A Quick Post From KWCB

For those who don’t know, KWCB stands for Knowne World Cooks & Bards Symposium.

Basically, it’s an event that happens every year somewhere in the SCA that encourages cooks and bards to come learn, teach, and strut their stuff.

For me, I’ve spent most of the time writing a song. We’ll see how it goes.

Oh, and the final score at the feast:
Cooks: 10 kajillion and one
Feasters: Retired from the field in awe

A New Season

Tonight is the final night of the NFL preseason, and next Thursday the lights come on for real.

There’s a certain Schrodinger’s Cat-ness about the start of every sports season, but it especially true for football and the NFL in particular. By this, I mean that no one actually knows what will happen in the upcoming season. Right now, it’s a cat in a box.

I said that the NFL is more so than other sports, and two reasons are the small sample size and schedule strength.

The NFL plays 16 games. That’s it. The difference between the playoffs and a Super Bowl win or a losing season can be miniscule. An inch or less at the right or wrong time. A freak snow storm.  Rain. Fog. A poorly wiped down football. I can give examples of each of these things changing the result of a game, and each game is 6.25% of a season, not to mention luck in the single-game elimination format of the playoffs.

Luck plays more of a part in the NFL than in any other team sport. Take, for example, David Tyree’s catch in the first of two Super Bowl victories by the New York Giants over the New England Patriots. A desperation heave and a catch that just barely missed touching the ground, but it was enough to give the Giants a chance that they ultimately took advantage of.

I can give you a long list of plays that were just as close even closer. The Immaculate Reception. The Catch. Wide Right. The Music City Miracle.

Statisticians have proven that in games decided by less than one score, which in the NFL is 8 points, the records and quality of the teams involved are irrelevant. The 13-3 Seahawks beat the 2-14 Texans 23-20 in overtime in 2013. This game was decided on a few plays here or there that could quite easily have gone the other way. We know the Seahawks won now because the cat has been released from the box, but when the two teams went out to the overtime coin flip the odds were 50-50 as to which team would win.

Part of this is that the actual qualitative difference between the best teams in the NFL and the worst teams is actually very small. In college, of course, this is not true, and high school football even less so.

Because the talent difference is so small, injuries can make an extraordinary impact. Sometimes, a team suffers a huge number of injuries and their year is just gone. Sometimes, a single injury, such as the one that knocked Tom Brady out for the year a while ago can end a season. With one exception, injuries are actually a function more of luck than anything else. The exception is age. Older players get hurt more than younger ones, so if you see a team relying on veterans do not be surprised if they have more injuries than a younger team.

Another aspect of luck involves the schedule. The NFL has 32 teams. Clearly, there’s no way in a 16-game season a team can play all the others, especially since each team plays the three other teams in its division twice.

The NFL actually has an intricate schedule that is essentially laid out in perpetuity. Each team plays six games in its division, four games against another division in the NFC, four games against another division in the AFC, and then two games against teams who finished at the same spot in their respective divisions (2013 3rd place team in one division will play two games against teams that finished 3rd in their division as well). The other divisions and extra games rotate each year.

Yet not every division is created equal. For example, AFC South had the unfortunate luck to play the NFC West in 2013. The NFC West was loaded, with records of 13-3, 12-4, 10-6, and 7-9. By contrast, the NFC North in 2013 was very weak, and that gave the AFC North an advantage.

Probably every year there is at least one team that plays better than some others but because of their challenging schedule they don’t even make the playoffs. Arizona, who went 10-6 in 2013 but 8-7-1 Green Bay and 9-7 San Diego made the playoffs instead of them. Bad luck for the Cardinals that they played in the best division in football in 2013.

If you pay attention to football prognosticators, the smart ones will reference schedule strength. However, because of the fluid nature of the NFL no one really knows who will be strong in the upcoming year. The NFL currently admits 12 teams to the playoffs each year. On average, 5.7 of those teams did not make the playoffs the year before.

Yes, you read that right. Half of the playoff teams are different each year, and they are not necessarily the weaker of the playoff teams.

The easy safe route is to predict a team that was bad in one year will be bad and a team that was good will be good. Hence, most of your big name prognosticators will fall into this trap. If you see a prognostication that has nearly all of the previous season’s playoff teams returning recognize that either the author was lazy, doesn’t know the facts, doesn’t care, or some combination of these.

But the facts show this to be a lie. Some teams will have long stretches of excellence or failure. The New England Patriots are an example. However, they are the exception no the rule.

This makes prognostication even harder. If schedule strength matters, and it does, how can one predict it when we know that half of the playoff teams won’t be there? And hence, how can one predict which teams will benefit and which will suffer?

One can’t.

Wyrd will have her say.

Yet, despite knowing all of this, it remains irresistible that we must make our best guesses at what the upcoming year will hold. In this, I am no different.

So, next week, either Wednesday or Thursday. I will release my bold predictions and team capsules for each team. I’m sure you are all waiting with bated breath.

I’ll give you two hints. One, I will pick somewhere between 4 and 8 new playoff teams. Two, the Seahawks will not be one of the teams that I predict to fall out of the playoffs. Obviously, they were good enough to win last year, and not in a flukey manner, but just as importantly they are one of the younger teams in the league.

In fact, history tells us that Seattle is more likely to win a couple more Super Bowls in the next few years than to miss the playoffs because of that youth. The other teams that have won Super Bowls with about their age profile were the 1974 Steelers, 1981 49ers, and 1992 Cowboys, all of whom became dynasties. If you want the statistical breakdown, look here: http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/seattle-seahawks-youth-could-portend-a-dynasty-yes-really/.

In any case, come back in a week and see what I think will happen in the 2014 NFL season.




Katayanicum I:2

To the most illustrious and invincible Highness, Prince Verethragnan, heir to the Throne of Unyielding Justice, I, Katayana of Amaranth, sends greetings.

You have asked me, my Prince, of the beginnings of all things. To my shame this is not something I can truly answer. My only excuse, my Lord, is that the answer was lost some time before the last of the Giants was slain. To prove that I, Your least of servants, is truthful in this claim permit me to digress for but a moment.

The name of our world is probably the greatest mystery in all the ancient study of etymology. Every culture we have met has named this world their language’s cognate of “Kshiurana.” From the farthest west there is Sciuren and from the farthest east Shikuran. Nor can we detect any distribution of this name from a singular origin that has spread out during the six centuries since the beginning of this age. Our earliest records, no matter what culture or language, all refer to this planet with this word. 

However, though we know the word, we are not entirely sure what it means. We may, however, use logical processes, that you are so skilled with, to determine a probable answer.

First, we must examine the implications of this etymological quandary, my Prince, that are surely obvious to You. Permit me, however, as Your tutor to lay these out clearly so that as philosophers we can examine them. We shall start by working from the assumption based upon the best evidence available to us that the idea of Kshiurana is a memory inherent in all cultures.

The implication is that this intercultural memory comes from a time that predates all of human history. History, as we have already discussed, is the recounting of actions of humans that have been recorded in whatever language and medium is available to the culture. It is true that Your line is the greatest of all royal lines in this, Kshiurana, and by extension the history of Your kingdom the most important in all the world. Nevertheless, it falls to us as philosophers to seek out and learn the histories of other cultures, even those as strange and barbaric as that of the Eleven Kingdoms on the islands of the Western Sea.

As I mentioned, each of these histories call this world their version of the same word, but what is also interesting to the philosophical mind are the origins of these earliest histories. As all men know, and You above all of them save Your father the greatest of all men, this age began with the final defeat of the Giants who had for so long enslaved our race. There, at the Battle of the First Kings, their evil was ended forever and many of the kingdoms of Kshiurana were founded.

The honor and glory displayed and earned on that field, as You know, led us to number all of our years from that date. Yet that battle was merely the culmination of a war that lasted decades and most cultures have histories written prior to what we now call the First Year. Our own histories, for example, stretch back some decades prior to that time as we carved out for ourselves the freedom to write words pertaining to ourselves as free creatures and not merely slaves. It is further proof of the greatness of Your line that our histories number amongst the earliest of all.

Yet histories of the Empire of Sabinia are attested to have been written but a scant few of years after our own. Even as we learn the limits of the Five Streams in this advanced and peaceful age, it would be difficult for one of us to travel that great distance in but two years. This is even more true of the histories written upon birch bark in the farthest north where frozen rivers are the only roads. Yet, as I have said, each of these texts agree upon the name Kshiurana.

Hence, we can only assume, as men seeking wisdom, that the name Kshiurana predates the end of the Giants.

Forgive me, Your Highness, for my tedious path to explain that which surely was obvious to You but for those lesser souls such as my own it is beneficial that we methodically proceed through the evidence.

It is this evidence that leads You to my obvious conundrum. How can I, a mere servant, succeed where no others have? For, as You know, we have no recorded history prior to these days for the Giants would not allow their servants this right. Letters they taught us so that we could copy their texts, but literacy they justly feared. All we have are the tales we told huddled in our cold homes and cells when they were not listening.

Those tales that have survived, as You know, are filled with mystery and wonder but not the details that a philosophical mind would require. We may enjoy them for their rough beauty and their soul of suffering and hope, but few indeed are the facts we may glean from them.

As You also know, we have recovered some few texts and inscriptions of the Giants when we finally defeated them. Sadly, I and my brethren have failed at this time to uncover the meaning in these remaining texts for humans were never permitted to learn to read the language of the Giants.

We can deduce the sounds of the letters, and across our world virtually every language uses a script that evolved from our regional memories of the Giants’ alphabet. However, though we at times can guess the sound, we cannot divine the meaning of the words.

Nevertheless, the Imperial version of Kshiurana “Shijuren” may offer a clue, as we think the Giants referred to themselves as the yuran, or something similar. Our best guess, then, is that the word survived from their language. Perhaps the original word meant “Giants’ World” or “Giants’ Home.” We may never know, for theirs is a language we have essentially lost. 

Forgive us our failure, but know, my prince, that my brethren and I will not rest until we have learned what these say. Should any of us die before can report our success to You, know that our successors will take up this banner and strive forever to unlock those secrets.

Hence, Your Highness, I humbly apologize that I cannot answer for You the question that You have asked. History, as we know it, holds not that answer. Philosophy instructs us, as is obvious to You, that there must be a start, a single prime movement or prime thing that from which all else is derived. To my greatest shame, I cannot put a name or description to that starting point.

Though I realize that I have but merely walked upon a trail that is brightly lit to Your mind, I hope that this exercise has not been without some worth to You. Perhaps, this methodical approach has highlighted something that You knew but had not previously considered in the limited time Your duties allow You to consider natural philosophy.

In such hopes, I remain Your dutiful servant, Katayana of Amaranth.

– Excerpt of the Katayanicum, Book I, Chapter 2.


Well, now that I have your attention, let’s get this epic show on the road.

My name is Rob Howell. I even filled out my About page, which actually has more information about me. What will become clear even without visiting that page is that I am just too opinionated not to express that opinion on the interwebz so now I stake my claim to a little slice of cyberspace.

You will find my opinions cover quite a few things, sports, politics, philosophy, music, and lots of history. Stuff. I like talking about stuff.

However, I don’t like talking about many of these things on Facebook, because what I want from my friends on Facebook are how their lives are going, not their politics or axes to grind. Since I figure my Facebook friends don’t really want to hear my opinions in their news feed either, I tend to avoid touchy topics and simply post cat pictures, song lyrics, and random whimsies. Here will be the crunchy stuff.

This will also be a venue for me to publish some of my fiction. Mostly what I will publish here will be stuff about my worlds and my characters. We all know exposition gets in the way of stories, but here I can toss out random small expositional bits that you can read, ignore, or come back to when you feel the need.

I will publish something at least once every weekday. We will all see whatever it is that inspires me on a given day.

Now, I will conclude my first post by quoting Walt Whitman:
“Afoot and lighthearted I take to the open road, healthy, free, the world before me.”

Hello, world.