Monthly Archive: December 2016

American Airlines screws us over baggage transit

American Airlines is rapidly sinking down our list of airlines for leisure flying.
We checked 2 bags into DFW on Monday for the trip to Belize
When we arrived in Belize city, only one bag came off the conveyor
So once it was clear from talking to the baggage handlers that there were no more bags to be unloaded it was off to the AA office.
It soon became clear that no, our bag had not made it onto the flight. It was still at the departure gate in DFW. There was no reason advanced for the bag having not made it onto the flight However, we were not alone, a whole bunch of people were also in line for the same reason.
AA said that they would send it to BZE via MIA overnight,, which meant it would arrive at BZE at lunchtime today.
They said they would send it down to Plancencia later in the day via one of the regional airlines (Maya AIr or Tropic Aiir) that flies to Placencia.
This is our biggest bag, containing our snorkelling gear and most of mary’s shoes.
As of now, we still do not have the bag. It is still at BZE, awaiting space on a feeder fight. Missing bags can only be sent down on a space available basis, and the bag only cleared customs at 4.45 pm today, which was too late for a flight with baggage space.
So we will not get the bag until tomorrow at the earliest.
This is not good. We have had to shuffle trips around because of this. The AA agent at BZE told us that there are nearly 100 bags that have been lost that they are trying to route to the owners.
I am pissed. This was a stateside SNAFU in DFW and now our Chrstmas is being impacted.

UPDATE – The bag finally came down from BZE to Placencia on the 11.30 TropicAir flight and we picked it up from the airport at 12.30 CST. Only 2 days later than we should have taken possession of it…

UPDATE 2 – To add insult to injury, our medium sized bag came off the conveyor at DFW on the return leg missing a wheel. The missing wheel is on the wrong side, so it makes the baggage non-wheelable in any orientation i.e. unusable. GRRRRRR.


The sad decline of RG III continues

Back in 2015, I wrote this article about the decline of Robert Griffin III as an NFL quarterback.
His decline, and the impact on the Redskins, was documented in this article, featuring a film breakdown by former Redskins player Chris Cooley. The article shows that Griffin’s skills at reading NFL defenses were so deficient that even operating with a simplified playbook, Griffin was unable to move the Redskins offense down the field.However, the article also makes the point that, even more than 2 years removed from his injury, Griffin had not only lost his speed, he had also lost the ability to rapidly move left in the pocket. Cooley explains how this has had a profound negative impact on his whole game:

“He can’t move left, he can’t slide [his feet], he always turns to run. When he’s moving in the pocket, it’s always a running gesture, it’s always a tuck-ball-and-run gesture. It’s not keep poised, keep shoulder back, keep ball pressed back ready to throw, shuffle and slide. It’s a tuck-ball-run, then look to throw. This takes all vision off the field for Robert. When he takes all vision off the field at this point, he loses where he wants to go with the football. Which means unless someone’s coming across the field, directly into his vision, he is not able to find them or throw to them.”

Griffin signed with the Cleveland Browns in the offseason, and seemingly won the starting QB job, but his injury bad luck returned again in his first game, when he suffered a broken bone in his shoulder which landed him on injured reserve. Prior to suffering the injury, some of his old issues were clearly still present, although other Browns players did not help the offense.
Returning to the starting line-up last week, Griffin posted another poor performance, with a completion percentage of just over 40% and a QB rating in the 20s.
Increasingly the career arc of RG III resembles that of Jason Sehorn, who for a couple of seasons was a genuine shutdown cornerback for the Giants, with blazing speed that allowed him to beat any wide receiver in the league to the ball. However, Sehorn ruptured his ACL and suffered other knee damage while returning a punt in the 1997 pre-season. When he returned the following year, it soon became clear that the injury had robbed him of his speed. He went from being a top-tier cornerback to an average, then mediocre cornerback, and ended his career as a mediocre safety, beset by other injuries.
RG III is now at the point in his career where he has to either show that he can operate usefully as a pocket passer, or be rejected by NFL teams. The era of offenses built mostly around the read option is temporarily over in the NFL. Teams now know how to shut down that type of offense, and RG III lacks the running speed to even stretch a defense if he keeps the ball.
So far, the evidence is that RG III lacks the ability and/or willpower to make the change. To be fair, other running quarterbacks also failed to adapt.
If RG III wants to make the leap before he lands on the scrap-heap, he might want to arrange to spend some time with Steve Young picking his brains. Young arrived to the 49ers as the heir-apparent to Joe Montana, but with a completely different playing style. Montana was the classical pocket passer, with incredible poise under pressure, great accuracy and the ability to bring the team from behind in games – his fourth quarter comebacks are the stuff of legend. Young, at that stage of his career, would take off running at the first sign of trouble and try to make things happen on the run. As he explains:

…when Bill got hold of me I remember him pulling me aside and saying ‘Steve, nobody knows where you are.’ And I’d go run for 10 yards, or I’d scramble around and throw the ball for a nice completion or something and he’d say, ‘That’s great. But nobody knows where you are. And the truth is, if you really want to make the most of it — get everything out of the play that I call. You left early. You didn’t explore every avenue or option. And people need to know where you are.’ And I remember thinking ‘Oh, crap. I better be where everyone expects me to be. And do everything that everyone expects me to do with this play. I’ve got to exhaust it.’

Note the key repeated message in the paragraph – “nobody knows where you are”. If the offensive line does not know where their quarterback is, they cannot protect him effectively. As the 2014 film breakdown from Chris Cooley showed, RG III was not only failing to pass the ball to the planned receivers for a play, he was also moving all over the place behind the O-line, but not in a useful-slide-around-the-pocket way. He was either running all over the place, or standing like a statue a long way behind the O-line. The first approach takes you out from behind offensive line protection. The second approach allows defensive players to run around the corner straight at the quarterback. As a result he was sacked a lot.
RG III operated like Harry Houdini for a season, but was injured doing so. Now he has a limited time to re-tool his approach, before the Exit door snaps shut on his NFL career.


Today’s Round Up

1. Sid Miller cannot stop spreading lies and bullshit
Another posting on Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller’s Facebook wall has been shown to be BS. Either a lying asshat has hacked Miller’s Facebook, or he is a lying asshat. I know what my selection is, your selection may be different.

2. Donald Trump’s lies have a purpose
This article, like an earlier one from George Lakoff, explains that Trump’s lies, far from being directionless and random, exist to serve a purpose (mostly related to the self-aggrandisement of Donald Trump). As the article explains, the media has to decide if they want to pander to Trump, or report correctly on his utterances.

3. The media fallout from the 2016 Election
The election has been a mess for the US mass media, who had no coherent response to an electoral campaign where misinformation, bullshit and fakery became the norm. This consolidation of 86 articles provides some interesting and sobering reading.
While we are on the subject of media performance, here is a withering article by Rick Perlstein about the asymmetry in media coverage between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the 2016 election.


Long distance migration experts #2 – The European Eel

I wrote some time ago about a species of bird, The Bar-Tailed Godwit, that migrates an astonishing distance every year.
Today, I am writing about a species of fish that engages in an equally arduous migration. The species is the European Eeel.
The Eel spends most of its life in fresh water, but when it reaches sexual maturity, it migrates back from its home body of fresh water to the ocean. This pattern of return to the ocean to spawn is the exact opposite of the life cycle and breeding action of the Salmon, which begins its life in freshwater, matures in the ocean, then returns to fresh water to spawn and (like the eel) to die.
What happens to migrating eels after their return to the ocean has never been entirely clear. In the late 19th Century, scientists finally established that juvenile eels were in fact the second larval stage of the species, developing from the first larval stage before the juvenile eels reached fresh water. By a process if extrapolation, scientists postulated that eels spawned in the Sargasso Sea, and that the larvae then traveled back to Europe via the Gulf Stream and other ocean currents.
This recent scientific paper, using modern tracking technology, largely confirms prior scientific theories about the reproductive process of the European Eel. Eels migrate up to 5000 km back to the ocean to spawn, living off stored food reserves. After spawning, they die, since they cannot feed any more.


The fallacy of the Great Person theory of leadership, accountability and personal agency

Over the next 4 years, if it becomes apparent that Donald Trump was the wrong choice for POTUS, we can expect to see people who voted for him attempting to deny accountability in several different ways:

1. They will forget or deny that they voted for him or supported him in the first place (The Amnesia approach)
2. They will protest “when I voted for him I didn’t think he would really do all of That Dumb Stuff!”
3. They will blame Other Actors for sabotaging his presidency (“those Other Forces did not allow him to do what he really needed to do so it’s not his fault”)

(1) is not particularly sustainable in the internet age. I can, for example, fairly easily mine Facebook postings to determine which of my Facebook friends were Trump supporters in the election cycle. (2) and (3) are more arguable, but I usually respond to (2) with some variant of “if you didn’t take him seriously when he promised to do that stuff, more fool you”.
Currently, I am part way through reading “Hillbilly Elegy” by JD Vance, which is a memoir of a guy who grew up in Appalachia and Ohio in a deeply dysfunctional family, embedded in areas of the United States that have lost out to the last 40+ years of globalization and employment shift.
While the areas that JD Vance grew up in are indeed economically deprived, and many people are suffering badly financially and socially, one of the points that Vance makes consistently in interviews and articles is that the blame does not rest entirely with the “outside forces” that many people in those areas rail and rant against on a daily basis. He was also totally unimpressed by Donald Trump’s candidacy, describing his promises to “bring back coal” as part of a pattern of what he calls an opiate fix for the people in Appalachia.
One of Vance’s central points is that people have agency, and the victim-centered attitude of what he terms “learned helplessness” reduces the chances that the economically deprived areas of the USA and their populations can improve their conditions.
The idea that people are not responsible for what happens to them and their country is also a viewpoint that many historians outside of Germany have focussed on when dealing with the history of the rise of Naziism in Germany. The view outside Germany tends to focus on the claimed charisma, oratory and power of a few bad men (Adolf Hitler, Rudolf Hess, Josef Goebbels et al) and rather less on the underlying reality that Adolf Hitler came to power by being elected democratically, and that Naziism was wildly popular in Germany right up to the point that it began to become obvious to the German people that they were losing World War II. Inside Germany, historical analyses of Naziism focus rather less on the individual Nazi leaders and more on answering the awkward question of why and how the German people collectively signed on to the Nazi worldview and philosophy.
Most Germans have learned the hard way that their ancestors, for a period of a dozen or so years, enabled great evil. They are, by and large, determined to not allow that to ever happen again.
This leads us back to today, with Donald Trump as the President-Elect. While people and the media focus to a great degree on Trump’s personality, worldview and policies, the underlying reality is that his espoused views do reflect the attitudes of a lot of Americans, and he was elected by a significant percentage of Americans who thought he was the best choice to be President.
Those people, whether they want to see it that way or not, had agency when they voted, and voted for Donald Trump. They are therefore accountable and culpable, collectively, for the outcome of that decision.
The bottom line is that electors who voted for Donald Trump are culpable for enabling not only his actions, but also the worldviews and attitudes underpinning those actions. And if the outcomes for the United States are negative, I will have no hesitation in pointing that out to them. We all own the consequences of our decisions.

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