Mar 20, 2011

MLB Dynasty 2011: Draft Results

The MLB Dynasty 2011 live draft is done and an exciting new season lies ahead of us.  We had a great turnout in the league with 8 out of 10 managers present for the majority of the draft.  Although many of us have played in rotisserie leagues in the past, this is the first time that us as a group have done it together.

Many people, including myself, find the live draft to be one of the most exciting parts of the fantasy season.  We have a week and a half before the opening pitch of the regular season, so while you're getting ready for that feel free to discuss the draft and add your comments here.

We won't be able to say with certainty how good or bad a certain pick was until the season is over, but as of now let's discuss some of the steals/reaches of the draft.  Here are some of the great picks that stand out to me.
  • Mark Teixeira (18.9 Average Draft Position) going with the 22nd pick was great for King Musabi.  If he bounces back from a career low batting average expect the rest of his stats, and his value, to go up even more.
  • I (Stealing Home) was very happy to get Jacoby Ellsbury in the 7th round.  Even though Jacoby Ellsbury has an ADP of 86.6 and he was taken with the 63rd pick, if he can bounce back to pre-injury stats he will have fantastic value for where he was taken... if he can remain healthy.
  • One year removed from one of his best seasons ever, Francisco Liriano (82.8 ADP) was a great pick by Tighansak with the 78th pick.
  • Kendrys Morales (61.0 ADP) may miss the first couple of weeks of the season as he finishes up his recovery from last season's injury, but he is still a solid pick for Angels with the 92nd pick.
  • While there is a bit of risk in taking Brian Roberts (117.1 ADP) there is potential here to get a ton of value for this pick by JaRed Sox with the 122nd pick.
  • With the number of superstar first baseman available in baseball, Paul Konerko (90.2 ADP) can easily slip under the radar.  Not for heart BRAYkers, who was able to snag him up with the 129th pick.
  • Brett Gardner (129.9 ADP) is not the biggest star on the Yankees, but he proved last season that he can produce just as well as the stars.  Great pick by Team Savage with the 153rd pick. 
There were plenty more great value picks in the draft.  Anyone else see any good ones?

Mar 6, 2011

A review of Boys Adrift by Leonard Sax

I had a friend who recently recommended a book to read for anyone who has boys.  It is called Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men by Leonard Sax.  Since I have a son and I value the opinion of this friend I decided I would read this book.  To my delight, there was a Kindle edition of the book on Amazon and the majority of its reviews were 4+ stars, so I purchased it and had it on my Kindle within a few minutes.  Over the next 2 weeks, in between finishing season 8 of 24 and work, I finished the book.

Here's my short summary of the book: it is fantastic.  I add my recommendation to that of my friend's in that I feel this is a must read book for parents of young boys.  Now, continue reading for my slightly more thorough review of the book's main points and some of my favorite passage.

As the subtitle to the book indicates, Sax breaks the book down into five main factors that he feels are most at fault for the issue at hand.  In order, they are:

The First Factor: Changes in Education
  • The emphasis on learning to read and write has gone from the 1st and 2nd grade to kindergarten.
  • Learning through books and learning through real life experience have become imbalanced.
  • Forms of academic and athletic competition are being removed from schools.
This was one of the factors that I knew very little about before.  Despite my lack of experience in elementary education, Sax's points seem to be very logical.  I am especially interested in the points he made regarding the changes in kindergarten curriculum to start focusing on reading and writing.  I have noticed among my own peers that it seems there are less and less men that enjoy reading and writing.  I wonder, as Sax contends, if this is due in part to trying to get boys to begin learning to read and write prior to when they're ready.

My tentative responses to what Sax goes over in this section are:
  1. Start my son later in kindergarten, such as when he is six instead of five.
  2. Try to expose my son to more outdoor, hands-on, 'dirty' activities.
  3. Encourage healthy academic and athletic competition.
M favorite passages related to this section:

"Trying to teach five-year-old boys to learn to read and write may be just as inappropriate as it would be to try to teach three-year-old girls to read and write. Timing is everything, in education as in many other fields. It’s not enough to teach well. You have to teach well to kids who are ready to learn, kids who are developmentally “ripe” for learning. Asking five-year-old boys to learn to read—when they’d rather be running around or playing games—may be the worst possible introduction to school, at least for some boys."

"Finland, incidentally, consistently scores at or near the very top of all of these international [academic] rankings. What’s the most distinctive characteristic of public education in Finland? Very simple: Children in Finland don’t begin any formal school until they are seven years old."

"How could starting kids in school two years later lead to superior performance when those children become teenagers? Simple. If kids start school two years later and are taught material when they are developmentally prepared to learn, kids are less likely to hate school. If kids don’t hate school, it’s easier to get them to learn. If kids do hate school, as many American boys do, then the teacher is starting out with a major handicap before even stepping into the classroom."

"[R]esearch demonstrated that children must have a rich, interactive sensory environment—touching, smelling, seeing, hearing the real world—in order for the child’s brain and mind to develop properly. Without such real-world experiences, the child’s development will be impaired."

The Second Factor: Video Games
  • Many boys now prefer the video game version over the real thing.
  • Video games disconnect boys from the real world and what really happens in life. 
I have a pretty strong stance regarding video games and my children; both my spouse and I agree that we're going to severely limit, if not completely restrict, the amount of exposure our children get to video games.  Ironically, many people who know me know that in my youth I played many, many hours of video games.  Even after returning from the Philippines and a 2-year abstinence of video games I had another bout of playing video games again.  I'm happy to say that I am now 'clean' of video games.  I respect other people's decisions to invest in and play video games.  But, I know if I get another video game system for myself I do not have sufficient self control to adequately limit myself.

This section reinforced many rules I already had envisioned for my kids.  Prior to reading this section, I had gone on a YouTube rampage one evening where I watched a bunch of videos of kids and teenagers who are overly obsessed with video games getting very upset and angry when their video games are taken away with them. (Try going to YouTube and searching for world of warcraft freak out.  Warning: some of them contain bad language.) Both this section of the book and those videos strongly convinced me to keep my children away from the video game world.

My response to what Sax goes over in this section is:
  1. No video games for myself or for my children.
My favorite passages related to this section:

"Nature is about smelling, hearing, tasting," author Richard Louv reminds us. The end result of a childhood with more time spent in front of computer screens than outdoors is what Louv calls "cultural autism." The symptoms? Tunneled senses, and feelings of isolation and containment . . . [and] a wired, know-it-all state of mind. That which cannot be Googled does not count."

"Video games have displaced a major activity in the lives of teenage boys, but that activity isn’t reading; it’s playing outdoors. In 1980, many boys spent lots of time playing outdoors. Today, those boys are more likely to spend that time indoors with the GameCube or the PlayStation or the Xbox. That may be one reason why boys today are four times more likely to be obese compared with boys a generation ago."

"A series of studies over the past seven years has demonstrated clearly and unambiguously that the more time your child spends playing video games, the less likely he is to do well in school—whether he is in elementary school, middle school, high school, or college." 

"The destructive effects of video games are not on boys’ cognitive abilities or their reaction times, but on their motivation and their connectedness with the real world."

The Third Factor: Medications for ADHD and The Fourth Factor: Endocrine Disruptors

These are two of the factors that I know the least about.  I will not say much on them because I do not know enough about these topics to form an opinion.  I do agree with Sax on what he says concerning these factors, it is just I do not know enough to defend my opinions.  I hope to find a book or two that will enlighten me more on these topics.  Recommendations, anyone?

My favorite passages related to this section:

"I’ve come to believe that we should not medicate boys so they fit the school; we should change the school to fit the boy."

"What these parents don’t know—and what the doctor also may not know—is that even relatively short-term use of these drugs, for just a year or perhaps less, can lead to changes in personality. The boy who used to be agreeable, outgoing, and adventurous becomes lazy and irritable."

The Fifth Factor: The Loss of Positive Role Models
  • Reinforcing traditional gender stereotypes are discouraged in schools/life.
  • Many of the popular male figures in society are not the type of men our boys should be looking up to.
I have always known that giving a child a positive role model to look up to is important.  Sax makes many keen observations on this matter that I had not yet realized.

My favorite passages related to this section:

"A boy is likely to become the kind of man he sees around him. A boy needs role models of healthy masculinity (just as girls need role models of healthy femininity).  If you don't provide him with healthy role models, he may choose the unhealthy role models offered by the marketplace, from rap music or television or movies or even video games. The challenge is analogous to nutrition. Left to their own devices, not many boys will choose broccoli and Brussels sprouts over french fries and ice cream. That's why they need parents. It's the job of the parents to guide their son to make the right choice."

"There are life-affirming gender roles and there are gender stereotypes that are harmful and destructive. The "dumb blonde" is a negative and destructive stereotype, as is the "dumb jock." But no one should condemn as a gender stereotype the ideal of the husband and father who sacrifices himself for the sake of his wife and children. Instead, that ideal should be affirmed as role model."

Overall, I think this is a very well written book and deserves the high ratings and reviews that it has received. While I still hope to find many additional sources and information on the topics Sax covered, I feel that this is an excellent foundation to have for any person involved in the raising of boys.

Nov 12, 2010

Breaking the mold: steering clear of the Big Four

This post is in no way meant to belittle the career choice of any person I do or do not know.  It is solely my personal thoughts on an oft thought of topic.

A little over three years ago I took my first college Accounting class: Introduction to Financial Accounting.  Among other good things that came from that class (such as meeting my future wife), I learned many new things about Accounting.  I was introduced to assets and liabilities, the Accounting cycle, debits and credits, and the basic set of financial statements.  I also learned early on that I had been blessed with a talent for Accounting; with studying and repetition I was able to understand well the once foreign topics that the class covered.

Going into that first semester I was anxious to see how well I would fare in Accounting.  I had no prior experience or background in Accounting, and had only recently been turned on to a degree in Accounting after my brother-in-law recommended I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad.  But after just my first successful semester in Accounting I was fairly certain that I would continue with the degree and eventually pursue a career post-college.

As I continued taking Accounting classes, I learned early on that the consensus career a graduate in Accounting should pursue is in public accounting.  And the pinnacle starting point in public accounting is with the "Big Four." (Talk about a buzz word.  If you ever want to impress upon Accountants that you know what's up just mention the Big Four and you'll have them tricked like a blond on April Fool's Day.)  I didn't know much about the Big Four back then.  What I did know was that they are highly respected in the Accounting world and that I wanted to work for them when I graduated.

As I began to ask around what it was really like working for a Big Four firm.  I spoke with many people and did some research on my own, and very quickly I learned that most everyone said the same thing about working for a Big Four firm.  In a nutshell it was this: "You get hired, you make good money, you work crazy and long hours for 3-5 years, then you take that experience and use it to get you a job somewhere else."  (I did speak to and have met people who are set on developing their career solely at a Big Four firm but they are in the minority.)

Most everything sounded fine and dandy about the Big Four firms.  They are very prestigious so I figured working there would be great for my resume.  They pay well.  They have many resources.  They have great benefits.  You gain valuable experience.  But one thing that everyone kept saying started to bother me: the long hours.

Initially I thought that the long hours was a bit of an exaggeration.  "Come on," I thought, "there's no way someone can actually work 70 (or more) hours a week."  But they can.  And they do.  Especially during the even-busier-than-normal tax season (roughly January to April).  This presented a major problem for me.

First, I was nearly married at this point to my beautiful bride, and the value of my personal free time increased dramatically.  I hadn't even ever worked a 40-hour work week at this point in my life, much less a 70-hour work week.  The thought of working 11-hour or more work days did not sound appealing at all.

But then the devil on my shoulder would start to shout, "Hey!  You'll be making $50k a year!  Don't worry about it man!  Tough it out!  It's worth it!"

Dudley Dawson wrote an amusing post on this topic titled "PwC, Deloitte, E&Y, and KPMG: Big 4 employees modern indentured servants."  He writes:
The definition of indentured servant is: a form of debt bondage worker. The laborer is under contract of an employer for usually three to seven years, in exchange for their transportation, food, drink, clothing, lodging and other necessities. Unlike a slave, an indentured servant is required to work only for a limited term specified in a signed contract.

Big 4 employees are not necessarily under contract, but there is an invisible contract keeping most of them employed for far too long.  Normal human beings would not agree to working 70-115 hours per week, but they see the carrot dangling.  They see the Partner pulling down huge figures and sitting in meetings where other executives do nothing but pretend to be busy, shake hands, and exchange millions of dollars.
Well, is it worth it?  Is burning yourself out for 3-5 years worth the "extra" money and the good looking resume?  I am sure for many people, it is worth it.  I am sure for many people at the Big Four firms they do really well there.  I am sure there are many who come out of the Big Four and end up with great paying careers ahead of them.  I am sure that many people who have left the Big Four firms never regret their choice to work there.  For me, I don't think I would have been one of those people.

I have a beautiful and hard-working wife.  I have a son who I love immensely.  I have friends.  I have many hobbies.  These are the things I enjoy.  For me, choosing to work at a Big Four firm would mean choosing to sacrifice for at least 3-5 years these things that I enjoy.  That's not worth it to me.

Let me repeat myself from above: This post is in no way meant to belittle the career choice of any person I do or do not know.  Every person in this world will go through the same decision process that I have gone through.  Many will decide how I have decided.  Many will decide to go work for a Big Four firm.  Many will decide none of the above.  To each his own.

As for myself, I am happy in my non-Big Four career.  I enjoy my time at work and my coworkers.  I also greatly enjoy my time off from work and the time I get to spend doing the things I enjoy.   I don't know how many other soon-to-be or recent graduates are going through the same back and forth argument that I went through.  Maybe I'm the only one that arrived at the Big Four crossroads and stood there for forever, wondering whether to go left or right.  I chose the right, by the way. :-)

I hope that this post might serve as some level of motivation to even one person out there who has decided against the Big Four firms.

Oct 17, 2010

President Boyd K. Packer's General Conference Address

I have never seen such public outrage over a talk delivered in an LDS General Conference than after Boyd K. Packer's October 2010 Sunday morning talk.  Surely the political developments of the last few years have caused many people to be more aware of the topic of homosexuality, which is the topic that President Packer spoke on (among others) that caused so much public outrage.

President Packer's remarks on homosexuality were not the first of their kind.  I am not sure, but I would estimate that the topic of homosexuality has been spoken of at least 34,582 times prior to President Packer's address.

Spencer W. Kimball spoke very similar words to President Packer's in his book The Miracle of Forgiveness.  One section of his book reads:
But let us emphasize that right and wrong, righteousness and sin, are not dependent upon man's interpretations, conventions, and attitudes.  Social acceptance does not change the status of an act, making wrong into right.  If all the people in the world were to accept homosexuality, as it seems to have been accepted in Sodom and Gomorrah, the practice would still be deep, dark sin.
A couple pages later President Kimball says more on the topic:
Clearly [homosexuality] is hostile to God's purpose in that it negates his first and great commandment to "multiply and replenish the earth."  If the abominable practice became universal it would depopulate the earth in a single generation.  It would nullify God's great program for his spirit children in that it would leave countless unembodied spirits in the heavenly world without the chance for the opportunities of mortality and would deny to all the participants in the practice the eternal life God makes available to us all.
Make no mistake, President Kimball does not mince words anywhere in his book, and he makes no exception for the topic of homosexuality.

But as always the beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that no matter what type of corrections in life one needs to make, God and the Savior Christ are always waiting with undying patience and open arms to welcome us back into their fold.