Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Austin Weird

"Keep Austin weird" - Austin city slogan
UT Austin Emergency Medicine
Creepy clown toys- classic Austin weird 

The first thing you notice about Austin is that there are food trucks everywhere.  Like slot machines in Vegas or coffee houses in Seattle, food trucks dot every other corner and empty lot across the city.  In some areas, they even have “food truck parks”, lots with half a dozen or more trucks packed together.  I even saw some brick-and-mortar restaurants have their own truck out front; the truck serves as the kitchen and the storefront is just the place to eat.  The food truck craze is so outlandish, with such a crowded market, each truck tried to outdo each other in its combinations, pushing the culinary envelope just a little further.  At Gourdough’s, I enjoyed the Flying Pig, a donut with bacon  At Llama’s, specializing in “Peruvian Creole”, the pork belly and sweet potato sandwich was outstanding.  But I drew the line at the combination of salsa and kimchi: either is great on a taco but I just couldn’t bring myself to try them both together.
and maple syrup icing (they are famous for the Mother Clucker, a donut with a fried chicken strip and honey butter).

When I arrived in Austin, hungry to enjoy the music and food the city is famous for, I had a carefully developed list of their best and brightest culinary delights.  However, as it turns out, their food is intended to be a discovery, its source ephemeral, defying all planning and schedules.  You eat when you’re hungry, you find food where you are.  My long list of food stops pretty much went up in the mesquite-scented smoke of south Texas.

  • ·      Franklin BBQ- requires at least a 4 hour wait.
  • ·      La Barbeque- closed for private party the first time I showed up then sold out when I came by the next day
  • ·      Llama’s- closed on my first try, then out of pork belly right after me
  • ·      Hog Wild- decided he didn’t feel like working that day and didn’t open
  • ·      East Side King- I have no idea what happened: they never showed up where they said they would be on Google and Facebook.
Vietnamese tacos

Pork belly and sweet potato sandwich

Pineapple and al pastor taco

Probably really good, but a little too weird for me

Austin is the perfect city if you are attending a convention: you would go downtown to the Sixth St area, stay there, and enjoy all the live music and truck food you can handle.  But to live there and move around by car is challenging and getting worse every year.  The population growth has far outpaced infrastructure.  In fact, no significant development of infrastructure has occurred in the last 10 years.  I-35 through the center of town is constantly clogged.  The traffic on surface streets is awful.  I can’t imagine what happens during South By Southwest (SXSW) or Austin City Limits (ACL)
quintessential Austin rubbish

I was in town to present at the UT Austin EM residency.  I stayed to enjoy the Texas- Iowa State game.  I didn’t have a ticket and assumed I could pick one up from a ticket scalper on the streets. 

I assumed correctly.

On my very first try a gentleman offered up a single 50-yard line seat, about halfway up the lower deck.  So easy . . .

The UT campus is beautiful and welcoming.  The friendliness of the people was on par with Arkansas or Nebraska.  Very impressive.  As I wandered through the tailgate area, I was offered some grapefruit vodka, then some watermelon vodka, then some . . . uh  .  . . vodka vodka.  There is also apparently a game day uniform for the UT coeds: a billowy tan tank top, jean shorts, and cowboy boots, presumably from Allen’s, an Austin institution.

The one thing I learned about watching a Texas game in Austin is that the Longhorns are very proud of their traditions and legacy.  Despite suffering through a current painful rebuilding period, their turnout is strong and they cheer loud.  Their pre-game ceremonies are a mash of game-day traditions.  They essentially layer on new traditions as they develop without replacing old ones.  As a result, they lack one iconic focus yet revel in many.  They claim the world’s biggest bass drum, they fire a cannon at the kickoff and every score, they have a pen for Bevo the Longhorn, they show off the world’s largest Texas flag, and they have a stuntman enter the stadium in a jet-pack at the start.   Oy vey!

Unfortunately for the Texas faithful, it was a spectacularly close game, with the ‘Clones matching the Longhorns score for score.  Texas finally prevailed with a last second field goal to win, 48-45, avoiding another embarrassing loss during a forgettable season.  How bad has it gotten for Texas?  The game program printed the results for the year so far and decided to “invent” a win over Baylor, reversing the actual score.

By the way, Austin, USC is coming to play there in 2018.  I’ll be back

Fight on,


Monday, October 6, 2014

Every Dog Has Its Day

Greatest.  Underdog. Day.  Ever.

I have no words.  Cue the bard: 
"Let Hercules himself do what he may,
The cat will mew and dog will have his day."
Hamlet, Act V, Scene 1


Monday, September 22, 2014

Stumbling and Reactive

The headlines in football for the past two weeks have been both disheartening and encouraging.  Disheartening because the media is dominated by horrific stories of violence against women and children and the passion and pageantry of America's great game is being overshadowed.  Encouraging because, for once, absurdly criminal and inexcusable behavior is not being ignored or swept under the rug.   In fact, I sense a sea change in the expectations of the viewing public that we are moving to a era where high profile athletes will be held to the norms of civilized society.  

Ray Rice struck his fiancĂ© in an elevator and knocked her unconscious.   Let's be clear: the facts of this case have never been in dispute since it occurred in February 2014.  The NFL followed its existing policy and cleared him to play after 2 games since the civil punishment was served by attending a class.  The fault of his lack of punishment lies not with the NFL but with the state of New Jersey, by allowing a man to avoid criminal punishment for assault with the wife-beaters-equivalent of traffic school.   But when the NFL "discovered" that the public found that response offensive, they developed a new policy- 6 games for the first offense of domestic violence and expulsion for the second.   The fact that an employer has to write a policy specific for dealing with domestic violence (and not any criminal behavior) is the first of many indications the NFL has a huge problem.   Then, when the inside-the-elevator video became public, the NFL found their excuse for reversing their previously lenient handling of Ray Rice.  In doing so, their chose to ignore their "new" domestic violence policy and went straight to a indefinite ban.   

Stumbling and reactive.  

When Adrian Peterson was indicted for child abuse for beating his son with a stick, the Minnesota Vikings deactivated him for the next game, in which they were soundly beaten by the New England Patriots   They had no obligation to suspend him; he had been indicted and the civil proceedings of his trial would drag on for another year.   He had not been found guilty of anything.   So, they promptly reinstated him.   Then came the flurry of public backlash, and the Vikings reversed course.   Again.   (Note: as pointed out by Keith Olberman, the Vikings suspended QB Chris Cook in 2011 for the entire duration of his criminal trial for domestic violence, then welcomed him back when he was found innocent)

Stumbling and reactive.  

When Jameis Winston stood up on a table in a campus cafeteria and shouted "f**k her in the p***y", Florida State suspended him for one half of their next game, a very high profile Prime time match with Clemson and ESPN Game Day on campus.   Then came the flurry of public backlash.  Sure, here is a teenager repeating an internet meme he found to be hilarious and empowering.    What's wrong with that?   When you have been accused of rape, the image of a man shouting about intercourse which he finds funny is really not the image you want to portray.   Combined with his citation for shoplifting crab legs in the Spring and you have to conclude that Winston is a boy with a very poor sense of moral behavior.    Certainly not the kind of person I would want to be an employee (of course, the NFL may be willing to overlook that).   On Friday, the night before the game, the school extended his suspension for the entire game.   Their excuse was that "further investigation" revealed more about the incident.   Yeah, whatever.   They bowed to public pressure and did the right thing.  

Stumbling and reactive.   

The NFL and College football would do themselves a favor by becoming a bit more proactive in these matters.   Rather than subjectively deciding on discipline in reaction to public opinion, they need to write specific policies and stick to them.   Not employing criminals would be an excellent place to start.   

Is the NFL beholden to public opinion?   No!

Is the NFL beholden to the free market?  You bet your sweet ass it is!

Would I get fired for doing what Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, or Jameis Winston did?   Yes!   I am a physician and my hospital and university take a dim view of criminal behavior.   I would be protected temporarily by due process but I wouldn't be permitted to treat patients during that time.   I concede that not all professions have such standards (note that I left out the word "high" before the word "standards").   Should the NFL (or any professional sports franchise) adopt this level of expectations?   That's a decision that easily made by the free market.  If the viewing public continue to buy merchandise and tickets, if the TV networks continue to shell out franchising fees, and if advertisers continue to buy airtime, then yes, the NFL is welcome to employ as many criminals as it does.   But when advertisers like InBev (Anheuser-Busch) and Marriott begin to reconsider their financial commitment to the league, the NFL realizes it's time to change.  

As for Jameis Winston, he has an uphill climb ahead of him if he wants to win another Heisman Trophy.   To do so, his performance on the field must be significantly better than anyone else and the voters will have to conveniently forget the criteria for the trophy:  

"The outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work"

I don't think that possibly committing sexual assault, stealing crab legs, and shouting profanity in a cafeteria demonstrate the pursuit of excellence with integrity. 

Fight on,


PS: And now some good news.   The cadets at Texas A&M have the honored duty of caring for Reveille, the school's beloved mascot (who is also considered to be the highest ranking member of the corps)  Sometimes, this duty goes a little beyond combing her hair and taking her for walks.  In last Saturday's game versus SMU, Ryan Krieder, Reveille's handler, put his body on the line and deflected an incoming SMU player, protecting her.   He has been hailed as a hero and will be gifted a pair of boots by the corps' commandant.    

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Autumn Begins and a Trojan Fan Whines

The autumn equinox is still two weeks away, but don't tell the Iowa weather that it's still summer.  On monday this week the air turned a little cooler and suddenly the soybeans started turning yellow.  Flecks of gold waving in a cool northern breeze across the farmlands is our first distinct sign of fall.  For months, I hadn't even considered the idea of putting on a jacket or wearing long sleeves, no matter the time of day or night.  This morning I wore my first long sleeved shirt since June.  If I stop to consider that the change in season will inevitably lead to shorter days, darker mornings, and the looming onset of winter, I would be annoyed at this development.  But for me, this weather means picking crisp apples in Wilson's Orchard, sipping pumpkin spice lattes at Java House, and the smell of bratwurst grilling over open flame.  Best of all, football is back.

The second weekend of college games and first week of NFL brought a few surprises and gave us a slightly clearer picture of what to expect this year.  So many story lines appeared this weekend I completely lost track.  And there are few I feel compelled to discuss in depth.  So, I will cop out with a bulleted list of some random reactions.

  • The Big 10 is horrible.  This headline was the lead story on almost every website Saturday night.  Unfortunately, its hardly news.  Pre-season power rankings of the big-5 conferences put either the ACC and Big-10 at the bottom.  And the conventional wisdom that the Big-10 is out of the national championship picture is a little too focused on the Eastern division (NOT Legend and Leaders! YAY!).  Not that I actually think a Big 10 team will knock off the SEC in a semi-final game, but let's remember that Penn State, Iowa, Nebraska, and Wisconsin are all undefeated.  Shaky and lucky to be undefeated, but undefeated none the less.  Penn State and Wisconsin has a chance (more on the Lions in a moment).
  • UCLA is overrated.  Sorry, Bruin fans, but it's true.  I was perplexed at the love being thrown at the Bruins over the summer.  I agree that Brett Hundley is a great QB and UCLA is the likely front runner for the Pac-12 South title.  But top-10 in the country and dark horse for the national title?  WHAT?  Let's not get ahead of ourselves.  Two games in, and two close wins over mediocre teams (composite computer rankings of 80 and 82).  They have one more shot to get things on track with a (relatively) weak team in Texas (computer rank 37) this weekend.  Otherwise, they will be in for rude awakening when the Pac-12 season starts and they get smacked with some real offenses. 
  • USC's attraction to controversy keeps overshadowing their very solid performances on the field.  Just when they knock off rival Stanford on the road to take a huge step forward in the Pac-12 race, all we hear about is Pat Haden leaving the press box to argue a penalty.  Yes, it was wrong to do that.  And the text message violated a rule.  Haden apologized and the Pac-12 leveled an appropriate fine.  But as someone who supervises highly skilled professionals, I can also understand exactly what happened.  Coach Sark was pissed at the penalty he drew.  And he was going off on the ref.  The compliance officer asked for Sark's supervisor.  And Haden came down to mediate and cool off the situation.  Coach Sark shouldn't need Haden to do this, but I have to intervene between angry ER docs and consulting Surgeons on occasion and I would rather be called in than something is said that we all regret in the morning.  One added benefit of Saturday's sideline incident is the players are psyched that their football-legend-AD totally has their back.  "You mess with us?  Coach Sark will fight for us!  Better yet, our AD CAME ON THE FIELD to fight too!  THAT TOTALLY ROCKS!"  But it won't happen again.  Bring on the Eagles . . . 
  • Congratulations to Penn State for having their NCAA sanctions lifted.  I think that's wonderful that they were able to prove such a dramatic and consistent dedication to improving the atmosphere of their program.  In end, they wound up with a 2 year post-season ban and a total of 10 lost scholarships.  USC, by comparison, stayed out of post-season play for three years and lost a total of 30 scholarships.  Penn State is glad that their scandal was only a campus-wide conspiracy involving the President and Athletic Director that harmed children.  Had they been found to have one corrupt player and one assistant coach who "should have known" they might still be facing sanctions.
  • An extra hour of College Game Day.  I really have mixed feelings about this.  Who could complain about one more hour of Chris, Kirk, Lee, and Desmond talking about the world's greatest sport?  But starting at 6 am on the west coast?  Kudos to the Duck fans for getting up so early.  At that time of day, I might as well stay up and go straight from work to the stadium.  Brutal.
  • Ohio State is annoying.  The team that we all love to hate has some envious qualities.  Their band totally rocks.  Their animated marching formations has set a new standard in football.  I recently visited their ER and hospital I can sum it up in one word: WOW.  But their fans have swallowed their awesomeness way too much and they are even more arrogant than USC fans.  And that's saying a lot.  Take some manner lessons from Notre Dame and Nebraska, please.  All of which made the loss to Virginia Tech that more wonderful to watch.  Except for fact that the only fans more annoying than Buckeyes are Hokies . . . 
Fight on,


Friday, August 29, 2014

That New Season Smell

This is a guest post by Roger Denning of San Diego, CA  Great stuff, including some links you will want to hang on to to use later.

Stop what you’re doing.  Sit back, close your eyes, and take a deep breath.  Do you feel that?  There’s something different in the air today.  An electricity, an excitement, an energy that has been missing since the early days of January.  It’s been so long, you almost forgot what it felt like, didn’t you.  But it’s there now.  I feel it, and I know you feel it, too.  It’s a feeling of anticipation, of exuberance, of joy.  It’s the feeling of green grass, crowds cheering and a crispness in the air.  It’s the feeling of the greatest time of the year.  It’s college football season!

It’s the season of marching bands, cheerleaders and cannon crews.

It’s the season of Madison, Corvallis and Morgantown.

It’s the season of Chris, Kirk, Lee and Desmond.

It’s the season of Reveille, Smokey and Dubs.  Uga, Bully, Handsome Dan and Blue.  Sir Big Spur, War Eagle and the Air Force Falcon.  Bevo, Ralphie and Tusk.  Rameses, CAM and Bill the Goat.  TOM, Mike and Leo & Una.  Boomer & Sooner and Stryker & Ranger.  Traveler, Peruna and Renegade.

It’s the season of visors, sweater vests and houndstooth hats.

It’s the season of taking secret joy in watchinAlabama fans struggle with theconcept of losing.

It’s the season of Hail to the Victors, the Victory March and Fight On.

It’s the season of the Old Oaken Bucket, Paul Bunyan's Axe and the Little Brown Jug.

It’s the season of Camp Randall, Death Valley and the Swamp.

It’s the season of Sparky and Sparty.  Albert, Alberta and Big Al.  Bucky Badger, Goldy Gopher and Brutus Buckeye.  Big Red, Lil Red and Otto the Orange.  Sebastian and Puddles.  Pistol Pete, Paydirt Pete and Purdue Pete.  The Mountaineer and the Tree.

It’s the season of redshirt freshmen, homecoming queens and Senior Day.

It’s the season of the Ramblin’ Wreck, the Sooner Schooner and the Volunteer Navy.

It’s the greatest season of the year, and it all starts today.

There are well more than 50 televised college football games this weekend alone.  That’s awesome, but it can also be overwhelming.  You need to treat this weekend like an all-you-can-eat buffet:  Plan your attack.  If you just dive in, you’ll end up filling up on starches (i.e., Jacksonville State and Louisiana Monroe) and you won’t have any room left for steak and crab legs (i.e., Wisconsin and Florida State).  I know you’re busy, so I’ve taken the liberty of planning your weekend for you.  Here’s your TV schedule at a glance, with the “can’t miss” games in red:

·         Thursday, August 28:
o   3pm PT                     Texas A&M at South Carolina (SEC Network)                                  
o   5pm PT                     Boise St. vs. Ole Miss (ESPN)
o   7pm PT                     Rutgers at Washington St. (FS1)

·         Friday, August 29:
o   4pm PT                     BYU at UConn (ESPN)
o   6pm PT                     UTSA at Houston (ESPNU)                    
o   9:30pm PT                Get some sleep; you’ve got an early morning

·         Saturday, August 30:
o   5:30am PT                Penn St. v. UCF (ESPN2) 
o   9am PT                      UCLA at Virginia (ESPN)
o   12:30pm PT             Alabama vs. West Virginia (ABC)
o   1pm PT                     Arkansas at Auburn (SEC Network)
o   2:30pm PT                Clemson at Georgia (ESPN)
o   5pm PT                     Florida St. vs. Oklahoma St. (ABC)
o   6pm PT                     LSU v. Wisconsin (ESPN)
o   7:30pm PT                Washington at Hawaii (CBS Sports Network)

·         Sunday, August 31:
o   4:30pm PT                SMU at Baylor (Fox Sports 1)

·         Monday, September 1:
o   5pm PT                     Miami at Louisville (ESPN)

Here is your 2014 College Football Toolbox:

·         Weekly television schedule:  http://lsufootball.net/tvschedule.htm
o   It’s great that there are so many networks broadcasting college football games these days, but you have to be careful.  If you don’t know better, you could end up watching Boise St at New Mexico while Alabama at LSU is on the other channel.  I don’t know why, but for many years, the lsufootball.net site has had the most comprehensive listing of televised college games.  They even include links to websites where you can watch games that aren’t being televised.  It’s a critical resource; consult it frequently.

·         Everything you need to know about the playoff.
o   This season marks the beginning of the four-team playoff, selected and ranked by a committee, to determine the national champion.  But that doesn’t mean the NCAA is doing away with the old BCS bowl system.  Instead, they are trying to merge them in a new system with 7 games.  Tuesday’s San Jose Mercury News had a decent explanation of the new system:
§  Six bowls are involved in the rotation.  This season, the Rose and Sugar will host the semifinals.  Next season, the Cotton and Orange get their shot, then the Fiesta and Peach.  In 2017, the rotation starts over.
§  The championship game, played on a Monday -- this year, it's Jan. 12 at Cowboys Stadium -- is not part of the rotation. It's a separate entity with a bid process all its own.
§  The rotation bowls that aren't involved in the semifinals in a given year will host major matchups on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, combining with the semifinals to form back-to-back triple-headers.
§  The selection committee will create the pairings not only for the semifinals (based on its final rankings) but also the other four rotation bowls, with an emphasis on competitive matchups and the geography.
§  The major conferences will continue to send their champions to contracted bowls if that team isn't involved in the playoffs: the Big Ten and Pac-12 champs to the Rose; the Big 12 and SEC champs to the Sugar; and the ACC champ (and Notre Dame, the Big 10 and the SEC) to the Orange.
§  The highest ranked Group of Five champion (American, Mountain West, C-USA, MAC and Sun Belt) is also guaranteed a birth in one of the big bowls.
§  When a contracted bowl is hosting a semifinal, the league champ will be sent to one of the four other major bowls (unless it's involved in the playoff).

·         Nate Silver would love this:  www.bcftoys.com
o   Beware, you could spend a lot of time playing with all the cool data at this website.
o   SOS:  You can tell at a glance from the cool chart on the home page that Auburn has the toughest schedule, but then see what happens when you sort by rank or sort by conference.  I’ve already spent way too much time at this site.  (Thanks to Tom Melsheimer for showing it to me.  Is it a coincidence that they rank Notre Dame’s SOS very high?)
o   FEI:  FEI stands for Fremeau Efficiency Index, and it measures the efficiency of every offense in college football, based on starting field position and the outcome of non-garbage drives, adjusted to account for opponents.  I think pre-season rankings are silly and a waste of time, because nobody has any idea of the chemistry, drive, and other intangibles that a team might have until mid-season at the earliest.  These guys do pre-season rankings one better; they actually have projected FEI scores for all 128 teams in FBS.  New Mexico State fans, you might as well give up now.  The Aggies have a projected FEI of -0.291.
o   Using FEI, they also determine a team’s likelihood of winning each week.  This week, the best game would seem to be Boise St. at Ole Miss, as Boise has a 50.1% chance of winning.  No need to watch Michigan host Appalachian State, though, as the Wolverines have a 98.5% chance of winning.  (Wait, I seem to recall….)

·         Cartography:
o   Have you ever wondered where all the FBS colleges are located on a map?  Wonder no more:  http://nocoastbias.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/CollegeMap.gif

·         Great read:
o   Here’s a great, lengthy excerpt from Bill Connelly’s book, “Study Hall:  College Football, Its Stats, Its Stories”: http://www.sbnation.com/longform/2013/8/27/4652132/why-we-love-college-football

·         Armchair referee
o   The NCAA is adopting the Tom Brady rule this year, meaning that it is now roughing the passer to hit a quarterback at the knees or below while in a passing posture.  This seems to me to be the only new rule of much consequence.
o   You can download a pdf of all of the official rules for college football at this link:  http://www.ncaapublications.com/p-4309-2013-and-2014-ncaa-football-rules-and-interpretations.aspx
o   Quick, what’s the officiating signal for sideline interference?  You don’t know?  Then you need to print this chart of officiating signals and put it in your gameday binder. http://fs.ncaa.org/Docs/rules/football/2009/fbsignals.pdf

·         Official NCAA football website: http://www.ncaa.org/championships/division-i-football
o   This website is chocked full of interesting tidbits.  Did you know that the NCAA is considering increasing the fees paid to game officials in the national championship game from $450 to $750 next year, while decreasing the fees paid to the instant replay official from $750 to $500?  Did you also know that last season’s bowl games generated a profit of $212,159,861.  Seems like it might be a good idea to pay the referee more than the average cost of a ticket to the game, don’t you think?

·         History and Tradition:
o   This site has every helmet every college football team has ever worn: http://www.nationalchamps.net/Helmet_Project/
o   Crank up the speakers and go here for all the college fight songs: http://www.fightmusic.com  This year, I’ll put in a good word for “Go ‘U’ Northwestern.”  Underrated.  Great dogfight. 

Fight on!