Monday, October 07, 2019

Nobel Week 2019

I do love Nobel week. It's like the playoffs for nerds. Speaking of that, I missed blogging about the updated names to the periodic table. For a long time, we had cool latin U-names for 111-118, but they've been given names. See below
  • Ununbium , [Uub], (112) = Coper­nicium (Cn)
  • Ununhexium , [Uuh], (116) = Liver­morium (Lv
  • Ununoctium , [Uuo], (118) = Oga­nesson (Og)
  • Ununpentium , [Uup], (115) = Moscov­ium (Mc)
  • Ununquadium , [Uuq], (114) = Flerov­ium (Fl)
  • Ununseptium , [Uus], (117) = Tenness­ine (Ts)
  • Ununtrium , [Uut], (113) = Nihon­ium (Nh
  • Ununium , [Uuu], (111) = Roent­genium (Rg)
Liver­morium may now be the funniest name. It's named for the lab, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which in turn is named for the town of Livermore, CA which was named after some random dude Livermore.

Part of my investigation is to find out how many of the people the elements are named after are Jewish (pride can be a bad or a good thing). Einsteinium is the only one I knew about, but maybe the new ones too, mayhap perchance.

So which ones are named after people?  Looking at this list, I see they link to an awesome Wiki resource page which does much of the work for me!

Here's the people the elements are named for; almost by sociological definition, any scientist before the 20th century wasn't Jewish because we were denied access to education and major professions. Marie Curie was a Catholic agnostic, the 2 recent Russians -- Georgy Flyorov, Yuri Oganessian -- could be but are it's unlikely, while Ernest Lawrence & Glenn T. Seaborg & Neils Bohr were Scandanavian (so most likely christian), but now I see, according to Wiki, that while Neils Bohr's father was Christian Bohr, his mother (Ellen Adler) was Jewish:
Bohr was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, on 7 October 1885, the second of three children of Christian Bohr, a professor of physiology at the University of Copenhagen, and Ellen Adler Bohr, who came from a wealthy Danish Jewish family prominent in banking and parliamentary circles.
Oh, and #109 Meitnerium is another element named for a woman: Lise Meitner, who is Jewish. A Jewish woman on the periodic table! How did I miss that?!
She was born Elise Meitner on 7 November 1878 into a Jewish upper-middle-class family in Vienna, 2nd district (Leopoldstadt), the third of eight children. Her father Philipp Meitner was one of the first Jewish lawyers in Austria. ... As an adult, she converted to Christianity, following Lutheranism, and was baptized in 1908.
So, there are 3: Einstein, Bohr, and Meitner.  But Einstein is the only one who stayed Jewish.


For thoroughness sake, would it be terribly wrong to just cut and paste the list? I'm a bad boy.
ZNameSymbolDiscoveryImmediate namesakeNameSpecialtyLifespanNationality
62SamariumSm1879the mineral samarskite Mining engineer1803–1870Russian
64GadoliniumGd1886the mineral gadolinite Scientist1760–1852Finnish
95AmericiumAm1944the continents of the Americas Explorer1454–1512Italian
96CuriumCm1944 Scientist
97BerkeliumBk1949the city Berkeley, California Philosopher1685–1753Irish
99EinsteiniumEs1952 Scientist1879–1955German-Swiss
100FermiumFm1952 Scientist1901–1954Italian-American
101MendeleviumMd1955 Scientist1834–1907Russian
102NobeliumNo1958 Scientist1833–1896Swedish
103LawrenciumLr1961 Scientist1901–1958American
104RutherfordiumRf1964 Scientist1871–1937New Zealand-British
106SeaborgiumSg1974 Scientist1912–1999American
107BohriumBh1981 Scientist1885–1962Danish
109MeitneriumMt1982 Scientist1878–1968Austrian-Swedish
111RoentgeniumRg1994 Scientist1845–1923German
112CoperniciumCn1996 Scientist1473–1543Polish-German
114FleroviumFl1998 Scientist1913–1990Russian
116LivermoriumLv2000the city Livermore, California and
the Lawrence Livermore Lab[2]
Land owner1799–1858English-Mexican
118OganessonOg2002 Scientist1933–Russian

Slichot, Some Thoughts

We're nearing the end of the Slichot period of Elul-Tishrei 5779-5780. Some quick thoughts:

  1. For me, I share a brotherhood with those who've have to lead slichot. The stress is enormous because the words are purposeful tongue-twisters, the text is said only one day a year, and it needs to be done super quickly. Bravo to you, my brothers. I feel your pain
  2. It's hilarious that the first slicha is often on theme of "it's so early in the morning!"
  3. Thank God for the Artscroll. I can complain about a number of their choices, but you need to have lived in a world without them to know why they've transformed the facility of Jewish prayer in the world

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Term Search: Iago Moment

There are many concepts that are clear to my way of thinking that - as far as I know - have not entered into our general language. My vocabulary is large and I have multiple degrees and yet I feel that these ideas have not been given social expression via a word or phrase. So I'm going to use this blog to flesh these ideas out. If anyone knows a term for these ideas, please comment below.

The Iago Moment: when a new piece of data changes your previous understanding to the exact opposite conclusion.

This is based on the game 'Othello' which has black pieces that will switch to white, and vice-versa, when bookended by that color. This is the closest item in my culture and experience that depicts the time of idea switching inherent in the concept. A row of black pieces, when you add one more datum, all turns to white.

The name 'Othello' comes from the Shakespeare play and since it's a game of black-and-white pieces, and the title character's race (African) is instrumental to the plot, I understand why the game was named that. But it still feels racist to me. Iago, on the other hand, is the play's antagonist, so I might as well keep the game & name but evade the overt racial message.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Whoa, I have 1066 Drafts

Not sure if I should be scared or elated but blogger tells me I have 1066 drafts of unfinished blog posts, compared to 1699 published. This will be an exciting exercise in reconstructing my brain patterns from years gone by

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

What's Been Happening Anyway?

So, what content can you expect in the contemporary Styx?

1. Sports (my biggest hobby, see a future post for why)

2. Jewish studies across the board, mainly social sciences and the old fashioned Rabbi-Doctor topics (i.e. what all rabbis with Jewish Studies doctorates seem to do: Jewish life issues with a glaze of scholarship)

3. Politics (none of this should be new, but the age of Trump (ym"sh) has made this crucial)

4. Footnotes, in a way, for my Twitter feed

5. Medical sociology stuff. My dissertation was on end-of-life issues but I've done work since then on the anti-vax movement and disabilities

6. I'll try to publish my sermons here as well. I don't speak often, though

7. Parenting, and things my kids are into and experiencing. All of my kids are in middle school or above

Yeah, for old time readers, this sounds familiar. But I am trying to be thorough.

Back after 4 years

I curtailed my blogging when I was finishing my dissertation and - foolishly - felt that I'd be better off writing 'blog' style posts on F*acebook rather than this clunky ol' website. But right after the election of Trump (ym'sh), I fled FB for two big reasons:

(1) I discovered that they were stealing my phone text messages, which prompted me to research & realize that they were basically operating as a computer virus
(2) I saw normal people become deranged by FB's polarization. I think it's a destructive & evil platform. Basically the computer equivalent of Oxycontin: designed to help, has a veneer of beneficence, but operationally addictive and destructive

I always knew that the near future would be fought by tech titans - much like the oil/energy companies of decades past - and I need to choose sides: Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, and/or uh, AOL? Do they still exist? Anyway. I guess I currently trust google more than others, but all are robber-baron style octopi and we must all be careful

All told, I will try to write more on the blog, because I have a big backlog of material. I do have a twitter feed and I spend most of my time there, but decent writing is hard to produce (limits of the form etc, I'm sure there's some good scholarly work on this)

Anyway, it's good to be back. Let's see if it sticks

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Led Zeppelin Admission

[Warning: the following will be of interest to only fans of Led Zeppelin... and possibly fans of my personality cult]

Zeppelin has remained my favorite band for decades now.  As a teenager, I remember my friends introducing me to their albums and I just fell in love, even when they moved on to the Who (who, har, I greatly respect, more on that later) I stayed with Zeppelin.  They have the fewest proportion of bad songs of any long standing band (and I can listen to the crud... usually).  I also possess every bootleg I can get my digital hands on and they are a great treasure trove.

What's the admission?  Well, as a teenager, my friends denigrated Presence in favor of In Through the Out Door, which they considered musically more adept.  Nonetheless, after years of listening and fandom, I have to say that ITTOD is their weakest album by far, containing two of their lowest quality songs ("I'm Gonna Crawl" and the poignant and heartbreaking yet not-very-good "All My Love"). Presence, on the other hand, has a great start ("Achilles Last Stand" is freakin' awesome) and it's only weak entry is "Tea for One." 

The real scandal though, is that I actually like their last album, Coda, a heckuva lot.  The only weak entry is their redone "I Can't Quit You Baby" (a holdover from their early note-for-note Blues mimicry*), and many of the tracks are very fun: "Walter's Walk" (another admission, I also like "The Crunge" so that could disqualify me), and "Darlene" (which is a better parody of country music than "Hot Dog"). 

Naturally, I hold the trump for last: "Bonzo's Montreaux" - so good they later merged it with "Moby Dick" (halavai they should merge in one of the "Pat's Delight"s).  Of the later albums, ITTOD just doesn't hold up, even compared to Coda!   Throw tomatoes if you must.

* = when I first heard the early Zeppelin, and early Rolling Stones, I thought their blues songs were atrocious, and I judged the bands accordingly.  I thought that they were young and untrained and only later were able to refine their skills.  Then I heard the original blues songs they were covering and found out that they were equally as bad.  Gadzooks!  I love the blues, as every red-blooded American male does, but not so many of the early bluesmen were listenable.  There are a handful of supermen better than their British successors - Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, John Lee Hooker - but a lot of the early stuff is as bad as the early UK blues-rock.   More tomatoes now I assume.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Songs About Making Songs

I have asserted to my musicologist wife that at least in Rock n' Roll (my bailiwick), I had noticed that whenever a band - which regularly wrote (the de rigueur) love songs - had a breakup song, the latter would be above average for their quality.

Recently, I think I can expand on that to suggest three more genres to add to (1) breakup songs: (2)  songs about the creative process, (3) the sequela of that, songs of insomnia, and (4) songs about the struggles of fame.  The latter is not as interesting as the others, but all four have in common the theme of anger.  And maybe anger is actually a great artistic muse (either that or it's frustration, same thing in this context).

Here's a current list of these types of songs, starting with #2, songs of the creative process.
  1. The Who "Guitar and Pen"
  2. Eagles "Certain Kind of Fool
  3. (arguably): Foreigner "Juke Box Hero"

Just for fun, some (#3) insomnia songs:
  1. Chicago "25 or 6 to 4"
  2. Green Day "Brain Stew"
  3. Beatles "I'm So Tired"

The breakup songs (#1) that I have in my own catalog: [roughly defined]
  1. The Beatles "For No One"
  2. Billy Joel "And So It Goes"
  3. Bob Seger "Still the Same"*
  4. The Commodores "Sail On"
  5. The Commodores "Still"*
  6. Elton John "I'm Still Standing"* 
  7. Elton John "Empty Garden"**
  8. Elton John "Sad Songs (Say So Much)"**
  9. Elton John "Candle in the Wind"**
  10. Jay & the Americans "She Cried" ***
  11. The Rolling Stones "You Can't Always Get What You Want"
  12. U2 "One"
  13. U2 "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"
  14. U2 "With or Without You" ****
* = do all songs with "Still" in the title count as breakup songs?  Discuss.
** = Elton John has cornered the market with eulogy songs, which are a subset.
*** = This possibly ruins my thesis because this band barely makes decent music.
**** = I'm stopping at 3.  Did U2 even write a love song?

Please add some if you know of any favorites.  Sure, there are lists on the internet, but these are songs I've heard first and then categorized.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

The War in Numbers

Good summary by the Jerusalem Post: "Operation Protective Edge by numbers". This is remarkable if it can be confirmed:
1,867 Palestinians were killed, according to Gaza officials. Of those, 750 to 1,000 were terrorists, says the army: 253 from Hamas, 147 from the Islamic Jihad, and 603 were militants whose affiliations were not immediately established.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Anonymous Against Israel

This is not good news: "Anonymous Declares Cyber War on Israel, Downs Mossad Site, Many Others" Anonymous is a bunch of anarchist/anti-authority cyber-experts who use very powerful computer tools to attack those they don't like. Now, they've turned against Israel because of the Gaza War. This is bad for two big reasons:
  1. Anonymous is very scary. People committed to destruction are never good guys, and computers are early in their universal usage, so many of us who are dubbed "Zionist" (i.e. all Jews), can be in their cross-hairs and I am not capable of protecting myself from that level of assault
  2. If this group of young tech experts considers Hamas to be the good guys in this conflict, then that's a bad sign for the world, vis-a-vis the rise of a new Communist/Nazi style culture.
That's your morning scare. You're welcome.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Good piece - Why Good Societies Stigmatize Anti-Semitic Language

Why Good Societies Stigmatize Anti-Semitic Language
by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

Never heard of the journal or the author before, so I don't know if he's a loony... The piece starts slow and not so deep, but he hits his stride in the middle to the end and it is excellent. This line especially:
Taboos against using certain language against certain groups is always tied to the violence that has been exercised against these groups, because the language is seen, quite reasonably, as both symbolizing and facilitating that violence.

This is also good:
[The Holocaust] is unique, first of all, because it is unprecedented. The Holocaust was the first time that a genocide was designed and executed in a complete, systematic fashion, using scientific, innovative means of destruction. Its goals were universal. It mobilized all of the authorities, civil and military, of the regime, and indeed the whole society. The Armenian genocide sought to kill all Armenians in Turkey, not all Armenians on the planet. The Rwandan genocide did not deploy new founts of human ingenuity to the end of efficient, total massacre. While Communism killed more people, and was occasionally an instrument of racist (indeed, anti-Semitic) violence, its motivating principle was not the extermination of a certain group of people because of who they were. While slavery in the American South was fundamentally racist like Nazism, slavery was not a historically unprecedented event—indeed, slavery is present in the history of every civilization—nor was its goal genocide.

This combination of factors—fundamental racism, unprecedentedness, universality, scientificness, hellish ingenuity, totality of execution—is why the Holocaust justly stands in our collective imagination as unique among all instances of human evil.
A good read, and a good job.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Tractate Taanit Thoughts

We finished Taanit yesterday in this Daf Yomi cycle. I'm thinking I should write a post like this when we finish in order to get some of my notes down despite the breakneck speed that dafyomi compels me to follow. Sure, I should write these down on daf day, but I'm always behind...

I thought Beitza was an excellent masekhet: filled with important halakhic concepts. Rosh Hashanah was even better - most of the theological concepts of judgement which I expected with Yoma were analyzed in RH. The Mishna of RH is chock full of great things and the Gemara follows suit. Taanit, however, is a jarring reverse from those 2 in quality; it's beyond just not good, it's pretty scary bad. Why? Because the basic mitzvah is about how we need to fast during difficult times. But instead of the mature theodicy of RH which is about individual judgement and responsibility, Taanit is about a shallow theodicy that presumes God will reward and punish IMMEDIATELY based on clearly defined merits/demerits. This assumption is so dangerous; it's not upheld by (1) most grown-up theology, or (2) everyday observation, nor is it (3) consistent with most of our moral philosophy. Basically said, it is the mentality of Job's friends, and I think I can say confidently that his friends are supposed to be wrong.

All 3 problems are significant. (1) shows that there are opposing views, and that is how I deal with this masekhet. I imagine that the grown-ups left the room for Congressional recess, as it were, and the mystical clowns got ahold of the floor that day and included all this stuff. Or maybe the grown-ups felt that since many of these stories are part of the tradition, even though they disagree with it, they needed to be included somewhere, so might as well put it in this tractate which has the undercurrent of mystical magic.

(2) is a problem because many cases of "off the derech" for mature thinking adults are as a result of reacting to these types of childish, and UN-NECESSARY, theology. I have historical cases but I've also seen it in my own rabbinic counseling career. It's self-inflicted wounds.

(3) Because the stories are just horrible after horrible. They are such chillulei Hashem that I cannot even cite them in good conscience. These stories cannot be serious contenders in our moral philosophy, and this can be seen in the over-time effort put in by the Aggadah scholars, especially the Maharsha, who do their best to render these terrible stories anodyne.

Now, it's possible that I'm wrong about the inconsitancy of the theodicy presented in the story. Only recently did I hear a similar concept labeled in modern times as "hashgacha pratit" - which I thought just meant God's constant scrutiny, but which I've now heard means God will give immediate messages and reactions to an individual's behavior. HP isn't nearly as bad as what we see in Taanit (anybody saying something like the third chapter in Taanit would be laughed at and vilified) but HP suffers from the same 3 objections as above.

There are some redeeming qualities. Taanit has some interesting and even invaluable points about science and public policy - for the same reason we have all the stuff about theodicy, i.e. how to assess what is a public threat. So the set reaction - fasting - leads to the philosophy issues above, but the need to know what to react to requires knowledge of what is threatening to the public weal. So they need to define the 'rainy season' but also how crops grow and what rains are the best for each. They define the types of calamities which are 'normal' (wolves) and abnormal and thus indicative of Divine punishment. This latter category helps me understand the 'public health' knowledge of 1500 years ago, which is interesting to me as a historian and social scientist.

There's so much I have written in the margins of my gemara and it's not possible to deal with them all in the time frame I want to devote to this, sorry. One last brief point, the bad theology of this tractate reminds me of 'samurai morality' i.e. it reflects a culture of strict honor. This has implications on life-and-death questions, my bread and butter, so I may return to this further.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

It's Been a While

As a person determined to stay both sane and un-angry, I stay away from the New York Times articles on Israel.  They are stupid and offensive, hallmarks of modern journalism.   But since there's a crisis in Israel, and I have the Times open in my browser, I see the front page headline: "Israel Steps Up Air Offensive in Gaza" with the sublede: "Israel on Tuesday bombed about 50 targets in airstrikes that Hamas’s military wing called “a serious escalation.”"

This level of bias is almost comical. Israel has been under constant rocket attack for the past few days from Hamas in Gaza. Rockets now have been able to hit Tel Aviv - which is the capital of Israel for those who reject Israel's right to exist. So how is this an offensive? It's clearly under the definition, of any normal dictionary, of 'defense.' Then the Times quotes a Hamas official?! Whaaaaat? Hamas is a terror organization that openly calls for Israel's destruction. How are they even credible?

And even with the NYT's shoddy journalism, I'd expect there to be 'the other side', i.e. from the Democratically elected Israeli government or something, but... nope. Maybe it's in the article, which I won't read because of the sane/angry thing. But according to the stupid journalism handbook, are you allowed to have both bits of data, the headline and the sublede, be of one "side"? Especially so when the one side is a criminal organization committed to mass murder, no?

Ah well. I do look forward to the day when these news agencies go back to the good side. But considering that there actually is no credentials, or training, necessary to be a journalist, I don't think that day will happen any time soon.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Chuck Noll, Dies at 82

Barukh Dayan ha-Emet: Chuck Noll, Coach of Steelers’ 1970s Dynasty, Dies at 82. Noll was, by definition, the greatest coach of the Superbowl era. Very sad.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Waiting for the Power to go Out

As I've mentioned before, it used to be that being inside on a bad weather day was actually kind of fun. But in the past decade or so, I've lived in places with abysmal power grids and bad weather just means an inevitable loss of power. And so I live in fear every time the wind speed goes over 10 mph. This is nearly intolerable, given our country's wealth and resources. We haven't lost power yet which is remarkable given this horrible winter (3 snow-days for my kids in 2 weeks), but our luck must run out some time.

Unlike the summer brown-outs, which can be avoided (we're told) by reducing energy use, the winter weather blowouts are unavoidable. I still have the summer habits as my initial thought, i.e. "if I turn off all the lights, maybe the power will stay on!" But no. In fact, I should do the opposite: use as much energy as I can before the shaky trees and 50 year old made-in-Burma transformers implode.

And unlike the summer, where at least the roads are accessible during an outage, in the winter we're stuck indoors with no heat, no power, no fridge, and I get flash-memories of The Shining.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Why I Want the Broncos to Win

There's a thread over at SteelersDepot about how to survive a Superbowl without the Steelers in it.  They asked the question about whether people were Steelers fans or football fans, the nafka mina is whether you could watch football when the Steelers fate is sealed. Since I'm an expatriate Pittsburgher, I have had to live for years without my favorite NFL team to root for.  So for me this is an easier prospect than for the Western PA locals.

I am a sports fan, especially in the past few years when I've soured on Hollywood and TV, and my answer is easy (see below for what that means).  But even with the Steelers out, I can still root for them, in a roundabout way.  Because the Steelers are an elite team, we fans can take a very long view, at least in the Superbowl era.

We root for overall Superbowl record.  See what I wrote last year before the nightmare of SB47 for more on this, but basically I root for the Steelers to have the most SB appearances, SB wins, and if possible the best SB record.  For example, last year's Superbowl was a nightmare because I needed to root for the Ravens (ugh) so the 49ers could lose and ruin their 5-0 record.  If SF won, then they'd have as many rings as Pittsburgh but no losses.  Thank goodness they lost (you should have heard me at the end of the game, after the 'mysterious' blackout).

So for this year, I again take a long view, and it may be even longer than most. I'm rooting, seriously, for the Broncos.   Here are the reasons, with the biggest at the end:
  1. Both teams are artificially inflated because they have the two most egregious home-field advantages.  The Seahawks' 12th-man bull-spliff is infuriating - it's basically cheating.  But that also makes them likely to be worse when they're on a neutral field.  The inflated stats/wins skew the data, and that kinda stuff fools people (see my rants about the 2000 election and Spygate), but I expect to see it on display Sunday.  Same holds for Denver.  They got to 3 Superbowls in the 80s on Elway's arm, Browns being the Browns, and the home-field advantage which inflated their numbers.  Both teams this year are actually talented, so I expect a good battle, but I don't like either team because of the home-field cheat.
  2. Richard Sherman's insane rant after the NFCCG doesn't affect my rooting interest.  He was classless and remains so, but a lot of athletes act that way.  Although, I don't ever remember an unhinged rant like his.  Muhammad Ali was controlled, Sherman was actual crazy.  If you recall, Sherman was busted for taking Adderall, and while it may be that he was abusing it to get the crank boost (like many highschoolers), it could also be that he has ADHD.  I know people with ADD and Sherman's rant falls into the category of someone with that condition.  The reason people were repulsed is because unmedicated abnormal psychology is disturbing.  But it's a real condition and he needs meds.
  3. The reaction to Sherman went racist very quickly, another scary sign of what America remains even years after the Civil Rights Act.  Hence why I want to emphasize that while Sherman was classless and unhinged, my tack against the 'hawks is not racially based.  If it were the 'hawks against the Patriots, Ravens, Bengals, Raiders, Browns (ha), or Texans, I'd be rooting for them.
The biggest reason I'm rooting for Denver, is because I need Manning to win for the Steelers sake.  Follow me here: Manning winning will add more wood to the fire of Spygate. Brady is given more credit than Manning because of their head-to-head match-ups, which could/probably have been Manning wins. If Manning wins Sunday, on a new team against a #1 defense and in the cold, then it'll help him - sure - but will finally convince hold-outs that Brady was propped by cheating.

And then, oh I hope, we can convince people that the Steelers should have been in the 2001 and 2004 Superbowls as well.

Look at how long they make Jerome Bettis wait to get into the Hall.  The Patriots cheated to win the AFC championships in 2001 and 2004.  If the Steelers went to Superbowl 36 and 39 as well as 40 with Bettis, he'd be in on the first ballot. We'd have maybe one more ring (over the Eagles, which would have been Pennsylvania sweet, but the Rams were too tough IMO) and our team would have been the legitimate dynasty, helping get Faneca, Cowher and Hines into the Hall as well.

So, in my mind, Manning winning will help fuel the case for Steelers greatness as well.

1. My biggest proofs for Patriot cheating - aside from their actually getting caught and Goodell burning the evidence because of the horrible damage it would cause the whole sport, cf. Tour de France - is that the Patriots had abnormally high turnovers.  I watched Superbowl 39 recently and the announcers were saying how amazing the Patriots D was at being able to know when a screen pass was coming.  The Pats won all three Superbowls by a field-goal, which shows their lack of non-cheating talent.

2.  For "the Browns being the Browns" see this great video:

Steelers New RB Coach

So far, the Steelers are doing very well in the off-season.  The AFC North was mess this year: Bengals win the division but crash and burn gloriously in the first game, as usual; the Steelers & Ravens are both 8-8, which for the 2013 AFC was actually pretty good, but not up to both team's standards, and the Browns were the Browns.

The offseason has continued the bad juju with coach changes. The Bengals lost their OC (new Redskins HC) and DC (new Vikings HC), the Ravens their OC (new Detroit HC), and and the Browns were the Browns.: they fired their head-coach in what looks like a panicked frenzy, their very talented Coordinators, both Offense and Defensive, walked.  And the Steelers?  So far, we've lost two position coaches, O-line and Running Backs.  The O-line has been a disaster for a long time and not only did we jettison a bad load, but we hired probably the most talented possible person out there, Mike Munchak, making our staff the only one with three former head-coaches, and two Hall-of-Famers.

The loss of our RB coach, Kirby Wilson, doesn't sadden me either.  The guy was ambitious, apparently, and the Steelers aren't a place to rise as RB coach.  We've had only 2 RB coaches from 1972-2013!  Anyway, the running game has been miserable, along with the O-line, for years, so good riddance.   The new fellow is James Saxon, and he may be exactly what we need. According to poster furthur56 at Behind the Steel Curtain:
So you're saying the guy that got to Kansas City the same year that Priest Holmes got there has only "okay" credentials. You know they guy who Baltimore didn’t want, had rushed for only 2000 yards over 4 seasons, and became a huge breakout star after he hooked up with Saxon. The guy who was there when Larry Johnson was drafted and after initial reports on him tended to include the “bust” label, also developed into a huge star. I’m sure James Saxon had nothing to do with that development. In the history of the NFL only 11 times has a running back scored 20 or more rushing touchdowns in a season, 3 out of those 11 times the plateau was reached by a running back coached by James Saxon. The guy has coached 4 different Running Backs and, you’ll love this Steeler fans, 2 different Fullbacks to Pro Bowl Seasons. That’s a little better than “okay” credentials in my book. He’s shown that he can take a Running Back off the trash heap (Holmes) and make him realize his potential. He’s shown what he can do with a young player (Johnson) who has talent, but lacking in fundamentals. He’s shown he can get the most out of older players (Tony Richardson, Ricky Williams) who are in the twilights of their careers. He’s shown what that he can manage a bona fide Superstar (Peterson) through the best season of his career. The only thing he hasn’t done is work for a team with a Quarterback as good as Ben. Every stop Saxon has been, the Running Game was pretty much the entire offense, defenses knew to prepare for it, and still, the running game produced. Those are his credentials. And while you are free to categorize them as merely “okay”, I wonder what a credentials a candidate would need in order to “thrilled by the hire”.

Like Dick Hoak, Saxon has always been a RB coach - Hoak for us 1972-2007 - and Saxon for 22 years over different teams. No (false) ambition to be an OC etc. He wants to do what he does, similar to Munchak who agreed to be an o-line coach after being a freakin' head coach. Shows that's where Munchaks' heart beats, and I think Saxon as well.

I'd even put some money on the possibility that when Saxon became available, the Steelers front office made a calculation and asked for a 'trade.'

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Mark of a Modern Fan

How I can prove my bona-fides as a Steeler fan: I'm extremely excited about the hiring of an Offensive Line coach.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Steelers Week 16, Reflections

Before the Green Bay game:
Steelers are a good 6-8 team. [late note, this story confirms my point] Why? Because in our wins, we've been dominant the whole game. They are clean wins.  But all close games we've lost; and almost all of them were close.  We're not like the teams, e.g. patriots, who've won ugly. That's why we are better than our record shows.  It's one of the quirks of football, that since it's only 16 games, each one matters enormously. There's a real difference between a 9-7 and 10-6 even though it's just one game.

As for Green Bay: I may be wrong, but I conceive them as the NFC equivalent of the Steelers.  They seem old-school and classy.  I don't pay much attention to the NFC, but I guess if I had to root for a team in general, I'd boost the Packers. And, as my middle child said last night, in Black & White, the uniforms look almost the same!

After The Game:
We won.  And EVERYBODY ELSE WHO WE NEEDED TO WIN, WON.  Gadzooks.   This is too much to ask for. Holy cow. After this crazy season I didn't expect we could ever make the playoffs. And I still don't because (see below). But I will accept this one gift: because of how all the games went yesterday, at least every week in the season has mattered. We're playing at 1, so that means all the other games that could knock us out of contention will be at the same time. So when we start the game, it will still be a relevant one. And that's nice.

OK, so what has to happen for us to make it to the playoffs? Only this (this website makes this stuff fun and easy):
  • 1:00 PM: Baltimore at Cincinnati
  • 1:00 PM: NY Jets at Miami
  • 1:00 PM: Cleveland at Pittsburgh
  • 4:25 PM: Kansas City at San Diego
The Breakdown:
  • CIN must beat BAL (oh please, oh please).
  • NYJ must beat MIA (this is the really hard one, because the Jets basically suck, Miami is better than I expected, the Jets are out of the playoffs and Miami is the putative 6th seed.
  • PIT must beat CLE (of course; and this is a trap game because our Defense always lays down when they think the game will easy)
  • KC must beat SND - this is also not a fait accompli, because KC is already in, and SND needs to win to get in the playoffs, and they are division rivals.
Sadly, I think Miami will easily handle the Jets.  However, what the sports pundits seem to forget - and I blame both Madden and the stat-crazed Moneyball type analysis - is that NFL teams don't seem to lay down when a game is "meaningless [for the playoffs]"  Maybe the fat journalists who care about stats and postseasons only would think that way, but professional athletes don't.  I assert this not only because it's backed up by observation, but it also fits theory:  professional athletes, by definition, are these things: (a) they love the game they're playing, especially football, because the monetary rewards barely cover the pain for most players; (b) they are fiercely committed to winning because otherwise the motivation to be in top physical condition, and receive bone-snapping punishment, isn't worth it.

Ironically, the only teams that seem to take it easy in meaningless games are the ones who actually have already MADE the playoffs, e.g. the Chiefs (potentially).

So I hope, I hope, that the Jets will come to defeat their division rivals.  If this were the Steelers versus the Bengals (in the AFC East, the analogies for us would be Patriots=Ravens, Dolphins=Bengals, Bills=Browns) and the Steelers were out of contention, and the Bengals needed to win to get into the playoffs, all Steelers players and fans would want the team to play their damnedest to knock the Bengals out.   I assume the Jets would feel the same way.

This can't be said for the Chiefs, alas.  Possibly the players would feel the way against the Chargers as I described above about rivals, but the dynamic is different.  The Chiefs have no way to improve their position; Andy Ried's M.O. is to rest his starters in this scenario; and maybe the Chiefs don't hate the Chargers?   What I'm hoping for is that (a) the Chiefs actually do hate their rivals and want to keep 'em out; (b) that the Chiefs are good enough to beat SND even with their second teamers, especially on defense.

But look, I think just beating Cleveland will be enough because it will be an awesome way to go into the postseason because it will demonstrate to the team that they are monsters, that they will have a winning streak going into the offseason, and that's a lot to build on.

About the game itself.
These past 2 games fulfilled what I said a few weeks ago:
"I will still try to watch the Steelers in future weeks. They occassionaly make a nice play, and that's fun to see. That's what I think makes a real fan. I like watching them win, even when the games don't matter. So if they win any of the last 3, it'll be fun! And if they lose, then it doesn't matter, and it may even be better for our draft position. So it's a win-win. In a filthy depressing way."  
The Bengals game was freakin' awesome (even though I saw it from a hospital bed).  We beat them up, literally, and while it may be like last year's Week 13 pasting of the Superbowl bound Ravens, that's why being a fan is rewarding.  Because even if you don't make the playoffs, football is fun to watch, and every win is precious.  Especially over a division rival.

And the Green Bay game was also fun, even though Tomlin messed up the ending... but that just made it memorable.

I'm seeing the game now and I can say one reason the defense is performing a bit better is due to improvement in the special teams. If McBriar isn't consistent then buy a good punter or ugh draft because they are WORTH IT. We still need way way way better performance on kickoff/punt return defense. Gadzooks, we stink at that. But considering how bad ST has been for years, this year is much better.

As I said here, I think the refereeing - which sucks league-wide - is especially bad for the Steelers.  How many times have they snatched our scores away?  The blocked field goal call was a insult and miscarriage of justice.  We block a field goal, and the refs give GB a touchdown.  And the NFL, as expected, won't admit failure.  Yet they're set to dock us a draft pick because of Tomlin's sideline idiocy.   I hope the Rooneys will use whatever heft they have left to protest this, preferably with lawyers.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Steelers Week 16, pre-game, Playoffs?!

We don't deserve to get to the playoffs given our cruddy defense this year and the winnable games we let slide through our fingers.  But our offense is powerful and it would be nice, real nice, to make it.   Our destiny is not in our hands.  The best we can be is 8-8 and that means all of this needs to happen for us to win:
  1. Win the next 2 games (@GB, Cleveland)
  2. Miami (8-6) must lose the next 2
  3. Baltimore (8-6) must lose the next 2
  4. San Diego (7-7) must lose at least 1
  5. and the tricky kicker, the Jets (6-8) must win the next 2 because if they are 8-8, they knock out the Dolphins in their division and then the Steelers knock them out due to beating them in the regular season
What this means for this week is:
  1. 1pm, MIA @ BUF - Buffalo must win.  Oy.  
  2. 1pm, CLE @ NYJ - Jets must win.  
  3. 4pm, PIT @ GB - naturally we must win or all this is moot
  4. 4pm, OAK @ SND - it'd be nice for OAK to win, but that's a long shot
  5. 4pm, NE @ BAL - gotta root for the Patriots, yuk
What this means is that by 4pm, if either Buffalo or the Jets lose then the Steelers are out.   And in the huge long shot chance that they both win, I'll need the Steelers and the Patriots to win (which I'm more comfortable hoping for).

I'll wait until tonight to go through the rest of the scenario, but those two 1pm games are scary.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Steelers Week 14, part 2

[These are notes I made for the aftermath of the Miami game; I couldn't finish it before the next game because I hurt my back and was hospitalized for a few days]

  1. We are a magical team this year - we make bad teams look good. We allow others to make team or even league records!
  2. Idea: if a team is eliminated from the playoffs, the tickets at the home games should be 75% off.
  3. I wonder if our defense split open because they thought they would win this game easily and didn't prepare - something they have done repeatedly.  If so, we'll give a good show against the Bengals.
  4. All these players want to win, losing locker room is a cruicial issue not incidental. And a crucial point is this: the pundits who talk about "playing the young guys to get a look at them" are deluded by their ignorance - i.e. the pundits aren't allowed to see practice. So all the pundits *know* are the games.  The coaches see practice so they don't *need* the games to know who's the best player.
  5.  Football isn't baseball/hockey/basketball with their humungous playing calendars.  There are 16 games.  Each win is a major percentage victory for the quality of the team. Not only does the team want to finish 8-8 so they won't have a 'losing season', the higher the number, the better they all are in the minds of all.
  6.  Also, even more than what I said earlier about tanking a season to get a higher draft, who says that a high draft pick is a guarantee of a success?  It's all about proper fit.  If you have good scouts, then draft picks are valued differently.  Good scouts could possibly add 12 to a pick, maybe even a round!
  7. Who do I want to make the 6th WC slot?  Anybody but Baltimore.  Seriously.  I can handle either the Dolphins or Chargers but I guess I prefer the latter.  I think Miami is a classless organization, like the Ravens, but I have no opinion about the Chargers.  Although if they make the playoffs maybe that will stop them from moving to LA?  
  8. For late comers, read the earlier Steelers 2013 posts because many of the reasons I gave for the losses in the early part of the season are applicable now.
Other issues: Ben confirms what I said (that the NFL network has a lock-on for the team):
"It's unbelievable," Roethlisberger said during his weekly radio show on 93.7 The Fan. "It gets blown up and it's by reporters that come in there and ask the dumbest questions after a game, and it makes it ridiculous when they only take part of your answer.

"It was taken way out of context. There is absolutely no issue between Coach Haley and I. I love where this offense is right now."
Thinking Draft:

And for next year, who would I eject/keep. BEfore asking that, let's see who we will get back from IR (from the Steeler Website):
31Brown, CurtisDB6-0185253Texas
67Brown, LeviT6-6324297Penn State
80Burress, PlaxicoWR6-52323612Michigan State
67Embernate, NikG6-430423RSan Diego State
50Foote, LarryLB6-12393312Michigan
85Johnson, DavidTE6-2260265Arkansas State
53Pouncey, MaurkiceC6-4304244Florida
51Spence, SeanLB5-11231232Miami (FL)
34Stephens-Howling, LaRodRB5-7185265Pittsburgh
61Velasco, FernandoC/G6-4312284Georgia
91Williams, NickDE6-430923RSamford
The biggest losses that Jenga'd our season, in retrospect certainly but even at the time, were Pouncey & Foote.  But we can't forget that we will have Sean Spence along with Foote, and those 2 have the potential to rapidly rebuild our inside LBs.  Depot guys think Foote's gone?

Just a simple eight month wait...

Salary Cap problems.  As I said previously, in the draft we need to go all defense except for a tight end.  Everything else is fine.  Our QB is still in his prime, especially since he hasn't taken a pounding.  The O-Line has improved enough that I want coaching to take care of it, not new players.  Our receivers are great.  Our running backs do their job too.

Our biggest problem is old & slow defense and special teams.  ST aren't going to improve because Tomlin is an idiot.  But defense I expect will because of what they did between 2012 and 2013.  We lost a *lot* of key veterans, and I think the guys we kept were based on the principle of reload not rebuild.   But if we let Harrison and Hampton go, then I think it's manifestly clear we will let Kiesel and even Ike Taylor go.  Clark is so out of here it's not even debatable.

But what about the high priced people.  I think Troy will stay until he retires.  LeBeau loves him to death and when we get our inside LBs back, he can return to his job (luckily he hasn't been hurt yet either).  However I can't imagine he should be paid the 8.2 million base salary.  And I hope Troy knows that.

Ike is set to make 7m!  Woodley is a cap issue because of his current salary (cash/cap weirdness).  Even if cut after June 1, we need to carry 13.9 cap hit until June 1.  We really should keep Worlids and Woodley, but if I had to choose one, it'd be Worlids.

High rounds: (a) Cornerback with hands x2, (b) powerful Geno Atkins type Nose Tackle? (although Al Woods looks like a beast)