes thinking about how to match wits with Jim Wooldridge.” So when K-State fans immediately suggested that hiring Jerome Tang would turn K-State into Baylor north, it was easy to be amused.

You can’t draw big conclusions from half a season, but Tang seems legit. Even assistants who have a good feel for the game can struggle when they have to be The Man. Tang doesn’t seem afraid of the moment and made some really nice calls last night. With Baylor not matching preseason expectations (yet), KU fans can turn this into another way to bash Scott Drew, suggesting Tang was the real brains in the operation down there.


So now KU is 5–1 in the conference, tied with K-State and Iowa State a third of the way through the schedule. I’m not sure anyone can make any safe assumptions about how the next third of the slate will go. Six games seems like an eternity when every night brings a physical matchup with another good to very good team. Just when you think you have confidence in any squad, they could easily go through an 0–2 week and prove that belief misguided.


  1. Although it’s going to take a lot for Purdue’s Zach Edey to not clean up all the national POY awards this year. ↩

Monday Links

Over the holidays I worked hard to get my Instapaper queue cleaned out, especially a whole swath of very long reads that had been sitting there for months and months. Of them, this might be my favorite, an accounting Susie Goodall’s attempt to sail around the world by herself. There are all kinds of harrowing details of her effort, but what stuck with me most was how the media framed her journey.

Those about Goodall took a different tone, shaped in part by Goodall’s fame as the only woman and in part by the fact that the race had released only the portion of the call in which Goodall sounded shaken and distraught. The media never heard Goodall say that she was prepared to save herself…Just like that, it seemed like race organizers were trying to shift the narrative around her journey from lone heroine to feckless damsel in distress.

Alone at the edge of the world


It’s always fun when you visit someplace and learn about its history and, shortly after, that exact thing pops up in the news.

Here are details of a study that may explain why Roman concrete was/is so much more durable than our modern stuff. Our tour guide in Rome shared what had been the prevailing view – until this study came out – that it was the volcanic ash the Romans mixed into their concrete that made it last millennia.

Previously disregarded as merely evidence of sloppy mixing practices, or poor-quality raw materials, the new study suggests that these tiny lime clasts gave the concrete a previously unrecognized self-healing capability.

Riddle solved: Why was Roman concrete so durable?


This is pretty geeky – I admit I couldn’t follow some of it – but it is a cool breakdown of how limited the hardware of the Atari 2600 system was, and how amazing it was that the games that were made for it were as good as they were.

Atari 2600 Hardware Design: Making Something out of (Almost) Nothing

Side note: I read both this, and a story about the change in the rules licensing for Dungeons & Dragons, on a Sunday morning when I was listening to an American Top 40 from January 1983. Which was just about perfect, as I got D&D for Christmas 1982 and likely spent a lot of that break playing on friends’ Ataris. I wouldn’t get my own until the next Christmas.


YES!!!!!

De La Soul’s Whole Catalog Is Coming To Streaming Services In March

Jayhawk Talk

Another nail biter for KU on Tuesday, an improbable four-point win over Oklahoma after trailing by ten (and looking dead) with about 5:00 left. KU went over 11 minutes without hitting a field goal. ELEVEN MINUTES! Oklahoma was loose and focused.

Then KU got a dunk. Followed by two offensive boards and a 3. Bill Self found a way to turn Oklahoma’s defensive strategy of face-guarding Gradey Dick against them and suddenly KU was scoring on every possession. It also helped that OU took three terrible shots as the Phog Allen pressure clearly got to them.

Through four conference games, KU has now come from double digits down twice, and were down by seven in another win. Heartburn city.


I had to laugh in the days between the games Saturday and Tuesday at how a few KU fans were saying this team was better than last year’s. That seemed a little premature, especially since West Virginia and Texas Tech might both stink. Tuesday’s performance showed that this year’s team has plenty of flaws that can be exposed.

In my view, last year’s team had a much higher ceiling because Ochai Agbaji could always go get a bucket and David McCormack could (generally) be relied on for getting at least a late-in-the-shotclock look near the basket.

Jalen Wilson, DaJuan Harris, and Kevin McCullar can all get to the hoop, but not as efficiently Ochai could. Where he could get past people and explode to the rim, each of this year’s trio need either an angle or open lane to reach the hoop. Jalen throws in some tough-ass shots, but since he might have a negative vertical he can’t always capitalize the way Ochai could.

This year KU has no true inside presence, although they are finding ways to get those looks as the season goes on.

Of course, last year’s team didn’t have Gradey Dick, maybe the best pure shooter Self has had. Tuesday Gradey showed that he is a freshman, as he struggled to get free from OU’s defense. Self will find some ways to manufacture more looks for him over the next few weeks. But, right now, Dick is not a player who can get himself free when he has the ball. To his credit, he has a very good hoops IQ and will usually move the ball or try to drive when he is covered. Being able to take those 2–3 hard dribbles and rise up is a skill I think he’ll add next year. Unfortunately he’ll be doing that in the NBA and not Lawrence.


I’ve been banging this drum for years, but it seems like the college basketball media is finally figuring out how good Self is at finding ways to get his teams easy chances to score. The Texas Tech and West Virginia games were perfect examples. Playing bigger, stronger teams, Self found ways to spread the court, invert the offense, and still get his players looks at the rim. It helped that KU started both games red-hot from behind the arc, which opens everything up.

Those shots were also there against Oklahoma; the Jayhawks just missed them. One reporter counted 19 misses at the rim. I added two more on bad offensive foul calls that took away baskets.

Bill Self does a lot of things really well. His greatest attribute, and the one that explains his success over his career, is how he always finds ways to generate easy shots. Whether it was high-low when he had multiple bigs, spreading the court in the years he had multiple shooters, the outside weave to create attacking lanes for players like Agbaji and Josh Jackson, or pick-and-roll with Devon Dotson/Marcus Garrett and Udoka Azubuike.

The last two years he’s opened up the offense, if not going totally “positionless,” at least going to a highly interchangeable look. DaJuan Harris is one of the most productive point guards in the country, yet he doesn’t dominate the ball because it is always moving and anyone who gets a rebound can bring it up the court.

Monday a reporter asked Self about his willingness to be flexible and he gave a fascinating answer. Without talking about causes (both changes in the game and pressures on recruiting because of the NCAA investigation), Self said he has completely changed how he recruits.

In the past they would look for guys that fit their system and particular roles. If a big man was leaving, he was looking for a 5-man. Wing rotation is thin? Find a couple new ones.

Now, though, he said he and his staff are more focused on seeing what they have and catering their offense around that combination of skills. In general, he wants athletes that can shoot. But if that means he ends up with a bunch of 6’7” guys and no effective big man, they will find a way to make that work.

While that’s obvious to anyone who watches KU, it is also a pretty remarkable admission. A lot of coaches who have been around as long and had as much success as Self have a hard time moving away from the what made them successful. Bobby Knight might be the ultimate example. Yet Self has embraced the changes in the game and kept his teams rolling.


Let’s talk about KJ Adams for a minute. I’m not sure we’ve ever seen a total transformation of a player in such a short amount of time. Six weeks ago he barely took any shots, and generally missed them if they weren’t dunks. He was a terrible free throw shooter. He seemed to just be occupying the 5 spot until one of his taller teammates earned enough of Self’s trust to take over the job.

As we move into mid-January and the heart of the conference season, he has scored in double figures nine straight times. Since November 28 he’s shooting 85% from the line. He’s still not a great defensive rebounder, but as Self also said this week, he’s often keeping the opponent’s best big man off the boards, allowing Wilson, McCullar, and Dick to clean up.

Last season someone Tweeted after KJ had a nice few minutes something along the lines of “Wait for it, DaJuan Harris and KJ Adams are going to start every game for the next three years because Bill Self is in love with them.” This person was kind of joking, and the implication was that KU would basically be playing 3 on 5 on offense because neither player really looked to score.

Today it would surprise me more if KJ wasn’t a starter as long as he is in Lawrence. Just an amazing change in fortunes.


I also must share that I’ve been pretty laid back through these opening Big 12 games. Sure, I was yelling a lot in the Oklahoma State game, caught up in the emotion of that comeback.

But Tuesday I was pretty resigned to losing. I wasn’t pissed, as in “FUCK, how are we losing?!?!” the way I would have been in the past. It was more of a “Fuck, I can’t believe we are losing.” Winning the national championship has changed my stress level significantly. At least for now.

Reader’s Notebook, 1/11/23

Often December is when I really pad my reading stats. There’s always at least one holiday book. I also tend to get locked into a good reading groove as the days get cold and dark and the girls are out of school.

Not this December. I only finished three books last month. Despite that, I still logged 62 books for the year, which is my most since 2018. Just think if I had stayed focused last month!

Here are my last three books of 2022 and my first of 2023.



A Christmas Story – Jean Shepherd
An integral part of my holidays for 15 years now.



China Lake – Meg Gardiner
Gardiner was Michael Mann’s co-writer for Heat 2. Since I enjoyed it so much, I figured I’d check out some of her work. Her Evan Delaney series came highly recommended, so that’s where I started.

There was a lot going on in this one. Delaney is a writer and legal assistant who has her family sucked into a really bizarre situation. Her ex sister-in-law joins an apocalyptic religious group, The Remnant (think of that crazy church in Topeka, KS on wild, end of times steroids) and uses their power to try regain custody of her son, who is staying with Delaney while the boy’s father/Delaney’s fighter pilot brother is deployed. When the brother returns, he is framed for a murder within the Remnant. As Delaney fights to clear her brother, she discovers that the Remnant has far more sinister plans.

This book is tense and flows quickly. But it might have a little too many big moments. Or maybe I was just grumpy when I was reading it. Not sure I loved it, so I doubt I’ll continue with the series.



The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson – Jeff Pearlman
Pearlman’s latest about an ‘80s/‘90s sports hero, this time focused on one of the most remarkable athletes of my life. He carefully balanced the mythical stories of Bo Jackson’s sports exploits with the not-so-great aspects of him as a person. To be fair, once Bo got to college, he was never a truly bad person. But he was certainly selfish, standoff-ish, prickly, and arrogant. That arrogance may have been what cost him his sports career.

Like a lot of Gen Xers, I’ve limited my memories of Bo to those dramatic moments when he did things no one else had/has done. We weren’t living in Kansas City the summer he announced he would add playing in the NFL as “a hobby,” so I didn’t live first hand through all the bad blood that caused. And, thus, have no strong memories of that time. I forgot how many of his teammates on both the Royals and Raiders criticized his decision to play both sports and his work effort outside of actual games. Bo, apparently, did not know practice, something that irked many of the people he shared a locker room with.

We want our athletes to delight us with their performances. For all his flaws, Bo certainly did that. He may not have been a perfect person, but he also wasn’t a bad dude. And that brief window when he was doing amazing things will stay in my generation’s memories as long as we are around.



Blood in the Garden: The Flagrant History of the 1990s New York Knicks – Chris Herring
Usually these kinds of books – see Jeff Pearlman’s coverage of the 1980s Mets and Lakers and 1990s Cowboys – focus on the winners. So, really, this book should have been about the Pistons, Bulls, or Rockets: the franchises that won the bulk of the NBA titles in the 1990s.

However, despite not winning a championship, the New York Knicks were certainly one of the most compelling franchises of that decade. This is an appropriately compelling book.

We get it all, from the wins and losses on the court, to the personality quirks and conflicts within the team, a case study in what an absolute nut job Pat Riley was/is, how the team’s ownership and front office dramas affected the players and staff, and so on. Herring digs up a lot of great anecdotes about all aspects of the team. I’m glad the Knicks never won an NBA title in the ‘90s, but it was still fun to read about their efforts to get there.

Weekend Notes

It’s back to semi-normal today. L returned to school after her Christmas break. M and C still have one more week of J-term, so they go in a little later and get out a little earlier. But all three have to get up in the mornings again.

Last week I had to get up to make sure C was up, so my alarm was 7:15 instead of my normal, school-day 6:55. Still, it was a little weird coming down this morning and finding the house dark instead of two Christmas trees already turned on filling the living room and front office with their soft light.

We took all the holiday decorations down Saturday. Since they went up earlier than normal and stayed up a little longer than normal, this was our most decorated Christmas ever.

We all have dentist appointments this afternoon, which wraps up a busy run of visits to health professionals over the past few weeks. I’ve been to the orthodontist three times, optometrist, sports medicine, MRI center, physical therapy, and had my annual physical.

I’m good, all that middle stuff was for C. She’s been having back pain for a few months, and even resting it plus a few visits to a chiropractor last fall didn’t help. Walking around in Italy was awful for her, and she was generally miserable at the end of each day, and progressively worse as the week went on. We finally got her in to a sports medicine doc three weeks ago. X-rays were clean but her MRI showed two interesting things. First, she has a bulging disk, the likely cause of her pain. Second, she is missing a vertebra and one set of ribs. That diagnosis got S into super medical research mode and she found about 4–5% of the general population has this issue. Weird!

The sports med doc said while there’s no research that would definitely tell us the bulging disk is directly tied to the lack of that vertebra, she also said it sure didn’t help. She also said it likely cost C an inch or two of height, which makes her topping out at 5’2” while her sisters both made it to 5’4”-ish make sense.[1] She took some teasing for that.

She started physical therapy last week and will do that for a month or so, with the hopes that helps her avoid anything more invasive to correct the issue.


Big 12 Hoops

Another crazy-ass weekend in the best conference in the country. Three teams are tied for first place at 3–0, all three getting there on the strength of two road wins. KU is not a huge surprise to be in that group. Kansas State and Iowa State, though? HUGE surprises. These were picked 8th and 9th in the preseason polls!

I think it’s too early to draw broad conclusions about any team. Especially in a conference like the Big 12. The Wildcats and Cyclones might be mid-tier teams a month from now. But they are off to great starts, and those road wins are huge bonuses in a conference that will likely be tightly bunched much of the season. 14–4 is always my default answer for what it takes to win the Big 12. Could this be the year that something like 12–6 guarantees you no worse than a tie?

More Jayhawks-centric talk later this week.


Pacers

The Indiana Pacers were expected to win right around 20 games this year. They just played their 41st game of the season, the exact midpoint of their schedule. After grabbing two more close wins this weekend, they stand at 23–18, good for sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

It’s been a remarkable first half. They are hella fun to watch, as my friends in Cali might say. Tyrese Haliburton is a legit All Star, and plays with a joy that is infectious. Buddy Hield leads the league in 3-pointers made, connecting on nearly 20 more than the second-most prolific shooter. Rookie Bennedict Mathurin is going to be a star. Second-round pick Andrew Nembhard could be one of the steals of the draft, an ideal backup to Haliburton who can also play next to him. Aaron Nesmith is beginning to show why he was a lottery pick two years ago.

But the biggest surprise is Myles Turner, a player most expected to have been traded by now. Turner is playing the best, most complete, most inspired ball of his career. I’ve always thought he was a little immature and disinterested in doing the hard work it took to be a star. At least for now he seems fully invested. To the point where the Pacers have made him a contract extension offer, attempting to capitalize on the big chunk of salary cap space they still have open. Turner has, for now, said he’s not interested.

That will set up an interesting game of chicken. Can the Pacers really trade their second-best player when they are in the running for a playoff spot and far too good to have a realistic shot at the #1 pick if they suddenly decide to tank? Can Turner turn down more money than any other team will be able to give him next summer no matter how badly he wants to end up in LA?

A year ago I would say the sides will come together and find an agreeable extension before the trade deadline, and Turner will quickly get injured. He’s always getting injured, and it would be just the Pacers’ luck for that to happen after they lock him up.

I think the Pacers’ luck has changed, though. So I think they either re-sign him and he stays healthy, or they can’t agree to terms, he plays out the year, signs with another team over the summer and that inevitable injury pops up in training camp. Meanwhile the Pacers use all their cap space to plug some other holes and immediately turn back into the solid 40–50 win team they usually are.


cLots/NFL

What a finish to the regular season! The cLots began the season with that humiliating tie in Houston, one that required a furious comeback just to get to overtime. They ended it with an even bigger embarrassment, losing to the Texans at home in the final minute of the game. Houston had a 10-point lead three times, but the cLots rallied to take a seven-point lead late in the fourth quarter. The Texans, who should have been satisfied with the loss and the #1 pick in April’s draft, for some reason decided to play full-out, converting on fourth and 20+ two different times on their final drive, including the touchdown that cut the lead to one. Then they went for two and the win and got it.

Amazing!

In the process they allowed the Bears to jump them for the #1 pick. The Texans’ owner was on the sideline after the game and he seemed to be the only person not celebrating. A few hours later he fired coach Lovie Smith. I like to think Lovie and his players knew what was coming and the final drive was a big Eff You to ownership.

The L could be good for the cLots. The Bears don’t need a quarterback, so perhaps they will entertain flipping that pick for Indy’s #5. Or at least that’s what speculation is around here. The Bears can certainly use the top pick to select someone other than a QB, and the cLots will have to hope either they can get a decent candidate in their fifth slot, or focus on one of the teams between them and Houston to swap picks with.

***UPDATE***
I heard at least four times yesterday that the cLots’ pick will be #5. Turns out they snuck into #4 thanks to Denver’s win.

I don’t know. It sure feels like the cLots will be stuck at five, reach for someone who is not ready to be an NFL QB, and remain mediocre, at very best, for the foreseeable future.

Not that I’m convinced either Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud are sure-things. Maybe it’s better not to pick them.


  1. And L is still growing.  ↩

December Media

Holiday Shit

The Classics
Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas, A
Christmas Vacation, A
Elf, A
Four Christmases, B+
SNL Christmas Special, A-
I did not watch this the past two years, instead catching my favorite sketches on YouTube. That was a good decision. They’ve made some updates and a couple of the new adds were quite good. Still say “Consumer Probe” needs to be dropped.
SNL – Christmas in Australia, A+
This is the perfect replacement for “Consumer Probe.” I showed it to my sister-in-law who lived in Australia for a few years. She had never seen it before. I think I made her holiday season!
The Office Christmas episodes, average of A
Seinfeld “The Strike”, A

Was not able to squeeze Die Hard in this season. Although I can really watch it any time, right?

New(ish)
Holiday Baking Championship, season nine
A weird season. It started off kind of slow, and there were several contestants I actively hated. But once that dead weight was cut away, it rounded into a really solid season with a lot of good bakers. The champion, Dru, was very good but his absolutely ridiculous man-bun infuriated me for the show’s entire run. He was not my first choice, but he certainly deserved the win.

B+

A Christmas Story Christmas
While there was an official sequel, it never gained any cultural traction. In this new-for–2022 sequel, adult Ralphie returns home to Homan, IN after The Old Man dies just before Christmas in 1973. Things go wrong, then a little Christmas magic makes everything right. It was fun seeing so many of the original actors reprise their roles from 40 years go. And there were lots of call-backs to the OG. Very sweet, with a hint of sadness. Not a new classic but a perfectly fine way to spend 114 minutes in December.

B+


Regular Shit

The Office/Seinfeld
Good Lord I still watch these a lot. One day I’ll get sick of them. Probably not soon enough for S, although at least most of the Seinfelds are unfamiliar to her.

A

The Nice Guys
I was told this was funny. It was only mildly funny. I read there was a Christmas angle. That was true only for the last three minutes of the film. The story was so dumb/confusing I wondered if I had fallen asleep and missed a few scenes. Worst of all, for a movie that made pains to plant itself firmly in 1977, there were a number of songs from the pretty great soundtrack that were from well after ’77.

C-

Apollo 11
While watching this I was sure I had seen it before. But it’s only three years old and I can’t find a record of watching. I don’t know if I’m just confusing it with other Apollo videos I have watched, or I saw previews of it. Regardless, another excellent entry into the list of documentaries about the space age.

A

Ava
Things that work: Jessica Chastain as a bad-ass assassin. Things that don’t work: pretty much everything else in this movie.

C

Glass Onion
We actually got two of the three girls to watch this with us Christmas night. I really enjoyed it, especially Janelle Monae’s big role. Not quite as good as Knives Out, but still fun.

A-

Band of Brothers
I’ve been putting this off for, checks notes, 21 years; was time to get to it. A spectacular and very moving way to end the year. I really enjoyed how it wasn’t just ten episodes of insane battles. We got to see the full scope of the war experience. The final two episodes were especially impactful, first with the American troops discovering a concentration camp as the war neared its end, and then how they dealt with the period between the Nazi surrender and them getting word on if/when they would be shipped to the Pacific. You spend over a year in the killing zone, you can’t just turn off all those instincts.

A


YouTubes, Shorts, Etc

Nest Zero – Murder Hornets in Washington State
Remember Murder Hornets? Apparently we have stopped them! Or at least that’s what one article I read last month said the data seems to indicate. In that article was a link to this piece from the early days of the Great Murder Hornet Panic.

12 Days of Newness
Oh hell yes! Beau Miles’ Christmas gift to us all!

Cheap, renewable, clean energy. There’s just one problem
There are a lot of things in nature that create massive amounts of energy. Harnessing that energy often isn’t as easy as you would think.

Fantastic Cockpit Views AIRBUS A380 Takeoff | 8 Cameras
We flew on an A350. I don’t get how these big boys get/stay in the air.

This Blue Angels Cockpit Video is Terrifying and Amazing
To quote Jeff Spicoli, “Awesome! Totally awesome!”

Barbie trailer
I recently read a profile of Margot Robbie, mostly focused on her latest role in Babylon. But there were some references to her next big film, Barbie, and how it will not be what people expect. I love her already, but this awesome trailer makes me want to talk the girls into being my excuse to go see this next summer.

Behind the Scenes of Elf.  Part 2
How did I never see these before Christmas night, 2022?

How accurate was Band of Brothers Carentan
Easy Company Assaults the Crossroads in Holland, 1944
I had to watch of few of these while/after watching the series.

Sip and Feast
This guy’s Peposo video randomly popped up in my feed. I watched it, made it, ate it, loved it, and began watching more of his videos. The family better be ready for a lot of his recipes in the new year.

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