The Cheez-It Bowls 

Monday, November 21st, 2022

College football has long had bowl games to close out the season. For nearly a century, only the very best teams were given a chance to compete in prestigious games like the Rose Bowl, the Orange Bowl, and the adorably-named Sugar Bowl. In recent years, however, the number of bowl games has swelled dramatically. As a result, the quality of these games has taken a nosedive. At this point, teams with outright losing records are eligible to compete in a bowl game, and that’s just sad. The Toilet Bowl was supposed to be a playful joke, not an annual occurrence.

Of course, it’s all about money. The more games there are, the more money there is to be made, in particular from advertisers and title sponsors. Indeed, we no longer have the Sugar Bowl, it’s now the “Allstate Sugar Bowl”. Even the original bowl game, the Rose Bowl, is not entirely immune. Though it doesn’t have a brand name attached directly to its name, it’s now billed as the “Rose Bowl Game presented by Capital One”. Gross.

A look at Wikipedia’s list of college bowl games will show you both how many bowls there are, as well as how many horrible names they’ve had over the years. The “Cheez-It Bowl” is a pretty bad bowl name which got some news last week. On its own, it’s certainly not the worst, but it was recently announced that in early 2023 we’re also going to have the “Cheez-It Citrus Bowl”.

The Citrus Bowl announced on Tuesday morning that it will now be known as the Cheez-It Citrus Bowl. This game, however, should not be confused with the original Cheez-It Bowl, which has gone under that moniker since the 2020 season.

Having not one, but two, Cheez-It bowl games is beyond the pale. The two games will be played on December 29, 2022 and January 2, 2023, respectively, and they’ll both take place at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. I’m absolutely certain that they will be confused for one another, and a non-zero number of people are going to wind up at the wrong game at best, or missing their desired game entirely at worst. Frankly, I can’t wait to read about them.

Exclusive Chicken Rights 

Friday, November 18th, 2022

How exactly did the property owners think this would go?

Raising Cane’s, a restaurant famously known for exclusively selling chicken fingers, is suing a northwest Indiana shopping center after being told — eight months and over a million dollars in construction later — that it would be prohibited from selling chicken fingers due to a long-standing, undisclosed deal with McDonald’s.

I’m enjoying imagining some incompetent employee alternating between begging McDonald’s for help they have no reason to give, and simply flop sweating profusely.

The Most Expensive Intervention in History 

Thursday, November 17th, 2022

It’s a week much too full of Twitter news, but I’m hopeful this will be the last post about the flailing company for awhile. On Wednesday, Elon Musk issued an ultimatum via email to the folks who currently remain at Twitter.

Twitter is shifting to an engineer-driven operation — one that “will need to be extremely hardcore” going forward, according to the midnight email, which was obtained by The Washington Post. Employees were asked to click an icon and respond by Thursday if they wanted to stay…Anyone who did not sign the pledge by 5 p.m. Eastern time Thursday would receive three months of severance pay, the message said.

Well gosh, that seems like a really tough decision. Do you want to be “extremely hardcore” work for a man who appears to be a colossal freaking idiot (at least when it comes to overseeing Twitter), or do you want a three month paid vacation while you look for a better job? Before you answer, be sure to read this paragraph:

The email came just a few hours after Musk tweeted he was tabling Twitter’s Blue Verified, his first major product since taking over last month as Twitter’s owner and chief executive, while the company sorts out issues with the feature following a botched rollout. Inside Twitter, staffers are using the additional time to conduct a postmortem on the launch, trying to understand why impersonations of high-profile individuals and brands spiraled out of control, according to a person with knowledge of the internal discussions who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

“We reassigned the meaning of a checkmark from ‘This account is verified by Twitter to be who they say they are’ to ‘We took eight whole dollars from this account holder, with no review whatsoever’, and suddenly fake accounts pretending to be celebrities and companies popped up! How could this have happened? We have never been on the internet before, nor even met a teenager or really more than 10 humans.”

My most charitable explanation for this whole mess is that Musk recognized his own crippling Twitter addiction, and decided the only want to stop it was to buy and kill the company. In that case, he’s doing a great job so far!

Poking the Senate 

Wednesday, November 16th, 2022

Today in Twitter problems, Chief Twit Elon Musk decided to get snarky with Massachusetts senator Ed Markey, after the latter raised legitimate gripes about fake-but-verified accounts on Twitter. It’s pretty pathetic for the world’s richest person to try and zing a sitting politician, but this move was particularly ill-advised, give the sub-committees upon which Markey sits.

Ask Not for Whom the Tumblr Trolls 

Tuesday, November 15th, 2022

Speaking of checkmarks stripped of all meaning, boy howdy does Tumblr have a deal for you.

Tumblr’s ad for “Important Blue Internet Checkmarks

I find myself compelled to note that, just like Twitter, these are not in fact blue checkmarks. Tumblr instead has black checkmarks on a blue starburst, while Twitter has white checks on blue. Ah, that’s OK. As Tumblr’s post notes, “Nothing matters! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯”.

Twitter Is a Mess

Monday, November 14th, 2022

As you might be aware, quite a few things have happened with the newly-owned-by-Elon-Musk Twitter in recent days. Just a week after Musk took ownership, half the company was laid off. Since then, many more have quit. Despite a greatly depleted workforce, Twitter has been cranking out new features with seemingly little thought or care.

Recently, after changing the meaning of white-on-blue “verified” checkmarks from “Twitter has confirmed that this account is controlled by who it claims to be controlled by” to “Twitter has received $8 from this account holder”, there was an incredibly predictable flurry of fake-but-verified accounts tweeting all manner of falsehoods. One of the most widespread was an announcement purportedly from Eli Lilly, regarding insulin:

A tweet stating “Insulin is free now”
Regrettably, insulin is not free.

It took several hours for that tweet to be deleted by Twitter. In that time while the truth was putting its boots on, the lie spread like wildfire, forcing Eli Lilly to respond:

A tweet which reads “We apologize to those who have been served a misleading message from a fake Lilly account. Our official Twitter account is @LillyPad.”
Hey, it’s the same now-meaningless checkmark!

If you look closely at those two tweets, you’ll notice that the fake tweet came from “@EliLillyandCo”, while the real tweet came from “@LillyPad”. Even if it’s mildly clever, the real company’s username sounds faker than the fake one.

Anyhow, the next day, Eli Lilly’s stock tanked. It’s impossible to say if that occurred a result of the fake tweet, but that surely couldn’t have helped.

A chart showing a one-day 3+% drop in Eli Lilly’s stock
Correlation? Causation? We’ll never know.
[Image credit: Rafael Shimunov]

Finally, after days of the bad thing happening that everyone said would happen, Twitter paused the change:

Twitter has suspended sign-ups for its Blue subscription service after the initial rollout was marred by users who received a paid verification badge and then impersonated celebrities, politicians and brands.

At this point, you really don’t need to be more than a casual observer to see that Musk is doing a terrible job of running Twitter. Even before the mess described above, writer John Ganz had summarized things thusly:

There’s a great part of the Marx Brothers’ Duck Soup where Groucho says of Chico, “He may look like an idiot, he may talk like an idiot, but don’t let that fool you, he really is an idiot.” I let it fool me: I thought, like many others, Musk must be concealing intelligence, albeit of a cunning and nasty kind, that allowed him to succeed at business. But it now seems like he might be on track to tank Twitter in a matter of weeks and perhaps even damage his other investments…Twitter has in fact been a great force for democracy, not because it helps us share ideas or rationally deliberate—God no—but because it shows the rich and powerful to be just schmucks like everyone else. All the sweaty jokes and lame memes, all the crude and harebrained ideas—that’s really him, that’s what he’s like, there’s nothing more to it!

I’m not surprised that the world’s richest person might be an overconfident idiot, but it’s still rather shocking to see a major company floundering in such egregious and public fashion.

You Couldn’t Create a Worse Ad for the Metaverse if You Tried

Friday, November 11th, 2022

On this Veterans Day, I wonder what people who’ve seen real-world combat will think of Oculus founder Palmer Luckey’s new virtual reality headset. The device is designed to kill its wearer if they die in the game they’re playing. Personally, it makes me a little sick.

A VR headset with explosives which trigger when a player dies in a game.

This real-world device which should not exist is an homage to hardware described in the Japanese fiction “Sword Art Online”. Therein, players are trapped inside a virtual world that can only be escaped by winning the game. If the player dies in the game, or if anyone tampers with their real-world hardware, the player’s headset kills them real life. Fun!

Luckey’s blog post details the project further:

You want NerveGear, the incredible device that perfectly recreates reality using a direct neural interface that is also capable of killing the user. The idea of tying your real life to your virtual avatar has always fascinated me – you instantly raise the stakes to the maximum level and force people to fundamentally rethink how they interact with the virtual world and the players inside it. Pumped up graphics might make a game look more real, but only the threat of serious consequences can make a game feel real to you and every other person in the game.

That last line, emphasis added, really what jumps out at me. Has Palmer Luckey ever actually read a book? Or seen a movie? Humans have the marvelous gift of imagination, and it has the ability to make things feel real, even when they’re not. The constant threat of death is not required to make something enjoyable nor immersive. It is certainly not the only way.

Luckey went on, hopefully sardonically:

The good news is that we are halfway to making a true NerveGear. The bad news is that so far, I have only figured out the half that kills you. The perfect-VR half of the equation is still many years out.

Oh, well, at least we’re halfway there. It’s good that we got the important “kill the user” part out of the way first.

At this point, it is just a piece of office art, a thought-provoking reminder of unexplored avenues in game design. It is also, as far as I know, the first non-fiction example of a VR device that can actually kill the user. It won’t be the last.

As a piece of art or a conversation starter, this certainly provokes a reaction in me. As I said, however, that reaction is one of nausea and revulsion. I most certainly do not want NerveGear, and I question the mental health of anyone who does.

See you in the metaverse.

Don’t count on it.

Pink-Topped Blacknoses 

Thursday, November 10th, 2022

Let’s enjoy a quick laugh today, with these ridiculous sheep:

Sheep with pink hair

A flock of sheep are sporting a pretty pink look after a new feeder managed to dye their wool. The Swiss Valais Blacknose have been rubbing themselves against the red feeder while eating, turning heads at Cannon Hall Farm in Barnsley.

The sad thing is that these ovines don’t know how fabulous they look.

This Warning Should Not Be Necessary 

Wednesday, November 9th, 2022

Visitors to America’s national parks need to stop licking the Sonoran desert toad.

More Time to Dream 

Tuesday, November 8th, 2022

This just in, you have now lost the Powerball jackpot. It took a little longer than expected. The largest lottery jackpot ever was due to be drawn last night at 11 PM Eastern, but it was delayed almost 12 hours.

All 48 participating lotteries are required to submit their sales and plays before the winning numbers can be selected, the Multi-State Lottery Association said in a statement overnight. “Powerball has stringent security requirements to protect the integrity of the game and remains committed to holding a drawing that gives all players a fair chance to win,” the association said.

So hey, players got a bit longer to dream about being instant billionaires, before their inevitable loss. That’s nice. It’s better value for the money.

Meanwhile, the excitement around this 10-figure jackpot led me to re-read this ancient OFT link from almost exactly 13 years ago. It’s still terribly amusing. If I could, I’d buy that writer a drink.