sam's notes

notes on government, sports and popular culture

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

.....FOX Sports' Peter Schrager at the Super Bowl Media Day buffet:

"Really, this buffet leaves a lot to be desired. You've never seen more fat, out-of-shape white men than at this buffet line. It's disgusting. If you're looking to stay physically-fit and in shape, then sports journalism isn't going to be your field."

Based on what I read in the sports pages, they're probably liberal fat, out-of-shape white men.

.....$200 million for five years.........That's $1 billion, right?

That's how much public funding Land for Tomorrow beleives will be necessary to protect nine places that matter.

No matter how you cut it, that's a lot of money.

Monday, January 30, 2006

.....Surprise: Mike Piazza stays in the National League and will catch 100 games next season, providing his body holds out.

Needless to say, Piazza's defense is suspect:

..."There are questions about his catching, mostly because more than 1,300 bases have been stolen against him and his career success rate at throwing out runners is a subpar 24 percent."

Padres manager Bruce Bochy:

"Too much is made of the ability to throw out runners when grading catchers."

Considering the fact that Johnny Bench was done catching at age 36, I don't see how Piazza's body will take many more games behind the plate. Catcher is a defensive position, and the Padres will have to see at what Piazza becomes more of a liability than an asset.

Piazza can still swing a bat, and the other question is whether or not the long innings behind the plate will affect his stroke. The common sense move would have been to go to the AL as a designated hitter.

But maybe he just wants to catch. There's obviously somethng addictive about the position. Piazza won't be the only old catcher on West Coast next season: the Dodgers just signed 43-year-old Pat Borders, who would be catching pitchers who weren't even born when he started playing pro ball.

.....Two views of urban sprawl in California.............from San Francisco:

"New single-family oriented suburban communities can be developed intelligently, with green space around them and a small, denser core for residents who will want that style of living.....Such suburban villages have begun to emerge throught the Bay Area from Santa Clara to Pleasanton and Dublin...Such a course — the adoption of an enlightened new suburbanism — could help restore the Bay Area's lost luster as a region of opportunity for the next generation. Such a development may not fill the notions of nostalgic city boosters or environmental fundamentalists, but could help the Bay Area adjust to the realities of our increasingly suburbanized age......"

........and Los Angeles:

"Most of what people think they know about Southern California and simply not the case. Traffic congestion plagues the region in large measure because California has failed to invest in adequate highway capacity. And far from allowing uncontrolled development to thin out the settlement pattern L.A. has actually seen densities increase over time."

Sunday, January 29, 2006

.....NYT discusses Kobe vs. Wilt:

"The resounding response from current and former players, coaches and executives is that each achievement deserves praise on its own merit."

But here's an interesting view:

"Less intimidating defenses in the 1960's may have allowed players to take more shots and score more points, said Rod Thorn, the president of the Nets, who played in the NBA from 1963 to 1971."

I guess Thorn knows more about it than I do. But someone tell me which NBA team plays any sort of defense, intimidating or otherwise? The reason why fans get so irritated at the low score of NBA games these days is because guys can't make a shot even when they're not being defended.

While providing color commentary for a recent NBA game, Bill Walton predicted Kobe would score 100 someday. The play-by-play guy said that was a bold prediction. I don't thnk so. The Lakers should just let Kobe take every shot. He's more than willing to do it.

Friday, January 27, 2006

.....It seems like it would be easier to count the homeless if everyone were under one roof. Detroit's going to get quite a few under one roof next weekend:

"One shelter, the Detroit Rescue Mission, plan a three-day Super Bowl party with food and four big-screen television sets."

Just have a guy standing at the door with a counter.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

.......Floyd Stuart posts on the bicyclist killed by the bus carrying the Boston College basketball team.

Here's the N&O follow-up story. Notice the lead.

I'd say death keeps us from doing quite a few things.

.....Example of fiscal responsibility right here in the Triad.......

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools:

To say that many North Carolina voters are skeptical of school bonds is definitely not an overstatement.

Just ask officials in Mecklenburg County, where, following a heated political battle, voters resoundingly rejected a $427 million bond for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in November.

And while voters in Wake County approved a $450 million school bond in 2003, school officials know that the planned 2006 bond referendum will be tough sell, considering the fact that they’ll probably ask for at least twice that amount.

Then there’s Forsyth County, where voters passed the last two school bonds, one for $94 million in 1994 and another for $150 million in 2001.Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools will ask voters to go the ballot box again this November to approve a bond that will range between $250 million and $290 million, according to superintendent Don Martin.

But Martin and many school board members are confident the bond will pass. If it does, it more than likely will have something to do with the system’s philosophy regarding school construction and renovation. The philosophy is this: Hold the line. Be specific. Once size and occupancy are set, resist wish lists and departmental lobbies that can drive up costs. Question everything.

Sticking to that philosophy has made WSFCS a model for using school bonds efficiently, finishing projects on time and on budget.

“Integrity with the public is critical,” Martin said. “Communication is always a challenge, always a key.”

“We learned real quickly that to be successful in the eyes of the public, you do what you say you’re going to do,” said WSFC school board member Buddy Collins. “There are people who didn’t vote for the last bond referendum who might vote for the next one because of what we did here.”

WSFCS has completed four major projects with money from the 2001 bond. Two high schools, Ronald Reagan and Simon G. Atkins, and one middle school, East Forsyth, opened for the 2005-2006 school year.

A major renovation was also recently completed at Carver High School, where a new performing arts space was built, windows were replaced, the entryway was redesigned and an integrated communications system was installed The total cost came to just over $8 million.

All three new school projects were clustered together to accommodate the increasing student population in Forsyth County. They came in on budget, with Reagan costing $23 million, Atkins costing $22 million and East Forsyth costing $11 million.

During a tour of Reagan High, principal Stan Elrod, a 30-year veteran of WSFCS, marveled at the school’s bang for the buck.

“It’s hard to believe they built this school for under $30 million,” Elrod said. “There was a great thought process here.”

While Reagan is a traditional high school and Atkins is a magnet school focusing on technology, the schools, physically speaking, are carbon copies of each other. The same architect designed both schools, a strategy that saves time and money.

They were constructed as simple rectangles with double –loaded corridors so students can move about with ease during class changes.

Building materials consisted of masonry work with steel partitions. Decorative features such as paint color were kept simple. Built-in casework was kept to minimum and contracted with a manufacturer who could furnish and install it in bulk quantities.

“We’re looking for functionality, not architectural significance,” Martin said. “Sometimes, architects want to build the Taj Mahal. But we’re looking to get from point A to point B. The building is nothing but a tool. We want kids to be comfortable in it, and we want them to feel like somebody cares about them, but we’re not looking for a lot of frills in the construction. You have to develop relationships with architects to make them understand the type of customer you are. We’re not out to win design awards.”

A major feature of both high schools and East Forsyth is movable walls so that the cafeteria, gym and auditorium can convert into one large commons area to accommodate larger crowds.

“Most high school auditoriums sit empty 90-95 percent of the time,” Jim Moorefield, WSFCS construction specialist.

WSFC oversees its own construction, meaning no bond money went to construction management firms. Moorefield and fellow construction specialist Bill Powell spent several years in the private sector before coming to work for the school system, so they not only know construction, but they know how to keep costs down. They had to, or they wouldn’t be able to keep jobs in the private sector, they said

They’re also sensitive to the fact that a good majority of Forsyth County’s population has no direct stake in the school system.

“We’re held accountable for we do,” Moorefield said. “I feel like I’m basically representing an 82-year-old woman on a fixed income. I’m spending her money.”

The line is held pretty well politically speaking, too. Collins says the school system’s solid relationship with Forsyth County commissioners helps things run smoothly.

“If we have certain needs, they are likely to come forth with them,” Collins said.

WSFCS also has one of the few remaining partisan school boards in the state. The partisan board has been in place since 1994, with Republicans holding the majority. The party now holds 7-2 majority, with every member facing reelection in 2006. The board also has a solid relationship with Martin, who has been superintendent since 1994.

“He’s very conservative in the ways that matter,” said school board member Jeannie Metcalf.

Martin said it would be later in the year before the exact amount of the bond proposal would be set. About half of those funds would go to renovation projects since the three new schools helped ease overcrowding, at least for the time being.

But whatever the amount comes to, he’s confident voters will be receptive. The information’s out there; the system’s Web site shows the progress of every project financed by bond money.

“When we start this bond campaign in 2006, we can say we completed every project we promised,” Martin said. “Meeting our promises since 1995 is good.”

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

....N.Y. Times obit: The Guiding Light's "Mike Bauer".

His duels with Alan Spaulding in the mid '80s were classics.

Don't ask.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

.....Interesting letter to the editor in the N&O from Wake County school board member Ron Margiotta, suggesting the board keep an eye on the private sector when searching for a new superintendent:

"Unfortunately, many in the educational establishment have too little managerial and entrepreneurial success to break out of the business-as-usual. Many are are resigned to the litany: growth, reassignments, taxes, bonds....

"Current, non-traditional superintendents maintain an average budget surplus of $1.8 million — including those managing school construction projects and bonds."

Margiotta cites three superintendents who have crossed over from the private sector and made a difference in public schools, including Joel Klein, who has helped improve students' performance in New York City schools, although Klein might not be the best example due to his extensive government experience.

We have an example of positive private sector influence over the school system here in the Triad. More later...


New Reds owner Bob Castellini, on what he wants out of new GM:

"What I want him to focus on while he's here is to take a look at our entire pitching program, soup to nuts, and see what our plan is and let me know. Because I haven't been able to fully understand what our plan is."

Not so good.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Fowler: "The Panthers were badly mismatched at running back." No shit.

I pulled for the Steelers in the AFC title game, and I was happy that a family-owned franchise was representing the NFL in the Super Bowl. But as I watched the presentation of the trophy in the visitor's locker room, it dawned on me: the odds of two wild card teams meeting in the Super Bowl were slim. Negativity crept in; the Panthers were doomed before the kickoff.

But it had to happen sometime. In fact, had the Panthers won, the Super Bowl would have been a meeting of two family-owned franchises at different ends of the professional football spectrum. But it's hard when key players on both sides of the line are injured. I'm trying to figure just how much of a difference a healthy Julius Peppers would have made. Perhaps he could have produced the key defensive play the Panthers needed so badly. Not to mention a strong performance from its QB.

I guess I'm a sadist, but I also like watching the visiting team snatch title hopes from the hometown team in front of the fans. With that in mind, I'm glad the NFL did away with the bad idea of presenting the trophy to the visiting team on the field. I couldn't believe it when the AFC presented the '00 title trophy to the Ravens on the field right in front of disappointed (shall we say) Raiders fans. And to Art Modell, of all people, only one of the most hated men in the NFL at the time. As Modell was giving his acceptance speech, a firecracker went off and he jumped out of his shoes. I'm sure he thought he was dead. But what a way to die, clutching the championship trophy that had long eluded him.

....Cone discusses the light blogging around here these days. I don't know if anybody's missed me, but I'll weigh in.

For me, it's been about finishing projects that actually pay money so the people paying that money will want to pay me more money. (Is that clear?) On top of that there have been a number of mundane projects that nevetheless require as much, if not more, mental focus as thinking up blog posts. My time for leisure reading, which is where I get many of my ideas for blog posts, has also been limited.

Cone's right when he writes there needs to be a little more originality around here. I'm as guilty as anybody. It was a lot easier when I was working for the GGO and my blog served as source of news. But most of my work these days is done over the phone. More and more, I'm getting out and about less and less.

But it's in my best interests to maintain a blog, so I'll keep it up.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

...Staying on top of my personal business is tough enough without having to stay on top of everyone else's business....

Monday, January 16, 2006

....Question about last night's Panthers victory.....I don't understand why the facemask penalty against Marlon McCree superseded the touchback when Thomas Jones fumbled out of the end zone. It seems to me the referees would have just backed the Panthers' offense 15 yards......

......Another extended hiatus as I try to get some s**t done. When you're up against a tight deadline, you look for any excuse to avoid that last, intense editing process, and blogging is as good excuse as any........

...No, I haven't gone the route of other local bloggers. And while some bloggers are gone, others emerge: Meet Floyd Stuart.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

....Another brief hiatus as I went mountain biking on this awesome trail, watched a lot of football and finished up this project:

Texas’ 41-38 win over USC in the national championship game is being billed by many as the greatest college football game ever.

“The standard by which all future championship games are measured,” wrote one newspaper, while another said the game was “the result of a system that, like all others, is imperfect, but served up something wonderful for all college football fans.”

Evidently. The Rose Bowl also scored big in the television ratings, as over 36 million tuned to the highly-anticipated matchup, producing a 21.7 Nielson rating. That rating was the best ever for a national championship game and the best for the Rose Bowl since 1986.

So the Bowl Championship Series works. Right?


Now that the excitement over Texas-USC has died down, it’s worth noting that change still may be in the BCS’ long-term future.

There’s already short-term change. Next year, a fifth game will be added to the BCS schedule. On Jan. 8, 2007, Phoenix will be the site for the BCS Championship Game, one week after it hosts the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. The championship game will then rotate among the Orange, Sugar and Rose Bowls, meaning one bowl will host two games every four years.

The extra game is not the so-called plus-one model in which the winners of the BCS bowls meet. The BCS championship will still feature the top two teams determined by the BCS ratings. But with the extra two slots in BCS bowls, four at-large bids for independents like Notre Dame and Navy will be available.

There’s also a new BCS coordinator. SEC commissioner Mike Slive has taken over for Big 12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg, who held the job for two years, a period when the BCS thrived financially but was also under intense scrutiny.

Under Weiberg, the BCS landed a four-year, $80 million deal with Fox to broadcast the Orange, Sugar and Fiesta bowls from 2007-2010. ABC still holds the rights to the Rose Bowl, and the championship game when it is played there, through 2014.

But the BCS also took quite a bit of heat during Weiberg’s tenure. Amid all the questions about whether the BCS poll was really matching the top two college teams, two major outlets, the Associated Press and ESPN, pulled out of the poll.

Weiberg also fielded question after question about the possibility of college football playoff, a possibility that he didn’t see “coming any time soon.”

Slive, however, has indicated that the extra game “creates a situation that could tolerate” the plus-one format.

“We have to think long and hard when we start to talk about expanding the postseason about what impact it will have on the regular season,” Slive told the Football Writers Association of America.

But Slive’s comments came with the warning that any changes would be with the blessing of university presidents, the lack of which will continue to be a major stumbling block.

So while a playoff isn’t on the horizon, the extra bowl slots created a need for the BCS commissioners to take a look at the qualification process for automatic bids, a process that will open the BCS up top emerging football programs.

The major wild card was Notre Dame, which has made one BCS bowl appearance in the system’s seven years’ existence.

Beginning in 2006, Notre Dame will earn an automatic BCS berth with a top eight ranking in the final standings.

There’s also a pretty good payoff: the Irish are now guaranteed BCS money even when they don’t play in a game. Formerly, Notre Dame would get $14 million when it played in a BCS game, but nothing when it didn’t.

Interestingly enough, the Irish won’t receive a full share when it qualifies for a BCS game, only the equivalent of a second team from a conference, which is $4.5 million. In years where the Irish did not qualify, they would receive $1 million from the BCS.

The inclusion of Notre Dame and Navy, which announced it would be eligible for the BCS in June, highlights the BCS’ sensitivity to the increasing strength of teams outside the ACC, the Big 12, the SEC, the Pac-Ten, the Big Ten, and the Big East. The Big East is especially vulnerable to a closer look at its value to the BCS following the defections of Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College to the ACC. But the addition of Cincinnati and Louisville hopefully will retain the conference’s strength.

But the opening of the selection process also means major conferences could lose out on a BCS bid.

Next year, one conference champion from the non-BCS conferences — the MWC, WAC, C-USA MAC and Sun Belt — will automatically qualify for the BCS by either finishing in the top 12 of the final BCS standings or finishing in the top 16 of the BCS standings and ranked higher than the champion of one BCS conference.

By those standards, MWC champion Texas Christian, ranked 14th in the BCS poll, would have gotten a BCS bid over ACC champion Florida State, which was ranked 22nd.

Another proposal for a new evaluation was put forth whereupon all Division I-A conferences could qualify for a BCS berth, based on the conference’s overall strength. In addition, there will be an appeals process by which conferences can make their case for a BCS berth. The new evaluation and appeals system could begin as early as 2008.

The appeals system is a two-step process. BCS officials would look at the average rank and overall strength of the conference, and if a school is clearly in the top six, then there will be a further evaluation of its with other major conferences. There will also be a provision that will allow a conference to be considered if it was not similar to five of the others, an opportunity for a conference to make a case.

For now, it is likely the BCS would retain the cap of no more than two members from a single conference participating.

There’s little doubt that, if anything, the ACC, which is now loaded with football powerhouses following the defection of Virginia Tech, Boston College and Miami from the Big East, would benefit from the lifting of the two-team cap.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

....A couple of bloggers provide detailed analysis of the Sago Mine tragedy.

Spewing Forth lays responsibility on— you guessed it — the Bush administration, while Mine Safety Watch breaks down the numbers:

"A coal miner was more than 6 times as likely to get killed on the job as the average U.S. worker in 2004."

And that's why not a lot of people want to be coal miners. Even the mainstream media stereotype the job as one any sane or half-way intelligent person would never take.

It's common knowledge by now that the sole survivor, Randal McCloy, wanted to get out of mining because it was too dangerous:

"McCloy was a licensed electrician, but the money in the mines was just too good to pass up, family members said.

"'You do what you've gotta do to take care of your family. Everything is a risk nowadays,' said his aunt Pat Miles."

But right now I don't know what to say but thank goodness for all the brave people who've taken that risk to provide our country with fuel.

......Boyd says Vince Young just made for a very interesting NFL draft. The official party line, stated by last night's game announcers, is Young will return to Texas. But I don't see how he can after night's last performance.

What to make of Pete Carroll's fourth-and-one gamble at the Texas 45 yard line? He had no reason to believe LenDale White woudn't make it. But surely he must have thought of the consequences of handing the ball back to Young on a short field.

USC guard Fred Matua:

"We're not about putting the game in our defense's hands. We want to take it from them in our own terms. If we go down, we go down fighting, not hopin' and wishin'. This is how we play at SC, and any high schooler that wants to play like this, man, come on through. We don't play scared."

I guess that attitude is what made the game worth losing a little sleep.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

....O'Reilly and Letterman get into it on Late Night. Letterman held his own, I thought, until he said he thought 60 percent of what O'Reilly said was total crap, after which he admitted he never watched the show.

I'm either an optimist or totally naive, but I never had Letterman pegged as a liberal. To my knowledge (and someone correct me if I'm wrong), Letterman has never spoken out politically in a serious manner. I had my suspicions, mind you, but then he would around and tell a joke where the punch line is Donald Rumsfeld stripping Al Gore naked and walking him around on a leash. Liberals take that torture stuff pretty seriously, you know.

I think Letterman felt like he had to take on O'Reilly on lose stock with the mainstream media for doing a soft interview. But what is mainstream media stock to him?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

......Hangings and firing squads.

Monday, January 02, 2006

......Interesting article on geothermal heat systems, which not only cut the utility bill but increase home value:

"Although the notion of tapping the earth's energy has been around forever and the basic technology has existed for decades, the many advantages have only recently begun to win widespread attention. The big reason are concern for the environment and, more to the point, money.......And a growing number of celebrity homeowners who use them — like the country music star Toby Keith, the Home Depot co-founder Arthur Blank, the actor Ed Begley Jr. and President Bush — have helped to raise the technology's profile."

So who says President Bush doesn't care about the environment?

....Took the weekend off----Speedbird, a lot of football.......All the hand-wringing over the Panthers was for nothing...I now have a lucky Panthers T-shirt, which I will be wearing next Sunday.........


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