Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hokies Lose In NIT Quaterfinals

The Hokies (25-9) lost in the NIT quarterfinals for the third straight year, after tying the school record for victories in a season with a second-round win over UConn. The second-seeded Rhode Island Rams won 79-72 and advanced to the NIT semifinals for the first time since 1946. Tech was 17-2 at home this season, with the other loss coming in double overtime to Maryland.

Malcolm Delaney emerged as one of the best scoring point guards in the nation, averaging an impressive 20.2 points and 4.5 assists per game. The junior from Baltimore, MD led the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring in 2010 and was a unanimous selection to the All-ACC first team.

Dorenzo Hudson averaged 15.2 points per game and was key in lifting Tech past Connecticut 65-63 in the second round of the NIT, scoring 17 of his game-high 27 points in the second half.

Jeff Allen averaged 12 points and 7.4 rebounds on the season. He is now the only Hokie to be ranked in the Top 10 in rebounding, steals, and blocks. Only five Hokies rank in the Top 10 in three major categories: Dell Curry (points, assists, and steals), Bimbo Coles (ditto), Ace Custis (points, rebounds, and steals), and Zabian Dowdell (points, assists, and steals), along with Jeff Allen.

Virginia Tech's Best Seasons:

Season Record Result
'09-10 25-9 Lost in NIT quaterfinals
'94-95 25-10 Won NIT championship
'95-96 23-6 Lost in NCAA second round
'82-83 23-11 Lost in NIT second round

When They Were On The Bubble:

Despite the loss to Miami in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament, Virginia Tech should still safely be in the NCAA Tournament. Enough bubble teams have been "popped" that the Selection Committee shouldn't have to spend much time when discussing the Hokies on Sunday afternoon.

Earler in the week we saw Seton Hall, Memphis and UAB get knocked to the wrong side of the bubble, and Dayton went down tonight. With those three teams looking like they are out right now, Virginia Tech should feel pretty safe. Even if a couple of other bubble teams work their way in, such as Rhode Island or Mississippi State, it shouldn't be enough to knock the Hokies out of the field of 65.

There are arguments for and against Virginia Tech. Well, to be more accurate, there is just one argument against them: their strength of schedule. Their strength of schedule is significantly lower than that of the other bubble teams, and it's also the worst of 12 ACC teams.

However, that one negative shouldn't be enough to overshadow the positive things the Hokies have accomplished this year.
  • 23-8 overall record
  • 10-6 ACC record
  • Tied for 3rd in the ACC standings
  • 3 top 50 RPI wins

No 10-6 ACC team has ever been left out of the NCAA tournament. Considering the relatively weak bubble field this year, Virginia Tech is not likely to be the first.

Wake Forest has lost 5 of their last 6 games. They were blown out by Miami in the opening round of the ACC Tournament. They finished below Virginia Tech in the ACC standings, have a worse overall record, and the Hokies beat them head to head.

Clemson lost to #11 seed NC State in the opening round of the ACC tournament. They finished below Virginia Tech in the ACC standings, and the Hokies beat them head to head.

Tech finished 10-6 in the ACC, Clemson and Wake went 9-7, and the Hokies beat both head to head. Tech also has a better overall record than both of those teams. Both the Tigers and Demon Deacons are considered safely in the NCAA tournament right now, so why shouldn't Virginia Tech?

Simple: the bracketologists are looking only at the strength of schedule of Wake and Clemson, while choosing to ignore the fact that the Hokies outperformed them in those other categories.

While some of those bracketologists are making a fuss out of the situation, I don't think the Selection Committee will give it much thought. The Hokies have simply done too many good things this year to keep them out of the NCAA tournament.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Economics: Patty's Day Edition

As a new research paper by the Irish economists Gregory Connor, Thomas Flavin and Brian O’Kelly points out, "Almost all the apparent causal factors of the U.S. crisis are missing in the Irish case," and vice versa. Yet the shape of Ireland’s crisis was very similar: a huge real estate bubble — prices rose more in Dublin than in Los Angeles or Miami — followed by a severe banking bust that was contained only via an expensive bailout.

Ireland had none of the American right’s favorite villains: there was no Community Reinvestment Act, no Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. More surprising, perhaps, was the unimportance of exotic finance: Ireland’s bust wasn’t a tale of collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps; it was an old-fashioned, plain-vanilla case of excess, in which banks made big loans to questionable borrowers, and taxpayers ended up holding the bag.

So what did we have in common? The authors of the new study suggest four "'deep' causal factors."

First, there was irrational exuberance: in both countries buyers and lenders convinced themselves that real estate prices, although sky-high by historical standards, would continue to rise.

Second, there was a huge inflow of cheap money. In America’s case, much of the cheap money came from China; in Ireland’s case, it came mainly from the rest of the euro zone, where Germany became a gigantic capital exporter.

Third, key players had an incentive to take big risks, because it was heads they win, tails someone else loses. In Ireland this moral hazard was largely personal: “Rogue-bank heads retired with their large fortunes intact.” There was a lot of this in the United States, too: as Harvard’s Lucian Bebchuk and others have pointed out, top executives at failed U.S. financial companies received billions in “performance related” pay before their firms went belly-up.

But the most striking similarity between Ireland and America was “regulatory imprudence”: the people charged with keeping banks safe didn’t do their jobs. In Ireland, regulators looked the other way in part because the country was trying to attract foreign business, in part because of cronyism: bankers and property developers had close ties to the ruling party.

There was a lot of that here too, but the bigger issue was ideology. Actually, the authors of the Irish paper get this wrong, stressing the way U.S. politicians celebrated the ideal of homeownership; yes, they made speeches along those lines, but this didn’t have much effect on lenders’ incentives.

What really mattered was free-market fundamentalism. This is what led Ronald Reagan to declare that deregulation would solve the problems of thrift institutions — the actual result was huge losses, followed by a gigantic taxpayer bailout — and Alan Greenspan to insist that the proliferation of derivatives had actually strengthened the financial system. It was largely thanks to this ideology that regulators ignored the mounting risks.

So what can we learn from the way Ireland had a U.S.-type financial crisis with very different institutions? Mainly, that we have to focus as much on the regulators as on the regulations. By all means, let’s limit both leverage and the use of securitization — which were part of what Canada did right. But such measures won’t matter unless they’re enforced by people who see it as their duty to say no to powerful bankers.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Coldplay - "Strawberry Swing" (2009)
What's the inspiration behind the story in the video?
First and foremost we really wanted it to be nonsensical and almost dream-like. We also knew that the technique itself would also be a lot for the eye to take in. So when we had the idea of a day with a superhero on some weird adventure we chose to frame the journey with a very simple, easy-to-understand narrative: superhero saves girl from baddy. So it's pretty weird, but makes some sort of sense. I saw the video referred to as "ten-steps-left-of-centre" which we take as a great compliment. I might even get that as a tattoo.

Have any of Shynola had a bad experience with squirrels?
Our lawyers inform us that if we talk about it now it may jeopardise the court case.

It looks like you must have had a very detailed plan before Chris came into the studio?
Once we got confirmation that it was happening we all made a swift visit to the toilet. As you can imagine this took a LOT of organisation and planning. We were going "what have we promised here?" We ended up making a fully animated "pre-vis" version of the video beforehand, with a CG Chris. You can watch it in its own right. This served as a microscopic, frame-by-frame guide for us on the shoot. Which meant that when we actually came to start shooting, in a way, the video was already edited and finished.

How much did you try to tie the plot in with the Strawberry Swing lyrics and the music?
We never see the point in following lyrics literally. We would be adding nothing. We do however try and capture the feel of the song - what the music suggests to us.

Was the "chalk-drawing" actually done on the floor?
No one seems to want to believe that we drew it on the floor. Which is particularly galling, seeing how long the video took us.

So how did you do it?
Again we had pretty much all of the animation roughly blocked-out beforehand using computers. It was just a matter of taking one frame at a time with our grid for reference. Luckily, you only need to draw or rub out the bits that have moved since the last frame. We also had this cool portable monitor while filming, which showed you a live feed from the camera, blended with the previous take and our pre-vis.

Was that the most time consuming part of the process?
It was all pretty gruelling. The thing that sticks in my mind was when Chris is falling with the umbrella. If you look closely he is lying on a tiny square skateboard we had made. For each frame we had to drag him an inch this way or that to make him swing. There was a lot of sore backs after the shoot. Always bend at the knee. And back up your hard-drive.

Shynola Official Website
Shynola Wikipedia

Friday, March 12, 2010

Ok Go - "This Too Shall Pass" (2010)

The video's inspiration was from the band, who wanted "a giant machine that we dance with", a long-term aspiration of the band.

They sought help from creative minds at a "Mindshare LA" gathering, hosted by Syyn Labs. From this pool of talent, about 55 to 60 people from Syyn Labs (including some that had worked on the NASA Mars Exploration Rover program) Caltech scientists and MIT Media Lab helped to design and construct the machine.

The team had to work on a limited budget, using recycled trash for many of the props in the device. The team avoided the use of "magic"—automated devices like computers or motors—and instead focused on purely physical devices.

The total time to create the video from conceptulization was about six months, with two months of planning and four months for design and filming. The warehouse where filming took place was in the Echo Park section of Los Angeles, and was secured by Syyn Labs in November 2009. The final construction within the warehouse took over a month and a half during January and February 2010. The band members helped in the last two weeks of construction.

Once the machine was completed, the filming, using a single Steadicam, took two days to complete on February 11 and 12, with an estimated 60 takes for the machine to properly function; many of the takes ended only 30 seconds into the process, where a tire would fail to roll properly into the next section of the machine. Syyn Labs had a group of 30 people to help reset the machine after each failed take, a process that took upwards of an hour.

The video premiered on YouTube on March 2, 2010. Within a day of the video's premiere, it was viewed more than 900,000 times.