So I may have been mistaken for a homeless person

First of all apologies to those of you I’ve already told this story.  But yes, I fear I may have been mistaken for a homeless person yesterday.  I was out at the mall last night with my 2 older children.  I had gone there to walk around because I was in a pedometer challenge (who could take the most steps from the 23rd to the 30th) and it was the last day and I wanted to do my best to help my team to win.  And also to look for coins of course, as the mall is a great place for coins.

So we were walking around the food court and we had spotted a few coins.  We had stopped to get a drink at the water fountain in the corner of the food court when this girl (maybe 10-12 years old) says “Excuse me” to my son.  We stop and turn, and she gives him $1.17 in coins and then leaves.
Now originally I just thought that her mom or whoever had seen him looking for coins and just wanted to make his day by giving him a bunch of coins.  And I still think that’s a reasonable possibility.  But then this morning Carolyn came up with the homeless hypothesis: that the mom or whoever saw us scrounging for coins and thought we were trying to come up with enough for a meal for the kids and thought she would help out.

In any case, I have decided not to count that money in my change quest.  I actually feel kind of bad about it, especially if she really was intending for it to help us out.  So I am going to donate it at church on Sunday and that way it can go for some good.

The weird thing is that we had just come from a (rare!) dinner out at Larosas. We had dressed all the kids up in the hopes that it would cause them to behave better than a typical kid at a restaurant scene. It worked, but that is neither here nor there. I bring it up because I was dressed in my work clothes. The son was dressed similarly in khakis and a button down shirt, and the daughter was in a nice dress. So it wasn’t like we were all lookin scruffy.

But in other news, we did find $1.45 in just run of the mill coins (1 quarter, 9 dimes, 1 nickel and 25 pennies) and also found 3 of the racecar strollers that were not returned to their bases, which we returned for 4 quarters each.  Total is now up to $32.44 found, with an estimated $100 date of Jan. 24, 2010.

In other other news, we got killed in our challenge.  One of the other teams both did 25,000 steps both yesterday and the day before and wasted us.

2008 college football bowl contest

Okay. So as many of you know, I like sports. And I also like nerdery. So what better than to combine sports and nerdery??!?

It is the annual bowl contest sponsored by pro-football-reference.com. Here is the contest page (picks due this Saturday before the first game) as well as last year’s contest and their NFL contest from earlier this year (here’s the explanation of my picks to the NFL contest)

I did enter last year’s contest and I thought that I had posted a blog entry with an explanation to my picks, but I could not find it, so apparently I did not. But fear not, gentle reader, I will leave you a detailed explanation this year. I have modeled (read: blatantly copied) my strategy this year off of this post where Chase explained his methodology, and also the #1 comment from JKL (who won last year). I tied for 6th out of 12 teams. I will also note that 3 of the entries were from folks I recruited to join (in addition to my own).

So, the first thing that I did is whip up a handy dandy spreadsheet with all the teams. I got their Sagarin ratings from the pure predictor rankings.

First let’s look at the longshots, with their Sagarin ratings and the point spreads:

87	Alabama 	 Utah 	89.91	-11	-2.91
85.79	USC 	 Penn State 	85.24	-10	0.55
80.78	Missouri Northwestern	77.08	-10.5	3.72
78.02	Kansas 	 Minnesota 	70.7	-10	7.32
93.63	Texas 	 Ohio State 	83.88	-8	9.75
74.84	South Florida 	 Memphis 	62.75	-11.5	12.09

Utah is also rated as a BETTER team than Alabama, and USC and Penn State are close. USC does get some credit for having the game played at the Rose Bowl, but from the analysis seems to indicate that if a team has about a 15% shot of winning it’s better to take them as a longshot, due to the mechanics of the contest heavily favoring the picking of longshots.

So I will take Utah and Penn State, despite the fact that I think the Big 10 stinks.  I will also take Northwestern – Missouri lost to every good team that they played and so I will again go with the longshot. Minnesota was 3-5 in the Big 10 and just lost their last game 55-0 to Iowa. Uh… no thanks. Also I will take a Texas team that probably has a chip on their shoulder. Not sure about USF / Memphis. South Florida beat exactly one good team (which of course is one more than Memphis has beaten…). I’ll come back to them.

Now here’s a list of all the games, sorted by point spread.  Again, longshots in bold, and I italicized teams that are listed as favorites for the contest but are underdogs according to Sagarin.

74.84	South Florida	Memphis	62.75	-11.5	12.09
87	Alabama	Utah	89.91	-11	-2.91
80.8	Missouri	Northwestern	77.08	-10.5	3.72
78.02	Kansas	Minnesota	70.7	-10	7.32
85.79	USC	Penn State	85.24	-10	0.55
77.15	Cal	Miami	80.21	-9	-3.06
82.25	Georgia	Michigan State	79.77	-8.5	2.48
93.63	Texas	Ohio State	83.88	-8	9.75
71.58	Central Michigan	Florida Atlantic	63.36	-7	8.22
69.56	Houston	Air Force	75.55	-5.5	-5.99
75.78	Rutgers	NC State	77.59	-4.5	-1.81
93.04	Texas Tech	Ole Miss	77.52	-4	15.52
82	Boston College	Vanderbilt	73.15	-3.5	8.85
79.42	Georgia Tech	LSU	74.36	-3.5	5.06
72.95	Rice	Western Michigan	74.54	-3.5	-1.59
83.14	Florida State	Wisconsin	73.03	-3	10.11
79.06	Wake Forest	Navy	75.85	-3	3.21
75.89	Connecticut	Buffalo	72.91	-3	2.98
78.73	Oregon State	Pitt	80.74	-3	-2.01
70.52	Arizona	BYU	82.07	-3	-11.55
68.76	Troy	Southern Miss	65.23	-2.5	3.53
75.93	Iowa	South Carolina	76.37	-2.5	-0.44
75.73	East Carolina	Kentucky	69.99	-2.5	5.74
85.2	Oklahoma State	Oregon	79.42	-1.5	5.78
76.2	Ball State	Tulsa	70.43	-1.5	5.77
81.67	North Carolina	West Virginia	77.69	-1.5	3.98
79.74	Clemson	Nebraska	79.63	-1.5	0.11
90.79	Florida	Oklahoma	94.52	-1.5	-3.73
71.69	Hawaii	Notre Dame	72.06	-1	-0.37
72.52	Nevada	Maryland	78.67	1	-6.15
84.16	Cincinnati	Virginia Tech	84.48	0	-0.32
85.32	TCU	Boise State	85.9	0	-0.58
65.59	Northern Illinois	La. Tech	69.2	0	-3.61
66.97	Fresno State	Colorado State	71.28	0	-4.31

So the biggest “Sagarin favorite” is BYU over Arizona. On that vein, I will also take Maryland, Colorado State, Oklahoma and Louisiana Tech. Houston has already lost to Air Force this season, Air Force is rated a 6 point better team, and it is the Armed Forces bowl after all. I’ll bank on one of those 3 things meaning anything and take Air Force as a dog.

Moving on to banking against middling teams from power conferences playing in crappy early bowls. I will use that logic to take Navy over Wake and Hawaii over Notre Dame.

Some favorites I like: Texas Tech (a 15 pt Sagarin favorite) in the Cotton Bowl, BC over Vandy (lost 6 of their last 7), Central Michigan, and I’ll come back and take South Florida as well as Oklahoma State, and Georgia Tech. I’ll also take Cincinnati because I’m a homer.

Some dogs I like: Miami and Pitt (Pac-10 stinks), So. Miss (playing well lately), WVU (conference homerism), Buffalo and Tulsa.

So at this point I have 3 longshots, 13 underdogs, and 11 favorites, with 7 games left to pick. The only way it balances out is if I take 6 of the last 7 favorites. So I need 1 underdog out of NC State, Western Michigan, South Carolina, or Nebraska (I also could take Mich. St, Wisconsin or Kentucky but those 3 are all much bigger dogs). Hard to take NC state against a Rutgers team that has won 6 straight (the last 5 by 18 points or more). I’ll go with Nebraska over Clemson. So with 17 favorites, and 14 underdogs (and 3 longshots), I need just one group of 3 favorites. I’ll go with Chase’s wisdom and take my 3 strongest favorites which are Texas, S. Florida and Kansas.

Now to match up 14 favorites with 14 underdogs. I will try to match strength with strength, while also looking to match up conferences (either in the teams I picked or the teams I picked against). My philosophy there is that if there are teams that are over or under-rated, based on their actual strengths, they are likely to be grouped in conferences. Since say if Oklahoma is overrated, then Texas is somewhat overrated, since their win over Oklahoma counts for more than it should. That at least seems to make sense to me?

That gives me Central Michigan and BYU, Maryland and Boston College, Ok. State and Colorado State, Hawaii and La. Tech, Texas Tech and Oklahoma (double Big 12 over SEC!), Rutgers and WVU (double Big East over ACC), Florida State and Miami, Tulsa and Rice, Air Force and Georgia, Cincinnati and Navy, Pitt and Georgia Tech, TCU and Nebraska, Buffalo and E. Carolina, and Iowa and So. Miss. Lots of guesswork there but hey that’s what it’s all about!

So in nerd-ese (i.e. the official format of the contest) that would be 57,53,24|40|48|61|3,9|6,28|12,43|21,27|44,56|51,66|17,30|59,50|0,20|10,35|49,19|36,55|7,14|23,54|

You can follow along if you want at the official “nerdy web page

Holiday song / carol quiz

This is a quiz that I came up with as something to pass the time while we waited for people to arrive at our recent work gift exchange party.  So I thought I would pass it on to you guys to see how you do.

Below you will find the first lines of 25 holiday songs / carols.  But each line has been compressed with just the first letter of each word.  For example SBRAYL would be “Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?” from the song Winter Wonderland.  Some are more difficult than others – how many can you get?

I will note that most if not all of these answers can be found somewhere on the Internet.  Come up with your answers in the comments and just note how many you could get without relying on Internet help for an accurate comparison with those that choose not to use it.

  1. HTHASGTTNK
  2. CROAOF
  3. IDOAWC
  4. DTTSIAOHOS
  5. RTRNRHAVSN
  6. SNHNAICAIB
  7. ISMKSC
  8. OTFDOCMTLGTM
  9. FTSMWAJHS
  10. IBMBOJHSSOM
  11. JBJBJBR
  12. POYYITFH
  13. AWHHOHSSOTP
  14. AIAMNCFHB
  15. DTHWBOH
  16. TFNTADS
  17. JTTWTLIC
  18. OHNTSABS
  19. IHABCWY
  20. WWYAMCWWYAMC
  21. OCAYFJAT
  22. YBWOYBNC
  23. GGROBAR
  24. IBTLALLC
  25. RATCTATCPH

The winner at our little get-together got 16 right (in about 15 minutes or so) – just as a comparison.  Good luck!

General Conference talk – Christian Courage: The Price of Discipleship

So in my continuing series of reading GC talks, I read one from Robert D. Hales (from Idaho!) – Christian Courage: The Price of Discipleship

One of the things I liked about this talk was his talking about the perils in leaving “the high ground”. A lot of his talk focused on how to react when people attack you or the Church or your beliefs. One of his suggestions was

As the Savior demonstrated with Herod, sometimes true disciples must show Christian courage by saying nothing at all.

He compared it to Alma 47 and Nehemiah 6:2-3, where both times enemies tempt someone into leaving the high ground and meeting “in the valley”. In Alma, Lehonti is then killed by Amalickiah, whereas the prophet Nehemiah refuses, saying

“I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?”

Anyways, just thought that it was interesting

Fantasy Football update

So, to all negative 5 people besides me that care about my fantasy football team, I thought I would update you on how things went yesterday after my dilemma .  Addai and Jacobs in fact did not play.  Sproles received 3.38 points, and Morris got 4.30.  Larry Johnson for some odd reason THREW a touchdown pass and ended up with 7.75 points, so for most of the day it looked like I made the right call, as Barber was expected to start in the Sunday night game (meaning my other choice of Choice – ooh a good one! – would not be that great).  But Choice came in and rushed for like 80 yards and a touchdown in the 4th quarter alone, ending up with 13.15 points.  But all in all not a horrible move.  Wish I’d have started Bernard Berrian at WR (2 TDs) though….

My opponent is finished and I have DeSean Jackson playing tonight.  Though somehow between the end of the Sunday night game and this morning, DeMarcus Ware (for my opponent) magically came up with 7 additional points.  So instead of the 5 point deficit I thought I had when I went to bed, I am down 12 (actually 11.77).  So I need a big day from Mr. Jackson (like 120 yards and a TD).  Good thing he’s playing <a href=”http://www.clevelandbrowns.com/”>a really sucky team</a>…

Fantasy football dilemma

So this week begins my fantasy football league’s playoffs.  Now of course almost nobody outside of the 8 of us really cares, but this is MY blog so I’ll write about it if I want.

After losing my first 2 games, I won 9 of the next 10 to go to 9-3 and first place.  I celebrated by losing my last 2 games of the year, leaving me at 9-5 and in 2nd place.

So this week I play another 9-5 team but I have some running back (RB) dilemmas.  We are able to start 2, and I have Maurice Jones-Drew solidly in one spot.  But I have many options for the #2 spot.

  • Joseph Addai.  He’d be a great start against the Lions.  But…. he hurt his wittle shoulder and won’t play
  • Brandon Jacobs.  He’s who I’ve been starting for the year.  But…. he is also not playing.
  • Tashard Choice (DAL).  I picked him up recently but it looks like Marion Barber is going to play.  Plus this game doesn’t happen till 8:15 making it risky.  Of course not that that matters since I have to set my lineup before I leave for church at like 10:30
  • Larry Johnson.  After doing so well last year and being one of my keepers, he has stunk it up all year.
  • Maurice Morris.  Another recent pickup – he plays the Rams who stink, but is stuck in a platoon so he might not get many carries.
  • Darren Sproles.  Plays Larry Johnson and the Chiefs but despite a lot of success, he’s still just the 2nd option behind Tomlinson

I’ve probably had all of these guys in my lineup (except Sproles) at various times during the week but have shifted it around.  I currently have Johnson in.  I just hope that either I win, or I lose by enough that it wouldn’t have mattered who I started.

EFC

So one of the things that they do at work is offer occasional lunch seminars.  They have a free lunch and have various topics.  Some are interesting, and some I just go for the free lunch.  Okay, that’s a lie – I go to all of them for the free lunch.  But nevertheless, some of them just turn out to be interesting :-)

So over the past few weeks, I’ve attended two interesting ones – one was about retirement planning in a down economy, and another was about saving for college.  Of course, as I said to one of my co-workers – the first thing about saving for retirement is taking advantage of free lunches!

The other day at the college one, I learned about EFC.  Now, I think of EFC as <a href=”http://everywhatever.blogspot.com/2007/12/efc-ohio-table-of-contents.html”>Every Freakin County</a> but in the context of college savings, EFC is the Expected Family Contribution.  Basically when filling out financial aid forms, the government looks at your income and assets and determines how much you are expected to contribute to your child’s education.

It was interesting.  There are of course a plethora of online calculators for EFC.  I used <a href=”http://www.finaid.org/calculators/finaidestimate.phtml”>this one</a>.  I just plugged in my tax info and assumed it was 10 years from now (one of the things it asks for is the age of the oldest parent).  It came up with an EFC of $6,000.  So then I ran a few spreadsheet simulations to figure out when different folks would be in college.  Accounting for missions and such, and assuming 5 years per kid, it looks like we will have 3 in college in 2025, 2026 and 2029.  The EFC is not per student but per family, so if you had an EFC of $6,000 and 2 kids, it would be $3,000 per kid.  Though your EFC goes up (but not double) as you have more kids in school.  So with 2 kids in school maybe your EFC would be $7,000.

Anyway, my (really rough) calculations said that 5 kids at 5 years per kid will cost us about $100,000.  And that is just to pay our EFC – the rest would have to be either loans, grants, scholarships, or additional savings.  But it definitely made me feel a little better about things.

I heart the Internet

I was getting Carolyn’s (rockin) Christmas present today and so when I went to checkout from the website that shall not be named, there was a place to put in a promo or coupon code. So I thought well let’s go searching. I typically do searches like these but I normally don’t have much success.

And sure enough the first 4 or 5 codes I found were either invalid, expired, for purchase amounts more than what I was spending, or some combination thereof.

But then I found one! Boom – free shipping! Saved me $8.

I can’t tell you what the code is or what website it is for because that might spoil the super awesome surprise.

The price of milk at UDF

Okay – gotta share this. I called up UDF this morning. They have an ongoing promotion where if you fill up with 8 gallons of gas, you get a gallon of milk for pretty cheap. But the price changes every month, so sometimes it’s a good deal and sometimes it’s not that great. So I called up this morning to see what their price for December was.

Guy answered and I asked the question. He responded that it was $2.39 but if you wanted to buy 2, it was cheaper not to use the gas receipt and just buy them regular price, which was 2/$5.

I paused and scratched my head and asked, “But isn’t 2/$5 $2.50 each?” He said yes but then mentioned that 2 gallons with a gas receipt was $5.38. I again paused to scratch my head while he followed up with “Do you get what I’m sayin?”.

At this point I just said yes and hung up. Perhaps gives you some insight as to why he might be working at UDF?

I will post a followup if it turns out that there is a limit of 1 with the gas receipt, though that would be a change in how the program works.

General Conference talks

So one of the things I’ve been doing since last General Conference is reading the talks, one at a time. Someone in EQ suggested that if you read one per week you get through them in time to start over for the next conference (in 6 months time). Turns out that there are actually 33 talks but I’ll figure it out.

So with my new handy Franklin planner I have been scheduling in one per week.

As I was reading the talk for this week, I thought it might be interesting / worthwhile to blog about some of my thoughts while reading it. So…. here I am.

Pray Always, by David E Bednar (that would be,at least for now, “Took Ricks to the Y“)

So sometimes I find that my prayers are pretty lame. Recently I’ve been praying for some friends of mine that are having a hard time. And even though I really do WANT to help them I have trouble figuring out how to pray for them.

One thing I thought was interesting was the idea that in our prayers we could:

* Reflect on those occasions when we have spoken harshly or inappropriately to those we love the most.
* Recognize that we know better than this, but we do not always act in accordance with what we know.
* Express remorse for our weaknesses and for not putting off the natural man more earnestly.
* Determine to pattern our life after the Savior more completely.
* Plead for greater strength to do and to become better.

Also found it interesting a story Elder Bednar gave about how when they lived up in Idaho having a General Authority come stay at their house shortly after a friend of theirs died. When they got together for a family prayer, the GA asked Sister Bednar to “express only appreciation for blessings received and ask for nothing.”

After sharing that, Elder Bednar said “The most meaningful and spiritual prayers I have experienced contained many expressions of thanks and few, if any, requests. As I am blessed now to pray with apostles and prophets, I find among these modern-day leaders of the Savior’s Church the same characteristic that describes Captain Moroni in the Book of Mormon: these are men whose hearts swell with thanksgiving to God for the many privileges and blessings which He bestows upon His people (see Alma 48:12). Also, they do not multiply many words, for it is given unto them what they should pray, and they are filled with desire (see 3 Nephi 19:24). The prayers of prophets are childlike in their simplicity and powerful because of their sincerity.”

I thought that was interesting and I will try to incorporate that as I pray this week.

Till next week!