Friday, September 04, 2009

Best Little Towns in the USA : Outside Magazine Online Picks Ten : How About Boone, North Carolina : Plus Top 10 Most Popular Postings

While researching the Appalachian State college football team for this football season, we ran across a reference tothe outstanding Outside Magazine Online, which picked Boone, North Carolina, the home of the Mountaineers, as one of the top 10 Best Small Towns in America 2009, writing:
"When Lance Armstrong launched his comeback to pro cycling in 1999, he was holed up in a spartan cabin in this sleepy (pop. 14,200), affordable college town (Appalachian State University)."
See the other nine here. Looks like an interesting publication.

Alternative Billing Arrangements for Law Firms in the Current Economic Downturn : Attacking the Billable Hour

In their Wall Street Journal article, 'Billable Hour' Under Attack: In Recession, Companies Push Law Firms for Flat-Fee Contracts, Nathan Koppel and Ashby Jones write that: "With the recession crimping legal budgets, some big companies are fighting back against law firms' longstanding practice of billing them by the hour."

Gary Levine at his blog Capitalization Matters addresses alternative billing arrangements for law firms, citing to that WSJ article and writing that "the evidence shows that there is a real shift taking place—and it may not be as temporary as the current economic downturn."
Read the rest here.

Education and Politics in the United States : The Obama Motivational Speech to American Students and the International Ranking of American Schools

Education is the most important undertaking of any country and so it is admirable of President Obama to offer a motivational speech to American students across the nation. If I were a student today - I would be honored to have the U.S. President want to talk to ME.

Those same students today can hear the well-meaning but sometimes misguided opinions of their self-important parents or local officials and gurus at any time - so give the President this one shot to reach a student where others have failed.

Any school or individual that prohibits a student from hearing a message directed to him or her by the President of the United States is practicing a form of tyrannical paternalism that would warm every tyrant's heart. Anyone disagreeing with the content of that message is free to inform the student(s) personally of contrary opinions. That is the American way. Squelching the opportunity to hear is un-American and violates free speech guarantees. Content-chilling thuggery by parents or local or regional school officials is not democracy.

As a political centrist, it is difficult for the LawPundit to understand - as reported by the New York Times - the partisan political stir caused by U.S. President Obama's plan to deliver a motivational speech to American students to start the school year. There is precedent for such a speech, as President George Bush made such a speech in 1991.

There is no excuse for partisan politics here.

The newest results in Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) show that there is room for improvement of American education starting in elementary school. For example, let us take a look at the ranking of mathematics scores of fourth-grade students by participating country in 2007, the most recent published data (500 is the TIMSS "scale average"), where the U.S. is not even in the top 10.
"1. Hong Kong SAR - 607
2. Singapore - 599
3. Chinese Taipei - 576
4. Japan - 568
5. Kazakhstan - 549
6. Russian Federation - 544
7. England - 541
8. Latvia - 537
9. Netherlands - 535
10. Lithuania - 530
11. United States - 529
12. Germany - 525
13. Denmark - 523
14. Australia - 516
15. Hungary - 510
16. Italy - 507
17. Austria - 505
18. Sweden - 503
19. Slovenia 502
20. Armenia - 500
21. Slovak Republic - 496
22. Scotland - 494
23. New Zealand - 492
24. Czech Republic - 486
25. Norway - 473
26. Ukraine - 469
27. Georgia - 438
28. Iran, Islamic Rep. of - 402
29. Algeria - 378
30. Colombia - 355
31. Morocco - 341
32. El Salvador - 330
33. Tunisia - 327
34. Kuwait - 316
35. Qatar - 296
36. Yemen - 224
Nevertheless, showing that the hearts of the elites of the country are in the right place, the United States has the best education in the world at its top universities, but the rest of the educational system is subject to improvement. You can read as much at Education in the United States at the Wikipedia. We quote Mary Faler at Suite101.com in her posting, The State of Education in the United States: Why America is Behind Other Countries:
"In 2002, UNICEF compared public education in twenty four nations around the world: the US ranked 18. Forty years ago America had the highest graduation rate: now America is ranked as the 19th. US 4th grade math grades have remained the same since 1995, while other countries have improved....

American students are holding their own at the elementary level, but as they progress through the system, they fall behind their international counterparts....

To fix the problem political leaders should stand up and pay attention – getting involved goes a long way
.
"
Well, that is what President Obama is doing - standing up, paying attention and getting involved.

As far as university education goes, America leads the world by a massive margin, as proven by an Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) conducted objectively in Shanghai, China, where Harvard, Stanford and Cal Berkeley in the USA rank 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the world with Cambridge in the UK in 4th place, followed by MIT, Caltech, Columbia, Princeton, and Chicago in the USA 5th through 9th and finally Oxford in the UK 10th. The top 25 are rounded out by the universities at Yale, Cornell, UCLA, San Diego, Penn, Washington (Seattle), Wisconsin (Madison), San Francisco, Tokyo, Johns Hopkins, Michigan, University College of London, Kyoto, ETH Zurich and Toronto (tied). :
"The Academic Ranking of World Universities [1] is compiled by Shanghai Jiao Tong University. The ranking compared 1200 higher education institutions worldwide according to a formula that took into account alumni winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals (10 percent), staff winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals (20 percent), highly-cited researchers in 21 broad subject categories (20 percent), articles published in Nature and Science (20 percent), the Science Citation Index and Social Sciences Citation Index (20 percent) and the per capita academic performance (on the indicators above) of an institution (10 percent). The methodology is set out in an academic article by its originators, N.C. Liu and Y. Cheng[2]. Liu and Cheng explain that the original purpose of doing the ranking was to find out the gap between Chinese universities and world-class universities, particularly in terms of academic or research performance.”[3] The rankings have been conducted since 2003 and then updated annually."
There are also special lists there, by the way, for the Top 100 North & Latin American Universities, Top 100 European Universities and Top 100 Asia Pacific Universities.

College Football Results, Thursday, September 3, 2009

THURSDAY, September 3, 2009

Our call: Troy over Bowling Green 30-24. Result: In a surprise, Bowling Green stunned Troy 31-14, as Clawson and Ruggiero celebrated a successful coaching debut with the Falcons, with Tyler Sheehan throwing for 339 yards on 32 of 44 pass completions and Freddie Barnes catching 15 (!) passes for 157 yards and 2 touchdowns. The game was closer than the score indicated as Bowling Green trailed 14-0 before reeling off 31 straight points, 17 in the last quarter. The Troy offense managed just 3.5 yards per play in gaining 304 yards while the Falcons gained 389 yards on 94 plays for a 4.1 net average yards per play. W-L and Odds: We failed to call the winner but beat the spread. Thus far we are 0-1 W-L and 1-0 against the spread.

Our call: South Carolina over NC State 35-34. Result: South Carolina won 7-3 in a defensive struggle. The SEC is known for its defense and this game showed it. NC State had a chance to win it with 4 minutes left, but Russel Wilson's pass bounced off the hands of double-covered Jay Smith, as Wilson set an ACC record of 272 consecutive passes without an interception. NC State will get its share of wins this year if the offense gets a bit more innovative. But the evening belonged to the Gamecocks who outgained the Wolfpack 256 to 133 as the South Carolina defense only allowed 2.3 yards per play while the Gamecock's gained 4 yards per play. W-L and Odds: We called the winner and beat the spread. Thus far we are 1-1 W-L and 2-0 against the spread.

Our call: Ball State over North Texas 54-14. Result: North Texas beat Ball State 20-10 in what can only be regarded as a sensational upset, as the Mean Green were 1-11 last year and ranked dead last in the YPPSYS ratings of all Division I-A FBS teams, while Ball State finished 12-2 the past season. In fact, in 2007 and 2008 the Mean Green allowed more points per game than any other FBS team. The decision in 2006 to hire Todd Dodge, the USA Today High School Coach of the Year in 2005, was not looking too good. How could a turnaround like this possibly happen? In part, Dodge has now instituted his offensive system and is getting some of the players he needs for that system. In part, departed Cardinals head coach Brady Hoke's stock just went up 1000%. But perhaps defensive coordinator Gary DeLoach has worked wonders this year for North Texas that he could not yet work last year with the players available after coming to the Mean Green from UCLA. DeLoach as the defensive coordinator for North Texas in 2002 ranked 3rd nationally in scoring defense. In the game against Ball State, the Mean Green put up 512 yards total offense on 6.1 yards per play while the Cardinals gained 309 yards on 5.2 yards per play. A massive improvement for North Texas, but a sign of great difficulties at Ball State. W-L and Odds: We did not call the winner and did not beat the spread. Thus far we are 1-2 W-L and 2-1 against the spread.

Our call: Utah over Utah State 49-10. Result: Utah extended its nation's longest winning streak to 15 in a passable 35-17 win over Utah State but turned the ball over 3 times and the defense had leaks, permitting a 96-yard TD run by the Aggies Robert Turbin, and thus showing that Ute head coach Kyle Whittingham has a lot of work to do this year. New Ute quarterback Terrance Cain completed 20 of 30 passes for 286 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception. Matt Asiata ran for a career-best 156 yards. Utah fumbled the ball away twice. The Utes gained 519 yards on 6.5 net average yards per pay, but permitted Utah State 342 yards on 5.7 net average yards per play, which is much too much. Utah also failed to score once after three tries from the 1-yard line, so this is also a substantial concern, because if you can not make the TD from that close in the red zone, you have a problem. W-L and Odds: We called the winner but did not beat the spread. Thus far we are 2-2 W-L and 2-2 against the spread.

Our call: Oregon over Boise State 24-23. Result: Any doubts that Boise State of the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) has arrived on the major college football scene were put to rest by this game against a very strong Pac-10 Conference opponent. Oregon got a rude awakening as they were thumped by the Broncos 19-8, who held them to a mere 152 yards total offense for a miserable average of 2.62 yards per play, while Boise State itself gained 361 yards on a 4 yards per play average, also not optimal. Boise State lost 3 fumbles - otherwise the result for Oregon would have been worse than it was, although the Ducks also threw a costly interception. W-L and Odds: We did not call the winner and did not beat the spread. Thus far we are 2-3 W-L and 2-3 against the spread.

Our call: Villanova (FCS) over Temple 30-21 Result: Villanova won 27-24.
Our call: Kent State over Coastal Carolina (FCS) 34-14 Result: Kent State won 18-0.
Our call: Indiana over Eastern Kentucky (FCS) 34-28 Result: Indiana won 19-13.
Our call: North Dakota State (FCS) over Iowa State 31-24 Result: The Cyclones won 34-17 as head coach Paul Rhoads, who came from Auburn, starts out as a winner.
W-L and Odds: We called three of the four winners - there was no official line. Thus far this season we are 5-4 W-L and 2-3 against the spread.

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