Monday, July 29, 2019


Last week I took four days off and went to Cannon Beach, Oregon. It was very nice there. Even the weather cooperated giving us mostly sunny days that weren't too warm.

Cannon Beach is an interesting little town. It has purposely kept out chain businesses such as Starbucks. So everything has a local flavor to it. The only problem is, there isn't a gas station in the town. So you'd better plan ahead. (Perhaps that explains why there seemed to be a lot of Teslas there.)

But the scenery is amazing. This was taken from my hotel balcony at sunset:

The big rock in the picture is "Haystack Rock." It's a well-known feature of Cannon Beach. I would joke with the locals that it blocked my view of the ocean. They didn't seem to appreciate my jest.

There is a state park called Ecole State Park. The drive there is a bit unnerving as the road barely fits two cars and has lots of blind hills and corners. But the views are worth it. Here's looking back at Cannon Beach from that park:

One interesting thing about Cannon Beach, at least around my hotel, was the infestation of rabbits. I mentioned within earshot of a hotel employee that I thought they were cute and he said, "Take a few dozen home with you." Here's picture my wife took of one:

I don't think I've ever seen a white rabbit in the wild.

Overall it was a nice, relaxing vacation. I just wish hotel beds didn't make my back hurt so I end up sleeping in a chair for most of the night.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

College Football, A Primer: Football in America

Today once again we're talking college football. Today we'll talk about football in America and college sports.

See here for the previous post.

College Sports

There are two college sports that get the most attention: football and basketball. More colleges have basketball teams than football teams, probably because it's cheaper to have a basketball team. I don't know of any college with a football team that doesn't also have a basketball team.

There are regional preferences, too. In the Southeast, high school and college football come right after God and guns in the order of importance. In the Midwest, basketball is king.

But there are a lot more sports in college than that. And there are sports for both men and women. For example, the University of Washington has nine men's sports and eleven women's sports.

Warning: This is a world fraught with acronyms and jargon. I'll try to explain any acronyms and jargon as they come up.

Football in America

In the United States, there are three basic levels of football: high school (sometimes called "prep"), college, and professional (i.e., the National Football League or NFL). Of course there's peewee football for younger kids and semi-professional and professional offshoots such as arena football.

The progression is high school football, then college football, then going "pro" in the NFL. But, only 5% of high school kids make it to the college level, and only 5% of college players make it to the NFL. That means as a high school player, your odds of going pro are 0.25%.

High school players are recruited into the colleges. That is, the colleges go out and try to entice the kid to play for their college. This is a bit unfair as the best teams can recruit the best players. Alabama, who is perpetually the national champion or close to it, has much easier time of recruiting good players than Washington State University that is an okay team but is rarely highly ranked nationally. The job of the coach is to convince as good as players as possible to come to his program.

Ultimately, the kid (and probably his parents) decides where he will go. If a kid wants to play in the NFL (and they almost all do), he's going to want to go to a good school that gets on television a lot. That would be a good FBS team in a Power 5 conference (see "The Conference System" next week).

College kids are "drafted" into the NFL. They have to have been out of high school for three years. The NFL gives their teams a chance to draft college players. The worst NFL teams get the earlier picks and therefore the better players. This is the NFL's way of trying to make it fairer. The player has to go with the team that drafts him for a number of years (I believe that's negotiable but there's probably a minimum) and then becomes a "free agent" and can go to the highest bidder. So he wants to do well at his first team so he's in demand when he's a free agent.

And just this year something called the American Alliance of Football (AAF) started playing in February after the NFL Super Bowl. The AAF was nothing but free agents looking to impress NFL scouts. The AAF even admitted it's trying to help its players get into the NFL. And the NFL must not have minded, they showed games on the NFL Network. The AAF  brought in coaches that are well-known from college and/or the NFL. That probably helped the quality of play. Unfortunately, it went broke near the end of its first season.

Next year the XFL is supposed to start again. That's the "Extreme Football League."  They had one season in 2001. I watched one game and all I remember is lots of salacious shots of cheerleaders. But it's supposed to be back in 2020.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

College Football, A Primer: Introduction

Today we start on a seven-part series about college football. And now we'll introduce college football:

This is a primer designed for the person who knows little or nothing about college football or football in general.

Why College Football

I'm a huge fan of college football (and the University of Washington Huskies in particular). In college football, the players don't make mega millions of dollars. In fact, they aren't paid at all except through college scholarships. They don't practice as much as the pros so they still make mistakes. And you can watch a player start out as a rookie and watch him grow over the two to four years he might play for a team.

Now I'm not saying college football isn't big business. It is. Television revenues are in the millions. A good head coach can make a seven-figure salary per year (and are often the highest paid state employee of their state). The money doesn't come from taxpayers (at least not all of it), but from television revenue, stadium ticket sales, and booster donations. For example, Nike's Phil Knight has pledged $10 million per year to get good coaches to Oregon (his alma mater). I assume if the head coach is making millions, the assistance coaches (and there are a lot of them) are making at least six-figures. I read that one assistant coach was making $475,000 per year.

And, according to Forbes, the Washington Huskies make $84 million in revenue and out of that make $36 million in profit. I assume that money goes to pay for other sports that don't make a profit, including Title IX women's sports.

And why football? This game combines grace and violence in a alchemy of skills you don't see anywhere else. It is exciting to watch and fun to cheer on your team. It's never boring (like baseball) and it doesn't have squeaky shoes (like basketball). Also, the odd shape of the football makes it bounce unpredictably. This adds a bit of randomness not found in other sports.

And why the Washington Huskies? I went to college there (a lot). So I feel loyal to my alma mater. I even loved my Huskies the year they went 0-12 in the 2008 season.

And watching football can bring moments of amazement, such as this touchdown by former Husky John Ross.

Or these punt returns by Dante Petis.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

AWD vs. 4WD

A while back (September 2015) I talked about the difference between all-wheel drive (AWD) and four-wheel drive (4WD). But I got one important thing wrong. More on that in a moment.

There are basically four different types of drives on cars/trucks/SUVs. First is rear-wheel drive (RWD). This is when the power of the engine goes to the rear wheels only. This is usually true for sports cars and trucks that don't have four-wheel drive. The advantage of RWD is responsiveness in spirited driving. The disadvantage is it costs more than front-wheel drive and is more complicated. And you have a hump in your passenger compartment floor for the drive axle. 

Second is front-wheel drive (FWD). FWD is on a lot of cars, some SUVs, and a lot of crossovers. Advantages are simplicity (the engine is right over the drive tires), less weight, and a flat floor in the passenger compartment. Disadvantages are torque steer with high power cars, and front tires wear out faster because they do a lot of the work (steering, powering, and braking the car).

Third is all-wheel drive (AWD). This is when all the wheels are driven all the time. Advantages are better grip in nearly all situations. Disadvantages are cost and weight and complexity (more things to break). Because of more weight, your gas mileage will suffer.

There are all sorts of different AWD systems which vary by manufacture. Some send 25% of the engine power to each wheel no mater what. Some send more power to tires that have better grip. Some send more to the rear tires to simulate RWD.

Finally, is four-wheel drive (4WD). This is exclusively on trucks and SUVs. The important thing I got wrong is this: you can't drive 4WD in four wheel drive on dry pavement. The whole system will bind. Nor on wet pavement. Snowy pavement is okay. So these systems can be turned on and off.

The reason you can't drive 4WD on pavement is the axles are locked. So when you go around a corner the inside tire turns the same speed as the outside tire. On dirt or snow this isn't a problem. But on dry or wet pavement, it will cause your driveline to bind. So take your 4WD vehicle out of four-wheel drive before getting on dry pavement. When not in four-wheel drive, 4WD vehicles are almost universally rear-drive (I can't think of one that isn't).

Which drive system you get depends on what you think you need. For most people FWD or RWD is sufficient. A good set of snow tires makes a FWD or RWD perform in snow often better than an AWD with all-season tires. An AWD vehicle with good snow tires will perform very well in snow.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Stranger Things Season Three

I have, so far, watched four episodes of Stranger Things season 3 on Netflix. It's been a long wait and it has been worth it. (It's been about a year and a half since season 2.)

The kids are older now, teenagers but still without drivers licenses. Mike and El are in a relationship as are Max and Lucas. I'm guess their ages as around 14-15 years old.

The boys ride 10-speed bicycles instead of stingrays. And the focus of their lives is switching to the new mall. But, this is Hawkins, and stranger thing are happening. And poor Will feels it coming. I don't want to give any spoilers. You'll just have to watch.

There are four different story lines and you know by the end, they will all converge, likely at the mall, I think.

Season 3 is fun, scary, and excruciatingly well written. You should be watching this.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Ferrari SUV Coming

Ferrari Purosangue
First of all: Happy Independence Day.

And now on with our blog.

A while back I said there was a rumored Ferrari SUV coming and I said it would probably be built with Fiat 500L parts (because Fiat owns Ferrari).

In late April, Ferrari announced the name of their SUV and a few details. The names is "Purosangue." Now if you know anything about Romance languages, you probably read that as "pure blood." But Ferrari says it's Italian for "Thoroughbred." And don't call it an Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV), but it will likely be called a Ferrari Utility Vehicle (FUV).

The FUV will come in both internal combustion and hybrid power trains. And it will be built on a Ferrari frame, not a Fiat underside.

To my eyes, it looks like a crossover (those station wagon-like cars people buy in droves). But, as Car and Driver (my source for all things automotive) said, Ferrari wants to make money. And there's money in crossovers/SUVs/FUVs (as I said here).

Don't expect to see the Purosangue on the road until at least 2022. And even then you'll probably have to go to Mercer Island or Redmond to see one.