Is my personal long national nightmare at the beginning of the end?

I don’t want to jinx anything, and I’m technically losing the services of the place where my dad has been working (I think I can still post the strip from here), but events may be being set in motion to solve the problems I’ve been having for the better part of a year.

I’m starting to try various things to solve my laptop’s hibernation problem. I just might be about to get at least some of my files back from my old USB drive after over four months. As for my Internet connection and job situation… well, recent events, not to mention the loss of the aforementioned fallback, are starting to make us consider… well, I won’t give the jerks downstairs any ammo, but suffice to say I may finally be getting motivated to get a real job.

The backlog for Da Blog remains, and I may well delay the OOTS post this week. A far more profound topic, cutting to the very core of webcomics, is coming up. The OOTS post may be delayed a whole week, or at the very least a day or two, because I feel a multi-part series coming on…

More football than you’d ever expect two days before the Super Bowl

(Editor’s note: This post was  reconstructed from scratch because WordPress’ importer missed it the first time through. I don’t think any comments were left with this post but if there were I apologize.)

Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated uses the Arizona Cardinals to back the BCS, or at best a plus-one, in a column on In his eyes, if the Cardinals could tank once they cinched their division and then rendered their mediocre regular season irrelevant in the playoffs, what’s to keep Florida from tanking before the SEC Title Game, or Virginia Tech from rendering irrelevant their mediocre regular season and cruising to the Golden Bowl in Cardinal-esque fashion?

You know I’m a staunch backer of an 11/5 system for college football. While Mandel makes a compelling argument, I think it falls flat for a number of reasons. Ignoring the tanking-Florida argument because I’ve covered it before, it’s worth remembering that V-Tech wouldn’t automatically get a home-field seed just for winning a mediocre conference, meaning the confluence of good fortune that assisted Arizona would need to be significantly greater. Even with a home field 8th seed, V-Tech would either need three games to go their way (not two as Arizona needed), or make their own luck twice (not once as Arizona needed). That’s before considering how much home field has been diluted in the NFL, which you can’t say about the famous college football crowds.

I have more in my comment to the Bleacher Report article that tipped me off to Mandel’s article.

Meanwhile, the college football rankings are finally up, as are updates to both lineal titles.

Da Blog for the rest of this week

So after I proclaimed how much less stressed dropping the webcomic post for this week was going to make me, I’m realizing I’m as stressed as ever if not more.

Barring a calamity, Thursday should see the long-awaited posting of the final college football rankings and lineal titles. Friday should see the posting of another sports-related post, one which I actually consider is more vital to get out of the way this month. But it’s unlikely I get it out first, so I’m slating it for Friday, though you may see it before then.


I’ve been bottling this up all week, but I have a big beef with Buzzcomix. And it’s not so much that they’ve been down for the second time in less than a month. As annoying as that is, because they really need to figure out what this problem is and solve it.

No, it’s the fact there isn’t even a channel to inform anyone what’s going on. The old Buzzcomix at least had a forum. I’m not sure the new Buzzcomix even has any sort of “contact us” link. Not that that would matter while the whole site is down, but not having a forum or anything of that sort means no way of letting us know what the problem is when the site does come back.

Even with the site down, they could let a site like Comixtalk know what the dealio is. I haven’t found anything in my admittedly brief search to indicate that anyone has any idea what exactly is going on. Did Buzzcomix run over their bandwidth? Were they a victim of a DDoS attack? Did someone have pornographic images? Is the site going back up by the time you read this, later today, tomorrow, at the end of the month, after a while to plug security holes, or ever? WE DON’T KNOW!!! And we basically have no way of knowing.

Well, at least we still have Top Web Comics.

So because I lost an early draft of this post Wednesday, yesterday I had to type it up in a “draft” editor that was autosaving but not rendering everything correctly. I had to use regular Blogger to add the strip image.

(From Something Positive. Click for full-sized pie.)

This is going to be a shorter review than some of my other ones.

Something Positive is funny in a way, because for me, it’s the opposite of xkcd. When I reviewed xkcd I started out doing a limited archive binge, and because I found myself with little to say, I decided to follow along with the strip at the pace it normally updates before reviewing it. It didn’t change my lack of anything to say, but that in itself was something to say. That incident gave me my policy of following along with strips for a spell before reviewing them, which has been taken to the point where I generally don’t necessarily archive binge anymore.

So with S*P, I’ve been spending the past few weeks following along with the strip, and when that left me with very little to say about it, I decided to go back to the beginning of last year and follow along on an archive binge. And at first, that didn’t change my lack of anything to say. At first.

Because I’m convinced Something Positive reads better all at once than as it updates.

Honestly, S*P is an odd duck to categorize. On the one hand, it’s a gag-a-day comic, and even there it’s a bit schitzophrenic. Sometimes it’s making commentary on geek culture, and when it does it can be hard to tell whether Randy Milholland hates geek culture with a passion, is in fact sympathetic, is one himself, or a combination of any or all of the above.

The flip side is when it’s a chronicle of the ordinary lives of its characters, and here, it oddly takes on elements of a storyline comic. Milholland is not shy about allowing his characters to grow, change, and undergo some form of character evolution. It’s tempting to compare it to Seinfeld or the like, but it’s different as well. Several characters have several ongoing plots, which move at a snail’s pace but still actually move. If there’s an appeal to the strip, it’s in waiting for all these plots to move while laughing at the geek-culture strips. It’s easier to appreciate all these shifts if you can read them in a single archive binge, where all the infinitesimal movements are less annoying, and a host of only marginally funny strips can have their humor add up and rope you into the strip.

Basically, the ongoing plots are the most compelling element of the strip, but they move incredibly slowly, so if you don’t have much patience at all that shouldn’t be a reason you follow S*P. Conversely, if you find the geek humor funny you might decide to read it for that reason, but because of the plots that humor isn’t as common as you might like and isn’t always as funny as it should be.

And Milholland has a lot of characters and a lot of plots. It’s even more daunting, and potentially confusing, when fairly minor characters get significant screen time and their own plots largely independent of the (nominal) main cast. During my binge I often had a hard time keeping all the characters straight. (How many red-heads does Milholland have in his cast anyway???) Milholland has a fairly prodigious cast page (though it has some gaps, including Aubrey, who you’d think would be first in line to get an actual page considering she’s one of the original three cast members) but it leaves me with the impression that Milholland has spent a little more time than you’d expect with characters whose connection with the main cast was always a little thin in the first place. (Mike would fall into this category.) This may have something to do with who the fandom has latched on to, but still. And these are just the ones Milholland maintains plotlines for; there are boatloads of other characters that only show up at “Old Familiar Faces” time.

I also have a little bit of an issue with the art, although I think I have more of an issue than I otherwise would with Milholland’s text-laden panels (which Ctrl+Alt+Del is so criticized for) and irrelevant art because recent strips that happened to fall within the time I was following it hammered home the point for me. Two strips in particular, one of which saw a last-minute script swap-out and the other one of which Milholland just couldn’t decide between two scripts. In both cases, the art is exactly the same in both versions. Seriously. Milholland basically could take any four panels of Davan and Aubrey talking and plop in whatever dialogue he needed. He could create the new Dinosaur Comics, even! And they’d probably go on and on about whatever their problems were and how to fix them and some snarky remark and… and there are quite a few strips where the dialogue could be swapped out for something else! It’s tempting for me to ask “why make a webcomic if the art doesn’t matter? Why not go into prose?” but that would disqualify half of webcomicdom, including Dinosaur Comics, which is beloved partly because the art doesn’t matter. (On another note, be sure to check out my webcomic!)

I don’t think I hate Something Positive nearly as much as I’ve made it seem in this review. I can certainly imagine it being an enjoyable diversion for someone, and I did have a few laughs and found myself constantly clicking the “next” button wherever I was in the archive, but I’m not sure I can completely endorse it either. I don’t want to say it’s mediocre at best, but I think I do have some deal-breaker problems with it, or at least a series of smaller problems stacked one on top of another that mixes with just not being quite compelling enough. But I think my state of mind is affecting my judgment here, because of all the stress I’ve been under recently, and because of that there will be no webcomic post next week so I can recharge my batteries, catch up on past stuff, and allow my next webcomic post to be on Order of the Stick so I can stick to a realm I’m comfortable in and already know what I’m getting coming in.

After the Golden Bowl…

…Mark Sanchez, seeing how close he came to a national championship, elects to come back to USC for another season.

Think of how acrimonious his real-life decision to jump to the NFL was, how it caused a split with his coach and maybe even his father.

Now suppose that, rather than being the top of the heap, about as high as his career could go with the risk of injury being the main thing looming, the Rose Bowl put him in a real national championship game. And put Sanchez within one game of becoming the true champion of college football… and he lost (and had a mediocre performance that would hurt his standing with NFL scouts).

Don’t you think he would be a little more tempted to come back and get over that last hump? Even once Tim Tebow announces he’s coming back as well, it’s unlikely to change his decision; he wants to get a rematch in next year’s Golden Bowl where he thinks the Trojans can come out on top this time. After all, this year’s Golden Bowl was in Florida’s home state; next year’s will be a virtual home game at the Rose Bowl.

I’m going to simulate next year’s Golden Bowl Tournament based on the actual results of that season’s games, not based on some alternate universe where Sanchez still plays at USC. But this sort of thing is the sort of impact instituting a playoff would have on college football – real, substantive effects that change the course of college football history. And doesn’t even simulate injuries (because it’s intended to simulate one-game exhibitions).

Keep that in mind while you’re debating the merits of a playoff.

Yes, the college football rankings and lineal title are coming! Hold your horses!

Maybe this post is just to maintain my two-today pledge in my own mind.

One thing that, when you think about it, is rather amazing about America is its diversity – not in race or creed or anything like that, but in the places people live. America is a big country – only Russia, China, and depending on who you talk to, China (and I’m not talking about Taiwan) are bigger. But in those other three countries there are pretty wide swaths of the country that are basically unsettled, and #5 on the list, Brazil, is a full million square kilometers smaller – and with the exception of the capital of Brasilia, the vast majority of the population is packed in on the coast. Australia is perhaps the only country that can compare to the US’ size and uniformity (all other countries are a third the States’ size at best), in that they have at least some major cities on the west coast (Perth, the capital of Western Australia, is fourth-largest), but even they have the Outback. The United States may have a lot of “flyover country”, but fairly large cities like St. Louis and Texas’ cities dot it, and even the Rocky Mountains have some sizable cities in Denver, Salt Lake, and the like. And on the UN’s list of “urban agglomerations“, only India has two entries larger than Los Angeles, or three entries larger than Chicago.

Perhaps as a result, we seem to take a lot of pride in our cities and really identify with them, especially since we tend to be further from other cities than in other countries. It also helps that our cities identify themselves more and stand out more. Sure, you might have heard of both Shanghai and Beijing, or even Mumbai and Delhi, but good luck distinguishing between them. But Los Angeles is the movie capital, Las Vegas is the gambling capital, Boston and Chicago are crazy about sports, Philadelphia and Boston are birthplaces of the nation, Miami is a vacation destination, San Francisco is known for the Golden Gate Bridge and liberalism, and so on. (I’m sure people in other nations will tell me the only reason I can’t tell the difference between cities in the same country outside the US is because I’m an ignorant American, but bear with me here.)

We all identify with Americans, but in something that may be a holdover from the days when people identified themselves by their state first, the place we live is close behind. There isn’t a monolithic culture across the entire country; America’s too big for that. One thing Americans take for granted that, from what I hear, is largely unique is that we have one level of news broadcasts for the nation, but also another for each community we live in. Similarly, when it comes to sports teams we identify very tightly with a fairly small set of sports teams that generally associate with one general metro area, and for the most part, we root for the local team by default. I really am fascinated by it. The closest parallel in Europe might not be individual cities like London and Paris, but the whole countries within the European Union.

Anyway, I’m not sure where I was going with this, other than I wanted to talk about ESPN’s creating a blog network for local coverage of all 30 NBA teams. There’s quite a bit of mileage out there in the “blogosphere” – you have blogs for specific topics, blogs for just about any league, blogs for individual teams, and so on. (Baseball and college basketball are presumably now demanding their own blog networks from ESPN.)

I was wondering if there were blogs out there covering a given city’s entire sports scene – one for New York, one for Chicago, one for Philadelphia, and the like. I was shocked to discover that (at least for New York and Seattle) they were few and far between! Blogs covering individual teams, two at most, were FAR more common! I could understand that it might be stressful to cover too many teams in too many sports at once, but it can’t be THAT stressful just to be a fan of the teams in your backyard, and certainly the reward of building a tight-knit community of fans would be worth it, don’t you think? Even if you’re uncomfortable covering two teams in the same sport that are probably bitter rivals, you could easily split the work with a sister blog or second writer, right?

2009 Golden Bowl: USC v. Florida

I introduced the Golden Bowl after the semifinals as Golden Bowl II, but given my shifts in priorities and the new way we got here, not to mention I’m not waiting a year to present the results, I think Golden Bowl I might be more appropriate… prepare for a lot of scrolling…

Golden Bowl I: #9 USC v. #2 Florida
USC gets the ball off the opening kickoff and takes it to the 31. The instant the teams line up at the line of scrimmage, Florida gives them the gift of an encroachment penalty. Stafon Johnson gets nailed behind the line. Mark Sanchez tosses it forward to Patrick Turner who picks up 5, and C.J. Gable picks up 14 yards for the first down. Damian Williams can’t quite bring in the pass from Sanchez, but Gable picks up another first down to the 36. Johnson takes it to the 24 for another first down. Gable manages to move the pile for three yards, then Johnson breaks through for 15 to the 6. Joe McKnight’s first carry picks up two yards, one of which Gable loses. Sanchez takes the ball and can’t find anyone open, ending up tackled at the line, forcing a chip-shot field goal attempt. The kick is good and USC takes the early lead.

The ensuing kickoff is short, caught at the 10, and returned to the 30. Chris Rainey can only get a short gain on his first carry, but picks up a first down on his second. Percy Harvin picks up the ball from there and takes it 9 yards, and Jeffery Demps gets more than enough to pick up the next first down to the 48. But Rainey gets stuffed, Tim Tebow just barely overthrows his receiver, and Tebow himself gets stuffed, and Florida is forced to punt. (Incidentially, the amazing thing about Florida’s run in this tournament is that I don’t think Whatifsports has much of a concept of the running quarterback, given Tebow’s performance!) USC seems to have the early edge, but the Gator punt pins them on the 14.

Gable runs for a little, then Johnson drops the pass from Sanchez. Sanchez has better luck with Turner and Vidal Hazleton, and a couple of 15-or-so yard gains move the Trojans to their own 48. Another Sanchez throw picks up another five from there, but Johnson gets stuffed for a short gain and a defender deflects the pass on third down. USC’s punter returns the favor done him by the Gator punter, pinning the Gators at the same spot.

But after Rainey gets stuffed at the line, Tebow hands the ball off to Demps… and he breaks into the open field! No one can catch him! 40, 30, 20, 10… Touchdown! Just like that the Gators take the lead! USC takes the ensuing kickoff out of the end zone and to the 29, but Johnson gets stuffed, Brandon Antwine records the first sack of the day, and on third-and-15 Sanchez’s pass gets broken up. The instant Florida takes the field, it’s clear the momentum has shifted: Demps picks up a yard on a draw, Harvin runs for the marker and just gets it on the measurement, then Rainey gets stuffed and Harvin gets more yardage off the draw, leaving Florida at third and 3 as the quarter ends.

Tebow gets stuffed at the line, but the ball is on the USC 34 and Urban Meyer decides to go for it on 4th down. Emmanuel Moody, however, can only get a yard. No problem for the Gator defense: the Trojans botch a screen on first down, which falls incomplete, and attempts by Johnson and Sanchez to take it further only complete another three-and-out. Florida manages to return the punt almost to midfield.

There, however, is where it ends: Tebow gets stuffed behind the line, Demps is scarsely better, and Harvin gets the pitch but can’t take it all the way to the marker. Still, USC is pinned at the 14 again. The toss to Anthony McCoy picks up six yards, and Gable takes the ball for another six and a first down. McKnight gets the ball again but this time loses significant yardage, but Turner catches the pass from Sanchez and makes up for it. Johnson plucks the ball from the air on third down and stretches it out to the 46 for a 16-yard first down. Johnson gets the ball running on the next play and takes it a decent distance again, then picks up the first down through the air again to the Florida 37. Johnson puts up more good yardage on the run, but when Sanchez attempts to throw again, Will Hill picks him off, wasting the drive.

Rainey takes the ball 14 yards, but three Moody runs pick up a total of five yards and Florida is forced to punt. Sanchez hands it off to Johnson again, then sees his pass batted down and finally hands it off to Gable, but gets nowhere, and the ensuing punt gets returned into USC territory. Rainey and Demps have some short runs before Tebow throws to Deonte Thompson, who manages to weave past defenders to the 29. Moody gets a short gain, Harvin a short loss, and Tebow throws it again, this time short of the marker – and his only completed pass of the day to someone not named Deonte Thompson. Jonathan Phillips comes in for a 39-yard field goal attempt, and the kick sails through the uprights to put Florida up by 7 with less than two minutes left in the half.

Johnson picks up a first down, but USC isn’t able to take advantage of the clock stoppage and calls timeout. Gable gets halfway to the next marker on a draw, then Sanchez sees another pass broken up and gets sacked on the next play. Florida calls timeout before the punt; after the punt, Tebow picks up a little, then throws to Thompson again to put the Gators just short of the first down. Moody then gets the ball again for a short gain, and the half ends. USC 3, Florida 10, but most observers think the Florida defense has USC bottled up, though they could still break out during the second half.

Florida takes the second-half kickoff to the 29. Kestahn Moore picks up five yards, and Rainey loses one before Florida gets flagged for a false start on third down. Moore is pinned behind the line and the Gators punt. USC doesn’t do much better; McKnight is stuffed at the line, Gable gets nailed for a loss, and Sanchez flips it up to Damian Williams, who makes it back to the original line of scrimmage. Florida, though, gets a great punt return, with USC only getting the stop at the 2. Rainey and Demps don’t get anywhere with a pair of runs, but Harvin finally pushes into the end zone. Florida takes a 17-3 lead.

USC takes the kickoff to the 26, but after Johnson takes it past the 30, two McKnight runs prove that the master of the previous rounds is not his normal self today, bottled up by the fantastic Gator defense. Florida gets the ball back at the 43, but runs by Moody, Rainey, and Moore only bring the ball to midfield, and they punt it back.

McKnight gets a short gain on a draw, then has his biggest play so far, going for 14 yards and a first down on a pass from Sanchez. Johnson gets a big gain for a first down on a draw, while Gable is less successful, but Sanchez connects with Williams for a big play to the Gator 25. But that’s it: McKnight gets nailed for a big loss, and Brandon Spikes picks off Sanchez for the Gators’ second interception.

Moore quickly breaks off a big run into Trojan territory, and now the Gators are threatening to score. Three straight Tebow running attempts go nowhere, however, the last one resulting in a substantial loss. This time, the loss, moving them back to the 38, is sufficient to bring in the punt unit, which ends up putting the ball on the 14. McKnight seems to continue his resurgence with runs of 4 and 11 yards – hardly the numbers he was putting up against Utah, Oklahoma and Penn State, but certainly decent – and Sanchez throws to McCoy to take the ball to the USC 46 for another first down. Johnson gets the ball and runs all the way to the sidelines for a short gain. The quarter ends on that note.

If Sanchez can keep from getting intercepted USC can still make a game out of it. Gable passes midfield and McKnight finds the first down marker before getting the pass from Sanchez. Running the ball, however, gets nowhere. Two Sanchez passes end up getting tackled for losses, stuffing the drive and forcing another punt. Demps gets a short gain on a draw, with Rainey picking up a first down on another one. Demps and Moody make further contributions, gaining a total of 5, and Tebow can’t carry it further, forcing another punt.

USC starts on their own 27. Johnson takes it to the 30 but a false-start penalty wipes it out. Two Sanchez scrambles go nowhere and USC punts, with some wondering if Pete Carroll should go for it, especially when Florida gets good field position. 8:06 left. Harvin is stuffed on first down, but Moore gets a good run on a draw, and one last pass from Tebow to Thompson is good for a first down and takes it to the 40. Tebow takes it himself on a draw, then hands it off to Rainey and Harvin, taking the ball to the 31, just short of the marker. Phillips comes in to try a 48 yard field goal attempt, which manages to make it through the uprights. Now Florida has a 17-point lead, three scores, with 5:10 left. If USC is going to come back, now is the time.

USC takes the kickoff to the 29, but lets the play clock run out before running their first play. Sanchez overthrows Williams but manages to get the ball to Turner for 18 yards, despite Florida pass interference. Pete Carroll calls timeout with 4:46 to play. Sanchez hits Williams and makes it into Florida territory and marginal field goal range. Sanchez takes it himself and runs around out of bounds, then hits McCoy to make it to the 19. 4:07 left. Then the Gator secondary locks down. Sanchez is forced to tuck it in and run for a yard, then gets the pass off and sees it batted down. On third down Sanchez overthrows Johnson. Even though they only need two touchdowns and a field goal, Carroll elects to go for it on fourth down rather than take the points, and Sanchez overthrows McCoy. 3:26 left.

Short gains by Moody and Demps bracket a 14-yard run by Rainey. Tebow just barely overthrows Harvin on second down, stopping the clock, and Demps only gains four on third-and-nine, so USC gets the ball back. But the drive has achieved its aim: over two minutes were run off the clock, and 1:14 now remains with the Trojans on the 20.

Sanchez overthrows his first pass again, and this time takes it in and runs for yardage… only to see one of his linemen flagged for holding. Sanchez throws another incompletion, and another holding call is declined this time to set up third down. This time Sanchez comes through, hitting Williams for a monster gain to the 35, but then he overthrows McCoy, botches another screen, and overthrows another receiver. Oddly, on fourth down Sanchez hands it off to Johnson, who gets out of bounds… after gaining three yards. Florida gets the ball back with 24 seconds left, and one Tim Tebow knee later, Florida is your Golden Bowl Champion, completing the Grand Slam on Da Blog. Demps is named the Golden Bowl MVP, mostly because of his great touchdown run, though also because he managed to be Florida’s leading rusher, 100 yards, despite fewer carries than Rainey (Demps had 10; Rainey picked up 61 on 13).
Final score: USC 3, Florida 20

Another reason why I might sometimes be slower than I’d like…

Sometimes Internet Explorer will just freeze up for basically no reason at all and I have to wait for it to finish doing a bunch of shit on the hard drive. I just lost the webcomic post to this. I hadn’t done much work on it but I HAD done some… it doesn’t help that Blogger’s “draft” post editor STILL doesn’t have auto-saving drafts…

(Is there something wrong with the New York Times site or something? Because after struggling on a page there for a while, slowing the computer down to worse than a crawl, IE just up and quit, without giving me a warning message from Blogger or even an error screen from Windows. Might be an IE issue…)