Monday, December 31, 2007

Christmas Greetings from My Candidate

I received this mass e-mail with cool cross graphic before Christmas from the guy I'm currently voting for. I meant to post it sooner, but will do so now in the hope that Iowans will do the right thing. It tells a great story:

As a POW, my captors would tie my arms behind my back and then loop the rope around my neck and ankles so that my head was pulled down between my knees. I was often left like that throughout the night.

One night a guard came into my cell. He put his finger to his lips signaling for me to be quiet, and then loosened my ropes to relieve my pain. The next morning, when his shift ended, the guard returned and retightened the ropes, never saying a word to me.

A month or so later, on Christmas Day, I was standing in the dirt courtyard when I saw that same guard approach me. He walked up and stood silently next to me, not looking or smiling at me.

After a few moments had passed, he rather nonchalantly used his sandaled foot to draw a cross in the dirt. We stood wordlessly looking at the cross, remembering the true light of Christmas, even in the darkness of a Vietnamese prison camp. After a minute or two, he rubbed it out and walked away.

That guard was my Good Samaritan. I will never forget that man and I will never forget that moment. And I will never forget that, no matter where you are, no matter how difficult the circumstances, there will always be someone who will pick you up and carry you.

May you and your family have a blessed Christmas and Happy Holidays,

John McCain

Friday, December 28, 2007

Outsourcing Humor

A month ago, I opined about the Hollywood writer's strike. I proposed offshoring all writing to China and India, and thought about what the shows would look like.

NPR offers the same solution. If you listen to the segment, they call India and get some joke offers from stand-up comedians for late-night TV shows in the U.S. The jokes are a little more than intelligent. If used, they would revolutionize late-night TV. Can't wait!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

How important is the Bible?

So, my excellent trans-Atlantic flight was made even better by buying the Christmas edition of The Economist. In it there is an article entitled "The Battle of the Books," that looks at the publishing of the Bible vs. the Koran.

The article has these stats from a Gallup poll (with Economist commentary):

Americans buy more than 20m new Bibles every year to add to the four that the average American has at home... A Gallup survey found that less than half of Americans can name the first book of the Bible (Genesis), only a third know who delivered the Sermon on the Mount (Billy Graham is a popular answer) and a quarter do not know what is celebrated at Easter (the resurrection, the foundational event of Christianity). Sixty per cent cannot name half the ten commandments; 12% think Noah was married to Joan of Arc. George Gallup, a leading Evangelical as well as a premier pollster, describes America as “a nation of biblical illiterates”.

It appears the Gallup info is several years old, but probably still accurate.

Back in the U.S.A.

So, we've returned from my 5-month internship in Moldova. I learned a lot about Business as Missions, microcredit, and married life overseas. We are now visiting family for Christmas/New Years and I'm looking for a job. We will also be having a baby boy sometime in May. I felt this information warranted its own post.

Friday, December 21, 2007

T-Shirt slogans

A friend of mine sent me an email saying he was thinking of buying this t-shirt:

I have converted my response to him into this blog post. My initial thought was that higher insurance premiums are probably a much more expensive income-transfer system that illegal immigrants benefit from than government services. (Covering the cost of emergency rooms, uninsured motorists, etc.).
So, how about a t-shirt with the Texas flag in the background that says:
"Remember to pay your insurance! 1,700,000 illegal immigrants are depending on you!"

Services for immigrants are actually a really small part of federal outlays. So, I want a different t-shirt about taxes.
The defense spending bill passed this week had over 9,800 earmarks attached to it! 9,800 pork projects with your tax dollars in one single bill! I've harped on this before. Here are some possible slogans:

"Remember to pay your taxes. People who no longer want their tattoos are depending on you!"
"Remember to pay your taxes. Cotton farmers are completely depending on you!"(HT: Dani Rodrik).
"Remember to pay your taxes. Peanut storage facilities everywhere are depending on you!"
"Remember to pay your taxes. We can't attempt to communicate with space aliens otherwise!"
For Waco residents: "Remember to pay your taxes. Otherwise, Bellmead residents won't know that they want a swimming pool!"
"Remember to pay your taxes. The Goth culture in Missouri must be eliminated!"

And thousands of other examples. You can't make this stuff up. If someone bought me a t-shirt with any of these I would totally wear it.

Subprime Solutions

The Fed announced new regulations this week to further regulate the home mortgage lending process.

For two different views on this:
Liberal Paul Krugman, denouncing Greenspan and previous deregulation while calling for greater government intervention.
"So where were the regulators as one of the greatest financial disasters since the Great Depression unfolded? They were blinded by ideology."


Bill Conerly, giving examples of unintended consequences of the increased regulation. (I really like Conerly's blog since he's in the business of forecasting).

"So why not have federal rules in place? Because there will be some adverse impacts of these new rules. Not huge, end-of-civilization impacts, but negative impacts none the less."



Conerly also points out that one unintended consequence of banning "Pay Day" lenders who charge outrageous interest rates, create a "debt trap," and are denounced by pretty much everyone (including me) has been more bounced checks and bankruptcies in states where pay day lenders are banned. Sometimes we may not like what the data says but we can learn from it nonetheless.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

How Bad is Kentucky Basketball?

I read the questions that fans and the media are asking about KY basketball. I haven’t watched a game, but when I look at the data the answers become absolutely clear. Thankfully, Pomeroy provides us with what we need. I think BCG must frequent his site and look at the same things that I do.

1. How good is Patrick Patterson? Should the offense run through him?
His numbers so far are better than Randolph Morris’, except for blocks and ability to get to the FT line. Morris was 21.9% of our scoring last year, and one of the best shot-blockers in the country. Patterson isn’t getting the touches that Morris did, and that’s the problem that Coach G keeps harping on. Fans don’t seem to realize this.

2. Why in the world is Ramon Harris starting over Crawford?
Because per-possession Harris doesn’t look for his own shot as much as Crawford, gets more steals than Crawford, is a better rebounder than Crawford, and gets to the FT line more often than Crawford. If you want the offense to primarily run through Patterson, Harris is the guy you want to get more minutes. The downside is his turnover ratio, which is why he gets yanked. Look at the numbers.

Crawford is a ball hog. Coming into the UAB game, Crawford was taking over 38% of shots while he was in the game (it’s now 33.3% of shots). There are 5 guys on the floor, and Patterson should get the majority of shots, not Crawford. 27.1% of KY’s possessions are ended by Crawford, compared to 22.9% for Patterson.

Alex Legion was the same problem, which is why he was benched so famously.

3. Why does Michael Porter play so much?
Because Porter looks to shoot less than anyone on the team. His steal rate is also the best on the team.

4. How bad is Kentucky?
Bad. Our Sagarin is now 149, probably an all-time low. Our rating fell from 63 to 149 once he eliminated his pre-season peg after Sunday. Our RPI has falled from 158 before the Liberty game to 177 today. Making the NCAA tournament appears highly unlikely.

I think the only recent season we can compare this to is Team Turmoil of 2000-2001, where we started 3-5 (but against a much tougher schedule). That team went on to win the SEC tournament and make it to the Sweet 16.

5. Should Kentucky be this bad?
Yes.
John Clay wrote a column where he argued Kentucky shouldn’t be this bad. A couple days later he interviewed Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News and DeCourcy basically said “Of course they should be this bad.”

Jasper and Meeks are out, so we have only 43.6% of our scoring from last year (not a very good team anyway). Jared Carter sat out last season, wasn’t great before he got hurt, and clearly isn’t up to speed now. We counted on Alex Legion for scoring, and he’s gone too. Morakinyo Williams wasn’t supposed to be very good, and A.J. Stewart plays like a 3-star freshman.

I think Billy Gillispie looks at the data. I can look at the numbers and understand what he is doing, why can’t the fans and the media?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Patriots' Punter

Last week, Bill Simmons wrote half-jokingly that the Patriots should keep their punter off the roster for the Jets game "to send a message" (to the Jets who reported the Patriots' sideline videotaping...something the Jets had apparently also got caught doing against the Patriots last season).

This got me looking: How often does the Patriots' punter actually see the field?
In 13 games, Chris Hanson has punted 32 times. That's only 2.46 punts per game! If he maintains his average, he'll have only 40 punts this season. Compare this with San Francisco's punter who already has 85 punts (6.54 punts per game).

Last year, the Patriots used 3 punters and punted 69 times. In 2005, their punter (Josh Miller) punted 76 times (or 4.75 punts per game).

The Patriots have almost halved their punt total in 2 seasons!

What's the record? It's actually 23 by San Diego in 1982, but they only played 9 games. So, 2.55 punts per game, worse than the Patriots' average. The 1941 Bears punted 32 times in 11 games, or 2.9 punts per game. Patriots win (so far)!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Fun Videos

I don't really like the NBA, never watch it. The most important NBA event to me is the Draft. I learned years ago that it's more fun to only read the post-game synopses as they often read like a soap opera. If you want to know what else happened, just read the box score. That said, a blog called True Hoop does a good job of soap opera and stats. In recent weeks they have also posted 2 unique videos which I post here for your consumption.

The first is Darius Miles. He appears midway through this clip. I choked on my water first time I saw this. Your mission: Figure out what Darius Miles is saying. What??



If that didn't change your life, or at least your day, check out video #2. This is Milwaukee rookie Yi Jianli's commercial for some milk product in China. What is this commercial about?!


I like this interpretation from Just Another Bucks Fan. Everytime I start to think that people are the same everywhere, and that all cultures are similar, I see a commercial or a music video from East Asia and I totally change my mind.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

On Tom Brady

When I hear the name "Tom Brady," here's the first thing that comes to my mind:

A few years ago I was watching the Kentucky Derby on TV. It's always frequented by celebrities. Kenny Rice briefly interviewed Tom Brady, who was attending his 4th or 5th Derby. Rice opened with something lame like:
"You almost have as many Super Bowls rings as you have Kentucky Derby appearances."

Brady responded with a very serious answer, something like:
"And we hope to get many more of those rings. There's no reason why we can't do it."

You could just tell that getting Super Bowl rings was the most important thing to Brady. He wanted to get more, fully believed he could. It was the most confident answer from an athlete on a day that had nothing to do with football. Everyone at the Derby might be drunk and joking around, but for that moment you could tell: Nothing else really mattered to Brady other than Super Bowl rings. For whatever reason, I still remember that confidence.

(Peyton Manning was also interviewed by Rice at that Derby, but I don't remember a word he said, other than it was just light-hearted).

Monday, December 10, 2007

On Mitt Romney

I'm thankful to not be in the States and be bombarded by the election coverage. That said, Maureen Dowd's op-ed column about Mitt Romney caught my eye today. Dowd is as liberal as they come, but she's written a piece today that appeals to what conservatives are thinking more than we might want to admit.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a comment that Romney is "Arguably the smartest of the bunch," to which a friend e-mailed me and said (paraphrase) "Anyone who believes/does weird Mormon stuff can't be that smart."**

Dowd hits my friend's nail on the head:

“We have reporters asking Mitt Romney if he wears The Garment, the sacred one-piece, knee-length underwear with Mormon markings and strict disposal rules.

“I’ll just say those sorts of things I’ll keep private,” (Romney) told The Atlantic.


That's not a real reassuring answer to Evangelicals. One Mormon historian tells Dowd:

Mormons see themselves as the one true religion, and don’t buy all of the New Testament, he said, “which makes it curious why Mitt thinks evangelical Christians are his allies.”

Romney gave a speech in College Station last week to defend faith in general and to say that our founders didn't believe in a "litmus test" of faith for the President. He makes (I think) a good point:

"There are some who would have a presidential candidate describe and explain his church's distinctive doctrines. To do so would enable the very religious test the founders prohibited in the Constitution. No candidate should become the spokesman for his faith. For if he becomes President he will need the prayers of the people of all faiths.”


Philip Yancey's The Jesus I Never Knew makes the point that Christians trying to figure out who "God's man" is for the Presidency is completely alien to the New Testament (they didn't have a choice, other than to submit and pray). We're blessed with being able to choose our leaders, but the Church should focus on being salt and light rather than spending resources to make the fallen World around us look and behave more morally. The Church should be the Church no matter who is elected President. They should know us by our works, love, and unity rather than our legislative work.

Is Mormonism a cult? Absolutely. I think it's tempting (for me) to think that Romney will receive secret messages from satan (or the Mormon President) that will wreck our country. But, Romney is no more under the influence of Satan than any other lost person.

Scripturally, there is no difference between an atheist, a cult member, and someone who claims to be "born again" but habitually commits sin, like adultery. All are lost and under the influence of Satan. But, I'd rather vote for someone (like Romney) who believes this:

"We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America – the religion of secularism. They are wrong.”

than vote for the atheist, secularist, or the guy who is on his 3rd marriage. I personally would also rather vote for the guy who finished valedictorian of his class at BYU, in the top 5% of his class at Harvard MBA school, and has had real success in a non-political job and in other non-political endeavors, and who also listens to Greg Mankiw. But, Romney isn't my first choice.

**(As far as how a "smart" person can believe in Mormonism, I encourage you to check out Have You Witnessed to a Mormon Lately, or Beyond Mormonism, by former Mormon elder Jim Spencer. He offers these great texts for free online. It's a psychological part of having to check certain brains at the door. He tells the story of an intelligent engineer who rationalized how men could be living on the moon, as Joseph Smith claimed. You can be a rocket scientist in the real world, but limit your brains in applying scientific logic to your religious thinking if you're part of a cult that allows no such questions to be asked).

Friday, December 07, 2007

Cluckin' Chicken

This is one of my favorite SNL fake commercials of all time. Joni will attest that I quote the "It's me!" part a lot. I finally found the clip and showed it to her yesterday. Sometimes she finds my sense of humor to be a bit... off.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Sermons

Joni and I have thrived on John Piper sermons on Sundays when we don't attend local church. I post links to two here that have meant a significant deal to us.

In September and October, Piper did a series on how God ordains "spectacular sins" in order to work His purposes.
His sermon on Genesis 37, entitled "The Sale of Joseph and the Son of God," is one of the best sermons I've ever heard. Everything a sermon should be, IMO. You can download it free here.

Another incredible one is the finale: "Judas Iscariot, the Suicide of Satan, and the Salvation of the World."

I recommend everyone to download and listen to these powerful sermons. I learned a lot, particularly through the Joseph one, and found Piper's application of the lessons to our own lives to be rewarding.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Saturday Night Live Gets It

For those of you who have been through Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover and such, a little support from SNL. May the rest of the country (including our government!) soon catch on (HT: Businomics Blog):