Friday, December 30, 2016

5 Things on a Friday: Still Celebrating

I don’t know about you, but I’m still celebrating Army’s season.  Or maybe waiting for next season.
As of this writing, there are 241 days until kickoff at Michie Stadium, and yeah, I think college football withdrawal is gonna be a bitch this year.

Running seems to require a greater amount of high-level thinking than most of us might imagine. The sport seems to change how the brain works in surprising ways…
[R]unners’ brains displayed a number of different connections than did the brains of the sedentary young men, and those connections involved areas of the brain needed for higher-level thought.
In particular, the scientists noted more connectivity in the runners than in the inactive men between parts of the brain that aid in working memory, multitasking, attention, decision-making, and the processing of visual and other sensory information.
There also, interestingly, was less activity among the runners in a part of the brain that tends to indicate lack of focus and mind wandering.
I got this from an old boss over Christmas weekend and can’t help but agree.  In many ways, I think this explains why I enjoy doing different sports than I watch.  Open water swimming, for example, is a fascinating sport to do, but it’s mind-numbing for spectators.  Observers just see a bunch of dudes swimming, but when you’re actually in the water, you have to think about pacing, drafting, sighting, wave action, current, and a shitload of other little things that are not easy for novices to necessarily pick up right off the bat.  Running is similar in that pacing, terrain, and attention to bio-feedback are all integral parts of peak performance.  Which is maybe why a lot of smart people like to run.
The Obama administration is close to announcing a series of measures to punish Russia for its interference in the 2016 presidential election, including economic sanctions and diplomatic censure, according to U.S. officials.
The administration is finalizing the details, which also are expected to include covert action that will probably involve cyber-operations, the officials said…
The idea is not only to punish but also to deter.
“As much as I am concerned about what happened to us in the election, I am also concerned about what will happen to us in the future,” a second administration official said. “I am firmly convinced that the Russians and others will say, ‘That worked pretty well in 2016, so let’s keep going.’ We have elections every two years in this country.”
I didn’t understand Obama’s strategy until I read this piece, but now it’s clear.  He’s going to strike—hard—on the eve of the inauguration in such a way as to force Russian reprisal against a Trump White House, pushing Trump to either retaliate in kind—again—or else look like a punk bitch in front of the world.  Trump is already tweeting about a new nuclear arms race, and I doubt strongly that he wants to come into power looking weak.  I therefore believe Obama’s gambit will succeed in scuttling any would-be détente with Putin’s Russia.  That may not be enough to save Latvia, but it can’t possibly hurt long-term.
It’s worth noting that if sanctions pass the current Congressional term, they won’t be easy to roll back next term, even with a Republican White House.  Plenty of Republicans are already pissed about this hacking thing, and many have already started looking for a reason to break with the incoming Administration.  Thus, Obama’s gambit not only splits Trump from his besty in Moscow, it also isolates him from a theoretically friendly Congress before he even takes office.
That’s a nice piece of outgoing statecraft if you can pull it off.
EDIT: He probably can't.  The counter-strike occurred yesterday, and despite blazing mainstream media coverage, it was mostly political theater.  The U.S. expelled thirty-five Russian diplomats, leveled some largely unenforceable sanctions against alleged Russian intelligence bosses, and closed two Russian diplomatic compounds within the U.S.  That stuff is all standard diplomatic tit-for-tat, and indeed, the Russians expelled exactly thirty-five American diplomats in retaliation just this morning.  For what it's worth, America's sanctions in this case are particularly ludicrous because they target the American financial positions of foreign nationals who neither travel to nor conduct financial business inside of the United States.  So unless there is some more substantial cyber component to this "counter-strike," and it somehow releases Putin's tax records to the Russian people or something like that, I'm gonna say that this is too little, too late from a President who's been both entirely too often.

Trump has said--not unreasonably--that we need to move on.  However, he did *finally* agree to meet with American intelligence officials to at least try to come to terms with the problem.  That, I suppose, is what counts for success in the waning days of 2016.  It certainly will not be enough to set the next administration's policy towards Russia in the coming days.
3.  Asberry’s Overtime TD
Going for it on 4th down was a seriously ballsy call.  I also thought it was the right call given what had happened in the game to that point, but scoring here was hardly a given.  You can see that clearly on the replay.

“The father who flipped out about it, ‘What am I going to tell my kid about why she’s in that outfit?’ Tell them that a giant slug captured me and forced me to wear that stupid outfit, and then I killed him because I didn’t like it. And then I took it off. Backstage.” —On the rumored ban on Princess Leia bikini merch
As you can imagine, the quotes in this article are uniformly insightful and hilarious.

I didn’t realize how accomplished Fisher was as a writer until I started reading news reports after her heart attack.  She has a seriously impressive list of writing credits.  I feel like I need to go read one of books now, maybe Postcards from the Edge.
At Maryland, Edsall led the Terps to consecutive bowl bids in 2013-14, the school's first back-to-back winning seasons in 11 years. At UConn, he built the program from the FCS ranks to an FBS independent and eventually competed as a member of the Big East Conference.

Edsall was 74-70 at UConn, tying for a pair of Big East titles and earning the first bowl bids in school history. UConn went to five bowls under Edsall, including the 2011 Fiesta Bowl, the school's only BCS bowl berth in program history.
Looks like a good move on both sides.  UConn has been an absolute doormat since Edsall left, and though he did okay at Maryland when he started, it looks like he struggled to recruit over time.  
I expect Edsall will have his old program competing for the American Athletic Conference Championship in relatively short order.  The Huskies have some talent, but they’ve not been able to produce anything like consistent play since he left.
That's all I've got, everybody.  Have a Happy New Year!

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