The Onion’s gift guide:

Chef Mario’s Dining Disasters: Stretchghetti & Critters ($1)

So how exactly does a tiny dish filled with rubbery fake spaghetti and little plastic rats and roaches constitute a “toy?” How do you play with it, exactly? Do you ditch the “critters” and fling the “stretchghetti” around? Re-enact scenes from Ratatouille? And what should we make of the package’s warning: “Do not leave stretchghetti on wood, fabric or other porous materials?” What alien civilization has foisted this abomination upon us, and how are they going to use it to control our young? One thing’s for sure: Chef Mario’s bound to lose a Michelin star over this.



Radley Balko argues that it’s not Walmart, it’s regulation:

People who decry the Wal-Mart-ification and Gap-ificaiton of America need to realize that regulation often does more harm to local businesses than predatory pricing, loss-leader business models, or some other imagined corporate evil.

I’ve lived in or near Old Town for most of the last 10 years. It’s not at all common to see an independently-owned antique shop or art gallery get boarded over, only to be replaced in ensuing months by a franchise. It’s not difficult to see why. Franchise operators can tap the resources of the parent company, particularly when it comes to accessing legal help with experience navigating through and working with local zoning laws and business regulations.

Local officials who simultaneously decry big box stores and national chains while doling out burdensome regulatory structures and complicated permit processes should understand that regulatory burdens hit the smaller, independent places hardest, because they’re the places that have the smallest amount of discretionary cash to hire legal aid (or, if you’re really cynical, to make the appropriate campaign contributions). They’re on a tighter budget and, therefore, have a smaller margin of error when it comes to hassles like delaying an opening because some bureaucrat determined their signage is a couple of inches out of compliance.

There’s a larger lesson in all of this, too. Those who push for federal regulations to rein in “big business” often don’t realize that the biggest of big businesses don’t mind heavy federal regulation at all. They have the resources to comply with them, not to mention the clout in Washington to get the regulations written in a way that most hurts upstarts and competitors.

Big businesses know that a heavy regulatory burden is the best way to make sure small- and medium-sized businesses never rise up to challenge them.

Sex in Spaaaaaaaace!


US and Russian astronauts have had sex in space for separate research programmes on how human beings might survive years in orbit, according to a book published yesterday.

Pierre Kohler, a respected French scientific writer, says in The Final Mission: Mir, The Human Adventure that the subject is taboo both at Nasa and at mission control in Moscow, but that cosmic couplings have taken place.

I’m sorry. My bullshit meter twitches like crazy on this one. I just don’t think NASA could keep it quiet. You know how the French like to make stuff up.

Live-Blogging the BCS

Watching the selection show now. Let’s see what happens.

Rose Bowl: USC vs. Illinois. What? This should have been Georgia’s spot. How the hell did Illinois get in here instead of Arizona State going to the Sugar Bowl? Illinois lost to Mizzou, Michigan and Iowa. Arizona Sate lost to Oregon and USC. Granted Illinois’ noin-conference schedule was tougher by virtue of Mizzou. Illinois will get eaten alive by USC.

Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma vs. West Virginia. No comment needed. Oklahoma should win this one easily.

Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Kansas. What? What?! How the hell did Kansas vault over Mizzou? Simple. Mizzou made the huge mistake of winning the division, which meant they played a conference championship game. If they had lost to Kansas, they’d be ranked higher. This shows you how stupid the BCS is — it encourages teams to lose. Virginia Tech will take this one easily.

Sugar Bowl: Hawaii vs. Georgia. Now if Arizona State gets in ahead of Illinois, they end up playing Hawaii, a much better matchup, while Georgia goes into a monster game against USC. Hell, Illinois or West Virginia would have been a better match to Hawaii. The Georgia that has been playing for the last two months should destroy Hawaii; the Georgia that played the Vols might lose.

Championship: LSU vs. Ohio State. I’ve already said everything I can on this subject. These might be the two best teams in the country. We’ll never know.

Update: Thinking about it some more, I think the BCS really screwed the pooch here. Mizzou ranked higher than Kansas in the BCS standing, but they picked Kansas. Arizona State ranked higher than Illinois but they picked Illinois. What is the point of having the God-damned BCS system if you are just going to ignore it when it comes to picking the teams?

And if anyone says, “I love the controversy”, I’m going to punch them in the face. That’s like saying you would like to be in a bad marriage because of the entertaining fights. Two teams — Kansas and Illinois — are playing in BCS bowls who shouldn’t. Two teams — Mizzou and ASU — are saying, “What the hell did we do wrong?” And five teams — Georgia, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, Hawaii and USC — are saying, “Why don’t we get a chance?”

This is how we pick a national champion?

Keeping Your Concentration

Chicago just went stupid against the Giants. After a heart-breaking drop on a long pass to Devon Hester, they just went to sleep mentally. Delay of game. Sack. Punt. A long run to the goal line by the Giants. I think Lovie Smith threw the challenge flag not to look at the spot but to get a long time out to calm his team down.

And it worked. They just stuffed Draughens. Twice.

Why am I better analyst than the idiots on TV?


Good gravy.

A few scattered thoughts while we wait to see if Hawaii or Illinois gets the last BCS slot and who the hell ends up at #2.

  • It turns out that Ohio State was the smartest team in the country — they stopped playing games.
  • Mack Brown was right. If you want to win a national championship, don’t schedule anyone. Ohio State’s non-conference schedule included Youngstown State, Akron, Washington and Kent State. They played one ranked team — although Michigan and Penn State were ranked when they played ’em. Now that’s a championship schedule! Kansas, a potential BCS team, played one ranked team — Missouri — and got beaten.
  • By contrast, LSU put Virginia Tech among their roster of non-conference patsies. Georgia didn’t have any powerhouses but did get decent opponents in GT and Okie State. USC had Nebraska and Notre Dame — which might have looked impressive two years ago.
  • Les Miles is a great con man. I, for one, have been less and less impressed with LSU every week. They started strong by crushing Virginia Tech. But it’s been a slow slide since — edging Florida at home, losing to Kentucky, edging Auburn at home, barely beating Bama, losing to Arkansas. The team has talent but they play like shit – undisciplined and disorganized. A true national champion would tear them apart.
  • Is anyone going to take the national championship seriously? If it’s LSU-OSU, which looks likely, you will be facing a team that played one ranked opponent against a team that blew its #1 ranking *twice*. I defy anyone to take *any* two teams and convince me that these are the two best teams in the country. They might as well be drawing the teams out of a hat.

    I have no idea who are the top two teams in the country. None. I do know that six teams won their conferences on the field. I do know that two other ranked teams — Hawaii and BYU — won their conferences on the field. We need to put those eight teams in a tournament and let them play.

  • This week puts the lie to the SMT assertion that the BCS makes the entire season a playoff. LSU lost the #1 ranking twice to unranked teams. USC lost twice. Virginia Tech lost twice. Ohio State lost to its only ranked opponent. Georgia pulled two choke jobs. And yet, all those teams are in the national title discussion.
  • This is only going to get worse. The league has amazing parity right now and is likely to move toward greater parity.
  • It’s clear that the system is affecting the polls. The writers are going to leapfrog LSU over Georgia tomorrow even though most of them think Georgia is one of the best teams in the country right now. But they don’t want Georgia in the championship game so they wil keep them at #3 or #4. Now that’s fine. I’m a Bulldogs fan but I don’t think the Dawgs deserve to play for championship after losing to the Vols and Gamecocks. But if the voters are going to engineer the polls to produce the matchup they want, they need to stop pretending they are ranking teams in any objective sense but trying to engineer a good game. This was obvious last year when Florida vaulted to the top of the polls. It’s even more obvious now.

    If we had a playoff system, the writers could happily vote Georgia #1 if they wanted to and sleep well with the knowledge that the most it would do is give them an at-large bid in the playoff.

  • My prediction for the bowls? As I type this, Hawaii is already down 14-0 and if they lose, they’re out, which is a shame. But that’s what they get for scheduling a real opponent. Assuming Hawaii goes on to lose, I’d make the following matchups using what I see as the likely rankings tomorrow:

    BCS Championship: LSU vs. Ohio State

    Rose Bowl: USC vs. Georgia

    Fiesta Bowl: Mizzou vs. West Virginia

    Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma

    Sugar Bowl: Illinois vs. Arizona State

    But if we had a fricking playoff, which used traditional bowl pairing as a first round, it might look like this:

    Rose Bowl: USC vs. Ohio State
    Sugar Bowl: LSU vs. BYU (or Georgia)
    Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma
    Fiesta Bowl: West Virginia vs. Hawaii (or Mizzou)