From The Archives: March 2010

Four On Nine

As penance for my recently-inadequate college basketball fandom, I must submit an offering!  That’s what last night’s flaming apparition said, at least, and who am I to reject such a terrifyingly-unambiguous request from the Gods of Hoops?

So, this morning, I hastily dug through the season’s NCAA Division I men’s basketball statistics, determined the nine tourney teams that have played against two or more of this year’s Final Four, and rolled them into a graph:

Final Four Versus Teams In Common

Final Four Versus Teams In Common

Towards the middle, we see the Final Four – Duke, Michigan State, Butler, and West Virginia – and to the outside, the other tournament teams that they’ve shared during the 2009-10 season.  Arrows represent the games between the two groups, each pointing towards the winner and numbered with the margin of victory.

An obvious favorite: the powerhouse team that’s notched an uninterrupted run of key wins?  You won’t find it here.  Rather, we see the epitome of parity: a loopy graph full of see-saw rivalries and contradictory evidence.  In fact, start at any Final Four team and follow the arrows, and you can trace a path through all but one of the other schools and then back again to where you began.  Try it!

Our championship prediction?  Well, lacking other guidance, we’d have to pick Duke, for the way that it consistently manhandles its opponents in victory.  However, as they say in Vegas, the crap will shoot, and any of the Four could win.

The best advice?  Unless you’ve got money to burn, block your bookie’s number and don’t call him again until next season!

Practically Married

Eight short weeks had passed since Monika and I first met, and already, we knew that we’d be lovebirds forever.  So, to make it official, we picked a date and place to wed, had a nice elderly couple print us some pretty invitations, and mailed them out, sixteen years ago to this day:

Won't you please come to Jackson Hole for some wedding and skiing?

Won't you please join us in Jackson Hole for some wedding and skiing?

Back then, I was a grad student at Cal, and between the research, beer, beach, and my abysmal phone skills, most of my distant friends and relatives hadn’t talked with me since Christmas.  So, that unexpected cream-colored envelope in the mailbox… what a surprise!  Upon its arrival, matchmaker kin lit up with grins, and come sundown, many a nubile woman wept herself to sleep.  Or, the first part, at least.

Alas, our affections soon soured, and shortly thereafter, we nixed the April 1st nuptials.  At Monika’s core, concealed by her many charms, lurked the fundamental incompatibility that had split us apart.

“What was it?” everyone asked.  Was she in love with someone else?  No.  Schizophrenic?  No.  Lesbian?  No.  A cat person?  No.  Completely imaginary?  Bing bing bing bing Yes!

Before I go on, let me once again apologize to anyone who I inadvertently failed to notify about the “all made up” part – until they landed in Jackson Hole for the wedding.  Sorry, my bad, and I hope that you enjoyed the skiing.

But primarily, I mention my silly little hoax in the hopes that it’ll inspire someone to get out there on April Fools’ Day and do ’em proud.  After all, you can’t pull a practical joke when you’re “dead” – without a plan, impeccably-honed execution, and a lifelike wax self-replica!

Years later, I met a flawless woman, even more lovely than my hypothetical Monika, to whom I’m now blissfuly married.  Really!

Name Change

Graphs Of Historical Trends In Popular Baby Names

Them young’uns have different names than they used to!  Stateside, a century ago, you couldn’t spit without hitting a John, William, or Mary.  My grade school literally brimmed with Jasons and Jennifers.  But nowadays, at the playground, more than anything else, you’ll hear Ethan, Jacob, Emma, and Isabella.

Which is fine by me – I like the new names.  However, I wonder: did each bygone moniker selflessly pass the baton to the next generation?  Lose a back-alley scrap with a gang of unsavory whippersnappers?  Or simply succumb to the inexorable march of time?

Our answer comes from the Social Security Administration, which mined their archives to produce an extensive online list of popular baby names for each year from 1880 onwards.  It’s tempting to be cynical about the government, but in this case, your tax dollars have worked quite wonderfully!

From the SSA data, we extracted the historically most-often-bestowed first names, one-hundred-and-fifteen per gender, and then charted their relative ratios by year, arranged with the older towards top and bottom and newer in the middle.

Let’s take a gander at the boys graph first, and be sure to click to see it big:

Popular U.S. Boys Names, Ratio By Year Given, 1880-2008

Popular U.S. Boys Names, Ratio By Year Given, 1880-2008

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The Emerald Loaf

On St. Patrick’s Day, the Von Worley clan traditionally dines on reuben sandwiches and boiled potatoes, and this year, word came down from on high that all of it should be green through-and-through.  Oh, for the love of Blarney!

So, to prep for tomorrow’s meal, out came the dusty bread maker, in went the two-pound rye recipe and a half teaspoon of green food coloring – FD&C blue #1 and yellow #5 – and three hours later:

The Emerald Loaf

Emerald as the shamrocks of Ireland, God bless it!

How will the kids react?  It’s green, which is obviously righteous and worthy of effervescent squeals.  On the other hand, it’s green and neither fruit, vegetable, or candy.  Disgusting?  We’ll find out tomorrow night!

Post-Meal Update: Corn Dogs 2, Green Food 0


Studies Of Burger Territory

And now, we present four regional zooms of the burger territory maps, similar to the originals except that they represent the two most influential franchises at each point on the beefscape.  As before, the underlying metric is our fanciful, inverse-squared, earth-penetrating burger force, as broadcast by the 36,000-plus U.S. restaurant locations of the eight largest chopped-sirloin-slingin’ chains.

We intend these maps as abstract studies of geography, marketing, and consumption, in which the patterns and shapes matter more than the particulars of the involved corporations.  However, for completeness sake, know that we colored each point with a 2-to-1 blend of the hues of the first and second-most influential chains per our original scheme: black for McDonald’s, red for Burger King, yellow for Wendy’s, magenta for Jack In The Box, periwinkle for Sonic, cream for Dairy Queen, green for Carl’s Jr., and cyan for Hardee’s.

Let’s start with a view of East Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi:

East Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi

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