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2023.03.21 20:20 Strength-InThe-Loins 20 Years Later: Green Zone
Twenty years ago this week, the United States began its blatantly criminal invasion of an unthreatening sovereign state that inevitably turned into a hideous quagmire.
I had joined the United States Marine Corps in the summer of 2001. I was still in boot camp on 9/11, which made for an interesting couple of days. In early 2002 I obtained a two-year leave of absence to ‘serve’ a Mormon mission, and by March of 2003 I was more than a year into being a full-time religious propagandist in Mexico.
The war was big news in Mexico, with public opinion generally running pretty strong against it. Given my history of relentless indoctrination, and my current assignment of telling everyone I saw that they were immorally wrong about everything that mattered, and the fact that I wasn’t allowed to consume any kind of non-religious media material of any kind, I of course took the opposite position.
But I improved with time. I came home in early 2004, and quickly discovered that the war was, at best, very badly managed. But I was back into military service (as a reservist), so I fully expected to end up being deployed to Iraq at some point.
The miserable shitshow that played out across Iraq throughout 2005 and especially 2006 convinced me that the war wasn’t just badly executed but a hopelessly terrible idea from its very beginning, supported by blatant lies and unconscionable manipulation.
When my turn to deploy finally came, in 2009, I was rather conflicted. On the one hand, I clearly understood that the war was immoral and dangerous and I should avoid it at all cost. On the other hand, I was four years into attending college and making no discernible progress towards any of the goals I had set for myself: graduating, choosing a career, getting married, existing as a functional adult. So the choice (and it was a choice: contrary to the contract I thought I’d signed, I was set to be released from service in mid-2008, and so this deployment was entirely optional for me) was fraught. I didn’t want to kill or die for a mistake; but I also didn’t want to dodge what I was sure would be the challenge of a lifetime for a second time; and I also could not say with a straight face that I had anything better to do.
So I went. It didn’t go well
, but it went at least as well as I had any right to expect. I never saw anything like combat (shooting flares at a few civilian vehicles was as close as I ever got), was never in danger, and so on. But it was no picnic, either: severe and extended boredom can be just as damaging as actual trauma, and the psychological abuse inherent in military life was constant. And things weren’t entirely safe: my unit had two suicides during the work-up, and given the state of my mental health, I was never all that unlikely to have joined them.
The whole experience did me no immediate good, but as an experience with disillusionment with and escaping from an all-consuming self-admiring institution, it was a pretty decent dry run for my exit from Mormonism a few years later. And, as I had expected, it got me a year’s salary (which was probably the majority of the money I’d made in my life up to that point), and a lifetime of monthly disability payments and free health insurance. So I really can’t say I completely regret it.
The movie I’ve chosen to commemorate this anniversary is Green Zone, because it came out shortly after I came back, and I’d always wanted to see it, and I’d heard that it took an interesting angle on the whole mess, and I’d heard that it was pretty good (which is a rare quality among Iraq War movies, which have, shall we say, a mixed record
). And it’s pretty good, though of course it has some issues.
The best thing about it is how it nails the look and feel of the military occupation. The movie abounds with details large and small that just look exactly right, from US troops driving green Humvees with no doors and unprotected gun turrets* to piles of Pizza-Hut-labeled shipping containers at the airport to one of them carrying around a bottle of chewing-tobacco spit to the use of the then-new Blue Force Tracker technology. Greg Kinnear as the villain of the piece looks exactly
like he should, a completely nondescript bureaucrat that would never get a second look at any white-collar office in America, incongruously transplanted into a blood-soaked conflict in an environment where only fools and the extraordinarily pampered (he is both, of course) dress like that. And I didn’t know I needed to see exactly what the Google homepage looked like in 2003, but I did, and the movie delivered.
It’s also a very good look at the culture of the US military; the briefing with Colonel Bethel is pretty spot-on (except for the one guy interrupting to speak the truth; that pretty much never happens). It’s a bit optimistic to assume that a random US military unit would have even one Arabic speaker in it, but the movie makes up for it by having him only know a dialect that’s completely useless in Iraq. The soldier who argues with Damon and tells him that the reasons for going to war don’t matter to him struck me as a perfect distillation of the me-first attitude that the US military explicitly teaches its members: the “My only job is to get home safe” dogma was basically a part of the official training materials, very much to the detriment of accomplishing any particular mission beyond that (and of course no one ever wants to talk about how obviously cowardly and selfish such an attitude is).
The movie also does well with points of view from outside of the US military, namely the absolute terror of being an Iraqi unfortunate enough to fall into US hands during the occupation, and the possibly greater terror of being on the ground when the Americans started bombing or disbanded the Iraqi army and purged the civil service, which this movie treats as an irrefutable sign of the apocalypse. Not that any of that took any great insight to determine in 2010, years after it became clear what US detention was like and how foolish it was to send thousands of unhappy armed men out into the streets with nothing to do, but it’s still good to see it stated so plainly.
One aspect that does not look so good is the trademark Paul Greengrass shaky-cam technique; it’s tolerable in the actual action scenes, which are supposed to be stressful and chaotic, but in the opening scene, in which the ‘action’ mostly involves men walking quickly down crowded hallways,** it really doesn’t work. I do wonder how Greengrass does it; does he plan and rehearse the camera movements, or just have the actors do their thing while someone waves the camera around randomly? One analysis of one of Greengrass’s Bourne movies pointed out that it seems that the camera can’t predict the characters’ movements, which adds to the sense of uncertainty and danger; I wonder how closely Greengrass controls the camera’s ‘random’ movements, and what he thinks he’s saying with them.
There are other moments that fall short of the movie’s best moments of authenticity: Damon’s first scene, in which he explains (over the radio, no less!) where his team is going and what they’ll be doing there is pure Hollywood bullshit; any such explanation would be given (likely multiple times) well before the mission actually started, and the team will try to minimize radio use while out in the field. And that’s not the only moment of clumsy exposition; once that mission fails to find anything of use, Damon laments “That’s the third one in a row,” to a roomful of guys who’ve been on all the same missions and all presumably know exactly how many of them there have been. On that same mission, someone, for some reason, uses a Geiger counter to analyze a suspected chemical
weapons site, which…what?
The movie’s second-strongest sympathetic character is a CIA ‘Middle-East expert’ that knows everything he needs to know and that no one listens to. While I don’t doubt that no one important listened to anyone who knew what was going on, the thing-knower being a CIA agent that the CIA chose to send to Baghdad seems unlikely; were there any such thing-knowers left in the CIA in 2003? If so, why would leadership (which was fully behind the WMD hoax) send such an ‘unreliable’ person to such a sensitive post? Surely they knew there was a risk of him doing exactly what he ended up doing, and would have kept him as far from the action as possible.***
And how and why does he have such detailed information at his fingertips about the movements of people that don’t officially concern him? That information would be a closely guarded secret that he has no plausible official need to know. And why the hell
does he dare take a very important phone call, which concerns a blatantly illegal operation he’s running off the books, on speaker
in a room that’s crowded with god knows who that he very obviously can’t necessarily trust?
Once he makes contact with Damon, he sets up a meeting in the most secure part of the infamous Green Zone, which Damon is somehow able to access with minimal trouble. That strikes me as outrageously implausible; the highest security I ever experienced in Iraq was about 37 levels lower than the Green Zone (where American civilians could expect to live and work in pretty much complete safety), and even there I had to show my dog tags and scan my ID to enter the gym or the chow hall. Green Zone security would emphatically not just wave through any random US military vehicle or personnel that showed up at the gate. Damon would have to show some kind of proof that he belongs there, and since he’s going to an unauthorized meeting with a civilian far outside his chain of command, he just wouldn’t have that, and the gate guards would turn him away.
At that meeting, the CIA guy instructs Damon to get out of uniform, which is wise, but we never find out where Damon gets the civilian clothes and the civilian body armor we see him wearing right after. (I doubt he would have brought civvies with him for his invasion deployment, and even military body armor was pretty hard to come by in Iraq in 2003.) But also I understand why the movie felt it didn’t have time for a deep dive into this question. What it leads to is egregious, though; in the movie’s climactic scene, Damon, dressed in civilian clothes and carrying a clearly non-American weapon he stole from a local, runs through a combat situation involving US troops who spot him from a helicopter…and they somehow assume that he’s an American who’s on their side. What makes them think that? Did all US troops in Iraq in 2003 have implanted RFID chips that all US night-vision scopes could pick out from a distance? (No. No they did not.) Nothing at all that they can see indicates that Damon is American, but even if they knew he was American, he’s actually working against those particular US troops (who are very explicitly there to kill the man that Damon is trying to contact and rescue), and so there’s still no reason to identify him as a ‘friendly.’ This is a most unfortunate misstep, because doing it more realistically (having the US troops not know who Damon is, assume he’s their enemy, and act accordingly) would actually better serve the movie’s general theme of disunity and confusion.
Those same US troops are first seen arriving in a helicopter that suddenly arrives from below the not-very-high high ground that Damon is standing on, which means they must have been flying very low indeed (like, below rooftop level) over a very urban area, which is ridiculous; and without anyone hearing them approach from miles away, which is even more ridiculous.**** But those same US troops also drive around in Humvees at night with their headlights blazing, which is just dumb enough to be real. But what’s way too smart to be real is the timing of that helicopter arrival; Damon apprehends an important individual, and those troops (who are also looking for that person for unrelated reasons) somehow know about that and are able to arrive instantly, which…rather stretches the bounds of plausibility.
There are also some timeline issues, which are bad to have in a movie that is so closely tied to historical events on very specific dates. The invasion began on March 19, as seen in the first scene. Then we skip forward to ‘four weeks later,’ around April 16. The rest of the movie seems to take place over only a few days, and yet prominent plot points include George W. Bush’s (spit) Mission Accomplished speech (which happened on May 1), and the CPA’s dissolution of the Iraqi state apparatus (which happened on May 23). In the movie, those 22 days seem to pass in a matter of hours.
Also, and this is unbelievably petty of me, somewhere in the Green Zone, sometime at least as late as April 16, we catch a glimpse of someone watching a college basketball game (UCLA vs. Oregon, if I’m not mistaken) on TV. The final game of the 2003 NCAA tournament was played on April 7, and didn’t involve either team: Oregon lost to Utah in the first round, and UCLA didn’t even make the tournament, so that game is misplaced in time by at least a month.
Around the time it came out, I heard that this movie was a kind of Inglourious Basterds treatment of the Iraq War. While it’s certainly not NOT that (in that it’s an optimistic fantasy that revises well-known historical events about which there is little cause for optimism), it’s also different in that it doesn’t depart from the historical events nearly as much. There really was a ‘Magellan’ figure in real life, but he was called ‘Curveball,’ and, despite being pretty different from the version in the movie, he had precisely the same effect of being cited in favor of the invasion. In the movie, Magellan is an Iraqi Army officer who secretly meets with Americans to tell them that Iraq has no WMD programs. The Americans then falsely report that he’s told them Iraq has WMDs, and the war machine’s gears start to turn and the Americans plot to kill Magellan so he won’t reveal what he actually told them. In reality, Curveball was an Iraqi exile who actually told the Germans (not the Americans) what the Americans wanted to hear, because he figured it would make his asylum application (he’d fled Iraq after embezzling money from his government employer) easier. I’m not sure why the movie felt the need to change these details; an Iraqi who lies for his own gain is at least as interesting a character as an Iraqi who tells a truth that certain people are determined to disbelieve, and what US intelligence did with Curveball’s obviously flawed reports was hardly any more honest than blatantly telling the world he’d said something he never said.
The movie isn’t really clear what it thinks Damon’s heroism amounts to. He leaks his final report to every news outlet he can think of. Perhaps one of them will publish, but perhaps not. News outlets strive to scoop each other, but sometimes, as the real-life Iraq War amply shows, they collude to cover things up, especially when it’s something as explosive and ‘unpatriotic’ as “The whole reason for this very popular war was a complete lie.” Furthermore, how credible is Damon’s information? It’s based entirely on conversations he says he had with an enemy general who is now dead. No one has any reason to believe these conversations took place, or if they did that the general said what Damon says he said, or if he did that he wasn’t mistaken or lying.
But even if someone does publish, it will make no difference. US troops are already in Baghdad, and the CPA has already taken the plunge that made civil war inevitable. A report (even one whose credibility is bulletproof, which this one very much is not) that the whole war was based on a lie will not change anything, any more than it did in real life when the lack of WMDs and the falsity of the pre-war intelligence became similarly clear on a similar timeline.
In any case, Damon’s Army career is over. He leaked a very sensitive internal document, using an email account under his own name. He might not be guaranteed to go to prison, but he has to be in a shitload of trouble. The Army quietly booting him out and never speaking of this again is the absolute best-case scenario for him.
The movie’s two main sympathetic characters take turns reminding each other to not be naïve, but the movie itself is pretty naïve if it thinks that what we see is a happy ending. Or maybe it’s not meant to be a happy ending, and I’m the one being naïve.
In any case, I was expecting the SF team led by Jason Isaacs to kill Damon and then, upon realizing who he was, hype him up as a hero who gave his life for his country, thus completely obscuring the very unpatriotic truth about what he died doing and why. You know, a slightly worse version of exactly what the real-life Army actually did with the actual case of Pat Tillman.
The movie also runs into trouble upon consideration of its moral perspective; movies love the idea of someone going rogue, breaking whatever rules get in the way of ‘doing the right thing,’ as Damon does throughout the movie. But that’s the whole problem with the Iraq War, isn’t it? Government officials decided that brutalizing Iraq was ‘the right thing,’ and they broke any number of rules of humanity and decency (not to mention actual laws) to make it happen. They went rogue exactly as Damon does, so who can really say that he’s right and they’re wrong?
His confrontation with Amy Ryan’s reporter character also struck me as backwards; the movie wants us to see it as Damon, the heroic teller of inconvenient truths, heroically confronting the corrupt and decadent and much more powerful peddler of lies. But it’s really not that at all; she got lied to just as hard as he did, and he’s a heavily armed agent of the state security apparatus upon which her life and safety directly depend. It’s pretty ridiculous to see him as any kind of underdog in that situation.
Some stray observations:
It’s pretty funny that the early scene at the airport shows the blown-up remains of a large cargo plane, given the famous fate of the An-225 in that other, more recent, blatantly criminal invasion of an unthreatening sovereign state that inevitably turns into a hideous quagmire.
I was surprised by how much of the spoken Arabic I understood; I ‘studied’ Arabic for two years in college, and didn’t really get anywhere with it, but there were multiple instances where seeing the English word in the subtitles brought to mind a particular Arabic word that the characters promptly said. (These include ‘ichwan’ for ‘brothers,’ ‘kul il balad’ for ‘the entire country,’ ‘bernamaj’ for ‘program,’ and some others.)
Ben Sliney is in the cast as a random bureaucrat in the background of one of the Green Zone scenes. This is the air-traffic-control official who gave the ground-all-flights order on 9/11, and then legendarily played himself in the movie United 93. This is his only other non-documentary film credit, so I hope he kept his day job.
*By the time I got to Iraq, the Humvees had all been painted desert-tan and heavily armored, but my understanding is that this change did not take hold until like 2007.
**In a manner unfortunately reminiscent of George Bluth Senior ‘running with great intensity.’ Yes, this is foreshadowing. It is inevitable, because despite its ambitions, this movie proves that the definitive Hollywood treatment of the Iraq War is still selected episodes of Arrested Development. (And Generation Kill, which I considered revisiting for this anniversary post.)
***I do enjoy how Kinnear frames the idea of people who know things: they’re ‘dinosaurs’ with heads full of ‘old ideas,’ which sounds like he’s being boldly innovative and courageously resisting hidebound bureaucracies that have outlived their usefulness. But of course the ‘old ideas’ are things like ‘Know what the hell is going on’ and ‘Don’t assume you can simply kill anyone you don’t like,’ and Kinnear’s ‘bold innovations’ are just clueless wishful thinking.
****Movies very often miss this detail, but helicopters are really
loud. Almost as loud as gunfire, though of course movies also very often fail to convey how loud gunfire is. It is impossible for a low-flying helicopter to sneak up like that on anyone with functional ears. They’d be drowning out any attempt at conversation before they got within hundreds of yards.
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2023.03.21 20:16 WagerTalk NIT Predictions Tonight Alabama vs San Diego State Sweet 16 Happy Hour Tip-Off Show Mar 21
2023.03.21 19:29 letsgobetaverse Gobetaverse Betting & Prediction Line UP - March 21 (26 sport events)
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2023.03.21 18:40 justin_quinnn UConn women's basketball team vs. Ohio State in NCAA Tournament Sweet 16: What you need to know
2023.03.21 18:31 mawmy Checking in on /u/statsational's Pretenders vs Contenders post 1 week in
Since I'm already in the "How could this have gone wrong so quickly" phase of my bracket, I wanted to look at some of the helpful posts people share before the tournament.
One that I read (but didn't listen to) was statsational
's annual "Eliminating contenders
" post. Some of these may have been picks that everyone had or that fall within other analytical sites (i.e. 7 of the KenPom top 10 are still in), but I thought it was interesting.
Pretenders (6/9 out):
- 1 seeds:
- 2 seeds:
- 3 seeds: Kansas St, Xavier,
- 4 seeds:
Virginia, Indiana, Tennessee
Contenders (6/7 in):
- 1 seeds: Houston, Alabama
- 2 seeds: Texas, UCLA,
- 3 seeds: Gonzaga
- 4 seeds: UConn
For the 3 "Pretenders" left, both Xavier and Kansas St. have had games where they had win probabilities at or below 25% in the 2nd half (Xavier down 13 with 10 to go against Kennesaw St., K-State down by 4 with 5 minutes to go). Tennessee won by 3 in their opener but the game wasn't that close.
For the contenders, only Texas has had a sub-50% win probability with under 10 minutes left when Penn State went on a 10-0 run to take a 3 point lead with 5 min left.
Any other predictions where people nailed some/most of the upsets so far?
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2023.03.21 18:20 Andre3000RPI Yahoo Morning Briefing
The Federal Reserve’s two main aims are to promote stable prices and full employment. At least, those are the goals that are typically most discussed
At times of financial system stress – like now – one of the central bank’s other jobs comes into focus: “Maintaining the stability of the financial system
and containing systemic risk that may arise in financial markets.”
With the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, the forced marriage of UBS and Credit Suisse,
and persistent questions around the viability of First Republic Bank
, the Fed is once again confronted with the need to ensure financial system stability.
Last week, the European Central Bank had a similar conundrum: should it stand pat on rates in light of Credit Suisse’s distress, and risk higher inflation? Or should it raise rates, and risk the Swiss bank’s troubles spilling over into the broader financial system?
It chose the latter
. A lot of economists think the Fed will do the same when it meets on Wednesday.
“Bottom line is we still have an inflation problem, and the Fed needs to continue to raise rates,” Paul Gruenwald, chief economist at S&P Global Ratings, told Yahoo Finance. “So, they’ve obviously got one eye on the financial sector, but we still think they’re going to go 25 basis points later this week. But the language should be sort of softer and slower.”
Market participants are coalescing around that view, with the CME Fed Watch Tool
showing a 71% probability that the Fed will indeed raise rates by a quarter percentage point as of 2pm yesterday, and a 29% chance of no change. (By way of comparison, a month ago there was zero probability of a pause, an 82% chance of a quarter-point hike, and an 18% likelihood that the Fed would raise by a half-point).
Indeed, if the Fed did defy those predictions and pause its rate-hiking cycle, that could trigger more panic.
If the Fed doesn’t raise rates, “that sends a bigger signal, then I would start to get more anxious,” said Michael Arone, Chief Investment Strategist, US SPDR Business at State Street Global Advisors, in an interview with Yahoo Finance
. He’s expecting a quarter-point raise.
Beyond this week’s meeting, the outlook for rates gets more murky. After all, as TKer.co’s Sam Ro writes
, in some ways what has happened recently with banks has actually helped the Fed, by potentially slowing economic growth and therefore inflation.
The danger there, of course, is the Fed continuing to hike in the face of that slowdown and heading into the proverbial hard landing. Concern over that outcome has ratcheted up to the point that the market has started to price in a small cut to rates by the June meeting.
Expect all of these predictions to be scrambled after the rate decision and Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s press conference on Wednesday.
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2023.03.21 18:02 GovernmentDoingStuff Your Guide to the Sweet 16 Part 2
Yesterday I covered Thursday's Sweet 16 games. I have a part 2 today that will go over Friday's games. These next two days can't go by fast enough!
Game 5: (1)Alabama vs (5) San Diego St.
Team Profile: (1) Alabama
Major Contributors: Brandon Miller
Alabama has been one of the best teams in the country all season long. Nate Oats’ squad plays an NBA style, up-tempo offense. The man of the hour is freshman forward Brandon Miller who is one of the top players in the nation. Alabama also has veteran PG Jahvon Quinerly leading this team on the floor. The Tide also possess one of the nations top defenses that seems to heavily contest every shot
Team Profile: (5) San Diego St.
Major Contributors: Matt Bradley
San Diego State brings an elite defense into this tournament where they are allowing the 4th fewest three point shots in the country. San Diego St. is extremely experienced, every rotational piece is a Junior or a Senior, end even then, that includes just two Juniors. The Aztecs like to slow the game down and take their time creating open jumpers or lanes to the hoop
Spread: ALA -7.5
Alabama without a doubt should be favored with how dominant they are on both sides of the ball. If the Tide can speed this game up, San Diego St. will get uncomfortable and make mistakes which Alabama will capitalize on. For the Aztecs to succeed, they need to be efficient and methodical on offense and defend the way we know they are capable of. The Aztecs best asset is their experience, I wouldn’t be surprised if they try and score at the rim to get freshmen Miller and Clowney in foul trouble early. If SDSU can hang with Alabama deep into the 2nd half, their experience may allow them to prevail.
Game 6: (1) Houston vs (5) Miami
Team Profile: (1) Houston
Major Contributors: Marcus Sasser
The Coogs have been dominant this season. They come into this one top ten in offense and defense with stud PG Marcus Sasser leading the way. Houston defends hard and has one of the best offensive rebounding rates in the nation. It isn’t always pretty, but Houston basketball is extremely effective. Sasser and one of his co-stars, Jamal Shead have battled injuries down the stretch here, but when healthy, it’s hard not to see Houston as the nation’s best team
Team Profile: (5) Miami
Major Contributors: Isaiah Wong, Nijel Pack, Norchad Omier
Advanced metrics don’t love Miami, but they keep winning. The ACC regular season champs are led by one of the top point guards in the country with Isaiah Wong. The Canes have a very good offense in part due to Wong’s abilities as a scorer and passer. They are great at getting high percentage jump shots and drives to the rim. Miami’s defense has been very suspect most of the season. They lack the length to be elite on that end of the floor. However, they have shown the ability to force turnovers and generate fast break scores that way
Spread: HOU -7
Houston is incredibly tough to beat when healthy, but Sasser and Shead are arguably the most important players on this team and injuries to them could be the end for Houston. If the Coogs are efficient with their shooting, they should eventually pull away and win this game. Miami on the other hand has to take advantage of Sasser and Shead who are not 100% and they are equipped to do that with a great guard of their own.
Game 7: (6) Creighton vs (15) Princeton
Team Profile: (6) Creighton
Major Contributors: N/A
Creighton is balanced personified in college basketball. They are top 25 in offense and defense and don’t have one dominant player, but rather a deep roster of stud playmakers. Creighton is really good at scoring off of 3s, and overall they are really good at staying out of foul trouble. Their only real deficits are not forcing a lot of turnovers and they don’t grab a lot of offensive rebounds
Team Profile (15) Princeton
Major Contributors: Tosan Evbuomwan**, Keeshawn Kellman
Princeton are the darlings of this tournament reaching the 2nd weekend as a 15 seed. They are led by Tosan Evbuomwan who has one of the highest usage rates in the nation. Princeton doesn’t have any particular stat that jumps out, but they are very good at defensive rebounding and preventing 2nd chance points. They also like to score inside with the infamous backdoor cut.
Spread: CREI -9.5
Creighton is the largest favorite of the Sweet 16, and it isn’t hard to see why. There are so many guys that can contribute to this team’s success and they have very few weaknesses. If Creighton plays up to their capabilities, Princeton doesn’t have much of a shot. That being said, Princeton has an opening in the rebounding game. If outside shots aren’t falling, Princeton should allow very few offensive rebounds to Creighton which can allow Princeton the ability to capitalize on the misses with offense on the other end.
Game 8: (2) Texas vs (3) Xavier
Team Profile: (2) Texas
Major Contributors: N/A
Like Creighton, Texas doesn’t have one star, but a collection of great pieces that can hurt their opponents. The Longhorns are great on both ends of the floor, top 15 on offense and defense. Texas wants to use their warchest full of guard talent to penetrate the defense and score in the lane. They are a team without many weaknesses, but they also don’t possess any outlier strengths
Team Profile: (3) Xavier
Major Contributors: N/A
Xavier lost their one major contributor in Zach Freemantle about a month ago. They have weathered the storm and a near upset to make it to this point. Xavier is the best shooting team left in the field as they make 39% of their 3s. Defensively, there are some definite question marks around this team’s ability to stop elite offenses in the country. If you can’t stop them, outshoot them. In the absence of Freemantle, Souley Boum has been the unofficial leader of this team on the court.
Spread: TEX -4
The Longhorns are favored and rightfully so. It’s hard to bet against a team in March that has elite guards and has few holes in their game. If the Longhorns can defend the arc and keep Xavier from bombing them from deep, this should be a very winnable game for Texas. Xavier is going to need to shoot well from deep in this one. The good news is that they have the talent and personnel to do just that. This could very well be the most entertaining game of the Sweet 16.
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2023.03.21 14:06 H2theBurgh Pitt Athletics Week in Review Discussion Thread [3/21/23]
For the first time since 2015, your Panthers participated in the Big Dance. In Dayton, OH we won a nailbiter in the First 4 against Mississippi State. Panthers win 60-59. Then we moved to Greensboro for the subregional rounds. In the Round of 64 an early run set the tone. We outlasted a few Cyclones rallies for a 59-41 victory over Iowa State. We move on to the Round of 32 and the clock struck midnight. We fought hard but ultimately Xavier prevailed 84-73.
During a Game Thread earlier this season I predicted that we were looking at, at most, 4 conference wins this season. I was wrong. Most of the media was wrong. Most of our own fan base was wrong. This team outperformed expectations time and time again. No, this wasn’t a season from our hayday but it felt good to get this excited for this basketball team. I am so proud and appreciative of what this team brought to Pitt basketball. HAIL TO PITT! Baseball 8-9 (1-3)
Our 3 game series against UNC became a 1 game stand due to weather. In the sole game on Friday we fell 17-7 to the Tar Heels.
We look to rebound as we continue the homestand this coming week. On Wednesday we hot Kent State before hosting VT this weekend for a 3-game series. Those games are Friday and Saturday at 3:00 and Sunday at 1:00.
Softball 14-10 (0-3)
We opened league play in disappointing fashion this weekend. First we lost both legs of a doubleheader on Friday 12-2 and 5-4 respectively. Then on Sunday the Cardinals completed the sweep 9-6.
We are finally at home this week hosting Penn State Tuesday at 5:30. And then hosting UVA in a 3-game series this weekend. Those games are Friday at 6:00, Saturday at 2:00, and Sunday at noon. The Saturday game will be broadcast on ACC Network.
Lacrosse 3-6 (0-4)
A week of almosts for the Panthers. 2 very tight games at home. First losing to Liberty 13-7. Then against #10 Virginia we were down only 1 entering the fourth but the Cavaliers ended up pulling away in the end.
We host another pair of games this week. On Tuesday we host #20 Penn State at 4:00. Then on Sunday at noon the Duke Blue Devils come to town. That game will be broadcast on ACC Network.
The national championships were this weekend and Pitt came home 22nd with Nino Bonaccorsi winning the national championship at 197. Bonaccorsi also finished the season perfect with a record of 21-0.
Here are how the rest of Pitt’s wrestlers performed at the national championships
Swimming & Diving
- 133: Micky Phillippi: 3-2 Round of 12
- 141: Cole Matthews: 2-2 Round of 12
- 165: Holden Heller: 2-2 Round of 16
- 174 Luca Augustine: 0-2
- 184: Reece Heller: 1-2
This weekend was the women’s Swimming and Diving Championships. 3 swimmers qualified, Sophie Yendell, Claire Jansen, and Jess Vega. Here are their results (NOTE: I am particularly good at reading these results so I may have missed something. This is my best attempt)
- 18th 50 yard Freestyle
- 40th 100 yard Butterfly
- 62nd 100 yard Freestyle
- 37th 100 yard Backstroke
- 43rd 200 yard Backstroke
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2023.03.21 13:58 assholeinwonderland Thoughts on extremely specific book recommendation requests
My husband had a romance question a couple days ago and it got me thinking, so I’ll pose it here:
Why do people ask for such specific things in book requests?
I have several theories.
(Some of the examples below are from actual posts, but to be clear I am not casting judgment on these requests at all. As you’ll see, I have made many very specific requests myself.)
1 - RomanceBooks requires book request posts to be pretty specific and not semi-recently asked, so a more generic request may not get left up. It’s also much easier to find existing recommendation lists if the request isn’t that specific.
2 - They see a random thing in their daily life and think “huh I wonder if there’s a romance like that.” The flurry of football requests around the super bowl each year would fit into this. A request for a basketball cheerleader FMC was posted during March madness last night.
My example: book ft an emergency backup goalie (the day after one played in an NHL game).
3a - They want to see themselves and their experiences reflected in what they read. This gets talked about most often in terms of identity (race, sexuality, etc), but applies to situations or more mundane traits as well. Height, eye color, occupation, state/country of residence, etc.
3b — They want to see an idealized version of something that is/was difficult in their life. Awkward sex with a new partner. A crush on someone in a committed relationship. Being cared for during rough period cramps.
My example: books where the couple spends a good chunk of the story in a long distance relationship.
4 - They’re writers trying to scope out books similar to their project.
5 - They recently liked a book that had some specific characteristic or situation, and want to read another version of it. Sometimes these requests will call out the recent fave, but not always.
My examples: HR where the FMC runs a gambling hell; a scene where one MC poses nude for an artist MC; hockey romance but the player must be a goalie
6 - They noticed a pattern in the books they’ve been reading, and are curious to see that subverted, or to see if there’s more variety out there. HR set somewhere other than 19th century England. An FMC who is
like other girls. FMC is an athlete, MMC is not.
My example: sports romances ft pro soccer players (vs the more common college and/or hockey)
Side note: I’ve noticed a fair number of these are flipping the gender roles typically seen in MF romances (sometimes with terms I hate like “reverse age gap” or “reverse grumpy sunshine”)
Anyone else have thoughts? Think I missed a reason?
Where do you think the sweet spot is between being too vague and not getting helpful recommendations, vs being too specific and missing out on great books just adjacent to the ask?
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2023.03.21 13:05 alpha_bionics Basketball News - 21Time: 7:30 p. m. ESTLocation: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NYChannel: YES NetworkNets vs. Cavaliers notable injuriesNets: OUT: Ben Simmons (left knee/back soreness).
21Time: 7:30 p. m. ESTLocation: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NYChannel: YES NetworkNets vs. Cavaliers notable injuriesNets: OUT: Ben Simmons (left knee/back soreness). I can’t really just move the way I want to, play how I want to, high motor, running, and things like that. He isn’t sure if he will miss any more time as he continues to battle through and help the team, but time will tell. “I’m not sure, really,” he added. “Like, Georges threw me a high pass I would’ve originally caught, but I feel like I couldn’t extend all the way, and then stuff like that. Rivers explained afterward why he didn’t play him much. “He didn’t look good,” Rivers stated. Philadelphia shot 42. 2% from the floor, 10-for-36 from deep, and they committed 21 turnovers which led to 24 Chicago points. The Nets main issue, as they are just one game ahead of the seventh-place Miami Heat, is rebounding the basketball. Later, we talk the big man rotation and where Jalen Duren, James Wiseman and Marvin Bagley III fit in the bigger picture. ET on Tuesday, March 21. That is part of where the hip injury is limiting him. “I would say all around,” he continued. / 101. 2 kg. On one hand, they want the ball club to win every game they can in the 2022-23 regular season. Stream Sling Orange for $20 in your first month to catch all regular season games on TNT, ESPN & ABC. For games on NBA TV, subscribe to Sling Orange & Sports Extra for $27. 50 in your first month. The win gave the Nets their ninth-straight victory, which was the longest winning streak since the team moved from New Jersey to Brooklyn. Local regional blackout restrictions apply. SIGN UP FOR SLING: English SpanishCeltics vs. Kings will tip off around 10 p. m. The Hawks are 3-0 vs. the Pistons this season, winning 130-105 in Atlanta in December in the previous matchup. They employ former Pistons forward Saddiq Bey, who was dealt in the James Wiseman acquisition. “I can’t really know what else to really say. “That’s why I took him out. - Alpha AI
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2023.03.21 10:33 simmol Some Commonly Used Bad Arguments from the AI Skeptic Crowd When it Comes to Jobs and Automation
So there is a heated debate these days regarding the potential impact of AI and jobs. It seems like people in this forum are more worried about the future whereas many others seem to be nonchalant about it. My bias is with the former, but admittedly, it is very difficult to predict the future. Regardless, it seems like there are some recurring poorly thought arguments put forth by skeptics and I just feel like it might be good to address them all in a single post. Obviously, I might be missing some of the arguments and no doubt that there are good arguments as well, but for this post, I will focus on the poor ones that I have personally encountered frequently these days.
- AI is prone to making mistakes. This is true on its surface but I always feel like when it comes to the context of AI replacing people, it should be acknowledged that people are prone to making mistakes as well. Overall, when skeptics are denigrating AI, the comparisons is against some super-competent human being that does not exist in the real world. This is not apples to apples comparison.
- Remember the self-driving cars. Self-driving cars is one of the most difficult type of problems in AI given that the society requires very high success rate (e.g. 99.9+% safe driving) with one mistake being fatal. In general, deep learning models are well-suited for tasks where one requires relatively high success rate with mistakes being understandable. Given that a lot of the human tasks fall into this category, it doesn't make sense to lump all tasks into this self-driving car bin. Self-driving car is a difficult problem, but it doesn't represent all problems.
- AI can never be creative. Creativity is one of these words that gets mentioned a lot these days, but again, there needs to be some caveats here. (1) Most people are not really creative and/or their works do not require them to be super creative. So yes, if you compare AI vs Mozart/Einstein type of a person, then sure, it is lacking. But we should be comparing AIs with your normal Joe who works in front of the computer, tuned out most of the times, while making mistakes here and there. (2) Much of human creativity is actually predictable. When we are being creative, we are finding patterns that worked in other similar situations and imposing that pattern onto this new setting. And this is within the realm of what AIs can do because this is essentially smart interpolation. If you look at 90+% of scientific publications, they are essentially smart interpolations whose research ideas can be generated by ChatGPT (I am a scientific researcher and have noticed that at least in my field, ChatGPT can suggest new research ideas better than 80+% of PhD researchers).
- LLM is essentially just guessing the word that comes after a string of tokens. How intelligent can that be? I suppose compared to points #1-#3, this is more of a legitimate complaint and perhaps I have it wrong here. But it is my opinion that from simple rules, complexity can emerge. I mean, if you boil down to it, we are essentially just group of atoms that start from some initial state to the next state based on the Newton's law (or Schrödinger equation if you want to go quantum). It is non-intuitive that particles moving back and forth based on their position/momentum should yield something like Shakespeare. But here we are.
- This current version of (Insert, ChatGPT, Midjourney, ... ) sucks because it can't do X. No one is saying that the current rendition of AI is perfect. No one. However, some of the skeptics really harp on some of the inadequate features of the current AI and try to extrapolate this to end of universe. With the way the technology is moving, this type of argument gets outdated quickly. I mean, compare the pictures from Midjourney V1 to the current version.
- I am so magnificent because I do X, Y, Z, so AI can't replace me. Ok, good for you. But much of the concern isn't about the top 10% of the professions who are brilliant. It is about the bottom 10-20% who are not. And even if 10-20% of the populations cannot find jobs, we are in a big trouble. This point is similar to #1.
- These are just tools. The line that separates a tool and a worker is getting blurred with the LLM. If the boss can interface with the tool directly and get the same output from the worker, the worker's position in the company is at a peril. Especially when the worker costs a lot more money than the AI.
- It will create more jobs. I don't agree but on its own, this is not a bad stance and might be true. But what kind of jobs? And if you cannot describe the job in detail, at least specify what kind of qualifications (in terms of mental acuity) does it pivot towards such that people who are being replaced can beat the AI in these new jobs?
Overall, it just sometimes feel like people are throwing a lot of arguments and seeing what sticks. A lot of these people are not interested in having an honest discussion. They just don't want to think about this shit as negative thoughts do them no good.
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