The BCS and the “grass ceiling” or “Welcome to the NCAA. No you can’t play for it all.”

The single most glaring inequity in the Biased Cash System is the “grass ceiling” that grants to a little more than half of the teams in college football the right to play for a national championship, while the other half simply doesn’t get to. You have a situation this year with currently six teams from four non-BCS conferences in the top 25 (four have been in the top 11, three in the top ten), and at most one with automatic access to a big money bowl game come January. That’s bowl game, not to be confused with having a chance to play for it all. Meanwhile mediocre (but anointed) conferences get to send their barely-ranked champ to a large payout bowl as long as they can muster six wins. Repeat in your mind… This is not a problem. Have some Kool-aid.

In 2004 the season ended with four undefeated teams. Of the three anointed teams with a right to play for it all (USC, Oklahoma, Auburn), two were given the chance to suit up and let the players and coaches decide who was best. Auburn got shafted (no sympathy — they’re in the family by their own choice). The BCS Kool-aid vendors spouted about Utah getting to play Pitt in a BCS bowl as proof that “the system works.” Works for whom?! USC and Oklahoma play for the crown while undefeated (and never-challenged) Utah got to play Pitt, mediocre champion of the mediocre (but BCS-anointed!) Big Least. If your goal is to keep the championship inside the family, then the system works. Urban Meyer had to go to Florida to put a national championship on his resume. Can’t do that in the Mountain West. Not permitted by the cartel. You got to play Pitt for $13M. The system works. You should be happy. Go home and celebrate that we let you ride at the front of the bus. Once. The system works. You love big brother. The system works. More Kool-aid?

The poster children for why the BCS is not only broken, but monopolistic, segregated, and un-American are (this year) Utah, Boise State, Ball State, (and in years past) Marshall, Tulane, and every other great one-loss team in the NCAA College Football Non-National Championship Division that went home after the holidays without having a prayer of playing for it all (or even showing just how good they really were).

If the BCS were Microsoft we’d already be in anti-trust hearings.

Cuil Internet Search Engine — Um… Not found?

My friend and former student John Jenkins alerted me to the following potentially embarrassing design flaw in the newest entry in the search engine wars. The challenger — Cuil (pronounced Cool), designed by former Google engineers and touted by them as a vastly superior search engine.

I’ll let John’s text from the email he sent me introduce the flaw:

First rule of creating an index of web pages to search: make sure to include your own web page.


First pitiful design example: Door-mounted video rack

What follows is the experience that originally inspired the creation of the Good, Bad, and Ugly Design forum. The story is absolutely factual.

Picture if you will the following homeowner quandary: Lots of old videocassettes and no convenient place to put them. My wife suggests that surely someone has a rack that could hang on a closet door. Quick Google search. Bingo. Yes of course, you can buy them online. So we went shopping, followed by a naïve purchase, based on the assumption that something sold to hold videos while hanging on the back of a closet door would tend to function in such a way.

Wrong in this case.

The device is simple enough, as you can imagine. Installation consisted of taking it out of the box and hanging it on the closet door. First problematic observation was that the sides of each rack were open so that the video on both ends of each shelf was about half on the shelf and half hanging into space. Each time the door opened and closed, there was a non-zero chance that one or more videos would slip out the side of one shelf or the other and plummet to the carpet. Trouble enough, but amazingly enough, not the big problem.


My wife installed the thing on the door (as I said, by hanging it there) and began to put videos onto it. Her bad. The rack had multiple shelves, and probably held maybe 100 videos (approximately the size of our pile). By the time my wife was filling the last shelf row with videocassettes, the most fundamental design flaw was revealed.

The brackets holding this thing on the top of the door were made of soft metal, sort of a soft aluminum (harder than a pop can, but weaker than a tin can, albeit thicker). What were the designers thinking? Obviously they weren’t thinking that if someone hangs this thing on a door and puts a video in each spot designed to hold one, that before the entire shelf was full, the weight of the videos would cause the brackets to simply flex and bend, and that the entire contraption, including maybe 30 pounds of video cassettes would come crashing to the floor in a heap. I could understand it if we had taken something entirely out of its designed function (such as our ill-fated adventure at housing a hamster in a bird cage) and tried to put videocassettes into it. But this device was designed to hold precisely as many videos as she placed onto it, but was not simultaneously designed to actually remain on a closet door afterward.

Tuition cost: $39.99 for the rack, $7.95 for shipping, $39.99 refunded, another $7.00 to ship it back, lost time to clean up videos, vent our spleens, repackage and ship back.
Net loss: $14.95 for a product that was never designed to work in the first place.

Epilogue: The company that sold us the “Over-the-Door Rack – Video” apparently no longer sells such a device, functional or not. The device in question can be purchased, but you won’t find it mentioned as a “video rack.” Poor design? Overzealous marketing? We may never know.