Okuxubile

1. My sports loyalties are a matter of public record, so when the usually sad collection of teams I most avidly follow have their occasional great seasons, I can’t be accused of bandwagon jumping. 2015 was a remarkable year for me on this front, as the Beloved Kansas City Royals took home a World Series Crown for the first time in 30 years. Huttah! Navy football also capped a remarkable season, with the stellar Keenan Reynolds ending his four-year career as starting quarterback with the best Heisman Trophy finish for a Navy player since Roger Staubach won the thing in 1963. Double Huttah! So now it is 2016, and it looks on the surface like I could be on a fandom roll, as the Washington Capitals just captured the President’s Trophy in the National Hockey League, securing home ice advantage for all four rounds of the playoffs. Note well, though, that they key words in the prior sentence are “looks on the surface,” as the Caps are among the most heart-breaking of my favorite franchises, with a long history of awesome regular season play being undone by shocking chokes in the post-season. How did their last President’s Trophy season end, you might ask? With a first round, seven-game loss to #8 seed Montreal. They say that pessimists are never disappointed, so I’m preparing for the post-season accordingly. Harrumph!

2. Around our three month anniversary in Chicago, I’d written a piece about some Mysteries of Chicago that we’d experienced in our early days here. Five months later, a couple more have emerged for us:

  • What’s with all the bad mouthing of Navy Pier in both the traditional and hipster media? Sure, it’s a big tourist destination with a lot of the expected plastic cheese factor that goes along with that, but it’s still a nice walkabout with some great lake views and pretty unbeatable people-watching opportunities, right? And what’s wrong with that?
  • Why are locals obsessed with regaling newcomers about the horrors of the weather here? While we recognize that this past winter was quite a mild one, we’ve endured the horrors of Idaho, Upstate New York and Iowa winters for the past quarter century, so when people give me the “Oooo, just you wait ’til next year, it’s going to be awful” pitch, I just sort of shrug in an unimpressed fashion, and it seems to offend some folks that I would dare to suggest that other places’ weather is more vile than ours is here.

3. Over a year ago, before we knew we were moving to Chicago, we purchased a pair of tickets in Des Moines for this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship first and second round games. We had seen had seen an epic collection of Women’s Hoops teams during their tournament a couple of years before (including Baylor with Britney Griner, and Tennessee in Pat Summit’s last year with the team), so were optimistic that we might get something similar for the men this year. We traveled back to Des Moines two weekends ago for the games, and the draw didn’t disappoint, as the second round games we attended featured four legendary programs with Kentucky, Connecticut, Indiana and Kansas taking the floor. We gave two of our first round tickets to Katelin and John, but we did get to see Stony Brook (SUNY represent!) play their first and (for now) last NCAA Tournament game. I’d have preferred to see their conference rival Albany Great Danes play, of course, but it was good to have an American East team in the house, however briefly. We didn’t get to pick seats, so were also nicely surprised at how good they turned out to be. Here’s the free throw that ended Kentucky’s season, as a sampler of the view:

2016-03-19 18.31.17

4. From Des Moines, I flew on to Knoxville, Tennessee for a conference, and was pleasantly surprised to find that the Convention Center is built on the grounds of the Worlds Fair, which I attended in 1982 on my high school Senior Class Trip. The Sunsphere  features in many blurry memories that I have of that trip, and it’s still there, so it was nice to have some fresh, unblurry views of it, all these years later. If you know much about what happened during that earlier trip to Knoxville, feel free to fill me in at some point. Ahem.

5. We celebrated Katelin and Marcia’s birthdays this year in Chicago together, with Katelin and John visiting from Des Moines, and three of Katelin’s college friends from New York flying in to make things extra festive. The weekend featured two exceptional meals, one with all seven of us at Emilio’s Sol y Nieve (tapas ’til the cows came home), and one with just The Family at Sepia (delicious creative organic/sustainable fare rooted in traditional American fare, with modern International twists). We highly recommend both destinations if you’re looking for a special night out.

Raznovrsnost

1. On January 14, I ran my annual “Oscar By The Numbers” model, and the results were so overwhelmingly in favor of one film that I declared it “the most shoo-in of shoo-in winners that I’ve forecast to date,” and noted that “if it doesn’t win the big prize, then this multi-year model is clearly a failure, and I will report it as such, with 2016 being my final year of forecasting.” Unfortunately, the film my model picked was The Revenant, and the winner of the big prize was Spotlight. So consider the model retired, in its current format. I continue to believe that the historic assumptions that underpin the model are sound, but in the era where the number of Best Picture nominees exceeds the number of nominees in each of the other categories, the mathematics get a bit hinky, and the correlations break down. Which happens sometimes. I saw similar impacts on my “Mid-Major At Large” NCAA Tournament forecasting models when the BCS era alignments and the emergence of the non-football version of the Big East emerging. Are they a major without football money? And if they are, are some of the other conferences similarly worth removing from the Mid-Major rosters? In both cases, the data sets I built are large and versatile, so maybe I’ll look for some other correlations and come up with a new variant on Oscar By The Numbers next year. Or maybe not. There might be something new to model, right?

2.  Want to come work with me? I’m currently hiring for two positions at the TREE Fund: a full-time Accounting and Grants Manager position, and a part-time Development Database Administrator. Our offices are located in the Western suburbs of Chicago. We work hard and have fun, and support an awesome community of folks around the world with our research, education and community engagement programs. Making a difference is a good thing. Please share these postings if you know anybody who might like to help us do that.

3. Related to the TREE Fund, our number one community engagement event each year is the STIHL Tour des Trees, a 500+ mile, seven day cycling tour where about 100 folks take to the road to tell our story, educate the public, raise funds, and have a truly wonderful time doing it. I got to ride four days with the team in Florida soon after joining the TREE Fund, and I’m looking forward to riding the full seven days in the Carolinas this October, starting and ending in Charlotte. Our riders come from around the country, and there’s still spaces available for new folks to join us. How about it? If you’re not up for that commitment, you could also contribute by sponsoring me on the ride. Here’s my donor page, if you’d like to help out that way. We’d all appreciate it very much!

4. How Not To Be Slick: Marcia and I were looking for something to watch on television one night earlier this week, and as is often the case, even with a zillion channels, we couldn’t find anything that was mutually pleasing to us both. Her birthday is coming up, and I had ordered a box set of a TV show that we actually both like. Earlier that day, a package had arrived for me, and I had set it aside for the birthday — but being a problem-solving kind of guy, it occurred to me that I could give her that gift early, so we’d have something to do that night. I grandly offered to let her open a birthday gift early, told her what the gift was, went to my desk to get the package, opened it . . . and found two toner cartridges for our printer inside. Insert sad trombone noise and FAIL meme here.

5. I pushed the random word generator button this morning for March’s Short Story of the Month. The four words it gave me were: simple, perverted, bughouse, front. This is going to be a fun one.