Sunday, December 08, 2019

Gheorghemas: Day Three

On the third day of Gheorgemas big Gheorghe gave to me:
Three Nutty Squirrels,
Two Chilean Bangers,
and a British lass slinging hot meat.

Our tiny dictator has recently accused me of trying to overly amortize my time in business school by working finance content into too many conversations.  While this is a fair criticism, a recent discussion in school paid off with an insider tip on a product that should be near and dear to the hearts of some Gheorghies and just had to be shared.

As part of an entrepreneurship/branding project, one member of my team brought up a Chinese company that specializes in selling nuts online.   The company is called Three Squirrels.

As this article points out, Chinese consumers are "nuts for Three Squirrels" with over $1.5 billion in revenue in 2018.  AdAge called them "China's Hottest Snack Brand" and touted their strategy of harnessing the "power of cute".   

Yep, that's a castle made of nuts.
For obvious reasons, Big Gheorghe thought some Three Squirrel nuts would be the perfect gift for all the Gheorghies. 

To top it all off, Three Squirrels recently went public.  If your portfolio is in need of re-balancing, and you have a need for Chinese nut focused e-commerce investments, Three Squirrels could just be the perfect fit for you.

Bonus Squirrel Content:

Anybody who has a little squirrel around the house may want to pick up a copy of this magnum opus.   Not sure if it made the New York Times Best Sellers list but it looks to be page turner.  Maybe Dave can add it to his list for Day Seven.

They even appear to have companion giving season to Gheorghemas.

Merry Gheorgemas one and all!

Friday, December 06, 2019

Get Up and Dance: Holiday Version

I don't know if there's a non-holiday version, but we need some filler, and we need some fun. Three Fridays until Christmas, Gheorghies. Get some whimsy.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

The Twelve Days of Gheorghemas: Day 2

On the second day of Gheorghemas
Big Gheorghe gave to me
Two Chilean bangers (literally)
And a British lass slingin' hot meat


I want to beat the drum (and a casserole pan) to raise awareness of a profoundly powerful (and cute - sorry I'm a guy after all) Chilean hip-hop performer. The woman is Ana Tijoux. She was born in France to Chilean parents exiled under the Pinochet dictatorship. She returned in the 80's and has been huge in her native Chile for much of this century, and she kicks ass. So it's worth shining a spotlight on a couple of her tunes.

The first song I want to highlight is called 1977 (year she was born). The song was introduced to me (and most of you) via Breaking Bad. The song was the score to a fun Aaron Paul/Jonathan Banks montage. The montage showing the song is below. The tune and video compliment each other well. The official video, which has the full version is here. The song is catchy as hell.

The second song is much newer. It's called Cacerolazo, which all you Spanish scholars know as the word for a casserole pot. The song came out a couple months ago and has been the soundtrack of the growing social unrest from Chile's working class population, which has grown tired of rising costs for basic public services. I'll spare the historical deep-dive, but there are millions of folks protesting in Chile about the impact that higher-cost basic services are having on their life. Working class men, women and children have been out in the streets banging pots and pans during their protests. The citizens have actually been doing much more than just banging pots, as the video below shows.

In making the track, Ana Tijoux recorded the pot-banging noises, as well as police siren noises, and used them both. Pretty simple and powerful way to convey the angst and fury among a population facing growing income inequality. Chuck D would be proud.

Here is a rough translation of the lyrics to this song:

Burn it, wake up
Resign, PiƱera [Chile’s president]
To the Alameda [a main street in Santiago]

Ours is La Moneda [the presidential palace bombed in 1973]
Wooden spoons facing your bullets
And the curfew?  Carcelorazo!
It is not thirty pesos [the metro fare increase], it is thirty years
The constitution, and the Perdonazo [a taxation change that benefited the richest Chileans]
With fist and spoon facing the system
And all of the State, cacerolazo!
Listen, neighbor, increase the fuel,
And the barricades?  Give it gas!
With lids, with pans, facing the clowns
The revolt has arrived, and the cacerolazo!

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

The Twelve Days of Gheorghemas: Day 1

Gheorghemas Day 1 Procrastination, a tradition unlike any other.

The GTB editorial staff is chomping at the bit to spread some Gheorghemas cheer, and here I was holding up the fun. But no more. Onward to the most wonderful time of the year!

On the first day of Gheorghemas 
Big Gheorghe gave to me 
A British lass slingin' hot meat  

Bonus Gheorghemas content, because my public demands it:
"A fat guy in a sweet T"

Saturday, November 30, 2019

This Decade in Wrenball

He didn't make the list, but Paul Rowley may well wind
up the most accomplished human of all of the decade's 
We're thirty some-odd days from the end of this particular artificial demarcation of time, and our readership is clamoring for the kind of fin de decade content that they got at the end of the last one. Which is to say, more of our usual crap.

But there is one particular content category that's well-suited to a ten-year retrospective. 2010-2019 marked the best decade in the history of W&M men's basketball - the most wins in a decade (161), the most conference wins in the CAA era, and the most conference tournament finals (3). It was the first decade since the 50s that the Tribe even posted a winning record. There's an argument to be made that the three best players in school history matriculated this decade, and no argument at all to be made that the best game in school history took place during the 2010s.

So in the best tradition of our brethren (and sistren) in bloggery, we'd be remiss if we didn't offer a top ten list of W&M best players of the decade. And in our best tradition, this one goes to 11.

11. Connor Burchfield (2015-18)

6.2 points/game, 1.9 rebounds/game, 0.9 assists/game, 50.7% career 3-point FG %

This is really an honorable mention nod in recognition of how much Burchfield improved. He was a relative non-factor his first three seasons in Williamsburg, though he could shoot the ball from the beginning. As a senior, though, he was both excellent and necessary. The slender 6'4" guard led the nation in three-point shooting percentage (52.0) and true shooting percentage (.730). Burchfield drained a school-record 10 threes in a win over Marshall. And he led the nation in dagger three-pointers made to clinch games at George Mason while I was talking to GMU AD Brad Edwards about how bad it would be for the Patriots to lose at home to William & Mary.

10. Brandon Britt (2010-14)

11.1 ppg/2.1 rpg/1.8 apg

Britt wasn't superior at any one thing - he was a decent scorer, shot well (50% from deep his senior year), was steady on the ball, a good defender. He excelled as a leader. My favorite memory of Britt came against Drexel in Philly his senior season. Then-freshman Daniel Dixon had missed a handful of open looks, but had done a good job defensively on the Dragons' dangerous Chris Fouch. In a late-game huddle, Britt put his hand on the young Dixon's head and whispered a few words of encouragement. The Tribe went on to win that game in spectacular fashion (we'll see more about that later). Britt was a CAA All-Academic honoree three times, too.

9. Justin Pierce (2017-19)

11.1 ppg/6.5 rpg/2.3 apg

After a nondescript freshman season, Pierce burst into CAA prominence as a sophomore, averaging 14.7 points and 8.6 boards per game (4th in the CAA). He improved in both categories as a junior, to 14.9 and 8.8 (3rd in the league) respectively, and added 4.1 assists/game. He owns three of the top six highest single-game rebound totals in school history (18 against JMU in 2018, 17 against the Dukes in 2019, and 17 against Savannah State in 2017).

Pierce's athleticism and all-court skills would've given him an outside shot at an All-CAA first-team nod as a senior (he made the third team in his sophomore and junior seasons).  We'll never know - Pierce was probably the best player to leave W&M in the wake of Tony Shaver's firing. He's averaging 7.0 points and 6.2 rebounds as a major bench contributor for North Carolina. Goddammit.

8. Omar Prewitt (2013-17)

14.5 ppg/5.1 rpg/2.5 apg

Unlike Pierce, Prewitt played a big role from the beginning of his Tribe career. As a freshman, his driving dunk in the CAA Tournament final turned momentum W&M's way, and should've been the catalyst for a breakthrough win. Fuck.

If we're being honest, Omar was always just a little bit inconsistent - an enigmatic star who could go for 33 in a CAA semi almost as easily as he could disappear for games at a time. He regressed across the board as a senior, when we might've expected him to make the leap after a first-team All-CAA nod as a junior. It was fun to say Omar comin', though.

7. David Cohn (2015-18)

10.0 ppg/2.5 rpg/5.9 apg

It's not a stretch to say that the transfer from Colorado State is the best point guard in the history of the W&M program. He holds all-time school records for total assists, single-season assists, and assist/turnover ratio. His three seasons in Green and Gold all rank among the top 4 in assists/game, including the all-time best of 6.67 in his senior campaign. In that year, he led the CAA in assists, free throw percentage (91.2), and Offensive Rating. Dude was fun to watch.

6. Tim Rusthoven (2010-14)

10.5 ppg/5.4 rpg/1.5 apg/0.8 blocks per game

The Teej says he should be higher on this list, if only because he has the program's best nickname, and I can't really argue with that. Beasthoven is another who saw his numbers dip as a senior after a stellar junior campaign, but in his case it was because Terry Tarpey and Omar Prewitt were getting some of his rebounds (he still wound up 19th all-time in rebounds at W&M), and Marcus Thornton and Prewitt increased their scoring at his expense (he's 23rd in school history). He shot a career-high 59.0% from the field that year, and led the league in Offensive Rating. He's seventh all-time in the CAA in FG%.

Rusthoven also won the 2014 Dean Ehlers Leadership Award, given annually to the male and female CAA basketball players who "embody the highest standards of leadership, integrity and sportsmanship in conjunction with his academic athletic achievement."

And, again, his nickname was Beasthoven.

5. Quinn McDowell (2008-2012)

12.9 ppg/4.8 rpg/1.5 apg

The Mighty Quinn did Beasthoven one better, winning back to back Dean Ehlers awards his junior and senior seasons. On the court, he was another who peaked as a junior, averaging 15.5 points and 5.4 boards while making 45.5% of his threes. The Tribe's 8th-leading all-time scorer dropped a then-record 35 points against James Madison in the first round of the 2011 CAA Tournament, the definition of heat check. In his sophomore season, McDowell led the conference in Win Shares - he's 8th all-time in the league in that category. He was overshadowed as a senior by the emergence of the electric Thornton, but we'll hear more from the current assistant at Lehigh - he's not done as a leader in college hoops.

4. Daniel Dixon (2013-17)

11.9 ppg/3.3 rpg/1.6 apg

A confession: when Dixon was a freshman, I thought he was a nice defender who was just a little bit too stiff offensively to contribute much on that end. I don't know very much. There aren't many players who've consistently improved as much as Dixon across the course of a career. He went from a solid 12.5 ppg as a junior to a first-team all-CAA guard as a senior on the strength of his 19.2 ppg. That season, he was second in the league in scoring. As a sophomore, he led the league in three-point shooting percentage.

As we wrote in this very space, Dixon's senior season compares favorably with that of Marcus Thornton.

Oh, and he also hit that shot:

3. Terry Tarpey (2012-16)

7.6 ppg/5.3 rpg/2.2 apg/1.4 steals per game/1.0 blg

There has never been another player at William & Mary remotely like Tarpey. For my money, he's the best all-around basketball athlete in school history. As a 6'5" wing, he led the CAA in rebounds, steals, Offensive Rating and Defensive Rating, and finished second in blocked shots. He's fifth all-time in defensive rebounds in league play. He was a two-time CAA Defensive Player of the Year. The fact that he never made first-team all-league is a goddamned crime, for which I blame the media. Looking at you, Fairbank.

Tarpey was all red-ass, all the time. Again, as a guard, he led the Tribe in rebounds three straight seasons. He's fifth on the school's all-time boards list, 18th all-time in assists, third in steals, and fourth in blocks. All that for a player that averaged double-digit points his final two seasons is damn near unheard-of.

2. Nathan Knight (2016-20)

16.7 ppg/7.0 rpg/2.2 apg/1.8 bpg

If Cohn's the best point guard in W&M history, then Knight is the best big man to ever wear Green and Gold (with a great deal of due respect to Bill Chambers, who still holds the NCAA record for rebounds in a game with 51 against UVA in 1953). The only active player on this list (well, Pierce notwithstanding, dammit), Knight's taken a step up this year from an already lofty foundation.

The 6'10" lefthander is averaging 19.9 points and 10.3 rebounds a game in his senior season, when he's the absolute focus of every opponent's defensive game plan. He put 30 and 8 on Oklahoma in a game W&M absolutely should've won. He was third in the CAA in scoring last year, and led the league in blocked shots as a sophomore and a junior. Knight has a decent shot at finishing his career in the top five in school history in points, rebounds, and blocks (he's already second in the latter). Decent, that.

The 2018-19 All-CAA first-teamer and two-time CAA Defensive first-teamer took a peek at the NBA Draft after the chaos of the offseason. If he keeps up his play, he'll be the third Tribe player in the last five years to hear his name called on draft day.

1. Marcus Thornton (2011-15)

17.1 ppg/2.6 rpg/2.2 apg

Our feelings about Thornton are no secret. From the moment he exploded into our consciousness as a precocious freshman to his valedictory, W&M hoops has never seen anything like him. When he single-handedly carried the Tribe to overtime against a much, much better VCU team, or when he dropped 37 on Hofstra before giving the ball up to Dixon to make the game-winner in that epic game, or when everyone in the gym knew he was shooting against Drexel and he still rose, kicked out that leg, and drained it, when he did those things, he did things William & Mary players never did.

The 2015 CAA Player of the Year (the only W&M player so honored), Thornton is W&M's leading all-time scorer, and fifth in CAA history. He led the league in both three-point field goals and three-point field goal percentage in both 2012-13 and 2013-14.

He was electric at a school that was acoustic chamber music. When he plugged in, he changed the trajectory of a program. I don't expect to ever see his equal.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Baby, if you've ever wondered, wondered whether he was gonna post...

I'm posting on the morn for you this Thanksgiving
This Thanksgiving...that clip from WKRP


Bonus holiday content:

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

The New York Post is En Fuego

While we ponder and lament the downfall of local newspapers, it's important to remember that the NY Post, which is anything but a scrappy small-town paper, continues to deliver the goods. It gives you the news in a low-brow fashion, while putting lots of sizzle on the steak. When I used to commute to NYC via train, I would read the digital versions of both the Wall Street Journal and the NY Post each morning. I needed my business and local news, and I loved the high-brow/low-brow 1-2 punch of these two papers. I ignore the editorial sections of both papers, so I don't want to hear gripes about the evil Murdoch empire.

Anyhoo, the NY Post has been killing it lately. And by killing it, I mean having audacious titles designed to attract eyeballs. So as we prepare to eat turkey, drink alcohol and watch bad football, I wanted to share a recent trio of impressive articles. You should note that one of the articles relates to a trend I first brought up a few days ago. I am an influencer. 

Wishing you all and your tan perinea a happy Turkey Day. 

Gheorghe Explains: The Desertification of American News

Our man in the Outer Banks is dropping science this morning, and he ain't all that happy about it. Dave Fairbank laments the decline of the small-town news, a phenomenon that means "...residents in communities, hundreds of communities, even thousands, in this country have limited, very limited access to the sort of news and information that's been the lifeblood of our democracy, everything from when and where to vote, to topics such as education, health, emergency and safety information that we need," according to  University of North Carolina professor Penny Abernathy. Your assignment, cub reporters and G:TB readers, is to read this paean to what was and should be and come up with solutions in the comments. Crowdsourced community soul restoration, what we do best around here.

It’s no secret that the news business isn’t awash in good fortune these days. Journalists are routinely harassed, jailed and even killed by authoritarian regimes. Newspapers all over the country are hemorrhaging readers, advertising and staff. Meanwhile, our oaf-in-chief continually uses the media as a punching bag and prop at his rallies, making it increasingly perilous to simply gather and present information.

On a personal level, my old shop appears to have invited the vultures through the front door, which worries me greatly about friends and former colleagues. No telling how it will play out, but recent history is not encouraging.

The hedge fund Alden Global Capital recently bought into Tribune Publishing, becoming the
company’s largest shareholder at 25.2 percent. Tribune Publishing oversees some sizable, respected papers, among them the Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News, Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel, and Hartford Courant. The company also owns small-to-mid size papers such as the Newport News (Va.) Daily Press, where I spent 30 years, and recent acquisition the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot.

Alden already controls dozens of newspapers and is the largest shareholder (50.1 percent) in a company called Digital First Media, whose stable of papers includes the Denver Post, the St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer-Press and San Jose Mercury News. Alden’s stewardship has been disastrous for most of its newspaper properties. For example, when it bought into DFM in 2012 through 2017, staff at the St. Paul paper shrank from 259 to 109, in San Jose from 158 to 92, and in Denver’s newsroom from 184 to 85. In several small-to-medium DFM papers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Michigan, staff was cut by more than 70 percent during that five-year span. Cuts in Denver sparked an open revolt, with the paper printing a handful of critical op-ed pieces and demanding that Alden sell to local interests. The outcry generated national attention, but in the end Alden made more cuts, citing the need to meet specific profit margins.

Alden is by no means the only outfit engaging in such practices, but is among the most egregious. Media consolidation has been going on for quite a while, as companies such as Tribune, GateHouse, Gannett, McClatchy and Media General attempt to make money, or at least stem losses, in a business world gone digital. According to the Boston Globe, 65 percent of newspaper jobs were lost between 1990 and 2016, a greater decline than coal mining and iron and steel mill work. Newspapers shuttered in the past decade include Denver’s Rocky Mountain News, Tucson Citizen, Tampa Tribune, Cincinnati Post and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. More than 1,400 towns and cities across the country have lost newspapers in the past 15 years, according to data compiled by the University of North Carolina, expanding what observers call news “desertification” – areas not served by daily journalists.

Hedge funds don’t buy into newspapers because of some streak of civic responsibility, but because they see an opportunity to make a bunch of money relatively quickly. Newspapers represent a “distressed” business and therefore provide a relatively cheap buy-in, whether it be from market forces or current ownership looking for an escape hatch and sizable payout on their way out the door. If a newspaper or chain can gain financial traction, fine, and the hedge fund can profit from that. If it continues to flounder, the hedge fund often cuts expenses – usually in the form of workers – and extracts as much profit as possible before dumping and moving on.

Newspapers used to be family owned, and corporate and classified ad revenue made those families tidy sums. It wasn’t unusual for newspapers to have profit margins of 15-20 percent, or higher. Those profits turned newspapers into investments, and gradually they were run by business people, not newspaper people. When the Internet started siphoning off advertising, profit margins dropped. In response, bosses did what’s done at other businesses – cut expenses. But you can only depreciate office furniture, computers and cameras so much. The big expense is people, often reporters and editors.

I’ve argued for years that newspapers aren’t like other businesses. They’re more like public trusts than for-profit endeavors. Cut staff at many businesses and there may be alternative paths to success – technology, automation, retrenching. Cut staff at a newspaper, however, and stuff goes uncovered. Local government, cops and courts, business deals, construction and infrastructure contracts, never mind sports and entertainment and personalities. Nobody’s watching. Nobody has time. I endured a fair share of layoffs, early buyouts and staff cuts, along with the accompanying meetings and memos in which the message was “do more with less” and “work smarter, not harder.” I’m here to tell you that where news gathering is concerned, it’s damn near impossible to build greater efficiency into the process. No one does more with less, you only do less with less.

Major metropolitan areas are better equipped to deal with the shrinking newspaper field. There are generally more outlets for news, and a greater probability of a segment of engaged citizenry. But it’s the small and medium-sized towns and cities that suffer most when newspapers shrink or die. The local paper is often the only outlet for news, the sole watchdog on abuse and injustice and a community’s shared experience.

I have no idea how Alden’s tenure will affect my friends and former co-workers in Newport News and Norfolk. I would like to think that they’re far enough down the food chain to grant them some reprieve from the butcher’s knife. Both shops have been through several rounds of cuts and layoffs through the years, so little fat remains. But given the bloodless chase for profits and satisfied investors, nothing would surprise me.