In which we contribute to the rumor mill

An alumni list we read suggests that Alabama has the following offer on the table for the former most-hated-man-in-the-SEC:

  • $30,000,000 over 7 years
  • His son gets to be Offensive Coordinator
  • He picks his own Defensive Coordinator
  • He gets the AD job when it opens up, if he wants it
  • He reports directly to the president, bypassing the existing AD, Mal Moore

It’s probably bullshit, but it’s a fun thought experiment.

Geek Horror

We here at Heathen enjoy The Daily WTF as much as any geek. It’s a little bit of “we’re glad we’re smarter than that!” and a little bit schadenfreud, sure, but it’s fun.

Today’s entry, however, is the first to actually trigger that “oh my sweet lord NO” quesy feeling in the pit of our stomach. Maybe it’s because we’re at a client site even as we speak, and maybe it’s because we can see how this might happen, but it’s still pretty horrifying.

Coach Wanted. Must Win Immediately and Forever.

Alabama has dismissed Mike Shula after only 4 years. Shula took over after a particularly fine sequence of events:

Shula took over the proud but troubled program less than four months before the 2003 season after Mike Price was fired following spring practice for his off-the-field behavior — specifically a night of drinking at a Pensacola, Fla., strip club. Price got the job after Dennis Franchione bolted for Texas A&M.

Before that, Mike DuBose was fired/resigned after some sort of affair, as I recall. Yay! Musical coaches!

Shula’s firing would mean Alabama is looking for a head coach for the fourth time since 2000. The Tide has had seven coaches in the 24 years since Paul “Bear” Bryant’s last season in 1982. Bryant had directed the Alabama program for 25 years.

The seven: Ray Perkins (1983-1986), Bill Curry (1987-1989), Gene Stallings (1990-1996; national championship in 1992), Mike DuBose (1997-2000), Dennis Franchione (2001-2002), Mike Price (2002-2003; did not coach any games), and Shula (2003-2006). If memory serves, only Curry and Stallings left of their own accord (though it’s fair to say that Curry was pushed).

Shula hasn’t been consistent (’03: 4-9; ’04: 6-6; ’05: 10-2; ’06: 6-6), but he’s young and this is his first head coach job. Alabama is still feeling the effects of its sanctions, and lost its star quarterback after last year (not to mention an unknown number of other starters like receiver Tyrone Prothro, who’s still out from a broken leg suffered in 2005). Offensive production has been weak, even in the 10-2 season, but is that enough to send a young guy like this packing? Maybe this is the right plan, and maybe it isn’t, but at some point shouldn’t they get a coach and keep him more than a few years to see what he can really do? Review the dates above and you’ll see that no coach has stayed at UA more than 4 years since Stallings. This endless game of musical coaches can’t be good for the program.

Can we please shut up about Notre Dame now?

The Irish got precisely what anyone with a brain expected last night in their drubbing at the hands of the USC Trojans. Why anyone thought this game was a gateway to a title bid for ND is beyond us; they’ve played only two serious teams all season (USC and Michigan), and got their ass handed to them both times. (No, JoePa’s Lions don’t count — they’ve lost every serious game they played, and some besides.) The Irish have been overrated all year long, and fell a long way early after the Michigan game — yet somehow still started bubbling back towards the top on the strength of midseason wins over such powerhouses as Army, Navy, Air Force, and Stanford. Having 2 losses with ND’s schedule is no mean trick; you can even go undefeated if you play only creampuffs. That doesn’t mean you should be a top ten team. That the Irish are still rated 12 is insane; does anyone really believe that, say, Texas or Tennessee (tied for 17 in the AP) wouldn’t beat the snot out of them? For that matter, does anyone really believe that Wake (16) or Rutgers (13) could beat either UT?

At least the top 5 makes some sense. At the other end of the schedule difficulty scale from the likes of Boise and Notre Dame is the SEC’s LSU, who (as ESPN points out) have played 4 top 10 teams as away games and still escaped with only 2 losses (then-#3 Auburn, and then-#5 Florida). Can anyone else say that?

(Of course, this is just another post saying how fscked up the BCS thing is, and how much we really need a proper playoff system that would, if done properly, make clear what paper tigers ND and Boise are, and how good programs in tough conferences are by comparison.)

More Zune Suckery

This reviewer at the Chicago Sun-Times lays it out: the Zune bites, and the reason it does is that a significant chunk of the differences between it and the iPod are changes calculated to please the recording industry, not the consumer. The author helpfully points out some non-iPod players that deliver features people might actually want, as opposed to crippled bullshit like the Zune’s wifi.

Happy Thanksgiving, Plus a Mac Tip

So, Turkey Day and all that. Enjoy.

However, there’s another possible Safari exploit floating around out there that once again points out a key bit of configuration advice every Mac user should follow immediately.

  1. Open Safari

  2. Choose the Safari menu (upper left, next to the blue apple) and pick Preferences

  3. Click “General” on the left hand side

  4. Find the option that says “Open ‘safe’ files after downloading”


That is all. It’s a stupid security hole Apple uncharacteristically created by allowing Safari to open (read: execute) certain “safe” files as soon as you download them. With it off, you’ll have to do it yourself. The difference is key; some nefarious sites may send unexpected files with nasty payloads, which Safari would then open automatically. Whups!

With the option off, this can’t happen — unless, of course, you decide on your own to open the weird, unexpected file on your own. And you know not to do that, right?

Happy Turkey Day.

Shit You Can’t Make Up

Bush’s nominee for the family planning department of Health and Human Services thinks giving birth control to women is demeaning.

The Bush administration has appointed a new chief of family-planning programs at the Department of Health and Human Services who worked at a Christian pregnancy-counseling organization that regards the distribution of contraceptives as “demeaning to women.”

Eric Keroack, medical director for A Woman’s Concern, a nonprofit group based in Dorchester, Mass., will become deputy assistant secretary for population affairs in the next two weeks, department spokeswoman Christina Pearson said yesterday.

Keroack, an obstetrician-gynecologist, will advise Secretary Mike Leavitt on matters such as reproductive health and adolescent pregnancy. He will oversee $283 million in annual family-planning grants that, according to HHS, are “designed to provide access to contraceptive supplies and information to all who want and need them with priority given to low-income persons.”

The appointment, which does not require Senate confirmation, was the latest provocative personnel move by the White House since Democrats won control of Congress in this month’s midterm elections. President Bush last week pushed the Senate to confirm John R. Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations and this week renominated six candidates for appellate court judgeships who have previously been blocked by lawmakers. Democrats said the moves belie Bush’s post-election promises of bipartisanship.

The Keroack appointment angered many family-planning advocates, who noted that A Woman’s Concern supports sexual abstinence until marriage, opposes contraception and does not distribute information promoting birth control at its six centers in eastern Massachusetts.


More evidence that distrust of cops is a good instinct

A UCLA student was tased multiple times yesterday when he failed to leave the library rapidly enough after a “random” check revealed he didn’t have his student ID with him. The guy’s name is “Tabatabainejad,” so we’re not all that convinced the check was random, but whatever. There’s video, taken by another student. It shows them repeatedly shocking the guy, at least a couple times for not standing up after being tased quickly enough. Nice. Even better? The cops threatened to tase anyone who got too close, and reportedly even threatened students who asked for their badge numbers and names. More coverage at CBS here.

These thugs need to be in jail, not enforcing the law. At a minimum, they should be personally liable in a civil suit. They have no business “enforcing” our laws.

No love for the Zune

So, Redmond’s shot at the portable music market is out, and the pundits have noticed. Unfortunately, the big boys (Mossberg at WSJ and Pogue at NYT) didn’t care for it, and now the mass market is weighing in. Check out this video clip from CNN’s morning show; it’s clear the anchors are pretty underwhelmed with what the Zune can’t do, and even go so far as to ask their gadgeteer “Why can’t they [Microsoft] get some good designers in there?” after the other announcer pulls out her new iPod Shuffle to brag about. Oops.

Oh, and it gets worse. First, instead of making the Zune store experience simple and clear, like the iTunes store, the Zune store is priced entirely in “points,” which Microsoft makes you buy in $5.00 lumps, even if you only want to buy one song. This translates into people making no-interest loans to Microsoft, which I don’t think is what people mean by “microfinance.” WTF?

We almost forgot! The Zune’s much-tauted “sharing” feature over WiFi works only for that — you cannot download music from your PC with Wifi at all. Also, if you share a song, it gets a 3-day time limit for your buddy even if you ripped the song from CD yourself (i.e., this limit is attached to songs not purchased from the Zune store). Speaking of DRM, not only will the Zune not play iTunes songs (which is huge, since the iTunes music store is one of the largest music retailers in the US — only Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Target, and Amazon sell more music), it also won’t play any songs from Microsoft’s previous effort at online music sales (known amusingly as “Plays4Sure”). That’s right: they expect you to buy that shit again. There’s more Zune Q and A here.

Finally, according to Microsoft itself, the Zune doesn’t work with Vista. Are those guys even trying? Yeah, we know it’s a first effort and all, but with a multi-billion-dollar war chest, you’d think they could make something that didn’t suck.

What fantastic mixing sounds like

Go here.

Skip the first 26 minutes or so. Starting at about 27:00, he starts mixing in six billion songs you know, but faster than you can identify them, and sometimes 3 or 4 at a time, and it almost always works. It’s astounding. He mixes the Spice Girls into Grand Master Flash, for Christ’s sake.

(Thanks Rob.)

Fucking A Right


There is no greater betrayal of the core principles of American political life than to have the federal government sweep people off the streets, throw them into a black hole with no contact with the outside world and no charges asserted of any kind, and simply keep them there for as long as the President desires — in al-Marri’s case, with respect to detention, now five years and counting.

As always, the most extraordinary and jarring aspect of cases like this one is that these principles — which were once the undebatable, immovable bedrock of our political system — are now openly debated and actively disputed by our own government. By itself it is astonishing — and highly revealing about where we are as a country — that such precepts even need to be defended at all. (Emph. added)

The new Democratic majority needs to fix this habeas problem NOW. We still can’t believe we’ve actually come to a place where it’s debated at all.

Anniversaries you probably missed

November 10 marked the 31st anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Until recently, we assumed said wreck (a) happened at some distant point in the nautical past and (b) on an ocean instead of during the Ford administration (and our lifetime) and on a (really big) lake.

The particulars, in case you’re interested but unable to click:

The Fitzgerald was a 729-foot, 26,600 ton capacity lake freighter launched in 1958; she was the largest boat on the Great Lakes until the 1970s, when thousand-foot ships arrived. Her primary job was hauling ore across Lake Superior.

On November 9, 1975, she left Superior, Wisconsin under the command of Ernest McSorley with a load of taconite bound for a steel mill near Detroit (not Cleveland, as Gordon Lightfoot sang). Weather turned bad as they crossed the lake, so they turned north towards the Canadian coast to try to avoid it. By the afternoon of the 10th, the ship had suffered minor damage from the storm; a nearby ship, the Anderson, reported heavy wave activity, and radioed the Fitzgerald to warn them. McSorley reported they were “holding their own,” which is the last anyone heard from them. The Fitzgerald went down with all 29 hands soon after, coming to rest in two large pieces more than 500 feet down. (That’s another part we have trouble with: “Holy Shit! There’s a lake 500 feet deep!” We suspect this is due to growing up in South Mississippi.)

Lightfoot’s hit song (it peaked at #2) came out only a year later; he was, for all practical purposes, writing about a current event, not a historical episode. We mention this every now and then, and we are continually surprised that our weird misapprehension is pretty common. “Really?” they say; “1975? Are you sure?” Yep.

And we wonder why no one will play Trivial Pursuit with us.

Can we all shut up about Louisville now?

Enormously overrated Louisville (#3!) lost to #15 Rutgers last night.

What IS it about these “unbeaten” or one-loss teams getting ranked highly despite playing few quality opponents? No, Rutgers isn’t really in the title hunt, either, despite their own unbeaten status. Louisville was Rutgers’ first ranked opponent, and they play in a creampuff conference. Louisville itself has only played a few real games, beating the shade-of-its-former-self Miami early in the season, plus a win over likely paper tiger West Virginia (another member of the Big East).

“Undefeated” is meaningless if you only play one or two serious games. Come play in a competitive conference and then see how well you do. We’ll wager any of the one- or two-loss SEC teams would wipe the floor with Louisville or Rutgers.

And the day keeps getting better

This morning, we got news of the GOP’s loss in the House and in governorships, and the likely split or loss of power in the Senate as well, and we smiled a little. Not a lot, mind you; if the American people had the brains God gave a dog, they’d have kicked Bush and his cronies to the curb in 2004 — or better yet, not elected this sorry bunch in the first place back in 2000. But we’ll take what we can get, and so we smiled a little.

Now CNN is reporting that Rummy is resigning (this after all the military papers called for his ouster last week), and our smile gets just a touch wider.

Colbert Weighs In

Heh heh heh heh heh:

We were THIS CLOSE to Jesus coming back. And you Republicans who turned your back on the President are going to wander in the desert for the next two years. Literally. Someone’s gonna have to replace those troops in Iraq.

And don’t think you’re off the hook, voters. You’re the ones who made this bed. Now you’re the ones who are gonna have to move over so a gay couple can sleep in it.

Tomorrow you’re all gonna wake up in a Brave New World. A world where the Constitution gets trampled by an army of terrorist clones created in a stem cell research lab run by homosexual doctors who sterilize their instruments over burning American flags. Where tax and spend Democrats take all your hard earned money and use it to buy electric cars for National Public Radio and teach evolution to illegal Immigrants. Oh! And everybody’s high! Wooooo!

The once-in-a-blue-moon football post

So, apparently this year features an NCAA rule change on kickoffs. Heretofore, as we understand it, time didn’t start ticking again until the receiving team touched the football. This year, under the new 3-2-5-e rule, time starts when the kicker touches the ball.

This sounds minor, but it opens the door for a pretty significant loophole, as shown here.

The linked blogger explains:

Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema exploits the new 3-2-5-e rule, designed to shorten games. After scoring a touchdown with 23 seconds left in the first half against Penn State, the Badgers successfully run out the clock and keep the Penn State offense off the field by twice being offsides on the kickoff. As for shortening the game, this clip is 6:06 long (worth every second, in our opinion), meaning the final 23 seconds took much longer to run under 3-2-5-e than it would have under the old rules. And a good job by analyst Paul Maguire for picking up on what Bielema was up to. Because the rules can’t be changed in the middle of the season, we can only hope other coaches do the same to hasten the repeal of 3-2-5-e in the offseason.

It’s definitely a bit of a cheesy move, but well within the rules — and, of course, we can’t help but like just about anything that makes Paterno as mad as he clearly is at the end of this clip. Football Heathen? Holla back in commentland.

Update: We brought this up on a listserv we’re on, and another question cropped up: Why didn’t PSU just decline the penalty once it was clear what the Badgers were up to? Sure, their field position would suck, but having the ball is better than NOT having the ball. Is the answer that offsides is a “dead ball foul” and cannot be declined?