How to improve the NBA, Part 2

I recently listed a few ways to improve the NBA. Here are a few more.

  1. Get rid of jump balls. Use the possession clock. This has been used in college for a long time and it works. It is fair. It is easy. It is tested. Jump balls are hard to administer. And the less time players have to drill on jump balls, the more they can focus on basketball skills that matter. This is long overdue.
  2. The referees should be allowed to fraternize with players much more. They have very strict non-contact rules. There’s no reason players can’t have relationships with referees. It’s good for the game for them to know each other. There wouldn’t be so much bad blood between players and referees if they could actually talk to each other outside of the game.
  3. Enough with the suits. Basketball coaches aren’t CEOs. They should be able to dress how they want. One of the best parts of basketball is that you can see the players, and you can see how they express their personalities. That is a feature, not a bug! Coaches should be able to loosen up also.Frank Leyden is what a coach should look like:

    Larry Brown (The modfather):
    Pete Carril:
    John Chaney:

Trump at One Year: Report Card

(This was written two weeks ago, it was somehow lost and been rewritten from memory)

As Trump was taking office, I laid out the crucial things to keep an eye on. There are so many bad things, you need to step back and get a fuller perspective.
(I use Trump and the GOP interchangeably, since many of these trends predate Trump and the GOP has not pushed back on Trump in any meaningful way.)

Existential Threat to Human Existence: Nuclear Annihilation: Grade of C.

Trump has continually escalated the stakes. He’s given North Korea and other countries incentives to continue developing nuclear weapons. He’s undermined NATO. He has destroyed the State Department and dismisses any diplomatic means to achieve ends.
However, the rhetoric is worse than the reality. Particularly on North Korea, outside of the crazy tweets he has been pretty reasonable and continued the same policies of that last several presidents.

Existential Threat to Human Existence: Global Warming: Grade of F.

“On all of Earth, there is only major political party that denies the existence of global warming and the role of humans in it. That is the Republican party of The United States of America.” Nothing has changed in the last year. Trump pulled out of the Paris Agreement as expected. He has fully denied the science. Where once he seemed fuzzy on his beliefs, he has hardened into a complete denier.

Trump and the GOP get a F, but America as a whole is doing much better that that. Many states, municipalities, companies and citizen groups have accelerated efforts, essentially ignoring The White House. Many of the trends that were reinforced under Obama continue (for instance the price of solar energy continues to decrease).

All told, the threats to human existence are real, and Trump and the GOP have worsened the odds of our continued existence as a species, but all told, it could be much worse. Yay?

Threats to American Democracy

America under control by a foreign power: D

Despite the overwhelming evidence and common sense, Trump refuses to believe that Russia meddled in the election. His circle is apparently afraid to even raise the topic. You don’t have to believe that Trump is personally allied with the Russians to see the real threat. They tampered in the 2016 election, and Trump would likely not be president without their interference. Their clear goal is to undermine American democracy. They are continuing to tamper, will interfere with the 2018 elections, and there is no real push back of any kind. It is staggering that this treason is allowed, but that’s the GOP at work. They are only saved from flunking because Sessions recused himself and the investigations are continuing.

Corruption of the presidency: F
Trump, his “foundation”, and his family continue to profit personally from the Presidency. Two years ago, the behaviors would have been unspeakable, now it just seems like normal background noise. Here is a fairly random summary of just the last couple weeks.

Interestingly, Trump has consistently said that if Mueller investigates his personal finances (as he of course will), he will fully retaliate. This is consistent with his otherwise bewildering refusal to release his tax information. The only question is whether he resists because he is actually poor or actually a crook.

Partisanship above country: F
Trump himself doesn’t seem to accept that he is the President of all Americans. He is there to serve his base and has no interests in bettering the world for others. In rhetoric and policy he continually goes after anyone not ‘on his team’. Out of many example, nothing stands out as much as the President essentially refusing to help American citizens in Puerto Rico because… because… you fill in the end of that sentence.
The behavior of the Republican Congress and media have been much worse. The framers saw the three branches of government and the press battling against each other in checks and balances. That is no longer how it works. The Republican party is a united front across all branches. A GOP congress supports the GOP President and vice versa. They cheat to get GOP justices (How’s Merrick Garland doing?). They have their own propaganda media operation devoted to their party. The only Republicans speaking out against Trump are the ones who are retiring. Everything bad in this summary is a reflection of a political party that has no morals, has no red line, has no “at long last have you no shame” moment.

Degradation of facts and free-speech: F
Trump is a liar. He is a liar of historic proportions. He has not suffered consequences, he will continue to lie. He will continue to blur the idea of truth as an objective reality apart from partisan interests.
I almost hope Trump does somehow manage to loosen the libel laws, and the next day is sued into poverty.

Overall Grade: D.
One year ago most of the world held it’s breath. A year later, the best you can say is that humanity will probably get through this.

My Latest Favorite Song(s) #18 – from Sons of Anarchy

Sons of Anarchy had some pretty good songs on it. Here are two cover versions I particularly like:

Lyle Workman & The Forest Rangers did this very soulful instrumental version of Fortunate Son.

Other good covers include Hey, Hey, My, My, Gimme Shelter, Someday Never Comes, and (below) White Buffalo’s version of House of the Rising Sun. Enjoy!

Sons of Anarchy.. not the greatest show by a long shot, but one out of every three episodes seemed tighter with better flow and structure. Wonder why?

A S*ithole of a Post

That’s our wacky president!
“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” And he added that the United States should admit more people from places like Norway.

Let’s unpack this:
1. He used vile profanity. Not a big deal. Plenty of presidents used salty language. This one is predictably much more coarse. It is not surprising and not important.
2. He thinks we should have more immigrants from prosperous first world countries, countries kinda like us. Not much wrong with that either, or at least it is easily defensible.
3. The people from these countries are not the same as these countries. There is something wrong here. Not everyone from a country represents that country, and Haiti’s poverty corruption and hopelessness shouldn’t condemn any of their people.
4. What is truly sad is the complete and utter lack of empathy. The idea of immigration as something we do for someone else is completely foreign (ha ha) to Trump. Refugees are losers. He genuinely feels that people born in the wrong circumstances brought it upon themselves. He seems utterly confused at the rationale for allowing folks in. It is the complete antithesis of the words on the Statue of Liberty.
The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made – a big setback for DACA!

President Trump said (tweeted) later:

The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made – a big setback for DACA!

I agree fully. Except the outlandish proposal was from Trump.

Music Quiz #2

There is a thematic flow to this round. It helps to say the questions out loud, hearing the rhythm often makes the answer obvious.

1. How much is one plus one?
2. How much is one plus one plus one?
3. What feeling should you hide away?
4. Will you hide your feelings?
5. What year do I have feeling will be a good one?
6. What year have I been feeling it since?
7. What year did Justine hang down with the freaks and ghouls??
8. No one alive from this year will ever do.
9. What year will I kick it like?
10. What year will I party like tonight? (easy one)
11. What year do we assume control?

Show Answers

Fun with Fitbit Math

“I wonder how many steps I need for one calorie?,” I idly thought. I have a Fitbit data, I wonder how many ways there are to approach this. Let the math geekdom commence!

Assumption: Fitbit uses a linear algorithm. You get some credit for living, and then extra credit for steps. Exercise figures in, but I’m treating that as a second order problem not in scope.
1) Do a scatter plot to confirm linear relationship. Yes, it seems pretty linear. A quick correlation on the data gives .9666, very high.
2) Keep looking at the Fitbit until I have just hit any particular calorie. Count steps until it increments again.
3) Similarly, look at the data. Find two entries with similar steps, and calculate the difference.
a. Observations 12 and 13: A difference of 16 steps was 144 calories
b. Observations 13 and 14: A difference of 52 steps was -138 calories. Uh oh.
c. Observations 20 and 21: A difference of 81 steps was ~-300 calories. Uh oh.
d. Conclusions: Maybe not so linear? This approach didn’t work at all.
4) Pick two observations that seem kinda typical. The linear equations is y=mx+b, 2 equations in 2 variables. Check results against a few other observations, see if it holds up.
5) General Linear modeling. Which here degrades to the simple case, and Excel has that built into the graphing. The equations is 0.0726x+1933.4.

Conclusion: I get 1,981 calories for just existing, and each step gets me another .7 calories. Or it takes 1,377 steps to get a hundred calories.

Maybe it’s time for Muttrox to get back to work.

How to Improve the NBA

I watch a lot of NBA basketball now that Celtics games are broadcast frequently. I’m loving it. Basketball is a great sport. It is not close to broken, but the professional game can be improved easily.

Make Games Shorter: Really, make more of the games actual play. Reduce stoppages of play, increase the flow and speed of the game. Reduce the boredom of watching one player make a free throw.

  1. Greatly reduce timeouts: I knew that the number had been reduced, I didn’t realize all the fine points that have reduced the end of game drag. The effect has been noticeable.
  2. Enforce “continuation” appropriately. There have been efforts along these lines, but it needs more.
  3. Greatly reduce “In the bonus” free throws: Presumably this rule is here to dissuade a team from continually committing fouls. This is evidenced by the fact that offensive fouls are excluded. But the threshold is set far too low. It should not be normal to be ‘in the bonus’ so much. Normal play is dissuaded, and the game is slowed down for no good reason. The current limits are on the fifth foul in a quarter, or the second foul in the final two minutes of any quarter. Possible tweaks are:
    • Increase the threshold to seventh foul or 3rd of final two minutes. In fact, the thresholds should be backed into. Look at the distribution of actual fouling within a quarter, and decide what percentage should be in the bonus, determine the thresholds from there.
    • Measure the limits by the half instead of the quarter. Who really cares if there are a lot of fouls in the 1st or 3rd quarter?
    • Remove the actual free throw. Simply award one free point and possession with a new 24-seconds.
  4. Enforce time limits on free throw shooting: The player has ten seconds from the time they get the ball at the line. This is frequently violated, not just by Dwight Howard. More importantly, players take their time to get set at the line. The other players take their time to get set up in their spots around the key. As a Tivo user, I can assure you that each free throw takes almost 30 seconds of real time. Set reasonable time limits for how long it should take, and enforce delay of game.
  5. Tweak the rules to reduce free throw shooting. As mentioned above, a foul could result in an automatic point and a fresh clock with possession. Or perhaps the player fouled can decide whether to take the free point and possession or revert back to taking free throws.

Get More Fans Watching

Reduce the Number of Playoff Games

All playoff series are best of seven. Groan. It makes the playoffs take forever, reducing interest. It makes the favorite more favorite, reducing upsets and interest. It increases the wear and tear on the players themselves, shortening their careers and keeping some of them from participating in the Olympics. Go back to first round is best of 3, second round is best of 5, and the last two are best of 7.

Televise Playoff Games at the Right Time of Day

It seems like a simple thing: Schedule televised games when most people are awake to watch them. But sports has a hard time with this. Take baseball. Last years World Series had every game scheduled after 8:00 p.m. Eastern. What little kid can stay up past 9:30 to watch the end of the games? It is no mystery to me that baseball is dying off. Among other reasons, no youth can watch the championship games. The same goes for NCAA. Monday night football used to start past 9:00 p.m.

Of course the difficulty is the timezones. A game that starts at 7:00 EST starts at 4:00 on the West Coast, before work gets out. There is no good solution. However, this only applies to weekdays. There is no good reason that a weekend game should ever be at an hour that cuts off either audience. The World Series had two weekend games, both schedule at 8:20 p.m.

Last years NBA finals had two games scheduled on weekends. Both of them, including Game 7, were scheduled for 8:00 p.m. Stop shooting yourself in the foot.

What is the single most watched television event every year? The Super Bowl. What time does it air? 6:30 EST. Learn from the best.

Reduce Tanking
The Philadelphia 76ers were just doing what the system encouraged them to do – deliberately lose games to get a better shot at a number one pick. It’s disgraceful. How can the league have a sports competition where one team tries to lose? Unfortunately, I haven’t seen a good answer to this. You got a good one, let me know.

Wolff on Mental Fitness

The most interesting revelations from Michael Wolf’s book (Fire and Fury) about Trump are about his mental fitness.

Besides the constant (and well-deserved) speculation and pushes for impeachment ever since the inauguration, there is another path to remove Trump from power. The idea that a president is not mentally competent to do the job has been around for a while (the latter years of the Wilson administration were run by surrogates after a stroke), and passed into constitutional law as the 25th Amendment after the Kennedy assassination.

Section 4
Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

Everyone can see that Trump is mentally unfit. Everyone has known this for a long time. And that is just the problem. Over 60,000,000 people voted for him with full knowledge of who he was. How can you remove the President for being unfit when the majority of the country saw the same thing and decided he was fit enough? It’s not enough. What you need is something that shows that (a) the problem has gotten worse, or (b) the problem is so bad that the will of the country needs to be set aside. Option (b) is the most thought about, unlikely as it is that the cabinet and Pence would turn against Trump.

Wolff’s revelations put option A back on the table.

Everybody was painfully aware of the increasing pace of his repetitions. It used to be inside of 30 minutes he’d repeat, word-for-word and expression-for-expression, the same three stories — now it was within 10 minutes. Indeed, many of his tweets were the product of his repetitions — he just couldn’t stop saying something.

Hoping for the best, with their personal futures as well as the country’s future depending on it, my indelible impression of talking to them and observing them through much of the first year of his presidency, is that they all — 100 percent — came to believe [my emphasis] he was incapable of functioning in his job.

At Mar-a-Lago, just before the new year, a heavily made-up Trump failed to recognize a succession of old friends.

Is it true? We don’t know. But if so, it clearly shows Trumps mental state degrading further since he came into office. To whatever degree this book serves at evidence, it further demonstrates Trump is “manifestly unfit”.

Update: A very balanced editorial in the New York Times today, which references this interview with one of the original authors of this amendment. A good case for why I am completlely wrong!

Update: Fun with copy and paste, this has been slightly updated and given a new headline.

Music Quiz #1

I annoy my wife with these quizzes. You’ll get the idea pretty quick.

1. She can wound with her eyes. How can she kill?
2. Where did she take the midnight train to?
3. Where did he take the midnight train to?
4. How do I feel about your ability to find a better mate?
5. Who rings like a bell through the night?
6. Where was a woman’s soul made?
7. When is she stealing my heart, my soul.
8. What could a hundred men do?
9. What percentage of people danced to the jailhouse rock?
10. Once I begin, how often will I cease?

Read more

Look for more of these…

My Latest Favorite Song #17: When I’m Married – Wilder Adkins

The music is nice, and lyrics are even better. I rarely pay much attention to the words, but these are a cut above. This is a view of marriage that is much more mature than your typical love song. I have a feeling we’ll be playing this at our anniversaries for a while.