Another silly personality test ...

Written by Bob McCormick on 4/28/2007 02:07:00 PM

In addition to being Daniel Jackson, I'm apparently also the Green Lantern.

Is there such a thing as Daniel "Green Lantern" Jackson? Or would it be Green "Daniel Jackson" Lantern?

When do I get to go back to being Bob "Bob" McCormick?

I think I'm having an identity crisis ... ;*)

Your results:
You are Green Lantern

Green Lantern
Iron Man
The Flash
Wonder Woman
Hot-headed. You have strong
will power and a good imagination.

Click here to take the Superhero Personality Quiz

Another bizarre use of food ...

Written by Bob McCormick on 4/27/2007 08:38:00 PM

Similar to my previous post on green pea soda ...

Now we have ... coffee soap! Not what it might look like otherwise ... <:^\

It's part of a never-ending quest for efficiency in our lives. We can now clean ourselves in the morning while getting the necessary caffeine buzz to wake up in the first place.

Your morning shower and morning cup o' joe can be the same event! And, from lifehacker, we find that if you are into kidnapping people, you can generate your ransom notes quickly via this Internet mashup.

Soooooo ... On a really efficient day, you can kidnap the people over the Internet while showering & getting the caffeine buzz.

Even better (since I'm not a coffee drinker) ... I can go for the optional Mountain Dew shower gel!

Isn't technology great?

Hat tip:

My recommendation for Robertson Stadium

Written by Bob McCormick on 4/25/2007 10:45:00 AM

As a loyal UH fan (and alum), one of the websites I frequent is covers every major athletic sport that the University of Houston participates in.

One of the major sports is American football. This time of year is always a goofy time for football discussions at, because very little is really happening in college football this time of the year. As a result, the topic threads turn to the perennial oddball topics, such as the football uniform design, logo design, and football attendance.

Actually, of those three topics, football attendance is the most pressing. UH currently competes in Robertson Stadium, which is an older facility (originally built during the depression years) which seats approximately 31000. Note: It is also the home to Houston's professional soccer team, the Houston Dynamo, who only moved to Houston last year. The Dynamo won the Major League Soccer championship this past year, but are on record as desiring their own stadium - to be built with taxpayer help.)

The current football attendance debate revolves around how much to expand Robertson Stadium. All would like seating increases and better amenities at the stadium. Some have called for a doubling of capacity to near 65,000.

I also think Robertson Stadium amenities should be built and seating should increase, but only to 45,000 - and probably increased to that amount only in phases.

Here's why I think what I think:

1. UH has reached that level of interest in the past.

UH's detractors like to point out that UH can't attain a 45k average attendance. However, these detractors don't know UH history. UH had at or near as many people attending during the mid '60's and late '70's.

There two major differences between then and now are:

a) Venue

UH moved their games to the Astrodome in the mid 60's. A domed stadium was a novel idea during that time - nobody else in America played in one! The venue itself (and the ability to play games regardless of weather) helped to draw crowds. Although UH was an independent then, the team's record was also a good one, which also helped its draw.

b) Conference

Although the novelty of playing in the Astrodome fell off, UH drew very well in the mid-late 70's because they had a good record and were in the Southwest Conference. As a result, thelarger regional teams (mainly Texas, Texas A&M, and Arkansas) assured that UH would have good crowds. Of course, the kicker was that the football team's record was good - UH represented the SWC the first 3 out of 4 possible years it was in the SWC. The SWC split up in the early 90's.

Unfortunately, UH did not keep its attendance up, and as a result, it got snubbed by the larger schools, who chose Baylor (which had kept its attendance up) and formed the Big 12 conference. UH was left to scramble to join a conference (independent status was not feasible since most bowl games and television packages are negotiated by conference now, not by the NCAA as a whole). UH ultimately joined Conference USA, which initially aligned itself with some similar schools (Memphis, Louisville, Tulane, UAB, Cincinnatti), but the teams were too far away and thus, there was no rivalry as there had been with the more regional large schools.

1. The University of Houston is not like other campuses.

UH is located in the heart of the 4th largest city in the nation. It is unlike many other Universiites in the United States - which is why it is misunderstood by its benefactors and detractors.

Unlike Univ of Texas, Texas Tech, Florida State, LSU, Louisville, and other such schools, it is not in a smaller city or suburb, so it can't count on Houston city media attention, since it is not "the only game in town".

Unlike Texas A&M, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Southern Mississippi, it is not in the country, and is not a Morrill Land Grant school. So it doesn't have a "captive" fan base in the town that it's in.

It is unlike private schools that are associated with a particular religion, such as Baylor, TCU, SMU, Notre Dame, Boston College, Pittsburgh, and BYU are. It is an urban, public school whose mission was originally designed for the "working man". This makes it unlike Rice (Houston), Miami, Harvard (Boston), Tulane (New Orleans), Southern Cal(LA), Northwestern(Chicago), George Washington (DC), St. Louis, and other similar schools. As a result, it should draw larger crowds from an Alumni bas that's larger than a typical private school or other urban schools that happen to be private.

2. UH's real peers

As a result of realizing what UH is not, it's important make sure to carefully figure out which Universities are most in common with it, so as to get the most realistic comparisons. I did this several months ago, looking at several Universities which were similar to UH, then mapping their attendance against the number of wins per season (since everybody loves a winner, attendance goes up everywhere a winner is and goes down when they're a loser).

a) Metropolitan areas

Based on census statistics (Metropolitan Statistical Areas - "MSAs")- here's the schools that in the top 19 MSAs that are the best to measure UH against:

Metropolitan statistical areas Population Schools in that MSA
1 New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA 18,747,320 Rutgers
2 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA 12,923,547 USC, UCLA
USC is private
3 Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, IL-IN-WI 9,443,356 Northwestern
Northwestern is private
4 Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 5,823,233 Temple
5 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 5,819,475 SMU, N.Texas, TCU
SMU and TCU are private
6 Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Miami Beach, FL 5,422,200 Miami (Fla.)
Miami is private
7 Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX 5,280,077 Houston, Rice
Rice is private
8 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 5,214,666 Maryland, Navy
Navy is a military institution
9 Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA 4,917,717 Georgia Tech
10 Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI 4,488,335
11 Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH 4,411,835 Boston College
Boston College is private
12 San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA 4,152,688 California
13 Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA 3,909,954
14 Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ 3,865,077 Arizona St.
15 Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 3,203,314 Washington
16 Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI 3,142,779 Minnesota
17 San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA 2,933,462 San Diego St.
18 St. Louis, MO-IL 2,778,518
19 Baltimore-Towson, MD 2,655,675

Based on this list, UH's real peers are Rutgers, UCLA, San Diego State, Minnesota, Washington, Arizona St., California, Georgia Tech, and Maryland. Except for San Diego State, all of these peers have two things in common, which UH does not have:

1) They are flagship schools of their particular states

2) They compete in BCS (Bowl Championship Series) football conferences, which entitles them for a greater possibility of playing in the football national championship, and having a greater payout in end-of-season bowl games.

b) Attendance records

Of these schools, I have been able to obtain attendance records from UCLA, Washington, Georgia Tech, and Maryland. What I found was:

1) All school records fluctuate with wins. Many people at simply recommend that the attendance problems go away if the team "just wins". While winning certainly helps, it doesn't keep the fan base there. If it did, UH would have maintained a 45k fan base during the mid-late '80s, when it was routinely competing in the top 20 rankings.
2) UCLA and Washington's average attendance have been in the 50-60k range (UCLA) or in 50-60k and trending to 70k (Washington). However, those schools are state "flagship" schools.
3) Georgia Tech's attendance has fluctuated mostly in the 40's. It peaked over 50k only twice in the last 40 years: once in 1967 and again in 2003. Georgia Tech's record was mostly in the mid 30's from approximately 1978 through 1990, which coincided with poor on-field performance (except for 1985, and the attendance did not get much over 40k in 84-85).
4) Maryland's attendance has fluctuated between low 30k and mid 40k from 1975 through 2000!

In summary, I think UH's attendance is most like the University of Maryland's.

Although Maryland is a Land Grant school and is in a BCS conference (the ACC), the ACC's football records are usually considered weaker (it is more known for basketball). In addition, both schools face stiff local competition for Division 1 athletics attention (Houston: Rice, Texas A&M, Texas; Maryland: Navy, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Georgetown). Both schools face professional football competition as well. Both schools are also in metropolitan areas with large percentages of the population which are essentially transient (Houston, Washington DC).

Most importantly, with all these similarities, Maryland's stadium is approximately 45k. This is why I think UH cannot justify a staduim larger than that - no school of a similar size or environment could.

This is actually good news for UH!
It shows that there is a sizable university in a similar environment that can be justified to be in a BCS conference. However, it also shows that even being in a BCS conference would not justify a stadium larger than 45k. For this reason, I recommend UH expand Robertson stadium amenities, with shower/locker rooms, press boxes, luxury boxes, and refreshment areas coming first. Then, I would expand seating in a staged approach, gradually getting to 45k. Given that Maryland already gets this, this should be of sufficient size (assuming attendance comes along) to justify UH belonging in a BCS conference. It may be possible to develop an architecture which could be added on to the 45k size, but given UH's attendance history (even in the best years UH did not average 45k) and the environment UH is in, I would not count on expanding beyond 45k.

Dang! Just missed Stephen Hawking at Mission Control!

Written by Bob McCormick on 4/23/2007 09:25:00 AM

I headed to work this week (actually, at the very tail end of this weekend - 11PM Sunday) to support 5 consecutive days of overnight ISS Flight Control Team console operations.

One of my shift coworkers, Mike Allyn, was apparently in Mission Control earlier, and was privledged to meet Dr. Stephen Hawking, who was being given a tour by Dr. Bob Dempsey, LEad Increment Flight Director for Increment 15.

I just missed meeting Dr. Hawking by just a few hours!


Sign of a bad work day: Multiple news helicopters hovering over your work place

Written by Bob McCormick on 4/21/2007 08:58:00 PM

The last time I saw multiple news helicopters over my workplace, Lisa Nowak was apparently returning to work (like some of my co-workers noticed).

Yesterday was a much more tragic event. And of course, the image doesn't really tell the tale.

During mid-afternoon, my mom called me on my cell phone and asked me how I was doing. "Fine" I said, curiously wondering what was benind the question (and amazing myself with the fact that the signal reached me in the middle of the building). She then asked me if I was anywhere near Building 44. No - I work in Building 4, essentially on the other side of the JSC campus. She then told me that someone had a gun in Building 44, and that this was being reported on the local news networks. I thanked her for the info, and started checking my immediate contractor and NASA managers. Apparently the word was starting to filter to them too, but they were learning it the same way I was - concerned outsiders contacting individuals on the inside.

Just this past Monday, my company helped me celebrate my 20th anniversary with them (I've actually been working with them for 21 years, but who's quibbling?). In my 20 years at JSC, I think I've been to Building 44 twice. I was now looking at the view from one of those circling news helicopters at Building 44. But of course, all the tension was in the Building, not on the outside.

Sop after checking with the immediate management, I went back to my PC and arranged for streaming video from one of the local news networks. Sure enough, the news was broadcasting aerial views of Building 44. I sent an e-mail to my immediate family telling them I was in no danger, but expected a "shelter in place" order, which did come about 20 minutes or so later. I even joked that I could hold out a long time - there was plenty of food in the vending machines!

But, despite my jokes, in retrospect, this was a dangerous situation. Someone had obviously smuggled a gun on site, and had a very bad day. I did not know the principals in yesterday's situation, but my thoughts and prayers go out to them (just as they do to the victims of the Virginia Tech shootings).

After I went home, I saw the extensive news coverage I had expected to see, and finally heard about the deaths involved (after next of kin notification, I surmised). But what I saw after the coverage was worse. The inevitable attempts at connection between this event and the Virginia Tech shootings were made. Also, the insinuation that JSC Security had fallen down - without the countervailing analysis required of what it would have taken to implement the suggestions being made and/or the operational practicality of these suggestions - reminded me of why it's called msm and why I'm getting more and more turned off of it.

Chuck Norris jokes ...

Written by Bob McCormick on 4/19/2007 08:59:00 PM

... found over here. The Chuck Norris internet experience is described on wikipedia.

Ok, some of these are a little too "colorful". Still, here's some I like -

Chuck Norris' calendar goes straight from March 31st to April 2nd; no one fools Chuck Norris.

Chuck Norris' tears cure cancer. Too bad he has never cried.

Chuck Norris once finished "The Song that Never Ends".

The chief export of Chuck Norris is pain.

Chuck Norris once punched a man in the soul.

Hat Tip:

Happy Birthday to me ...

Written by Bob McCormick on 4/13/2007 07:00:00 AM


And it's a Friday this year. Friday, April 13th.

But then again, I was actually born on a Friday the 13th.

Times (and luck) are what you make of them.

Musical Experiences: College

Written by Bob McCormick on 4/08/2007 03:07:00 PM

More from the music (band) experience. I already discussed High School , Junior High, and pre-Junior High. this time, it's college!

As I entered my final year at Alief Hastings High School, I faced some final decisions. Musically, as a saxophonist, I was OK - better than some - particularly from smaller states to the direct north east:*), not as good as others. But I also knew that being a musician or a music teacher was not what I wanted as a career (there was no money in it unless you were at the very top in your profession, and the competition was too intense). I decided to cave in and take some private lessons, with the idea that I might make the "All State" band - and if I didn't, I would pursue another profession.

I wound up pursuing another profession.

I already had a backup plan. I had been applying to several different colleges/universities, and was able to score high enough on my SATs such that the University of Houston would take me unconditionally. I had attended an engineering seminar for High School students at UH the previous summer and was already sufficiently impressed with Engineering that I knew that I would major in it, if the saxophone stuff didn't pan out.

Just prior to graduating High School, I had heard about a series of grants that UH's School of Music was releasing. All I had to do was play an introductory piece (something sufficiently technically hard, like the all-state tryout music), not flub it up, and then agree to take marching band in the fall and concert band in the spring. The grant would pay for $100 worth of my tuition - tuition only ran ~$200-250 for a 12 hour course load back then (those were the days!) so the grant actually went a pretty long way. So I tried out, and I was able to score a Band grant!

I joined up with the UH Marching Band that summer (for summer practice - only 2 weeks long). Band was fun, and not difficult to do if you were a decent player in High School. I enjoyed Marching band, and formed many friendships that I keep with me to this day. I even wound up joining the local UH chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi (Band fraternity) my freshman year.

But Marching Band did take a lot of time. It was 6 clock hours in practice over a week (2 hours M/W/F) for a class that was only a 1 hour course credit. This also does not count the football game performances - some of which (TCU, SMU, UT, A&M) were out of town trips - and also did not count summer band and special performances (such as parades). It was a substitute for PE, but most degree programs only needed 2 hours worth of PE, so the other two hours really didn't apply towards getting a degree (and none of the concert band hours applied at all).

It also took quite a bit of "psychological investment". Any time 150-200 18-22 year olds are kept together like that, there are the inevitable gossips of who is dating who, etc. In addition, we lost our Marching Band director between my freshman and sophomore years, and the tension of that loss was not overcome until the incoming band director resigned three years later (some might say it still has not been lost to this day!).

While it was negative in the sense that it ultimately was a distraction from my more serious Engineering studies, it also ultimately allowed me to go to places I probably wouldn't have had the experience to otherwise - it alllowed me to all home games and many of the away games, and bowl games in New York, Tokyo, and El Paso. (Although we did not go to Dallas for the Cotton Bowl while I was in band, the band went the following year while I was still in college - although the football team did not pull off the win.) And as I said before, I met people through tthe marching band experience who remain some of my best friends decades later.

Now, I find myself the father of two sons, neither of which seem to want to pick up horns and play in a band. That's OK - they have to experience their life, not mine. But if they asked me if I would recommend band, I'd say "yes" - but you have to keep your priorities straight. Unless you're the second coming of Stan Getz or John Phillip Sousa, don't take high school or college band too seriously.

OK, one more set of funny videos (pardon me, Buckeyes ...)

Written by Bob McCormick on 4/04/2007 07:44:00 PM

These two are inspired by the Florida - Ohio State games.

If you were watching NCAA sports a few weeks ago and felt a sense of deja vu, it was probably because the NCAA men's basketball championship came down to the Florida Gators vs. the Ohio State Buckeyes ... just like the NCAA football championship had done just 3 months earlier.

As part of the runup for the football championship, Nike sponsored a commercial where the Ohio State Buckeyes challenged the Florida Gators to see who could run more miles before the game (you can see it in the first clip below).

Ohio State lost.

You can see the results in the second clip below.

(BTW, I have no loyalty, pro or con, to Ohio State or Florida. I suspect most colleges would treat a statue of a mascot they just lost a national championship to the same way.)