Thursday, January 30, 2014

I hated to see my full house lose, but I enjoyed seeing a royal flush for the first time

A royal flush occurs in 7-card stud roughly once every 30,000 hands.
    Every couple of months I join a few friends for a low-stakes poker game. We play mostly 7-card stud, hi-lo, so the best high hand and the best low hand split the pot.
    I had a great hand tonight -- a full house, fives over twos. It was a stealth hand, in that I had a five, a pair of twos and an ace showing, making it look like an almost certain low hand. I had a pair of fives in the hole and drew a king on the last card. To my right was one of my former law professors. It looked to me like he had a big pile of nothing. Needless to say I was betting my full house with wild abandon.
    The photo above tells the story. As another player at the table said, "You know you're in trouble when your opponent starts to turn his cards and says, 'You guys might want to get your cameras.' "
    None of us had ever seen a true royal flush before. The odds of getting a royal at 7-card stud are about 30,000-to-1. Assuming 100 deals per night (and do we get that many?), that's one royal every three hundred nights of play. Since I only play poker about six times a year, I've got 50 years ahead of me before I see my next royal flush.
    I was winning a few dollars before the royal flush debacle. But in the end I don't mind losing a few bucks to see something that I've never seen before and probably will never see again.

Monday, January 27, 2014

At least this woman is loyal to her loyalty program

    As many of you know, I love collecting hotel and airline points. Now that Jinny does most of the traveling I help manage her accounts to get her the maximum number of loyalty points.
    Many people who are members of these various loyalty programs aren't aware that there are frequent bonuses for which one must register. These bonus offers are often substantially more lucrative than the standard point awards.
    In talking to some of Jinny's colleagues, I've found that all of them are registered for various hotel loyalty programs and virtually none of them are aware of the various bonuses. And in fact, It's been hard to get her to elbow for the points in the same way that I do; but she's improving.
    I saw this photo on another travel site. You have to admire this woman's dedication to the cause!

h/t View from the wing

Sunday, January 26, 2014

For good students high tuition worth it, but for marginal ones it's a con leading to massive debt

    Ash is starting his second semester as a dual-enrollment student. Last semester he took Greek Mythology at Ole Miss and earned both college and high school credit. He managed to get an "A," which is a good thing.
    This semester he's taking Accounting 201 and Introduction to Homeland Security. I don't know what the Homeland Security class will be like, but I've warned him he'll have to work to earn his "A" in Accounting.
    Now I've got to pay tuition. The tuition for six semester hours is $1,740 after adding in the registration and capital improvement fee. Dual enrollment students receive a 50 percent scholarship, so my out of pocket cost is reduced to $907.50. These credit hours will apply to his eventual undergraduate degree, so in the end it's money well spent. Once he actually attends college the tuition becomes just one of many expenses. Then he will have room, board, Library expenses, fraternity dues, Spring Break vacation costs, and so forth.
    I commented last fall on how much tuition costs had increased. When I mentioned it on Facebook, everyone confirmed that in the mid-1980s tuition was less than $500 for a full load. Today tuition for a full-time Ole Miss student is $3,330.
    And then there are textbooks. Ash's Accounting book had to be purchased new to get some type of software code. The cost was $250 -- for a single textbook. Is there any need for new accounting textbooks? Has accounting even changed since the days of Bob Cratchit?
    Despite the steep rise in tuition and costs, Ole Miss remains a bargain when compared to other schools. Ash is an able student, and I consider money spent on college education and overpriced textbooks well spent, whether at Ole Miss or a more expensive school.
    But for many students college is a terrible deal. Roughly a third of entering college students are so unprepared that they have to take remedial classes. These are essentially high school (or jr. high) classes taught on a college campus. The only difference is that the students have to pay big money for them.
    If a student or his parents have plenty of money, remedial classes are just fine. Likewise, if a student is on some type of athletic or outreach scholarship, great. These people are not mortgaging their futures trying to reach a very elusive goal. But students simply should not be conned into taking on debt to take remedial classes at the university level.
    Why? Because five out of six students who enroll in a remedial reading class will not earn a degree. Three out of four students who start out in remedial math won't make it. All these students will earn is a mountain of debt that can't be discharged in bankruptcy, and absolutely nothing to show for it. Colleges should not be allowed to encourage kids and their parents to take on massive debt in pursuit of a slight chance of earning a college degree.
    In the past 15 years or so we have adopted a national mantra that everyone should go to college. It's not true. Everyone who can do the work should consider college.
    People need to be reminded that they are spending real money on their education. The loans which are so freely given to both students and parents have to be paid back. They can never be discharged. Many students today are graduating with a large home mortgage hanging over their head; except they have no home to go with it. Many won't even have a degree, just debt.
    This mountain of educational debt almost certainly endangers the long-term outlook of the American economy. We need to do away with $250 textbooks and start using $50 ones instead. And our state colleges need to cut back on efforts to create a luxurious learning environment and work harder at keeping tuition costs down.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

I won't win any awards in Japan, but maybe in Oxford. . .

    I bought Lucy a Mr. Bento recently for her school lunches.
    Lucy actually likes the school lunches, but I figured she might like a home-packed lunch every now and then. I'm not as good as the Japanese mothers, but I made a little sandwich face, using Kalamata olives, grape tomatoes and a sliver of carrot.
    The Mr. Bento has four containers. The other two contained some Ramen noodles and some rice. She said the noodles were too salty. Don't know how that can be, but that's what she said.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Attorney and UM instructor Charles Walker honored by former students with scholarship endowment

George and Annie Haymans of Oxford, Miss. (second and third from left), have established a real estate scholarship at Ole Miss in honor of Charles Walker (fourth from left), their longtime professor, friend and mentor. Tim Noss, UM development director (left), Dr. Bob Robinson of the UM School of Business Administration (right) and Mary Walker helped the Haymanses surprise Walker with the scholarship and invite others to contribute to the fund.

    George and Annie Haymans have endowed a scholarship honoring local attorney and Ole Miss instructor Charles Walker. Walker was one of those professors I really enjoyed having as a student.

   You can read the university press release by clicking here. I'm taking the liberty of reprinting the press release below, as I've found that sometimes these things have a habit of disappearing from the Internet.

A stickler for grammar, a lover of clever songwriting, and a "natural explainer," Charles Walker has had a vast impact on the University of Mississippi, Oxford and Lafayette County.

Walker is known by many as one of two things: a favorite professor or the attorney and mediator to whom clients and realtors go to when they have difficult problems - or perhaps both. Having taught business law and real estate law courses in the UM School of Business Administration and the Patterson School of Accountancy for 38 years while practicing real estate law in Oxford, there are hundreds of realtors, business and law professionals Walker has taught, mentored or worked alongside.

Among them are George and Annie Haymans of Oxford, Miss., two Ole Miss alumni who have been influenced by Walker both personally and professionally. When they wanted to give back to their alma mater, they chose to establish the Charles H. Walker Real Estate Scholarship Endowment, honoring a man who played a big role in their happiness and success.

George Haymans earned a bachelor's degree in English in 2001 and met Walker in 2003 when Walker helped him purchase his first house. Haymans received a Juris Doctor degree from UM in 2006, the same year his future bride, Annie Powers, received an undergraduate degree in psychology. In 2008 the couple married and Haymans opened his practice in real estate law with guidance from Walker and local attorneys Cal Mayo and Lee Tyner. Annie Haymans later earned another bachelor's degree from UM in education in 2011. The couple has three children, George (5), Worth (4) and Katherine Ann (2).

"I love this work," said Haymans. "Everything I do has something to do with real estate, whether it is consulting with developers or rezoning work. I enjoy helping people find land and discover whether it will work or not. I'll always appreciate those that helped me find my path as I was starting out."

Haymans also appreciates the UM Foundation's quick response to his request to establish the Walker Scholarship for students with an interest in real estate. 

"This was the result of a conversation Annie and I had about our estate planning and charitable giving. We wanted to give back to Ole Miss and honor the impact Charles had in our lives and show him how many people he has influenced in his life," he said.

"I didn't know what was possible so I called Wendell Weakley, the president and CEO of the foundation. He explained that we could establish a scholarship fund in Charles' name and that the foundation would help engage others who respect Charles like we do to give to the scholarship," Haymans continued. "Wendell and Tim Noss, the development director for the business school, immediately got things rolling."

"Students comment that Charles was one of their favorite instructors due to his enthusiasm and storytelling to illustrate a point," said Ken Cyree, dean of business administration and the Frank R. Day and Mississippi Bankers Association Chair of Banking. "A scholarship established by former students shows the depth of their connection to him as a professor." 

"Charles' dedication to teaching and devotion to the university serve as an inspiration to us all," agreed Bob Robinson, the Michael S. Starnes Professor of Management who began teaching at UM in 1990. "He has always been regarded as an exceptional teacher with his students' interests at heart. This scholarship will be an incentive for recruiting bright young scholars to the real estate program. In this manner, Charles continues to bring excellence to the program long after he has left the classroom."

Walker also encouraged others to devote time to teaching, including Arlen Coyle, a friend and law school classmate of Walker's. Coyle continues to teach business law at UM, just as he did in the 1970s and 80s during his career in U.S. Courts system.  

"Charles is a natural 'explainer.' He has the gift of being able to take complex subjects, break them down into their constituent elements, and explain them to students. I cannot envision any other teacher accomplishing as much solid teaching as has Charles during his 38-year career at Ole Miss," said Coyle. "Plus, Charles is the most honest man I have ever known. There are lawyers who give the legal profession a good name. Charles Walker is at the forefront of that group."

Coyle appreciates Walker's work-life balance, and recollects Walker's personal approach from the earliest days of their friendship.

"I first met Charles in 1969 in law school," said Coyle. "It was customary to wear dress trousers, dress shirts and ties. Charles dressed according to hunting seasons: when a season was open, Charles wore hunting trousers, boots, a dress shirt and tie. As soon as classes were over, the shirt and tie came off, a hunting shirt and jacket went on and off he went. Charles also charmed the secretaries into going out to check on the hunting dogs in his car. Charles knows every bird hunting field in Lafayette, Yalobusha, Panola, Marshall and Union counties."

Walker's in-depth knowledge of the landscape of North Mississippi is well-known. Although Walker was born in Morganton, N.C., his roots and love for Mississippi run deep. His mother was born and raised in Kilmichael, Miss., where he visited with his parents most summers and always looked forward to returning. He is also the great-nephew of the late Pat Harrison, Mississippi's valued U.S. Representative from 1911 to 1919 and Senator from 1919 to 1941. 

As a struggling student in 1964, Walker met a young woman who inspired him to shape up. 

"I was enrolled at Lees-McRae Junior College in North Carolina," said Walker. "I did so poorly in high school I couldn't get in anywhere else. In my third year I caught the mumps and spent six weeks in the hospital. When I went home to recover, I met Mary Mitchell who was getting her nursing degree from Lenoir-Rhyne University. I immediately fell in love and wanted to marry her. Due to poor grades, however, I had received a letter asking me not to return to school. I pleaded for a second chance from the registrar, took 21 hours and made the dean's list. I couldn't have this pretty girl dating a dummy."

Walker transferred to Ole Miss in 1965. He married Mary in 1966 and earned his bachelor's degree in business administration in 1967. He would go on to earn his Juris Doctor degree from UM in 1970.

"There was a professor, W.W. Joor, from Rolling Fork in the Mississippi Delta who taught business law then," said Walker. "I took all three of his classes and got an 'A' in each. I realized I had finally found a subject I enjoyed and a field in which I could excel."

He entered law school that fall. Mary quickly read the writing on the wall. 

"We had just married and promised our families we'd move closer to North Carolina after Charles finished his undergraduate degree," Mary said. "Then at Christmas, Charles said he thought he might want to go to law school. It wasn't long before I realized we weren't leaving."

The draw to teaching was instilled early. While in law school, he was invited to substitute teach for Joor. 

"Mr. Joor and I got to be good buddies, and he would ask me to substitute teach for him," said Walker. "I got to teach Archie Manning, Jim Poole and others sitting in for Joor."

By 1977, Walker was offered a full-time faculty position as a professor in the business school. Mary Walker referred to teaching as "his true gift." She should know; beginning in 2000 when Walker's vision began deteriorating, Mary would accompany him to class to help take roll and be his eyes in the classroom. "I watched how the students responded to the way Charles brought real life into the classroom. He even took them to the courthouse to teach them how to check titles."

"I tried to teach practical information," Walker explained. "For example, let's say we hear a forest fire in California has burned forty thousand acres. To put this in perspective for the class, I'd explain that Lafayette County is roughly twenty miles square, or roughly four hundred fifty thousand acres. I would draw Lafayette County up on the board and show them it is just below nine percent of Lafayette County. It sounds terrible, but many people have no concept of how large or small an acre of land is."

Walker was regarded as a talented and favorite teacher during his career, earning high ratings from students during end of semester evaluations. Walker also directed the Professional Land Management (formerly Petroleum Land Management) program for 25 years, served as director of the long-range planning committee in the 1980s and was an affirmative action officer. In 1984 he was awarded tenure and later served from 1987 to 1997 as the public address announcer for football games in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

The Walkers have three children, Caroline (Todd) Underwood and Mary Beth (John) Cantrell of Tupelo and Jonathan Walker (Sally Kate) of Oxford. They also enjoy their six grandchildren.

Haymans, who also now teaches as an adjunct in the business school, is eager to encourage others to help grow the Charles H. Walker Real Estate Scholarship Endowment.

"I'm often in court when someone hears I practice in Oxford. They'll come tell me a story about having Charles in school or that he helped them attain their first job. He helped to train judges and attorneys around the state. He's had a big impact."

Mostly, Haymans wants Walker to know the weight of his influence. "He is one of the few lawyers who can relieve tensions among parties without threatening, without ego. There is no reason to go to court with Charles Walker involved," said Haymans. "The biggest lessons I've learned from Charles are humility and the importance of living by my Christian values. He is very self-deprecating even when it is not his obligation. 

"I'm so thankful Charles was around when I was starting out. He took time to talk with me when I asked his advice, when a lot of lawyers wouldn't take your call let alone share their secrets on how they conduct business," he added. "Charles is always very open to helping young people become better lawyers and more importantly, better people."

Individuals and organizations interested in making a gift to the Charles H. Walker Real Estate Scholarship Endowment can send a check with the fund noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, P.O. Box 249, University, Miss. 38677; contact Tim Noss at 662-915-5932 or; or visit

Katie Morrison

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Oxford creates dedicated lanes in effort to relieve Sisk Ave. traffic woes

Click to Enlarge
    The City of Oxford has implemented some temporary traffic changes that may alleviate some of the terrible traffic problems on Sisk Ave. associated with the opening of the new Oxford High School. Click here to see the announcement.
    Police have placed cones on Sisk to create dedicated lanes at the Highway 7 interchange. I saw the placement of the cones when I dropped Ash off for school this morning. Essentially they have created a dedicated lane for north-bound traffic coming off of Highway 7 and another lane for traffic coming east on Sisk. Sisk expands to four lanes east of the Highway 7 interchange, so this should allow a substantial improvement in traffic flow.
    I would expect there to be some initial confusion, but when it settles down this should improve traffic flow quite a bit. The dedicated lanes do require a lane-shift for those traveling east on Sisk, and this might be confusing at first. I do hope the city will install the cones and poles permanently instead of merely placing them there each morning and afternoon.
    In my opinion, the best route into the school is now to come in from the south on Highway 7. This will involve no stopping, since there is a dedicated lane. The worst way in is probably to come in from the north on Highway 7. It might be a better strategy for those living north of town to exit at Highway 30 and then take Park Drive to Sisk; this will be a matter of trial and error.
    The strategy that has worked at our house for the past couple of days is to try to be out of the driveway before 7:05 a.m. This puts us on Sisk within five minutes and at the drop-off point in 10. Believe it or not the traffic is actually heavy on Sisk at 7:10 a.m., presumably with other parents who don't want to get stuck waiting 30 minutes in traffic to drop off their kids. I hope the kids will keep getting out of the bed and into the car early!
    A friend of mine pointed out an additional problem with the traffic problems on Sisk: There is a real safety issue with two large schools having only one road leading in or out. A major accident at the Sisk and 7 interchange could prevent emergency vehicles from reaching either Della Davidson or Oxford High. An additional way into the area simply must be built.
    In the meantime, here's hoping that a dedicated lane and getting to school a little earlier provides us with some relief!


Monday, January 13, 2014

The new Oxford High School is beautiful but the traffic jam on Sisk is a nightmare

The New Oxford High School

    Oxford High School students started the new year in a new school. The new buildings were sorely needed and it is a beautiful campus.
    With the opening of the new school, located at the end of Sisk Ave., Oxford starts the new year with a really nasty traffic problem. Sisk was barely able to handle the traffic created by parents dropping off or picking up their kids from Della Davidson Elementary. Now traffic on Sisk has tripled.
    This heavy traffic means that cars are backed up more than a mile on Sisk Ave before and after school. They're backed up up on Bramlett, too. The Highway 7 exit ramps are completely full, so that cars are backed up into the highway. Not only are parents late getting their kids to school, so are a few of the school buses.
    Long-term solutions have to include substantial road improvements. Hopefully this will include the building of two roundabouts where Highway 7 meets Sisk. (And while we're at it, lets throw in two roundabouts at University and 7, and Old Taylor and Highway 6).
    For the short term the school may need to make some substantial changes in its hours so that the Della and Oxford High parents don't descend on Sisk at the exact same time.
    I imagine we'll start trying to leave our house at 7 a.m. My experience is that being a few minutes early turns a 45-minute school trip into a 15-minute breeze. But having to leave home at 7 a.m. to make a 7:50 a.m. school bell is pretty sad.