Nov 2 / jmusport

Guest Post: Take a Chill Pill, and Other Thoughts

One of our longtime readers, M@, won last week’s prediction contest. He’s written multiple guest posts in the past and asked that we put in a plug for folks to donate to Autism Speaks. We’ve got to say, if you’re looking for a good cause to support, that certainly fits the bill.

First reaction: “I won!”

Second reaction: “What the heck am I going to write about?” (pardon my French)

This is my fourth time providing a guest post.

That last one still seems a bit too apropos; but I digress. Maybe I can call myself a contributor now…that’ll look great on the ‘ol resume given that I work in IT. This exercise does give me new insight (and appreciation) into how Todd and Rob have to approach the challenge of providing content all year long (especially in that interminable period when it’s hot outside and there are no collegiate sports to celebrate).

On their podcast last week, the guys spoke a bit about their favorite sports writers. I was glad to see that they included Tony Kornheiser’s 1991 Redskins Bandwagon series. For those of you who have not seen it; Chase Kiddy’s Doomed Dukes series on Hero Sports is also worth a read and in the same vain. But I wanted to take a page out of Gregg Easterbrook’s Tuesday Morning Quarterback series (though I have not read much from him since I stopped being a Redskins victim fan). What I appreciated about him is that he may write about anything. In amongst his analysis of the latest scores and standings would be a section detailing how cosmic rays may be a by-product of distant alien warfare or something similarly off-topic and generally humorous. And so, without further gilding the lily and with no more ado, I give to you…

Take a Chill Pill Dude (and other clichés)

We’ve all seen, or at least perceived, that this year’s offense isn’t as potent as last year’s offense. Some of that is just perception; some if it is reality. Last year we managed to come up with much more than 50% of those “50/50” passes for one thing. We lost three and a half starters from the offensive line and the coach from last season. This year we’re taking everyone’s best shot. With all of that we’ve still won by double-digits EVERY WEEK. I grew up a UVa fan; I grew up a Redskin’s fan; this is not those teams. Those other teams taught me to look for the cloud in every silver lining. To wait for the disappointment so that it would (theoretically) hurt less. In a lot of ways waiting for the other shoe kept me from enjoying the 2004 season as much as I should have. When last season came I decided to enjoy the ride no matter how it ended. It ended with a National Championship (in case you hadn’t heard). I enjoyed every minute.

This is a single team. Not an offensive unit a defensive unit and a special teams unit. The team wins (and theoretically loses) as a team. A case in point: JMU won the time of possession battle last week against New Hampshire. That meant that the defense got rest when they needed it allowing them to play their best when they were on the field. Without that rest time the defensive unit may not be as effective (see Everett Withers’ era). The whole team won that game. This team and coaching staff have earned the benefit of the doubt. Let’s enjoy some football before the dark times come when it gets hot and the only football available is either YouTube reruns or Arena League.

How ISAT Prepared Me for “Real Life”

My role in my professional life is easy to spell. I am a software tester. It’s even easy to explain. I break things for a living. But my day-to-day activities are varied and unusual even for a QA Analyst/Test Engineer/Quality Engineer/Tester (or any of the other titles given to my role). One week I may be doing a statistical analysis on metrics gathered during a performance test. The next I may be programming an Arduino board to allow me to manipulate a servo using UDP messages from a server so I can programmatically control hardware actions for testing. The next week I could be writing an integration test harness or automating testing of a web page. Then there is the generation of SQL stored procedures and queries for retrieving data from the database for later analysis. I’ve even generated icons and infographics for documentation and training…and I haven’t taken an art class since middle school.

ISAT prepared me for all of this without teaching me most of it (ok, they gave me a pretty good foundation on the statistics part). How you might ask? Go ahead, I’ll wait. Ok, ok, you don’t have to beg. I’ll tell you. They taught me two skills that seem to be very unusual in combination. One is problem solving (no matter what the problem is; how do you go about solving it). And the second is basic technical communication skills. I can talk to a non-technical person to clarify exactly what they are trying to get out of a particular software system. Those skills seem so simple but without them I would not be nearly as successful as I have been. I love my job and part of the reason I love my job is that I get to solve interesting problems every day. That didn’t happen right away; I had to grow and gain experience, but the foundation was set two decades ago with my ISAT degree.

MVFC vs CAA

Is the Missouri Valley Football Conference a better conference than the Colonial Athletic Association in football? Yeah, probably. Arguments could legitimately be made that JMU and NDSU should be tied for first. But the next highest ranked MVFC team in the coach’s poll is South Dakota at #6. The next highest CAA team? Elon at #10. And South Dakota State University is at #8. Overall the top of the MVFC is higher ranked than the top of the CAA. Not surprising given that polls tend to be biased by last years’ results and the top of the CAA is quite surprising this year (Elon!?!?). Let me give an example. Last season JMU was undefeated in the FCS and only lost to UNC (we probably all know this). NDSU on the other hand lost to fellow FCS/MVFC SDSU at home. Yet JMU traveled to NDSU in the playoffs. But, JMU had a history of losing in the playoffs. I think that resulted in a lower ranked than a (sorta) undefeated team in the CAA maybe should have been; especially given the brutal away-game schedule and string of games against teams coming off bye weeks. I’m not saying we were robbed not being ranked #1. I mean, NDSU did beat their FBS opponent…but I prefer to be biased.

When Science Meets Sensationalism

I am a jack of all trades but a master of none (see previous). I have a basic understanding of science without actually being a scientist. But I have noticed something that has me concerned. I worry about sensationalism in scientific journalism which can (ironically) reduce peoples’ concern about a particularly dangerous scientific issue. Let me give an example. When I was in middle school back in the dark ages before the Internet, I was told by my science teacher that we (as a planet) would be out of crude oil that was economic to extract by the year 2020…you know, a bit more than two years from now. That hasn’t come to pass. Why not? We found more oil in places they didn’t think oil would be 30ish years ago. The development and wide-spread use of fracking has reduced the crystallization effect of traditional oil mining to allow oil fields to be more completely mined than was anticipated in the late ‘80s and also allowed mining in areas that were previously not economic to mine (yet). We as a society have also reduced the consumption of crude oil from the expected rate. My guess (and it is only a guess because I’m as sensationalist as anyone else) we’ve switched to more fuel-efficient vehicles (mostly due to the government enforced CAFE standards) over the last 30 years and we’ve commissioned more natural gas power plants which use a different (though also non-renewable) source of energy.

But the important part is that the 2020 year that my science teacher gave was the earliest part of a range that was thirty years long. The study (I found much later) actually said it would be increasingly difficult to find new economically feasible crude oil fields starting between 2020 and 2050 (sorry I couldn’t find a link to the study as many new studies have updated the original conclusion that I heard). The result? The prediction as stated by my teacher was wrong. So why should anybody listen to scientists now when speaking of other concerns like say antibiotic resistant infectious diseases?

The answer? Because these concerns really are a problem. We’ve delayed the conclusion from that original study indicating that fossil fuels are not renewable (*gasp*); we haven’t stopped it. Antibiotic resistant diseases are a problem. While there certainly are scientists who are just after a paycheck, there are also scientists who have legitimate educated concerns and we need to listen.

I’m not going to go to Kingston, RI

I like to go to away games (I mentioned this during my Random Thoughts post linked above). But I’m not going to Rhode Island. I am a committed (sometime in the sense of the white coats that tie in the back) fan of JMU. I go to every home game despite living four hours from the ‘burg. I’ve gone to Towson; I’ve gone to Fed-Up field to watch my Dukes get trounced by WVU. But I’m not going to the home of the Rams. They’ll have to play without me.

I want to encourage people to go to away games. It is a unique experience to see how other teams root. To visit other campuses and to experience a different type of game day. For the most part at FCS schools I’ve been well received. FBS schools I have a more mixed review as I’ve gotten a lot of trash talk (my guess is they are overcompensating); though none have compared to the garbage I got at the WVU game. Between the game being off of a college campus (so drinking was allowed) and WVU fans being WVU fans it was an irritating experience. But at every campus I’ve gone to the college atmosphere is prevalent and pleasant. The sounds of football are in the air. And I’m in my purple cowboy hat rootin’.

But more than that. I get to say I was there for 21-16.  I was there when we were robbed of our victory over Maryland in 2009 (It wasn’t a hold…there was no hold…no I won’t let it go). I was there when Mickey should have just kicked the field goal (at Appy St. during the playoffs in 2007). I was there when you don’t kick the ball to Scotty McGee (I was thinking of the game at Richmond as opposed to all the other times you shouldn’t kick the ball to Scotty). I was there…and the memories are precious.

Too long already

One of the pitfalls of an homage to Gregg Easterbrook is that I fall victim to another factor for why I stopped reading his work…it gets really long really fast. Let me just end by thanking Rob and Todd both for maintaining the site for all of us purple bleeding fans to gather and chat and for giving fans a chance to generate content like this. I always like reading the guest posts and getting a new perspective. And I’m sure I will enjoy next week’s guest post almost as much as I enjoyed writing this one.

7 Comments

leave a comment
  1. bastein410 / Nov 2 2017

    Well done!

  2. Chris / Nov 2 2017

    Good read. Go Dukes!

  3. Rob K / Nov 2 2017

    Great post!

  4. maddukes98 / Nov 2 2017

    Nice piece. Are you sure you aren’t in sports journalism? 🙂

  5. Sunchase / Nov 2 2017

    Hey! Thanks for the shout! Glad you’re enjoying Doomed Dukes.

    We really did get jobbed in that Maryland game. I can’t believe we don’t talk about that game more. Totally outplayed Maryland.

  6. M@ / Nov 3 2017

    @Sunchase, I think the Maryland game gets overshadowed by the VT game…and probably rightly so.

    @maddukes98, thanks for the compliment…I am a geek of many talents (apparently). 🙂

  7. maddukes98 / Nov 3 2017

    I was at the Maryland game and yes, that was complete hose-job. That run that Dudzik had was a thing of beauty.

Leave a Comment