Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Mock Trial Scoring and Ties

I've developed a strong preference for quoting mock trial scores and results in terms of total ballots (equivalently, total wins) over in terms of win-loss record. A win is worth one win, naturally; a loss is worth zero wins. But the tie ends up adding a ternary complexity to the otherwise binary system, being worth half a win. Some systems (for example, Georgia high school mock trial) address this problem by eliminating the possibility of a tie altogether by means of a "team score" that's specifically designed to break a tie. College mock trial, though, gives a total score that's the sum of the individual performances, and nothing more. This can range from 14 to 140, although scores typically find themselves in the range of 80-120.

The combinatorically savvy will note that out of 127 possible scores, or even 40 or so likely scores, the tie should not happen very often. It does, more than it really has any right to. One Georgia Tech team had three of them in one weekend, out of eight total ballots. Therefore, you get monstrosities like a record of 3-3-2, which is far from self-explanatory at first glance. Decoded, it's three wins, three losses, and two ties, and if you know the tie-win conversion factor, it's easy to see that this team has four win equivalents... but how much better or worse is that than a team with plain old four wins?

Here's the key: in college mock trial, it's not necessarily either. A team that goes 3-3-2 is not necessarily going to be ranked higher or lower than a team that goes 4-4. No, that comes down to a construct called CS, which stands for combined strength, and is actually the least arcane of all the tiebreaker formulae. A quick rundown: CS is like strength of schedule in football; higher CS means you played tougher teams and ranks higher in the tiebreaker.

So consider the following (admittedly contrived, but mathematically possible) scenario. At a particularly tough tournament, the best teams only get six wins or the equivalent. Team A has a record of 6-2, CS 15. Team B has a record of 5-1-2, CS 16. Team C has a record of 4-0-4, CS 14. To someone who knows 1) tie equivalencies, and 2) what CS means, it's obvious that the top three teams in order are B, then A, then C.

Plenty of tournaments would choose to report the standings with win-loss record, so we'd see a convoluted mess of wins and losses and ties that make you do the tie conversions yourself. Why not just report each team as having six wins?

Currently listening: "One By One All Day", the Shins

Saturday, October 11, 2008

What's Good on TV This Fall?

By now we're a few weeks into the season, and it's time to give a few opinions.

House is nominally my favorite show on television, at least during non-Lost season. Anymore, I'm going to have to amend that to "the first three seasons of House" forming my favorite show on television. Okay, it's not really fair to judge a show by its 2007-2008 season, what with the strike and all. I wasn't too crazy about the new band of House's cronies (except in that I think Olivia Wilde is pretty). It's probably more a case of new-different-bad than anything, but if the old trio was working, why bring in a new one? Sure, we still see Chase and Cameron on the show, but not nearly enough of them (and Cameron is looking worse and worse as a blonde).

Compared to what's going on in House this season, though, that's the least of our concerns. So Wilson doesn't want to work at the hospital anymore, ever since Cutthroat Bitch died. Whine, whine, whine. Now House is all emo because his best/only friend is gone. Whine some more. No clinic hours. No blatant flirting between House and Cuddy. Private investigator dude is all right, but the storyline doesn't have the legs to become a permanent part of the show. We've had some good House lines--"Send Foreman. Old people are scared of black people." But instead of the wit that we're used to, we have a a bunch of unnecessary drama.

Oh, and I have lots of trouble watching the show. Fox, crafty bastards that they are, have apparently found a way to prevent my DVR from recording the show. Oh well. Just watch it on the internet, right? Sure... eight days later. It's as if Fox doesn't want me watching this show after all.

The Office hasn't disappointed so far. Making Ryan the new receptionist was a master stroke. "How," we wondered, "can this main character remain part of the show despite his firing and arrest?" And perhaps some of the show's more astute or diehard fans wondered "who will be the new receptionist at Dunder Mifflin?" Two birds with one stone, and excellently done.

I like Holly so far. Definitely an interesting dimension in the Michael love polygon... although you know Jan won't be gone for long, and Michael's going to have some explaining to do regarding his maybe-child. I wonder how this season can survive without seeing Pam around--an occasional phone call per episode to who used to be a major character is too drastic a change. And how will the dynamics of the show change once Jim and Pam are married?

The tension and complications of that relationship have been one of the driving forces for the past four seasons of the show. From day one of me seeing the show, I thought the show had to end with two things happening concurrently: the Scranton branch finally closing due to Michael's mismanagement, and Jim and Pam finally getting married. It's obvious by now that's not going to happen. That's okay, as long as there's some equal motivation introduced pretty quickly. And that motivation better not be Jim and Pam not getting married after all, because those two deserve a happy ending.

I've liked what I've seen of The Big Bang Theory, but that hasn't been much. My computer TV tuner seems to know whenever I'm trying to record the show, and conspiratorially restart my computer. CBS.com exacerbates the situation by refusing to post any full episodes of the show. No idea why.

For my trashy reality TV fix, both Survivor and The Amazing Race are doing just fine. And the good part of those shows is that you don't really feel bad if you miss an episode. It's fun assigning a douchebag score to each of the contestants on these shows (similar to the same process one can go through with certain professors). Everybody plays to their stereotypes perfectly, which wouldn't be a valid source of humor except in the situation where they want to "show the world who they really are" and "break a few misconceptions". Right.

Criminal Minds and both the New York and Las Vegas editions of CSI are good, unfortunately having been relegated mostly to background as lab reports are written, or something equally miserable. I do want to pick an ideological bone with Criminal Minds, however, in their depiction of "libertarians". About the only accurate thing said about libertarians in the entire episode is that libertarians believe individuals should be free to do as they please as long as they don't interfere with anyone else's rights. That does not make them crazy cultists.

Finally, how long before I no longer have to alter my entire television-watching plans to watch politicians yell at each other for a while? This is not influencing how I'm planning on voting.

Currently listening: "The Island" from The Crane Wife, the Decemberists