The secret of life is butter. - Chef Didier, Last Holiday
Question #54102 posted on 10/22/2009 3:01 a.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I learned that an alpha-helical structure (I'm thinking of spiral stairs in particular) is so stable that it doesn't need any supporting structures to keep it up. And as a side question, what's the difference between stairs and staircases?

- Volleyball

A: Dear Volleyball,

The relationship between stairs and a staircase is similar to that between a shelf and a bookcase. Stairs are held in place by a staircase; the staircase includes the siderails, etc.

If that's your side question, what's your main question?

-Yellow
Question #54101 posted on 10/22/2009 3:01 a.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

You know how there's a name by the bar code in the General conference tickets? Whose names are those? I got a ticket through scalping and the ticket that I got had Elder D. Todd Christofferson's name on it.

- Still keeping the ticket, just in case...

A: Dear Ticket-keeper,

I have never in my life inspected my General Conference ticket closely enough to find a name by the barcode. I still have two tickets from the most recent Conference, and one from the April 2009 Conference, hanging around, so I decided to check them out. The name printed on all of mine is "The Canadian Stake President," from whom I get all of my Conference tickets. I feel that I can reasonably come to the conclusion that the name by the barcode reflects the name of the stake president to whom the tickets are distributed.

The only problem with this conclusion, however, is that Elder D. Todd Christofferson is quite certainly not a stake president. Why, then, is his name by the barcode? According to the Wikipedia article on General Conference, members may write to Salt Lake to request Conference tickets. My guess, assuming that this is accurate, would be that each leader has a certain amount of tickets that he (or she) is in charge of disbursing, and that you ended up with one. Every official Church statement on the matter of obtaining tickets, however, said nothing about writing to Salt Lake (although they didn't specifically prohibit it, either), so the first article I mentioned could have been reporting on nothing but a rumor. For some reason, it is impossible to get hold of the types of people who could answer this question definitively, so this is the best I can do on the information I could find.

⋯Anomalous
A: Dear Keeping,

I can confirm that each of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve are issued a certain number of tickets to give to guests, etc. Those tickets have the name of the person who was assigned them. (Additionally, they're usually pink, which help the security people keep a handle on who sits up close. I'm betting your seats were pretty awesome, right?)

When the tickets aren't going to be used by the assigned party, they're generally given to someone else. (Often, a secretary.) That secretary can then do pretty much whatever werf wants with them. (Well, within reason). That might include giving them to friends, who might not end up using all of their tickets, who then might decide to scalp them. (Incidentally, if by "scalping" you mean "for money," then it seems a bit shady. Conference tickets are generally free.)

-Yellow
Question #54100 posted on 10/22/2009 3:01 a.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Why do med schools require pre-med students to take physics???!!! I'm just frustrated that I suck at physics.

- No like physics

A: Dear no talk good neither,

I hear you, my friend. To apply some fantastically circular reasoning, you could say that the reason that medical schools require physics is because the Medical College Application Test (MCAT) uses physics as one of its measurable subjects of how well people will perform on the test and (arguably) how much usable knowledge that candidate has accumulated in their college career. But then, if the medical schools didn't require physics, then you could argue that the MCAT would probably stop using physics on their test. Deciding which led to which, the medical schools requiring physics or the MCAT using physics, is probably a chicken-or-the-egg type question (answer: the chicken and the egg, when dropped, both land at the same time, assuming no wind resistance, and that all factors are constant.)

I think that, to be honest, the requirement of physics is pretty much an arbitrary hold-over from earlier days, something that medical professionals (particularly those who are in positions of educational authority) consider to be a "classical education." I don't know, for example, when they stopped requiring M.D.s and Ph.D.s to learn Latin and Greek, but for centuries those subjects were considered a necessary part of any real education, even if Greek and Latin were as unlikely to be used in your day-to-day work as a doctor as physics seems to be.

That being said, and even though I suffered unwillingly through my own physics classes, I think there are some good reasons for requiring it. Most biology, anatomy, and physiology are based on memorization and application of known facts and principles: "The cell cycle goes G1 to S to G2 to M." "An increased amount of parathyroid hormone can cause an increased amount of blood calcium." "Veins have valves to help move blood to the heart." Physics, especially at the level required by the MCAT, seems to be more focused on using equations and constants in problem-solving. There is memorization, and being able to recognize when and where rules and equations are applicable is vital. But physics, from my point of view, seems to be more about critical thinking than simply remembering facts and processes about the natural world. Chemistry, the other branch of science tested on the MCAT and required by medical schools, I think is somewhat a combination of the generalities I just described above, using both memorization of natural facts and critical thinking to solve problems. Take from that what you will.

- Rating Pending (who loves biology, anatomy and physiology and apologizes for his gross over-generalization)
Question #54099 posted on 10/22/2009 3:01 a.m.
Q:

Dear Commander Keen,
So is it just a coincidence that your name happens to be the same name as my childhood hero and computer game character, "Commander Keen," or did you know this DOS legend, as well?

-1990 games were AWESOME

A: Dear 1990,

Did I play Commander Keen? But of course!

I've played most of the CK games (I mean, that'd be one heck of a coincidence to just come up with that 'nym). My favorite would probably have to be the fourth, "Secret of the Oracle" from the Commander Keen in "Goodbye, Galaxy!" series. Of course, any of the games in the Invasion of the Vorticons trilogy are classics. "Keen Dreams" got a little out there for me, personally.

Note: I'm not super-huge into video games anymore (ya know, I'll play a little Rock Band here or there, but not much else), but this game did influence me as a youth and happens to fit me now, what with my being keen and all. And...commanding...?

-Commander Keen
Question #54097 posted on 10/22/2009 3:01 a.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I've been living at Helaman Halls for summer and fall semesters now. I'm considering moving to off campus housing for winter semester however - as nice as Helaman Halls is, its expensive (especially considering the required meal plan, which i think it a ridiculous amount of money) and I'm kind of over the whole freshmen-thing. It sometimes feels more like high school than I prefer.

My question is this - do you know how easy/possible it is to get out of my contract for winter semester? I know than more people come in the winter, but I'm not sure how many of them want to live in Helaman. But I also kind of need to figure this out quickly so I can buy an off campus housing contract from someone, before they find someone else. I know I should talk to the housing office, but was wondering if any of you had personal experience or know the likelihood of this being possible? And if so, what the best way to advertise it is.

- Freshman but Not

A: Dear Freshman but Not,

When I was a freshman and an RA from 2006 to 2008 (and I don't imagine this has changed), you had to request to be let out of your contract directly from the housing office. In my experience they only let people out from their contracts for very specific reasons like marriage or extreme financial difficulty. I knew a lot of people who were turned down and had to keep their contracts, including at least one person on my floor when I was an RA. Ask your RA or hall advisor for more information on the current policy, or go straight to the housing office. I'm thinking your chances are slim to none.

- The Black Sheep
Question #54096 posted on 10/22/2009 3:01 a.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

The Marriot Hotels seem to always have Book of Mormons in their table sidestand drawers. I'm wondering how many people have joined the church because of this.

MyName

A: Dear MyName

I'm going to go ahead and waive our obligation to answer this question on the slim possibility that this could constitute a large-scale counting question (you can see a list of the types of questions we won't answer on the Ask a Question page).

Really, there is very little chance that this would end up being a large-scale counting question (despite that old video about the Italian guy, not a high percentage of members are converted because they find a Book of Mormon lying around). But it is a fairly impossible question for anyone to answer. But I can take a guess. I'll say 7.

-Humble Master
A: Dear Stanley,

I will back Humble Master up and say 7. It is a nice round number and it would be hard for you to prove him wrong.

Funny story though! When I worked for Marriott many, many moons ago a guy called my line (I worked in the reservations call center) and reported that he had stolen a Book of Mormon out of his room. He told me he liked it so much that he was going to keep it and there was nothing I could do about it! I told him to go ahead, and as I was getting ready to go on *MY* mission, I told him to keep me updated, but I never heard from him again. As I was an anonymous voice at a call center I had no way of resolving his story, but I will just assume that he got baptized. There is one accounted for; you have to track down the other six by yourself.

Dr. Smeed
Question #54095 posted on 10/22/2009 3:01 a.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

has there been any studies done showing the height of girl that most guys find attractive?

nerd girl

A: Dear nerd girl-

Actually, yes, which kind of surprised me. I recommend the entire Wikipedia article on Physical Attractiveness; it's interesting across the board, and I'll draw from it extensively (as well as a few other articles).

The first key is this: shorter. Obviously this varies with the height of the guy, but men overwhelmingly prefer a shorter woman. According to a study cited on the Wikipedia page,
Women .7 to 1.7 standard deviations below the mean in height are the most reproductively successful. One possible explanation is that shorter females may reach sexual maturity earlier than their taller counterparts. An alternative explanation is that since most men demonstrate a preference for women shorter than themselves, being shorter allows a woman access to a larger potential dating pool.
It makes sense, really. A shorter woman can date almost any member of the male population and still fit that one major requirement, while a taller girl has an automatically more limited pool. To put some direct numbers with that study, the average female height was almost exactly 5'4", with a standard deviation of 3.6" (I did the conversions from metric for you). Based on their findings, the women with most reproductive success were 4'10" to 5'1.5" (yeah, that sounds really short to me, too).

Of course, this is not a hard and fast rule. Preference varies widely, especially with culture. Look, for instance, at this poll; not really scientific, but it's a pretty normal curve centered around 5'6" to 5'9" (I'd have to do more research to find out for sure, but I would bet it probably has closer correlation to the height of the males involved than anything else). Attractiveness is also highly correlated to BMI (which should be obvious...though it is a measure that also incorporates height), as you can see here.

Again, the Wikipedia article was very interesting; you can learn all kinds of things about waist-hip ratios, how women prefer different characteristics in males based on the current state of their menstrual cycle, and that women tend towards men 1.1 times their own height. Interesting stuff--but again, remember that tastes vary wildly.

-Foreman, who (a) likes him the short girls, and (b) is, at 6 feet even, smack in the highest segment of males with reproductive success.
A: Dear Foreman and all,

I have a newfound respect for the rap industry, because they figured out this "shorty" (or "Shaw-ta-ay!" for you T-Pain fans out there) business long ago.

- Commander Keen
Question #54094 posted on 10/22/2009 3:01 a.m.
Q:

Dear Omnipotent Board,

I'm going to get flamed for this but I'm sure a lot of readers would like to know...

What are the best jobs on campus to meet the hottest girls? Either co-workers (as friends of course, I would never date one), or serving customers that are well-tabernacled females? Of course this has to be a position that's possible for male to do.

~The Mormon PUA

A: Dear Mormon PUA,

I'm going with being an infant, hands-down. I can't think of any other job that gets more female attention than being a baby or small child. Given that girls of all kinds will be attracted to you, I'm sure some will meet your requirements. Job qualifications are minimal, and are primarily age-based. Pay is also negligible, but since your main concern seems to be hot females, I don't imagine that's a problem. Fortunately, positions are open for both males and females.

However, you'll want to be under age 5 or so, and based on your desire to interact with "hot" girls, I'm guessing you're at least 10-13. A warning: despite many girls' love of children, acting childish or otherwise immature will not have the desired effect (in most cases), and will in fact repulse most women. An undue focus on "hotness" will have similar effects.

—Laser Jock
A: Dear I hope you are not proud of your 'nym,

I hope you do not have too high a standard for intelligence when it comes to "hot girls." Because the only girls you are going to get with your present attitude are going to be the ones who only have looks going for them.

Have fun.

-irascible
A: Dear MPUA,

Well, you could try to work for the art department and handle the model hiring, or become a model yourself. I'm sure all the models get together at least once in a semester. There's not a high volume of traffic there, though, and no guarantees that all the models are hot. At the least they'll be confident about themselves.

You could try to get a job on the athletic side of campus, where chances are lower that you'll run into many overweight females.

Your best bet is probably to go for a job that has high customer traffic but also a chance to talk in relative quiet and privacy. The library or the bookstore? The bowling alley might work (but the girls you'd meet there are likely to be on dates) and Jamba Juice has some real potential.

Come to think of it, Campus Craft and Floral seems to fit the bill. It's mainly aimed toward female shoppers, especially those with a certain trendy aesthetic sensibility, and it's mostly staffed by females.

Campus Craft and Floral. That's my final answer.

Whatever,
Waldorf and Sauron
A: Dear AUKM (are you kidding me?),

Even when you ask a somewhat sketchy question, you don't have to do it in a way where you come off as shallow and creepy. Flamed? Great. Then let's move on.

I think the best job is to be a TA in a general education class with a large volume of students. Probably something like Physical Science or American Heritage. You'll see a lot of students, you'll have hours where you offer help, and you'll be integral in helping them pass the class. And if enough of them are young, they won't pick up on any off-putting sliminess that might drive away a more discerning young lady.

- Rating Pending (who has seen a deal of TA-to-student flirting in his time)
A: Dear Dork,

You could apply to be a bus driver for the MTC. A lot of the chicks who teach there are pretty hot, AND they are RMs, so they are old enough to date without you being creepy because judging by the tone of your e-mail you are probably already a Menace to Society® who would seriously freak out any 18-year-old you tried to pick up, no matter how artistically.

Either that or you are a preemie freshman who shouldn't be worrying about that anyway! That would definitely rule out working at the MTC.

Dr. Smeed
Question #54093 posted on 10/22/2009 3:01 a.m.
Q:

Instead of waking up at 5:30am to go wait in line for the campus lost and found sale to begin, I got up at the said time to study for a C.S. Lewis exam. Afterward I was reading a little about the sale online (http://newnewsnet.byu.edu/story.cfm/52411)and came across the crazy sentence, "Lemmon said the most valuable things they've found are diamond rings and $10,000 they found in the ceiling of the library." Diamond rings I can understand, but ten thousand dollars!? I've googled it and can't find anything else about this. Who put it there? In what part of the library was it found? Who found it? And where is my cut?

--Robin Hood (who thinks finding $10,000 would be easier than stealing it from a lion)

A: Dear Robin Hood,

Fun story, isn't it? I remembered reading something about this in the Daily Universe, and sure enough, you can read more about the $10,000 in "BYU Employee Receives $10k for Library Find," published 6 December 2006. Basically a maintenance worker found $10,000 in $100 dollar bills in two PVC pipes back in 1996. The police looked into it, trying to figure out where the money came from (and who put it there), but apparently didn't find anything. Since the original owner couldn't be found, the impressively honest employee was given the money ten years later.

BYU's Lost and Found actually had nothing to do with the money; it was turned straight into the police, so it's a little misleading of them to mention that money in the article you referenced. (Normally, though, if money is found it does get turned into the Lost and Found and is held for up to 90 days before being returned to the finder.)

—Laser Jock
Question #54092 posted on 10/22/2009 3:01 a.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

So I submitted an application for the board about a month ago, and I'm just curious. Will I ever get an email telling me that I'm not cool enough for the board (assuming I don't ever get on), or should I just assume if I don't ever get a response it means this? With that, are there any openings as of now, or is The Board still full?

--Seeking Board Member

A: Dear Seeking,

We're trying to be better about getting back to people quickly regarding applications. In the past we didn't always do so, and it was just assumed that if you didn't hear back, you hadn't been accepted. (Though sometimes we would pull out an older application and reconsider it.) In general, though, we're trying to make decisions more quickly these days.

As far as openings go, we're not limited to a certain number of writers, so there aren't exactly openings. Instead, we simply look at each application and ask "Does this application reflect the kind of writing we want to have on the Board right now?" If the answer is a clear yes, we're pretty much always willing to hire. If not, we invite them to apply again in four months if they remain interested. Some of our best current writers were actually passed over on their first application.

Of course, we're not going to bring on a hundred writers all at once. That would definitely be a burden on the editors. But given the number of applications we receive in a given month and the rate at which we receive questions, we're able to be fairly flexible with our hiring policies. In other words, we try to act such that it's not a crisis when one writer quits, and it's not a burden when we hire a new writer.

-Yellow
A: Dear SBM,

If you want an e-mail telling you that you are not cool enough, I would be happy to oblige. Let me know!

Dr. Smeed
Question #54091 posted on 10/22/2009 3:01 a.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

About two months ago, I began working for a small, somewhat disorganized NGO. My official job only occupies maybe 20 hours of my week, and much of the rest of the time I find myself twiddling my thumbs. There has been discussion of other projects that I might be able to take on, but these projects never seem to materialize -- the people who are supposed to give them to me are all too busy to explain what they'd like done! Do you have any suggestions of how I can tactfully, non-nagging-ly, encourage my fellow-workers to help me find something to do? I don't want to put an extra burden on my overworked friends, but I lack the training to know what to do on my own.

- Emiliana

A: Dear Emiliana,

My father may have stolen this from someone famous, but he used to say that work falls on a spectrum of proactivity. At one side is type 1: what, how, and where must be specified for this kind of job with many follow-up checks (i.e., using a chainsaw for the first time). Type 2 jobs take out the follow-up checks but still get what, how, and where the job is supposed to be done explained. Type 3's only get the what and where specified. Type 4 jobs may only receive the purpose they are to achieve and must decide the what themselves. At the far end of the spectrum is type 5 where every question must be answered on your own (i.e., business owners).

It's tricky because if you jump a level too early you seem like a loose cannon, and if you stay on a lower level you come off lazy or unqualified. However, experience is the best teacher and the only way to get the training you need. I recommend taking the midway point in your situation; shoot for something like type 3.5. Pick a project that's the least beyond your ability to figure out. Decide what it needs in order to materialize, create a plan for how those things can be accomplished, corner your supervisor when they have a spare moment, and suggest your ability to enact that plan yourself. They'll either tell you that that's way over your head, or to go on and do it. If it's over your head at least you've given them an idea that you're ready for more work, a game plan to speed things up, and a really good impression of yourself. If they give you the green light then you've instantly improved your stance in the office, and you've gotten the work you want.

If those projects are absolutely too complex for you, then figure out how to make your over-worked friends less over-worked instead. Create your plan, run it past your friends to see if it actually would be helpful, and then present it to your supervisor. It's much easier to approve a plan then to dream it up. No one's going to think you're being presumptuous for being a little more proactive, and definitely not burdensome.

-Ineffable
Question #54090 posted on 10/22/2009 3:01 a.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Here's my situation: I listen to my 2nd generation iPod Nano using the shuffle function. When I get home, I plug it into my computer to charge, etc. Then the next day, I select "Shuffle songs" again and get the exact same songs, in the exact same order as the day before, for 20-30 songs. This has happened at least six or seven times. Isn't the shuffle supposed to be completely random? The first couple of times it happened, I figured it was just a crazy coincidence, but after so many times, I don't think so. Have any of you ever experienced this or heard of it happening? I'm trying to figure out if it's just my iPod or what.

- Gueaux Physch

A: Dear Gueaux Physch,

I have never experienced this, but then again I am the type of person who likes listening to an entire album once through, rather than jumping from band to band. Not to mention all the symphonies I have - it is just weird to listen to one movement of a symphony, then Aerosmith, and then a thirty-second prelude to something else entirely.

But despite my lack of experience, it seems the internet is run amuck with people who have had problems similar and identical to your own.

From what I can gather, there are a couple theories. One is that the iPod's algorithms simply cannot be completely random. Considering it has to get its information from somewhere, it will on occasion use the same information the same way sometimes. Then on the other side of things, if the shuffle were in a perfect world where "completely random" meant "completely random," then it would be equally likely for the songs to generate in a new order as for the same songs to be played again.

My personal theory is that if you are pressing play on a certain song every time then it might have a set order from that song through the rest. But since you said this only affects the first twenty to thirty songs that are played, perhaps it really is just a strange quirk. Some suggestions from the sites I listed above to fix this problem include letting your iPod's battery run completely dry, recharging it, and then trying again. Or, what seems like a more viable but potentially bad option is to reset your iPod to its original factory settings. This will remove all the songs from your iPod, so if you don't have the files saved elsewhere then you should not do this. Finally, you could make a playlist in iTunes and select specific shuffle settings (Controls>Shuffle), then put this playlist on your iPod. Some sources claim this is an effective method.

One person just took the songs that kept repeating off werf's iPod completely. But that might be a little extreme.

-Mico
A: Dear Mico,

I just wanted to clarify one thing. In a "truly random" shuffle, playing the songs in the same order the second time as the first would be equally as likely as playing the songs in any other predetermined order. But it's not true that there's a 50/50 chance that they'll play in the same order twice, assuming perfect randomness. I don't think you actually thought that, but I just wanted to clear things up for our readers.

Dear Go Fish,

Do you have these 20-30 songs in an album or a "grouping" in iTunes? It's possible to tell your iTunes to shuffle by album or grouping, and if that's on, it will play everything in that set before moving on.

That's what I'd check.

-Yellow
Question #54087 posted on 10/22/2009 3:01 a.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I work in a job where I spend the majority of my time helping new parents learn how to care for their children. Usually, as the conversation progresses, one of the parents will ask me how many children I have. The answer to that is zero. I'm 30 and I'm not even married. It gets rather bothersome to keep having to tell 5-10 people that every day though. Are there any more "creative" ways to convey the same information rather than just saying that I don't have any?

-Sachs

A: Dear Sachs,

Are you familiar with Flight of the Conchords? This is how they deal with that "issue":

Bret: My wife and I weren't able to have children. That's why we chose to imagine them. The doctor suggested it and it's actually been incredibly rewarding.
Jemaine: Bret's wife is not able to have children because she's not a real woman. She's an imaginary person.
Bret: Yeah, she's imaginary, yeah. The kids take after her in that sense.

Just a thought.

Marzipan
A: Dear Sachs,

You could say something like "I have a few in heaven," assuming that at some future point you'll have children, and thus those children are currently in heaven. However, that will probably make people think that you had children and they died, which is probably even more awkward.

You could say "None, yet." Then move on.

You could say "None, but I have worked in the nursery at church." That might be lying, though.

Yeah, I'm struggling here. Sorry.

-Yellow
Question #54086 posted on 10/22/2009 3:01 a.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

What is your personal opinion of circumcision for male infants in the LDS culture?

It is not recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. As far as I can tell, there are not specific church guidelines requiring it.

We don't want our (soon to arrive) little boy to be "different" though. What is your opinion?

-Expectant

A: Dear Expectant,

First off, congrats on the upcoming little one. That's great news for your family.

While you are correct that the AAP doesn't explicitly recommend the procedure in question, neither do they caution against it. Their website says that "parents should choose what is best for their child by looking at the benefits and risks," which, if you're interested, you can find here.

My wife and I have discussed this for our hypothetical sometime-in-the-future son, and we're in favor of it. No real reason, honestly, just the fact that it's sort of a societal status quo and we think it's just easier (for hygiene purposes, etc.) for us and for the child. But then again, we're not card-carrying members of H.O.O.P., we don't feel like those who are against circumcision are somehow evil or out of touch or anything like that. To each his own.

Or...to each his parents' own.

-Claudio
A: Dear Expectant,

I don't think it's any different whether you're inside or outside of LDS culture: circumcision is pretty standard.

We had our baby boy circumcised. The two people we discussed it with beforehand (my brother-in-law and my pediatrician) are both male, LDS, and have medical backgrounds. And they were all for it.

It's not a big deal either way, but there aren't many reasons not to do it and there are some decent reasons to do it. So it's up to you.

Congratulations,
Waldorf and Sauron
Question #54077 posted on 10/22/2009 3:01 a.m.
Q:

Dear Commander Keen,

Are you the Chandler referred to in http://theboard.byu.edu/index.php?area=viewall&id=43219 and http://theboard.byu.edu/index.php?area=viewall&id=39737?
If so, would you like to tell us your side of the story?

- Strunk and White

A: Dear SW,

Well, looks like someone picked up on my extraordinarily unsubtle hints!

Yes, Tru Confessions time, I am the Chandler referenced in those posts. So yes, Claudio, Foreman and myself are brothers.

Now then, let's clarify a few things that I didn't get to say because I was serving a mission:

Yeah, that club they had in the bush was pretty lame. As they said, however, it was infested with ants. Divine retribution? I think so. That's what you get, jerks.

I was there to witness the marvelous gunpowder kitchen fire! Let me paint out how it happened in a little more detail: It was a Sunday night, I believe, and Foreman and I were working on a particular mixture of gunpowder on the kitchen table (Foreman, for a forgotten reason, was out of the room at this particular moment), where we were trying to use rubbing alcohol, gunpowder and string to make fuses of some sort. Anyhow, Claudio comes along and starts playing with capfuls of alcohol, lighting them on fire and blowing them out. He lights the cap, supposedly extinguishes it, then attempts to pick it up. Unfortunately, the alcohol was still a-flamin' and quite hot, causing him to drop the burning liquid on the heaping plate of powder.

This wouldn't have been nearly as bad as it turned out to be except that the gunpowder was presently burning through the (paper) plate, dripping fiery sulfurous liquid onto the table, chairs, and carpet below as Claudio made a dash for the front door at the screaming insistence of our mother. Then Mom got the fire extinguisher and put the carpet out. It was awesome, and we still use that table and those chairs in our house. From then on out, Claudio was only allowed to use the most-burned chair when we were at the dinner table.

I DO remember hog-tying Foreman. Good times. In fact, there were a couple of times where I was the cause of some pretty good harm. One time he was being launched off of Claudio's shoulders in the pool. They asked if it was clear behind them, and I said yes. Mid-launch, I shouted, "NO, WAIT!" and Foreman slipped or something, causing him to hit his head on the bottom of the pool. Another time, I made him mad about something and he started chasing me down a tiled hallway. He had a blanket on him, and as I rounded around a corner, he attempted to do the same and slipped on the blanket, whacking his head on the floor. Don't mess.

Oh oh oh, another hilarious incident involving Foreman was the first time he took a swallow-only pill. I'll spare some of the more embarrassing details (because hey, he has dirt on me as well, I'm sure), but it was great.

Anyhow, yeah, I'm Chandler. Woo!

- Commander Keen
A: Dear Strunk and White,

Just so you know, your Elements of Style has calcified and twisted the way untold numbers of people view English. In the war against prescriptivism, it deserves to be brought to trial for crimes against humanity.

Mostly kidding. That's hyperbole, and of course I have nothing against you personally. (I'm sure you're very nice people. Dead people, but nice all the same.) This is also totally irrelevant to the question you actually asked. I couldn't resist the chance to throw down the gauntlet, though. To descriptivism go the victory!

—Laser Jock
A: Dear Commander Keen,

Woooooo! Welcome to the Board, brother!

Also...isn't it about time we just moved past the whole fire thing?

-Claudio
A: Dear Claudio,

I don't think I said anything negative about it, did I? I thought it was pretty awesome. I've always wanted to set off fireworks inside, and that was the closest I've gotten. Foreman was the one who didn't get to see it, not me.

- CK
Question #54073 posted on 10/22/2009 3:01 a.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

It's nice to get some new writers! It seems like there have been a bunch lately? Anyway, does this mean we are finally past the days of too many married writers? No offense, guys! It just seems like everyone is married who writes for the board! So, which of all the writers are available, and who are the most attractive?

-werfie-werf

A: Dear werfie,

I am still available, but PD Kirke is probably the most attractive. He seriously has the straightest teeth ever.

-Whistler
A: Dear w-w,

Thank you! In my time here on the Board, I've seen us go from a mostly-single group to one seemingly dominated by married people. There was actually a time, a couple years ago, that when we'd discuss applicants people would argue it was an advantage if they were married, since they'd offer a perspective that was underrepresented on the Board. That would be ludicrous to argue now.

(The reason, by the way, is that for some reason a lot of our applicants are married, so a lot of our writers are married too. Plus, you know, sometimes writers get married later.)

Ahem. Anyway, yes, I'm single. (I'm staying away from the "most attractive" question since I don't know a good way to answer that.)

—Laser Jock
A: Dear werfie-werf,

By my count, the writers who are not married, engaged, or would-be-engaged-if-only-the-love-interest-weren't-on-another-continent are Anomalous, Commander Keen, Foreman, Hermia, Hobbes, Laser Jock, Marzipan, Mico, Miss Scarlett, Ƥ. Ɗ. Kirĸe, the Black Sheep, and Whistler, though be advised that some of us are currently dating someone. (Wow, you're right, a lot of those guys are new-ish!) Our editors, webmaster, and proofreader and the rest of the writers fall into the other category. Good gravy, I hope I didn't just misplace anyone.

As for who is most attractive...Whistler picked Ƥ. Ɗ. Kirĸe for the teeth; I'm picking Foreman for the eyelashes.

- The Black Sheep
A: Dear werfie,

As the Black Sheep mentioned, I am single, and I don't even have a love interest on another continent, nor am I dating anyone at the moment. As far as attractiveness, that's pretty subjective, isn't it? I have met all of the male writers, but don't know all of them that well. That said, I'd say all of them are fairly attractive, but have different looks going for them. Sadly, none of them have brown eyes; if you find blue or green eyes most attractive, this is a good group for you. If you have brown eyes and are male, you might be a good guy for me!

I have to say, with the responses given so far, I think it'd be funny to make a conglomerate of the features mentioned, and create the "ideal Board writer," who would have Ƥ. Ɗ. Kirĸe's teeth and Foreman's eyelashes...and I'll add to that Hobbes' eyebrows, which are quite expressive. I'm going to leave off commentary on the female writers since I've met less of them, and they are being horribly underrepresented.

Also, this was a surprisingly awkward question, FYI.

-Miss Scarlett, in the Conservatory
A: Dear Everyone,

Hey now, Foreman and I get our genes from the same place. Beautiful girl lashes run in our family. They have led to many "you would make a good girl" conversations. I'm not sure how to feel about that...

Oh, and I thought I should mention that I have brown eyes. Should anyone else feel that I may be their man, be sure to check out this crazy-long dating application (I only mention this because I clarified a couple of ambiguous things that should make it at least slightly easier for all involved).

Foreman, Claudio and I also happen to share the Rather DashingTM gene. Just sayin'. And we have nice teeth.

- Commander Keen
A: Dear werfie,

As Black Sheep mentioned, I am neither married nor engaged, and I do not have a love interest on another continent. I am also not currently dating anyone...and I cannot decide how I feel about broadcasting that news to the online world. Oh well.

As far as attractiveness goes, I have only met a few of the single writers, so I'm gonna leave this one up in the air.

My availability would also depend on your gender, which I am unsure of due to your non-gender-specific 'nym.

⋯Anomalous
A: Dear Commander Keen,

I did think of nominating you along with Foreman, but I wasn't sure if that was out yet. As it is, I assume you share Claudio's and Foreman's obscenely long and beautiful eyelashes, though I've never met you. I hereby amend my nomination to include you as well.


Dear everyone,

I've noticed that the only male who has yet gone unmentioned is Laser Jock, and that's just dumb because that guy is darn good looking. I'm just saying, ladies. What can I say, our single Board guys are all just crazy attractive, but you knew that already.

- The Black Sheep
A: Dear w-w,

Okay, I know I didn't answer the attractiveness part of your question earlier, but this is getting ridiculous. Six people answer the question and not a single female Board writer has been mentioned yet? C'mon. The ladies of the Board deserve better than that.

Whistler rocks the intellectual avant-garde look, Miss Scarlett has some amazing eyes, Hermia has pretty hair, and Black Sheep has a great smile. I've only met Anomalous once, for about 20 minutes, and Mico and Marzipan not at all, so I can't really comment on them; however, I'm sure they're lovely ladies as well.

—Laser Jock
A: Dear Androgynous,

I feel that I ought to speak up for myself and clear up any mystery or questions floating about. I am, indeed, a single lady. So if you're a man, you can breathe a sigh of sweet, sweet relief.

I haven't met any of the other Board writers yet, so I can't judge their attractiveness levels. They sound pretty attractive, both by description and in the way their personality is reflected in their writing, so I'm guessing that they're a good-lookin' bunch.

As for myself, people often say that I'm cute, which may be directly related to the fact that I am really small. I've also been told that I have gorgeous eyes. They're blue. Perhaps, if you are a man, you should gaze deeply into them sometime.

Marzipan
Question #54071 posted on 10/22/2009 3:01 a.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

If I need to make a decision about something in my life, what are the steps of asking for and receiving personal revelation? What does this revelation feel like when it comes? How can I be sure that this is genuine inspiration from God and not just my own thoughts or even impressions from Satan?

-Agent

A: Dear Agent,

This is a subject I recently researched as well for a New Testament paper I wrote. To answer your question, I will use the talks, lessons, and scriptures I found particularly useful; I hope they help you as well!

What are the steps of asking for and receiving personal revelation?

There isn't a set "formula" for receiving personal revelation. This is something that takes time, diligence, and effort. But under "Revelation" on lds.org's Gospel Library, it lists several ideas of how to get started, including these:
Pray for guidance. The Lord said, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened" (Matthew 7:7–8). In order to find and receive, we must seek and ask.

Be reverent. Reverence is profound respect and love. When we are reverent and peaceful, we invite revelation. Even when everything around us is in commotion, we can have a reverent attitude and be prepared to receive guidance from the Lord.

Be humble.Humility is closely related to reverence. When we are humble, we recognize our dependence on the Lord.

Keep the commandments. When we keep the commandments, we are prepared to receive, recognize, and follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost.

Partake of the sacrament worthily. The sacramental prayers teach how to receive the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit. When we partake of the sacrament, we witness to God that we are willing to take upon ourselves the name of His Son and that we will always remember Him and keep His commandments. Our Heavenly Father promises that when we keep these covenants, we will always have the Spirit to be with us. (See D&C 20:77, 79.)

Study the scriptures every day. As we diligently study the scriptures, we learn from the examples of men and women whose lives have been blessed as they have followed the Lord's revealed will. We also become more receptive to the Holy Ghost in our own lives. As we read and ponder, we may receive revelation about how a certain scripture passage applies to us or about anything else the Lord desires to communicate to us.

Take time to ponder. When we take time to ponder the truths of the gospel, we open our mind and heart to the guiding influence of the Holy Ghost (see 1 Nephi 11:1; D&C 76:19; 138:1–11). Pondering takes our thoughts from the trivial things of the world, helping us gain a more eternal perspective and bringing us closer to the Spirit.

When seeking specific guidance, we should study the matter out in our minds. At times the Lord's communication will come only after we have studied a matter out in our minds.

Patiently seek God's will. God reveals Himself "in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will" (see D&C 88:63–68). Revelation will often come line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little. We should be patient and trust in the Lord's timing."

What does this revelation feel like when it comes?

This next resource comes from a lesson I had in Sunday School once upon a time. It dicusses different ways revelation is received, ways we can know it is from God and not Satan, and gives several cautions about revelation as well. For the sake of not taking up so much space on the Board today, I'll list the methods of communication along with scriptural references, and refer you to the link above if you'd like more detail.

The Spirit uses a still, small voice to communicate to our minds and hearts: see D&C 8:2-3; 85:6. Usually the answer we receive isn't grand or earth-shattering. It is quiet inspiration that comes to us through reverence and diligent seeking.

The Spirit enlightens our minds: see D&C 6:15; 11:13-14. He can bring thoughts, ideas, strong impressions, and pure intelligence to us, sometimes quite unexpectedly.

The Spirit brings peace to us: see D&C 6:22-23. He can help us feel calm, comforted, and good about the choices we've made.

The Spirit can cause a burning in the bosom: see D&C 9:7-8. He can cause us to feel, very strongly, that something is right. Oftentimes in Fast and Testimony Meeting when people say, "I feel the Spirit so strongly right now!" they are referring to this sensation.

The Spirit often reveals things line upon line, precept upon precept: see D&C 98:12. We usually don't get the answer we're seeking for all at once. Things will be revealed to us little by little, as we are ready for them and as the Lord sees fit for us to receive the inspiration.

How can I be sure that this is genuine inspiration from God and not just my own thoughts or even impressions from Satan?

It can be hard to tell at times. One big thing to remember is the fact that all revelation from God will agree with scripture and with the counsel of the living prophets. It will lead you to do things that are good, and help you to become more righteous (D&C 11:12-14). Going along with that, we only receive revelation according to our stewardship and responsibilities; for example, because President Monson is the prophet of the Church, only he receives revelation for the entire church. You and I would not, because we are not in charge of the entire church.

It's also important to remember, as hard as this is, to submit our will to God's. If we are unwilling to accept an answer because we are so fixated on what we want, we won't be able to recognize the revelation and promptings we do receive. Humility and patience are key in helping us to submit ourselves to the Lord's will. Even if we don't understand why He is answering us in the way He is, we can be assured that His purposes are wise and that things will eventually work out.

There are tons of other articles and resources out there. If you feel that you'd like to learn more, I highly recommend it. The Church's website, lds.org, has a vast amount of information that can help answer your question, as do the scriptures, other Church documents, and Church leaders.

Marzipan
A: Dear Agent,

Your questions are almost identical to the ones I scribbled in my notebook before Conference. Apparently I needed immediate intervention because I got my answer something like 11 minutes into the Saturday morning session. Elder Scott opened up the meeting with his talk, "To Acquire Spiritual Guidance." It's an excellent talk that basically says, "To acquire spiritual guidance, practice." My notes read:
  • "God answers prayer and gives us spiritual direction when we live obediently and exercise the required faith in Him."
  • Don't just take notes, study them -pray- study more
  • Fervor and commitment lead to habitual trust in the Lord
  • WORK HARD for what is valuable- make time

  • After Elder Scott, a line of talks were delivered that continued to compel me to be humble. President Osguthorpe, Elder Bednar, and President Uchtdorf all spoke about living what you know. The moral of the story: I had caught myself thinking, "I know the basic Sunday School answers- pray, read your scriptures, go to church... but what else" and it smacked of looking beyond the mark. It was a slap to quell the hysteria, if you will, and got me back to good old Alma chapters, and hitting my knees in the morning.

    I'm not suggesting that you're in the same boat with me, I just wanted to let you know that I'm not being trite when I tell you to do the basics. Pray anxiously with trust in an Almighty God who really can do anything. Study your scriptures; with more than 3000 pages, 4000 years, and 100 authors, someone's faced what you're facing and already wrote up the answers. Go to church. Go to church like my grandmother went to church- looking for people to serve. There are new members to support, old friends in hard circumstances, and fledgling testimonies to be shored up- save a life. That's how you get to be familiar with the Spirit.

    Best of Luck,
    Ineffable
    Q:

    Dear Anomalous,

    Re Board Question #53966:

    "Who am I to be irritated at the grammatical customs of people who haven't walked this earth for hundreds of years?"

    Is there any reason you can't extend this same courtesy to modern English speakers whose dialect or idiolect allows relative pronoun "that" to have a personal antecedent?

    - Katya

    A: Dear Katya,

    You raise a fair enough argument. There's not really any reason why I couldn't extend that courtesy to modern English speakers. I just don't. It's something that irritates me, like nails on a chalkboard or something to that extent.

    Now that I've admitted to that, let me just say this: I never correct people who speak differently than I do...I'm not the grammar police. I also don't think that people who use "that" in the place of "who" are somehow less intelligent than I am. I think that the above are kind of like making fun of someone's accent--rude and unnecessary. I recognize that it has turned into a habit among many Americans, and I'm not out to try to fix it. I do, however, retain my right to feel irritated by that particular habit.

    As a side note, I would guess that I use the relative pronoun "that" more often than most Americans. Although I speak English everyday, I haven't taken an English class in some time. I do, however, sit through an Italian class almost everyday. Italian requires the use of a relative pronoun to connect a dependent clause to a main clause, whereas English-speakers can, in many cases, omit it (but don't have to--it's a matter of personal choice). That particular rule is so emphasized that it rubbed off on the English-speaking side of me. Interesting. I'm sure it sounds kind of "off" to some people, but they can be irritated if they feel so inclined.

    I feel like I should put smiley faces throughout this...

    ⋯Anomalous
    A: Dear Katya,

    "Is there any reason you can't extend this same courtesy to modern English speakers whose dialect or idiolect allows relative pronoun "that" to have a personal antecedent?"

    Yeah, it's called having a pet peeve. And that's what she claimed it was in the first place. Is there any reason we aren't allowed to have irrational dislikes?

    -Cognoscente, who hates the made-up word "brothren." It's BRETHREN.
    A: Dear Cognoscente,

    I hate people who fight for the right to have an irrational dislike towards something.

    - Commander Keen
    A: Dear Commander Keen,

    Them's fightin' words!

    -Cognoscente
    A: Dear Commander Keen

    I hate all prejudiced people.

    -Humble Master
    Question #54060 posted on 10/22/2009 3:01 a.m.
    Q:

    Have you guys ever had any really cool outdoorsy jobs? And how did you apply for/land said jobs? I need something awesome to do with next summer and I want to start looking now. Making money is preferable, but having a blast is more important. :)

    A: Dear Anon~

    If you're in the Provo area, look into applying to Aspen Grove. I worked there for a Fall semester, and it was a lot of fun. Since you live on-site, you get all the outdoors you can eat. Although I've never done the Summer program, I hear it's even better.

    Aspen Grove is almost always on the lookout for recruits into their Summer program. Check with Student Employment in the Wilk.

    If you're not in the Provo area, disregard this message.

    ~Hobbes
    A: Dear Nobody,

    My cousin worked as a bus tour guide in Alaska for a few summers. He said it was awesome.

    Unfortunately, he's not around for me to ask how he landed the job, but it's an idea, anyway.

    -Yellow
    A: Dear Blankface,

    Regarding the Alaska tour bus driving job that Yellow mentioned, I can't provide any contact information, but I have seen a table in the Wilkinson Center with recruiters trying to get people to do that very job. I stopped to talk with them last year and there was a variety of outdoor jobs available besides the driving one. Probably at the end of next winter, when people are starting to make summer plans, they will come back.

    - Rating Pending (who feels that this might be a good question for readers to discuss at the Board readers forum, which you can find here)
    Question #54054 posted on 10/22/2009 3:01 a.m.
    Q:

    Dear 100 Hour Board,

    Can you find any pictures or copies of yesterday's (October 14) Cake Wrecks post? I saw they took it down because the site it linked to was too mean, but it's making me really curious about what the cake was.

    - Moto

    A: Dear Moto,

    Lucky for you, I happen to subscribe to this blog in my Google Reader. The post in question was titled "Here Comes the...Anti-Semitic Ninjas?". It involved some ninja stars that unfortunately came out looking rather like swastikas. The post was taken down per the baker of the cake's request. I checked out some of her other cakes, and really, the problem wasn't her, it was the bride's drawing of the symbol, which she was only trying to follow. In keeping with the baker's and the author's wishes, I won't put up any pictures either. Rest assured you really didn't miss much. There have been far funnier posts.

    -Miss Scarlett
    Question #54050 posted on 10/22/2009 3:01 a.m.
    Q:

    Dear 100 Hour Board,

    I am told that the campus, including grounds and facilities, receives recognition for being manicured and well presented. Which awards have we won and who decides which school/organization wins?

    A: Dear nobody,

    In 2005, BYU won the "America in Bloom" contest, University Campus division. You can read a news article about it on the Deseret News website. According to utahvalley.org, BYU was also given a "regional water conservation award" by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

    Much of the grounds planning is actually done by students in the BYU Landscape Management major, which usually does very well in landscaping competitions. As far as an actual award for the BYU grounds, though, I'm only aware of the two listed above. If you want to include awards for facilities, the Princeton Review ranked BYU's Harold B. Lee Library, as the #1 "Great College Library" in 2004.

    -Yellow
    Question #54049 posted on 10/22/2009 3:01 a.m.
    Q:

    Dear 100 Hour Board,

    Due to my husband's new job and my need to finish the semester in Provo, my husband and I will be apart from the end of October until Christmas (with one possible visit). Obviously, we're not looking forward to this, but it's what is best for our family. Do you have any ideas about how we can stay close while he's gone? We plan on a lot of phone calls, texts, and skype, but I'm worried that being apart so long is really going to strain our marriage. We've been married for two years and are having a baby in November.

    - About to be lonely

    A: Dear lonely,

    This is a tough situation, and it's good that you and your husband are preparing in advance to keep your relationship strong and stay connected. Last year I had a roommate go through a similar situation when her significant other spent the entire semester in Germany. Obviously, it was a very difficult time for both of them, but they did several things to keep their relationship strong and they are now happily married. Here are some of the things they did to stay close:

    Like you mentioned, they used Skype and texting everyday, as well as Facebook. I'm not sure how much time you and your husband will be able to spend communicating in this way; it seemed that my roomie spent at least an hour talking with her almost-fiancé everyday. It was a good way for both of them to relieve stress together, to know what was going on in each others' lives, and to express love and support for each other.

    My friend also spent time with her man's family, which she found to be a great support system and a comfort to her while he was away. I don't know what your situation is, but if there's any way for you to spend time with your husband's family or even talk to them on the phone, it may help you to feel more connected to him while he's gone. Likewise, staying close to your own family can help out, especially as you're expecting a child in November.

    Another cool thing she suggested was to read scriptures together each night, whether on the phone or through Skype. My friend felt that this helped the two of them both grow closer together as a couple and grow spiritually at the same time. Again, I don't know how much time the two of you will have to communicate via Skype each day, but you may want to consider scripture time along with your normal chatting.

    One thing I observed about my roommate was the fact that she went about her business and put her best effort into everything she did, whether it was her calling, her schoolwork, or even just her chores. If she was ever sad or lonely, I could never tell, because she had such great strength. It may be tempting to get discouraged, but keeping a positive attitude when things get hard will do wonders for you.

    The time you and your husband are apart will be hard, but it won't be impossible. Do your best to keep in touch everyday, stay close to his family and yours, stay close to the Lord, and stay positive. You can do this.

    Marzipan
    A: Dear About to be lonely,

    Yeah, I hear you on this one. Being apart from your spouse is just downright awful. It's probably my least favorite thing in the entire world, and yet in the last year my husband and I have had to spend several weeks apart.

    As Marzipan suggested, I think Skype can make a huge difference. This past spring I had to come back to the U.S. by myself when I was eight months pregnant while my husband stayed in Japan to continue working. We Skyped almost twice a day. Even if we didn't have anything really exciting to talk about, it was still great to "see" each other and talk about our day.

    I know it will be difficult, but just try to keep yourself busy and make the most of each day. The more time you spend moping and moaning, the harder it will be. When you first separate, just tell yourself, "Okay, now I'm in this for the long run and I have to hang in there." Do not make the mistake of saying, "It's only two months, it won't be that bad." Do not do that! It will make the days go by so slowly.

    I know this isn't exactly what you asked about, but your question implies that you and your husband will be separated when your baby is due in November. I'm not sure what you have planned out as far as delivery goes, but if your husband can't be there for the birth, I promise it won't be the end of the world. My husband was scheduled to fly in from Japan a week before my due date, and what does the little munchkin decide to do? She decided to come about four hours before my husband's plane landed. I didn't go into labor until after my husband boarded his plane, so during his entire flight he had absolutely no idea what was going on.

    Sure, I was disappointed that my husband wasn't there, but you know what? We've laughed about it and we've moved on. There's no point in being upset since it won't change anything. And obviously I don't blame Baby Bones. She's too cute, anyway. I'm just really grateful that everything went so smoothly and my husband was able to come home to a healthy wife and baby. I couldn't have asked for more.

    So, just try to stay optimistic and have faith in yourself and in your marriage. It might help to keep your family close so they can give you support, too. Weekends will probably be the most difficult, but I know you can get through this. Please feel free to shoot me an e-mail at skybones(at)theboard(dot)byu(dot)edu if you need someone to talk to. I'm pretty sure I know exactly what you're going through.

    -Sky Bones
    Question #54036 posted on 10/22/2009 3:01 a.m.
    Q:

    Dear 100 Hour Board,

    As of late, I have reason to be "volunteering" at the Church Distribution Center. My question is this: why do Distribution Center volunteers have to be endowed females? I understand the endowed part, just not the gender part.

    - Miss Katria

    A: Dear Miss Katria,

    Actually, Distribution Center volunteers do not necessarily have to be females. I spoke on the phone with Julie Wilcox from Human Resources at the Distribution Center, who informed me that both genders are eligible to work there. She said that there may be an imbalance of gender based on the location and size of the center, but both are allowed to apply. If you'd like to learn more, you may call Human Resources at 801/240-4621.

    Marzipan
    Question #54020 posted on 10/22/2009 3:01 a.m.
    Q:

    Dear 100 Hour Board (especially HFAC and Cognoscente),

    The Mountain Goats recently appeared on the Colbert Report. I recognized them as a frequently-recommended Board band, but had never thought to listen to them. I found (surprise, surprise) that John Darnielle has a strangely captivating, passionate voice.

    So, my actual question is, what Board advice should I have taken all these years, but am likely to have stupidly forgotten/procrastinated? I'm talking music, recipes, books, websites . . . you only live once!

    ---Portia

    A: Dear Portia,

    If you haven't yet read any David Foster Wallace, go do it now. Read "Consider the Lobster," about a lobster festival, or "Tense Present" about English usage wars. Hilarious and thought-provoking.

    -Whistler
    A: Dear Portia,

    We've been saying it the whole time: Listen to the Beatles. The remastered catalog sounds amazing and is a great way to get into some of the best music ever made.

    Other bands we've recommended frequently: Neutral Milk Hotel, Belle and Sebastian, the Mountain Goats, Pixies, Flaming Lips, the Format, Led Zeppelin,

    See here, here, and, oh my, here.

    Also, here's some great jazz.

    -HFAC
    A: Dear Portia,

    You should go back and listen to everything that I, Claudio, Foreman, or Optimistic. have suggested. It's all golden.

    Other than that, I have no opinions.

    -Cognoscente
    A: Dear Portia,

    While I'm sure you know about this advice, I'm pretty sure most of us are procrastinating the application thereof. Lemme know how it goes!

    - Commander Keen
    Question #53707 posted on 10/22/2009 3:01 a.m.
    Q:

    Dear 100 Hour Board,

    What would be a better league and/or playoff system than the current BCS? (Please keep in mind that I only have a vague sense that there might be four downs at some point in this sport: I'm a complete football neophyte. However, I am an NCAA basketball and MLB fan, so analogies to other sports could be understandable to me.)

    ---Portia

    A: Dear Portia

    Disclaimer: This answer grew a little bit out of control as I was writing it. If you're only interested in what some alternatives to the BCS might be, go ahead and start scrolling down (keep scrolling, it's a ways down there) until you see a bold heading that reads "What might be a better system in the future?"

    Hello controversial topic. Did you know that college football is the only NCAA sport in which a national champion is not determined by a tournament? It's true. Because there is no playoff system, it's not uncommon for college football to be said to have a "mythical national champion" at the end of the season.

    I'm going to give you a brief history of what the current system is and how we got here, but first I want you to appreciate a) how much discussion there is on this and b) how little anyone agrees about what to do about it. To help get this perspective I googled a couple terms, and here are the number of hits that google turned up:

    BCS versus playoffs
    : 14,7000,000
    BCS problem: 2,830,000
    College Football Playoff: 2,600,000
    Alternatives to the BCS: 1,170,000
    College Football Controversy: 962,000
    BCS is BS: 612,000
    Bowl Championship Series Controversy: 210,000
    BCS controversy: 181,000

    Every year hundreds of articles are printed in newspapers about how the current system is broken. Same for sports websites. I'm sure there are many, many blog posts on the subject as well. Very few people feel the current system is the best means of choosing a national champion. This raises the three following questions, which I'll answer in depth: 1) What is the current system? 2) What was the system before the BCS? 3) What might be a better system in the future?

    1) What is the current system?

    The current means of naming a national champion in college football is the Bowl Championship Series. First I'll offer a brief discussion of the regular season, then the post season, then the BCS itself. I'll be getting down to the basics, so if you start a paragraph and think "Bah, I already know that," then move on to the next paragraph.

    Universities are generally associated with athletic conferences. Each conference is a group of universities, and those universities all play one another in their sports. In football, the regular season consists of 12 games, some of which are played against teams from outside the team's athletic conference (non-conference games), but the majority of which are played within the athletic conference (conference games). Because most games a football team plays each year are in-conference, the perceived strength of the conference greatly affects the perceived quality of a team. If a team is undefeated in what is perceived to be a weak conference, they may not receive the same national respect as a 1-loss team from what is a perceived to be a stronger conference.

    Following the end of the regular season of college football come the bowl games. Bowls are sponsored by different companies, and played in different locations. All bowls are not created equal. Typically, conferences have contracts to send their bowl-eligible teams to specific bowls (a team must win at least six football games to be bowl-eligible). For example, the Mountain West Conference (which BYU is a part of) has a contract with the Las Vegas Bowl, as does the the Pac-10 Conference. The Las Vegas Bowl has the first pick of any bowl-eligible Mountain West team (they do not have to take the conference champion) and they also will host the team that finishes fifth in the Pac-10 Conference standings. Teams that play in bowl games are paid by the bowl sponsors, and this is where the real issue with the BCS comes in. It's all about $$$.

    Here is a list of the payouts that universities receive for playing in non-BCS bowl games (all these numbers come from here, and it seems like the list is a couple years old, but you'll get the idea even if it is not currently 100 percent accurate). You'll see that the payouts for non-BCS bowls range from $300,000 to $4.25 million. That's hardly chump change.

    Payouts for Non-BCS Bowls

    Poinsettia: $750,000
    Pioneer PureVision Las Vegas: $950,000
    R+L Carriers New Orleans: $325,000
    Papajohns.com: $300,000
    New Mexico :$750,000
    Bell Helicopter Armed Forces: $600,000
    Sheraton Hawaii: $398,000
    Motor City: $750,000
    Emerald: $850,000
    PetroSun Independence: $1.1 million
    Texas: $500,000 for Big East, $750,000 for Big 12
    Pacific Life Holiday: $2.2 million
    Gaylord Hotels Music City: $1.6 million
    Brut Sun: $1.9 million
    AutoZone Liberty: $1.5 million
    Insight: $1.2 million
    Champs Sports: $2.25 million
    Meineke Car Care: $750,000
    Alamo: $2.2 million
    Chick-fil-A: $3.25 million for ACC, $2.4 million for SEC
    MPC Computers: $250,000
    Outback: $3 million
    AT&T Cotton: $3 million
    Toyota Gator: $2.25 million
    Capital One: $4.25 million
    International: $750,000
    GMAC: $750,000

    Now let's take a gander at what a team playing in a BCS bowl game earns.

    Payouts for BCS Bowls

    Rose: $17 million
    Tostitos Fiesta: $17 million
    FedEx Orange: $17 million
    Allstate Sugar $17 million
    Tostitos BCS Championship: $17 million

    Obviously that is a huge difference. I believe the BCS rules stipulate that if a conference gets two teams into BCS bowl games, the second team only receives $4.5 million, rather than $17 million. Teams from conferences that go to bowl games share the revenue amongst the other teams in the conference, though the team that makes it to the bowl game typically gets a higher percentage of the payout. However, there is one exception to this rule. If a team from a non-automatically qualifying conference makes it to a BCS bowl game, it shares the money with all the non-AQ conferences (there are 5 non-BCS conferences). So, if a team from the Big Ten is in a BCS bowl game, they receive $17 million, which is shared with nine other schools. If a non-AQ team makes a BCS bowl game, they get $17 million, which is shared with 55 other schools.

    Originally, there were only four BCS games. A fifth, called the BCS National Championship Game, was added and first played at the end of the 2006 season. So currently, there are ten teams which play in BCS bowl games at the end of every college football season. You would think that they would take the teams that are ranked 1-10 at the end of the season and plug them into the bowls, but you would be wrong.

    So, how do teams get into a BCS bowl?

    In the current system, the champions from six conferences are guaranteed to play in a BCS bowl game no matter where they are ranked. These conferences, called the automatic qualifiers, represent the "haves" in the college football world, while the other conferences are the "have nots." The six automatic qualifying conferences are the SEC, Big East, ACC, Big 12, Big 10, and the Pac-10. The non-automatic qualifying conferences (in the order of their perceived strength) are the MWC, WAC, Conference USA, MAC, and Sunbelt.

    So, at the end of the season, the six champions from the AQ conferences are guaranteed six of the 10 available spots in BCS bowl games. It does not matter where they are ranked nationally; by virtue of being an AQ conference champion, they're in. Here are some teams that were ranked outside of the top 10 but have played in a BCS bowl game by virtue of being their conference's champion:

    2002: #13 LSU (SEC champion)
    2003: #14 Florida State (ACC champion)
    2004: #21 Pittsburg (Big East champion)
    2005: #11 West Virginia (Big East champion) and #22 Florida State (ACC champion)
    2006: #14 Wake Forest (ACC champion)
    2007: #13 Illinois (selected by the Rose Bowl committee, not a conference champion (the Rose Bowl stubbornly insists on having the Pac-10 and the Big Ten play every year, and in 2007 the Big Ten champ was playing in the National Championship, so the Rose Bowl took the next-highest-ranked Big Ten team))
    2008: #19 Virginia Tech (ACC champion) and #12 Cincinnati (Big East champion)

    Obviously the Big East and the ACC are benefiting the most from being AQ conferences. Since the BCS was formed the ACC has had 4 teams from outside the top 10 play in a BCS bowl, and the Big East has had 3. Often, higher-ranked teams from non-AQ conferences are passed over for the conference champions from AQ conferences. For example, last year there were four non-AQ teams ranked higher than #19 Virginia Tech: #16 BYU, #11 TCU, #9 Boise State, and #6 Utah. Only #6 Utah went to a BCS bowl game.

    So, six of ten spots are automatically taken by conference champions. Also, the #1 and the #2 teams in the final BCS poll automatically play in the National Championship game. The BCS poll is derived by factoring in two human polls (the Coaches' Poll and the Harris Poll), as well as a series of computer polls that ranks teams based on record/strength of schedule/quality wins/other criteria. The BCS poll combines the human and computer polls to create its own top 25.

    So after the conference champions and the #1 and #2 team are selected, there are a couple other rules which would allow a team to automatically qualify. Notre Dame is the only school mentioned by name in the BCS rules, and if it is ranked #8 or higher it is automatically awarded a spot in a BCS bowl game. (Notre Dame, which does not belong to a conference for football, receives $4.5 million if it plays in a BCS game (it does not have to share with any other school). Additionally, Notre Dame receives $1.3 million every year because it agreed to the BCS system, so even when the team is terrible (see the last several seasons), they receive $1.3 million from the BCS.)

    Also, a team from the non-AQ conferences can automatically receive a BCS Bowl bid if a team is ranked in the top 12 of the final BCS standings, or if it is ranked in the top 16 and is ranked higher than a champion from an AQ conference. However, if multiple non-AQ teams are in the top 16, only the highest-ranked team is guaranteed a BCS bowl spot. For example, last year four non-AQ teams met the criteria established by the BCS to qualify for a BCS bowl game. Utah, TCU, and Boise State were all ranked in the top 12, and BYU was ranked in the top 16 but ahead of #19 Virginia Tech, but only Utah got to go to a BCS bowl game.

    So those are the ways teams can automatically qualify for BCS bowl games. But, if we count the six conference champions, and assume that both Notre Dame and a non-AQ team qualify, how are the remaining two spots filled? The committees for the bowl games that still have a vacancy can select any team that is ranked in the top 16 of the final BCS standings. There are no rules declaring that they must take the highest-ranked teams remaining; instead they tend to select the team they feel will sell the most tickets to their game. The only stipulation guiding the selection of any empty BCS bowl slots is that no conference can have more than two teams play in a BCS bowl game.

    The whole reason for the BCS system is to ensure that the top 2 teams in the country play in the National Championship game, but the system has been very controversial. Here are some of the most significant controversies the BCS has faced:

    1998
    The BCS started in 1998, which happened to be the year that Tulane, a team from C-USA, went undefeated. The earliest version of the BCS had no rules allowing for a non-AQ team to qualify for a BCS bowl game (the rules cited above were added in 2005), and Tulane was not invited to a BCS bowl game.

    2003
    At the end of the season there were no undefeated teams, but there were three teams with one loss (LSU, Oklahoma, and USC). USC was ranked #1 in both the human polls, but was ranked #3 in the final BCS standings, so LSU and Oklahoma played in the National Championship game. USC won their bowl game and was voted the #1 team in the country in the final human polls, despite not playing in the National Championship game.

    2004
    In a worst-case scenario for the BCS, at the end of the regular season there were five undefeated teams: USC, Auburn, Oklahoma, Utah, and Boise State. Boise State was not invited to play in a BCS bowl despite being undefeated. Also, the University of California, which was ranked #5 in the country, did not receive a BCS bowl berth.

    2006
    At the end of the season there were only two undefeated teams, Ohio State and Boise State. Boise State was not invited to play in the National Championship game (though it did play in a BCS bowl game, which it won). After Ohio State lost to Florida in the National Championship game, Florida was the national champion, even though Boise State was undefeated.

    2007
    Missouri defeated both Kansas and Illinois in the regular season, and was ranked higher than both schools at the end of the season. Kansas and Illinois played in BCS bowls and Missouri did not.

    2008
    Three non-AQ (Utah, Boise State, TCU) schools were ranked higher than the champions from the Big East and ACC. Utah played in a BCS bowl game, Boise State and TCU did not. At the time, Boise State was undefeated and ranked higher than Ohio State (which had two losses) in the BCS rankings, both human polls, and all the computer rankings. Ohio State was selected as an at-large team for the Fiesta Bowl and Boise State was passed over. TCU and Boise State ended up playing one another in one of the best bowl games of the year.

    2) What was the system before the BCS?

    Let's start at the very beginning. Back in the 1870s some American colleges began to play a rugby-style predecessor to today's football. According to Wikipedia, "The first game of intercollegiate football in America between two American colleges that most resembles the game of today was between Tufts University and Harvard on June 4, 1875 at Jarvis Field in Cambridge, Mass., won by Tufts 1-0" (obviously the scoring was different at the time). In the late 1800s, a man named Walter Camp introduced many of the standard rules of today's game, which deviated from the more rugby style of play. At first, so few colleges played the sport, and so few games were played in total, that whoever had the best record was considered the national champion.

    The game became more popular at the college level, and in 1902, the first post-season bowl game was introduced, an East-West game which was to feature the best teams from each region of the country. However, the game was so lopsided (Michigan was defeating Stanford 49-0 in the third quarter), that Stanford asked for the game to end before the fourth quarter began. This was the last post-season bowl game for 14 years.

    Despite no post-season games, football continued to rise in popularity and more schools began to play the game. However, due to the lack of padded protection for the players as well as the more violent nature of the game (there was no forward pass allowed yet, so every play involved players running into each other from opposite sides of the line of scrimmage), there were numerous injuries, and even some player deaths. President Teddy Roosevelt threatened to ban the sport, and in response the National Collegiate Athletic Association was formed. In order to decrease the number of injuries in the game, the NCAA changed the rules of football to allow the forward pass in 1905 (this prevented all 11 defensive players from running full speed at the offensive line, as they now had to look out for players running down-field to catch a pass).

    Starting in 1916, bowl games began to be played again after the regular season. Bowl games, such as the Rose bowl, began to be associated with specific conferences. If you follow college basketball, you're aware that most universities are part of an athletic conference. BYU is currently part of the Mountain West Conference, but was previously part of the Western Athletic Conference. Neither the MWC or the WAC are considered one of the "big" football conferences. Early on, bowls began to have contractual ties with specific athletic conferences. For example, the Rose Bowl has traditionally pitted the champion from what is currently called the Pac-10 Conference against the champion from what is currently called the Big Ten Conference. The traditional affiliation between specific bowls and specific conferences is one of the reasons some people argue against having a playoff: they want traditional post-season conference rivalries to remain in place.

    Naturally, with the rising popularity of college football, people began to wonder which team was the best. In 1926 an economics professor devised a system that incorporated the quality of the opponents and the margin of victory to determine the best team in the country. Some others devised systems throughout the 1920s and the early 1930s to declare the national champion.

    A significant change to the system came in 1946 when the Associated Press began a poll of sportswriters and sportscasters. This poll would be key in declaring the national champion. Soon other polls were created (many other polls), but the most important was the Coaches' Poll, which asked college football coaches to rank the best teams in the country (though today most polls rank the top 25 teams, polls used to only rank the top 10 or 20 teams, and the list was not expanded to the top 25 until 1989).

    The AP Poll and the Coaches' Poll became the most recognized polls in college football, and each declared a national champion at the conclusion of the season. There were other polls that also declared national champions, but traditionally the AP Poll and the Coaches' Poll have carried the most weight, and have been recognized as declaring the national champion. Now, you may wonder, what happens if the two polls choose different teams as the national champion? Well, if that happens, both teams that are ranked number one claim to be national champions, and it's called a split-championship. One reason the current BCS system was put in place was to avoid having a split national championship (important side note: it hasn't worked). Here's a list of split national championships since 1946, when the first AP Poll was introduced:

    2003: LSU and USC
    1997: Michigan and Nebraska
    1991: Miami and Washington
    1990: Colorado and Georgia Tech
    1978: Alabama and USC
    1974: Oklahoma and USC
    1973: Alabama and Notre Dame
    1970: Nebraska and Texas
    1966: Notre Dame and Michigan State
    1965: Alabama and Michigan State
    1964: Arkansas and Alabama
    1960: Mississippi and Minnesota
    1957: Auburn and Ohio St.
    1954: Ohio St. and UCLA
    1953: Maryland and Notre Dame
    1952: Georgia Tech and Michigan State
    1951: Tennessee and Maryland
    1950: Oklahoma and Tennessee
    1947: Michigan and Notre Dame
    1946: Army and Notre Dame

    The NCAA set up tournaments to determine the national champions in most sports (starting in the 1930s), but not football. Why, you ask? Cost, concerns about disrupting the academic lives of student athletes, and the fact that players generally need a week between football games (whereas, for instance, basketball games can be played on back-to-back days).

    For decades, the system for selecting the national champion was waiting to see who the polls declared to be the number one team in the nation after all the bowl games were played. Starting in 1984, talk of changing the system began. Why? Because BYU, a team from a conference that was not a traditional power, won a controversial national championship. Several people have argued that this was one of the initial sparks that led to today's BCS system, including:

    Mark Blaudschun of The Boston Globe:
    It was an undefeated BYU that faced a 6-5 Michigan team in the 1984 Holiday Bowl, having been shut out of a bigger bowl because all the openings were filled by champions of other conferences. But that was also a time when USC couldn’t have played Florida in any BCS-type bowl game because the PAC-10 champion was committed to the Rose Bowl and the Southeastern Conference champion was committed to the Sugar Bowl.

    BYU’s side-door championship started the serious talk about changing the system.
    Kelly Lyell of The Coloradoan:
    The system for determining a national championship in football was created, in part, by BYU winning the national title in 1984 as the nation's only undefeated and untied team. Now, the Cougars are trying to help destroy that system as a member of the Mountain West Conference, the most prominent of the have-nots in the current Bowl Championship Series.
    Andrea Adelson of The Orlando Sentinel:
    That 1984 BYU team stands as the only contemporary national champion other than Notre Dame not currently in a BCS conference. It was a triumphant moment for the university, a win for non-power schools everywhere. But it also had unintended consequences. That championship helped set in motion the BCS system we have today.

    <B>The Bowl Coalition

    However, even if BYU's 1984 championship, as well as the controversy of split national champions, made people discuss the need to alter the system, change was slow. After split national champions in 1990 and 1991, the Bowl Coalition was formed. The Bowl Coalition was formed by the five most powerful football conferences at the time (SEC, Big 8, SWC, ACC, Big East) and also Notre Dame (Notre Dame's football team is not affiliated with an athletic conference).

    Quoting Wikipedia:
    ...five conferences, six bowl games and leading independent Notre Dame joined forces to create the Bowl Coalition, which was intended to force a de facto "national championship game" between the top two teams. By entirely excluding all the other conferences, the Bowl Coalition also made it impossible for a non-Bowl Coalition team to ever win a national championship as BYU did in 1984.


    The goal of the Bowl Coalition was to eliminate split national champions by having the two highest-ranked teams at the end of the season play one another in a de facto "national championship" game. Previously, contractual obligations forced the champions from conferences to play in specific bowl games, but the members of the Bowl Coalition agreed that the two highest-ranked teams within their coalition would be released from their contractual obligations so that they could then play one another.

    The Bowl Coalition was problematic for several reasons. One oft-cited flaw is that it excluded two of the traditional college football conferences, the Pac-10 and the Big Ten. They were not included in the Bowl Coalition because the champions from each conference were contractually obligated to play in the Rose Bowl, and the conferences and the Rose Bowl would not alter their contract to allow a team to play in the Bowl Coalitions' championship game if one of the two teams was ranked #1 or #2. Also, the system did not allow for any possibility of a team from one of the non-Bowl Coalition conferences to play in its "championship" game, no matter how highly ranked they were.

    Furthermore, a problem which plagues all non-playoff systems of naming a national champion is the tricky issue of what happens if there are three undefeated teams at the end of the season, ranked in different positions in different polls? Or what if a team with 1 loss is ranked higher than an undefeated team? In 1993 Nebraska and West Virginia were both undefeated, and Florida State had 1 loss. The Bowl Coalition's poll ranked Nebraska #1, Florida State #2, and West Virginia #3, meaning an undefeated team did not play in the "national championship" while a team with 1 loss did. 1994 was also a year of controversy for the system, as Penn State from the Big Ten went undefeated, but could not play in the Coalition's championship game, because it had to play in the Rose Bowl.

    The Bowl Coalition ended following the 1994 season, in part because one of its member conferences, the SWC, was dissolving. The Bowl Alliance was formed starting with the 1995 season.

    The Bowl Alliance

    For all intents and purposes the Bowl Alliance was pretty much the same as the Bowl Coalition, and it had the same flaws. It did not include the Big Ten or the Pac-10 Conferences, it excluded any team from outside of its member conferences from participating in one of its bowl games (which paid participating teams more money than other bowls), and it had issues with using multiple polls to determine the top two teams in the country.

    One of the biggest controversies for the Bowl Alliance occurred in the 1996 season and involved BYU. BYU was 13-1 and ranked #5 at the end of the season (BYU had played so many games because a) teams that fly to Hawaii to play the University of Hawaii are allowed to play one extra home game to make up travel costs, and b) at the time the WAC had a championship game at the end of the regular season but before the bowl games). The Bowl Alliance did not take BYU into one of its games, which was highly controversial. You can read a New York Times article about it here.

    The controversy surrounding BYU's exclusion helped to end the Bowl Alliance the following year. Because of the amount of money involved, and because BYU was excluded because of the business contracts of the power conferences, there were threats of anti-trust lawsuits (similar threats have plagued the current BCS system). Again quoting Wikipedia:
    In 1996, despite 18 conference championships in 23 years, one of the winningest records in college football and a #5 ranking in the AP poll, BYU was excluded from a Bowl Alliance bowl and was relegated to the Cotton Bowl beating Kansas State to finish the season 14–1. Now the Bowl Coalition was also at risk of anti-trust because of the monopoly on the bowls. LaVell Edwards, BYU Coach, testified in Congress at that time about the inherent unfairness in recruiting for teams who were excluded from bowls simply because of conference affiliation. With the pressure of potential Congressional action, the Bowl Alliance reformed into the Bowl Championship Series that not only included the Big Ten and the Pac-10 conference but also cracked opened the door to allow the possibility of a "mid-major" team's participation.
    Starting with the 1998 football season, the Bowl Championship Series was formed. The BCS attempted to address several of the flaws of the previous system. First, it included the PAC-10 and the Big Ten. It also did not automatically exclude teams from other conferences participating in a BCS bowl game, though it made the possibility of such teams participating unlikely. Also, the BCS created its own system for determining the top 2 teams in the country, which would automatically play in the BCS Championship game. The system included combining the AP Poll, the Coaches' Poll, and several computer polls to create the BCS Standings.

    3) What might be a better system in the future?

    Plus One

    This system has been recommended as a remedy for those years when more than two teams are undefeated at the end of the regular season, but only two teams can be invited to play in the National Championship game. Essentially, this system boils down to playing the BCS games, plus one additional game after the dust has settled and we see who look like the best two teams after the bowls have been played.

    There have been two versions of the Plus One format suggested, as explained here. In one version, before the BCS games are played, the top 4 teams from the final BCS standings are seeded, so that #1 plays #4 and #2 plays #3. Then, the winners of each of those two games will meet in the National Championship game.

    The other version has all the BCS bowls played, then a new BCS ranking is generated. The new #1 and the new #2 from that ranking will then play in the National Championship game.

    The Plus One system was proposed and rejected by the BCS conferences in 2008, but some people believe this is the most likely adjustment for the BCS system to adopt.

    Eight-Team Playoff

    This solution has one very big proponent: President Obama. President Obama has gone on record saying that he feels college football needs an eight-team playoff, but that it is far from a political priority for him to try to make it happen. One of the biggest drawbacks to considering a playoff in college football is the amount of time needed between games. Every round in a playoff needs a week in between. So there is no way you could have a 64-team playoff, à la March Madness. The main two recommended sizes for playoffs are 8 teams and 16 teams.

    With the 8-team playoff, you add two games to two teams' schedules. There would be three rounds, but all teams involved in the playoffs would have been in a bowl game anyway. This limits the number of teams that have extra games, and if one game were dropped from the regular season, it would not significantly affect the current number of games played anyway.

    With an 8-team playoff it is most likely that two rounds of the playoffs would be played in December, before Christmas, and the National Championship game would be played on New Year's Day.

    The criticism of this system is that football players involved in the playoffs would have difficulty with finals. Various tweaks to the schedule have been suggested to address this (one round in December, two rounds after the semester ends), but it's not as though their semester has not already been disrupted.

    Another difficulty with this system is determining which eight teams get to participate in the playoff. There is no way the six current BCS conferences would sign off on a playoff system if their conference champion was not guaranteed a spot. That would only leave 2 spots open, and actually make it less likely that a non-AQ team would be invited to a playoff than the current BCS system allows. Ideally, the top eight teams would play, no matter what conference they played in, but that is unlikely (and really, most sports that have a playoff allow conference champions in, no matter what their record (see: NFL, MLB, NBA, NCAA Basketball)).

    The Mountain West Conference proposed an eight-team playoff system this year, but it was unanimously rejected by the other conferences.

    Sixteen-Team Playoff

    This proposal is pretty much like the 8-team playoff, but it adds one round to the festivities and doubles the number of teams participating, thus increasing access for all.

    One other snag the playoff proposals hit is with where to host the games. Some suggest we keep the current bowls, but have them host playoff games instead of bowl games. Some say the higher-seeded team should get an extra bowl game. Nobody has really found the best system (college football is mired in the momentum of tradition, and nobody seems to want to get rid of the bowl games).

    The BCS insists a playoff is untenable because football is so physically demanding, but that is ridiculous because division II, once called I-AA, now called The Football Championship Subdivision, which is also sanctioned by the NCAA, decides its championship by...you guessed it, a playoff. They use a 16-team single-elimination tournament. So there is NCAA football which has a playoff...that right there sort of proves it is a viable option.

    40-Team Super League

    This system is way out there. It breaks all traditions of college football. It ignores current conferences, the bowl system, the traditional power structure...there is no way the people who are currently profiting from college football would ever ever ever agree to this. But I love this idea. It's my favorite suggestion. It would make college football so much better.

    It was proposed by ESPN over the summer. A bunch of their writers who cover college football decided to think outside the box and ignore the way things have always been done in order to come up with the best system for college football. They borrowed some ideas from the English Premier League (soccer) and this is what they came up with.

    The new system begins by undoing the old system. There will be none of the current conferences, and instead of 120-odd universities playing in Division I, there will only be 40. The other 80-odd teams are relegated to a new Division II. The 40 best teams which make up Division I are divided into 4 conferences with ten teams each. They all play each other, and at the end of the season the 4 conference champions have a 2-game playoff that ends in the National Championship game. Simple.

    But here's the best part, which makes this system so wonderful. At the end of the season the five teams from Division I that have the worst record and the five teams from Division II that have the best record swap places. The worst teams in Division I would be playing their hearts out at the end of the season so they wouldn't get demoted. There would be no game that the players didn't care about. And the have-nots in Division II could break into Division I any given year.

    When ESPN proposed this system, they also had a draft to name the 40 teams that should make up Division I based on the current state of affairs in college football. Utah, Boise State, and BYU were the only current non-AQ schools taken in the draft (all three were taken in the top 25), which I thought was a slap in the face to TCU. But hey, there are a lot of good programs out there; it is hard to only pick 40. But, if this system were in place, any school that thought they deserved to be in Division I would be able to prove it the next year.

    Conclusion</I>

    So...there you have it. A not-so-brief description of the BCS and possible alternatives. By far the most interesting alternative in my book is the 40-Team Super League, but it is also the least likely to ever happen.

    Also, because a new contract was signed this year by all the conferences (the MWC held out the longest before signing), there will be no changes to the BCS system before 2014. We're stuck with what we've got until then. Unless something crazy happens, like the Justice Department declaring the BCS to be an illegal monopoly.

    -Humble Master

    P.S. Here is some useful addition reading, if you're interested:

    BCS Chronology

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BYU_Cougars_football#1989_to_1996_under_Edwards

    BCS 101: The BCS explained

    Wikipedia: Bowl Championship Series


    Mathematician's Blog about the BCS


    BCS FAQ

    Breakdown of the BCS
    A: Dear Portia,

    Shorter but not even close to as well-researched answer: I think that NCAA football should play as many games as other sports. I realize that wouldn't be feasible at all, but it would sure make playoffs easier. I don't think that it is possible to get a breakdown that makes everyone happy based on fifteen games.

    As the Board's biggest hockey fan, I liken many things to hockey. The NHL plays a grueling 82-game schedule and when playoffs come, there is no question that the teams with the most points (points are reckoned by wins, losses, overtime losses, and ties) get the best seeding. Then the teams hack it out until one team skates away with the cup. There is no question about who won the championship, because it is the last team standing.

    Dr. Smeed