Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Utah 27, CSU 3

Utah beat Colorado State by... running the ball! They ran for 322 yards against the Rams and threw for 130 yards as well. As I mentioned in my post about their last game, I was prepared to be disappointed with the Utes this game. It turned out that I was far from disappointed and am now looking forward to Utah's next 3 games, all Mountain West Conference showdowns with Wyoming, New Mexico and one other team whose name escapes me right now.

As a friend of mine from the ward pointed out, the Utes had two running backs run for more than 100 yards. Mack led the way with 151 yards on the ground and Stowers (who had a pleasant breakout game, showing impressive speed - especially around the corners). Anybody out there have any idea the last time that the Utes had 2 backs with more than 100 yards each? I have no idea.

Here's some numbers for you. Utah's starting running back averaged 7.6 yards a carry. His backup, Stowers averaged 11.2 yards per carry while Elijah Wesson (who reminded me a lot of Utah's perennial Heisman Trophy candidate Brent Casteel) averaged 8.5 yards per carry. It was exciting to see Utah's run game finally gain some steam. If they can continue to show a balanced attack then their next opponents have their work cut out for them.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Voucher Recap

Although I came across as being in full support of vouchers in my previous posts, I have struggled with my decision to either vote for or against Referendum 1. Everybody that commented on the previous posts, made valid points one way or another and caused me to look closely at my position. Because this issue will finally come down to a vote a week from tomorrow I thought that it would be appropriate to read through the full text of House Bill 148 (referendum 1).

The information for this post was taken from an extremely handy website administrated by Lieutenant Governor Gary Herbert's office. This website includes links to:
  • Arguments for/against Citizen's State Referendum 1 (here)
  • Impartial Analysis - prepared by the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel (here)
  • Full text of House Bill 148 (here)
Before you read any of the above information, forget everything that you've heard in the ads supporting or against vouchers because they are trash and they do not give you the full story. I found the Impartial Analysis and the full text of the bill helpful. A few key points from the bill that I found interesting were:
  • The money to pay for the scholarships is taken directly from the General Fund.
  • The credentials of teachers at the private schools must be disclosed (116).
  • If a private school teacher doesn't have a college degree, they must "have special skills, knowledge, or expertise that qualifies them to provide instruction in the subjects taught (156)."
  • The private school must enroll more than 40 students to be eligible to accept vouchers (184).
  • "The Legislature shall actually appropriate money to the board for the General Fund to make scholarship payments for all students projected to apply for scholarships (203)."
  • Once the money allocated by the Legislature has been used up for that year, then no more scholarships will be awarded. If more people apply than there is money for, then the scholarships will be given by random selection.
Like I've said before, there are interesting arguments on both sides of this issue. For everybody out there that will have an opportunity to vote on referendum 1, please educate yourself on the issue (by reading the bill or the impartial analysis) and by then voting the way that you feel most closely adheres to your values and desires. I'm still weighing my options...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Hello Old Man

Alison and I like to have a bit of fun with our Halloween costumes and this year was no exception. Last year, Alison and I went with the 101 Dalmations theme. This year, we decided to increase our age and go around as an elderly couple. To pull this off, I shaved the top of my head and whitened the hair that was left. Aren't we the cutest old couple?
Here's a little closer view of my shiny noggin. The most surprising thing of all was that Ada didn't seem to mind that we were dressed so strangely and that our hair was different than usual. As you can see from the photos, she was an adorable little leopard. What a doll.
It was a very difficult decision for me - whether to leave my hair cut the way that it was or to get rid of it for church. I ended up shaving the rest of my head (bic'in it, yeah!) in order to "be appropriate" at church. Now if I could only get it to grow back a little quicker (it's cold outside).

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Things That Must Go...

I love cereal. But I find it a little disturbing when cereal that I've been eating my whole life comes out with a "Now Better Tasting" version. I don't remember anything being wrong with the first...

Let the Race Begin

Although I won't graduate until the beginning of May, there was a career fair last week and, as it turned out, there were a few companies that were willing to bet that I may actually graduate. I turned in resumes to a handful of companies and even scored a couple of interviews last Friday (if anybody with whom I've interviewed has googled my name and wound up here, then I offer you the warmest welcome ;>).

The first company that I interviewed with is located in Austin, TX and they have a very prestigious Engineering Leadership Program that is very hard to get into. During the interview they asked 1 hardware based question, 1 software based question (imagine using a pen and paper to "program" a given function), and 2 personality questions. While I needed a bit of help on the technical questions I think that the interview went pretty well overall.

In fact, I just got an e-mail from them inviting me and Alison to Austin for an on-site interview. I'm thrilled to have made the first cut - but I'm obviously a little nervous having to spend a whole day being interviewed.

The other company that I interviewed with is headquartered in Santa Clara, CA, but the people that came to the career fair were from a design center in Boise. I didn't know too much about this company before the career fair, but the more I learn about them, the more interested I become in the products that they design. The interview with them went very well (in my opinion, there's no telling what the interviewer thought). The beginning of the interview was spent with the interviewer telling me about their company and during the rest of the interview, I just talked about the research that I worked on over the summer. Hopefully I'll be able to share more of my skills with them as well.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Utah 27, TCU 20

For as many problems as Utah has, TCU has more. Before the season, this was pegged as one of the most important conference match-ups. Now, it was a battle between two teams hoping to gain some respect and enough wins to deserve a bowl bid. Utah kept their recent success going, bagging a win over TCU and increasing their win-streak to four.

Utah played a pretty good all-around game against the Horned Frogs. They were able to run the ball once again, (when they run, they win, no run = no win) and Johnson had a decent game as well - although the whole team only posted 227 yards in the game. The biggest problems in this game had to do with the special teams and penalties. First off, Utah had a punt blocked and then returned for a touchdown. They also gave up all sorts of long returns - when previously their return coverage had been pretty decent. The other glaring problem was with penalties. They had 10 penalties for 98 yards. Many of these penalties were stupid personal fouls or unnecessary late hits. Some penalties are bound to happen but, when a player intentionally does something cheap, while trying to get away with it, I get frustrated with them.

Utah's next game is the real kicker. It's a well known fact that Utah gets up for the big games (see TCU, UCLA, Louisville) but they struggle against patsies (see UNLV). The Utes play on Saturday against Colorado State in Fort Collins. While Colorado State is only 1-6, they lost to Colorado by 3 and California by 6 earlier in the season. This could easily be a catch-game for the Utes. Lets hope not ;).

Monday, October 22, 2007

Vegas, Baby!

This is old news because we actually were in Vegas over Conference Weekend. The problem is that we then left our camera at my parents house and I was just barely able to upload our pictures to our computer. Everybody ready for a travel log?

We went down to Vegas because I had fall break at school and we were looking for the chance to "get out of town". Lucky for us, my sister Alysia lives in Vegas with her husband and two kids. We drove down on Friday afternoon, and the drive took quite a bit longer than usual because of the crowds on the roads. The St. George marathon was the next morning, so once we got through St. George, the roads cleared up quite a bit.

Our first day in Vegas, Saturday, we went to Bonnie Springs, where there is a little train ride, a petting zoo and an "old town" re-creation. Ada seemed to really enjoy herself in the petting zoo. Here are a couple of pictures of her checking out some roosters and ducks.

Here's a cute picture of Ellie, Ada and Reese sitting in the log saddles. Obviously, Reese is enjoying herself more than anybody else.

Saturday night (after Priesthood Session), we went to downtown Vegas (Fremont Street) and witnessed the true nastiness of Vegas. I wonder how many people, immediately after listening to the prophet speak left to spend time with the go-go girls, the Chippendales and skanky strippers...

The Fremont Street Experience was pretty cool because they have a huge overhead light show that they play at night. The screens are 90 feet above the street and run for 5 blocks, creating the world's largest video screen. It was pretty cool to see, but not something that you need to see more than once.
On Sunday between conference sessions we went on a leisurely drive through Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. It was a good chance for us to use our National Parks Pass that we purchased on our summer trip in July. It was a bit of a letdown, but it was still nice to have a picnic out in nature. If you look really closely in the picture below, you can see Indian hand prints on the rock (look directly above the white sign, slightly above and to the left of Alison's right shoulder).
For the climax of the trip, Alison and I left Ada with Kevin and Alysia and we spent the night at the MGM Grand. We upgraded to the deluxe room in the new west wing. The hotel (which is the world's largest with 6,852 rooms) was huge. We wandered the Casino and then walked along the strip. We ate dinner at PF Chang's in the Planet Hollywood Casino and did a little shopping both there and at Caesar's Palace.
Every time that I spend time on the strip, I realize how little there is for people like us to do. We aren't exactly out looking for a nightlife experience, we don't gamble (not even a cent on this whole trip), and we avoid most of the people and the shows. We did enjoy watching a little baseball and Monday Night Football in the sports betting areas. We just don't fit in well - but it was nice to have a night without Ada.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

World Series '07

Many of you dear loyal readers will remember the candy bar that I offered to whoever was closest to guessing the score to the Superbowl. Unless you are Ben or Jenn then you will also remember that you did not win. Here is a chance to redeem yourselves. Everybody that would like a chance at winning the candy bar simply needs to guess what team is going to win (Colorado or Boston) and in how many games (this value should range from 4-7 - if you want a realistic chance). As a tiebreaker include what you think the final score to the game will be and then of course, don't forget to let me know what kind of candy bar you would like.

Although, I consider Boston my second favorite team (after the Cincinnati Reds), I would like to see the Rockies win this year. There are a few reasons for this. The first is that the Red Sox are simply to bandwaggony anymore. I'll admit right now that I was more of a bandwagon guy than anything when I started cheering for the Red Sox. When your team (the Reds) stinks it up for a decade and a half, you've got to find another team to cheer for, as an attempt to fill the void. Another reason is that I'm excited to possibly see the 8th team in 8 years win the World Series. Talk about parity. It's also exciting to see our closest major league team make it to the WS. If I wasn't in school, we would really consider trying to get tickets to a game.

If the ALCS would have ended in fewer than 7 games, then I would have chosen the Rockies to win because they were so hot. Because they've been sitting so long (8 days total), I'm a little nervous as to how they'll respond. See my own attempt at the candy bar in the comments.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Utah 23, SDSU 7

What is the loudest sport to watch on campus? If you're thinking to yourself that it is obviously men's basketball or football, or possibly even women's gymnastics here at the U, then you are wrong. The loudest sport is easily women's volleyball played at Crimson Court. My brother, Jordan, and I went to the women's volleyball game on Friday night when they played BYU. There place was packed (standing room only) and there were even quite a few BYU fans there. The place was rockin'. It's not a very big "arena", smaller even than many High School gyms. After leaving the match, our ears were ringing for more than a half-hour afterwards.

After the volleyball match, we went to Utah's Friday Night Basketball to meet the team and watch a three-point shooting contest, scrimmages and slam-dunk contest. I'm excited for basketball this year. The new coach, Jim Boylen seems to really be the right guy for the job (That's tough to back up though - seeing as they haven't played any games that count yet).

Now onto the football game. You probably didn't see it if you weren't there - although you could get it for only $14.95 on cstv.com. Sounds like a steal, eh? Utah moved the ball well in the first half but turnovers kept them from ever entering the end zone. In the second half, Utah played a much better game. In my opinion the receivers played their best game of the year. In all of the other games I've been disappointed with the passes that they have dropped. I thought that they made some nice plays, and did an especially nice job of getting yards after the catch.

My favorite play of the game was a faked field goal attempt that didn't even work. Utah was lined up to kick a field goal and as soon as the ball was snapped, the holder flipped it over his shoulder to the kicker and then took off running. The kicker (Louie Sakoda) attempted to throw a pass to the streaking holder (Bradon Godfrey) but it was a horrible pass and Godfrey had to run back in order to catch the ball. If the pass had been even halfway decent, it would have been an easy 6 points. As it was, the Utes didn't even get e first down. Regardless, most of the crowd cheered the call and was only mildly disappointed in the outcome.

It was a long time coming but it's nice to be back over .500. Now the key is to stay there...

Re: Re: Vouchers

Thanks to everybody that has commented on this topic. My opinion has been changed by the insight that people here have provided. Here is an explanatory video about vouchers that Heather mentioned in her comment on the post below (the pro-voucher Oreo commercial is a confusing extract from this video). Vouchers are not a perfect solution - in fact they are far from it, they are an experiment that can be molded and changed over time - because as Clark mentioned, there simply cannot be an immediate mass exodus from public school because the private infrastructure is not yet able to accommodate. This video also seems to address many of the concerns that Ben brought up in the post below.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Re: Vouchers

I received a fascinating reply from Ben Iverson (a High school buddy of mine, visit his blog here) to my earlier post about school vouchers. His response was very well-thought out and insightful - and he doesn't even live in Utah anymore. He felt that his reply was too long to be added to the comments, so I hope that he doesn't mind me posting it here.

"So, all of this talk about how a market for schools is better gets me thinking about a class I had at BYU called "The Economics of Education" where we basically applied economic principles to the problem of optimal education. In essence, you view the school as a business whose product is the students, and you study which inputs into the school make the most difference. In most of the papers that I read, an improvement of the "product" was one of the following three things: 1) higher standardized test score, 2) Smaller dropout rates, or 3) higher salary once the kids left school (and college, if they go to college). To cut to the chase, the ONLY thing that can be shown to improve these student outcomes is teacher quality. Smaller class sizes don't statistically improve any of those 3 outcomes. Better technology in a school doesn't do that either. But if you put a high quality teacher in the classroom, those students will do better than the same students who had a worse teacher. So, in my opinion, the biggest need is higher quality teachers. Think about good old LHS--we had a few good teachers, but then we also had Mr. Spencer. That's the real problem, I think.

"So, when you're thinking about how to vote on this voucher system, the question I would ask is: Where is this extra money going to go? If it's going to Fios internet in all schools or something like that, I wouldn't vote for it. But, what if we took all of that money and put it straight into teacher salaries? It wouldn't be long until there were more people who wanted to become teachers, and more competition for teaching spots will result in higher quality teachers. Used that way, vouchers can be great, I think. Also, increased competition among schools (for students) should result in better teachers as well. But if the money is used in a dumb way, I would be cautious.

"I have one other reservation about voucher systems. Do you want to hear it? I thought so. :) Again, relating a school to a business, the best businesses are specialists in certain products. If a pure market system were used in the school system, I think the same thing would happen with schools. You'd get certain schools that are really good at physics, but poor at theatre, etc. So if a parent and child are trying to decide which school to go to, they might have to start choosing career paths in 8th or 9th grade! In my opinion, that's a shame because no kid knows at that age what they really want to be. In the same way, with a voucher system you're going to end up with the same kinds of kids going to the same schools because people naturally stick to what they're familiar with. If you take an extreme case, 15 years down the road there might be a nice school for rich kids that want to be doctors, and a poor school for Hispanic kids that is a lot more like a vocational school. I kind of like the heterogeneity in the public school system where they just take in a big geographic area and everyone gets thrown together for a while. And they all get essentially the same education as well.

"Anyway, those are just some things I was thinking of. You probably didn't want a response this long, but too bad! Overall, I think that vouchers can be a good thing, but they need to be set up in a way that (a) improves teacher quality and (b) forces all schools to maintain a high standard in all subjects. If they work out that way, then they're definitely better than the current system."

My only response is that I believe that vouchers will allow parents to search out the best teachers. Therefore, if the parents believe that higher quality teachers can be found in a private or charter school, they might actually be financially able to act upon those beliefs. Does anybody else have any thoughts?


Anybody that lives in Utah has probably heard about the brouhaha concerning school vouchers. The basic idea is that the government would offer a prorated voucher for parents that would like to take their students out of public schools and put them in a private school. The vouchers would range from $500 (for the rich) to $3,000 (for the poor) - which could possibly be enough to allow lower income families to have the same educational choices as families with higher incomes.

I never understood what all the voucher fuss was about - and until recently I didn't care whether vouchers were approved or denied. Basically my vote was up for sale, and it was almost purchased by the $3 million, out-of-state, teacher's union/voucher opponents. Then a couple of weeks ago, my dad e-mailed this editorial from the Standard Examiner and I saw school vouchers in a whole new light (You may have seen the pro-voucher commercial with the Oreos. This is where the idea originated). For more information on vouchers, see this website (pro) and this blog (against) and then decide for yourself. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Guest commentary: Why vouchers will make public schools better

Friday, September 28, 2007

By Richard Eyre
Guest commentary

I think there are two powerful and compelling reasons to support school vouchers.

Reason No. 1: smaller class size and more money per pupil in public schools.

We spend more than $7,000 in taxes per pupil per year in our public school system. Every time a family makes a decision to use a voucher to move a child out of a public school into a private school, the class size goes down and the amount of money for each of the students left goes up. I like to explain it with Oreo cookies: Say you have 30 little stacks of Oreos -- seven cookies in each stack -- representing a typical Utah class of 30 students and the $7,000 we spend on each of them each year. Now, let's say that the fairly wealthy parents of one of those students decides to take their $500 voucher (half a cookie, which is the size of the smallest voucher) and send that child to a private school. The class size drops to 29, and the six and a half cookies that the departing student left behind are still in that classroom, to spend on more books or materials for the other 29 kids, or on more pay for the teacher. Now let's say that another family, a poorer one, also decides to use their $3,000 voucher (three cookies, which is the size of the largest voucher) to send their child to a private school where they think this particular child can get more of what he needs. The public school class size drops again, to 28, and four cookies ($4,000) stay behind in the public school to be spent on improving that public school classroom.

Think about that! Two fewer stacks of cookies -- two fewer kids in the classroom -- but 10-1/2 cookies to put on the 28 stacks that are left -- $10,500 extra dollars to spend on the kids who stay in that public school.

Now the teachers' union (whose job is, don't forget, to keep the status quo and protect the jobs of even the worst teachers) will try to create confusion about where that left over money will go. But the simple fact is, the public schools will have more money per pupil every time a family uses a voucher and moves a child out.

Reason No. 2: more options, choices, and involvement for parents.

I see myself as an advocate for parents and families. I believe, passionately, that parents are the stewards over their children, and that they know, far better than a bureaucratic school system or a teachers' union, what is best for each of their kids. What vouchers do is give parents the decision about where their kids go to school, and the option to try to find the education that each individual child needs. The vast majority of parents will just leave their kids where they are, in the public schools, just like Linda and I did with all of our kids. But when a child needs something that may not be available in the public school, or when a child has a teacher he can't relate to or learn from, vouchers give parents another option!

Wealthy parents already have the private option, but poorer families do not. With a $3,000 voucher, a lower-income parent becomes a customer, who can shop around and find what they think is best for their child. The average cost of private schools in Utah (if you take out the two highest-cost schools in the state) is $3,800, so the voucher brings the option within reach. And even thinking about the possibility, and having the option, will make the parent more involved, and if he or she chooses to leave their child in the public school (which most will do) they are likely to be more interested and involved in that public school. Vouchers will create more demand for more private school options, and areas where there are no private schools will likely have those options in the future.

Now, the teachers' union will say most parents don't care, especially poor parents, or won't do anything. I find that offensive. I believe in parents and in how much they care about their kids.

And if they don't do anything or won't get involved, then the union has nothing to fear, so why are they fighting vouchers so ferociously? They are fighting it because they fear competition, innovation, and the kind of creativity that always comes when you give people a market and let them choose. That is why the National Education Association is shoving $3 million into Utah to try to defeat vouchers.

Good teachers and good parents need to pull together. If parents and teachers get the facts, vouchers will pass on Nov. 6. If the teachers' union succeeds in covering the facts with smokescreens and fear tactics, vouchers will fail, and Utah will go on, as it has for so many years, as the last-place state in per-pupil spending, with the least competition and the largest class sizes

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Utah 44, Louisville 35

You would think that I would have been able to get this posted earlier in the week - considering that it is fall break and all (we had the whole week off school). The problem was that I didn't get around to watching the first half of the football game until this morning. Last Friday evening, when the game was being played, Alison, Ada and I were driving to Las Vegas to visit my sister Alysia and her family. We were able to watch the second half of the game, but we had to wait until we got home to watch the first half. Anyways, if you would have told me before the season started that Utah was going to beat UCLA and Louisville (who was a preseason top 10 team), then I would have booked my BCS tickets right then. Obviously, being shutout by UNLV throws a wrench into even going to a bowl game.

With the exception of the first 10 minutes of the third quarter, Utah looked really good in this game. They were able to move the ball very efficiently, they had 340 yards of offense in the first half alone. They had only been averaging 93 yards on the ground, per game (105th in the nation or something) and they had 140 yards on the ground in the first half against Louisville. It's a well documented fact that the Louisville defense would struggle to contain even Layton High's 'high powered' offense - and the Utes were able to take advantage.

The defining drive had to be early in the game when they were pinned on their own 3-yard line and they got a false start (which moved them to the 1.5 yard line). They proceeded to march down the field and score a touchdown in only 9 plays. On another drive in the first half, Utah converted on two fourth downs, one on a beautifully executed fake field goal. Where was this offense against Air Force and UNLV?

I have given up predicting Utah's future. From here on out, it's a game by game season. They've still got great potential but they've got to get up for the little games as well as the big games. This is a problem that the coaches better be working on.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

New Pants

I could use some new pants. How about you?

Monday, October 01, 2007

Utah 34, Utah State 18

This week's game against Utah State was Utah's Homecoming Game. It was also the coldest/wettest/snowiest game that I have been to in a long time. The temperature on the field at the start of the game was only 39 degrees and it was raining quite hard - and wouldn't let up at all during the game. Although the announced attendance was almost 42,000 there was no way that there were more than 20,000 people there at any time during the game (and that is an extremely generous estimate). Utah played fairly well - or at least they played good enough to beat the Aggies.

Utah State is definitely better than they were last year (When Utah blanked them 48-0 in Logan). They just can't quite get over the hump and start winning games though. They've actually been relatively close in most of their games thus far (obviously the Oklahoma game excepting).

Although Brian Johnson played the whole game, he was mediocre at best. He struggled throwing the ball, but he did a really nice job handing it off (not like last week where he and the running back collided while trying to convert on a 4th and goal). Some of his passing woes could surely be attributable to the snow and conditions that they were playing in. By the end of the evening, there was almost 2 inches of snow on the grass at our apartment and a bit over an inch on our cars. Luckily, it has since warmed up.

There really isn't much to report on the game. Utah is still weak from all of their injuries. Their defense looked rather lax at times and their (supposedly awesome) receivers were still dropping balls. The good news is that there are certainly things that they will be working on in practice (I'm not sure why that's good news - it's 5 weeks into the season). They've got a tough game at a defenseless Louisville team this Friday - their first game on ESPN in a couple of years. Hopefully they won't screw up their only real time on national television too badly.

As Angie's husband Hyrum said, "This is the best sports weekend of the year." With the Rockies beating the Padres in 13 innings tonight for the National League wild card spot, Upsets galore yesterday in the NFL (more on that later) and something like 8 of the top 25 teams in NCAA football also losing, it was an exciting weekend.