Friday, July 28, 2006

News Team, assemble!

Yesterday, I got to fulfill a lifelong dream: Being part of a news team. My friend Joey Barr works as a cameraman for Channel 25 KXXV (in newspeak he’s called a “photog”). “Joey 25” as he’s known, has long been considered to be the best photog in Central Texas and is soon moving on to a bigger market.
He and his wife showed Joni and I around the station yesterday. I got to see the whole staff hard at work gearing up for the 10:00pm broadcast, and busily putting together stories. Channel 25’s mission is “breaking news and tracking storms.” I got to meet the Vince Erickson, and even saw the Stormtracker Mobile. But, we were in the middle of watching the station’s blooper tape when Joey got the call…

There was a car that had driven off an overpass on I-35. Joey was assigned to get their first. We quickly said goodbye to our wives, ran to the car, and took off down the highway. It was 9:55, just five minutes from the 10:00 news. We followed the cops as they flew down the interstate. Joey cranked up a Tool CD as he flew down the highway. He chuckled “Where we’re going, we don’t need any roads.” The traffic just parted before us as we flew on the wind, knowing that breaking news wouldn’t wait for us.

I kept my eagle eye on the lookout for the accident. Soon, we came up on it and pulled off at an exit to see a host of emergency crews gathered around the crunched up remains of a jeep under the overpass. Joey hopped the curb and quickly sprang into action. We rushed to open his trunk and get the camera set up into place.

As we stood there filming the chaos, Joey got another call from the station.

“Mark is coming,” said Joey, suddenly with steely-eyed determination. “He’s bringing the Live truck. We’re going to do a live shot.”

Joey sent me to get the microphone out of his car. As I hurried back with the Channel 25 mike toward the crowd of horrified onlookers, policemen, and paramedics I received several nods of approval. News Channel 25 was on the scene, and that just seemed to bring comfort. The whole world would know what happened here this day.

Mark Kurtz quickly arrived in the truck. It was 10:15, the news was already halfway done. Could they get the live shot in time for the broadcast? The air was tense with the anxiety that is live television.

Joey and I rushed back to the truck to hook up cables. I helped him untangle one of the spools of power cable, my contribution to making the news happen that day. As Joey raised the mast on the truck, Mark quickly moved the camera into position and began rehearsing. I admired how perfect he looked, his suit unruffled and his hair in perfect form, as he began rehearsing his story. He quickly ingratiated himself with several of the rescue workers, getting as accurate a picture as possible of what happened. As I looked around, I realized we were the only News Team there. We would get the scoop. I nervously looked at my watch, 10:20pm.

Joey rushed back to the camera while on the phone with the news producer. They were going to toss it to Mark for a live report. Joey yelled “STANDBY!” and suddenly there was a calm in the midst of the storm. This would be journalism at its professional best; journalism, and not sensationalism.

Suddenly, Mark was on and began relaying the story in clear fashion. The driver of the car had seen the bad traffic jam ahead and had lost control, diving into the median and then down the steep embankment where the jeep began to flip. Two people in their twenties were taken to a local hospital, one in serious condition and the other in stable condition. The story was done. “Good job,” the producer reported back to them.

Joey seemed frustrated with his camera footage. They hadn’t had time to practice the shot, so the coordination was a little off. The producer quickly relayed that there would be 1 more chance. They would end the newscast with a live update.

In the next 5 minutes, the valiant men and women of the Waco/Bellmead Rescue Services cleared the accident. A tow truck quickly winched up the jeep and drove it away. The scene was cleared. The station would run the previous footage while Mark did a quick voiceover. As the shot went live back to Mark, the whole world could see that the accident had happened. News 25 had the story no one else had. They had broken the news and seen it to its completion. “I’m Mark Kurtz, reporting live from Bellmead. And now back to you…”

I applauded the successful mission. Just as quickly as we’d come, we quickly packed up the camera, wound the cables up and stowed the gear. Joey and Mark had a touching moment of camaraderie, apparently they haven’t gotten to work with each other much and have a great deal of respect for one another. You see, a real news team works together and supports one another. It’s the news that matters, not egos. The mission was accomplished and we had won the victory. The world was a better place because our story, the story, was told.

We said our goodbyes and got back in Joey’s car. We took the long way, back through downtown Waco. As we were driving, I felt like we were Jamie Foxx and Collin Ferrel in Miami Vice. That night, we accomplished something that no one else did. There’s always something happening in Waco. This is our town, and it’s our time to break the news.

“It’s a tough job sometimes. There are days where I just almost crack,” said Joey. But, it’s a satisfying job, and one that he’s the best at. Without Joey, there would be no guarantees of a fast and accurate newscast.

So, for one brief moment I got to be there on the scene reporting an accident. It was everything I thought that it would be. Thank you, Joey Barr.

"This is Justin Tapp, reporting live from Waco. And now back to you.”

Thursday, July 27, 2006

On Tax Cuts

I think most of the people who read my blog watch CNN or FoxNews and aren't sure what to really believe about Bush's tax cuts and fiscal policies. (Watching CNN and especially C-SPAN probably won't help you).
It's my understanding that people on the "right" say "The tax cuts are good and pay for themselves."
People on the "left" say "The tax cuts are bad and should be allowed to expire."
The real answer is: The tax cuts have been good for the economy, but do not pay for themselves and if the government doesn't ratchet down its spending then eventually taxes will have to increase.

Greg Mankiw (the main proponent/creator of these tax cuts) has re-posted his editorial from the WSJ on his blog. (The most important of these points is #3. Read it and remember it!)

The Treasury Department released its analysis of the 2001 Bush tax cuts and what will happen if they're extended permanently.

So, here's what you should know about the tax cuts:

1. The tax cuts can be credited with a projected 0.7% long-term growth of GNP (gross national product). This is good (not great, but fine). They helped create jobs and GDP is higher than it would have been without the tax cuts.

2. Not all of the tax cuts have promoted growth. Reduction of taxes on capital gains and dividends are good (account for over half of the long-term growth). Cutting the taxes of the top 4 tax brackets has also been good.
These tax reductions affect mostly the "rich," people who invest in stocks.

The tax breaks on the poorer people (child credits and reductions in the marriage penalty) have actually been bad for long-term growth. They were good back in 2001, but in the long-term are bad for U.S. growth.
(No one wants to hear this, including myself).

3. The growth is only going to happen if accompanied by a reduction in government spending(!). A failure to reduce spending will be eventually necessarily accompanied by higher income taxes. If this reduction in spending fails to happen, then it will lead to a 0.9% decrease in GNP.

The moral of the story is that permanent tax cuts are good only if accompanied by a reduction in government spending. NOT if followed by the creation of a new branch of government and the fighting of a war on 2 fronts. Otherwise, the tax cuts have to be financed by higher income taxes which may actually reduce the growth of GNP. "Like all of us, the government eventually has to pay its bills..."

So, now it's our government's choice: Raise taxes, or reduce spending. Which do you think will likely happen?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

This for Dave Blake...

and Dave Campbell, David Waters, David Allen, and all other Daves I know. Some of them are Davids, but most of them are Daves.
I will now have a Weekly Kids in the Hall sketch on this blog.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

More Waco Statistics

As I've mentioned previously, Waco city can be described as "impoverished." Yesterday's Waco Tribune-Herald had an article on the housing boom in the surrounding community (you can't actually see their #'s on the website, have to have the paper version). I decided to do some more digging for data to add some background to that boom. (Sources for this post are, and

Although Waco itself is marred by heavy unemployment, and high rates of poverty (26.3% of pop.), Waco's suburbs are wealthy, growing quickly, and predominantly white. All of these areas border each other.

I'm looking at:
Waco city
Beverly Hills (actually incorporated within Waco city limits)
(I couldn't get data for China Spring. Apparently, half of China Spring lies within Waco city limits and gets counted as such. I also spent much of they day making Excel bar graphs, but Blogger doesn't want to cooperate with me in uploading them.)

The # of new home starts per population is very high in China Spring ISD, and Midway ISD (basically Hewitt + Woodway), but not very high for Waco ISD.

I was talking to a friend the other day about my previous post, and he said "You know, I like it here. Waco is not a bad place to live." Then, I reminded him that he lives in Hewitt, and not Waco. You'll see why there's a difference.

Housing Units:
Here are the number of housing units in these areas around Waco:
(McClennan County: 88,372)

Waco: 45,819

Bellmead: 3,662

Beverly Hills: 801

Hewitt: 3,997

Robinson: 2,901

Woodway: 3,437

You can see that Waco itself is over half of McClennan Co.'s # of houses. Robinson is growing faster than Woodway, and probably passed it in population this year.

Median House Value:
The median value of a single-family house in these areas:
(McLennan County: $67,700)

Waco: $53,300

Bellmead: $39,000

Beverly Hills: $40,400

Hewitt: $88,300

Robinson: $78,400

Woodway: $132,700

The median house in Woodway is over 3 times the value of a house in Beverly Hills or Bellmead.

So, who are the people in these areas?
% of population who are White:
Waco: 69.8%

Bellmead: 59.7%

Beverly Hills: 43.8%

Hewitt: 79.4%

Robinson: 87.4%

Woodway: 91.3%

% of population who are Hispanic:
Waco: 23.5%

Bellmead: 23.8%

Beverly Hills: 44.3%

Hewitt: 9.3%

Robinson: 9%

Woodway: 3.8%

(McLennan Co: 17.9%). Only 2% of Robinson’s population is black.
Beyond that, the demographics are amazing. Almost all of Woodway, and Hewitt residents over age 25 have a high school degree (95%), with over 33% (Hewitt) and 51% (Woodway) having a bachelor’s degree. Only 61% of those in Beverly Hills have a high school degree, and just 5.2% have a bachelor’s.

Unemployment Rate among ages 25 and older:
(U.S. = 4.7%)
Waco: 11.6%

Bellmead: 8.2%

Beverly Hills: 5.1%

Hewitt: 2.4%

Robinson: 1.9%

Woodway: 1.9%

The economy is doing well if you’re a highly-skilled person and/or have a bachelor’s degree. The economy stinks if you’re uneducated.
Real wage growth among minimum wage workers in the last 10 years has been zero. Real wage growth among the top tier of professionals has been quite large.

I still can’t get around that 5.1% unemployed in Beverly Hills. That’s a low number. Where are these people working and why aren’t regular Waco folks working?

More people living in Beverly Hills are married than in Waco.
The % of blacks living in Beverly Hills is much less than in Waco (10% vs. 22%).

Those are the only differences I can see. Yet, the unemployment rate is so much lower… why?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Sports Movies and Accuracy

In the past 2 weeks I’ve watched 3 sports movies that were “based on a true story” (most sports movies are). After doing a little research to find out how accurate these movies are, I have to say this: I don't care much for Hollywood (and I guess Disney too, since it made all of the films).
A good place to find comparisons is ESPN Page 2, where
Jeff Merron reviews sports movies. Interestingly, to read the review of Glory Road you have to subscribe to Insider! I think Disney/ESPN had something to hide here, since the article was written as the movie entered theaters. Thanks to Ryan Searight for sending me the article.

I’ll review these movies from least accurate to most accurate. Let’s call this “myth busting.”

I. Glory Road

1. Don Haskins didn’t integrate Texas Western. They were integrated long before he got there.
2. By 1966, Haskins was in his 5th season. The Miners had already been to the NCAA tourney twice and were a national powerhouse.

3. None of the racial incidents in the movie (the beating, the blood on the hotel walls) ever took place(!)

4. None of the racial tension between teammates shown in the movie ever took place.

5. There’s a scene where the black players convince the coach to let them play “their way” (ie: streetball). This never happened, Haskins would never allow it. According to one player: “We played more like the white teams played that season than in any other.”

6. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer and actor John Voight have said that in all their investigations into Rupp’s character that they found no evidence of him being a racist.

7. In the movie, Adolph Rupp and the Kentucky players refuse to shake the black players’ hands. That never happened. Haskins said: “the Kentucky players could not have been more gracious after the game.”

8. There were no Confederate flags behind the bench being waved by Kentucky fans.

9. According to several interviews given, Haskins and the players didn’t think much about playing 7 black guys, and didn’t talk about it beforehand. TW had started 5 blacks on several occassions. Everyone involved has simply said that those 7 were the best players to match up with KY. It was only after the fact that someone pointed it out, and over the years their stories have slowly changed.

True points:
1. Much of Haskins team was made up of little-recruited street players who were quite talented.

2. At the party where Mary Haskins gets snubbed by racists the one person who actually befriends her was actually Adolph Rupp’s wife.

3. Kentucky was an 8-point favorite, despite their tallest player being 6’4”, and Texas Western being taller and stronger. TW dunked on Kentucky as in the movie.

4. Adolph Rupp did have a big ego, as depicted in the film.

5. It was a big deal in the South to see 5 black starters take on a heavily favored KY team and win handily. The SEC and SWC didn’t integrate at all until the following season.

Comments: All of the really gripping, dramatic moments in the film are fictionalized. I didn’t like Josh Lucas as a coach. He tells them all at the beginning of the season “There will be no drinking, carousing, or girlfriends.” Then, they all do those things and he doesn’t punish them. During a game he says “OK, you play your way. And, you play my way.” What kind of coaching is that??
For more info check out . BTW-- I liked how nothing Rupp said in the movie was overtly racist, just egotistical. Much of it was true-to-life.

When I was watching that finale, I was pulling for Kentucky. Seeing Rupp tell the boys "What's written across your chest??", and exhorting them that "We're Kentucky. We know how to play this game better than anyone living." The upset loss brought back memories of 1997, and Arizona, and the sadness of watching that game.

II. Remember the Titans.
1. The Alexandria, VA school district had desegregated several years prior.

2. No riots against bussing or other such protests ever happened.

3. Three separate high schools were integrated into one in 1971 (not an all-black school and an all-white school).

4. It was the rivalry of schools that most of the fights were about. You had 3 football teams shrunk into 1, and players were fighting for positions. It was not about racism. Coach Boone himself said: “On the real team, there'd be fights, but sometimes it'd be black vs. black or white vs. black, the normal thing you'd see on any football team. Because of competition for positions.”

5. Because of the size of the merger, the Titans were considered one of the best teams in the country, and were never an underdog. They overpowered almost every opponent they faced.

6. Ray, the character who misses blocks on purpose, was completely fictional.

7. Sheryl (the daughter) wasn’t an only child, had 3 sisters, lived with her mom, wasn’t a football fanatic, and never played with Coach Boone’s daughters.

8. Bertier played in the championship game. He didn’t get into the car accident until after the season.

9. There were no racist referees in real life, and every team the Titans played that season had black players (in the movie, the teams they play are all-white).

10. In the real championship game, the Titans won 27-0, and held their opponent to -5 total yards on offense.

11. There was no Virginia Football Hall of Fame, and coach Yoast was never up for any such honor.

True points:
1. The team held summer camp in Gettysburg, and also were forced to ride integrated in the buses on the way there.

2. Coach Boone was picked to coach over Coach Yoast, despite Yoast’s seniority. This led the players to protest, Yoast to return, and for there to be much bitterness about Boone being the coach (though all of it was about seniority, according to both coaches).

3. Someone did throw something through Coach Boone’s window (but it was a toilet).

4. The team’s winning did unite the town behind the new school.

Comments: A great movie, but at best 50% of it was true, and the true stuff is uninteresting. Denzel’s portrayal of Boone is true. The players all say that all they cared about was winning, and they knew which guys were the best players regardless of race.

III. The Rookie
1. Morris was 35 when he got his tryout (Dennis Quaid makes him look older).
2. There was no scene with the radar gun on the side of the highway.

3. His high school team wasn’t a bunch of losers.

4. Morris had no teaching certificate, so he had to leave his job. There was no Ft. Worth coaching option as the film states.

5. His hometown friends didn’t go to his debut in Arlington.

6. Morris only played 8 weeks in the major leagues, not a full 2 seasons as the movie implies at the end.

True points:
Pretty much everything else in the movie, except minor details, was actually true. It was made so soon after it actually happened that it couldn’t get away with embellishing as much. This movie is definitely the most accurate of the three, and an inspirational story.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Final NBA Summer League Update

The final stats are available from the Rocky Mountain Revue:
For the Hawks:
Shelden Williams per game:
25.3 minutes
8.0 points
6.3 rebounds
0.5 assists
2.0 turnovers
1.3 blocks

12 of 36 from the field for 33.3% (very lame for a PF).
24 of 35 from the line for 68.6%.
Half of his points came off of FTs. It's not good when your top pick has trouble scoring in summer league.

Marvin Williams was probably league MVP. 23.2 pts, 5 rebounds, 3 assists per game. 87.9% on free throws.
Maybe he’ll be The Man on the Hawks this year. Or demand to be traded.

Louis Williams (came out of HS last year) for Philadelphia was also impressive:
22 PPG, 3.3 rebs, 5.2 assists (6.0 turnovers).
A flat-out scorer.

The best rookie was Mr. Arkansas Ronnie Brewer:
25.5 mins, 16 points, 2.7 rebs, 1.8 assists, 1.67 steals, 1.5 turnovers.
He had a large collection of acrobatic dunks, throwing down windmills, reverses, etc.

For the Spurs:
Taquan Dean per game
19.3 mins, 6.3 points, 3.5 rebs, 3.3 assists (2.0 turnovers), 0.67 steals. 26.5% in total FG’s (2 of 11 from three-point range). I hereby banish you to the NBDL!

For Dallas:
Former Kentucky Mr. Basketball (and Louisville alum) Larry O’Bannon’s last hurrah:
18.2 mins, 6.7 points, 1 reb, 1 assist (0.7 turnovers), 0.17 steals. 37.8% in FG’s (7 of 17 from 3-point range, 41.2%). I hereby banish you to Europe, or to becoming a high school coach!

For Seattle:
Mohammad Sene is a shot-blocker, but not in NBA shape yet.
23 mins, 8.3 pts, 4.8 rebs, 3.7 blocks per game.

I think the only highlight from the California league has been Jordan Farmar’s dominance. Kobe has a point guard to catch the ball from now.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Recruiting via MySpace

UK fans are both numerous and rabid. We're also very desperate to recruit a Power Forward. The solution? Go to a player's MySpace website and entice him to come.

Both the Lexington Herald-Leader and the Huntington Herald-Dispatch have stories about Patrick Patterson, and how UK now has to report a minor recruiting violation because fans have been "contacting him" (writing comments to him) via his site.

Patterson is a 6'8" foward from WV who says is the #8 PF in the nation. Kentucky needs him badly. Apparently some of the fans have been removing their posts once they realized that this could completely jeapordize getting the kid.

Furthermore, as UK's NCAA Compliance official Sandy Bell has said: "It's turning kids off ...Because they (the prospects) set up sites to talk to their friends, not to get bombarded by people they don't know."

Now, we all remember my little campaign last year for everyone to post on Joakim Noah's Facebook site, and how effective that was. The guy responded by being unstoppable and leading them to a championship. Billy Donovan should send me a personal letter of thanks. In fact, I think I'll take much of the credit for Florida winning it all last year...

On another note, Jerry Tipton's column has one of those "What in the world is Tubby Smith thinking??" paragraphs, this time regarding Ty Proffitt. I'd hate to lose a decent Kentuckian to Florida. Maybe he's not that good?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Happy Birthday!

To my wife who turns 23 today. ;-) You're the greatest wife in the whole wide world, and I love you very much!!!

To see how we spent it, check out her blog.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Lunch break

Where I'm at today: The graduate lounge/lab
What I'm doing today: Writing a 20 page paper about changes in the World Bank over the past 20 years or so.
What I'm looking at online:

What you should be thinking about: A very good statistical study on entitled "Does College Experience Lead to NBA Success?" This is a must-read. The short answer is clearly "No."

What I'm thinking about: Shelden Williams. The #5 pick in the draft's game is apparently garbage. I just tallied his stats after 3 games in Utah's summer league:
  • 26 MPG, 6.3 Points , 4.3 Rebounds , 0.3 Assists, 2.3 turnovers, 3 for 16 from the field!!! (16%).

He's getting his shots blocked all over the gym by scrubs, and has yet to hit 10 points. Here's one Atlanta journalist that says he's not worried about it. Williams injured a hammy in his last game but came back. He plays badly when healthy, plays worse when injured, yikes. Marvin Williams is playing incredibly well, however. 3 games left.

Mohammed Sene is blocking alot of shots, grabbing rebounds, and being efficient overall.

Ronnie Brewer is also filling up the stat sheet, featuring 15.6 PPG.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Sic 'em!

Headline reads: QB Kinne will play at Baylor.

Perhaps you read about him on John Clay's blog.
One of Texas's best QB's, the kid threw for 4,255 yards, ran for 853, for a combined 57 TD's last season. He'll probably break the state passing record this season. Pretty fly for a white guy.

Kinne chose Baylor over Florida. He's quoted as saying "I’m going to call anybody else we already have on our board and try to make this one of the best classes to ever come to Baylor."

There's a buzz around campus about the football team this summer. It's that feeling you have when you know that it's only going to get better, and that the fall is going to be really fun. Looks like 2007 will be even more fun, but I won't be here then.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

NBA Summer League Recap

The first full week of summer league has come to a close. This was the last week some of these guys will ever play for an NBA team. If you didn’t get to watch any of the Orlando camp’s webcast then you missed out on some hilarious commentators. It was like watching Seinfeld & co. commentate a basketball game. They were merciless on the guys who weren’t playing well.

Erik Daniels finished strong in Orlando. He had 16 points against Adam Morrison, then followed that with a 20 point performance, going 8 of 9 from the field. He was sporting the ‘fro. Orlando might not have a roster spot for him, though. Maybe he impressed other teams enough to pick him up.

(BTW-- Keith Bogans was just signed by Orlando for this season).

Rajon Rondo was impressive in Vegas, and was second in the league in assists and steals.

  • 32.2 MPG, 10.4 PPG, 5.8 APG, 4.4 RPG, and 2.2 SPG.

Not a bad line at all. He also made the only 3 pointer he took, and shot 70% on free throws.
Telfair didn’t play at the end, so it looks like Telfair will be the starter for the Celtics. Telfair averaged 5.3 APG.
The Boston Herald says: “ After checking him out here, execs from two different teams pronounced him the steal of the first round.”

Chuck Hayes was a rebounding machine, grabbing 19 in one game. 6.6 PPG, 11.6 RPG. Not bad for a 6’6” guy.

Kelena Azubuike should get on with the Nuggets.

  • 16.4 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 1.2 SPG in just 20 minutes played per game, scoring over 20 points twice.

Other players of note:
Larry O’Bannon averaged 7.8 PPG, with 1 RPG and 1.3 APG. He’s slated to play this weekend in Utah’s league. I’d say he has no chance of getting on with Dallas. NBDL?

Reece Gaines averaged 3.3 PPG and never took a 3-pointer. You’re done, son.

Ellis Myles entered the camp for Chicago but disappeared. Have fun in Europe.

Ricky Minard (Morehead St.) didn’t do much.

Taquan Dean just started playing in Utah for the Spurs. 5 points, 3 assists and just 15 minutes of time. Either he got hurt or got benched, I don't know which.

Rookies who looked good in the camps: Randy Foye, Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Adam Morrison (except for only grabbing 1 rebound a game), Marcus Williams (led both leagues with 9.3 APG), Rajon Rondo, James Augustine, Jamaal Williams, Jordan Farmar.

Rookies who were fun to watch in college but have no future in NBA and proved it by playing horribly in the Summer Leagues: Gerry McNamara, Kevin Pittsnogle, Mike Gansey, Rashad Anderson, Marco Killingsworth, Chris Quinn, C.J. Watson, Nick Horvath, Sean Dockery.

Guys who improved their NBA hopes for stardom: John Lucas, Travis Diener, David Lee, Sean May, Gerald Green, Ryan Gomes, Daniel Ewing, Kevin Martin, Earl Barron, Aaron Miles, Hakim Warrick.

Utah’s league (the last league) started up yesterday with some of the above guys flying to it and trying again. One of the teams features Illinois’ runner up nucleus of 2 years ago. Ronnie Brewer, Shelden Williams, and Mohammed Sene are the features in this league. LA's summer league is also closing shop this weekend. Any questions?

Friday, July 14, 2006

Some Good News

I'm tired of all of the bad news on TV and the Net. It's either tense, morbid, or depressing.

Let's talk about something that's the opposite of those adjectives: Notre Dame Football.

A great article on about the Irish, and how the huge success of last year and enormous expectations this year translates into an economic boom for South Bend.

Charlie Weis wasn't available...yet, you didn't need Mr. Buzzcut or anybody on the two-deep roster to tell you the differences between the Notre Dame football program of July 2005 and July 2006.
In one year so much has changed, except the expectations. That's why Bob Davie now works for ABC, why Tyrone Willingham works for the University of Washington, and why I'm mildly surprised Touchdown Jesus isn't sporting a crewcut.

Some people may not know or remember that I love ND football. I have since 1990. I try to watch every game (easy to do thanks to NBC). I love Touchdown Jesus. I love the gold helmets. I love Brady Quinn. I love lamp. I love how NBC lets us know everything about each player over the season, so you feel like you've known everyone on the team your whole life.

Like Jeff Samardzija:
A year ago the casual football fan thought Samardzija was the bottom line of an eye chart. Jeff Samardzija was a backup junior wide receiver with a grand total of zero career touchdown catches.
Now he is a returning consensus All-America, thanks to a 77-catch, 15-touchdown 2005. His No. 83 replica jersey is available in the bookstore for $50.

NBC viewership was up 44% last year. Mel Kiper, Jr. thinks the Irish could have 5 first-round draft picks this year (no ND player has been a first-rounder in over a decade). The Irish return 16 starters. Let's get excited.

So, as fall approaches and my baseball boycott is in full swing, I look forward to another great season of Notre Dame football.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Waco, poverty, and data

Waco can be an interesting place to live, and it's a study in contrasts. You have a relatively medium-to-small sized town (pop: 120,465) that is working-class. You have an upscale and expensive private university, most of whose students seem to come from outside Waco (Baylor pop: 14,000).

Baptist school, Baptist town. Something like 54 Baptist churches in the Waco area. Some are big 1,600-1,800, and some are tiny. Of active church-goers, Baptists outnumber others by quite a bit here. I count 17 registered Methodist churches, and about a dozen Catholic churches just on City of

One statistic you hear quoted often is that
"Waco's poverty rate is over twice the national average."

The source is almost always Jimmy Dorrel, a nice local pastor who works with Mission Waco, and has a church that meets under an interstate overpass. (check out his books on the website)

Journalism is borderline terrible in Waco. When a journalist resorts to quoting a pastor for a demographic statistic, you know something is wrong. Nothing against Pastor Dorrel, I just know he's quoting this stat from some "expert" source. So, I decided to verify this claim myself.

Waco city limits do not include its more wealthier suburbs of Hewitt and Midway. McLennan County is a big area with lots of small townships. You can see the income distribution on this map:

A recent study showed that the cost of living in Waco is about 17% less than the national average. We Wacoans pay less for gasoline, groceries, rent, and other services than most Americans.

The best I could find was the 2000 Census that looks at Waco city by itself:
The % of people living in poverty in Waco in 2000 was : 26.3%
The % of people living in poverty in the U.S. in 2000 was 11.3%
Indeed, the poverty rate in Waco is over twice the national average.

The % of people living in poverty in Texas in 2003 was just 16%.
The % of people in McLennan county in poverty in 2003 was 18%.

So, Waco city is apparently a drag on McLennan county's numbers.

Strikingly, per-capita income in Waco in 2000 was $14,584.
For McLennan county in 2004 it is $25, 512.
Texas per-capita income in 2005 was $32,462, which was 27th in the nation.
Again, Waco city is an apparent void.

Now for McLennan county:
The average annual salary for a person in McLennan county (non-farm) is $29,990.
A CEO makes, on average, $139,200.
A secretary (my wife) makes $21,750.
A hotel clerk makes $14,790, the lowest-paying job in town.
A normal assembly line worker makes $15,830.

Interestingly enough, the unemployment rate in McLennan county is low: 4.7% in May, right at the national rate.

Okay, so why the poverty and low per-capita income #'s? High employment should = high per-capita income, right? Well, that depends.
1) You could have a lot of families with several children. Mom or Dad might work, but the rest of the family gets counted in the "per-capita" part.
2) You could have a lot of undocumented workers. Many construction jobs here pay cash to illegal immigrants. This gets unreported, and artificially deflates the income-per-capita estimate.
3) Low cost of living = low wages. People don't need to get paid as much here as they do in Dallas, because it doesn't cost as much to live here.
4) More likely, in my opinion, is simply the fact that most of the jobs here in Waco are production jobs, or basic service (like fast food, hair cuts, etc.). There are no high-tech companies, or high-end service industries. (I'm not sure how Raytheon L3 fits into that picture). There are lots of light industry production, which has seen 0 wage growth over the past 10 years. Most residents commute to the suburbs where some of these factories are located.
Service sector (tech) wages are going up, but production wages are flat. Thus, Waco is staying flat.

I think a combination of these 4 factors help explain the income disparity and poverty rate in Waco.

I'll think about my solutions to this in the coming semester.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

NBA Summer League Action

So, maybe more fun than the hectic month before the NBA draft, when players are trying to work out for teams and gain some attention through summer tryout camps, is the summer league.

You've got all the new draftees, plus some of the guys who didn't get drafted but are trying hard to prove they can make a team, plus some of the bench players who don't get much run in the season, plus some of the Europeans who want to play in the NBA.

There are 4 major leagues, which you can find on but only one with a good enough website to allow you to track stats easily. That's the Las Vegas Summer League.

It just so happens that Rajon Rondo , Chuck Hayes , and Kelena Azubuike(!) are playing in Vegas, and trying to strut their stuff. Erik Daniels is playing with the Magic in the Orlando league. I can't find Keith Bogans and Gerald Fitch playing anywhere, though. Anyone have knowledge? Bogans has always been a summer league star, but it doesn't look like he's playing this year. I've heard that Fitch was acquired by Houston, but he's not on their roster.

Rondo is competing with Sebastian Telfair for Boston, and doing pretty well.
In 3 games he's averaging 30 minutes, shooting 66% from the field, and hasn't taken a 3 pointer yet. He's hitting his free throws! His rebounds and assists have been erratic, but he's had good games.
In yesterday's game Rondo had 6 assists to just 1 turnover. 5-5 from the field. Telfair had 10 assists with 2 TO's, but was 1 for 6 from the field.

In his second game he led the team in rebounds with 7. That's the Rondo we all know, and has Danny Ainge wondering what to do with him.

Chuck Hayes is 2nd in the league in rebounding with 11.6 a game in 5 games! 6.6 PPG with 1 APG. Hang in there, Chuck!

Azubuikie is shooting well for Denver. Looks like he's competiting head-to-head with Casey Jacobsen. I'd rather have Buike than Jacobsen. He had a game-high 25 points with 6 rebounds in just 20 minutes of play yesterday.

From what I can tell, Erik Daniels has only played in 1 game for Orlando, and was unimpressive. Matt Walsh is a starting forward on that team, also unimpressive. (Just imagine if Orlando picked up Walsh. Redick and Walsh on the same team, I would hate Orlando so much).

Kentucky native Larry O'Bannon is playing for Dallas. Not too impressive.

Randy Foye has been a stud in Vegas. Adam Morrison has been struggling in the Orlando league. He was 3 for 14 from the field in his first game. He was 8 of 17 in his second game, with 29 points. But only 1 rebound in 30 minutes is not good. J.J. Redick is sitting out due to his back problems. David Lee is playing much better than Ronaldo Balkman for NY.
Brandon Roy is playing well for Portland, and LaMarcus Aldridge seems to be OK. Sean Dockery isn't getting any run at all, though.

Samaki Walker (remember him?) is playing for Toronto. The Louisville alum is ancient and actually finished last year playing in Kazan, Russia. A friend of mine living there saw him play and couldn't beleive it. Heheh, guess it was too cold for him there.

Okay, Justin, get back to work.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Death and Life

Wanted to highlight a couple completely different looks at Russia today.

On Death:
I couldn't be true to this blog and post something about yesterday's death of Shamil Basayev. This guy made Al Zarqawi look like a nobody.

I've mentioned the horrors in Chechnya on this blog previously. Let's just say that both sides are guilty of atrocities in a "win at any cost" mindset. He's hailed as a "shahid," or martyr, but I don't mind saying that Basayev was more like an evil that you read about in the Old Testament.

Basayev showed he had no morals whatsoever when he ordered the taking of the elementary school in Beslan. 331 kids died after several days of horror. Americans couldn't imagine something like that happening here.

That event affected the work we were doing just over the border more than any other international event in my 2 years there. It led to an increased paranoia of us as foreigners, economic hardship and frustration as Russia closed its borders, and to an uneasiness in the air that I'll not forget.

The horrors will very sadly continue, but I know that Russians have to feel greatly relieved that finally this guy met his end.

On Life

A friend of mine posted some testimonies on his blog of about some brave Christians in the persecuted church which survived the terrors of the Soviet Union. Worth reading, it'll brighten your day.

Valentin told the story of his father's imprisonment for his faith. He was in prison four times for a total of 25 years. Each time he was released, he returned home, congregated a church, and was sent to prison once again. Following his final sentence he was sent to exile for three years before he was allowed to return to Ivanovo. While in exile he preached the gospel and started a church!

I've added an Ex-pat section on the right. Those are blogs I read from Americans working overseas. The Skinners and the Sullivans will be familiar to some who read this blog. I worked with both families over 3 summers in Ivanovo. The Skinners also both housed and fed me, for which I was grateful.

Both families are working to see the Kingdom and abundant life come to fruition in Russia.

Monday, July 10, 2006

2 out of 3 ain't bad

Last week I mentioned the plight of waiting for the Mustang's anti-theft part, waiting for apartment repairs, and waiting for our landlord to give us mailbox keys so we could actually get mail.

Well, the right part never came in for the Mustang, but it turned out any old Circuit City alarm system would do. So, I spent 5 hours waiting on them to install it on Friday, and handed the car off on Friday night. As it drove away I felt no remorse or nostalgia. Alas, it wasn't my car to begin with. I did, however, feel the cashier's check in my hand, and the burden of the insurance payment lifted. Yeehaw!

Today I went to the office and they had our mailbox keys. So, I was able to go to the post office and re-establish our mail connection. We've got mail.

The apartment repairs will probably never happen, though. They're working like gangbusters on other apartments, completely renovating them before they're given to new renters.

But, you praise God when none of those things get done, and you also praise Him when 2/3 of them get done.

Comments on the Coaching Ratings

The TCR's show us some interesting things.

If UConn had lived up to potential and at least gotten to the Final 4, then Jim Calhoun would be way ahead of Tom Izzo. Calhoun has also been to an NIT in this stretch, whereas Izzo has not.

Izzo seems to follow each "one-and-done" tourny performance with a trip to the Elite 8 or Final 4. So, look for MSU to go far next year if the pattern continues.

Last season Billy Donovan would have been around #10. He's catching up to Tubby fast. A solid season this year, and 2 or 3 guys in the first round of the NBA next year and he'll distance himself from the pack. His first year at Florida he went to the NIT, and that hurts him in the rankings.

Mark Few is winning a lot of games at Gonzaga, but has yet to get as far in the tournament as his predecessor did.

After Bill Self stays at Kansas a few years and produces some NBA players he'll move up. His tourny record is impressive overall at 3 different schools.

I think Pitino's ranking can only move up from here.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Tapp Coaching Ratings

These are the updated Tapp Coaching Ratings (formerly known as the Tapp Coaching Index. An index measures everything based on a certain year [a base year] and this doesn’t do that). It’s my way to rate coaches and it’s an aggregate measure of coaching output since ’97-98.

The TCR combines overall winning %, postseason success, and the number of players selected in the first round of the NBA draft.

NCAA post-season success is measured as follows:
An NIT bid or failure to make the NCAA tourney: -5
Making the NCAA tourney: 1
2nd round: 2
Sweet 16: 4
Elite 8: 8
Final 4: 12
Runner Up: 16
Champion: 20

NBA draft picks must be recruited and developed by the given coach. So, Nazr Mohammed doesn’t count for Tubby Smith, and Sean May doesn’t count for Roy Williams. Bill Self doesn’t have any players under this measure.

I don’t like including coaches who have changed schools during these years. But, Roy Williams had a similar talent pool at Kansas as he has at UNC, so I think it’s even. Bill Self had a deeper talent pool at Illinois & Kansas than he had at Tulsa, but I’ve included his Tulsa years due to his success.

Rick Pitino and Mark Few are on the list, but without the same # of years coached as the others. (5 seasons for Pitino and 7 seasons for Few).

Rank by winning percentage:
1. Coach K 87%
2. Mark Few 82.5%
3. Jim Calhoun 79.4%
4. Roy Williams 78.8%
5 (tie). Lute Olsen 77.2%
5 (tie). Tubby Smith 77.2%
7. Bill Self 74.9%
8. Jim Boeheim 73.4%
9. Tom Izzo 73.3%
10. Billy Donovan 72.4%
11. Rick Pitino 71.1%
12. Gary Williams 70%

Rank by Tourny Performance:
1. Coach K 76
2. Tom Izzo 71
3. Jim Calhoun 69
4. Roy Williams 62
5. Tubby Smith 58
6. Billy Donovan 43
7. Lute Olsen 42
8. Gary Williams 38
9. Jim Boeheim 32
10. Bill Self 29
11. Mark Few 19
12. Rick Pitino 4

Rank by Draft Picks:
1. Coach K 12
2. Jim Calhoun 7
3. Tom Izzo 6
4. Roy Williams 5
5. Billy Donovan 4
6. Lute Olsen 3
7(tie). Jim Boeheim 2
7(tie). Tubby Smith 2
7(tie). Gary Williams 2
10(tie). Mark Few 1
10(tie). Rick Pitino 1
12. Bill Self 0

To calculate the TCR: (Winning % * 100) + (2 * Tourny Performance) + (3 * NBA 1st Round picks).

The Tapp Coaching Ratings are:

1. Coach K 270.5
2. Tom Izzo 242.5
3. Jim Calhoun 238.4
4. Roy Williams 221.5
5. Tubby Smith 204.5
6. Billy Donovan 170.4
7. Lute Olsen 170.2
8. Gary Williams 164.5
9. Jim Boeheim 143.4
10. Mark Few 123.5
11. Bill Self 120.9
12. Rick Pitino 93.5

Before you start commenting, remember that this covers’97-98 to ’05-06 only. Look at the formulas and play around. What if UConn had gone to the Final 4 last year? What if Bill Self totally recruited and developed an NBA pick?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Fireworks as a Public Good

Waco has postponed its fireworks show until Friday night. I like fireworks shows because they're the perfect example of a "public good." Most people go their whole lives and never think about this. I didn't until I had a Public Econ class several years ago.
(I just recently came across an old Paul Samuelson Economics textbook from 1970. Samuelson was one of the first to define public goods and make it a part of economic theory).

Think about it:
It's really hard to charge money for a fireworks show. You could charge for it, but it could be seen for miles around, and can be enjoyed by people who didn't pay. This is called the free-rider problem. I know that some people are paying to have a show, and that I'll enjoy it, so I'll not pay anything and still enjoy it just as much.

You can't really keep people from seeing a fireworks show. They can't help but see it from their house, car, etc. This is called non-excludability.

My favorite aspect of a public good is that it is non-rival. That means that no matter how many people watch it, it's still just as fun. If you bring a cake to a party and I eat 2 slices of it, there will be less cake for everyone else. Not so with a fireworks show. I can enjoy as much of it as I want and there's still just as much left for you to enjoy too.

The problem with most public goods is that the market may fail to provide them even if there is great demand. On the 4th of July there is a huge demand for a big fireworks show. But, due to the free-rider problem, a private provider would find it unprofitable to put on the show since it can't charge people adequately. This is when the government steps in to correct the "market failure."

The government basically taxes everyone and puts on a fireworks show. This is inefficient because some people who are paying taxes for the show will never go watch it and don't want a fireworks show. But, without the government doing this there would be no fireworks show supplied to meet the demand for it.

One solution to this inefficiency problem is "public spirit." Wikipedia is an example of this. People could volunteer their time and fireworks to put on a show for the whole community. Perhaps a wealthy donor could give the show as a gift to the community. But, since we're all self-interested you're not going to see much of that.

When you go to the show on Friday think about this public good. Enjoy the show. Especially enjoy seeing your tax dollars literally go up in smoke!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Tedium of Minutiae

Ever notice that the important things you want to do in life (like blogging) get obscured or hindered by the tiniest things? Notice how things that should be simple seem to get complicated really quickly, and those things keep you from doing what you love?

We moved into our new apartment on Saturday. It's been scheduled for several repairs and maintenance since before we moved in. I expect them to have some of it done before we move out next year.

Here the apartment management apparently order their own mailbox keys. They forgot to get ours made. They faxed the order in on Sunday. I'm told today that "It may take 2 days, or it may take 10 days. Just get the Post Office to hold your mail until then."
Gee, not that anything important comes in the mail or anything.

I've been waiting for a part for the Mustang (anti-theft) for over a week. I've been promised "It will be here tomorrow" about 4 times. It's 10 days later. I sold the car on the condition that I would get it fixed first. That was 10 days ago. Gee, not that it makes me look bad or anything to tell the buyer "The part will be here tomorrow" 4 times.

By the way, the part will be here tomorrow by noon. They've promised.

In these times you have to remember that God is sovereign. It's not how you handle the big crises in life that really matter. Those are easy. It's like driving your boat through a big storm swell on the sea. You do it with adrenaline and it's done with.
But, it's how you handle the tedium and ridiculousness of minutiae that demonstrates your real character. It's when you have those small leaks in your boat, or your engine just won't turn over. Get those fixed and you can do what you love. But, those things may "take 2 days or 10 days. Just get the Post Office to hold your mail until then."

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy 4th!

Happy Independence Day everyone!
At a time when North Korea is launching missiles, Iraq is establishing its own independence, and Afghanistan is learning what that word means too, let's all be thankful for Democracy and for those who have the courage to stand for freedom at any price.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Trends, Times, and Numbers

Saturday was moving day for us, to a new apartment on a different side of town. Unfortunately, Baylor scheduled finals on that day, so I got to help load up, then unload, then run to campus for an exam. We couldn't have done it without our friends' help and pickup trucks. Thanks to everyone for all of your help!!

So, with a new home and a new summer session, I'm still faced with the same old problems. Rather than delve into those, I've decided to make good on my previous post and do some statistical calculations for Allen Iverson and Paul Pierce.

I got some good results for Iverson next season. Pierce was a much tougher cookie to crack.

Last season Iverson averaged: 33 PPG, 3.2 RPG, and 7.4 APG. MVP #'s for sure.

In ’06-07 Iverson will average: 26.4 PPG, 4.5 RPG and 7 APG.
In ’07-08 Iverson will average: 24.4 PPG, 4.5 RPG and 6APG

Last season Paul Pierce averaged: 26.8 PPG, 6.7 RPG, and 4.7 APG

In ’06-07 Pierce will average: 28.7 PPG, 6.4 RPG, and 5 APG
In ’07-08 Pierce will average: 27 PPG, 6.4 RPG, and 4.5 APG

The blue highlight means I feel really good about this estimate. The numbers came out cleanly, the prediction model was made with relatively little error. The red means this is my prediction, but I think it might be overstated.

Iverson's rebounding average tends to move upward when he's not scoring as many points. Pierce still has a couple years of prime production left in him.

So, if you're Danny Ainge, you're trying to trade for an Iverson whose numbers are going into decline. If Ainge trades for Iverson (an expensive trade) and counts on Pierce and Iverson to bring huge success, I think he's got 1 year to do it. Without an inside game and uncertainty at point guard, can Boston really crack the semi-finals?

Pierce earned $12.6 million in '05 and $13.8 million in '06.
Iverson earned $14.6 million in '05 and $16.4 million in '06.

So, in Iverson you'll have an aging, declining super star who will cost you $17-18 million. Dunno if it's worth it, Danny boy. You're better off trying to acquire a center, a good rebounding PF, and develop your young point guards.