Thursday, June 30, 2011

What am I reading?

In case you were curious here are my go to websites/blogs that I follow on a semi-regular basis:

General Interest - The articles can be a little random (on the front page is a story about someone who made a computer from scratch), but I find the randomness to actually be an advantage of the site. The writers tend to take a small subject matter and go very in-depth with the analysis of it. Also, there is an emphasis on personal stories about people exploring something new or looking at things in a different way.

Freakonomics Blog - I used to follow this a lot more, but now it is fallen down to a once a week site. I still think there are interesting posts out there, but generally speaking it isn't as good as it once was.

We Got Served - This is a great site to use if you are curious about any Twin Cities restaurant options. The writers are a husband/wife combo, who combine good writing with excellent pictures. One thing I like about the blog is that it is made for normal people and not food snobs. From this blog I've gotten some excellent recommendations like Brasa and Muffaletta's.

Paul Krugman's NY Times blog - This is a great blog to read if you are curious about what is going on in the political world. I really enjoyed Krugman's posts on Paul Ryan's budget plan.

Finance (Also, every few months I run an Instant X-Ray on my stock portfolio) - I like the set up on Morningstar and use this whenever I'm looking at stocks to either buy or sell.

Google Finance - This is a daily site I click on just to see how the market is doing in general. For individual stocks I normally go to Morningstar, but for for the market this is my favorite site.

DINKS Finance - This is a new blog that I've been following. The focus is on personal finance, which is almost always a subject I'm interested in reading.

Friend's blogs
Aric Goodard's personal blog about his kids - Updated pretty regularly with plenty of pictures.

Bethany's blog - Only 1 post since April, but I enjoy reading when Bethany does post.

M's blog - This is updated about once a month. When it is updated I enjoy hearing M's thoughts on the books she has been reading.

Buck's blog - This blog used to be updated almost daily, but since early May there have been a lack of posts. I always check just to see if there is anything new, since I enjoy (even if I don't always understand) my brother-in-law's viewpoints.

Joe Posnanski - This is my favorite writer right now. I enjoy his intelligent, passionate, long-winded takes on current subjects ranging from baseball to life to Kansas City. This is something I check every day.

Grantland - This is a new site started by Bill Simmons (the Sportsguy) and it is already something that I like checking out daily. I enjoy the writing of Simmons and Chuck Klosterman, and am curious about the new writers that are contributing.

The Point Forward - This is a good NBA blog run by Zach Lowe. I would be saying it was a good blog, even if some of my Salt City Hoops posts weren't picked up by him. I think Lowe does a great job of concise writing about the current NBA subjects of the day.

The Wages of Wins Journal - Another NBA blog that I use because I like the statistical takes on things like the Draft.

Twins Blog: Aaron Gleeman - If you are a Twins fan then I highly recommend this site.

Twins Blog: Seth Speaks - This is really good for any Twins fans, who are especially curious about the Twins minor league system. I go here to see how Brian Dozier is doing.

Seth Curry Saves Duke - I follow this blog more during the Duke basketball season, and I enjoy reading Shane's work. Also, I've shared a few emails with the writer, and he seems like he is a pretty decent guy.

Salt City Hoops - Since I write for this Utah Jazz blog, then of course it had to make the list.
TrueHoop - I check this NBA blog on a daily basis.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

As I Get Older

There are certain things that are very important in my life. I love traveling, eating at decent restaurants and enjoying the advantages of living in a big city. A good portion of my personal life revolves around those three things. There doesn’t even have to be a good reason for me to try a new restaurants or plan a vacation. I find these areas of life to be the joy that gets me through the day to day minutia.

As I get I get older I find that what I value isn’t the same as what other people value. Other people don’t like traveling. They don’t care if they’ve never been to Europe or even many of the big cities in the US. Going from home to work and back is enough traveling for them.They don’t feel the need to see something that they can watch on TV.

Other people also don’t like eating at new restaurants or trying unfamiliar food. I can better understand that because I am kind of a picky eater, but still I like to think I will at least try new foods. Also, I like to try the best in quality of food. Given the choice between waiting an hour for the best BBQ and waiting 10 minutes for decent BBQ, I would pick the first option. As I get older I find out that more people would pick the second option.These type of people are fine with a less quality (think Applebee's) and don't have much interest in venturing out of their comfort zone. I don't really like chain restaurants because I think that their normally isn't much difference in price, but a huge change in quality. However, for a lot of *people I have found that they just don’t care.

*Hornets guard Quincy Pondexter's favorite restaurant in New Orleans is Applebee's. You can read his explanation under the 3rd bullet in this article.

Living in Minneapolis means that we have access to 4 major sports teams (the Vikings, Wild, Twins and Twolves) and a Big Ten school. Any given weekend you can see a comedy show, the orchestra, a concert, etc. If you want to do something then you can probably find something to do. Of course as I get older I find that people don’t always want to do stuff. I understand that kids can be time and money consuming, but there is a difference between those people that can’t do stuff and people who choose not to do anything. I have found plenty of people, who just don’t have any interest in dealing with things outside their normal day to day.

Overall this can be disheartening for me to hear. Should I really be worried about what other people do with their life? Probably not, but the lack of passion is just something that makes me very confused. I can understand people who have different interests than me, but it is hard for me to understand people who don't have any interests.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Tommie Frazier

Some day I will have to do a long post about Tommie Frazier, but for now I am going to just quote Joe Posnanski in his latest blog post the 14 most dominating performances:

No. 11: Nebraska’s Tommie Frazier in 1996 Fiesta Bowl

Tommie Frazier made the greatest run I didn’t see in that ’95 Fiesta Bowl. You remember the run. He ran the option right against Florida, faked the pitch, gained a few yards and then ran into defenders. I looked down at my play-by-play sheet to mark down how many yards he had gained. And then I heard the crowd going crazy. I looked up: Frazier was running into the end zone. It wasn’t until later than I saw him break or run through four tacklers on the way to the end zone.

He ran for 199 yards, scored two touchdowns and threw for another in Nebraska’s 62-24 destruction of Florida. Again, there are others who have put up more impressive numbers. But the setting made for something special: That was No. 1 vs. No. 2 in a bowl game. The national championship was on the line. And, in memory, Florida was pretty heavily favored. I think this is because Florida was a flashy passing team while Nebraska was a grinding power team. Florida seemed futuristic. Nebraska seemed stodgy and outdated.

And Nebraska so thoroughly crushed Florida — led by Frazier’s running, a couple of key passes and decision making — that it left me with a thought I have carried with me ever since: We don’t really KNOW what team is best until they play. We can guess. We can predict. We can analyze. We can rank. But reality is complicated. And something amazing can happen when you’re looking to write something down.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

2011 Draft Preview

Today is the day of the 2011 NBA draft, which means it is past time for me to put together my annual draft preview. For those of you have missed past editions below are the links:

2010 Draft Strategy for the Timberwolves - review: after one year it doesn't look to be my best plan.
2010 Draft Strategy for the Jazz - review: still up in the air, but I don't think I will look back favorably on this one either.
2010 Draft Player Preview - let's hope I was wrong about Derrick Favors.
2009 Draft Preview - review: positive (except what I wrote about Thabeet and Harden)
2008 Draft Preview - review: very positive.

I plan on addressing both the Jazz and the Timberwolves, which won't be too hard since both teams go into the draft in a similar position. The Jazz have the 3rd and 12th picks, while the Twolves have the 2nd and 20th picks. Here is how I want the draft to work out for both teams:

Utah Jazz
There are a few things I am certain about and a few things I have been fluctuating back and forth on.

Strong Convictions
  • Trading Paul Millsap is a bad idea. He is an efficient scorer, who always improves and has a very reasonable salary ($7M/year). Also, he produced the highest WS/48 among Jazz regulars.
  • Trading the 3rd pick and the 12th pick for the 1st pick and the chance to draft Kyrie Irving is a smart idea.
  • Trading the 3rd pick for Washington's 6th and 18th pick makes a lot of sense for both teams. Washington could get Kanter and Utah could pick up two chances for an impact player. At the 6th pick I would be more ok with the Jazz taking Brandon Knight.
  • Trading *Derrick Favors straight up for the 1st pick (Kyrie Irving) would be an excellent move. *I think Favors has a chance to be really good, but I like Irving more. Also, Irving fills a position of need and trading Favors helps the logjam the Jazz have at the 4/5 position. This also might not be a bad idea for Cleveland, since Favors is the type of talent that isn't in the 2011 draft and point guard is a position of strength for them.
  • Drafting a shooting guard (Klay Thompson or Alec Burks) at the 12th pick is a good idea. I don't know who will be better. Originally I thought Thompson because he has an NBA skill (shooting), but this article helped convince me on Burks.
  • Drafting Jonas Valanciunas makes more sense than Enes Kanter. Jonas is rated higher in John Hollinger's draft rater and has the added bonus of not coming over to the NBA until probably next year. Why is that a bonus? This will allow the Jazz to bank a lottery pick and make their move next year. Next year's draft should be loaded and the Jazz will have the Warriors (top 7 protected) 1st round pick as well as their own. If Jonas doesn't come over this year then they might lose more next year, but that might not be a bad thing. Can you imagine next year adding two top lottery picks in a loaded draft along with Jonas? If Favors and Hayward progress at a decent rate then you are talking about a young, loaded team. It isn't too much of a stretch to see the 2012/2013 Jazz starting lineup of
    • Point: Devin Harris
    • Shooting Guard: Austin Rivers (projected 11th pick next year)
    • Small Forward: Gordon Hayward
    • Power Forward: Derrick Favors
    • Center: Al Jefferson
    • Backups: Jonas Valanciunas, Paul Millsap, Alec Burks (12th pick this year) and Myck Kabongo (projected 9th pick next year) 
    • That would be a really good team with outstanding depth. You could also replace Jonas with Kanter, but I'm not as sold on him.
Other question marks:
  • Klay Thompson or Alec Burks?
  • Brandon Knight as an impact player?
  • Enes Kanter with the 3rd pick?
  • Derrick Williams (since it would probably result in Millsap being traded)?
Minnesota Timberwolves
It is a little bit easier to analyze the Timberwolves draft, since they need so much help. If I was David Kahn I wouldn't think too much and just draft whoever is left between Derrick Williams and Kyrie Irving. When you are a 17 win team, you don't really worry too much about displacing other players. Kevin Love is worthy to build around and either Williams or Irving could play with him. Also, I think Rubio and Irving could work in the backcourt in the same way as Kidd and Terry worked for Dallas. With the 20th pick in the draft I would look at a defender like Chris Singleton with the knowledge that the Timberwolves were the 4th worst team in defending the 3 point line. If he isn't available then I wouldn't mind reaching for Charles Jenkins or Norris Cole. Both players look like impact players for the Timberwolves.

Finally, let me write this that the two most intriguing players (who will probably be busts) are Jan Vesley and Tyler Honeycutt. I have only seen highlights of the first and one game of the second, but just from that small sample size I am curious how those two players will work out. Vesley looks like a special athlete, who will be a great fit on a team that needs a small forward who can score in transition. Honeycutt looks like a potential defensive stopper, who could be average on offense. He blocked 2.1 shots a game last year and with his size it shouldn't be hard for him to justify the 20th pick in the draft. Vesley is almost definitely not worth a top 10 pick, but for excitement level alone I want to see him play in the NBA.

There will be more thoughts after the draft as we see what happens with the Timberwolves and Jazz.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Ask someone their opinion on luck and my guess is that more people (at least Americans) think that luck is overrated than underrated. There are probably even a good percentage of people that completely discount the importance of luck in any life events. Those type of people might believe that "everything happens for a reason" or that poor people deserve to be poor. For them luck has no place in their perfectly reasoned, black and white world.

I reject the hypothesis that luck isn't important. That doesn't mean I don't believe in the value of hard work or that someone can overcome bad luck. I believe in both. However, sometimes I really think people attribute some amount of skill to what really was just a lucky occurrence. Or on the flipside they place some level of blame on what was just a poor bounce.

One good example of this is the housing market. Are 27% of the people who are underwater on their mortgages idiots? No. I believe most of them are normal people, who wanted to own a home and just happened to buy a home at the wrong time. If they would have bought the home 5 years earlier or 5 years later then would be in a much better situation. The fact that they bought a home that is now worth a lot less is primarily due to luck.

Another example would be the job market. Do I have a job right now because I spent my senior year interviewing with as many companies as I could? Do I have a job because I spent time working on my resume and networking? Yes, but there is one big caveat that I could have done the same exact thing and still not had a job if I would have graduated at the wrong time. I had the fortune of graduating in 2005, which wasn't a bad year for the economy and also just happened to be one of the last few years that my first employer hired graduates from Miami University. And when I decided to look for a new job in 2007, the Dow Jones was hitting an all-time peak on what seemed like a daily basis. I would have to be very naive to not recognize the importance of luck in getting me a job.

I could go through other examples of school, family, etc, but overall you will see a trend where luck is a big part of the equation.That isn't to say that you can't manage your luck. In buying a home you shouldn't overextend yourself or buy a home when you plan on moving in a year or two. If you put a decent % down and plan on staying 5-10 years then the odds are in your favor that you won't be underwater. With employment you should always try and do a good job. If you are a good employee then the odds of you getting fired are obviously much better.

There is a difference between managing your luck and not believing in luck at all. Luck is an important part of life and sometimes is the reason why things happened. It is a futile effort trying to assign a reason to everything that happens, but a lot of people do that.  Correlation doesn't always equal causation, and credit/blame is too often doled out for what really was a lucky occurrence. I will end this post with one of my favorite quotes from football coach Barry Switzer:
"Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple."

Monday, June 13, 2011

First Anniverary

M and I celebrated our 1 year wedding anniversary this past weekend. We went to a nice dinner downtown and then out to see Chelsea Handler at the Target Center. Overall it was a fun weekend of reminiscing about our wedding weekend and talking about our he first year of our marriage.

One thing that has been surprising about being married a year is how it doesn't feel that strange or different. I don't really remember if I expected things to change much, but if I had to guess then I would probably say that at some time in the past I would have expected married life to consist of more changes than the current reality. Things just aren't that different. There are a few changes that I can think of below:
  1. Name change: While my name didn't change, it is nice that M changed her last name. It is nice being able to see my last name come through on emails from her.
  2. Financial budgeting: Now that we are married there is a certain level of security we both take with our finances. We still have our separate checking accounts, but more and more expenses are falling on our joint account. Also, we are able to review our finances as a couple, which will allow us to make prudent decisions in the future. It is nice knowing how much money we both make and what we are spending that money on. Also, with dual income/no kids (DINKS for those marketing readers) it means we can try to aggressively save our money.
  3. Fairness: One thing that my Dad burned into my head as a kid was that "life isn't fair." This is very true in life and also in marriage. It is impossible to try and line things up so that both partners get exactly what they want.  There are small decisions like emptying the dishwasher and big decisions like trying to plan a move to another state. Sometimes the outcomes will favor M and sometimes they will favor me, but at least with being married it gives us a longer time period to work things out. Also, at points when it doesn't feel even and there might be an opening for a disagreement, it is helpful for me to remember that I am married and making sacrifices is part of the deal.
  4. Relationship Clout: The clout or equity in being married is much higher than in being in a long-term, committed relationship. I don't know how much of a difference it makes in day to day life, but I enjoy being able to reference my wife in conversation and getting a certain level of respect.
There are other changes that I definitely missed, but the main point of how things haven't changed that much is still true. I enjoy M's company and look forward to many more happy years being married.