Weekend Reading – 1/21/2018

My reading habits on the web are a mess. I try to use Instapaper as much as possible, but usually I just let tabs accumulate until I can barely see the favicons. So I’m going to start cleaning up and posting link dumps. It’s more for me than for you, dear reader.

Mix Tape #19

Why am I starting at 19? I'm really only starting to post here starting with #19. For better or worse, I started posting music related stuff on a Facebook page for my radio dj persona, Mister Orange. But you can embed YouTube just about anywhere, so might as well put them here as well.

Observations of the 2017 NFL Spreads

For quite some time I've been participating in a NFL pick 'em fantasy football league/pool that is against the spread. That is, you pick a team based on if you think they'll beat the spread or not. If you need a primer on how the spread works, that is beyond on the scope of this endeavor. Very early into this competition I wondered if there were any patterns I could take advantage of to, you know...win more. It turns out that the patters of the spread of well known to just about everybody that bets on this kind of action. I was not one of those people, so I re-invented the wheel. Go me.

Here are my observations of the NFL 2017 regular season:

Conventional wisdom shows us that Vegas will set the spreads so that favorites and underdogs (my terms, do not use these if you want to sound like you know what you're talking about) generally finish the season equally. That is to say, 50% of the winners will be favorites and 50% will be underdogs upsetting the favorite. Yes, you may insert the obligatory "any given Sunday" reference here.

That Vegas can hit this 50/50 mark almost gives one the impression that the game is rigged. Seriously, 131 to 117 (with 8 pushes -- that is, the scoring gap was exactly equal to the spread and thus neither team "won") over the course of 17 weeks and 256 games is some Nostradamus level voodoo. Except Vegas pretty much pulls this off every year. So, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

The Spreads

Spread Favorites Covered Spread Underdog Covered
0 18 0 10
1 6 1 12
1.5   1.5 1
2.5 19 2.5 10
3 16 3 12
3.5 3 3.5 5
4 5 4 2
4.5 8 4.5 3
5 2 5 4
5.5 8 5.5 7
6 2 6 3
7 9 7 6
7.5 8 7.5 3
8 1 8 3
8.5 2 8.5 5
9 2 9 1
9.5 2 9.5 2
10 4 10 7
10.5 3 10.5 1
11 1 11 3
11.5 1 11.5 4
12 2 12 1
12.5 1 12.5 2
13 1 13 1
13.5 1 13.5  
14 2 14 3
14.5 1 14.5 2
15 1 15 2
17 1 17 1
17.5 1 17.5  

Clearly I'm no Edward Tufte. So, what about the teams? Who was dominant as a favorite, crushing the spread? Which teams were great at playing the spoiler? Which teams couldn't do either?

The Favorites

Minnesota and New England tied, each with eight in the win column when they had to beat the spread. Pittsburgh was alone at the top of pile of favorites that couldn't manage to beat the spread (closely followed by New England!).

Team Beat the Spread Team Failed to Beat
Min 8 Pit 8
NE 8 NE 7
Dal 7 Sea 6
NO 7 Atl 5
Ten 7 Bal 5
Atl 6 Car 5
Jax 6 Jax 5
KC 6 KC 5
LAR 6 LAC 5
Phi 6 LAR 5
Pit 6 NO 5
Bal 5 Ten 5
Buf 5 Was 5
Car 5 Cin 4
Det 5 Den 4
LAC 5 Hou 4
Den 4 Oak 4
GB 4 Phi 4
Sea 4 TB 4
Cin 3 Ari 3
Hou 3 Dal 3
Ind 3 Buf 2
Was 3 Chi 2
Ari 2 Det 2
Oak 2 GB 2
SF 2 Mia 2
Chi 1 Min 2
Mia 1 NYG 2
TB 1 Cle 1
NYJ 1

Underdogs

Team Covered Team Failed to Cover
NYJ 9 Cle 11
NYG 7 Ind 8
SF 7 Ari 7
Chi 6 Den 7
Cin 6 GB 7
TB 6 Mia 7
Ind 5 NYG 7
Ari 4 SF 6
Buf 4 Buf 5
Car 4 Chi 5
Cle 4 Det 5
Det 4 Hou 5
Hou 4 NYJ 5
KC 4 Oak 5
LAC 4 TB 5
Mia 4 Dal 4
Phi 4 Was 4
Was 4 Atl 3
Bal 3 Bal 3
GB 3 Cin 3
Jax 3 NO 3
LAR 3 Sea 3
Min 3 Ten 3
Oak 3 Car 2
Sea 3 Jax 2
Atl 2 Phi 2
Dal 1 KC 1
NO 1 LAC 1
Pit 1 LAR 1
Ten 1 Min 1

What Does It All Mean?

Mostly nothing. As I stated, these are all just observations that I made during the season. Sure, you can make generalizations, like Cleveland sucks, the Jets were underated, or the Pittsburgh offense was a disappointment.

2017 Music Round Up

Here is my jwz inspired list of music. He’s not a stickler for the year it was released, but so much of what ended up in my collection this year was not from 2017, I decided to be the stickler. With few exceptions, music has been coming into my library through Apple Music. Yes, I know that I don’t own anything on this list and that it could all be taken away from me with the flip of a switch. I’m 44 now and I don’t have time for your discussion of ownership and copyright law. I’m quite content being wrong.

With that out of the way, here’s 2017:

  • The xx - I See You

    Maybe it’s just me, but I’m having a tough time telling one The xx album from another. Still good though.

  • Japandroids - Near to the Wild Heart of Life

    Just pure rock ‘n’ roll. Anthemic, if you will. I guess they broke up and then got back together. Either way there’s some great tracks on this album.

  • The Orwells - Terrible Human Beings

    Just some crazy kids from Chicago (roughly) that want to play loud music.

  • Depeche Mode - Spirit

    Wait, they’re still around? Yup. Still around.

  • Goldfrapp - Silver Eye

    iTunes lists this as “alternative”, which…you know, sure. Synth heavy tunes with sultry vocals. You already know if you like it or not.

  • Future Islands - The Far Field

    This was their breakout year, with tons of press, but they’ve been around for a while and I’m glad to see them getting the attention. I kind of envision them as Joe Cocker doing New Order covers, which I hope you find quite awesome.

  • The New Pornagraphers - Whiteout Conditions

    Hooray! Canadian rock banks!

  • Cold War Kids - LA DIVINE

    They have their catchy songs and their not so catchy songs…

  • Gorillaz - Humanz

    I honestly haven’t listened to this since it came out. This is basically a collection of Gorillaz instrumentals with other people doing the vocals. I think…

  • K.Flay - Every Where Is Some Where

    If you haven’t gotten into K.Flay, do it. Do it now.

  • Kasabian - For Crying Out Loud

    This is probably my favorite album of 2017. I continually come back to it. It’s got tons of strongs tracks (and hilarious videos). You’re In Love With A Psycho is probably my top track.

  • Bleachers - Gone Now

    Don’t take the money.

  • Marnie - Strange Words and Weird Wars

    You like Ladytron, rite? This is Helen Marnie from Ladytron.

  • Portugal. The Man - Woodstock

    Maybe not as strong from start to finish as Evil Friends, but still great stuff.

  • Lorde - Melodrama

    Other than the few tracks getting play, I haven’t really come back to this.

  • Moby & The Void Pacific Choir - More Fast Songs About the Apocalypse

    In This Cold Place.

  • Rancid - Trouble Maker

    Wait, they’re still around? Yup. Still around.

  • Public Enemy - Nothing Is Quick In The Desert

    Wait, they’re still around? Yup. Still around.

  • Nine Inch Nails - Add Violence

    Wait, they’re still around? Yup. Still around.

  • Various Artists - Atomic Blonde Soundtrack

    I heart the 80’s.

  • Broken Social Scene - Hug of Thunder

    Wait, they’re still around? Yup. Still around.

  • Arcade Fire - Everything Now

    Strong tracks, but sometimes I think they’re coming up with excuses to wear suits with sequins.

  • Passion Pit - Tremendous Sea of Love

    A pretty chill album, good for Sunday morning.

  • KMFDM - HELL YEAH

    Wait, they’re still around? Yup. Still around.

  • Grizzly Bear - Painted Ruins

    Straight up ndie rock.

  • Matt Pond PA - Still Summer

    I don’t really have a pity description, but it’s pleasant.

  • LCD Soundsystem - american dream

    Wait, they’re still around? Yup. Still around.

  • RAC - EGO

    I have an electronic music problem.

  • Ted Leo - The Hanged Man

    I saw Ted play on the JoCo 2017 Cruise. I helped fund this album.

  • The National - Sleep Well Beast

    A little more mellow than I was hoping for.

  • Grouplove - Big Mess

    Infectious alt-pop.

  • Prophets of Rage - Prophets of Rage

    Chuck D, Cypress Hill, and Rage Against the Machine in a blender.

  • The Regrettes Feel Your Feelings Fool!

    I first saw them do a covery of Fox on the Run for The AV Club and was hooked.

  • New Politics - Lost in Translation

    Maybe a euro-pop version of Blink-182?

  • Dan Auerbach - Waiting on a Song

    Black Keys dude going solo.

  • The Killers - Wonderful Wonderful

    I’m so torn. I really wanted to like this, and after they released Run For Cover I thought this was going to be what I’ve been waiting for since the release of Sam’s Town. Well, at least Run For Cover is awesome.

  • Cut Copy - Haiku From Zero

    Down under electro-pop.

  • Wolf Parade - Cry Cry Cry

    Hoorary for Canadian rock bands!

  • Wolf Alice - Visions of a Life

    Kinda dark brit pop.

  • Erasure - World Be Gone

    Wait, they’re still around? Yup. Still around.

  • Sleigh Bells - Kid Kruschev

    I can’t stop listening to this.

  • Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds - Who Built the Moon?

    Holy Mountain was on heavy repeat for a while.

Capturing Cold in a Photo

You can do what good photographers do, which is use good equipment and skills that you've honed over many thousands of photos or you can do what I do, which is cheat. I typically try running my photos through the Camera+ "Clarity" filter. That usually does the trick.

Cloudless sunrise. Also cold AF

A post shared by Patrick Berry (@pberry) on

The Start of a Photo Series

I believe this to be the first instance of what has become quite a collection of photographs taken from approximately the same spot. Looks like it's been going on for almost two years now. The frequency in the first year was very erratic and I'm looking at how to best collect these. And by "erratic" I mean the next one wasn't until January 29, 2017. As the kids say these days, lol.

But for now, you get to see the genesis.

Chilly Christmas morning in the channel.

A post shared by Patrick Berry (@pberry) on

Contractor Communication

Communicating with your contractor is very important. Now that we have the blatantly obvious out of the way, here's a few things that have been working for us.

Email

We all "hate" email, right? Well, it still has a place and time. Even with constant access to email via little devices we carry around all day, your contractor may not actually reply to anything until they have access to a larger device or just after the "work day." Ask if email is a good route for communication. If email isn't, ask what is because you'll probably have to exchange lots of PDFs (plans, product spec sheets, and photos).

Texting

Just like with regular folks, some people hate texting and you should figure out if your contractor is one of those people. Texting is fine for a few photos here and there, but unless your contractor is one of them fancy millennials, probably not good for long conversations.

Phone

Most smart phones today allow three way calling. Use it. Or if two of you are in the same place, use the speaker. Get everybody in on the conversation.

Daily Communication

We're fortunate enough to be able to drop by the house every day at lunch. This has worked out great as we get updates on what happened, what's going to happen, and we get to answer any questions that may have popped up during the day. This has really cut down on delays so far, but we know they'll happen just do to subcontractor availability and material shipping delays. C'est la vie.

Finding a Contractor for your Remodel

If you don't already have a contractor you're probably scared about what it takes to find a contractor. The number of contractor horror stories out there seem to make finding a dentist downright enjoyable. Hopefully you go to the dentist more than you need a professional contractor to work on your house, but to each their own...

I have to admit that we've been very lucky to have found a contractor we enjoy working with. As with most things that look like luck, there's a lot of small decisions that lead up to you being lucky.

1. Check Your Network

Just like when you're looking for a new dentist/vet/mechanic, you have to ask around. Who do you know in your area that's gone through a remodel and survived? Would they work with that person/team/company again? Using their hindsight, what questions do they wish they would have asked before work started?

If you don't have a personal network to check, you'll have to fall back to the professional networks such as HomeAdvisor (note: the company I work for has a professional relationship with HomeAdvisor, but that's just a link to their home page and not some kind of referral link) and Angie's List.

Our story started with a friend who recommended an architect who recommended a contractor. Actually it started with a tree falling on our house...but that's for another post.

2. Ask Lots of Questions

Do you know exactly what you want down to the smallest detail? Some contractors love that, while others will go nuts because they won't feel like that have any flexibility in tackling the inevitable challenges that will spring up. We had a good general idea of what we wanted, but we also wanted an expert opinion to help guide our thinking, and even just call out decisions which might be a complete disaster. Ask them how they like to communicate. Ask them how and when they want to get paid. Ask them where they anticipate overruns might be. Ask them how much will be subcontracted. Ask them what they'll need from you to make the project successful.

If you don't feel like you have a partner, you might want to keep searching.

3. Start Small

Do you have any projects that could act as an audition? We were lucky that we needed to get an existing room up to code and that was right in our current contractor's wheel house. It was great to get a sense of what working with them on a larger project would be like. If you can't find a starter project, is it possible to break up your big project? This could lead scheduling delays, but so will getting the wrong contractor. Pro tip...you're gonna get delays.


This is by no means the only way to find a contractor, it's just something that worked for us and no you can't have his name until our project is done.