Friday, June 19, 2015

Greetings from Puerto Rico!

San Juan is more humid than Houston.

Yes. You read that right. I can literally taste the seawater with every breath and I've been dripping in sweat since the second I stepped out of the airport. At least the food is good.

I'm here along with my parents and my son. Tomorrow we're going to spend a week cruising to the little island-nations to the seas east of here: St. Kitts, St. Lucia, Barbados, etc. We will spend another week at a timeshare here in San Juan when we return.

We've had this trip planned for a long while; needless to say I've been looking forward to it for months. Hopefully I'll have a nice writeup with a bunch of pictures later.

This is also the first time I've ever tried to write a blog entry on an iPad Mini. I don't think I'll be doing this very often.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

How to combat local media overcoverage of minor weather events

The Houston region got its first taste of this year’s hurricane season yesterday, as Tropical Storm Bill made landfall. While any tropical weather event is to be taken seriously – there was legitimate concern that ground still saturated from recent storms might not be able to handle Bill’s rainfall – the storm’s actual effects turned out to be rather mild.

That didn’t stop the local television news media from milking Bill for all it was worth. If they were able to generate this much hype for a relatively minor tropical storm, I shudder to think what they’ll come up with when an actual category-three hurricane approaches later this summer.

Was the wall-to-wall coverage of this storm silly, excessive and unnecessary? Of course it was. Did KPRC really need to pre-empt Jimmy Fallon on Monday night to bring us inane and repetitive “team coverage” of people sitting in front of computers at Houston Transtar or bemused tourists on Galveston Island? Not really. Did KHOU really have to bring Dr. Neil Frank out of retirement to answer stupid questions about evacuations or send reporters to interview people riding the Bolivar Ferry? No.

But they did it anyway. This is what the local media does every time a tropical cyclone approaches. I’ve written about this before. They can’t help themselves; hurricanes are the raison d’etre of the local TV news.

The local media’s over-hype of storms like Bill is stupid, annoying and potentially lethal in that it desensitizes people to much more serious events that might occur later in the hurricane season. Fortunately, there’s a simple way to combat it: just quit watching their ridiculous coverage of the storm.

That’s it. Turn off the TV.

Let them know that you don’t care about the wanna-be surfers who went down to Galveston to take advantage of the slightly-higher-than-normal waves.

Let them know that you that, while you're glad that the emergency operations folks in Brazoria County will have a place to sleep tonight, the number cots people have brought in is of no concern to you.

Let them know that you think it’s stupid that they actually interviewed a grocery store manager regarding people buying all his drinking water. (Drinking water that people went out and hoarded because the local news media’s shrill coverage of this event spooked them, no doubt…)

Let them know that you don’t give a flip about the old toothless guy near Rollover Pass has decided not to evacuate.

Let them know that you don’t want to see “viewer pictures and videos” of the storm.

Let them know that that you will not participate in the deification of the meteorologists that occurs every time these storms approach.

Let them know these things by not watching. Turn off the TV. Get your updates from the National Weather Service’s website, or Eric Berger’s blog.

When the local TV producers see their ratings drop, then maybe, just maybe, they’ll get the message. They’ll realize that people are sick and tired of their ridiculous, panicky, overblown coverage of these storm events and begin treating them with the sane, level-headed and useful coverage they really deserve.

As we approach the tenth anniversary of the deadly catastrophe that was the Rita Evacuation – an event driven almost entirely by local media hyperbole – we need to get the message to the local TV news that we don’t appreciate their unhelpful, unnecessary and embarrassing sensationalism.

We can do that by not watching.

John Nova Lomax's take on the hype is a must-read.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Alabama-Birmingham resurrects its football program

The Blazers might be coming back from the dead!
At a press conference Monday evening, president Ray Watts and athletic director Mark Ingram confirmed that the football Blazers will indeed be returning to the university.  It was Watts’ controversial decision to axe the football program in the first place last December.

When asked about the about-face, Watts stated that he didn’t want to dwell on the past.

“I don’t want pursue a lot of time looking back. … [It’s time for] healing and moving ahead,” Watts said in a press conference that essentially raised more questions than provided answers, adding in what will be a controversial comment that there was no “tangible” support financially when the initial decision was made.
So how were the financial problems that doomed UAB's football program last fall resolved?
Watts explained to the Associated Press prior to the press conference that his reversal came after spending the weekend in meetings with supporters of UAB football.  According to the president, those supporters have agreed to cover the cost of a projected $17 million-plus deficit over the next five years. Watts added that supporters “raised about 10 percent of the estimated $12.5 million- $14.5 million needed for a turf practice field and new fieldhouse,” the AP wrote.

“Our students, our alumni, the city of Birmingham and now many community members have stepped up with commitments to cover that $17.2 million operational deficit,” Watts said. “That’s why we’re in a position today to make this decision.”
There are certain fundraising deadlines for bringing football back, but Watts declined to get into on specifics on that subject or the subject of just when the Blazers will begin play anew.
Assuming those fundraising deadlines are met, the Blazers will probably resume playing football in the fall of 2016, as a member of Conference USA. Left unanswered is how UAB's administrators, fans and boosters will continue to push back against the University of Alabama System Board of Trustee's alleged hostility towards UAB's football program, although it's clear that a groundswell of popular as well as political support is what led to its reinstatement.

ESPN's Mark Schlabach provides an excellent FAQ of the timeline for bringing back to life UAB's football program. FiveThirtyEight's David Goldenberg looks inside the competing studies that killed, and then brought back to life, the UAB program.

For what it's worth, I think the team's nickname should be changed from the Blazers to the Zombies.