Friday, April 28, 2006

Gas Prices

I was talking to a non-business major friend of mine this morning, and he asked me to explain why gas prices are so high. Dr. Greg Mankiw, fortunately, has a link to a really simple article today. It's written by Charles Krauthammer on why the prices are high. Anyone can read this and understand.

Mankiw is apparently auditing a psychology class. And has learned about something called "fundamental attribution error." So, Wes Cooper this link is for you.

I think I have a "man crush" on Greg Mankiw.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

For Dave Blake

Greg Mankiw critiques a Washington Post article on his blog today, entitled "Rich Dad Poor Dad." It's about income inequalities, the chances of a rich kid becoming rich when he grows up vs. the chance of a poor kid becoming rich, and myths that liberals exploit. Great post, great economist.
He quotes an econometric study about adopted kids rate of acheiving their adopted parents' income level vs. biological kids. Check it out, Dave.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

New Links

Over on the right you should see that I now have an Economists' Blogs section. I discovered 2 of these today and was quite happy.

The Brad Delong site has been there for a while. He's a professor at UC Berkley. He's a good source for current event analysis, and a good link to other econ-focused blogs and articles. His articles are linked by category (financial, micro, macro, etc).

Greg Mankiw is the chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisors. He's young and hip, and is also professor of economics at Harvard. I have his Principles of Microeconomics textbook and think its the best introductory Econ textbook in the world. Everyone should have a copy. Check out his current post about freshman reactions to Micro vs. Macro.

Gary Becker maintains his blog with the help of Richard Posner. Becker won a Nobel prize in 1992 for his work in "behavioral economics." If you had Gail Hoyt at UK, then you may remember that Becker was her favorite economist.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Textbook prices

The Wall Street Journal has an article today on textbook prices, and how legislators are finally starting to notice how expensive they are. Apparently some states are threatening legislation. The Government Accountability Office has found that textbook prices have increased at twice the rate of inflation.

Washington (state) has passed a law making buying additional materials for class optional. One publisher says:
"Our business is based on supply and demand. The whole system is based on faculty choice, and their choice is based on what they think is best for their students."

The WSJ seems to encourage campus-level efforts to curb prices and mentions:
"At the University of Kentucky, the student Senate created a Web site for a book exchange last October, and there were 200 postings by Christmas."

What the publisher (and the article) doesn't mention is that publishers release little-changed new editions of textbooks in order to make profit (because used textbooks don't generate any for publishers), and that is what drives up prices the most. Professors only choose the author/book they want, not which edition of the textbook. Even a book exchange website doesn't help lower textbook prices for students that much, it more likely just helps students to make a higher profit than selling their used textbook back to the bookstore for pennies on the $, if that book is going to be used again the following semester.

The WSJ really disappointed me with this ignorant article. I only post it here because UK was mentioned, and I had nothing else to post today. I guess I'm glad that UK's student Senate actually did something worthwhile with their time and money. When I was a sophomore, there was a scandal in the Senate, the student-body President was impeached, and because of the turmoil there was no budget approval for things like the Student Activities Council. So, nothing got planned, and there was nothing fun to do all year. Thus, it was probably the worst year ever at UK to be a student.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Some Numbers

Some numbers to think about today: Population of the USA: 298,587,791
Population of Mexico: 107,449,525
% of Mexico's population that lives in the USA: 10%.

The Price of Freedom:
# of people expected to protest in Nepal tomorrow for their freedom: 2 million.
Shoot-to-kill curfew ordered by autarkic king: 11pm - 6am.

# of U.S. government personnel and soldiers in Nepal after tomorrow: 0.
# (estimated) of U.S. troops in Iraq: 150,000.

# of people killed in Nepal this week for their own freedom: 14.
# of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq for "Iraqi Freedom": 2,392.

Oil production of Nepal: 0 barrels/day.
Oil production of Iraq: 2.093 million barrels/ day.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Revisionist History

There's not much economics I want to talk about today, and I'm still waiting for a response to my questions about perspicuity on Sok's blog. So, I've just opened up the newspapers to see what's "news." Two stories catch my eye:

1. The Student Senate at UK is trying to get the 46-foot mural in Memorial Hall removed. This makes me angry. They find it "offensive" and a "slap in the face" to minority groups. It depicts some of Lexington's colonial history, which includes slavery and battles with Native Americans. President Todd has it right: "It would be wrong to remove this work of art, just as it would be wrong to stop including in our history classes the terrible ramifications of slavery and the subjugation of Native Americans."
Coop and some of you other decent writers should write the Kernel. You know that the mural is the only good thing about Memorial Hall. Let's not ignore or re-draw history to our liking.

(This is one scene on the mural)


2. The Baylor Lariat (campus paper) has a well-written article on how perceptions of Christianity are being changed by best-selling media, and the Church's response. The professors interviewed talk briefly about interest arising from the Da Vinci code. "It gives the illusion of weight and meaning to what is otherwise just escapist entertainment. "Those books have little to do with Jesus and everything to do with people's fascination with secrets and conspiracies." The increased interest in Christianity is a good thing, but being open to revisionist history based on some fictional writings of one man is dangerous. The author wonders if "This hunger for 'inspirational entertainment' could be due to its absence in popular culture."

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Sell Your Class Rings!

When I was a sophomore in high school ('95-96), people came to our school encouraging us to buy class rings. Some parents forked out a lot of $$$ to buy a ring for their kid so they could "always remember" that they were a General.

My English teacher that year told us that it was pretty much a waste of money. Only dorks buy class rings. She said that she had bought a class ring and didn't wear it after high school. In the late 70's the price of gold went up, and so she had the ring melted down and sold it for its gold value.

In 1996 an ounce of gold was trading for just under $400, and was on the decline. By graduation it had dropped to $300, and I was glad I hadn't bought a ring. "Gold is a bad investment. It's finished." The only people encouraging anyone to buy gold were people who thought Y2K would send us all back to the dark ages or maybe just the 1800's. In college the price of gold stayed about the same, and I thought about what a waste it was to buy a college class ring.

Well, yesterday gold hit a 25-year high, and has increased 40% inthe past year. It's now $645.75 an ounce, more than double what it was when I graduated from high school. I wish I had bought some class rings that I could sell for gold now, maybe I'd have made a decent profit.


Why so high? Well, oil futures are now trading for an insane $74/barrel. Approaching the $82 real level hit in 1980. Why?
1. Futures traders "believe" the Iran hype.
2. These unrestrained speculators add about 10% to the price of each barrel.
3. Chad (the country) isn't helping.
4. Nigeria is quickly becoming more unstable.
5. A new ethanol additive is required in gasoline this year, replacing the old one. This is costly to transport, maintain, and the market hasn't adjusted yet. Higher prices at the pumps.

6. We heavily subsidize ethanol production here in the states, and put up tariffs to keep cheaper foreign ethanol out. This just makes it more expensive for us.

So, thus prices are expected to increase all around. This is called inflation. Gold is seen as a stable place to put your money during inflationary times. More stable than the stock market, or even government bonds. A couple of new trading markets have also made it easier to buy actual amounts of gold over the internet. This ease of purchase has also increased demand.

I feel sorry for you kids who are wanting to get married soon. You'll have to buy some rings, and those will just be getting more expensive.

But, if you were dorky enough to buy a class ring in high school then you made a wise investment. Wait a few months when the price of gold gets even higher, sell your ring, or maybe have someone melt it into a wedding band for you...

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

It's Tuesday but feels like Monday

1. Hope everyone had a Happy Easter! Perk of going to a Baptist school: We got Friday and Monday off.

2. I spent much of my weekend writing a term paper due today. It was supposed to be 10-15 pages, but turned out to be 25. Oops.

3. My wife spent much of her weekend proofreading it because she's awesome.

4. It's HOT in Texas. Supposed to hit 99 degrees today. Summer in April.

Another thing I did this weekend was watch this clip on the internet:

This shaggy guy considers himself to be "maybe the best DEA agent ever." He's now suing the government because this video was leaked onto the Net, and has caused him much "pain and humiliation."
This guy was teaching a bunch of elementary school kids about gun safety. Right after he says "I'm the only person in this room qualified to use this weapon," he shoots himself in the foot. Then he proceeds to continue teaching! A hilarious clip, that apparently has ended the career of the "best DEA agent ever."
Enjoy!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Funny

I was driving home yesterday and 97.5 started playing "Push it!" by Salt n' Peppa (flashback to 2nd grade), and it reminded me of this commercial, one of the funniest of last year.

If you know me or not, just know that the guy on the right getting his groove on is totally me. Know that while I may look calm walking down the hallway, this song is really what's going on in my head.

Here's another link to it.

Get up on this!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Quote from Troy Woodyard

So, last week I get a call from Troy in KY. It was good to hear his voice, and it brought much amusement to my day.

Me: "Hey, what's up man?"
Troy: "Not much. Hey, I've got some mail here for you. I thought you might need it, so maybe I ought to send it to you."
Justin: "Who's it from?
Troy: "I think it's from your insurance company or something?"
Justin: "Troy, how long has it been there?"
Troy: "I think since about the time you moved out."
Justin: "Um, Troy, I moved out a year ago."
Troy: "Oh, yeah... It was on the kitchen table. I just now found it."
Justin: "Nope, I don't really need that letter. Thanks, though."
Troy: "That's cool.... hey, are there any jobs in Texas...?"

Something tells me that there might not be any jobs down here for Troy. :-)

Why Mess with Moses?


Here's a particularly bad review of ABC's new "10 Commandments," which is supposed to replace the 1956 version with Charlton Heston that we all know and love. It airs tonight and tomorrow at 9:00 EST.

"In this version of 'The Ten Commandments,' Moses deals with his pivotal role like a kid whose mother is forcing him to clean the yard."

Here's another slightly better one... "OK, so it's watchable."

The New York Daily News quotes the actor who plays Moses as saying that it airs a more true-to-real-life account of Moses, "warts and all."
"There was just no other way to play it," said Scott. "There was no question this was a man who was tortured and troubled and filled with so many inconsistencies, plus the pain of dealing with the shocking task he was asked to undertake."

"One such painful deed is depicted in a particularly violent and disturbing scene. It's when Moses ordered the slaughter of men, women and children who went against his God. Including the scene is just another way Dornhelm chose to distance his film from DeMille's."

So, I'd like to watch some of it and see for myself. But, I'll be studying instead.

Apparently, ABC will broadcast the original version on Saturday night. I'm hoping they'll still broadcast their claymation story of Jesus on Easter, which is the best TV gospel depiction I've ever seen. If you're not at church on Sunday night you should watch it.

How Starbucks Ruined My Life...

...and how BK Joe is great coffee.

No one in my family drinks coffee, and I was raised to believe it was a bad thing. While overseas, I started drinking instant coffee as an alternative to tea. When I got back to the States I became a "morning caffeine" addict, and started to drink it black. Real men drink it black (puts hair on your chest). Then, I started to drink the pure gas station coffee. You know, the black stuff that has things swimming around in it. Then, I dropped the caffeine habit, but still felt like something was missing in the mornings. So, I switched to decaf.

At some point, I got my hands on some Starbucks coffee. After drinking it a few times, I was amazed at how it tasted. I'm not the guy who stands in line and says "I want a grande mocha frappe whipped, swirled, w/steamed skim milk only and a touch of cinnamon, easy on the sauce..." No, that's what Baylor girls do, and they wait 15 minutes for their coffee to be ready.

I get up in line and say "Give me a tall decaf." And the guy behind the counter goes: "Coffee?" and I say: "Well, duh." Everyone else glares at me as if I'm a coffee neanderthal (and because I thus get my coffee before them and don't have to wait all day).

But it tastes so much better than gas station coffee that it has ruined my pallet. Now, I can't be satisfied by my home brew or by the gas stations. Only GOOD coffee satisfies me.

But, Starbucks is $1.74 for a tall regular coffee. That's insane! So, I try to find free coffee. Baylor has a few Starbucks on campus, but it also has a few Java City's.
On Wednesdays, Baylor gives its business grad students a full breakfast. That means we get free Java City. Yesterday, I probably drank a full 2 liters of coffee. I drank caffeine in the morning before my exam, and decaf the rest of the day.

My father-in-law introduced me to BK Joe. It's almost as good as plain Starbucks, but only 99 cents. The funny thing is that they also sell BK Joe "Turbo," which you can only buy over the counter (you can't fill it up at the machine yourself). It supposedly is that dangerous for mankind. I love the taste of BK Joe, though. Cheaper than Starbucks, and it's brought to you by the King.

That's enough about coffee. So now you know that I'm ruined, and it's all Starbucks' fault. But, I'll continue to love the King and his BK Joe.

Friday, April 07, 2006

"Dia" overshadowed


Last night I attended a candlelight vigil in honor of a Muslim student who was attacked on campus last Friday. While walking to her dorm she was assaulted by an older man who pulled off her head covering, kicked her, and called her ethnic slurs. Apparently, it's the latest in a long line of incidents targeting some of the 600 Muslims at Baylor. A large number from the general Waco Muslim community also turned out. The hope is that the girl will return to Baylor.

Baylor's VP for student life has pointed out that the incident "Diminishes the Christian witness of the entire university.”

Baylor has a rule that for a religious group to meet on campus and be officially recognized by the school it has to be Baptist. Mainstream Christian groups (like FCA), and the Muslim student association would like to see the rule changed in order to promote more diversity and tolerance.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Dia Del Oso

Major perk of going to a private school:

Thursday at Baylor is "Dia del Oso," which is Spanish for "Day of the Bear." It's a Baylor holiday, and so there are no classes!

Instead, we're having a "Snow Dia!" Yes, the campus activities folks are trucking in 60,000 pounds of artificial snow, and we're going to play in it! There will be snow angels, snow ball fights, and general merriment in the snow.

There will also be a big picnic, a hypnotist, a dog show, choir, and dances. There are also going to be tournaments in Ultimate Frisbee, "campus golf," dodgeball, and much more.

They'll probably also parade JoJo around. He's the live bear that lives in a habitat next to the student center.

Ah, yes, being a Bear has its perks!

What's Good About Baseball

Just one thing good is left in baseball: The Sacrifice Bunt.

In no other sport do you ask your superstars to sacrifice. This is something you do for the good of the team, but not others. Now, not everyone obeys the coach on this, Ichiro being example #1 (as I mentioned yesterday).
In football you have designated blockers. Their whole role is to sacrifice, but it's a job. In basketball, a superstar might set a screen to free up a teammate for an open shot. But, that's not as crucial to the game as a bunt.
Bunting is good to teach your kids.

That said, I find it really funny that none of the Reds fans defended their owner against my comments yesterday, or really answered any of my other issues with baseball except for the steroid deal. I think you like the style and nostalgia of baseball so much that as long as the game looks relatively competitive you won't question leadership, integrity, or what goes on behind-the-scenes.

Here's another issue I have a problem with MLB not taking a leadership role in:
12-year old little leaguers destroying their arms by throwing curve balls. 15 years ago, the shelf life of an MLB pitcher was longer than it is today. It's shrinking every year, because more kids are making it to the majors with only a couple of good years left on their arms. Ask the really good pitchers in the majors, and they'll tell you that they didn't throw a curve ball until college.
MLB has refused to speak out much against this practice, and as such they see their pool of good pitchers diminishing every year.
A few years ago I saw an "Outside the Lines" with Bob Ley on ESPN about this. What did Selig say? Nothing.

What could be done to make me a baseball fan again:
1. MLB apologizes for the '98 Sosa-McGuire home run race that was all steroid-driven. That's what brought me back to baseball initially, and no one has apologized for breaking my heart over learning the truth (that's where the bitterness comes from).
2. Selig apologizes and resigns.
3. A truly independent investigator looks into steroid abuse.

4. MLB imposes a salary cap and revenue sharing so fans in Kansas City can compete with those in NYC.
5. The old strike zone is restored, the older, softer balls are put back into play, and Bonds is forced to remove his body armor.

Until all these are accomplished, my heart will always hurt for the summer fun that was taken away from me. And I'll continue to blame the fans who still pump money into the system for not bringing about change and accountability.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Why Baseball Stinks

I was doing research for my MLB post when I came across this article in the Philadelphia Courier Post that says basically what I wanted to say about Selig. Here’s an excerpt:
If Selig wants to investigate baseball's steroid problem, here's where he should look -- in the mirror. And then go on to owners, general managers, union officials, coaching staffs and trainers who enabled this mess by looking the other way.”

(I also knock on Red’s owner Bob Castellini in the later paragraphs of this post).

I didn’t get angry until last week, when Selig finally announced an official investigation. He sounded like it was some noble deed. Despite the fact that he refused to investigate even when players were called before Congress, Ken Caminiti died, and his MVP’s were implicated in the illicit operations of a steroid manufacturer. When “Game of Shadows” came out, all of a sudden the Michael Jordanesque farewell tour with packed stadiums planned for Barry Bonds as he chases Hank Aaron started to look doubtful. In other words, the book and allegations finally hit Selig and the owners where it hurts: The wallet.


Are Selig and Mitchell your heroes? They're not mine.

What further insulted all sports fans’ intelligence was the appointment of the official investigator, George Mitchell. Mitchell is acting director of Disney (say ESPN) who, like other owners and operators connected with the Red Sox, is accused of knowing about the steroid problem and doing nothing about it. Mitchell can’t be seen as unbiased because he has a vested $$$ interest in the TV and ticket revenue that MLB generates. If he finds serious impropriety, it’ll come out of his own wallet. Yeah, that’s an independent investigator.
Even a real investigation wouldn’t lead to any suspensions. Steroid use wasn’t illegal until last year. Anyone who was a previous user gets off scott free. None of this was mentioned in Selig’s little press conference, however.

(I’m curious—do most people think like John Wiley does that Bud Selig "cares about the game" and is "without a doubt trying to shut (steroids) down"? I think the evidence clearly shows that Selig let steroids run rampant for years and is displaying, at best, bad leadership).

The Texarkana gazette writes:
“Even then, the too little, too late remedy did not snag steroid abusers who had lied and obfuscated about their bulky bodies to MLB, individual teams, at congressional hearings and before God and all the fans of America’s pastime. Some are already in the Hall of Fame; some are yet headed there. Oh sure, there may someday be asterisks by their names, but their records will stand.”

I used to love baseball when I was a kid. Back when Ryne Sandberg and Andre Dawson hit a whopping 20+ homeruns a season. Back when Tony Gwynn was always around .350, and guys like Cal Ripken spent long hours in the the batting cage working on their games.

Most players today just don’t care that much. Before Gwynn retired I remember an interview he gave where he talked about this. When he was first breaking into the league every guy on the team would spend mornings waiting in line for batting practice. “Now, nobody shows up to practice their hitting anymore. I have the cage all to myself,” he said. I guess steroids made it easy for them to hit the long ball without practicing as much. The smaller strike zones mean they have less of a chance of getting a strike anyway.

Steroids have been around since 1995. The late Ken Caminiti’s story says it all:
From 1991-94, the years before admitting to steroid use, Caminiti hit 57 home runs, an average of 14.25 home runs per year. From 1995-98, Caminiti's admitted steroid years, he hit 121, an average of 30.25. He probably died from the effects of using them. That’s sad.

What did Selig do in 1995? He launched his brilliant marketing plan to bring baseball out of serious financial danger after fans were slow coming back after the ’94 strike. Oddly enough, steroids and home runs ran rampant, and the ’98 McGuire-Sosa battle completed the national comeback as TV revenues soared to record highs.

Here’s another decent article. http://www.naturalstrength.com/steroids/detail.asp?ArticleID=1053
The more I look into it, the more I hear that many players and coaches think that up to 50% of players used steroids from ’95-2003. This is not just “a few” players. The Hall of Famers I hear on ESPN radio decry the state of the game today, and the blot that has been put on the pasttime. Do fans care? Apparently not, as they're not doing anything about it.

Selig sure knew about it, and did nothing. Even as MVP-caliber players like Bonds, Sheffield, and Giambi were investigated during the BALCO scandle. It took a Congressional hearing and public disgrace to get him to actually write a rule for steroid use. Still, there was no investigation done into the tainted records, and exactly how rampant steroid use in the league had been. That’s either incompetence, or turning a blind eye. Either way, I can’t support a league whose commissioner clearly tilts the rules in favor of players weaknesses, and refuses to acknowledge ethical problems in the league until revenue is threatened.

It’s not just the steroids

1. It’s guys like Ichiro who are heralded as record-breaking heroes. Yeah, he’s a great hitter, but he broke the hits record because he refused to bunt when the coach asked him to. Not a team player, not my hero.

2. It’s the body-armor Bonds gets to wear the crowd the plate. Steroids or no, Bonds will get big hits because pitchers can’t brush him back. Why is he the only one that gets to do this? Selig says nothing.

3. It’s the shrinking of the strike zone after ’95. Smaller strike zones make the pitchers throw more balls in the danger zone. Thus, more homers, more players on base, more runs scored. Higher scores apparently please fans.

3a. On the same note, pitchers can’t even brush players back without getting tossed from the game. This protects high-value players, but takes something that was a crucial part of the game for over 100 years.

4. It’s also the crony capitalism. Example 1: The Mitchell appointment. Reds owner Bob Castellini is another example. He was not only a “Pioneer” fund raiser for President Bush in ’04, but a business partner going back to Bush’s shady-but-lucrative deals with the Texas Rangers. Castellini was partners with Bush in the ownership group who bought the Rangers in 1989.

(Bush bought into the Rangers after selling out of Harken Energy, a deal that brought an SEC investigation into insider trading. The SEC’s case was mysteriously handled and later dropped. Here’s an interesting site about it.)

Here’s an article on how Bush waffled on his views private-property rights, and how the Rangers under his watch (and Castellini's) owed a family $7.5 million, which Bush, Castellini, and the other owners refused to pay any part of. (Dave, this sounds like something out of the John Stossel book).

The Rangers deal proved lucrative for Bush and Castellini. Castellini and the other owners voted to provided Bush with a sweet “bonus” of $12.6 million, and in return got big political favors for arena development when Bush became Texas governor. This, in turn, made many of them several million dollars.

Here’s a site I found that summarizes it: http://www.bushwatch.com/bushwater.htm

Bob "Who Can I Screw Today?" Castellini. Head of several "nameless, faceless" (his words, not mine) corporations across America.

4a. So, you Reds fan have a Bush crony who was involved in shady land deals in Texas. Hope you’re happy with that, he seems to be like Selig: A good marketer. Who cares what the state of the game is, as long as we fill the seats.

5. It’s also baseball’s anti-trust exemption. This gives Selig and the owners so much.
Here’s even more of Selig’s lies: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/20020426pappas.shtml

6. Baseball has no salary cap or revenue-sharing deals. So, small-market teams will stay small market, and big-market teams like the Yankees will continue to afford the most talent, and continue to win and win. Parity and competition doesn’t exist in baseball. All the other major sports have found the big boost in revenue and fan interest by having a salary-cap and parity. Baseball’s owners are just too greedy for that, plain and simple.

Maybe the marketing is paying off, and baseball fans are doing a good job of ignoring the fact that this isn’t their father’s or grandfather’s sport anymore, and also refuse to hold the owners and Selig accountable.

A Fitting End

As John Clay astutely pointed out, when was the last time the NIT champion beat the NCAA champion twice in a season (and almost a 3rd time)?

My ESPN Bracket Challenge bracket finished in the 98.6 percentile... 35,000th out of several million. Not bad, not bad at all. I had UCLA and Florida in the Final 4, with Florida beating Duke in the final.

Props to the Gators for coming to play every game in the tourny this year. They truly dominated UCLA. I'm sure Joakim Noah will add more pictures and trash talk to his Facebook. As incredible a player as he is, he could only have played at Florida.

I cringed at 2 moments in the post-game:
1. Noah's "We're gonna shine all day, baby! Hope you teachers watching don't mind if we don't turn our homework in for the next couple of weeks!"
Yes, that's what every AD wants to be the face of their student athletics program...

2. One CBS commentator said: "This team is definitely a Billy Donovan team. A hard-working and unselfish team."
I think about all of Donovan's best Florida teams and players: Matt Walsh, David Lee, Anthony Roberson, Jason Williams, Donnell Harvey, Mike Miller, Brett Nelson, Teddy Dupay... none of these guys were unselfish. Since when is Florida and Donovan's style unselfish?

Welp, I look forward to the NBA draft when all of Florida goes pro, and Kentucky is suddenly the most talented team in the SEC again, even without Rondo. Maybe we can steal a page from Florida's book by losing some guys to the NBA and yet still be better. Multiplication by subtraction, anyone?

Monday, April 03, 2006

One Shining Moment

I'm working on a real angry, bitter post about Major League Baseball. But today I just wanted to reflect on the end of the NCAA tourny, and be thankful that it has given us a good title game.

I don't know if I'll stay awake tonight for "One Shining Moment." That's probably the best conclusion to any sport on TV. No other sport has a theme song ending.

Vegas has Florida as a 1.5 point favorite. (Yesterday I erroneously reported that UCLA was the favorite). Sagarin favors the Gators by 1.93 points. I think that this will be about right, and it definitely means we'll have an exciting finish.

UPDATE: The Vegas line has just changed to Florida by just 1 point. That means betting is heavy for UCLA to win.

Noah vs. Mbah a Moute. Huge matchup here. No one has really matched up well against Noah all year, and if Noah can't beat you Al Horford will. Advantage: Florida

Florida's bench vs. UCLA's bench. I give the advantage to UCLA. They have 10 guys who get at least 14 minutes a game. Florida leans more heavily on their starters.

Can UCLA shut down Lee Humphrey? Yes, I think so. Make him move. Advantage: UCLA.

Donovan vs. Howland. Advantage: Even.

Thus, the game will be good.

Here's a good article about how UCLA's players were paid during their championship runs during the Wooden era. If UCLA wins tonight, it might be the first time they've ever won a championship without looming rumors of impropriety.

After today starts my 2nd favorite part of the basketball season: The run-up to the NBA Draft. This is the fun time when you get to read about all the players in camps and workouts, trying to work their way onto the draft board.

And you know what happens after the NBA Draft, don't you? The Tapp Coaching Index gets re-calculated. This year I will add Billy Donovan, Ben Howland, Rick Pitino, and Mark Few. Should be interesting.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Matthew 7

So, continuing on with our series on the Sermon on the Mount, last week's study looked at Matthew 6:25- 7:12.

Here are some thoughts/questions

vs. 25-30: What's the relationship between doubt and anxiety? How does doubt+anxiety tempt us to sin?

in verse 30 I like the thought that God is sovereign over even where every blade of grass grows. That's pretty huge.

6:33- What does it mean to seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness?

Matthew 7:1 "Judge not..." What things are we to judge? I think a theme running through chaps 6 & 7 is that we cannot judge by outward appearance. Many people look righteous, but we can't tell what's in their hearts. Other people may look like sinners, but we should instead examine their fruits.
Jesus clearly judges certain people, certain moral situations in clear black/white terms. In what ways then are we to judge?

7:6 "Do not throw your pearls to pigs..." What is this verse talking about? Is it talking about not trusting in people who aren't worth being trusted? Is it talking about Gospel truths?

The best explanation I heard was someone who compared it to moral purity. Girls/guys shouldn't give up their innocence to someone who is only out to use them.

7:11 "Your Father..." Jesus calls God "Our Father," in chapter 6, then "Your father" in chapter 7. Later, he calls Him "My Father," which is the one most people remember. I think it's interesting that the "Our" and "Your" come first. It was a radical concept to everyone listening, Jesus was the first teacher to proclaim God as "Abba, father."

vs. 12: How would you sum up "the Law and the prophets"? Would you sum it up as Jesus did, with the "Golden Rule?"
It's interesting that Buddhists claim an ancient teaching: "Don't do to others what you would not have them do to you." Jesus statement, like his statements about fasting, praying, and giving to the poor in chapter 6 are pro-active. They expect action. Do things to others.

In the Buddhist way, you could just live in a cave and not do anything to anyone and be fine. In Jesus way, however, you'd better be doing good things to others.