Waiting for the perfect shot

by Eszter Hargittai on January 19, 2006

I was at the Bulls vs. Knicks game last night. What a great ending: the perfect shot in the last second. Here is the recap of the last minute:

The Bulls were ahead 102-99 after Songaila hit two free throws with 51.1 seconds left in overtime. Crawford went 2-of-3 from the line after being fouled by Andres Nocioni to make it a one-point game. After Nocioni converted two foul shots with 8.3 seconds left, Crawford’s 3 tied it at 104.

There were 4.6 seconds left. Gordon saved the day by scoring in the last second (tenth of a second to be precise). It was awesome.

All this made me wonder: why do we bother – those of us who do:) – watching the first three quarters of basketball games? So much happens in the last few minutes almost regardless of what happened up until then. This is a layperson’s view and I certainly don’t have the stats to back this up, but it seems to me that this is quite often the case. Sure, we watch the game, because of the sheer enjoyment of the sport. Still, it seems that few sports competitions have as much riding on such a tiny last segment of the game as basketball.

So do we watch to figure out the optimal last-minute strategy? The Bulls did a horrible job with free throws last night so it was an especially good bet to foul them in the last few seconds. But would there have been a different strategy to retrieve the ball if they had not been doing so poorly on that front? I’m not saying that we have to be rational about our sports-viewing habits, but sitting through an entire basketball game seems particularly irrational.

Blogometer profile

by Henry on January 19, 2006

There’s a short profile of me up at the National Journal’s “Blogometer”:http://blogometer.nationaljournal.com/archives/2006/01/119_the_kitchen.html today. Feel at liberty to slag me off in comments.

Ask Pajamas Media

by Ted on January 19, 2006

Q: Dear Pajamas Media,

Christopher Hitchens has been noteworthy for his strong support of the Iraq war and the Bush Administration’s vision of the war on terror. Many were surprised when he recently joined an ACLU lawsuit challenging the NSA program of warrantless wiretaps. Could you direct me to any insightful citizen journalism that could help me understand this story?

A: Sure. It’s because he’s an anti-semite.

Pajamas Media is not an embarassing money pit bringing shame to political bloggers everywhere.

The Army and Vietnam

by Ted on January 19, 2006

Inspired by this post, I read The Army and Vietnam by Andrew F. Krepinevich a few weeks ago. It’s really very good. Most of the book functions as an analysis of the Vietnam war through the lens of counterinsurgency tactics, as the author walks through the failure and sporadic successes of the military leadership to learn from its mistakes.

I especially appreciated the introduction and its lucid introduction to the strategy of a successful insurgency/counterinsurgency. I liked that part so much that I’ve transcribed about four pages, in the interest of posting it in small blog-sized chunks for discussion. The book was published in 1986. It’s fascinating to see how much of it applies to the situation in Iraq, and how much is less relevant.

I hope that this inspires a few readers to buy the book, or at least discuss its ideas. Unfortunately, I realize that this goes beyond “fair use”. I’ve tried to contact Krepinevich to ask for permission, but have failed to get a response. So I’m going to try to play this like an mp3 blog. Each section will stay up for a week, and then I’ll pull it down. I will, of course, respond immediately to any request from the copyright holder or complaint from a co-blogger.

Here goes.

[click to continue…]

Radical Professors Exposed, Woo

by Kieran Healy on January 19, 2006

Eugene Volokh “is already on this”:http://volokh.com/archives/archive_2006_01_15-2006_01_21.shtml#1137628916, but I caught a segment “on the radio”:http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5162955 about the “UCLAProfs.com”:http://www.uclaprofs.com, the site founded by some recent political science grad “dedicated to exposing UCLA’s most radical professors,” people who are engaged in “brainwashing” their students, an activity “described”:http://www.uclaprofs.com/profs/piterberg.html as “about as hard as shooting fish in a barrel.” The idea that professors exert a vise-like grip on the pliable minds of their students is a dubious one at best. But frankly, the notion that cardigan-wearing lefties can out-compete the cornucopia of brain-cleansing goods and services on offer in the city of Los Angeles strikes me as wholly implausible.

What most irritates me about the site is that it will probably play to the persecution complexes of some of the people on the list, which will lead them to make comments about Joe McCarthy and Fascism, which is exactly the kind of reaction UCLAprofs.com wants. The best thing about this otherwise lame project is its black-fist rating system for the radicalism of professors (three fists out of five shown here). Political Science prof Mark Sawyer had the right idea with “his profile”:http://www.uclaprofs.com/profs/sawyer.html — he wrote in to complain, saying “I now have tenure … I have been away from UCLA for 2 1/2 years at Berkeley and Harvard. I have been active though in the anti-war movement etc. So I feel I deserve 5 fists.”

But apart from the fist innovation, UCLAprofs.com is pretty badly written, poorly designed and completely fails to hit its target, as most of the “radical causes” it cites (disapproval with President Bush, opposition to the war in Iraq) are in fact at present majority positions in the United States. It doesn’t come close to the delicious heights of “Discover the Network”:http://discoverthenetwork.org/default.asp, let alone “Discover the Nutwork”:http://homepage.mac.com/jholbo/nutwork/. So I’m afraid that on my personal scale of 1 to 5 McCarthys (also shown here), UCLAprofs.com receives a derisive half a McCarthy, a new record low. It would have gotten a zero except for the superb self-parodic line in the article “There’s Something About Petitions”:http://www.uclaprofs.com/articles/petitions.html where the author says “The list also demonstrates that a large number of UCLA professors are ardently in favor of affirmative action, and just as ardently opposed to conservative legal nominees, even opposing fellow alumni like Justice Janice Rogers Brown.” That’d be _Judge_ Brown, incidentally, not Justice, whom we all know and love for her “excellent speeches”:https://crookedtimber.org/2005/05/05/janice-rogers-brown-revisited/. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to supervise the students who are presently washing my collection of Che Guevara t-shirts as part of an in-class research exercise.

Virtual Stoa on Pollard, Browne and cats

by Harry on January 19, 2006

Chris Brooke really is excelling himself these days. First, a relentless (and funny, and good) take down of Anthony Browne’s pamphlet The Retreat of Reason. Then a slightly obsessive-seeming savaging of everyone’s favourite right-wing left-winger, Stephen Pollard. And cat pictures too. Enjoy him while he’s in such a good mood.