Economic Fallout of COVID-19

I’ve been keeping fairly quiet about my opinions of the current situation in which we find ourselves. I’ve been reading the exhortations and judgemental posts of many of my friends trying to convince everyone else to stay home. It is pretty easy for those with salaried positions with plenty of sick/vacation leave and/or the ability to work from home to stay home. For those who have a good amount of savings, this is also not much of a problem.

For those of us not in any of those positions, however, staying The F*ck Home, as some are putting it, is not really an option. Since we don’t know how long this will last and what, if any, assistance we are going to receive from the government or other sources, cutting our income off entirely is going to have some serious consequences. Most Americans don’t have much in the way of savings and live essentially paycheck to paycheck.

That is where I currently find myself. All of my current income goes away if I can’t go out of the house, and my meager savings won’t last very long without any cash flow and/or taking on more debt. It’s tough to admit this to people. I had hoped I would be a lot closer to true financial security at this point in my life. When most of our office was axed in January 2019, I thought I would find something better than the patchwork of non-salaried employment, gig economy, and freelance work that has been the norm since that time.

Until recently, my income consisted of some freelance work (there is none currently in the hopper that is not already completed), part-time teaching at MATC, working on-site for one of my original freelance clients in a W2 capacity, and driving part-time for Lyft. All of my current classes were cancelled or rescheduled (and will probably still be cancelled), which is about a $2K after tax loss over the next six weeks. I don’t get paid if those classes never run. My Lyft income has already dropped about 90% over the past week, allowing me to make just enough to cover gas and food each day. If I stop driving entirely, that small amount goes away. If I can’t go out to my client’s office to work on some projects he has for me, that eliminates all of my income.

So let’s engage in a hypothetical. Let’s say a shelter in place order comes down sometime this week with which I comply. If that were to happen, I would have about $900 in outstanding (after tax and child support) income rolling in between now and April 2. I have about $1000 in cash that is liquid enough to access immediately after putting $3500 into car maintenance since mid-December. Most of that could have waited if I had known this was coming. Some of that was paid in cash, some on credit cards. Thus, without taking on more credit card debt, cashing out 401ks, etc., I would have $1900 to last me for however long the inability to earn money lasts.

Now let’s look at obligations. When I add up my current fixed monthly obligations (not counting gas and food), I arrive at almost exactly $1900, depending on if and when my housemates give me money for their share of internet service. My normal monthly order of expenses is my rent (a comic $415), Adobe CC subscription, Quickbooks Self-Employed subscription, backup service subscription, Netflix, cell phone, car wash subscription, health club membership, internet service, Amazon Prime, student loan ($245), auto loan payment, car insurance payment, child support, and $150 in credit card minimum payments scattered about. The discretionary items in that list add up to at most $150, assuming I’m a sucker and pay all these bills on time and in full.

We are at the moment where this month’s car payment and insurance have not hit yet, so the clock starts tomorrow in this hypothetical. If I find no other way to make money but still pay all my bills, I will literally be out of money on April 22 at the latest. Of course this assumes I only eat what is left in the house until that time. That is theoretically possible, since I have a nice stash of ramen noodles. I have enough gas in the car to drive someplace nice to fish, kayak, or hike perhaps once a week for a month. Beyond that, my exercise would entail walking around my block. A lot. I could probably throw on my wetsuit to go swimming in one of the lakes when they warm up just a little.

After April 22, I can start running up credit card debt. I currently have access to about $5K before I hit limits on two cards with high interest rates. That would buy me another two months when factoring in the increased minimum monthly payments. However, if things didn’t return roughly to normal within three months, I’d be filing for bankruptcy pretty quickly thereafter anyway.

If I comply with a shelter in place, what are some things that might help me survive beyond a month with no debt or three months running up my credit card balances? Let’s look at some of the proposals out there:

  • There is talk about a stimulus check of somewhere between $1K and $2K. Luckily, the math here is easy. 1K buys me a couple weeks, while 2K buys me about a month, assuming I do pare back the few discretionary items. However, those checks will be heavily inflationary, so who knows what kind of buying power they will actually have. It would take $5k to $10k per household to make any real dent and allow people to truly stay at home.
  • There is talk about a 60 day moratorium on student loan payments, so that would buy me about a week total over 60 days. I just made my most recent payment the day that possibility was announced. Awesome.
  • Since I only rent, it looks like I won’t get bailed out with a 1 year moratorium on mortgage payments that has been floated. My landlady would probably pass as much of that on to us as possible, but who knows? I don’t want her to suffer too much at my expense.
  • They are talking about moratoriums on evictions, utility shut-offs for non-payment, etc. What good does that really do except ease some physical hardship while it is still cold outside? If the bills not paid during that time aren’t discharged or otherwise forgiven, how helpful is it for everyone to add to their obligations just so they can be evicted and/or declare bankruptcy in 6 months?
  • Supposedly I might be eligible for unemployment under some of the proposals I’ve seen out there. I collected some last year after our office got canned, so normally I wouldn’t be eligible. But who knows? The talk is for it to be boosted by $700 per week all else equal. Partaaay!

I would really like to stop driving for Lyft right now, and I would love to just sit at home and go out for some fishing, hiking, and kayaking here and there while properly socially distanced. I really would. I get it. I understand all of the science behind this. I’ve been studying and reading about pandemics and epidemiology for years. But I really don’t trust our leadership to really help people like me who really need helping as part of the bargain for us to stay home. It looks like most of the help is going to go to people and companies that really only need it because most of us aren’t going to have any money to spend.

This was all done bass ackwards. Announcing closures and other preventative measures should have come alongside or after announcements of how to prevent the rest of us from falling to economic ruin. At this point, the real enemy is time. Whatever they are going to do, it has to be done before any more shelter in place orders go out.

Otherwise, I’ll be out there driving (looks like I might be doing Eat Street now, so that might be less risky and more socially beneficial) my constantly wiped-down car, daring the almost non-existent law enforcement presence to arrest me. At least in jail, I’ll get three squares per day.

Do you all get it now?

P.S. if this all comes to fruition, I know I have relatives and friends that wouldn’t let me fall too far. But how many other people are in similar situations but without the support network I have? It’s the folks who aren’t as fortunate that I am truly worried about.

Posted in 2ndMost: Economics, 2ndMost: Politics, 2ndMost: Rants

The Pen Refill Guide

Check out the latest site I designed. There is a ton of database work for this, while the design process was fairly straightforward.

The Pen Refill Guide

Posted in Uncategorized

It’s not Chicken Fried Steak: CFS and Other Streamflow Data Explained

Typical Average Water Levels During the Year

If you are new to paddling in or on a kayak, canoe, or SUP, you have probably been sticking to lakes and easy sections of slow-moving rivers. Once you’ve passed the beginner stage, you’ll probably want to start paddling faster moving creeks and rivers. Maybe you want to start camping overnight on sandbars on some of these waterways. Maybe you are ready to try your hand at some easy to moderate whitewater. In each of these cases, knowing the water level can be a crucial piece of the puzzle when planning a fun, successful, and, most importantly, safe trip. How does one go about finding out this crucial piece of information? The answer is to check out the U.S. Geological Survey’s Waterwatch website.

For Wisconsin data, you’ll visit waterdata.usgs.gov/wi/nwis/rt. Once on this page, you’ll see the Wisconsin map with colored dots all over it. These correspond to the current streamflow’s relationship to the historical data. Black means the current levels are above the 90th percentile for that day of the year historically, while red means the current levels are below the 10th percentile for that day. Looking at this map will give you a quick look at the way current water levels compare to the historic levels around the state for that day of the year. Because average flows vary over the course of the year (resembling the diagram at left) what is black in July could be the same level that is red in April. Therefore, you must dig deeper to understand the data in context.

USGS Wisconsin Waterdata Home PageClick on the dot corresponding to the river you wish to explore in more detail. That can be tricky on this map, because it requires knowledge of which dot corresponds to which river or creek, and some are very closely packed together. On a phone, this can be even trickier because the site has no mobile-friendly version. Once you are on the page for the waterway you have chosen, you’ll see two important graphs. They might be preceded by the water temperature graph, which is important to anglers and early or late season paddlers.

The first important graph depicts the “discharge” data for the past week. The screenshot at left shows the data for the gauge at Muscoda on the lower Wisconsin River as of July 26, 2019. This data is expressed using the mysterious “CFS” measurement that you’ve probably heard your more experienced paddling friends mention. This stands for “Cubic Feet per Second.” It is a measure of how much water is passing by the gauge each second. You’ll note that there are yellow triangles for each day on the graph. Those triangles depict the historical median flow for that day of the year. The triangles are your first useful clue as to how to translate the current CFS into meaningful information. Even if you don’t actually know what CFS corresponds to flows that are too high, too low, or just right, a couple easy conclusions can be drawn based on the time of year. If it is spring snow runoff season and flows are well above the median, it is safe to say that only expert paddlers (and maybe not even them) should be on the water. Similarly, if the CFS is well below the median flow in mid to late summer, it is safe to say that water levels are too low for paddling. At the time of this writing, the gauge is reading 26,600cfs, which is about 6,600cfs above the most flow I would ever consider paddling. At the current level, the water is flowing fast with lots of unpredictable swirls, and nearly all sandbars are covered. This makes for a boring, short, and slightly dangerous trip. Note that the flows have varied widely over the past week.

The second important graph depicts the “gauge height” in feet. This usually corresponds to how deep the water actually is where the gauge is located. I write usually, because there are a few gauges across the state that clearly do not correspond to actual water levels. The Ontario gauge on the Kickapoo is one example. It might read 10 feet normally, but the water where that gauge is located is rarely over three feet deep. The screenshot at right depicts the graph for the same lower Wisconsin River gauge at Muscoda in the week leading up to July 26, 2019. Note one important difference between this graph and the discharge graph. The discharge graph shows a logarithmic scale while the gauge height graph is a linear scale. Both graphs have a similar shape to the flow data. Because a typical streambed gets wider the higher you go, each additional inch of water represents a disproportionally larger amount of water passing the gauge. One thing to note about this graph is that it will typically show the National Weather Service action and flood stages for this gauge. If current levels are above the green line (action stage), it is rare that conditions are safe for paddling. If they are close to or above the red line (flood stage), definitely stay off the water.

There are waterways where I use the CFS reading and others where I primarily look at the gauge height. It all depends on my experience and which metric makes more sense. For example, I always use the CFS reading when looking at the Muscoda gauge pictured above. On the other hand, when planning to paddle the Kickapoo, I use the the gauge height graph for the LaFarge gauge.

The LaFarge gauge helps demonstrate another important phenomenon. You may have noticed the smooth graphs from the Muscoda gauge shown above. The reason those are so smooth and gradually rising and falling is because the gauge is about 44 miles downstream from the Prairie du Sac dam. Between the dam and the gauge, there is one major river and numerous major and minor creeks that add water to the Wisconsin River. This makes for a fairly smooth transition. The two screenshots at right show the two graphs for the week leading up to July 26, 2019 for the Kickapoo River at LaFarge. The Kickapoo watershed is notoriously “flashy,” which means it rises very quickly during and after a major rain event. That happened where you see these graphs rise sharply over the course of less than a day. The water levels went from just over 4 feet to just over 12 feet. The river also comes down very fast, but not as quickly as it rose. As a frame of reference, I personally won’t paddle the river when that gauge is above 5 feet, and I wouldn’t recommend anyone do it above 6 feet. Too fast, too dangerous, and not that fun. Note that the highest level this past week was just below 4000cfs. That would be suicide to paddle at that level. However, 4000cfs would only be inches deep on the lower Wisconsin. The width of the streambed makes a huge difference in what the CFS readings mean in practice.

Despite how fast the levels rose and fell on the Kickapoo, the graphs were also fairly smooth. Take a look at the screenshot at left which depicts the graph for the past week on the Black River. Notice how choppy and angular the graph appears? This gauge is only about 500 feet downstream from the dam at Black River Falls. When gates on the dam are opened or closed, the levels recorded at this gauge rise and fall very quickly, leading to the choppy graph. Safe paddling levels for the lower Black, in case you wondered, are 2000cfs and below.

Now that I’ve thrown a lot of terminology, geometry, and math at you, you might be wondering how you can use the CFS and gauge heights to inform your choice of rivers to avoid or paddle. Beyond experience with different levels, there are some resources to help you out. The two main conclusions you are looking to reach for any stream you plan to paddle are whether the levels are too low (which means you might have to get out and drag your boat often) or too high (dangerous, too fast, no sandbars to camp or hang out on). There are four main online resources from which you can glean this information.

The first is the American Whitewater page for Wisconsin. This has a listing of most of the rivers people commonly paddle in the state. Because the focus is on whitewater, river sections that have no whitewater at all won’t typically be included here. However, since there is a quick whitewater run just below the Prairie du Sac dam, the Muscoda gauge on the lower Wisconsin is included here. In the screenshot shown at right, the page currently shows the level at the Muscoda gauge as the same 26,600cfs you saw in the USGS graphs. The streams are color coded red (too low), green, and blue. Currently the lower Wisconsin is blue, which means too high for safe paddling. This will also show the rate of change in the levels. If you click on each river, you’ll get additional descriptions and photos of the rapids.

The next resource is the Wisconsin Trail Guide website. This site has descriptions of each section of the major rivers in Wisconsin as well as PDF guides and maps you can download and save to your device or print and laminate. If there is a gauge on the river (not all rivers have a USGS gauge), the bottom of the page for that river will have a description of what each CFS level means for paddling. At right is a screenshot of that description for the lower Wisconsin River. You will see that most of the descriptions match with assertions made in this article. These guides are a helpful way to translate that information.

Because both of the previous resources have gaps or limitations, the next important resource is Miles Paddled. The guys at Miles Paddled have reports on most navigable creeks and rivers around Wisconsin as well as some lakes, flowages, and marshes. They also have some reports on waterways in Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota. They always mention what CFS/height data was available for the day they paddled. Sometimes there is no gauge on that section of water, so they always provide reference USGS gauges for nearby rivers or visual gauges. An example of a visual gauge would be in the report I submitted to the site for the Flambeau River. There is no gauge, but there is a big boulder right next to the put-in. Whether it is visible or covered gives paddlers a good sense of how high the water is. In addition to providing the actual data, they always give advice on whether that level was too high, too low, or just right.

There is one additional resource, and that is to check out the Facebook pages of paddling clubs and Meetup groups. When I post photos from trips with my two main groups, Mad City Paddlers and the Madison Area Outdoor Group, I also include the relevant CFS and/or gauge height information for the waterway on that day. In the description, I always mention what I thought about that water level.

Thanks for reading, and I hope this didn’t make your head explode. Hopefully the resources I shared will help you have fun and safe trips on Wisconsin waterways!

Posted in 2ndMost: Fishing, 2ndMost: Outdoors, 2ndMost: Paddling

Self Bailing Scupper Plugs

Do you own a sit-on-top kayak and want to keep water out while letting water drain out after a wave hits you or your paddle drips water in the cockpit? Check out my fairly elegant solution to create some self-bailing scupper plugs for my Emotion Stealth Angler 11 fishing kayak.

I would first like to give a little credit for the kernel of this idea to DIY Fishing. He has a simpler solution for anyone who has scuppers with a decent amount of vertical material to hold the scupper in place. Check out his video on that DIY scupper plug solution.

My solution uses a similar PVC reducer bushing, but I wanted something that would be sturdier. I also think the nylon mesh he uses would get pretty gummed up with debris (such as duckweed) in some of the places I paddle. He also mentions that you want your super ball to sink, which I don’t think is correct. I think you do want the ball you use to be pushed up to seal the plug, and that will happen more easily if it floats. The weight of any water in your cockpit will push the ball back down so it will drain back out.

It should also be noted that my kayak has a unique scupper style. There are wells on the top and bottom, but the half inch holes are actually molded into a thin layer of plastic (about 3/16″). If the vertical surfaces of your scupper holes are more than an inch in depth, this solution may not work for you.

Supply List

  • PVC Parts for Self Bailing Scupper PlugsNibco Schedule 40 PVC Bushing 3/4″ to 1/2″ – UPC 039923134363 – you can use any size that fits your boat – the smaller dimension of this bushing should match the diameter of your scuppers. The outer dimension is actually irrelevant for this piece.
  • Nibco Schedule 40 PVC Male Adapter 1/2″ to 3/4″ – UPC 039923131683 – again, use any size that matches your boat. The smaller dimension should match the diameter of your scuppers, while the larger dimension should be slightly larger than the balls you plan to use. Most balls are just under 3/4″ in diameter. The ones I used are that size, so 3/4″ was the right dimension for this adapter.
  • Nibco Schedule 40 PVC Socket Cap 1″ – UPC 039923136824 – the size of this cap will be the next size up from the larger dimension for the male adapter. If you end up using a 1″ ball, you’d need the 1″ adapter and 1.25″ socket cap, for example.
  • Super balls – I used 3/4″ bouncy balls from Wal-Mart, UPC 890968922045. These float as I recommended above.
  • Aqua Seal or other silicone marine sealant.

Tools Needed

  • Razor blade holder with blade
  • Rubber mallet or hammer
  • Hacksaw, coping saw, or Dremel
  • Drill with 1/16″ or larger bit
  • Adjustable crescent wrench or pliers (either needs to be able to open about an inch)

PVC Parts for Self Bailing Scupper PlugsMaking the Self-Bailing Scupper Plugs

Step 1: Remove barcode labels from your PVC items. Don’t worry about removing adhesive residue, as this helps keep the assembly together later on.

Step 2: Cut the bushing down with your hacksaw, coping saw, or Dremel so that only the octagonal head is left. It still has enough threads on the inside.

Step 3: Cut the threads down on the male adapter to about half an inch with a saw or Dremel. If the vertical part of your scupper is thicker than mine, you will cut less off (or not cut any off at all). You may need to find a male adapter with a much longer set of threads on it depending on how your scuppers are shaped. Err on the side of making this too long instead of too short. I had to redo this step on a couple plugs because I didn’t allow enough thread to start the bushing nuts. You can trim the excess later with a coping saw, sandpaper, or Dremel.

Step 4: Shave off any material on the outer edge of the thick part of the male adapter if necessary. The ones I bought had little tabs that needed to be removed. I used a Dremel for this.

Step 5: Drill about 4 holes in the top of the socket cap and four more about 1/16 inch from the top along the sides. I staggered mine to hopefully create a smaller chance that all holes become plugged with debris, mud, etc.

Step 6: Use a Dremel to shave some of the material off two sides of the socket cap if needed. I needed to do this so the whole assembly would fit inside the scupper channel underneath the kayak.

Step 7: Use your razor blade to trip any burrs or excess material, paying careful attention to cleaning up the threads on the bushing and male adapter.

Step 8: Insert your bouncy ball into the male adapter.

Step 9: Push the socket cap onto the smooth end of the male adapter. This requires some force to get the socket cap to seat all the way onto the male adapter. Use a mallet or hammer if necessary. There is no need for any adhesive, as these socket caps are designed to be tight on the adapter.

Step 10: Check that the threads on the bushing nuts you created screw onto the threads on the male adapters without too much difficulty. If the nuts don’t screw on easily, inspect and clean them up with your razor blade.

Step 11: Push the finished assembly minus the bushing nut up through the bottom of the scupper hole. Use a mallet or hammer to push it all the way through to the top if necessary. You may need to clean up the molding around your scuppers if there is any excess material from the manufacturing process. I used a wood boring drill bit to clean up those holes. Sandpaper or a Dremel will also work.

Step 12: Dab some Aqua Seal or other silicone marine sealant on the underside of your bushing nuts. You can also dab some on the threads of the male adapter that are protruding out through the scupper holes.

Step 13: Screw the bushing nut onto the thread of the protruding male adapter. Use an adjustable crescent wrench or wide jaw pliers to tighten the nut onto the threads. The sealant will fill any gaps in the threads and create a seal between the nut and the upper surfaces of the scupper. Trim any excess threads from the male adapter at this time.

Step 14: Give your sealant some time to cure. 8 hours is usually enough.

Step 15: Enjoy a drier ride!

 

Posted in 2ndMost: Fishing, 2ndMost: Outdoors, 2ndMost: Paddling

Monster Brook Trout on the Prairie and Plover Rivers

Check out the latest video of my excursion to the Prairie and Plover Rivers. ‘Uge Brook Trout!

Posted in 2ndMost: Fishing, 2ndMost: Outdoors

Spinning for Trout on Black Earth Creek

Check out the latest video from my 2nd Most Fishing series. This footage was from my outing to Black Earth Creek in Mazomanie, WI, on April 12, 2017. I landed two 12 inch browns and one 20 inch brown in a couple hours on the water. I used a #4 Panther Martin in rainbow trout pattern. I usually do not have much success with that pattern, but I was running out of options after losing three gold blade with black body spinners in the trees. I have learned that using snaps seems to result in more lures lost in trees.

Posted in 2ndMost: Fishing, 2ndMost: Outdoors

Close the Loophole in the Congressional Accountability Act

Check out my latest video editing, animation, and sound design project. I even did the voiceovers for all characters. The animation explains why Congress needs to close a loophole in the Congressional Accountability Act. They need to add all sections of USERRA section 4311, including subsection C.

Posted in 2ndMost: Politics

Spinner Fishing For Trout on the Peshtigo River

Here’s a much overdue post with the video of my excursion to fish the Peshtigo River for trout on the second weekend of October 2016. The footage was shot at McClintock County Park in Marinette County, Wisconsin. I didn’t catch any fish, but I got some video of one of the most beautiful and interesting spots in Wisconsin.

Posted in 2ndMost: Fishing, 2ndMost: Outdoors

Star Wars: Rogue One Review

I finally saw Star Wars: Rogue One yesterday morning, and below is my review of the satisfying if imperfect film.

The Good

First of all, the film is visually stunning. It’s a bit on the dark side (nooge) early on, so occasionally it is difficult to make out the action. As it moves on, that becomes less of an issue and the beautiful or otherwise stunning settings take over.

The aerial combat cinematography and choreography are a feast for the eyes as well. This is one thing that continually improved technology will always add to Star Wars in years to come. The sight of a hundred TIE fighters scrambling at once is not something one will easily forget. My favorite shot in Return of the Jedi of the TIE fighters coming at the Falcon is weak tea compared to everything you see in Rogue One.

The story is solid overall and mostly served by all the scenes along the way. There is plenty of red meat for fan boys, as numerous characters from the original trilogy make cameos or are featured prominently in the action. The only issue here is that they stand out so much at times that they feel like they are only there to get oohs from the fans.

The Bad

For parents looking to take their kids, I suggest avoiding it if possible. This film is uber-violent. There isn’t a lot of actual blood, of course. Lasers cauterize wounds, after all. I am pretty sure the body count in this movie is one of the highest of any in cinema history. Combine that with some of my other observations below, and you have a movie that most kids under about 13 will have trouble comprehending, much less truly enjoying. I seriously recommend not letting anyone under 10 see it at all for now. I know the pressure will be difficult.

What is this fetish for placing text with the name of the location in the establishing shot for a scene these days? My favorite is when they place “Paris, France” over a shot of the Eiffel Tower or “Washington, DC” over a shot of the U.S. Capitol. If you are going to use such a recognizable monument, there is no need for the text. Anyone not educated enough to know what is on screen probably won’t be helped along by the extra exposition. Rogue One does this to an extreme. While none of us will recognize what any of these planets are the first time we see them, almost every time the location was hooked at the end of the previous scene. “We’re going to Jedda” or something similar is spoken, and a few seconds later we are on Jedda in the next scene with text that reads, “Jedda.” Thanks.

I enjoyed the scenes that had alien dialogue, because I at least had subtitles to understand it. My biggest beef with this movie is that most of the human dialogue was unintelligible. It was one big overly fast broken English marathon. The only reason I could understand any of Donnie Yen’s lines was that he mostly repeated the same line over and over. Thank God for all the Nazis err Imperial officers and stormtroopers: I could always understand their stately British accents (officers) or Midwestern American dude accents (stormtroopers). Luckily, we all know what is supposed to happen in this movie, so we really don’t need to understand the dialogue. It mostly just gets in the way of the action.

For a movie that is one long McGuffin, a few surprises would have been nice along the way. As mentioned above, the main issue this movie has conceptually is that we all know what eventually MUST happen. The film struggles with generating realistic suspense given that we all know how it has to end. A half hour could have been shaved off, and it wouldn’t have made the experience any less satisfying.

I don’t inherently have an issue with the presence of CG Tarkin or Princess Leia, but the technology still isn’t good enough. They did a good job blending Tarkin into the scenes, but Princess Leia was just plain creepy. I thought a scene in Frozen had just been inserted into the film. Since Cushing’s Tarkin was already wooden and creepy, that wasn’t an issue with his character. My main issue with the CG Tarkin is that they tried to recreate him without using Peter Cushing’s voice. Why bother recreating him digitally if you aren’t going to recreate his voice? It is very odd and jarring to hear another voice come out of that skeletorious face.

My Kingdom for a Steadycam

My last criticism of Rogue One is a directorial decision. There was way too much handheld camera work in this film. I don’t usually get motion sickness from handheld work in movies, but I did get a little green at a couple points while watching Rogue One. I told one of my good friends to take some Dramamine before he watches it, since he gets motion sickness quite easily. Once the climactic parts of the plot get going, the parallel editing helps alleviate this. The aerial combat photography is smooth if not still a bit dizzying. Earlier in the movie, all the shaking and bouncing does make it hard to focus on what is occurring on screen.

My Recommendation

Go see it, even at full price, but bring the Dramamine if you get motion sickness easily. If you are an alien and have never seen A New Hope, you better watch that first as well. You really won’t understand what is happening and why without it because the camera work, lighting, and dialogue won’t help you in the first hour of the film. The director does assume you know all this, even if he doesn’t do a great job of using your knowledge.

 

Posted in 2ndMost: Movies and Television, 2ndMost: Reviews

Packers Playoff Clinching Scenarios for 2016 Week 16

For those of you who love the Packers and numbers, here are the Green Bay Packers playoff clinching scenarios for Week 16 of the 2016 NFL season.

First of all, it is important to note that if the Packers win out, they will win the NFC North and be, at worst, the 4th seed. If the Giants, Seahawks, and Falcons lose out or have ties and a few other outcomes, the Packers could still be as high as the 2nd seed. One more win by the Seahawks clinches the 2nd seed for them.

The Packers can clinch a playoff berth this week if all of the following events occur:

  1. Packers win at Minnesota Vikings (which eliminates Vikings, Saints, and Panthers from playoff contention)
  2. Washington Redskins loss or tie at Chicago Bears (which eliminates Redskins from playoff contention)
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers loss at New Orleans Saints (which ensures that Packers will, at worst, tie the Bucs’ record)
  4. Atlanta Falcons win or tie at Carolina Panthers (which would also eliminate Carolina from playoff contention plus clinch the NFC South for Atlanta, ensuring that the Packers don’t have to go up against Atlanta in a wild card tiebreaker, which they would lose based on head to head)
  5. Packers clinch strength of victory (SOV) tiebreaker over Tampa Bay

Without laying odds or otherwise using ELO or other methods of calculating odds, the pure probability that the first four events happen (while neglecting the very small probabilities that ties will occur) is roughly 6.25% – So you’re saying there’s a chance…

In this case, I took a look at all games that would affect this scenario so you know which teams to root for this weekend.

Assuming outcomes 1 through 4 above occur as detailed, and again assuming no ties (because they are rare and it would take two or three to actually affect the SOV calculation enough to matter), I tabulated the entries for wins and losses for each team Green Bay and Tampa Bay beat (9 wins against 8 teams each). This includes the assumption that Green Bay beats Minnesota (hurts GB’s SOV) and Tampa Bay loses to the Saints in Week 16 (Which helps TB’s SOV), while Green Bay loses to Detroit (which actually helps GB’s SOV) and Tampa Bay beats the Panthers (which hurts TB’s SOV) in Week 17 to force the record tie. It also includes the assumptions that Washington loses to the Bears (which helps GB’s SOV more than TB’s SOV) and Atlanta beats Carolina (which hurts TB’s SOV) in Week 16.

Once those assumptions are entered for this scenario, I then calculated the worst possible outcomes for Green Bay in Week 17 (to see what they must overcome). First, I removed the games that have no impact on either team’s SOV, either because both teams beat them or because the outcome adds 1 win and 1 loss to the the calculation. Thus, the following Week 17 games have no impact on this calculation:

  • ATL-NO
  • KC-SAN

Minnesota-Chicago has a minor impact – either outcome adds or subtracts the same net losses because both teams beat Chicago but the Packers beat them twice. However, a Minnesota win adds a couple thousandths of points to TB’s SOV. Thus, I assumed the MIN win in Week 17

I then assume all unique teams TB beat win and all unique teams GB beat lose in Week 17:

  • SF over SEA (adds 1 loss to both TB and GB SOV but 1 win for TB SOV)
  • IND over JAX
  • WAS over NYG
  • DAL over PHI
  • TEN over HOU

Factoring these Week 17 assumptions in with the Week 16 assumptions we already made, the combined won-loss-tied records for TB and GB would actually be tied at 62-78-1 (both teams beat Seattle, which has the tie on its record).

This leaves six Week 16 games whose outcome was not already assumed above. To clinch the tiebreaker, four of the six games would need to break the Packers’ way. At least four of the following outcomes must happen:

  • LA over SF (anything could happen here)
  • DEN over KC (unlikely)
  • CLE over SD (doubtful)
  • JAX over TEN (doubtful)
  • DET over DAL (possible, Dallas might be resting starters)
  • HOU over CIN (probable)

Unfortunately for the Packers, I think only two or three of these are likely. I doubt Denver, Cleveland, and Jacksonville will win their games.

If the Packers have three go their way, however, they at least guarantee they can’t LOSE the SOV tiebreaker to TB. I think Green Bay would probably win SOS if SOV was tied at the end of the season. It is also pretty unlikely that the 49ers beat Seattle (unless Seattle is resting starters) and Dallas beats Philly (Dallas clinched the 1st seed tonight and probably will rest starters in Week 17) in Week 17, so the Packers would probably win the SOV tiebreaker anyway as long as two of the six games above go their way in Week 16. And again, this is all assuming they don’t win out to win the NFC North or end up a game ahead of the Bucs.

To Make a Long Story Short…

This weekend, Packer fans are rooting for the following teams to win:

  • Packers (durrr…)
  • Bears
  • Saints
  • Falcons
  • Rams
  • Broncos
  • Browns
  • Jaguars
  • Lions (assuming the Packers win)
  • Texans

Of course, a Packers loss and Lions win allows the Lions to clinch the NFC North. Thus, we’ll obviously be rooting against the Lions on Monday if the Packers do happen to lose on Saturday. That won’t completely eliminate us from playoff contention, but we’d be back to needing a lot of help unless the Bucs and Redskins both lose as well.

Posted in 2ndMost: Green Bay Packers, 2ndMost: Sports

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