Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The SOQ from Hell

We've been given a bit of a reprieve at work - the office relocation date has been pushed back from January 31st to February 15th. This is welcome in that it gives me more time to clean, organize and pack; I've been so busy over the last couple of weeks that I really haven't made a lot of headway in that regard. I still can't say I'm overjoyed about the prospect of trading in an office with a view in Greenway Plaza for a cubicle with no view in the congested Galleria/Post Oak area, but earlier this week I did learn that the new location will come with at least one advantage: a full-service reproduction room with a full-time, on-site representative from a quality local reprographics company. I have a feeling that this new resource will come in handy. In fact, I certainly could have used it this last week, as I labored to put together a Statement of Qualifications for a bid for a south Texas city that ended up being a lot more expensive, time-consuming and frustrating than it should have been.

I really shouldn't go into details here and now - we'll hopefully know in a few weeks whether we got the job or not - but there were several lessons I learned from this ordeal. For example: maybe it's not a good idea to try to put together a bid package at the last minute, without any production or graphics support from my company's Business Development folks. And maybe it's not a good idea to rely on a copy-store chain to print and bind my documents for me, especially since the quality and reliability of said chain has fallen dramatically since they were purchased by a certain shipping company several years ago. And finally, if I do miss that certain shipping company's Saturday afternoon pickup deadline, maybe I should research the same-day delivery services offered by my hometown airline before deciding that my only option is to fly to Corpus Christi (nice airport, by the way), rent a car and drive to the south Texas city in question in order to ensure that the bid package is delivered before the Monday afternoon deadline.

Having a full-service, in-house reproduction room with dedicated staff would not have solved all these problems, but it certainly would have made last weekend a lot easier for me. If this resource is going to be available at my company's new location, then maybe this relocation thing won't be such a bad thing after all.

Now, if I could just do something about the stupid cubicle...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A raptor in the neighborhood

I caught this guy sitting atop a tree across the street from my house a few days ago:

I think it's a red-tailed hawk. Without a telephoto lens for my camera, however, it's hard to tell.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Happy fun office relocation time!

I knew this was coming, so I wasn't particularly surprised when this e-mail hit my work inbox about an hour ago:

We just received this information late yesterday. Facilities Management will be terminating our current lease effective January 31, 2008. We will be relocating [to a building that already contains our firm's architecture sector].

I don’t have any other information about logistics on this relocation effort. Facilities Management will have someone here starting Monday the 21st to head up the relocation efforts. Additional information will be provided at that time.

That gives me exactly two weeks to sort through my files, clean up my messy office and pack. And then once I move to my new office I'll get to unpack. Except for the fact that at the new building I won't have an office. I'll get to move into a freakin' cubicle. Yeah!

The reolcation itself won't be too far - perhaps just a few miles from our existing location in Greenway Plaza to the new building on the West Loop - but, as everybody who lives in Houston knows, traffic in the Galleria/Post Oak/West Loop area is beyond awful. I figure my commute time is about to double.

I would be more annoyed than I am were it not for the fact that I work from home a lot of the time these days anyway. Still, having to trade an actual office for a stupid cubicle is going to suck.

Oh, well. Time to get packing...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

RIP, Dave's Jeep

My brother David was involved in a pretty major traffic accident last weekend in the mountains of Colorado. He lost control of his Jeep in icy road conditions (yeah, the same one that took us up to Jones Pass last summer) while trying to make his way to Winter Park. David hit his head hard enough to require staples; his friend Fred, who was riding with him, suffered a broken leg just below the knee and will need to go in for surgery. There were other people involved in the accident as well, but fortunately no other major injuries were incurred. David's Jeep Liberty was totaled, as the pictures on his blog attest.

There might be a lesson somewhere in here about the perils of native Houstonians attempting to drive in wintry mountain weather, but that will come later. Right now I'm just happy that David and Fred are still alive. Looking at that mangled Jeep, it's amazing that both of them were able to walk (or in Fred's case limp) away.

The loss of a vehicle is going to be tough for my brother. Fortunately he lives close to one of the stops on Denver's light rail network and will be able to use the train to get to work. Fred could be out of work for several months, however, and that will doubtlessly be problematic for him and his family.

We've decided not to inform my parents of the accident until they finish their Mexican cruise and return to San Diego this weekend. No point in ruining their vacation since there's nothing they can do right now anyway.

Monday, January 14, 2008

18 stunning bridges

Two be sure, three of these eighteen bridges don't exist yet and one is still under construction, but I agree that the ones this site has chosen are pretty cool.

I can only say that I've actually been on two of these bridges: Tower Bridge in London and Erasmusburg in Rotterdam. I've also seen the Akashi-Kaikyo, albeit from a bit of a distance:

Believe it or not, I have yet to make it out to San Francisco to see the Golden Gate. Yes, I'm that lame.

(hat tip: Marginal Revolution)

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

LSU, the BCS, plus-ones and playoffs

The 2007 college football season has come to an end. The Louisiana State Tigers convincingly defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes, 38-24, Monday night in the Bowl Championship Series Championship Game, securing both the BCS National Championship as well as the Associated Press title - the closest thing to an actual "national championship" in major college football. This is LSU's second BCS championship (their first was in 2003) and their second AP title (their first was in 1958; the AP crowned Southern Cal as national champion in 2003). LSU also becomes the first team with two losses to win the AP title since the poll began in 1936.

Which brings up the annual question: did the much-maligned Bowl Championship Series system get it right this year? Or does fact that, for the first time in history, the national champion had two losses on its record prove that the BCS failed to crown the most deserving team?

Of course, that brings up another question: if two-loss LSU doesn't deserve the national title, then who does? Two-loss USC? Two-loss Georgia? What about two-loss Missouri, or two-loss West Virginia? Fact is, 2007 was simply a strange year for college football, with no teams emerging undefeated and even the nation's best teams suffering multiple defeats. (The Kansas Jayhawks, who ended the season as the nation's highest-ranked one-loss team, might argue that they deserve the title, but their creampuff out-of-conference schedule as well as the drubbing they received at the hands of Missouri late in the season might say otherwise.) And although I think that the Georgia Bulldogs were playing the nation's strongest football at season's end, the BCS got it right with LSU: when the season as a whole is taken into account, LSU comes out on top. The Tigers went into the bowl season as champions of the Southeastern Conference, which is clearly the strongest conference in the nation. They played a total of eight ranked teams over the course of the season, defeating strong Florida, Auburn and Tennessee programs and even delivering a sound 48-7 drubbing to a good Virginia Tech team out-of-conference. Both of their losses (to Kentucky and Arkansas) were triple-overtime nail-biters; take away the NCAA's overtime rules that were implemented a dozen years ago and the Tigers end the year 12-0-2. All that, along with their convincing victory over the Buckeyes Monday night, make the Bayou Bengals legitimate national champions.

The fact that the BCS appears to have gotten it right in terms of crowning LSU the national champion, however, does not mean that the system is working. In fact, it remains mired in controversy. USC, Georgia, West Virginia and Missouri - all of whom ended their seasons with runaway bowl victories - can legitimately ask why an Ohio State program from the relatively weak Big Ten got tabbed to face LSU instead of any of them. Missou, in fact, didn't even make it into the BCS this year: the two-team-per-conference limit left the Tigers and their fans out in favor of the Kansas squad they had defeated. Illinois, which was ranked #13 going into their Rose Bowl slaughter, clearly was undeserving of a BCS bid, and the "mid-majors-don't-belong" elitists will point to Hawaii's drubbing at the hands of Georgia and complain. Simply put, the BCS is a screwy and convoluted system. Could you imagine what the NFL postseason would be like if it were run like the BCS? The BCS is also facing another problem: declining television viewership.

Mike Celizic at says that this season's outcome is further proof of the need for a playoff:
Be honest. Unless you’re an LSU fan — and hats off to them for grinding Ohio State into the Superdome turf — there’s no way you think this college football season should be over. I don’t know which team you want to have a shot at LSU. It could be USC or Georgia or Missouri. But I know you want another game.

In a way, what happened on Monday night in New Orleans is the best thing that could happen to the absurd system that arbitrarily anoints a national champion in the NCAA’s flagship sport. After this stinker of a game, there can be no more specious arguments about how the system isn’t broken.

Interestingly enough, some of the forces behind the BCS appear to agree that the system is indeed broken and needs to be changed. Last week, SI'com's Stewart Mandell reported about a movement afoot to implement a "plus-one" system to the BCS format:

While the 2007 college football season will conclude with Monday night's BCS National Championship Game between Ohio State and LSU, a different sort of season is about to commence -- one that will take place in conference offices, network suites and hotel board rooms.

"The season for analysis and consideration [of the BCS' future] will take place now through the summer," said BCS coordinator (and SEC Commissioner) Mike Slive.

The BCS' four-year contract with Fox is in its second year. (ABC's exclusive deal with the Rose Bowl extends an additional four years). The conference commissioners and bowl executives who oversee the BCS will soon hold potentially historic discussions about the possibility of adding a so-called plus-one game -- in which the BCS bowls would serve as a play-in to the national championship game -- starting with the 2010 season.

But as is often the case when it comes to college football's convoluted governance, the conflicting agendas of the various parties will make for a potentially contentious debate over any possible changes to the BCS.

This summer Slive, along with ACC Commissioner John Swofford, plan to present a "plus-one" arrangement to the conference commissioners, bowl executives and television networks that make up the BCS leadership. They believe that the plus-one arrangement - essentially, a four-team playoff, although nobody will call it that - will settle many of the problems inherent in the current system and boost television revenue. However, Slive already expects that he will run into opposition from at least three major BCS stakeholders: the Big Ten, the Pac-10, and the Rose Bowl.
Those people Slive is presumably referring to are Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen and school presidents from both leagues. The two conferences, which, along with their longtime partner, the Rose Bowl, have repeatedly stated their adamant opposition to any postseason modification that might impinge on their arrangement. The fact that their ABC deal is locked in through 2014 will make any such discussions trickier.

"My sense," said one major bowl executive, "is that Mr. Delany is unconvinced [about a plus-one]. Mr. Hansen is uninterested. Everyone says, 'Why can't we get to this yet?' Until they look at it through each party's respective self-interest, nobody understands how hard it is to come to an agreement."

Indeed, as long as the Big Ten, the Pac-10 and the Rose Bowl protect their sacred - and lucrative - turf, any major reform to college football's postseason is unlikely. And that means that, as much as fans might want one, a playoff for college football probably isn't going to happen anytime soon.

Any discussion about the future of college football's postseason must start with the requisite disclaimer that "the one thing [all] of us are in agreement on is there isn't going to be a playoff," said Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese.

Such sentiments routinely frustrate the large segment of the public that clamors for a playoff and can't comprehend why Division I-A football remains the nation's only major sport -- and only NCAA football division -- which refuses to implement a full-scale tournament to determine its champion.

Leaders of the sport generally point to two primary concerns that would arise from a playoff -- that it would devalue college football's uniquely gripping regular season, and that it would unduly interfere with players' academics.

Although I generally support the creation of a playoff, I think the first argument - that a playoff would lessen the importance and appeal of the regular season, is valid. The second argument - that a playoff would adversely affect academics - is more difficult for me to accept. Especially when people like Tranghese come up with incredibly lame reasons to buttress it:

Playoff proponents counter that plenty of other sports, such as baseball and basketball, cross over two semesters (though those sports also account for many of the NCAA's lowest APR scores), and that Divisions I-AA, II and III all hold their playoffs during the mid-December finals season.

"Don't insult my intelligence," said Tranghese. "Don't compare I-AA football to I-A football. Appalachian State-Delaware, that's a great game, but they are not operating in the limelight that I-A is. For anyone to think there could be a I-A playoff during exams -- the press demands, the television demands, they're just huge.

"The limelight?" Please. The kids at the top schools have been playing in the media spotlight all season long, yet still manage to take their tests and write their papers. To think that they couldn't handle such a situation during finals is laughable. Especially considering that most schools end their fall semesters with final exams in mid-December, meaning that much of any football playoff would be played after finals are over anyway. Somebody's intelligence is being insulted here, but it's not Mr. Tranghese.

Interestingly enough, support for a playoff is coming from a member of a group commonly said to be dead-set against them. University of Georgia President Michael F. Adams, doubtlessly miffed about the fact that his team didn't get a shot to play for the national title, is proposing an eight-team football playoff:
"I find it interesting that our most high-profile sport is the only place where we as presidents have turned the end game over to another group," Adams said. "There has been a concentration of power among the conference and bowl commissioners. I believe it is time to take the ultimate power out of their hands."
And how, Dr. Adams, are you going to force the conference commissioners - the Delanys, the Hansens, the Trangheses - to let go of that power? How are you going to force the bowl executives - notably Rose Bowl CEO Mitch Dorger - to surrender the influence they wield? They're not going to give it up voluntarily. The only way it's going to happen is if you can convince a sizable majority of your fellow college presidents that a playoff is the way to go. If history is any guide, putting men on Mars will be an easier task.

I've given up hope that a true playoff in major college football will occur anytime soon. There is simply too much money and power concentrated against it. The BCS system, as much as it sucks, is what we're stuck with. To its credit, however, it did get one thing right this time around: congratulations to the LSU Tigers.

The Ohio State Buckeyes, meanwhile, suffer a loss in the BCS championship game for the second year in a row.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

This blog is lame

In 2006, I posted 130 entries on this blog.

In 2007, I posted 102.

That's pretty lame, especially considering that I didn't really start this blog until late April of that year.

It works out to 8.5 entries per month in 2007, compared to 14.4 entries per month over the nine months this blog was active in 2006.

Hopefully I'll be a little better about writing entries in 2008.