Friday, March 31, 2006

Conversation with the Godfather

**Begin theme music***

"So, I like to listen to R&B music more than I used to."

"It's good for you, Pop."

"Anyways, I'm listening to it more. I don't know..."

"Pop, what's the matter? What's bothering you?"

"It's just this George Mason business. I never wanted this for you. I thought that maybe when it was your time, you'd be the one to hold the strings. Coach Corleone, Athletics Director Corleone, or something..."

"Another pezzonovante. Look, At least Billy Donovan is still in the tourny."

"Donovan? He's not Sicilian!! He's not even Italian! He's just a New Yorker. Donovan is a perp. He never could've outfought Villanova. But what I didn't know until this day was that it was Larranaga all along... Remember, whoever comes to you with an assistant coaching position--he's the traitor. Remember that. "

"It's the smart move. Larranaga was always smarter. I'm going to wait until after the Final 4. Then I'll meet with Don Barzini, and Pitino, and Calipari and the rest of the heads of the five families..."

Sunday, March 26, 2006


I can't believe that George Mason won, but I'm REALLY glad they did.

On Friday, after Washington blew their 4 point lead with 11 seconds left, and then UConn almost handed it back to them in overtime, I really decided to dislike UConn. Respect, but dislike. To me, the #1 seed overall should blow teams out. UConn struggled with Albany.

I didn't watch any of the game; I was at the library. I kept up with the last couple minutes, watching the play-by-play on Yahoo. When the Patriots blew their 4 point lead with 14 seconds to play, I said "not again!" Blown free throws, I couldn't handle it. I got up and walked around for a while in pure anxiety. I refused to keep up with the overtime. I saw with 46 seconds left they missed another free throw. I logged on a few minutes later to see the score:

86-84, to which I let out a holler! Does this mean my brackets are toast? Yes. Does this mean EVERYONE'S bracket is toast? YES!

Who are these guys??? I went to a team-betting auction a few weeks ago where someone payed $16 for George Mason. The payout so far? $650's predictor gave George Mason a 0.8% chance of making it to the final 4.
That means they made it 80 times, out of 10,000 simulations. I should note that they made it into the championship game in 0.1% of the simulations, so there's hope for them.
Even their UPDATED predictors (from the Sweet 16) only gave them a 3.8% chance of making it to Indy. They won the championship in 0.3% (30 out of 10,000) of the simulations. Place your bets!

(BTW-- my advice that you should have at least one bracket with Florida winning it all isn't looking so silly now, is it?) You heard it hear first, folks. We'll see what it gets me.

Either George Mason or the SEC all the way!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Elections in Belarus

So, late in the cold Belarussian night, riot police stormed the central square where an few hundred protesters were camped out protesting the latest rigged Presidential election.

The EU has responded with visa restrictions and strong wording, led by the Czech Republic and Poland. The U.S. has echoed their sentiments. The Belarussian dictator/"President" claims to have received 83% of the vote. This can be true and the election can still be rigged.

Here's a story from a Presidential election in Azerbaijan back in 2003:

The official President had long since fallen comatose, and was being held on life support in Cleveland, Ohio. His son, Ilham Aliyev was the heir apparent, and favored by the West to win as well (for stability purposes). Azerbaijan was flooded with election monitors, and I could have signed up if I had wanted to. Now, Ilham could have won this election outright. He had the most money, and was the most widely recognized and feared figure. He was the acting Prime Minister at the time.

When Aliyev came to a neighboring region to give a speech, all state workers (teachers, doctors, utility administrators) were bussed to the stadium to cheer him. They were told that if they did not go and cheer, they would lose their jobs. All of the television channels are either owned by the state or by the Aliyev family, so no one reported these threats on the news. All that was reported was the throngs of cheering people.

The weeks before the election, we had unusually strong gas and electricity. It normally took 30-45 minutes to boil a pot of water on the stove at home. These weeks it took about 5 minutes; big difference. Immediately after the election results were made official, the gas went back to its very low levels.

When it came to the voting day, my small town was filled with international monitors at the polling stations. They reported that everything went pretty well. Oddly enough, many people who were registered as a member of an opposition party couldn't find their names on the registry. Thus, they couldn't cast a vote.

What the election monitors had no way of knowing, however, was that all state workers who were casting a vote were told by their bosses that their votes, and names with them, would be recorded. Any state worker found voting for an opposition candidate would be fired. Now, whether this would have happened or not, the threats were perceived as real.

One of my students, a middle-aged veteran of the Afghan war and local utility worker disgusted with life, told me much of this. He later had the task of taking the European election monitors out to get drunk so that everyone went home happy and could declare that the election was "free."

Ilham Aliyev got something like 80% of the popular vote. Opponents cried "foul." But, I'd say the ballots were counted accurately. In elections in the former USSR, stuffing the ballot box or miscounting ballots isn't where the fraud takes place.

The Tears of March

I turned the Gonzaga-UCLA game off at halftime when the Zags were up by 15 or so and in complete control. Wow.

An NBA preview for J.J. Redick? 3 of 18 from the field, 4 turnovers to just 1 assist. LSU is a freakishly athletic young team, without much brains or shooting ability: the complete antithesis to Duke.

Tyrus Thomas was a little bit scary. He was beating his chest, his teammates, and shouting the F-word at the top of his lungs. Way to be SEC!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Matthew 6

So, I guess my more serious posts on religion/politics and economics have frightened people away. My goal is also to post at least one Biblical thought each week.

Here's are a few thought-provoking questions from Matthew 6 (only v. 1-24) that we talked about in Adult Bible Fellowship last week.

6:1 "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you will have no reward with your Father is in heaven."

Jesus words in this sermon that strike me are the ones that talk about the rewards we get for practicing righteousness, praying, fasting, and giving to the poor in secret.

If you're praying so others can hear you and say "Hey, he sounds spiritual," or giving your time or money so people will think you're "right with God," then you're really just praying and giving to those people. Or worse, if you're building your own self-esteem and ego then you're really just praying to yourself.
How many times a week do I do this?

vs. 11 "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done..." I think about the various Old and NT passages about the "kingdom of God." What exactly are we praying for when we pray this? It's an interesting thought.

vs. 15 "But if you do not forgive men; neither your Father will not forgive your transgressions."
Grudges and vendettas are powerful bonds. Who or what haven't I forgiven today? Do I still remember people's transgressions against me, and still look at them with hostility for it?

How many times have I tried with all my earthly power to earn someone's forgiveness, when it's something that really has to be freely given by that person. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us...

vs. 22-23 "The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!"

What are the things that make our eyes "bad" and "full of darkness?"

There, that's not too scary.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Right-to-Work Revisited

A few months ago I voiced my support for Gov. Fletcher's proposal to see Right-to-Work legislation passed in Kentucky. Armed with what I felt was sound economic theory, and supposedly solid information I expected to hit a no-brainer homerun. I even confidently picked a fight with at least 1 liberal.

In doing so, I thus committed 2 cardinal sins:
1. I came to battle less prepared than the other guy.
2. I lost to a liberal.

So, now I've had some decent training in Econometrics, and I've had time to do some follow-up research on the various studies done on the benefits of Right-to-Work laws. I've also learned the deeper lesson of the importance of knowing the difference between correlation and causality.

Bad examples:
Example of correlation: Crime is higher in New York in the summer than other seasons. There is more ice cream sold in NY in the summer than in other seasons.

Example of causality: Ice cream causes crime in NY. (this of course isn't true. But, it's an example of how we can be fooled by assuming causality when there is only correlation).

Example of correlation: Wages are lower overall in Right-to-Work states.

Example of causality: Right-to-Work laws cause these lower wages. (Also not true once you evaluate the data... see below).

You see, most of the surface-level data you can easily Google comes from either staunchly pro-RTW or anti-RTW (and pro-labor) sites that manipulate data in devious ways. These groups I consider to be irresponsible. Quite frankly, most of the lobbyists running around Frankfort point to these sites as their "proofs." Sickening.

The now famous $10,000 study done for Kentucky which shows the predicted benefits of passing an RTW law contains some pretty dicey estimations, in my opinion. I still can't figure out where they got some of their numbers, and they seemingly ignore certain aspects of data that would shed some doubt on their conclusions. On the whole, I think they have some solid empirical foundations for stating that jobs will be created in the border counties, (and that this will subsequently increase per-capita living and promote growth).

I've reached some of conclusions from my research:
1. Lots of studies have been done about how RTW laws affect wages.
a) While early studies (early '80s) showed that there was a negative relationship between RTW laws and wages, subsequent studies found there to be no significant effect.
b) However, these studies didn't take into account the agrarian nature of these states, and their thus lower per-capita income starting points.
Dr. Robert Reed of Oklahoma University did a study last year where he took these into account. He found a statistically significant relationship between RTW states and higher wages, looking at states from 1945 to 2000.

2. Thomas J. Holmes did a study that showed that counties in RTW states who share a border with non-RTW states have stronger economic growth in manufacturing than their neighboring non-RTW counties.
This study was highly plausible and very significant. However, Holmes admits that there may be other sorts of things causing this economic strength. For instance, most of these RTW states and counties have less-strict environmental regulations than their non-RTW neighbors. These could help attract businesses.

Nonetheless, there is something about RTW states that attract businesses and affect the economy of these border states.

3. Robert Tannenwald of the Federal Reserve in Boston wrote in 1997 that "Evidence documenting the paths through which right-to-work laws purportedly promote economic growth is elusive." He examined 11 studies, 8 of which found a positive, significant impact of RTW laws on economic growth.

4. The most recent states to pass RTW legislation are Oklahoma and Idaho. Both of these states have achieved a remarkable amount of income growth when compared to their neighbors, holding all other variables constant.

Here's another paper written by someone who appears to be a graduate student, examining the studies of the various effects of RTW laws. He concludes that the possible benefits of passing an RTW law (more companies, higher wages, stronger econ growth in the border counties) outweigh the possible downsides (somewhat weakened unions).

My Goal:
To find out why more studies haven't been done focusing on the effects RTW laws may have on unemployment, and economic growth over time. Once having some hint of that, I hope to delve further into the effects of RTW on unemployment and make this my semester research project for Econometrics.

A Test for Afghanistan

"When a Christian believer in a nation wholly dependent on U.S. support faces trial and possibly execution simply for embracing the same faith as the President of the United States, you'd think that country would be read the riot act."

This is becoming a closely-followed story. A Christian convert in Afghanistan faces a hearing where, if found guilty, he could be executed. The question is will the court follow Sharia law and execute him, or follow the U.N. Human Rights conventions in the Afghan Constitution and set him free.
Apparently, if he doesn't convert back to Islam before his trial date he will receive the death penalty.

Here's the American government and Bush's official take on it.
"Asked about the issue during a question and answer session in the state of West Virginia, Mr. Bush said he shares the concerns that many Americans have about the case. 'It is deeply troubling that a country we helped liberate would hold a person to account, because they chose a particular religion over another.'"

Talk about a precedent being set here.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Who Controls the Media?

Some of the guys at church were discussing the flare up between Scientology and the cartoon South Park, and the hypocrisy and ludicrousness of it all.
Disclaimer: I haven't watched the South Park cartoon in several years. I think it's lewd, crude, and offensive. However, I also think that it is in some ways clever, and is protected under the 1st Amendment.

The story, for those unaware:
South Park makes fun of just about everything. Christians, Mormons, Muslims, name it. Over the history of the show everyone has gone under ridicule, always to much protest and anger to the various members of groups targeted.

Back in November, South Park aired an episode that made fun of Scientology and Tom Cruise. One of the 4th graders on the show gives up the money he was saving for a new bike to buy a Scientology "auditing session," which revealed he was the reincarnation of L.Ron Hubbard.

Just before Comedy Central was to re-run the cartoon, Isaac Hayes, who voices the "Chef" character, abruptly resigned saying that he was offended by South Park's demeaning of his religion. (So, after 8 years of making fun of other peoples' religions, Isaac Hayes suddenly decides he's offended by this one episode). He was reportedly encouraged to do so by Tom Cruise.

Cruise was so offended by this episode (which made fun of his acting as well as his religion) that he demanded that it not be re-run ever again.

Tom Cruise's new movie Mission Impossible: 3 was produced at large $ by Paramount, which is owned by Viacom which, coincidentally, also owns Comedy Central. Cruise reportedly went to the execs at Viacom and demanded they retract the episode, or else he would "boycott" any promotion of MI:3.
Viacom promptly canceled the re-run of the episode, and denies any manipulation by Cruise.

The question: Why, after all other religions have been made fun of by this cartoon, does the show finally get censored, and Isaac Hayes resign? I think Cruise was able to get these guys where they hurt: Their $$$. By losing promotion of MI:3, the movie might not be the box office hit they need it to be to get t heir invested $$$$ back.

It's all about the $$$.

The LA Times has an ad blasting Scientology for another reason.

I see another danger in this: With all of the media mergers of the past 20 years, there are an increasingly few people in charge of what we see on TV and in the movies. With the control of so much in the hands of so few (the definition of monopoly) the media is increasingly controlled by the views that those few people hold.

It's also my understanding that there is an increasing number of people in Hollywood who are adopting Scientology as their religion. I've heard that starving actors convert to Scientology in order to earn favor with studio execs and increase their chances of getting an acting role. The South Park incident may also give evidence of a Hollywood producer protecting his/her religion by censoring a satirical threat.

The problem is that most people in America don't adhere to anything Scientology teaches. Yet, the media may just be slanted toward a pro-Scientology view because the monopoly powers are Scientologists.

It makes you think: who controls the majority of what we're watching? What motivates them to put it out there? Is it just $, or is it their own private beliefs as well? And who are these nameless, faceless heads of corporate media giants that make these decisions?

Monday, March 20, 2006

My main source of amusement...

Is still It requires very few minutes per day to manage my team (you just set the players minutes and figure out who you want them to double-team). You can read the play-by-play synopsis of the simmed games at your leisure. Actually, writing this post has taken me longer than I may spend on any given season.

My final team has been indoctrinated in Dominator philosophy, and has been performing well in the pre-season sim leagues (each sim league season is 10 games). Adding Mark Price from '90-91 appears to be the key ingredient to its success.
So, my starting 5 (from various different season stats) is:

Mark Price
Oscar Robertson
Larry Bird
Jerry Lucas
Wilt Chamberlain

The site has just updated their salary stats, so we'll see if anything changed to throw a wrench into me being able to afford this lineup. The bench is a pretty cool collection of players, and the team chemistry has been graet.
So far these Dominators are 44-6. They've finished 10-0 twice.

The best game so far has been a double-overtime game against a similarly loaded opponent with the same coaching skill. His team hammered me in our first game, but then we went to his court and pulled off a 2OT thriller, with Larry Bird hitting 2 game-tying 3's to send it to overtime twice. Clutch.

My other experiment has been with Kentucky players. It's hard to find a bunch of players who had great NBA careers, but there are enough with decent careers to put together a competitive team under the salary cap.

Center by committee has been fun. '88-89 Sam Bowie and '78-79 Rick Robey (his rookie season with the Celtics) have been staples. Bowie can't play many minutes without really getting tired, however. This season I have added '04-'05 Jamaal Magloire to the lineup. He gives a solid 30 mins a game and is capable of getting 15pts 9 rebounds a night.

By far the MVP of this team is '71-72 Dan Issel. He gets me 30 and 10 in 40 minutes every game. '81-82 Kyle Macy is a stud at point guard. He's had some 9 assist 0 turnover games. He struggles logging long minutes though, so I rely on rotating either Dirk Minniefield or Tony Delk into the lineup.
Small forward is an interesting challenge. '95-96 Jamal Mashburn is a cheap pickup. He provides instant offense, but tends to shoot too many 3's and commits too many turnovers. Tayshaun Prince has been more reliable in the assist category and consistently shoots the 3. I give him as many minutes as I can.
This season I'm experimenting with Cliff Hagan, who seems incapable of many minutes every game but should give me huge production in the games I play him.

Who's my shooting guard? Right now I split minutes between Frank Ramsey and Rex Chapman. Ramsey averages 8 rebounds a game, while Chapman doesn't do much except shoot.

Oh yeah, I usually include Antoine Walker as my backup PF, but he hasn't put up great numbers. He's capable of 20 points and 9 rebounds a game, but I don't give him the minutes. He jacks up too many 3's!
Nazr Mohammed fills in in a pinch, but isn't worth having on the team. Tony Delk actually puts up better-than-what-he-averaged-in-real-life stats in the few minutes he logs. The Kevin Grevey experiment was a failure.

It's fun and so I play.

A Promise is Made

"We're not going through another season like this, I promise you that."
--Tubby Smith

"We didn't play to our potential. That's been documented. There's a lot of things we need to change and adjust in moving forward...If you want to be a part of something special then you're going to have to make a special effort to change and improve."

Next year.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

All We Had

I have to salute the Cats for their effort in the 2 tourny games. I think those are the best 2 games we've put together in a row this year, and probably our best 2 games of the year overall. A passion-filled ending to a passionless season. There were some things that I wish had gone the other way in the UConn game, a crucial sequence or 2 that I wish had gone differently, but that's life. UConn was a better team, and better at every position.

During the second half, I was forced to endure watching the George Mason-UNC game, in which I delightedly cheered on George Mason as Roy Williams started throwing chairs. I've never seen Old Roy so angry. UNC impressively overachieved all year, and just flat out got beat by a super George Mason team.

The sleeper team on most of my brackets was Michigan State. The sleeper team on most of my friends' brackets was UNC. Both have lost to George Mason.

I would love to see a UConn-Florida matchup.
Note: My wife's bracket is doing better than any of mine so far. If Gonzaga cuts down the nets she'll be on top of the world.

Friday, March 17, 2006


So, I posted a couple weeks ago that I was reading Team of Rivals, about Abraham Lincoln and his cabinet. This turned out to be a good read, and not quite what I expected. Sure, it kind of centered around Lincoln's relationship with his cabinet members, who he spent the most time with. But, it also talked of his relationship and frustration with his generals, and his family.
It taught me that General McLellan was a complete megolamaniac, considering Lincoln to be a "lesser mortal" than himself.
Lincoln's leadership, decision making, and subtle "handling" of people was unmatched, including his unending devotion to his increasingly erratic wife. Linoln's integrity was also umatched. It's a good memoir of the Civil War and events from the President's point of view. Good read.

This week I've been working on another insightful book. Kremlin Rising: Vladimir Putin's Russia and the End of Revolution. It's written by a couple of reporters from the Washington Post from their interviews while living in Russia for several years.

This has filled in a lot of blanks for me about the current history of Russia (the past 7 years) and the many changes taking place there. Putin has squashed criticism, opposition, and eliminated any rivals to power. He's taken over all of the TV stations, and runs things his own way.
Good book so far, very insightful and thoroughly investigated.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Resistance is Futile

March Madness is here, the first tipoff in just a couple hours away.

The website has used their simulation engine to sim the tourny 10,000 times. Simulated results are listed as percentages on their site.

On John Clay's blog you can see what the first round looks like from pure Sagarin prediction. (The Sagarin index is the official ranking index of this website. For pure win/loss prediction, the Sagarin is slightly better than the Vegas line).

What important tidbit do we learn from these 2 predictors?
Florida is projected to be a monster 3 seed that will break out and go to the Final 4.'s simulation of the Minneapolis bracket has Florida in the Final 4 in 37% of its simulations (Villanova was 33.9%). Both Florida and Villanova won the championship in 8.2% of its simulations.

If you're still filling out your brackets, you need to have one that includes Joakim Noah doing this.

Connecticut wins the championship in a whopping 35% of the simulations. Duke won only 9.1% of the time.

What does this bode for Kentucky on Friday against UAB?
The Vegas line picks Kentucky by 1.5 points.
Sagarin predicts Kentucky by 1.3 points.

Whatifsports has UAB winning 53.5% of the simulations. Average score: UAB 72 Kentucky 71.

I give the slight edge to UK. This given by the fact that the Herald Leader reports Nolan Richardson won't be invited to our practice to spy on our team, as he was 2 years ago. That alone might have been why we lost in '04.

Will UAB be happy or sad? I don't know, but I bet it's an intense game. But, if you put money down on this game, you should only give yourself a 50/50 chance. I don't like those odds.

To my boy Ryan who has put money down on San Diego State:
San Diego State has a 58.2% chance of beating IU, which is pretty good.
Sagarin, however, picks IU by 4.

Ah, let the games begin.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Alamo Revisited

So, in the 4th grade I remember studying about America’s expansion west and the Alamo and the Mexican-American war. We had to get into groups and organize a skit about about the rebellion. Yes, we had to come up with our own skits. Being the budding creative writer at age 11, I wrote a pretty cool skit that featured Zorro (the modern remake of Zorro was a popular TV series on the Disney channel that year). We had Zorro come to the aid of Sam Houston and help defeat Santa Anna. Our teacher was skeptical, but let us perform the skit because I included a speech segment at the end eulogizing the heroes of the Alamo.
It went something like: “This skit is dedicated to the memory of all those who fought and died in Texas, for freedom. We will never forget these brave men and what they did for our nation…”
The teacher was so moved by this ending that she let us perform the skit. (However, I let my friend Nick do the speech at the end. He didn’t really do a good job of it, so the teacher got mad and gave us a lesser grade. Ah, thespian incompetence of 4th graders).

I think we all grew up seeing the Alamo as some great turning point in American history. Didn’t they all die as martyrs for freedom? Weren’t the Mexicans invading America or something? Weren’t they all upstanding Christian heroes fighting the evil Mexicans? (Note: I never had any Hispanic classmates. I think many of our racial prejudices against Mexicans can be traced back to 4th grade).

So, the Alamo is a little less impressive in person than it is on T.V., or in that Disney film I saw in 4th grade where Davey Crockett is the “King of the wild frontier.”

So, what’s the real story, (briefly because we have other blogs to read)?
The American settlers that originally came to Texas (part of Mexico) after 1824 agreed to adopt Roman Catholicism, and to establish no other churches or religions. They were willing to do this because the riches to be made in Texas looked pretty good. These folks could also exist outside of U.S. law. Thus, many outlaws and eager profit-seekers flocked to Texas. An alcoholic named Sam Houston was among their leadership, recently having fled the governorship of Tennessee to live with Cherokee Indians.

From 1824-1835, American settlers living in Texas didn’t like new laws being passed that:
1) Prohibited other Americans from settling in Mexican territories.
2) Forbid slavery
3) Imposed custom duties (taxes)

Stephen F. Austin, who was an author of the Mexican Constitution that President Santa Anna disposed of was imprisoned in Mexico.

General Santa Anna committed atrocities, but did them legally under Mexican law. Under the law he had their Congress pass, any foreigner caught making war in the Mexican territories was considered to be a pirate, and executed (which was common practice for pirates).

Americans started to flood into Mexico to take up a rebellion against Santa Anna, knowing that independence would bring opportunities for land and wealth.

Some of those pro-independence folks died at the Alamo in March 1836. General Houston’s newly formed army of Texas retreated east towards Louisiana, while Santa Anna pursued. Houston quickly reversed course, catching the Mexicans off-guard, and in a 20 minute battle Santa Anna was captured. Houston forced him to order all Mexican troops to leave Texas, and held him prisoner. Thus, Texas was independent.

In later years, rowdy Texans started to encroach further on Mexican territories and begin pushing for an invasion of Mexico. Texas became an official U.S. state in 1845. War with Mexico broke out in 1846, the U.S. took some of what it wanted, and payed Mexico $10 million for the rest.

If you want my full timeline, you can read on. Otherwise: go read Dave's blog.

1824 - Settlers from America were invited into the new Constitutional Republic of Mexico providing that they convert to Roman Catholicism and establish no other churches. Land-hungry Americans came in droves to Texas.

1830- Mexican congress passes an edict barring any more Americans from coming into Mexican territories.

Santa Anna was a general elected president in 1833 who disposed of the Mexican Constitution of 1824 (co-written by Stephen F. Austin) and whose legislature approved a dictatorship-style Presidency with him in charge.

Santa Anna opposed slavery and established custom duties that angered the Texans (many of whom owned slaves and probably all of whom hated taxes).

In 1835, the Mexican army began to put down insurrections in Texas, both by Tejanos who wanted to re-establish the Constitution, and Texans who wanted outright independence.

December 30, 1835 the Mexican congress passed a law that allowed any foreigner captured in attacks against Mexico to be treated as pirates, and therefore to be executed under the law.
Many Americans who had entered Texas to fight began to be captured and executed, perfectly legal.
March 5, 1836- 183 pro-independence fighters at the Alamo are overrun around the same time that the newly formed government of Texas declared its independence from Mexico. No prisoners were believed taken, but later evidence suggests some were taken and later executed (Davy Crockett among them).

Also in March of 1836, around 400 Americans were captured and imprisoned at Goliad. Most of them happily believed they would be set free to return home to America. Santa Anna ordered their execution as pirates. 342 died, others escaped. This was called the “Goliad Massacre.”

April 1836- Sam Houston’s army of Texas volunteers, in full retreat towards Louisiana, reverses course towards Santa Anna’s pursuing army and surprises them at San Jacinto. Santa Anna is captured and forced to sign an order for all Mexican troops to leave Texas and recognize Texas’s independence.

The rest of the story: Santa Anna eventually is returned to Mexico by the U.S. government (during the start of the Mexican-American war), hoping he can be sort of a double agent and negotiate a treaty favorable to the U.S. in exchange for $$$. Ah, what a prelude to America's shady dealings in other Latin American countries.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Remember the Alamo?

This weekend Joni and I took a getaway to San Antonio. We stopped by the Salt Lick on our way to get some tasty barbecue. This was my 3rd trip to San Anton, but Joni's first.

I ate everything seen on the grill here. They were so shocked at how much I ate that they just asked us to leave. I recommend the beef (duh, it's Texas).

The last time I was in San Antonio was back in 1998. My dad and I went to the Final 4 and saw the Cats win it all at the Alamo Dome, and saw Cat fans literally own the city. That's the most fun a human being can possibly have, and definitely one of the absolute most happiest weekends of my life.

This year the memories of basketball aren't as fond, and it's been a looong time since 1998.

Here's me sporting my UK shirt at the Alamo, in front of the various Texas flags. The shirt hasn't brought us many victories this year, but it was a good conversation starter with people during the trip. There are a lot of displaced Kentuckians down here. There were also several Kentuckians that died in the Alamo (I'm not yet one of those).

Tomorrow I'm going to post about the Alamo and the myths of the Texas Revolution. There's just something about how we over-immortalize our heroes that bothers me. I'm going to do some research and post, but until then enjoy these pictures.

Here's us on the Riverwalk. I can tell from the picture that we've both lost weight. The diet appears to be paying off. Note: I chucked the diet this weekend as I consumed large amounts of barbecue and Mexican cuisine. When in Rome.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

I Love March Madness

I'm sitting here in the Business Graduate lounge watching ESPN (ah, blessed cable TV!). It doesn't get any better. Watching overrated George Washington lose in the same breath as watching Gerry McNamara hit yet another clutch 3-pointer to send the game to OT, and watching Syracuse scrap it out for the W. Pure adrenaline, baby!

My only concern: Syracuse just gobbled up an at-large bid with this, and GW just got demoted to at-large bid status (so, 2 at-larges were clinched in 5 minutes). Kentucky needs to grab one of those bids quickly. The upside of this is that I can pull for Baylor to beat Colorado, and then to beat Texas A&M to knock them out of contention and keep UK afloat.

Sagarin predictor for the UK game: UK by 9.

See what happens?

The NBER has posted another research project that shows that the more daughters that Congressional legislators have, the more likely they are to vote in favor of liberal women's issues, particularly abortion. "the presence of female children is a positive and significant predictor of voting on women's issues."

Economists look for data in all the right places.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

What I'm Up To This Week

Tomorrow I have a monster exam in econometrics. This will be my first real tough exam of graduate school.
So, that means that I check everyone's blogs only slightly less frequently than normal. Discipline, what's that?

A couple days ago I went to Sonic and got some ice cream. They handed me the ice cream, but no spoon. While I was getting ready to ask for a spoon the girl told me "Sorry, we're out of spoons," and just looked at me as if I should just drive away.
Business plan advice: If your store sells ice cream then DON'T run out of spoons!!

My response: "Then I don't want this ice cream. How am I supposed to eat it?"
Employee reply: "Um... okay, let me go to the back and find some." She came back 30 seconds later with a box of spoons. "Here you go sir."
Here's what I'm reading (listening to on tape in my car): Team of Rivals.

It's about Abraham Lincoln and his cabinet. Lincoln filled his cabinet with some of his greatest political rivals, and those who were most jealous of his Republican nomination. Through his cunning and moral integrity, he eventually wins their respect and admiration. Leadership. Lincoln was truly a great man.

The Cats couldn't have asked for an easier SEC tourny schedule. Ole Miss followed by Alabama (clearly the weakest #1 seed of the tourny). I say the Cats will be in the 3rd round.

Note to Mark Story: I hope John Pelphrey or Travis Ford are not the best that UK can get to eventually replace Tubby. I have a hard time believing that Ford can motivate and recruit in the Yankee north (UMass). I say he lasts 2 more seasons. I think Pelphrey has great pedigree, having been coached by both Eddie Sutton and Rick Pitino, and having served on both Sutton's and Billy Donovan's staffs at 3 different schools. He has yet to make a real impact as a head coach, however. We'll see.

Sunday, March 05, 2006


I can't believe we got demolished like this. Out-rebounded, out-quicked, out-shot, out-witted.

I've already pulled a Wes Mantooth on Noah's blog "...but do I respect you."

I think part of the problem with this team (and it only hit me today) is that all 4 seniors were from Kentucky, and not very heralded players. So, our most mature players are among our least talented. Sparks won games for us, and Ravi hustled, but none of them are dominators.

I listened online and followed the stats because the local TV station was playing Villanova-Syracuse instead, and so we called and complained. However, being Sunday, no one was manning the control room to switch the game to UK. The newly-hired British journalist that took our complaints was kind and courteous, however. An odd footnote to my day.

We'll blow out Ole Miss again in the 1st round, and I guess we could make it interesting by winning a 2nd rounder.

Today is a sad day, but tomorrow is a brighter future.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Big Game

Well, I carried the torch to Noah's doorstep via e-mail and Facebook. Looks like I was pretty much alone in doing so, which saddens me. The younger generation seemingly has plenty of words about guys like Noah, but little action to back it up. Perhaps everyone is just afraid to talk smack in case we lose on Sunday. I have no such fears. I've gotten flaming emails and messages from Florida supporters. I'm glad our women beat their women last night.

Favorite quote for the game is from Rekalin Sims about his disdain for Noah (as printed in the Herald Leader):

"He was rubbing it in our faces," Sims said of Noah's celebrations during Florida's 95-80 victory over Kentucky on Feb. 4. "We remember that. We've got something for him."

"Oh man, you know. We're just going to go out there and give them the business. It's not like I have a present for them or anything. I'm not going to hand them anything. I'm just going to go out there and play ball.
"And we're going to get this win. That's what we got for them."

That's what I'm talking about. Let's all give him the business. Sagarin has Kentucky favored by about 1/2 a point. It's Senior Night in Lexington. Let's get it done.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Check This Out:

What happens when people in Bible College or Seminary have too much time:

Every single guy should check this one out.


Remember back in November, when I predicted that "Brandon Stockton will do something in a game this year."?
Well, I count this game as SOMETHING. All I know is that the dude was out there for much of the 2nd half, including the final crucial minutes, and that somehow he had his hand in the JaJuan Smith turnover on the final defensive stop that gave us the win. (The Herald Leader has a good picture of this in their slideshow gallery today.)
6 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists in 22 minutes. Good senior leadership Brandon.

Rondo and Morris played like men. Like MEN! That's what I'm talking about. NCAA Tourney here we come! This morning's Sagarin has Kentucky all the way up to #33.

If you want to send a little "love note" to Joakim Noah: or

Let him know what's coming!!!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


Here's a humorous story of a Baylor frat getting into trouble. Note to rich, white fraternity boys: Don't have an "E-Dawg" party, and try to be like thugs, "wearing bandanas and holding 40-ounce bottles wrapped in brown paper." Note to white sorority girls: Don't show up at said parties with your skin painted like you're a black person! And don't ever, ever, take pictures of this party and post them all over your Facebook album for the whole world to see.

(The professor who sponsors this frat is sitting about 20 feet away from me answering phone calls about this right now. Can you say "spin?").

Moment of Truth

Tennessee is favored by 8 tonight against the Cats. I'm pulling for Sparks to have a bigger game than he did when UT came to Rupp (if you recall, he spent most of the time on the bench). He'll answer Lofton shot-for-shot, and the game will come down to the wire.

Win this game, or don't win this game, I say it won't matter. We will beat Florida this weekend, and that will earn us an NCAA berth.