Sunday, December 31, 2006

Oh or Oi? An observation in male and female differences

Hi, this is Shifra, just thought I'd blog a little, seeing as Nephtuli placed me on the list of contributors a while ago (appears sheepish).

I was wondering if anyone had any ideas about the following observation: girls in the yeshiva world (Bais Yaakov system) are taught to pronounce their "cholem" sounds, such as in the word "yom," as "yom," whereas the boys are taught to pronounce the sound as "oi," causing the word to sound like "yoim." In the same family, and same philosophically-minded schools, the same words are pronounced quite differently. Does anyone have a reason as to why this occurs?

Friday, December 29, 2006

Maybe Trading Randy Isn't Such a Good Idea After all?

As you probably heard the Yankees are looking to trade Randy Johnson to the Diamondbacks. Since Johnson ERA last year was over 5, it would seem like a good idea especially if we can get something decent back for him.

However after reading this article, I'm not so sure. Basically the author uses statistics that measure the extent which a pitcher's defense and luck affected his numbers. DIPS, or defense independent pitching statistics, takes into account the statistics that the pitcher has complete control over (strikeouts, walks, HBP and home runs) and filters out everything else. The basic idea assumes that pitchers really have no ability to control balls that are hit into play so sometimes they get lucky or unlucky.

Last year, according to DIPS and LIPS (luck independent pitching statistics) Randy Johnson was one of the most unlucky pitchers in the majors (interestingly Wang was the most lucky, which makes sense considering he rarely strikes anyone out and everything is put into play). If the statistics are accurate, we should expect him to have a much better year in 2007.

I need to study these stats more closely before I can have a strong opinion either way. I've become more enamored with sabermetrics over the past year, so I can see how DIPS could be relatively accurate. Nevertheless, trading Randy as a salary dump is probably not a good idea unless Roger Clemens is in the bag.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Did I Miss Something?

I intend to write a long post on Israel soon, but until then this one will have to suffice. So apparently there's a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, which Palestinian groups routinely violate by firing rockets into Sderot. So it makes sense that the Palestinians are responsible for violating the ceasefire, right?

"PLO executive committee member Yasser Abed Rabbo, who also serves as an advisor to Abbas, warned that the Israeli decision would lead to the breakdown of the cease-fire. He described the decision to target Kassam launchers as a "breach" of the cease-fire agreement."

Basically they can shoot at Israel but if Israel retaliates, the Israelis are breaking the ceasefire?!

On Word Limits On Law School Exams

There is a big debate going on about enforcing word limits on law school exams on PrawfsBlawg. A professor's take-home exam clearly stated that the word limit will be strictly enforced and that exceeding the limit is not allowed. A student went a few words over; what should he do?

I only skimmed the long thread, so maybe I missed some important comments, but I think the important question is why word limits are necessary at all? Are they in place to guide students or to make grading easier for the professor? Both objectives are valuable in my opinion, but the former is more important because grading is part of a professor's job. The guidance that a word limit offers is tangible because most questions or fact patterns are vague and students need to know whether to write a whole treatise on property law or whether to just focus on one narrow issue. And that's especially true where the exam is timed.

So how should the offender be penalized? I think the best answer is to stop reading at the word limit or at the end of the sentence thereafter. I don't see any point in actually punishing the offender; if he spent his time thinking of issues, analyzing them, and making arguments both ways in excess of the word limit, he's punishing himself when the professor ignores that work. What purpose does extra punishment serve?

One professor, Mike Dimino (who I've mentioned before), argued that the student should get a F (!) because he broke the rule. Recognizing that failing a student could be more of a problem for a professor than it is worth, he advised a two-pronged penalty: stop reading and deduct points. I don't understand the point of the latter. Dimino claims that a professor who stops reading at the word limit is not penalizing the student, because the student could take a chance and exceed the limit, and if the professor abides by his rules, the student is worse off. But that isn't true. The student who wastes his time writing extra is being punished. But more to the point, why must students be punished anyway? As long as he doesn't benefit from the extra words, who cares? Is it the law school's job to punish people who exceed word limits? These people take themselves way too seriously.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Odd Imbalance in Sports

It seems strange, but right now in the three major sports (baseball, basketball, and football) there is a major gap between the two conferences or leagues. Which sport offers the greatest gap?


Here are the baseball standings for 2006. While the American League boasted 5 teams with 90 wins or better, the National League only had one. The AL had 8 teams with 85 wins or more and the NL only had 4. If we move the bar down a little, the gap narrows a bit: the NL had 6 teams over .500 while the AL had 8. But putting that into perspective, every one of the AL's over .500 teams were at least 10 games over, while the NL had two teams that were 5 games over or less.

Even more to the point, the AL dominated in interleague play 154-98, a .611 winning percentage that would have won every division in baseball. And while the Cards won the World Series, I don't put too much stock into a short 7 game series. The Cards went 5-10 in interleague play. If they switched place with their Missouri neighbors, they would have ended up in the exact same place in the AL Central: last.


The season isn't over but it's clear which conference is better at this point. The AFC has 4 teams with double digit wins; the NFC has one. Put another way, no division leading team in the AFC has more than 4 loses. The NFC has three such teams.

And it gets worse. The AFC has 8 teams that are 8-6 or better; the NFC has 5. The AFC has 12 (out of 16, which is 66%) teams that are .500 or better. The NFC has 7. There is serious talk of a 8-8 team making the playoffs in the NFC. 10-6 should be enough to do it in the AFC.

Interconference games are the reason for the disparity. The AFC's record against the NFC is 38-22, which is about a .633 winning percentage. Put into perspective, that percentage would win the NFC West, and would be a tad behind the Saints and Cowboys for bye weeks.


Let's take a look at the NBA. The East has only 4 teams that are over .500. The West has 7. If we make the rules more strict, the West has 7 teams with a better than .600 winning percentage, while the East only has 3. The West also has 4 teams with a better than .700 percentage, while the East has none. Oh did I fail to mention that the Atlantic division leading Celtics are 3 games under .500?

The interconference rate in pretty high as well. I might be off by a number of two, but the West is beating the East 84-52, which comes out to about a .608 clip. A team with that percentage would be tied with Cleveland and a tad behind Orlando for the second spot in the East. They would also be tied for 7th in the West.

So based purely on interleague and interconference percentage, it would seem the NFL has the greatest gap between its two conferences. We'll have to see where everything ends up in the NBA, because the season is barely 25 games old. The NFL is pretty set, since most teams of the interconference games are finished.

Of course this analysis isn't completely acurate since we need to take schedule into consideration. We also have to look at home/away records. But as it stands right now, the winner of any of the better leagues or conferences is clearly the best team in its sport.

What I Learned From Finals

Ok, it's been a while but I've been putting off blogging for more important things, like finals. Finals aren't over yet, but the worst is past and so I'll start blogging at a decent pace in the future. But here's one thing I learned during my Federal Income Tax final:

I've always been bothered by how people in Yeshiva never say Gezuntheit after someone sneezes. We've been taught that learning is very important that one shouldn't even waste time on saying Gezuntheit. I've never bought that argument because it's common courtesy to say Gezuntheit and it almost seems rude not to do so. Sure we'd be wasting a split second, but who doesn't do that anyway?

The issue became more pronounced when I got to law school and noticed that people say Gezuntheit during class. Basically it's acceptable for the class to be interrupted because of common courtesy. If people are willing to stop a whole class, is it really that bad to stop learning for a second?

Last week I was taking a 4 hour final, which like pretty much every other law school final, was time pressured. While during class people spend their time playing Solitaire or going on-line, I assure you no one wastes time on a law school final.

So I was taking the test and heard someone sneeze. There was no Gezuntheit. It happened again. And again there was silence. I listened to a few sneezes and heard nothing. Hmmmm, why did no one respond?

The obvious answer is that every second counted. Everyone is locked in (except me I guess) and even if they do notice a sneeze, they aren't going to waste valuable time saying Gezuntheit.

I guess the same idea applies to learning Torah. We should consider the time we spend learning as valuable as the time we spend taking our law school finals. We should be completely focused and every second should count, even more than the courtesy of saying Gezuntheit.