The Internet is Amaz!ng

There is a really cool convention in Las Vegas every year hosted by James Randi, The Amaz!ng Meeting aka TAM.  It is not, however, the cheapest thing in the world.  Registration costs $450 and a room for three nights would be $250 (not really that bad), which brings it to $700 upfront costs.  Also, two days of lost work, gas, and eating out of town.  And if I had an extra $1000 I could eat dinner with James Randi and Richard Dawkins.

Obviously, I don’t have an extra thousand.  I don’t even have the first thousand to go to TAM in the first place.  Suddenly, $50 to eat dinner with PZ Myers makes him seem like kind of a cheap date.

Anyway, I was bemoaning this yesterday, being in a particularly bad mood thanks to a migraine, and Jen “inventor of Boobquake” McCreight over at Blag Hag ended up bemoaning her own inability to pay for it.  Made even worse in her case in that she was invited to speak, but JREF doesn’t cover speaker’s registration, travel, or hotel expenses.  In 8 hours, she raised $1500 dollars.  That’s insane!

Suffice to say I am jealous and astounded, probably in that order.  Because, in addition to Dawkins and Randi, who are both pretty much 10s on the awesome scale, there will also be Penn&Teller and Adam Savage, all of whom are probably 11s.

World Cup: Fun with Excel

First, here’s the link to the spreadsheet on Google Docs should you want to play.

Basically what I did is make a spreadsheet predicting the winners based solely on their FIFA rank.  It should be immediately noted that, in the past, FIFA rank has meant nothing.  The World Cup is high stakes game playing, and injuries, travel, exhaustion, and carding are all important.  So, the FIFA rank will probably end up being nearly useless at predicting games.  But it’s there and I have access to it.

If you’re unfamiliar with the way the World Cup works, I’ll explain.  It starts out with 8 groups (A-H) of 4 teams (32 teams total, 48 group matches).  Every team in each group plays each other (6 games), and whoever has the most wins in that group moves forward as 1A, whoever has the second most wins moves forward as 2A, the other two teams go home.  There are various tie-breaking things that inevitably matter as soccer is a very low-score sport, but the important thing is that every team has 3 games to prove themselves before getting kicked out.

Once a team has gotten through the group stage, it enters the knockout round, which means every game is win or go home.

Here are the games by group:

It’s fairly self-explanatory, but if you look at the last one: it’s game 48, held on 6/25, Group H, Switzerland has a FIFA ranking of 24, Honduras 38, so Switzerland to win by a 14 rank superiority.

Another interesting way of looking at the data is to group it by how closely matched two teams will be:

So, my guess would be that anything within 6 is going to be a close game, anything within 10 could easily go to the underdog, beyond 15 would probably require extremely extenuating circumstances to turn the game, and finally that N. Korea, S. Africa and New Zealand are probably completely screwed.

So, within each group there are some games that could turn out to be vitally important for the underdog to win to move forward, and where two teams are ranked closely enough that this is possible.

Mexico and Uruguay are extremely closely matched, with France significantly (but not unreachably) higher ranked, it’s likely going to be a fight to move on as 2A.  Likely, Uruguay will be coming off an easy win, and Mexico will be coming off a hard fought loss.

Australia could beat Serbia and move forward as 2D.

The only game in this group that looks even remotely close is Slovakia v Paraguay.  And fortunately for the drama, they’ll be fighting to stay in the competition.  Of course, getting to the knockout stage is probably all they’ll manage, but there’s no small pride in that.

It’s not super close, but the Americas often don’t do as well overseas, Switzerland could be the one to go forward.

So, using this same method, the rest of the Cup looks like this:

If it fell out like this, I tell you the last 9 games would be un-bloody-believable to watch.

World Cup: Links

I’m sure you Americans (aka 90% of my readership) are like in total hate with me right now.  I’m sorry, this link is for you.

For you other crazy kids, I’ve got the super awesome calendar.  Seriously, it’s super cool, the information is so organized and sane, yet visually pleasing.

Then there’s this:

Running a little over 70 pages, it’s a remarkably in-depth summary of each country in this year’s finals, including football prowess, economic state, and political situation. Furthermore, it provides a primer on the potential hosts of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, and, unsurprisingly but more than interesting, an examination of economic growth and decline vis-a-vis the international football teams of respective countries.

(Quote from here)

Do numbers and in-depth analysis with lots of charts turn you on drive you mad make you happy?  Then look at the dang thing, because it’s awesome.  And it has in-depth predictions of who’s going to win.

Also, this is the link to TNR covering the World Cup.

Next in my world cup coverage will probably be me explaining to you who I’m rooting for.  It’s complicated… sort of a hierarchical system rather than a “I want X to win”.  There may be maths and history lessons involved.

World Cup: Ashley Recommends These Games

Let us pretend I’ve spent no time on this and am merely grabbing some things out of a random hat.  The following are 6 games over the next few weeks that I think will be entertaining, in order of appearance, all times PST.

6/12 11:30 England (8) v USA (14)

England is hungry for another cup, but their line-up is a bit wobbly.  These two are probably competing for number 1 in their group, and will both make it out, but this game will show us if the US is going to actually do anything worthwhile and if England is going to make a real run to repeat ’66.

6/15 11:30 Brazil (1) v North Korea (105)

These are the two extremes; Brazil is FIFA rank number 1 and Korea DPR is number 105, the lowest in the competition by nearly 30.  Perhaps I’m a sadist, but this could be extremely fun to watch.  It probably helps that it’s really easy to hate North Korea, though there are some worries that there will be negative consequences for the players if they embarrass their dictator , so maybe it’s easy to root for the incredibly downtrodden underdogs?

6/17 11:30 France (9) v Mexico (17)

I generally think that the France, Uruguay, Mexico triad is going to be fun to watch, I think they’re very closely matched.  And I think my soft-spot goes to Mexico.

6/22 7:00 Mexico (17) v Uruguay (16)

These two are ranked 16 and 17, and it’s likely that this will be win or go home.  I suspect this will be a hard fought game.

6/22 11:30 Greece (13) v Argentina (7)

They’re closely matched in terms of talent, likely this will simply be for first, so not quite as much pressure, but I think we’ll see here if Argentina is going to be a real challenger.

6/25 7:00 Portugal (3) v Brazil (1)

Probably the most anticipated match of the knockout rounds.  Brazil, number 1, against Portugal, number 3.  Plus, they like speak the same language and stuff.

Internet help?

Using the massive power of, um, asking a question on my blog in the hopes that someone who reads it knows the answer, does anyone know if there’s a place online where I can watch the world cup games after they air? As in, I have no plans to be up at 7am to watch the opening game live, but I would actually like to watch it. Or is this just something I have to figure out Friday?

I sort of fell off the blogging map last week.  It was one of those weeks where I accomplished like nothing at all.  But I will be better now because I’m fully recovered from having another human being (aka Mom) spending all day with me every day for 4 days.  Have you read this?  You know that phrase “you’re getting on my last nerve”?  Having people around all the time is sort of like being put in a state of permanent last nerveness.  Also, she broke down my door.  Which was kind of hilarious.

In the last couple of weeks I haven’t been watching a lot of media.  I’m well behind on Glee and hadn’t watched a movie in like weeks because I’d been reading a lot trying to do the 50 books in a year thing.  Which has actually been nice.  I spend all day at work in front of the computer watching TV footage, I think getting away from the computer is a state I have to manufacture more often.  Like, I’ve gotten some (late-afternoon, indirect) sunlight in the last couple of weeks and I feel slightly healthier and I think my skin is vaguely less albino.  But, this weekend, I watched some movies and Sherlock Holmes.  I know it’s wrong, but Jeremy Brett, am I right?

Jeremy Brett: Hot or Not?

I just did a google image search for people who are albino and they are not paler than me.  What’s that about?

Working on D4aD, trying to get beyond the outline with complete first act stage.  I tried scene cards and decided I hate them.  I’m not saying writing has to be totally organic, and having a skeleton is important, but the scene cards confuse that for me somehow.  //END RANDOM BLOG

50 Book Challenge: 21-25

21. Godless – Dan Barker
I thought his personal journey from being an Evangelical preacher to being an atheist was really interesting and compelling, but the second half of the book focused on arguments for why he was atheist that were very familiar to me. I think this would be a great book to give to someone who was interested and knew nothing about atheism, particularly because Barker is very sensitive to the Christian mindset.

22. Men at Arms – Terry Pratchett, read by Nigel Planer
I like the Guards a fair amount, so I enjoyed this story. Not as much as the witch stories, but I love Carrot and Vimes and the Patrician, and they all featured pretty heavily. I was less interested in the parts that were about the impact of a gun on the society. I also love Detritus the Troll. And how British people say Troll.

23. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice – Laurie R. King
I had listened the BBC Radio adaptation of this and was really interested in reading the whole book. It’s about a girl who becomes Sherlock Holmes apprentice, but it’s a fairly adult sort of story. I’ve only ever read one or two of the Holmes tales, so I don’t know how faithful it is, but I enjoyed it enough to finish in a night and start the next one the next day.

24. A Monstrous Regiment of Women – Laurie R. King
I think the first one is a little more compelling than this tale was, but then I’m not really interested in Christian Feminist movements and find them weird. The developing relationship between Russell and Holmes was handled very deftly and quite enjoyable.

25. The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ – Philip Pullman
This book was a very quick read and I can’t say I honestly recommend it. Maybe it’d be more interesting to people who aren’t familiar with any biblical scholarship. The premise being that Jesus and Christ were twins, Jesus being the radical and Christ being the realist. It’s no Dark Materials.

It’s week 22, so I’m ahead of the game. So maybe I’ll actually finish the Asimov book. Or I’ll do what I did yesterday, and buy another 12 books because now I’m interested in Sherlock Holmes…

Oh, and also halfway there.

ScriptSavvy Feedback

I sent the second to newest draft of Bible Con into ScriptSavvy for their April contest.  I got my feedback back, I got 56/60 which is on the low end of what their winning scripts normally score (I didn’t win).  Based on the feedback, I don’t know that I can get it much higher than that, it’d just be luck of the draw in terms of who the reader was.  Still that’s an 8 point (or 13%) improvement over the previous draft I sent in, which could be good for the Nicholl this year as well.  There are other things going on with maybe getting it made, but I’m reluctant to even consider those as feasible until they happen.

I’m just going to share many of the lovely things that were said about me.

This “mockumentary” proves to be a very strong concept for a script. It takes a relatable topic and, in a very Christopher Guest kind of way, pokes fun at it without being too mean or snide. The writer does a nice job of building personal relationships in to the overall spoofish story, giving the audience people to cheer for as well as something to laugh at.

The dialog throughout the script is sharp, clever and really well done. It sounds so real and natural that it just pops off the page. The characters have unique voices without going over the top with accents or colloquialisms. It’s really nice to see how wonderfully the writer crafted the dialog to make subtle but distinct differences in the main characters. Any exposition, such as the events of last year’s convention, is stated through natural and usually very humorous dialog.

The writer does an excellent job setting the scenes with vivid but concise descriptions, like Mary’s room, “…looks like a normal teenager’s room. Only Jesusy.” It’s a great shorthand way to tell us all we need to know to fully imagine the scene.

The scenes are very tightly constructed, cutting in and out at exactly the right moment. Even awkward pauses for added humor are very clear and effective. The rhythm is consistent with a bouncy feel as the script jumps from one storyline to another. The pacing is energetic without coming on too strong, giving the script that slightly slow feel of a spoof-worthy documentary. The use of supers for the characters and labeling the days of the convention is a nice touch to give the movie a suitably pompous kind of feel that fits the genre perfectly.

Many times writers misuse the device of having each paragraph be only one sentence long. This writer really nails the beauty of how to make that work with the scene on page 19 with Mary jumping on her bed. It’s a great flow to give each action it’s own paragraph, creating a visual rhythm for the reader that adds to the scene.

Comedies like this are popular with a very niche audience. The appeal isn’t as wide as perhaps a standard romantic comedy but would work well as a smaller, art house movie. However, it’s well written enough to attract the attention of meaningful talent. It would probably also play very well on the festival circuit, gaining some attention from distributors as well as critical notice.

The writer gives the script a very polished look by using professional formatting throughout. Well done!

The script has great spelling, grammar and punctuation. The writer clearly carefully proofread the script and the effort pays off.

My favorite compliment may have been the formatting/grammar bit. Not really, though. Maybe a little. And “suitably pompous”.

Anti-Vaxers

Someone on my blogroll posted something anti-vaccine, citing the rise in autism cases as just one reason that we should “stop poisoning our bodies”.  As someone who wouldn’t be alive if not for the radical medical intervention of the 20th century, I’m incredibly skeptical of anyone who claims that we’re poisoning our bodies with drugs without also acknowledging that we also don’t typically die in childhood and the life expectancy is over 40.

There is no link between vaccines and autism and more importantly, vaccines save lives. The increase in autism is partially to do with different diagnostic conditions, the introduction of autism as a spectrum disorder — to focus on the phony and disproven and discredited link invented by a doctor trying to sell his vaccine as better than the current one is to fail to research the real causes of autism.

Again there are 0 ties between vaccines and autism. It’s just a lie. The fact remains that when children are not vaccinated they get diseases that can kill them and make it more likely that the vaccinated kids will get those diseases as well. I’d rather have an autistic child than a dead child. And I’d rather not die because people are making up reasons to not trust the good science that’s been done.

Should you believe everything that comes from big pharma? No, of course not. And should you want to treat autism and be skeptical of anything that people put in their bodies? Sure. But you should also be able to rationally look at the human costs of not vaccinating children and the motivation behind the lie that there was a connection between vaccines and autism in the first place. Post hoc ergo propter hoc.

“Vaccines against tuberculosis, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, measles, hepatitis B, and Hib disease are preventing 2.5 million deaths each year.” – CDC

Short blog with good graph:
http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2008/05/12/vaccines-do-not-cause-autism/

Longish on the anti-vaxers:
http://www.skepdic.com/antivaccination.html

Comic about Andrew Wakefield, the doctor of the original study:
http://tallguywrites.livejournal.com/148012.html

Longish well cited on the history and consequences:
http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/09-06-03/