To think, a couple weeks ago I was going to write a post about my concern about the encroachment of robot racism into the comic.

(From Questionable Content. Click for full-sized special requests.)

Part of the reason why I started doing full-fledged webcomic reviews again this spring was to rope in more comics for me to follow and do semi-regular posts on, so I wouldn’t be doing OOTS and Homestuck (and nominally, Ctrl+Alt+Del and Darths and Droids as well) over and over. On that, Gunnerkrigg Court and Questionable Content (forever linked in my mind) fit the bill quite nicely, but the Court in particular has not only been advancing the plot as slowly as I knew it would, but has been particularly mind-screwy in the current chapter. As for QC, being a slice-of-life comic, big events happen less often and aren’t as big as with the others, so I haven’t really felt the need to write a post until recently.

Although the three interns Marten has been tasked to train were initially hinted at and speculated as being new full-fledged additions to the cast, it’s only been in the last few comics that they’ve started to be fleshed out as actual characters, especially in relation to each other, as opposed to mere vehicles for Marten’s torment, though Claire’s attitude was apparent before.

This is largely a result of a weird and somewhat abrupt shift in the relationship between Marten and the interns. Things started out completely uncomfortable between them, with Marten being thrust into a position of responsibility he completely wasn’t prepared for, feeling the interns being in judgment of him and his lack of qualifications. It’s a relationship of subordination, with Marten expected to be teaching the interns knowledge they need to know, and his inability to do so only furthering the gulf between them.

That changed when Marten went to get coffee. I was a little surprised Marten had them come with him at all, rather than wait while he got coffee himself, but it did have the effect of normalizing the relationship between them as Marten, possibly to stall, started asking them questions. I imagine Marten wanted to diffuse the tension between them by trying to have a more relaxed conversation and get to know them better. As such, I don’t have as much of a problem with the shift as I might have otherwise.

I honestly do wonder, though, whether Jeph is trying to turn the Smif College Library into a second social circle for random conversations to be held in the comic, beyond just Marten and Tai (Momo doesn’t count). The Secret Bakery may have been intended for the same purpose, but they’ve been awkward additions to the cast, there haven’t been that many of them (with one of them leaving), and the ones we have seen have been explicitly mirror images of the existing characters. These characters, by contrast, seem like they should mesh into the existing comic better and be more interesting as a whole. As such, they could be welcome additions to a comic I had a number of concerns about when I reviewed it last month.

Although, why is the fat black chick the one that’s received the least characterization thus far?!

@sportsguy33, the Sonics, and me

I have a confession to make. When the Sonics were stolen from Seattle? I was kind of apathetic about it.

Part of the reason was that the Sonics were in a lengthy phase ranging from mediocrity to sucking. Part of it may have been that even then, I was developing into more of a national sports fan than a local one, or a fan of any particular team. Part of it was the aura of inevitability surrounding the notion of Oklahoma City getting an NBA team after the Hornets’ post-Katrina exile there, even though, of all the teams it could have been, why did it have to be the Sonics? Why couldn’t the Hornets have just stayed there?

Whatever it was, I couldn’t get myself too worked up about what was happening to the Sonics, even though like everyone else I could see it coming.

These days? These days I simply cannot refer to the Western Conference champions directly. The closest I come is to call them the “Sonics-in-exile”. It’s hard for me even to refer to the city they play in.

What changed? Bill Simmons. While Clay Bennett was still holding the city hostage, Simmons started repeatedly harping on the issue in his columns, pointing out what an asshole Bennett was being and how David Stern was falling asleep on the job. After the team moved, Simmons refused to refer to it by name, coming up with a wide variety of euphemisms to refer to it.

But the funny thing is, as time went on, even as Simmons’ outrage was affecting me, he seemed to be becoming less outraged. He regularly referred to the team as “Oklahoma City” with “Zombie Sonics” becoming the only euphemism used. He praised the team, Kevin Durant, the city. And in yesterday’s column, he basically announces he doesn’t hold a grudge against OKC, while noting at the end he still doesn’t like the situation in Seattle (complete with “Thunder” in the title!). I’ve been ginned full of outrage I never felt in the first place by someone who doesn’t feel as much of it himself anymore.

Honestly, even before that column I wasn’t sure how I felt. I wasn’t sure whether I should root against the Sonics-in-exile, because they stole our team, or for them, because… hey, if they win, it’s really the Sonics winning! The general consensus around here seems to be to root against them, and I do already have reason to root for the Heat, and I’m not sure I’m ready to live in a world where the Sonics-in-exile have a championship after leaving Seattle. But if they do, I hope Seattle throws them a faux “championship parade”, if only to give one last reminder to the rest of the country where they came from.

State of My Life and

As I type this, I have had an actual good night’s sleep exactly once since Sunday.

The worst part? I’m still not sure whether I did enough fast enough to pass my classes.

On the plus side, I’ve started the process of paying for hosting; I should have a year’s worth of hosting paid for by the end of the week, so I’m taking off the donation link that, predictably, no one clicked on anyway. That means both the domain and the hosting will be coming up for renewal in a year’s time, so I’m going to spend the summer working on something to provide a long-term underpinning for the site.

I think.

Oh! And I got my OOTS Kickstarter package while everything else was going on. Basically, I bypassed all the other stuff and just dug into the main book I got. I don’t know if that says anything about anything.

What is the NBC Sports Radio Network?

On Monday, the NBC Sports Group announced that they would be forming the NBC Sports Radio Network with Dial Global Networks, broadcasters of the NFL and NCAA Tournament. Jumping into the fray already occupied by ESPN, Fox Sports Radio, and Yahoo Sports Radio, and becoming the third of the three major contenders in the sports TV wars to start a network they can hook up with their TV rights, eh? Well… not so fast.

The network will launch with regular sports updates and occasional commentaries from NBC Sports personalities, with actual shows starting later. So that will form the basis for an actual network, with a full-day schedule like the other three, right? Well… maybe? Probably? Given the emphasis on streaming and podcasts, you’ll forgive me for scratching my head at how many of the shows would actually be heard on terrestrial radio stations. And will Dial Global’s NFL and NCAA coverage be rebranded as NBC Sports Radio Network programming? At the least, I would expect the NFL theme music to change from the current CBS theme to the Sunday Night Football theme…

Regardless, it’s an intriguing development and a sign that NBC is trying to catch up in its deficiencies to ESPN and Fox for the coming wars, and I can’t help but wonder if they’re trying to help Dial Global pick up baseball rights. With Dial Global’s reach, I would expect them to immediately leapfrog Yahoo for third place among national radio networks, especially if they can pick up distribution for NBC Sports personality Dan Patrick’s radio show from Fox – which could also be a big boon to NBC Sports Network. But considering how few stations Yahoo has, it will be very difficult getting stations to switch from any of the existing three networks, especially given most stations’ tendency to replace national with local programming whenever they can. Perhaps a streaming- and podcast-heavy strategy is the best one.

The race in sports talk radio – and perhaps even more, the radio play-by-play rights wars – just heated up considerably.

The State of Boxing

WWF Superstars, 6/2/12

“Ladies and gentlemen,” says Mean Gene Okerlund, “I’m standing backstage with World Wrestling Federation heavyweight champion Manny Pacquiao, and his manager Bob Arum. Manny, next week you’ll be defending your World Wrestling Federation championship against Timothy Bradley on Saturday Night’s Main Event on NBC, in a match where if you lose, you get an automatic rematch at the Survivor Series pay-per-view Thanksgiving week – ”

“I’m not going to lose, Gene,” Pacquiao interrupts. “I’ve beaten everyone they’ve thrown in front of me for years, and I’m not going to go down now.”

“Well, Mr. Pacquiao,” Okerlund continues, “you’re going up against a former Intercontinental Champion that hasn’t lost a match in the World Wrestling Federation. Are you concerned about the challenge he poses compared to what you’ve faced in the past?”

“I’m not worried,” Pacquiao replies. “He’s never faced anyone as tough as me.”

“Everyone wants you to fight Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather, Manny,” says Okerlund. “What do you think are the odds of that happening once he returns from his suspension?”

“If it happens, it happens,” says Pacquiao. “Right now all I can worry about is my match against Tim Bradley at Saturday Night’s Main Event.”

“One last question, Mr. Pacquiao,” says Okerlund. “It’s been reported that your contract with Bob Arum ends at the end of this year, are you going to – ”

“I’m just worried about my match with Tim Bradley, Gene,” says Pacquiao as he walks off.

Later that night, Okerlund conducts another interview with the challenger Timothy Bradley, but only gets one response out of him before Bradley walks off:

“Don’t believe the hype,” Bradley says. “I know how good Pacquiao is. But trust me, there will be a rematch at Survivor Series. I guarantee it.”

Saturday Night’s Main Event, 6/9/12

Pacquiao comes out like a man possessed, whipping Bradley from pillar to post. Bradley can barely get any offense in against the champion, and at one point Okerlund begs the official to stop the fight. But the fight continues, and Bradley starts to come back, getting more and more offense in, eventually getting Pacquiao in his Desert Storm submission move. Pacquiao begins struggling to break the hold… and then the bell rings.

“Did he tap?” asks Okerlund. “I don’t think he tapped!”

Pacquiao looks incensed as Bradley quickly grabs the belt from Arum and runs off with the official raising his hand in victory, boos raining down from the rafters and garbage being thrown into the arena. Pacquiao looks around for Arum, who takes off like a rocket through the crowd. Pacquiao spits in his general direction, then storms off in a huff as Okerlund expresses his astonishment at the spectacle we have just witnessed.

WWF Superstars, 6/16/12

Okerlund informs the audience that WWF Commissioner Jack Tunney will not investigate what happened in the Pacquiao-Bradley fight at Saturday Night’s Main Event, news that does not sit well with the audience in the arena or with Rowdy Roddy Piper, who expresses his displeasure at the outcome in rather colorful language before introducing Pacquiao as the guest of his Piper’s Pit segment. Before he can get a question out, however, Pacquiao grabs the mic from him.

“I don’t want questions, I want answers,” says Pacquiao. “I want Bob Arum to come out here right now. I want him to answer for what he did to me last night.”

“Manny,” says Arum, “I’m as upset about this as you are. What happened to you last night was an outrage, and I have an official complaint in to the WWF Board of Directors. In fact, I’m not going to allow there to be a rematch at Survivor Series until there’s been a full and thorough investigation, I assure you of that.”

Pacquiao ponders these words for a few seconds, then steps up and embraces Arum… before giving him Pac-Man Fever and dropping him through a table, then ripping his shirt off as the fans go wild.

“April 7th,” yells Pacquiao into the microphone. “Me and Floyd Mayweather are gonna have the Fight of the Century at WrestleMania and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it!”

The crowd goes nuts and Pacquiao soaks in their adulation as his theme music plays.

Okay, maybe that’s not what happened, but doesn’t it say a lot that it’s close to what people THINK happened?

The NHL’s Dirty Little Not-so-secret

I hear hockey fans say that hockey is one of North America’s four major sports.

I hear hockey fans say it’s an outrage that hockey doesn’t get coverage on SportsCenter befitting a major sport.

I hear hockey fans say that, however lukewarm the United States is to hockey, it is so huge in Canada that it makes up for it.

I hear hockey fans say, above all else, they hate Gary Bettman for expanding the NHL into southern states in areas outside hockey hotbeds.

To those people I say: Take a look at page 14 of this.

This is an effort by Canada’s TVB to rank Canada’s media markets alongside America’s media markets using Canada’s measure of number of persons over the age of 2 (Nielsen ranks American markets based on number of households).

By most standards, based on this list, there are a grand total of three Canadian markets worthy of a place in an American sports league. For the record, the NHL has seven Canadian teams. The three markets are, not surprisingly, the only three any other American sports league has even tried to put a team in: Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver.

Toronto is in the next tier below the American Big Three of New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Montreal is knocking on the door of the top ten at about Detroit’s size. Vancouver is a mid- to low-size market, about the size of Denver or Cleveland.

The rest? Edmonton, Calgary and Ottawa are on the low side of borderline of where most American sports leagues would be willing to put a team in. Their peer markets are the likes of Buffalo, Jacksonville, Oklahoma City. And Winnipeg? Why, Winnipeg makes freaking Green Bay look like a bustling big city.

Don’t try to tell me that Canada is enough to make hockey a major sport. Canada has an eighth the population of the United States. Canada is peanuts compared to the large swathes of the United States where hockey may as well not exist. Los Angeles has barely even noticed the Kings’ run to the Stanley Cup. Most of the teams in the South haven’t been getting fans or respect from hockey’s old guard. The team in Atlanta – a top ten market by Nielsen’s measure – couldn’t get out of Dodge fast enough, making tracks to Winnipeg. Winnipeg! You leave behind a market with 5.8 million people to move to a market with a sixth that total. And what’s worse? The main objection I’d have to it if I was one of those myopic hockey fans was that it wasn’t to Quebec, if only to leave open the possibility of the Phoenix Coyotes returning home. (By the way? Phoenix is knocking on the door of the top ten as well. Had they moved to Quebec, they would have left a market of nearly four and a half million people to one a quarter of the size at barely over a million.)

Here are the sums of the populations of the markets occupied by the so-called four “major” professional sports. To be fair, I gave all non-NHL leagues credit for only two-thirds of New York’s population, all non-MLB leagues credit for only half of Chicago’s population, and basketball and hockey credit for only half of the Bay Area’s population, to reflect the number of teams each league has in each market. To keep things simple, I didn’t count any outlying markets whose proximity to existing markets keeps them from having a team of their own, except that the Packers were counted as a Milwaukee team.

MLB: 144,679,333

NBA: 137,180,333

NHL: 133,652,000

NFL: 129,237,833

Now consider that the NFL’s numbers are depressed by not having a team in Los Angeles. Give the NFL the same one-half credit for the Bay Area as basketball and hockey, then give them one-half credit for LA (the effect of moving the Oakland Raiders), and the NFL’s total shoots up to 134,261,833. Now consider that the New York market is so massive that the one-third bonus the NHL gets for having a third team is topped by only a handful of entire markets. Give the NHL the same one-third penalty as the others, and the NHL drops down to 127,052,333 – less than what the NFL started with.

The NBA, NFL, and NHL all have propensities for having teams in odd markets, though in the NFL’s case it’s almost accidental. MLB’s smallest market (Cincinnati) is bigger than four NBA markets (San Antonio, Memphis, New Orleans, and that team that just won the Western Conference), three NFL markets (Buffalo, Jacksonville, and New Orleans, not counting Green Bay), and five NHL markets (Edmonton, Calgary, Ottawa, Winnipeg, and Buffalo); of those, San Antonio is the only one within ten spots of Cincinnati. So the NHL has more teams in tinier markets; it has two teams (Ottawa and Winnipeg) in markets smaller than the smallest non-Green Bay market in the other three sports (New Orleans).

Now look at what the NHL is missing compared to the others. The only thing the NFL is really missing is LA and maybe Toronto, the latter of which is perfectly understandable, and they’re constantly trying to fix the former. The NBA doesn’t have a team in Seattle, Pittsburgh, or St. Louis. The NHL? They don’t have teams in Atlanta, Houston, Seattle, arguably Cleveland… not even Milwaukee, which would seem to be a great hockey market! The NHL is the only league in America that doesn’t have teams in three of the top 15 markets in the US and doesn’t see any of them as a problem – and it’s the only league in the history of history whose fans want that number to be higher! Do you realize why this might sound like lunacy to someone not in your little club?

Maybe the NHL’s fans like things this way. Maybe they’d rather despise the southern teams’ existence than root for them to have success and growing fanbases. Maybe they like having passionate fanbases in some places where it actually snows and empty (or nonexistent) arenas everywhere else. Maybe they like their preferred solution to having more of the former being just not caring how many people are there to make it up. Maybe they’d prefer to just keep things in their own exclusive club and keep out anyone who just doesn’t “get it”. Maybe they don’t care about the already far-from-their-supposed-peers Stanley Cup Final ratings dropping like a stone. If they want to do that, that’s fine with me. Just don’t try to tell me you’re a major sport worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence as baseball and basketball, and certainly don’t try to tell me you deserve national coverage on par with those other two.

And now, time for this week’s GOOMHR moment.

(From xkcd. Click for full-sized shrinkage.)

I know xkcd is one of my go-to crutches for continuing The Streak, but this comic really struck a chord with me.

My own laundry habits for a long time have been basically as depicted in the “Third Week” diagram, but reversed. After I do laundry, I keep all my clothes in my hamper until I need them, then at the end of the day I leave them on the floor. When it’s time to do laundry again, I empty whatever’s still in the hamper into my dresser, scoop all the clothes up off the floor, and dump them into the washer.

Mom doesn’t like this state of affairs, but as I have a number of old socks and pairs of underwear, taking my clothes for each day directly out of the hamper ensures that I find something high-quality enough that I wore it since the time before last I did laundry. (Assuming I’m correctly interpreting its meaning in the comic, I’m not sure I’d want to wear something directly off the floor. Seems kind of unclean and dirty.)

Naturally, of course, since the comic is so tall I now have to stall to ensure the comic image doesn’t screw up anything below… should I say something about the Norman conquest?

Um… Banana-fana-fo-fana-bo-nana-fana-fo-fhtagn.

I… should really be getting back to work on my schoolwork? So that I can get to a summer of doing what I want, including various blog posts?

Um… the latest SMBC is kind of funny too.

I… should have a webcomic blog review sometime next week?

I’m… wasting a lot of time visiting random webcomic sites looking for an idea for what to put here.

Okay, that’s enough. I’m just going to post it and hope it doesn’t screw things up too much. (I have got to come up with a better solution for this kind of thing…)

Why I’m rooting for LeBron James

I think I might be a pretty weird sports fan. While most people root for the underdog, I root for the favorite.

Now don’t get me wrong. I get as much of a rise out of upsets in the NCAA Tournament as anyone else. But at some point, when the theoretical gap between the two teams gets beyond a certain point, my rooting interest shifts in the other direction. When one team becomes so dominant, so fantastic, I root for them to get their just reward for their effort. Maybe it’s my experience in the trenches of the college football playoff debate (where a lot of people don’t actually want to see March Madness in football) speaking, but I root for history, I root for greatness, and where appropriate, I root for perfection. And I root against history and justice being hijacked in order to film a real-life sports movie.

But even discounting my own neuroses, when you look at it purely objectively… how can you not feel for LeBron James?

Much of it has already been chronicled to death. He’s one of the great talents in the history of the league, but has never been able to take advantage of it when it matters most. He’s been paying his penance for “The Decision” for the past two years. He’s under pressure to live up to his own promise to win more championships than anyone in history, after having already blown one chance. The blame inevitably falls on him whenever the Heat lose, even if Dwyane Wade would get a pass in the same situation. He gets booed every single time he leaves Miami, forced into the role of the villain even against his will.

One thing and one thing only can lift, if not all of it, at least the greater portion of it off his shoulders. An NBA championship.

If it weren’t playing out in real life, it’d be a sports movie in its own right, wouldn’t it? The star quarterback under enormous pressure, taking criticism from all sides, earning redemption by coming through in the big game. We’re the ones getting on his back about his past failings, but if we were looking at it from the outside, we’d be rooting for him to overcome it all. LeBron just won, I believe, his third MVP award. There’s a form of history he’s on the verge of making he doesn’t want: everyone else who won that many MVP trophies also had at least one championship ring by the end of that season. I don’t want that on his record; I don’t want him to be one of the greatest who ever played the game in the regular season who let it all slip away in the playoffs. I don’t want him to confirm his reputation as someone who can’t get it done in the clutch. I want this to work out. I want this to all be worth it.

I don’t want five, not six, not seven. For LeBron’s sake, I’d settle for one. Just one to vindicate himself against all the doubters. I don’t want the history books to look back on everything, on “The Decision”, on the next night in Miami, on all the hatred and drama, and say that it amounted to nothing, that it all ended after two years, that LeBron hadn’t won anything going in and hadn’t won anything going out.

I’m worried that even if they come back, maybe Miami no longer deserves the title, that they can’t just flip a switch and become the best team in the NBA. Then again, maybe no one left deserves the title, if only because I refuse to accept a world in which the Seattle Supersonics have a title, potentially the first of many, when they’re no longer the Sonics or in Seattle anymore. I don’t know if Miami can come back, win Game 6 in Boston, win Game 7 in Miami, and go on to beat the Sonics-in-Exile for the title.

But I have this feeling… I have this nagging feeling in the back of my mind… that LeBron is about to deliver one of the classic performances of all time.

And one day, we may look back on it… and realize we were all playing our roles in his ongoing drama all along.

State of the Los Angeles Sports TV Wars

Since forming a new regional sports network to show Lakers games, Time Warner Cable has not won many prizes… but the next-biggest prize has still not been settled.

While TWC was able to add Galaxy games, Fox Sports has locked up Angels and Clippers rights, and just did something very important: lock up the primary team in a sport. As the Kings go on a historic run to the Stanley Cup, Fox Sports has locked up rights to their games through 2024.

It’s a big PR win for Fox, but it might ring a little hollow; Los Angeles isn’t much of a hockey market, and by all accounts hasn’t even been paying attention to the Kings’ run. The real prize, and determinant of the balance between Time Warner Cable and Fox, will be the Dodgers rights expected to be awarded in October. In the end, all the awarding of the Kings’ rights may amount to is a sign that the Ducks may end up moving to Time Warner Cable.

My Adventures with HP Tech Support

So I mentioned a week ago that my power cable broke, right? Well, here’s the story of what happened to my replacement:

Apparently I didn’t get it as early as WEDNESDAY because HP sent it to my old address but my new city and ZIP code, despite my giving them the correct address AND their not having a problem with the address before. Neither FedEx nor HP directly told me of the problem until SATURDAY MORNING, and when Mom called them only TWO HOURS later she was initially told we were out of luck because it was already scheduled to be shipped back to HP. When we picked it up I got the impression that whoever called me went out of process, meaning I SHOULD have never been notified at all.

Making matters worse, I found out later that day I’d wasted my saved-up money faster than I thought and I’m counting on the donation drive on the left side of Da Blog more than I thought just to get back to being able to pay for a year’s hosting. With auspicious timing, I’m probably going to have a lot of filler throughout the drive, specifically a continuing short story I might bang out, so I can concentrate on schoolwork, though I will still post on any breaking developments in the webcomics I’m reading.

So yeah, not the best day I’ve ever had, but hey, my power cord is back!