Today’s math lesson

It’s the last day of school, ’round these parts, but as we know learning never really stops.

Case in point, the NBA this week announced that the league would be “using winning percentage” to determine who would qualify for this year’s playoffs.

What the heck was it using before?

The NBA was founded in 1946, and though the exact playoff format has changed through the years it has always followed one pretty basic principle: the teams are ranked based on their wins and losses.

When teams all play the exact same number of games, yes, it is easier to see who has a better record. A team that wins 50 out of 82 games has a higher percentage of wins than a team that wins 49 out of 82. But what if the team that had won 49 only played 80 games? What then?

The thing you see every day labeled “Pct.” in the standings will give you an answer. This is “winning percentage,” all though I’ve always enjoyed pointing out that when it’s carried out to its standard three decimal places you’re no longer looking at a percentage (which is out of 100) but a fraction of 1,000. (You never hear that Ted Williams was the last 40 percent hitter.) In our above case, 49 of 80 is 0.613 (rounded to the nearest thousandth) and 50 of 82 is 0.610 (also rounded). Better record? Forty-nine out of 80. (Think of it this way–the team that went 50 for 82 went 49 out of 80, then went one out of two. One for two is only 50%, a “worse” percentage.)

With the coronavirus interruption to the 2019-20 season, teams have played and will end up playing differing numbers of games.

Time to break out the calculators!

See, you love doing math in the summer.


Yesterday I turned 38. An age that once sounded “old” to me. Not anymore.

Like all things these days, the celebration that occurred to mark such was not exactly as I had anticipated, or planned in those heady times known as pre-corona.

But a milestone achieved nonetheless.

And in true O’Connell birthday tradition, a further description can be found here.

The League!

Politics, pandemics, protests… yes, yes, it’s all terribly concerning.

So I’m about to give up on looking at the stories of the day when I see it… could it be? The return of the NBA? In Disney World no less. Could this be any more awesome?

Now that is news!


“TV” seasons start in June now

Three words: Full… ler… house.

Had to jump on that last night of course. After all, my students will be quizzing me on it.

Been watchin’ that show since before you were born, kids. Back when TV seasons followed the school year.

Well, we don’t really even do the “school year” at school any more either

And somehow that show just gets better and better.

CBS brings it with Sunday Night Movie

Gotta hand it to the folks at CBS. A mere two days after I post here about the garbage on network TV these days, CBS goes all in with a 30-year-old movie in primetime. And it’s a home run. Yes, I can watch Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade any time I want, but actually on TV, with commercials, when everyone else in America (at least the East Coast) is watching it too? Oh man, that’s old school. And Jesus it’s a great movie.

Let the record show I did not let my six-year-old son watch the whole thing with me. Some things you can handle better when you’re seven or eight. I just told him the boy and his dad continued their adventure, riding in a motorcycle, flying in an airship, then ending with a horseback ride!

Among other things.

This passes for television

Last night on ABC I watched a show called Holey Moley. Extreme miniature golf or some such thing.

First of all, why didn’t I think of this?

And second, here’s what I think is happening at television studios across the country right now…

No? Nothing? Can’t film at all, huh? Well, do we have anything we filmed like a year or two ago that we thought was a piece of junk but we could just throw it on now? Show about miniature golf? Okay, go with that one.

Something like that.

Christmas in May

Among other things in life I’m going through every episode of The Office in order. Yes, quarantine well spent.

Last night I saw an episode from Season Seven I watch every December. It’s called “Classy Christmas,” an hour-long Yuletide feast that first aired nearly a decade ago.

Remember 2010? Actually, remember anything before like two months ago?

Well, here’s hoping this Christmas is, well, if not classy then at least Christmas. 

Grass was greener even at 19-31

One year ago my hometown baseball club, the Washington Nationals, were in second-to-last place in the NL East, struggling with issues on and off the field. (At least one well-known local writer–who has since repented–was calling for the manager’s dismissal.)

On May 24, 2019, the Nats began to win. And win. And win. The rest of the season, playoffs included, they won two of three ballgames they played after that now-famous 19-31 start. Including their final contest of the season… Game Seven of the World Series.

Of course the world is a little bit different today. I’m watching reruns of games past and silly “simulated” contests played out on computers. It’s cool, but just not the same, though I did enjoy watching the Nats’ “virtual ring presentation.” Flipping back and forth last night between that and the Tiger-Tom-Peyton-Phil golf match was a kind of bliss.

But oh what I would give to watch real live sports.

Even a second-to-last-place team.

Well, at least they tried

Wednesday’s post detailed a traffic issue near my home, a description that was supposed to run in October. (Whoops.) Today again we examine a traffic issue near Virginia State Route 7, just a few miles down the road, also serving as a great lesson in economics.

God bless the folks in Loudoun County. (That would be the wealthiest county in America.) On Wednesday morning the county and Mako Medical, its contractor, administered free coronavirus testing to those who came to Philip A. Bolen Memorial Park, henceforth known as the epicenter of the largest traffic jam Loudoun County has ever seen. Hours before testing was even scheduled to begin, cars had packed the park and surrounding highways, causing delays for those out there still in the habit of leaving their homes.

Officials seemed surprised.

Hours before the event was scheduled to end, administrators were turning customers away, “demand” having already exceeded supply.

Officials, again, seemed surprised.

Yup. Take something valuable and give it away for nothing, then act surprised when a lot of people want it. Classic government. Classic econ lesson.


Well, at least they tried.

And at least there are plans in the works to try this again.

With different expected results of course.

This happened not too long ago

Like digging up a relic from the past, mining the vaults of brings genuine surprise from time to time. The following piece, which should have been published on October 18, 2019, I found last night in the “events” folder of the site, not the “posts” folder. Whoops. It reads like something from another time (it is), back when people used to, you know, drive their cars around and go places. Let me take you back to those pre-corona days…


Phantom traffic

A traffic light near my house was “decommissioned” last week.


That means they turned it off.

Actually, I’m not sure whether it’s off or not. There are giant black garbage bags over the lights, obscuring the fixtures themselves and whether or not they are in fact functioning. The cross street is now closed, giant orange barrels blocking would-be turn-offers and turn-oners. Genius.

Presumably this should cut 30 seconds or a minute off my average commute time. But there’s one problem. People still slow down as they approach the erstwhile light, thinking, perhaps, it might turn red. You know, after the bags fly off and the barrels simultaneously disappear.

Psychologists call this condition “phantom traffic.”

I call it #smh.