Category: Uncategorized

Quick Thoughts: Election 2020

Some quick thoughts following the 2020 election:

  • Joe Biden won. This is a good thing, but among the range of outcomes what we got was likely on the low end of positive outcomes.
  • “Why?” The senate wasn’t secured, and Democrats lost seats in the house. Republicans gained more governors, and gained ground among state legislatures. Also, Biden’s victory wasn’t anything resembling decisive, let alone a “mandate” or “landslide.”
  • “What about the senate runoffs? Can’t Democrats get the Senate if they win both?” Yes – if Democrats win both it’s 50-50 in the Senate, and ties are broken by the VP. But – and this is a huge, gross butt – Democrats are not favored to win these runoffs. Despite GA flipping blue for the first time in 28 years, one race is a toss-up and the other heavily favors the Republican candidate. It’s not impossible, but there’s a lot of work to do (and we’re going to see mountains of money poured into GA from both sides).
  • “But isn’t it great that Trump’s gone? That’s enough, right?” It is great that Trump has been defeated, but I wouldn’t characterize him (or at least his supporter base) as “gone.” Despite losing the presidential election, Republicans also experienced record turnout and have lots of smaller victories and reasons to be optimistic. Their current political direction has been validated in a number of ways, so far-right ideals have not been defeated, and “Trumpism” (I wish to petition to change the name of this as quickly as possible, because the ideologies go beyond a dude’s last name) will not be going quietly into that good night.
  • “But not having a crazy person in the White House is such a huge improvement, right?” Yes, it is, but we can’t be complacent. While doing nothing would be an improvement, we can’t afford to do nothing. We’re still in the middle of a pandemic (and all the negatives that causes beyond sickness/death), we still have entire generations saddled with low wages and high debt, we still have inadequate systems for healthcare and education, and there’s the whole climate change thing that we haven’t addressed meaningfully at all. There’s so much more but I think that’s a pretty good shortlist of things everyone cares about.
  • “Well, what do we do?” There’s two main goals here.
    • 1 – win the Senate runoffs. No major change will occur with a hostile Senate. Biden can absolutely do many things without the Senate; filling government positions with capable people alone is a huge improvement, and executive orders can go a long way. But you’re not getting major overhauls to healthcare or education without a friendly Senate. Same goes for climate change, major tax plan shifts, etc.
    • 2 – yell at the Democratic party so they try to do the things we need them to do. Relying on them to just do the things has proven to be foolish. They have to be taken to task and forced to follow up on their rhetoric. We have to pave the way for them (elect Biden, flip Senate, preserve House, etc) but they have to be kicked in the ass too.
    • Both of the above things must be accomplished, or we have to wait longer for change. Dems taking the Senate in 2022 is very likely (21/33 Senate races involve GOP incumbents), but pissing away another two years isn’t what we want. And even if we pave the way, we have to force the Democrats to walk the walk too.

Review: Leopold FC660C

I appear to cross paths with Leopold products frequently.  I’ve had a FC210TP numpad for a while, I’ve reviewed the FC750R and loved it, and here I am in the Topre life with a FC660C.  There’s a decent chance I’ll be in for an FC980M/C at some point as well, since that old Cherry G80 layout is possibly an end-game work layout for me.

Luckily, Leopold is a pretty damn good brand, and the FC660C is honestly the pinnacle of that goodness.

THE BOARD

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FC660C, modded with Novatouch stems and Hypersphere rings, with blank black PBT caps from a FC660M, and a red ESC from Elitekeyboards.com

It shouldn’t surprise anybody that a Leopold board feels sturdy and well-made.  The FC660C is no exception.  Despite it’s demure size, I’m rather sure I could beat someone to death with this board.  I would never do such a thing (murder, nor ruin a wonderful keyboard), but the point stands.  Solid plastic shell (and I love the texture on it; resists fingerprints), sturdy flip-out feet, well-placed and quality rubber pads to keep the board in place.  All what you would expect, and it coalesces into a very substantial-feeling piece of hardware.

The DIP switches are of typical fare; Ctrl/CapsLock swap, Win/LAlt swap, Win/Fn swap, Lockout Win key.  It would have been nice to have had some more typical DIP switch functionality (or heaven forbid, full customization, but I digress), but what’s there is the necessary stuff, which is fine.

The keycaps, like most Topre boards, are phenomenal.  The font is readable and inoffensive, the PBT is smooth with the slightest bit of texture, and the dye-sublimated legends are pristine.  Really hard to ask much more.  Of course, I’ve Novatouched and silenced this board, so those Topre caps are now in a bag.  Great caps though.

img_20161208_105843-1

 

The overall feel is excellent.  Sort of a sturdier version of the HHKB, which is to be expected considering the boards being very similar, save for the difference in case-vs-plate mounting.  Long typing sessions are easy and enjoyable, and that’s a testament to not just the Topre mechanism but also the quality of this board.

The layout is the main reason one would be curious in the FC660C, though.  Many would say the HHKB has the better overall typing feel, and I actually agree (though I do feel the difference is very small, at least to me).  However, those all-important arrow keys are present on the FC660C, and they are a major reason I purchased this board.  If a dedicated arrow cluster means nothing to you, then by all means get the HHKB.  I use them far too much to relegate them to the function layer, and that’s my personal taste.

Overall the layout is rather fantastic, though.  Fn+Arrows give you PgUp/PgDn/Home/End, which seems so obvious it should be a part of every keyboard ever.  While a dedicated Insert key seems like a rather niche feature, I can’t say a dedicated Delete isn’t welcome.  The other function layer keys are in the same positions as the HHKB which is fine because those were good positions anyways.

One complaint is a common one with 60-70% keyboards; the Esc “thing.”  Most manufacturers put the tilde key on the function layer, under Esc.  However, they also allow Shift+Esc to yield a tilde as well; this annoys me greatly, because it then prevents the use of the Ctrl+Shift+Esc Windows shortcut (which opens Task Manager, and that’s very useful).  Not a huge problem (especially in Windows 8/10, where Win+X brings up that awesome poweruser menu), but it’s a consistent annoyance that isn’t unique to this keyboard or Leopold.

Another is the lack of volume and media controls.  I’m not sure which is more annoying; the lack of controls or the small amount of work it would have taken to add them.  You wouldn’t even have to add them to the keycaps if you didn’t want to; no one would have complained (at least I wouldn’t have).  Again, this isn’t unique to this board or Leopold, but I still think it’s a glaring omission that bears mentioning, even if many boards and manufacturers are guilty.

Luckily, AutoHotKey can fix these layout/mapping issues.

To sum it up: this is a fantastic board, and a wonderful representative of Topre quality and good craftsmanship.  It’s not for everyone, as many will prefer the TKL (or full-size) layout of a RealForce or the pure minimalism of an HHKB.  But for those who like the minimalism plus arrow keys, it’s hard to go wrong with the Leopold FC660C.

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Some Observations on the HHKB Pro2

This will not be a full-blown review; there are enough of those from people with better perspective and writing skills than I.  This will simply be some observations made while I had an HHKB Pro2, and hopefully someone can glean some meaning from it.

Yeah, I said had an HHKB Pro2.  I don’t have it anymore.  No, it wasn’t stolen.  No, it isn’t broken.  I sent it back.

First, some context on my keyboard purchases and preferences so far:

Purchased boards and their outcomes:

  • SteelSeries 6GV2 (Cherry Reds) – ended up thinking reds were “flimsy,” board was sacrificed to the “learn to desolder/solder” gods (and most importantly, learned that I absolutely hate doing it)
  • Pok3r (Cherry Blues) – used for a long while, loved it, sold a while ago because I actually don’t care for the aluminum case and I swung over to a desire for TKL layouts
  • Leopold FC750R (Cherry Blues) – used for a while, loved it, currently selling because I’ve swung away from TKL layouts
  • CoolerMaster Novatouch (Topre 45G) – First Topre, used for a while, still using it, love it except for the rattle, haven’t decided whether I want to mod it with landing pads or sacrifice it to another Topre board for the MX sliders
  • TADA68 (Gateron Blues) – Love the layout, love the customization ability, will probably be my go-to for home use (gaming, primarily)

Other boards I’ve tested or otherwise experienced:

  • KUL Es-87 (clears, great board, sort of liked clears but not enough)
  • Filco Majestouch 2 (browns, excellent board, don’t like browns, too light/not enough bump)
  • Pok3rs with other switches (browns, see above, and greens, too heavy)
  • RealForce 55g (Phenomenal, but a bit too heavy for what I use Topre for, which is extended periods of typing)

So, my typing needs and preferences can be summed up like so:

  • I adore both tactile and aural feedback, which is why MX Blues have long been a strong preference of mine.
  • Topre is definitely my preference for long-term typing.
  • At least with MX Blues, I prefer plastic cases to aluminum; something to do with the sound of it.  Very hard to describe.
  • My work needs are to be comfortable typing for long periods.
  • My gaming needs are largely unknown, aside form the fact that I don’t like Topre for it.  It would be fine, but not my preference.
  • I still don’t really know my preferred layout.

OK, with that out of the way, here’s my primary impression of the HHKB Pro2:

It’s the best typing experience I’ve had, so far.

That sounds crazy coming from a guy who sent it back, but while I was thoroughly enjoying the layout and the typing experience in general, I found that I just cannot live without a dedicated arrow cluster.

Key foibles with this include the following, for me:

  • Hitting Up to re-run previous command line inputs
  • Using Ctrl+arrows and Ctrl+Shift+arrows to quickly move the cursor or highlight chunks of words

I thought just using the Fn-layer with the arrow cluster would be fine; I was wrong.  In this light, I should update my preferences to include “must have arrow cluster.”  I didn’t know; now I do.

So, here’s my “review”:

The HHKB Pro2 is among the best typing experiences available.  It is a unique brand of Topre, which is already a unique experience to start with.  It is super comfortable for long typing sessions, and while its layout involves some drastic changes, the right person can reap the rewards of what is a phenomenal board.  It doesn’t look like a $225 board at first glance, but it certainly feels like one.

It’s just not for me.

Slightly related news: I have a Leopold FC660C on order.  Review will occur.

Running Diary – Trying Topre Again

So I got a CoolerMaster Novatouch  TKL again; I procured one a while back, but only kept it for a couple days.  It didn’t impress me much then, so I returned it and tried other boards until I decided on a Leopold FC750R w/MX blue switches.

Blues have been my favorites thus far, with Clears being intriguing and Zealios (62g is all I’ve tried) seeming nice (my experience limited to a poorly/partially assembled Clueboard that I’ll finish up someday, maybe).  But the Topre thing still sat in the back of my mind, especially considering that I kept reading things like “you have to give it a couple weeks.”

So, I’m giving it a couple weeks.  This will be a two-week running diary as I try Topre again.  This won’t be posted until I’ve made some sort of verdict.  That might be two days, two weeks, or two months.  We’ll see.

Here’s the board, along with my workspace:

IMG_20160504_154439

Some notes on my situation:

  • That’s a Cooler Master Novatouch TKL, purchased from a Redditor on /r/mechmarket.  The keycaps are a bi-color Vortex PBT set.
  • That numpad is a Leopold FC210TP with Cherry MX Blue switches.
  • That mouse is a Logitech MX Anywhere 2.
  • This is being used at work, where I am an IT consultant.  I do a large amount of typing as I am in an account management role, alongside being a systems engineer.
  • I still have the Leopold FC750R at home, which will still provide a contrast (it has the same keycaps on it as well, so that won’t be a factor).  Whenever I refer to “the Leopold,” it’s to that.  It has Cherry MX Blues, and it’s wonderful.
  • I also have had a Pok3r (that I’m selling very soon!), it’s also Cherry MX Blues.  So if I refer to a Pok3r, that’s what that is.
  • My strategy is this: with having different boards in different spots, eventually I will prefer one, and I’ll know because I’ll look forward to typing on the one I prefer.

So, here we go:

Day 1 (5/3/2016)

  • Got it around 11am.  Notified the seller that it arrived, checked it all out; everything looks great.
  • It feels like I remember it; a bit mushier than what I’m used to with the Cherry Blues, but not necessarily bad.
  • Man, including a braided USB cable is super cool, but giving it that 90-degree on the micro-USB end is super not cool.
  • I think a key reason I like Cherry Blues, specifically on that Leopold, is the sound.  All the snapping and popping.  Additionally, the hard plastic case of the Leopold gives it just a bit of a hollow reverb to all the clacking that’s delicious to my ear.
  • The Novatouch isn’t near as noisy, and I’m not sure I actually enjoy the “thock” of Topre.  Not sure if I’m just not used to it, or if it’s an actual preference.
  • One of my best friends who thinks I’m crazy with this keyboard thing tried out the Novatouch for a minute and almost felt in love.  He has a SteelSeries 6GV2 for gaming use (Cherry Reds) and that’s it; I think I just sold him a Novatouch without trying to.

Day 2

  • Banged out a lot of documentation today; I can absolutely say that Topre is better for long typing sessions.  I never experienced much fatigue on my Leopold or Pok3r, but there would be some on some of my longer sessions, because I bottom out like crazy.  I’ve been banging away on this thing all day and my fingers feel fine.  Great, even.
  • I don’t dislike the sound of Topre, I think I just really love the sound of plastic-cased Cherry Blues (and to a further extent, buckling springs).  However, once the headphones are in and I can’t hear it anyways, the Topre feels are starting to grow on me.
  • I typed some on my Leopold at home tonight; still nice.

Day 3

  • I looked forward to the Novatouch today.  Not sure if it’s because of newness or legitimate preference yet, but it is what it is.
  • There’s very small moments where I like the sound, even knowing that it’s a bit noisy with a Novatouch (when compared to the “finer” Topre boards).
  • Typed at night on the Leopold; one thing is for sure, I don’t think I’ll stop liking Cherry MX Blues.

Day 4

  • Switched DSA caps onto the Novatouch.  I think I like it more now.  I didn’t care for DSA caps on the Pok3r or Leopold, but strangely they feel much better on the Novatouch.  Not entirely sure why.  Might be some strange sort of confirmation bias or something, but I do like them.
  • Banged out more documentation and correspondence today.  No fatigue.  No perceived dip in typing speed (I might even be faster).  Comfortable.  This could be bad.

Day 5

  • Took it home for the weekend; haven’t typed on it much, but it immediately replaced the Leopold as the keyboard in front of my main desktop PC.
  • DSA still seeming really nice.  I was planning on selling some of the DSA caps I have, but that might change.  We’ll see.
  • Current picture below.  Pardon the mix-and-match caps; the DSA caps I have were purchased for the Pok3r, so I don’t have enough of either of the color schemes I have to fill out a TKL properly.  Also, pardon the poor light in my “office.”

IMG_20160507_190955

  • FYI, the DSA sets I have are: 60% base set in blue (BDJ, pictured above), standard modifiers set of Think Different (also pictured above), 60% base set in white (WAN, blanks), a 60% modifiers set in black (NEM, blanks), and a Numpad set in black (NEM, blanks).

Day 6

  • Banged out a blog entry.  I think it’s equally shocking that I’m liking Topre, and that I’ve come around on DSA profile keycaps.  This is a good thing; I love the way DSA looks and feels, but when I tried it before I just felt that the caps being lower made typing just a tiny bit more difficult.  It just feels…less so with the Novatouch.  Weird.

Day 7

  • Another day at work where typing up proposals and emails was phenomenal.  I figured out a better layout using the DSA caps that I had:

IMG_20160510_125326

 

  • Now I’m at home typing things up on the Leopold, and I realized that since I brought the Novatouch home over the weekend, this is the first I’ve typed on it in a while.  I still like MX Blues.  I don’t know which I like better.  This feels like a great problem to have.
  • One thing I dislike about the Novatouch: lack of LED indicators.  Would be real nice if there were indicators for CapsLock, the WindowsLock feature, and I guess ScrollLock.  Not a huge deal, but it’s one thing I definitely miss.
  • Another thing I dislike about the Novatouch: the case has this smoothish coating on the plastic that makes it a fingerprint magnet, which will annoy me to no end.  If I end up keeping this Novatouch, in addition to the silencing mod I’ll be painting or wrapping the case.
  • Full disclosure: I absolutely looked at other Topre boards on online stores today.  Oi.

Day 8

  • I can’t get over the fact that I like both of these typing experiences even though they’re completely different.
  • One random bonus: for whatever reason, it sounds like I type superhumanly fast to people over the phone; I think the lower pitch and chatter of the Novatouch (which I would eliminate with the silencing mod if I keep this board) contributes.  Still cool to hear “whoa, is that you typing?  yeesh” over the phone.

Day 9

  • I almost decided to work from home today.  Then I thought that I wouldn’t be able to type on the Novatouch if I did that.  I’m not saying it was the reason I ended up at the office, but I will certainly concede that it was reason.
  • I probably need some sort of psychiatric help at this point.
  • I might be planning a RealForce purchase.
  • I am sick.

Day 10

  • More of the same wonderful-ness at work today.
  • I did a substantial amount of typing at home with the Leopold, and my taste for MX Blues hasn’t changed; I still like them a lot.
  • While my heart may be desiring other Topre boards now, I don’t think it’s “sell all the MX boards” time either.  Maybe I just like everything.
  • OK, so I will have to sell something.  I can’t just keep buying keyboards.
  • Wait, maybe I can.
  • Oh boy.

Day 11

  • Because I’m indecisive and silly, I changed keycaps again.  Pardon the dustiness:

IMG_20160513_104353

  • Those are the stock PBT keycaps from my Leopold FC750R.  They’re beauts, and they feel great with the Topre feels.
  • I think everything might feel great with Topre.
  • I think Topre might be great.
  • RIP wallet.

Day 12 & 13

  • Didn’t do much typing these two days; just had lots of life stuff that didn’t involve typing.

Day 14

  • Final verdict on the Novatouch, as a board: it’s above-average build quality is acceptable for the price point.  Obviously the MX sliders on Topre switches are the main attraction, but it’s not the greatest specimen of keyboard engineering.  But it’s also not terrible.
    • Letter grade on overall quality that’s probably arbitrary and silly: C+
    • Negatives: finger-print-magnet case, moderate rattle with case and larger keys, strangely right-angled USB cable, lack of any status LEDs (CapsLock, etc)
    • Positives: braided cable, wire keypuller, great typing experience, lack of visible branding, sturdy despite rattle, ability to customize keys with Topre
  • As for a review of Topre, my two weeks is up and I think I’ve made a clear decision: while I absolutely enjoy Cherry MX Blues, I think Topre is right there as something I enjoy.  Specifically, I think I always want a Topre board for work, as extended typing sessions are pointedly more pleasant.
  • I am planning a RealForce purchase, though a FC660C might sway me.  No HHKB for me; the form factor just isn’t compatible with my needs.
  • I am keeping this NovaTouch, at least for now.  I need a good DSA set for it though.
  • My wallet, as always, weeps gently.

No One Fucking Thinks Anymore And It’s Driving Me Crazy

It takes all I can muster to not be an insufferable cunt on Facebook every day.  If I had less self-discipline, I would comment on every single fucking social/political meme that had 4 brain cell’s worth of thought put into it, which was then reposted a million times by people who agreed with a premise they refused to research or verify.  I would comment on every single fucking one with facts and analysis to show them how dumb they were for sharing an idea or statement that is fundamentally flawed with only 10 minutes of Google-Fu.

And it wouldn’t do a damn thing.

No one wants to know anything, and that’s the problem.  They want their feelings formed into a bullet point, and that’s good enough.  Fuck reading, fuck research, fuck fact-checking, fuck verification.  Someone took two minutes captioning a picture, so it can’t be all wrong, right?

This happened today:

Someone who I thought was smarter than they actually are reposted the following on their Facebook feed:

dumb

Hey, that’s not a bad point at first blush.  If I pretend like I only have a few hundred brain cells, I could probably conjure some rage and follow that up with “Yeah, how dare they!”

First: should risking your life be the only path to affordable higher education?

Second: tuition has increased at least 1,000% over the last 30-50 years (depending on who you ask), and that’s with adjustment for inflation.  So yeah, I guess risking your life does seem like a good fucking idea now.

Third: Note that the veteran in the picture is white; not surprisingly, that makes it more accurate.  There is a long history of minorities, specifically African-Americans, getting a shaft of some sort or another regarding their G.I. Bill benefits.

Fourth: Like many veteran’s benefits, the G.I. Bill has received numerous cuts in recent years.

Fifth: This meme distorts the overall message of the outcries from millennial/GenX young people who are often identified as the people “whining” and “complaining” about “life.”  The overall message is that they were sold a bill of goods (work hard, be smart, have a house and family and dog and comfortable life) that hasn’t been delivered upon.  Costs for everything are higher today than they were only 20 years ago, let alone 40 (adjusted for inflation, of course).  Hard work can still get you places, but not the same places it got your parents, or your parent’s parents.  Most people who are “crying” about getting their student loans forgiven are mad because they paid more for college and got far less than their parents (and their parent’s entire generation) did.

I spent maybe 10 minutes searching all that information up.  I’m not a genius.  But I am now more informed than what feels like half the people in America.  I’m not special, so that makes things even sadder.

The worst part of this is that the righteous indignation that people spew along with their opinions, opinions that have been poorly (if at all) researched, or opinions that they got from a fucking meme.  The person I know on Facebook probably posted that with an internal “yeah, those lazy fucks!”  Not only have they internalized a really weak opinion, but they have paired it with the entitled condescension of someone who you would have thought would have done a search or used their brain.  In reality, all they did was nod at a picture and click “share.”

This isn’t just obnoxious, this is deleterious to society, and has spread like wildfire.  Many, many people just don’t research for themselves.  They take the spoonfuls of information they’re willing to eat, and accepting that it is right.  It is reducing our culture to that of bullet points and sound bites.  I know this  is happening because Donald Fucking Trump is going to win a nomination for President Of The Fucking United States while treating every debate like it’s a wrestling promo.  He has provided zero detail on his plans, only surface-level proclamations, yet there are people hailing him a savior.

I don’t have a solution for this.  I can’t understand it.  The way I’m wired, if I read something that I’m not sure of, I go and research it.  I can accept that not everyone is like me.  But isn’t it good to, y’know, know things?  Isn’t it good to make sure you’re right before you call someone lazy, or worthless, or wrong?  Isn’t it good to base your arguments on things like facts instead of emotions or fucking memes?

Just fucking burn it to the ground, we wouldn’t notice anyways.

My Second D&D Experience

My first D&D experience was confusing at times, but solid.  While the openness and free-form play can be daunting at times, it’s clearly a unique experience that I feel everyone should at least try.  There really is nothing else like it.

I was DM again, which I’m OK with for the moment, though I desperately want to play a character soon.  This time it was with Pathfinder rules (available at a gigantic discount from the Humble Bundle people for another three days…jump on it, it’s a huge value!), which weren’t terribly different from 5th edition, at least in the very small frame of reference I have.  However, it was with a different group of people, with a different level of experience and dedication.  Two of the other players had actually created back stories, and all three players had known each other very well, which boosted interaction greatly and made things much looser overall.

(Note: this isn’t slighting the first group, but really, the four of us that played last night have been friends for a very, very long time.  Hard to stack up to that level of familiarity.)

We rolled new characters instead of using pre-generated ones, but did use the beginner dungeon to get our feet wet. Luckily the documentation made my job as DM pretty simple, which allowed me to be creative and relaxed while corralling the adventure as best I could.  Everything was pretty great, and here it truly showed how awesome D&D could be.

I kind of resent myself for taking this long to try and experience it.

Anyways, we surely messed up some of the rules (I think combat math is still going to take some time to remember every time), and we didn’t quite finish the entire adventure as we had to call it around 2AM.  However, it’s an experience we will surely continue, and I hope to write more about it when we do.

I just realized this sounds like a love letter to not just D&D, but the friends I played it with last night.  I suppose it is.

My New Favorite Podcast: The Dollop

Dollop-logo
Two of my major obsessions are comedy and history.  I’m a huge fan of stand-up comedy, to a point where I follow and cheer for comedians not unlike how some cheer for sports teams or political candidates.  On the other side, history probably would have been my major if I had completed college, and that’s probably a good thing that I didn’t, because having a history major usually means you have a lot of student loan debt without a matching career to justify it.

Anyways, The Dollop is a bi-weekly podcast hosted by Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds, two excellent stand-up comedians who explore weird parts of American history.  The format is simple: Dave reads while Gareth reacts, though they will often go on tangents where they act out possible situations in the story they’re telling.  The end result is informative and hilarious.  I love it to pieces.

The true genius here is that there is an endless supply of material to mine.  They confine themselves to American history, but there are so many weird things that have happened in America’s relatively short history that there should be no end in sight for what they could do.  And even if they do run out, I don’t think anyone would fault them if they expanded their net to include the rest of the world.

Above all else, even if you don’t think the idea of a history/comedy podcast is a good one, you should listen to what is so far my favorite installment of The Dollop, The Rube.  I won’t spoil anything, but it is one of the most ridiculous sports figures in the history of all mankind, who I sadly had never heard of before I listen to Dave and Gareth.  The Rube is now my favorite baseball player of all time, full stop.

Anyways, do yourself a favor and give them a listen.  You’ll learn a thing or three, and laugh while doing so.  It’s typically difficult to get me to full-gut laugh these days, but these guys manage it on a bi-weekly basis.

The Camouflaged Mediocrity of the Chicago Bulls

“Out-of-town stupid” is a term often used for national or regional sports writers who may not understand or know of the intricacies of the team or organization they’re talking about.  This is obviously a phenomenon that occurs everywhere; of course out-of-towners wouldn’t know as much as local reporters or even the most vigilant of fans.  However, some organizations just do a better job of obfuscating their true natures, or never draw enough attention to themselves to warrant a deeper look.

The Chicago Bulls might be the very best at that obfuscation, and the nature of their mediocrity is that of non-action, which would naturally draw less attention than other NBA franchises who take bad risks or make poor decisions.

Like many things, it starts at the top.  Jerry Reinsdorf has obviously had enormous success overall with the Bulls since purchasing them in 1985, but much of it was in spite of himself and the people he hired.  Giving him credit for six championships in eight years goes along with giving him credit for breaking that same team up and ousting one of the greatest coaches of all time (and by proxy, the best player of all time).  It would be easy to point at that as an isolated incident, but it simply isn’t.

Another enterprising individual on Bulls site Blog a Bull came up with this brilliant chart that maps out Reinsdorf’s repeating pattern of nepotism.  Long story short: the Bulls have ousted two of the winning-est coaches in NBA history in favor of completely inexperienced coaches from Iowa State.  Iowa connections don’t stop there, and there are strange New Mexico connections as well.  The linked article explains and shows it better than I can, but the point is clear: this is an organization that has never given positions of power based upon success, but rather based upon “I knew this guy.”

That’s not to say there haven’t been successes or good decisions made.  There absolutely have been.  In the rare moments the Bulls do participate in a trade, it has rarely gone terribly.  The draft record is mostly decent to above average, and there hasn’t been any catastrophic decisions made there either (save for perhaps the drafting of Marquis Teague, when then-coach Tom Thibodeau wanted Draymond Green).  There have been times when there has been a pretty clear plan on how to approach the future, and sound risks and decisions were made to facilitate that plan.  A lot of it hasn’t worked out, but judging a decision purely based on the outcome is a fool’s errand.

However, there’s a few trends that are rather apparent at this point.  These trends are all likely characteristic of Reinsdorf himself, as like in any organization, it will resemble who’s in charge.

  • They are averse to risk.  There is a long, ever-expanding wasteland of “almosts” and “could haves” in regards to trades involving the Chicago Bulls.  Obviously not all of those trades should have been made, but the point is that trades just aren’t their style, because the risk is too great to them.  The biggest problem with this is missed opportunity; too often, they have lost a player in free agency that they could have traded in the previous season for nothing, or have missed a chance to build assets.
  • They are cheap.  This is a common meme for any criticized owner, but Reinsdorf has earned this dubious title.  He has a long-running track record of resisting any pro-union measure in either sport in which he owns a team.  He was one of the primary “tough nuts” in the 1994-1995 MLB player’s strike.  He has avoided paying the luxury tax for the Bulls almost every year.  Contract disputes with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, two of the best 25 players of all-time and also underpaid during their careers, are known to anyone with some time and Google skills.  There are a number of other cases to point out, but Jerry’s prudent nature isn’t a terribly unknown reality.
  • They will have their way.  There are two common threads between Phil Jackson and Tom Thibodeau; both are among the winning-est coaches in NBA history, and both are people who refused to be pushed around by the Bulls’ front office.  Because of that, they were both deposed despite making the playoffs in their final season (and in Jackson’s case, winning a championship!).  The reasons given for their departures haven’t been entirely honest, accurate, or smart.  Most of the evidence points to this: neither Phil nor Tom were willing to bend to the front office’s will (whatever that will was), and they got sent away because of it.  Both were replaced with inexperienced Iowa State coaches.  Tim Floyd was pretty terrible.  So far there’s little to like about Fred Hoiberg.
  • Their track record with the handling of training and injuries is poor.  I’m not sure if this is an organizational mandate, an inability to hire effective training and medical staff, or a combination of those or other factors, but the Bulls have a curious history in this regard.  The most famous of this is Derrick Rose’s stunted return, but there are numerous other incidents that point to an alarming trend of poor handling of athlete wellness.

 

Many of these subjects are rarely talked about in national media, but they’re also largely ignored in local media.  There are a multitude of reasons why this might be the case, and the more salacious possibility is that the Bulls highly curate and manage the writers that cover the team.  The amount of excuses given for this organization by local media is bordering on sickening; no single situation appears to be bad, but we’re now at a decades-long run of excuse after excuse after excuse.

The most that ever gets said about the Bulls in the national media are cryptic, vague statements such as “the Bulls are weird” or “I’m not sure what they’re doing.”  To my knowledge no major national writer has delved much deeper than that when talking about Bulls dysfunction, but that should come at no surprise.  National writers gravitate towards either the greatest teams or the loopiest ones, and the Bulls haven’t qualified as either for a long time.  Their organizational dysfunction isn’t so bad when compared to the Kings and Lakers of today, the Knicks and Timberwolves of yesterday, or other front-office tire-fires of yesteryear.  Additionally, most of the Bulls’ problems don’t stem from individually poor choices; there’s no unforgivable draft blunder or ill-advised trade to point to.

With the Bulls, it’s a death of a thousand cuts.  Some of those cuts might grab momentary media attention (such as Thibodeau’s firing and subsequent shaming by a public, personal attack by Reinsdorf), but the Bulls are still widely regarded at worst as a reasonably stable organization.  I suppose that statement is completely true, if only because they’ve been consistently awkward, risk-averse, and mediocre.

Derrick Rose was Right: Another Reason Why the Bulls are Kinda Trash

In 2013, many people tore down Derrick Rose.  He had gotten injured the previous year’s playoffs, and that ACL tear that has haunted his career (alongside a meniscus tear and other injuries) since.

He was called many things: weak, scared, pansy, etc.  Bulls’ doctors had cleared him to play in March of 2013, but he didn’t play then, nor did he play in the playoffs.  The Bulls lost in the second round to the eventual champions, LeBron James’ Miami Heat.

Criticism came from many sources.  Local sports radio, national sports radio, blogs, fans, etc.  It wasn’t a complete chorus; many Bulls fans (myself included) felt it was more prudent to take it slow, especially after an injury that has commonly had a two-year recovery time (meaning that the second year they’re playing, but they’re not 100%).  Regardless, narratives were written: Derrick Rose was soft, or Derrick Rose didn’t care about his team or the fans, or Derrick Rose is weak-minded and can’t be trusted as a franchise player.

This was then all exacerbated by the fact that Rose endured further injuries, that expectations were very high for a Bulls team that was legitimately great when healthy, and the fact that Rose was the youngest MVP of all time (and had a contract that paid him like one).  This only further wrankled fans who had already formed their “soft” perception of Rose, regardless of any real evidence.

Derrick-RoseWhere Rose’s career goes from here is impossible to predict; he has had one of the most tumultuous careers in NBA history already, and he’s only 27.  However, based on a number of events that have occurred since, it is wholly unfair to continue to hold the 2012-2013 ACL injury (and the subsequent handling of his return) against him.

He was right to sit out, despite Bulls doctors clearing him.  He was right because it’s rather obvious: the Bulls’ training and medical staff has a proven track record of being inept, careless, and/or downright irresponsible when it comes to their job.

Rose choosing to trust himself over the Bulls’ doctors has proven to be a smart decision.

Let’s take a walk through some of the more alarming failures that the Bulls’ training and medical staff has had over the last four years:

That is a reasonably frightening list, and it’s nowhere near complete.  This is an organization that has consistently pressured its athletes to come back from injury too soon, and has allowed players to repeatedly play through injuries, to a point of near-malpractice.

First: hard to say any of it was necessarily Tom Thibodeau’s fault, if only because these trends of poor diagnosis and over-playing have continued since his exit.  Maybe it wasn’t Thibs, but rather a medical and training staff that is giving the coaches poor information?  That’s a more reasonable explanation.  It’s either that, or an example of blatant hypocrisy from a front office who claimed over-playing as a reason for firing Thibodeau, but has inexplicably allowed the same behavior from their hand-picked successor.

However, the point: Derrick Rose was correct in not trusting this organization’s medical or training staff.  Chances are he had his own doctor, and that doctor told him that coming back from an ACL too early can be disastrous (and there’s a long enough list of NBA players who can tell you from experience).

The narrative of Derrick “not being tough” never rang true to me.  In the same year he tore his ACL, he had also had a bunch of other minor injuries, almost all of which he played through.  He was one of the most fouled and contacted players in the NBA (due to how often and quickly he drives the lane), playing through a modicum of injuries, and we’re calling him soft after tearing an ACL?  A guy who got elbowed so hard in practice that it broke his orbital bone, and he missed what, two weeks?  He couldn’t see straight for over a month and a half afterwards, and we’re calling that guy soft?  Bullshit.

Derrick Rose isn’t perfect.  He’s made some dumb decisions and has said some dumb things, for sure.  MVP-level Derrick Rose is gone, and even just All-Star Derrick Rose or Above-Average Starter Derrick Rose are probably unlikely.  But saying “no” to the Bulls training staff was not the wrong move, given their previous and future track record.