Saturday, May 31, 2008

5/31/08 Scripps National Spelling Bee

There hasn't been much that will distract me from my blogging hibernation. But if the Scripps National Spelling Bee can't do it, nothing can. Continuing in annual tradition, here are my running observations of the event.
  • I DVRed the opening round on ESPN (3 hours) and the final round on ABC (2 hours). This time around, I set my DVR for extra time so I wouldn't miss the final word again.
  • To be fair, I'm sort of half watching it in the background as I do work that should be deemed as more important.
  • Rankine - It's some temperature scale that nobody uses anymore. It was probably never really used except in Mr. Rankine's home. It's named after the dude who invented it. The fact that the kids have to spell someone's last name is absolutely unfair. Does this also mean that you could just invent some new unit of distance and name it after yourself? Is there a legal process you have to follow to get a unit of measure named after you? Like one Johnson is equivalent to 16.3 centimeters?
  • The guy who reads the words is the most patient dude who ever lived.
  • Since I'm knee deep into classes on multicultural education, I feel more comfortable talking about race and gender in terms of kids. Previously I've talked about how the spelling bee is pretty gender neutral. On the contrary, the number of white contestants is not representative of the overall white population in this country.
  • The success rate in the spelling bee is comparable to the success rate of a major league hitter getting on base. You're lucky to see a round where four out of ten contestants get the word correct.
  • I miss the whole Samir Patel hype. Don't worry though. He made the cover story of the other day. He's fine.
  • Sade is the most polite sounding person I've ever seen. It's a combination of her proper British accent and her overuse of "Please" and "Doctor Bailey" every time she asks a question. They just announced that she's Jamaican.
  • Speaking of countries, who is eligible for this competition? During the first hour there was a mention that all six Canadians got knocked out in the same round. Why are there no British contestants?
  • You can tell immediately if the kid knows how to spell the word. I get empathetic pain when I know that they're desperately searching for clues as the clock ticks down.
  • The backup lady judge keeps asking the contestants to speak the word towards the judges off to the left. I would suggest that next year the judges sit directly in front of the stage.
  • Keeping with my racial stereotypes, the kid with the big nose from New York got the word with Jewish and Yiddish origins. He still got it wrong.
  • I learned that the Greek "chiros" means hand. Now the scientific word "chirality" makes a whole lot more sense.
  • Nearly all of the words have European languages of origin (Greek, Latin, French, German, Italian, etc). Yet so many Asian kids are succeeding in the competition.
  • After five rounds the total number of contestants went from 288 to 90 to 63 to 45 to 24. So my previous example of a baseball hitter isn't exactly accurate. This is more like a game of HORSE in basketball. But once you get "H", you're out. The first round was a 3-pointer from the corner.
  • I take some strange comfort when I spell the word incorrectly but spell it the same way as the kid. It's not too often that I look up to a 13-year old like that.

I'm taking a little break here between the ESPN portion and the ABC portion....

  • Tom Bergeron is the announcer? He's the d-bag who does that America's Funniest Home Videos, right? What's his deal? It's probably my inflated view of this event, but he's not good enough to be doing anything at the National Spelling Bee.
  • I'm doing far worse than I did last year. This is confirming my theory that I've become way, way dumber over the past 12 months.
  • 11 spellers remain. 6 girls, 5 boys. I love the gender equality.
  • I'm starting to recognize words. I nailed Rorschach and Huguenot. What up?!
  • "Numb Nut?". (Kid freaks out, finally figures out the word and gets it). N-U-M-N-A-H.
  • I like Justin Song because he talks like Napolean Dynamite. Oh great. He just got dinged.
  • A lot of the boys are starting to look like the kids from movies from the late 70s and early 80s. They have that long summer camp looking hair and the drugged out eyes. (Watch movies like E.T. and Meatballs again - the kids seriously have crazy druggy eyes. It's the point where I'm convinced there was something in the water.)
  • Jahnavi Iyer's favorite movie is "What About Bob?". She's also kind of funny. I'm now rooting for her.
  • She's out. I need to quit rooting for these kids.
  • Tia Thomas is chock-full of confidence. She's good too.
  • It's Round 12, they're down to 3. This is where they bring out the "Championship Words". Ya know, because everything was so easy up to this point.
  • Alright, take an honest assessment of yourself. How likely would you be to get any random word correct? Maybe 5%? 10% at best? Ok, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and say 10%. So the odds that you'd make it past Round N would be (.10)^N. So you'd have a 10% chance of making it past round 1. 1% past round 2. 0.1% past round 3. (See, this is why I confuse my students. They don't get math either). Point being, these kids are really, really, really good.
  • Ok, the championship list is 25 words long. If there's no winner after the 25 words, co-champions are declared. That seems fair. I guess. For kids. In professional sports, that would never go over well.
  • The confident Tia Thomas is the first of the final three to miss a word. Opificer is tough to spell. Or say. I feel like the ultimate jinx. The final two contestants, Sameer Mishra and Sidharth Chand, have received no mention by me at all. It should figure that one of them is going to win.
  • We're just passed the point on my DVR where the regular broadcast should have ended. I can take pride in the fact that I learned my lesson from last year and added an extra half hour.
  • I kind of spaced out at the end there. Samir won. Next thing I knew, 20/20 was on. They were talking about the crane collapse in New York. And all I could think about was the famous scene from City Slickers....

"We got this job on 65th and Third. This big freakin' ballbreaker of a job, right, and we got the area roped off so that some schmuck don't walk through there and take a wrecking ball between the eyes. All of a sudden this woman, you know with the big dark glasses and the Bloomingdale bags, she starts walking right through the ropes and I yell down at her, "Hey! You can't go there ya stupid bitch." And suddenly, this big steam fittin' bursts and this God damn crane crashes right down on her legs. And she's screaming, "My Legs! My Legs!" And I say, "No shit, your legs, you got a two-thousand-pound goddamn crane on you." Now you know that in an emergency situation you can get superhuman strength? I reach down and I lift this crane and was able to slide her out from under, and the doctors were able to save her legs. So the moral of this story is: don't walk where you're not supposed to walk because there may not be someone with superhuman strength to save your little ass. And don't do drugs."

Here's the Numb Nut clip...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

5/20/08 6,666,666,666

The world population cracked 6,666,666,666 recently. That has to be a good thing, right?


Speaking of doom and gloom, check out environmentalist predictions from 1970. Paul Ehrlich (whose books on population growth I read as a teenager) predicted that global cooling would continue so that a food shortage would reduce the U.S. population to only 22.6 million.



I've been casually watching the NBA playoffs this year. That's new for me. There's something a little extra exciting about this season. Then, my two least favorite teams (San Antonio and Detroit) advance to the conference finals. I don't care for Boston either. Over the last few days, things went from exciting... to... dear lord, not them again. Even worse, by default, I'm rooting for Kobe.


This video takes a real hard core baseball fan to understand. It's the batting stances of White Sox players over the years.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

5/10/08 Slump Buster

I've been completely out of commission all week. Computer wise, that is. An overly generous and anonymous donor has allowed use of a Pentium III laptop to help fill my computer needs for the time being. I don't have a lot to say. But I need to break my week long writing slump.

This is why I present of bunch of those NBA playoff commercials.

This one gets my MVP vote, simply for the music.

Adam Sandler parodies these commercials with Baron Davis for his new Zohan movie.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

5/3/08 Big Brown

Hillary Clinton's pick for the Kentucky Derby finished a close second, collapsed at the finish line and was shot in front of thousands of fans. You can't make these things up.


You may have heard that Albert Hofman, the inventor of LSD died this week at the age of 102.