Tuesday, March 29, 2016

TENNIS TUESDAY: Miami Loses Nadal, Federer, Murray and Serena Early

Serena Now 14-3 For 2016, Has Not Won Tournament Since August
Hmmm, just a little over a week after she lost a tight final 6-4 6-4 against Victoria Azarenka in Inidan Wells, 8-time Miami Open champion Serena Williams was ousted from one of her most successful tournaments 6-7(3) 6-1 6-2 by 2-time major champion Svetlana Kuznetsova. The loss means that Serena is yet to win a tournament in 2016 (although she has been in two finals) and because she took off the entirety of the last quarter of 2015, Serena has not won a tournament since her 2015 Cincy Open. This is the first time since 2012 that Serena has played four tournaments and not won any of them.

Nadal Retires Due To Heat, Federer Withdraws Due To Illness
The Miami Open may be an early glimpse of the new normal for tennis once the Federer-Nadal era ends for good. Nadal shocked the tennis work by withdrawing down 0-3 in the final set against Damir Dzumhur complaining of the effects of the heat! It was Nadal's first retirement in a match since the 2010 Australian Open quarterfinal when he retired against Andy Murray (443 matches ago). Roger Federer had added Miami to his schedule as his comeback tournament to the tour following knee surgery but then was forced to withdraw from the tournament due to illness.

Miami Upsets: Murray, Halep, Radwanska Go Down Early
Timea Bascinzky is on fire again! In two consecutive rounds, the Swiss player defeated current World #2 Aga Radwanska and then beat former World #2 Simona Halep in the very next round to reach the quarterfinals of Miami. And she did it the hard way, losing the first set in each round. Andy Murray lost to an in-form Grigor Dimitrov.

QUEER QUOTE: Governor Deal Vetoes Anti-LGBT "License To Discriminate" Bill

The governor of Georgia announced on Monday that he would be vetoing HB 757, what LGBT groups call a "license to discriminate" bill but which its sponsors and supporters refer to a "religious freedom" bill. His veto message is today's Queer Quote:
In light of our history, I find it ironic that today some in the religious community feel it necessary to ask the government to confer upon them certain rights and protections. If indeed our religious liberty is conferred by God and not by man-made government, we should heed the “hands-off” admonition of the First Amendment to our Constitution. When legislative bodies attempt to do otherwise, the inclusions and omissions in their statutes can lead to discrimination, even though it may be unintentional. That is too great a risk to take. 
Some of those in the religious community who support this bill have resorted to insults that question my moral convictions and my character. Some within the business community who oppose this bill have resorted to threats of withdrawing jobs from our state. I do not respond well to insults or threats. The people of Georgia deserve a leader who will make sound judgments based on solid reasons that are not inflamed by emotion. That is what I intend to do. 
As I've said before, I do not think we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia of which my family and I are a part of for all of our lives. Our actions on HB 757 are not just about protecting the faith-based community or providing a business-friendly climate for job growth in Georgia. This is about the character of our State and the character of its people. Georgia is a welcoming state filled with warm, friendly and loving people. Our cities and countryside are populated with people who worship God in a myriad of ways and in very diverse settings. Our people work side-by-side without regard to the color of our skin, or the religion we adhere to. We are working to make life better for our families and our communities. That is the character of Georgia. I intend to do my part to keep it that way.
This is great news but it doesn't change the fact that Georgia has no law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Monday, March 28, 2016

EYE CANDY: Steven Beck (black/white)

Steve Beck has appeared as Eye Candy once before (February 29, 2016). Beck is a well-known trainer and model with his own website, thestevenbeck.com and is active on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

You're welcome!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

View of DC from Virginia

THE EXPANSE (S1E07): "Windmills"

The seventh episode of Season 1 of The Expanse is called "Windmills." It first aired on January 19, 2016. I saw it on my DVR a few days later.  Here (finally!) is my reviews of this episodes.

S1E07: Windmills.
The title of the episode is clearly another reference to Don Quixote ("tilting at windmills") and one of the primary sequences in the episode involves finding out more about James Holden's homelife (directly from one of his eight(!) parents, including his birth mother, played by Frances Fisher). Avarasala goes to the farming collective in Montana where Holden was raised to see if she can suss out whether Holden is the intentional source of the political instabilities which appear to be inexorably pushing Mars and Earth towards a war in space. She decides that he is not, but when she informs her boss Errinwright of this, he tells her that he has already approved a black ops team to assassinate Holden as soon as he reaches Eros. 

Back on the Rocinante the crew discovers a stowaway (who happens to be the spy who is giving Errinwright his information about the whereabouts and future destination of Holden and company) and there are several tense moments as Holden and the crew have to decide whether they are the kind of people who toss people out into the vacuum "just to be safe." Happily, they are not, and the spy repays their trust by helping them figure out how to get out a jam when they are able to (barely) avoid being boarded by a Martian Congressional Republic Navy (MCRN) ship and expose Rocinante's status as a former MCRN vessel.

Meanwhile on Ceres, Miller makes his move, deciding to cash in his chips (literally) as he takes what may be years of ill-gotten gains and bribes as a morally flexible law enforcement official to buy a ticket to Eros. A buddy tells his that even though there's no sign of Julie Mao's ship, a shuttle from the ship that ran into her ship, the Anubis is currently at Eros, so Miller takes the plunge.

  • The sequence on the Rocinante when the MCRN is approaching and they have to figure out the key words ("Donkey balls!") was amusing and thrilling simultaneously
  • There are actual windmills out on Holden's homestead in Montana and they are quite visually compelling

  • The farewell scene with Miller and his ex(partner? girlfriend?) didn't work as well as it should have. They never seemed to have much chemistry, so even though she saved his life this season it's not that surprising he rebuffs her request to go with him to Eros.

GRADE: 8/10.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

2016 HUGO AWARDS: My Selections For Best Novel

The 2016 Hugo award nominations close on March 31st. Since I was a member of the 2015 Worldcon and helped to select last year's winners, I have the right to submit a nomination ballot for the 2016 Hugos. The main category I am interested in is Best Novel. My nominations for the Hugo Award for Best Novel are:
This was a hard list to compile. There are several other books which could easily be on this list, which basically represents what I think are the best works of speculative fiction released in 2015 that I read. For example:
  •  Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
  • Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
  • The Skull Throne by Peter V. Brett
  • The Ark by Patrick S. Tomlinson
  • The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
It will be exciting to see the final nomination list in early April. Last year they were revealed on 12noon on April 5th.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

WHOA! North Carolina Enacts Statute Explicitly Enabling LGBT Discrimination Statewide

Wow! The North Carolina legislature passed and the Republican Governor signed into law HB 2, a measure which would ostensibly overturn a recently passed Charlotte, NC ordinance which provided public accommodations protections based on gender identity.

However the law enacted not only overturns the Charlotte ordinance but also ordinances that protected LGBT people in 7 other municipalities and allows discrimination in employment and public accommodations based on sexual orientation or gender identity anywhere in the state of NorthnCarolina.

The ACLU of North Carolina made the stakes around this legislation starkly clear:
“The manner in which legislators passed the most extreme anti-LGBT bill in the nation – voting hours after it was unveiled without adequate public debate – flies in the face of fairness and democracy. Legislators have gone out of their way to stigmatize and marginalize transgender North Carolinians by pushing ugly and fundamentally untrue stereotypes that are based on fear and ignorance and not supported by the experiences of more than 200 cities with these protections. Transgender men are men; transgender women are women. They deserve to use the appropriate restroom in peace, just like everyone else."
Hat/tip to Joe.My.God

Monday, March 21, 2016

EYE CANDY: Rome Flynn

Rome Flynn is an actor who has appeared in Drumline: A New Beat and is now a regular on the daytime soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful as Zende Forrester. He has Instagram (@romeflynn) and Twitter (@rometrumain) accounts. I guess I need to see that Drumline sequel some time because another Eye Candy model, Jordan Calloway, also appeared in it. I'm always looking for suggestions for new Eye Candy, so holla!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

2016 INDIAN WELLS: Vika Shocks Serena In Straight Sets, Nole Humiliates Injured Milos

Vika Azarenka stunned World #1 Serena Williams 6-4 6-4 in the finals of the BNP Paribas Open. It was Azarenka's first title since 2014 and means that  it has been more than 6 months since Serena won her last title (2015 Cincy). This means that Azarenka becomes the first player to beat Serena in four finals, and improves her record to 4-17. She claimed her 2nd career title in Indian Wells and denied Serena the chance to win a record third title here and her first since 2001. She will return to the Top 10 when the ranking come out, landing at #8.

On the men's side Novak Djokovic was merciless against a clearly injured Milos Raonic, winning  6-2 6-0. Djokovic won his 5th title in Indian Wells and his twenty-seventh ATP Masters Series 1000 title, tying Rafael Nadal.

Serena-Azarenka XXI: 2016 Indian Wells Final

Serena Williams is in her first final at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells since 2002, primarily since she refused to attend the tournament for the years 2003-2014, famously coming back in 2015 (and retired before her semifinal match). Serena beat the new #2 player in the world, Aga Radwanska in an entertaining match on Friday night, 6-4 7-6(1) an earlier in the tournament dominated the former World #2 Simona Halep in the quarters. She will face what most people think is her primary rival, Vika Azarenka, in today's final (despite Serena's 17-3 overall head-to-head lead). Serena and Azarenka played some of the best women's tennis matches in 2015 (3 times) but Serena prevailed all three times they played last year. In fact, Vika hasn't beaten Serena since she won a 3rd set tiebreak in the 2013 Cincy Open final.

Vika has gotten her ranking up to #15 and will soon be back in the Top 10 where she definitely belongs. Serena is looking to reinforce her dominance after her surprising loss to Angie Kerber in the 2016 Aussie Open final and make new records, which she would do by becoming the first female player to win this tournament 3 times.

MadProfessah's pick: Serena.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Djokovic-Nadal XLVIII: 2016 Indian Wells Semifinal

The Indian Wells tournament is reaching the serious section of the draw with the men's semifinals being played today. The final four are David Goffin, Milos Raonic, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Somewhat unluckily, Djokovic and Nadal are in the same half of the draw, so their record 48th meeting will be occurring in the semifinal today and not tomorrow's final. The winner will face either Goffin or Raonic, who will be playing in their very first ATP Masters 1000 final.

Djokovic now leads his head-to-head with Nadal 24-23 and should be expected to win this match up today, but he has looked vulnerable this week in the desert, inexplicably being hit off the court for a set and a half against American Bjorn Santangelo and taken to two tight tie-break sets versus Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarterfinals.

Nadal is still looking for his first final of 2016, having lost (embarrassingly) 6-1 6-2 to Djokovic in Doha earlier this year.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Obama Nominates Merrick Garland for SCOTUS Vacancy Caused By Scalia's Death

Today President  Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the  D.C. Circuit to fill the vacancy on the United States Supreme Court caused by the death of Antonin Scalia on February 13.
Garland, 63, is currently the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. A former prosecutor, he's also viewed as a moderate. And he has cultivated a reputation for openness and collegiality at the D.C. Circuit, a bench that's sometimes called the second most important in the land. 
Garland will visit Capitol Hill on Thursday to begin meeting with legislators, Obama said. 
After the announcement was made, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reiterated his pledge that the Senate would not take any steps toward confirming an Obama nominee. McConnell's fellow Republicans in Congress echoed his comments.
It should be noted that if the Senate does not hold hearings on Obama's choice it will be the first time in the modern era such obstruction has occurred. Despite Senator McConnell's statements, at least 8 Republican Senators have said that they will meet with Judge Garland.

Monday, March 14, 2016

EYE CANDY: Lee Constantinou (black/white)

Lee Constantinou has appeared as Eye Candy twice before (January 11, 2016 and March 25, 2013). He's a successful British bodybuilder and physical trainer (i.e. "body transformation coach.")

I think you can see why!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

GAME OF THRONES: Season 6 Trailer!

Somehow I missed this weeks debut of the new trailer for Season 6 of Game of Thrones, which will air its first new episodes on HBO on April 24, 2016!

Are you excited? I am!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Going To Indian Wells To See Serena and Venus Play Today!

Woo hoo! I'm off to see Serena Williams and Venus Williams play at Indian Wells today. Sad that Roger won't be there this year.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

President Obama's Approval Rating Hits Highest Mark In 3 Years

President Obama is enjoying his highest approval ratings in over three years. Politico reports:
Overall, 50 percent of those surveyed said they approve of the job the president is doing so far in his final 365 days in office, up from the 46 percent rating he earned in his penultimate year. The 50 percent is also higher than the 47 percent approval average since 2009. 
Obama's approval is naturally split along partisan lines, with 87 percent of Democrats supporting his performance, an increase of 6 points from the beginning of 2016. Among Republicans, just 11 percent gave favorable marks to Obama, slightly down from the GOP average to date. 
While Obama's approval is higher than that of President George W. Bush at a comparable time in office, it is lower than that of his most immediate Democratic predecessor. In March 2000, 63 percent of Americans surveyed by Gallup said they approved of Bill Clinton's job performance. Bush, meanwhile, carried a 32 percent approval rating in March 2008.
The question is where will Obama's approval rating be on January 21, 2017? Higher or lower than where it is now? I'll bet it will be higher!

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

TENNIS TUESDAY: Sharapova Stuns Tennis World With Admission Of Failed WADA Test

5-time major champion Maria Sharapova piqued the attention of the world press when she announced over the weekend that she would be giving a press conference in Los Angeles on Monday, just hours after football legend Peyton Manning was scheduled to confirm his retirement from the world's most lucrative sport. This led to speculation that perhaps the 28-year-old Russian would announce her own retirement from tennis on Monday.

Instead, the highest paid female athlete in the world announced that she had recently received a letter from the World Anti-Doping Authority (WADA) that she had failed a drug test at the 2016 Australian Open. Apparently she had tested positive for the substance meldonium from a sample provided to WADA on January 26 (during the Australian Open), which had been added to list of banned substances on January 1, 2016.

Sharapova gave a press conference where she took full responsibility for the failed drug test and said that she had been taking meldonium since 2006 and that although she had received an email with a link to the new list of unapproved substances she did not personally look at the new list. Meldonium is not a drug that is approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (it is manufactured in Latvia).

There are many more questions raised by Sharapova's press conference. Here are just a few:
  1. How long will she be banned from tennis for this infraction? (She has already been officially banned from professional tennis starting March 12, 2016.)
  2. How did the most highly paid female athlete in tennis not have someone on her staff who regularly checks the list of substances the athlete takes and compares it to the current list of banned substances maintained by WADA?
  3. Does Sharapova take the drug every day? What is the half-life of meldonium? Depending on how long meldonium remains in the system, perhaps 25 days after she stopped taking it, she tested positive for it. After all, if she had smoked marijuana on December 31st, it's very possible she could have tested positive for THC 3-4 weeks later.
  4. Why has Sharapova been taking this drug for the last 10 years, and what effect does this have on her legacy as a player if she used a now-banned substance to (presumably enjoy an) advantage in tennis competitions for the vast majority of her professional career?
  5. Will she be able to play in the Rio Olympics?
Sharapova is 28 (turns 29 next month) and an extensive ban at this time could push her into announcing her retirement for real this time, a reality she herself acknowledged when she said "I don't want to end my career this way, and I really hope I will be given another chance to play this game."

Monday, March 07, 2016

EYE CANDY: Pietro Boselli (4th Time!)

Pietro Boselli has appeared as Eye Candy on this blog three times before (April 27, 2015July 6, 2015, and December 7, 2015), thus with today's appearance he will become one of the rare 4-time Eye Candy models. Although my preference would be to always display pictures of phyne bruthas or hot papis, I have to admit that there are a lot of cute white boys out there. Part of the reason why Boselli has appeared so often on this blog is that he has a unique (easily googled) name and he has appeared in a lot of stunning photographs that are all over the web. And there's the fact that we have something in common: we both know (and teach) advanced mathematics!

The pictures featured above are from a new set taken for British gay magazine Attitude shot by Daniel Jaems.


Friday, March 04, 2016

CELEBRITY FRIDAY: Tennis Commentator Bud Collins Dies At Age 86

Bud Collins, irrepressible tennis commentator, has died at the age of 86.

The official ATP World obituary reads:
Born in Lima, Ohio, on the eve of the Great Depression on June 17, 1929, Arthur Worth Collins, Jr. graduated from Baldwin-Wallace College and went on to serve with the U.S. Army. While a graduate student at Boston University in 1959, he began a five-year stint coaching the men’s tennis team at nearby Brandeis University. Among his players was future social activist/anti-war icon Abbie Hoffman. He officially launched his tennis journalism career in 1963, when he joined the Boston Globe, and later worked his way into radio with Boston’s PBS affiliate WGBH.
Collins broke into television with CBS Sports in 1968, regularly joined in the broadcast booth by serve-and-volley extraordinaire Jack Kramer. In 1972, Collins moved over to NBC, where he would become a staple over the next 35 years.  Generations of Americans welcomed him into their living rooms through the tennis-boom years of the 1970s and beyond via his Breakfast At Wimbledon broadcasts, as NBC brought live coverage of the fortnight across the Atlantic. Collins made us feel as if we there alongside him at the All England Club, and he was as much a part of the most prestigious of the four Grand Slams as a tumbler of Pims or a bowl of strawberries and cream.
He developed a unique rapport with players that allowed him to go beyond the usual post-match fodder. After falling to longtime rival Martina Navratilova in the Wimbledon final, Evert famously quipped, “Nice pants, Bud.” Before Collins could get off a question to Pam Shriver in 1978, the future Hall of Famer insisted, “First, turn off those pants.”
He will be missed!

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

QUEER QUOTE: SD Gov Vetoes Anti-Trans Students Bill

Wow! This is a big surprise. The Republican Governor of South Dakota has vetoed a bill that explicitly targeted the transgender community for discrimination. House bill 1008 would have stated that students in South Dakota must use bathrooms and changing facilities that correspond to their "biological gender" and not their gender identity.

Governor Dennis Daugaard's veto message is today's queer quote:

March 1, 2016

The Honorable Dean Wink
Speaker of the House of Representatives
500 East Capitol Avenue
Pierre, SD 57501

Dear Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives,

I respectfully return to you House Bill 1008, with my VETO.

House Bill 1008 does not address any pressing issue concerning the school districts of South Dakota.  As policymakers in South Dakota, we often recite that the best government is the government closest to the people.  Local school districts can, and have, made necessary restroom and locker room accommodations that serve the best interests of all students, regardless of biological sex or gender identity. 

This bill seeks to impose statewide standards on “every restroom, locker room, and shower room located in a public elementary or secondary school.”  It removes the ability of local school districts to determine the most appropriate accommodations for their individual students and replaces that flexibility with a state mandate.

If and when these rare situations arise, I believe local school officials are best positioned to address them.  Instead of encouraging local solutions, this bill broadly regulates in a manner that invites conflict and litigation, diverting energy and resources from the education of the children of this state.

Preserving local control is particularly important because this bill would place every school district in the difficult position of following state law while knowing it openly invites federal litigation.  Although there have been promises by an outside entity to provide legal defense to a school district, this provision is not memorialized in the bill.  Nor would such defense eliminate the need for school or state legal counsel, nor avoid expenses relating to expert witnesses, depositions and travel, or other defense costs.  Nor does the commitment extend to coverage over settlement or damage expenses.  This law will create a certain liability for school districts and the state in an area where no such liability exists today.

For these reasons, I oppose this bill and ask that you sustain my veto.

Respectfully submitted,

Dennis Daugaard

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

TENNIS TUESDAY: Youth Breaks Through; Raja Skips US Hardcourt Season

22-Year-Old Dominic Thiem Soaring To World #14 on 13-1 Record in February
Dominic Thiem of Austria has big ears but an even bigger game. He is currently the hottest player on the ATP Tour and has won two of his five career titles in 2016. He has done so by compiling an impressive 13-1 record in the month of February, winning titles in Acapulco and Buenos Aires. He even beat Rafael Nadal on clay on the way to winning in Buenos Aires despite being match point down!

22-Year-Old Sloane Stephens Outlasts 2014 Aussie Open Finalist To Win Acapulco
Sloane Stephens has now won her 3rd consecutive final after outlasting Dominika Cibulkova in the final of the Acapulco hard court tournament. The score was 6-4 4-6 7-6(5) and the match lasted over 3 hours.

Federer Withdraws From Indian Wells, Adds Monte Carlo Masters To Schedule
Roger Federer had previously announced that he was going to skip the Miami Masters as well as almost the entire clay court season. However, after losing in the semifinals of the 2016 Australian open Federer injured his knee and had arthroscopic surgery which has caused him to withdraw from the Indian Wells Masters. So, he has now decided to add the Monte Carlo Masters to his 2016 schedule.

Djokovic's 2016 Unbeaten Streak Ends After Eye Infection Leads To
Novak Djokovic withdrew from his Dubai Duty Free semifinal against Feliciano Lopez down 3-6 with a bizarre injury: an eye infection caused him to forfeit the match. The World #1 is now 14-1 and will have to wait a few more weeks to take his place at the top of the list of all-time best win-loss percentages on the ATP tour.


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