Dec 28, 2014

NFL Week 17

From somewhere over Montana flying from Seattle to Cincinnati:

Picks for this week:

GB -7 1/2
Det/GB under 47
Jax +9 1/2
Jax/Hou under 40
Ten +7
Ten/Ind under 46 1/2
Buf +5
NYJ +6 1/2
Atl -3
SD +1
NO -4
Stl/Sea under 41 1/2
SF -7
Oak +14
Oak/Den under 47 1/2

I know, a lot of unders.

Supercontest picks:

Ten +7
NYJ +6
Atl -4
NO -4
Oak +14


Dec 21, 2014

NFL Week 16: Electronics Market

It's hard to believe it is here - it is our last night in Guangzhou. Tomorrow morning - bright and early, in the 2nd quarter of the late afternoon games - we will head to the Guangzhou airport for a final time and leave the city, heading for Hawaii. The last 2 weeks have been an emotional whirlwind of goodbyes and panic in wrapping everything up, packing and moving. (I still haven't finished all my work yet for China - that may happen on the flight....).

I won't be rhapsodizing about China in this post -maybe that's for the playoffs or something - but today was our last visits to the markets, and the final visit today was to the market that many ex-pats know by heart - the electronics market.

This place - and I should say blocks, not a "place" - has everything under the sun. It has the items you would expect - the DVDs, I Phones, phone cases - but also hi-fi stereo equipment, industrial-powered lasers, water speakers that vibrate with the sound of the music, walkie talkies, and everything else.

This was the place where I went the first week I was here to get my phone card - I think I blogged about this before, where I had to pick my own phone number - and was the last market we went to today. We got a few X Box games, pocket lasers, 3' charger cords, and other cheap items. We will see if our X Box games actually work on our box in about 10 days.

(We also went to the watch market earlier today - that's becoming a process like entering the NORAD control center now - and I don't have pictures of that). Had to look at the offering one last time!

To the games:

Phi 27, Was 17
SD 23, SF 13
(I could be a smart ass and pick the Washington upset, since it happened earlier today.....)
Mia 23, Min 17
Det 23, Chi 20
Bal 23, Hou 10
NO 27, Atl 20
NE 28, NYJ 20
KC 23, Pit 20
GB 30, TB 13
StL 30, NYG 20
Dal 30, Ind 24
Oak 20, Buf 17
Sea 17, Az 14
Den 27, Cin 20

Best bets: 13 of them. Last week: 9-6-1; overall: 94-114-4

SD +1 (winner!)
Chi +8
Bal -5 1/2
Bal/Hou under 42
Atl/NO under 56
KC +2 1/2
GB -11 1/2
GB/TB under 49
StL -6 1/2
NYG/StL over 43 1/2
Oak +6 1/2
Az +7 1/2
Den -3 1/2

Supercontest picks: Last week: 4-1; overall: 41-33-1
SD +1 (winner!)
Bal -5 1/2
KC +3
StL -4 1/2
Az +8


Dec 14, 2014

NFL Week 15: Driving

This is my last week of blogging about the NFL in our house. On Friday, we move to a hotel - the Ritz, of course - and then Monday Dec 22 we are on our way back for good.

No time to reminisce just yet - the Browns are still in the playoffs and we have a few more topics to go. I've saved this picture up for a while to talk about driving and the roads in China. How crazy is it?

Well, it's not that bad. It's hard to describe - I'd say about 95% of the drivers out there obey the traffic laws. That's a fairly decent number, but other drivers are still very unpredictable in their behavior and a driver has to always be on their toes for everyone else.

Some general remarks about driving:

1. The rules, in general, favor the bold. If there is a space, you go for it! If someone cuts you off, there's no reason to be mad - it's your fault for letting someone in. Accidnets in merging lanes are rare, as more people here seem to back off an aggressive driver than in the US. Just my opinion.

2. Accidents? The worse one I saw was in the picture attached. If you open it up to the large size, you can see a red car at the top- and to the left of the car there are two outstretched legs. Those legs weren't moving when we passed, and we were in a traffic jam. I have no idea what happened here ( I can guess, however - see point 3 below), but it didn't look good. These kinds of accidents are few and far between.

The most unsafe I felt in the car was about a month ago, driving on the highway --- passing a truck with a light load; a 2x4 fell off the truck and struck the side of our car. I wasn't paying attention, and just heard an awful bam on the side of the car while going 100 km/h. The truck did not stop; we did, as the driver got out to inspect the minimal damage.

3. Pedestrians - holy shit. the worst, bar none. In India, where the roads are chaotic, at least the people walking in the streets are aware of the cars around them and proceed cautiously. Here - the pederstrians think they rule the world. Tons of people do not heed don't walk signs; they just walk out into the street and are shocked when a car is barreling at them honking their horn. Maybe shocked is not the right word - probably offended. Their attitude is "there's a cross walk here, buddy. You better stop for me, even though you were going 45 mph and you have a green light."

People are everywhere on the roads. I remember the first month we were here - the highways were decorated with flowers on the side. We are all going 60, 70 mph on the highway- and there is someone on the shoulder of the highway, walking along and watering the flowers. Crazy.

4. New drivers: there are plenty of new drivers every day coming on the road. Now, imagine you are 40, 50 years old, and just starting to drive a head on the highway. Everything is fine until you get to a fork in the road. What do you do?

Of course, you slam on the brakes and stop , in the middle of the highway, as you take your time and read the highway sign. Should I head toward Panyu or Qingyuan? I think Panyu, correct? This all happens while they are at a dead stop. Just amazing.

5. Probably because of #3 and #4, drunk driving is not tolerated. Instant prison for drunk driving- any alcohol at all.

It's Johnny Football week. I am excited to see what he can do. Having the last 4 weeks of Hoyer, giving away at least one game, makes me open to the possibility of our boy Johnny. 38-3 Browns.

On to the quick picks: I have to brag, finally got an exact pick right with last week's 27-13 Houston over Jacksonville pick!

Atl 31, Pit 27.
Bal 20, Jax 10
GB 23, Buf 10
TB 20, Car 17
Ind 28, Hou 17
KC 27, Oak 7
Det 31, Min 17
NYG 24, Was 20
Den 26, SD 13
NYJ 23, Ten 16
NE 27, Mia 20
Sea 20, SF 17
Dal 34, Phi 27
NO 27, Chi 24.

Best bets: 16 of them. I really need to tally up the season totals. Next week there will be an update.

Atl +3
Jax/Bal under 45
GB -4
GB/Buf under 50
TB +3
Ind -7
KC -10 1/2
Oak/KC under 41 1/2
Det -7 1/2
Min/Det over 41 1/2
Den -5
Den/Sd under 50 1/2
NYJ -3
SF +9
Dal +3 1/2
Phi/Dal over 55

Supercontest picks: Last week: 2-2-1, thanks to the Vikes miracle "cover" for the tie. Overall: 37-32-1

TB +3 1/2
Ind -6 1/2
Det -8
Den -4
Dal +3


Dec 6, 2014

NFL Week 14: New Hotels

Quick post today - I'm leaving in about 20 minutes for my last trip to Macau; 5 of us are going down today (including golf pool winner Why Not 5), and Wiz comes in late tonight for gambling on Monday evening.

Today I'll just share pcitures of the new hotel going up in China (in Zhongshan) on the highway to Macau. I don't think this is open yet; would you trust the construction here and stay in one of the rooms?

My predictions for the games:

Pit 24, Cin 20
Ten 27, NYG 24
Was 20, StL 17
Det 26, TB 16
Hou 27, Jax 13
Mia 28, Bal 24
Min 31, NYJ 13
NO 30, Car 27
Az 20, KC 19
Den 31, Buf 20
SF 23, Oak 10
Phi 31, Sea 24
NE 31, SD 23
GB 34, Atl 20

Best bets: 14 of them
Pit +3
Ten +1 1/2
Was +3
Was/Stl under 44 1/2
Hou -5
Bal/Mia over 46
Min -5
Car +9
Car/No over 50
SF -8 1/2
SF/Oak under 41
Phi -1 1/2
Sea/Phi over 48 1/2
NE -3 1/2


Pit +3
Was +2 1/2
Hou -5 1/2
Min -6
Phi -1


Nov 30, 2014

NFL Week 13: Golfing

Well, here we are couting down the days to our imepding departure from Guangzhou. With this comes the inevitable list of "final" things I will be doing in China. Today was my final round of golf in China (at least for a long while). My friend Mike set up the round at Mission Hills and even though I hacked, it was a great time.

What are the lasting memories of golfing in China? I'll take home a few! In no particular order:
1. The caddies. Hoo boy, I could go on and on about them. Caddies are ever-present in the golf rouds in China; you can't walk by yourself on a course- you are required to takea  cart, adn with a cart comes a caddy. They are glorified trap-rakers. I'm sorry, but it's true.

I have a reputation here in the ex-pat group of being - shall we say- gruff with our caddies. And I can't deny that! I've had my fill of caddies that:
a. Can't read greens; they will go ahead (without telling you) of reading the putt and then lining up the ball on the intended "line"; this line has a margin of error of about 2 feet either way. .
Caddies have lined it up straight in the hole and then say "ooh, break right lot!"; they will also line up an 8 footer 1 foot left of the hole on a slightly rolling putt. .
b. Have no etiquette. Man oh man, I blew up at one who jiggled the clubs in the bag just as I was taking the club back. (I think my frirend paid her to do that). They talk constantly in your backswing; they will step on your line on the green, and they will tell you a putt is "downhill" just as you are taking the club back.  .
c. Have no tact. I just smile now when I hit a bad shot, a hook that goes over the trees and out of bounds - and then, 3 seconds after the ball disappears, they say "O.B.". Really, Sherlock?

I forgot to inquire if I could get a caddy helmet to take back with me; that's one thing I'll try to do in the next 3 weeks.

2. The courses: the courses we play on could be described as "advanced" layouts; there are some really nice holes, some strategic risk/reward holes that really make you think. It's a great challenge for a 10-15 handicap and better.
Problem is, there aren't that many of those in China. You miss the fairway, that's it - it's gone. The courses make a fortune in golf balls since so many are lost.

3. The routine........there is no procedure of hitting balls before the round. That's unheard of. You show up, head to the locker room, enjoy a pre-round smoke (if you are a native), find your caddy and head to the tee. After the round - due to the oppresive humidity - you have to take a shower and have lunch. Lunch is not quick. So a 4 1/2 hr round becomes 6, 6 1/2 hours, not including the 2 1/2 hours of travel time. I won't miss that at all.
The golf here is solely for the time to get away from it all with friends- it's not a place to get serious and improve. (At least that is what I will tell myself afer 4 years of poor golfing here).

What a big game for the Browns coming up - and a big weekend for the AFC. So many teams in the mix here.....the Browns just need to keep focused and play one game at a time. I feel good about this game in Buffalo - I don't think Orton will have much success in our secondary, so it's up to our run defense. Let's hope they come through.
To the games:

Bal 27, SD 13. Can't see how the banged up Chargers move against the front 7 of the Ravens.

Ten 24, Hou 20. Zach is getting better at QB for the Titans, and the Houston offense is now a mess.

Ind 30, Was 20. I think Colt will score more that 17 for the Skins, ut it's not even close to enough in Indy.

NYG 20, Jax 17. I still believe Jax has a full-game defensive effort in them at some point - if it is here, then Eli will throw 3 interceptions.

Min 27, Car 13. Carolina in imploding, and Teddy and the Vikes play well at home. 

Pit 28, NO 24. Anything can happen here. I could see Brees lighting it up against the weak Steelers secondary. 

StL 23, Oak 10. Oakland is a little bit fat and sassy after their win, and the St Louis defense will eat the Raiders' line alive. 

TB 23, Cin 17. The Bengals' 3rd road game in a row, and the Bucs' offense is slowly improving. 

Az 27, Atl 20. Don't understand this line. How are teh Cards not a favorite? The Falcons offense is weak. 

GB 27, NE 24. One of these teams will decide to slow down the game with the run - it will probably be the Pats. Can't pick a winner here. 

Den 28, KC 17.  I just don't see the Chiefs having the offensive firepower needed vs. Manning. 

Mia 27, NYJ 16.  Is this, again, too easy? Geno is back for the Jets vs a team that really needs the win.

Best bets: 13 of them: Last week: 5-8; overall: 72-94-3. God, I hope none of you are tailing me.
SF -1 (Thu - already 0-1 on the week)
Bal -6 1/2
SD/Bal under 46
Ten +7
NYG/Jax under 44 1/2
Min -2 1/2
StL -6 1/2
Oak/StL under 42
TB +3 1/2
Az -1 1/2
NE/GB under 58
Den -1
Mia -6 1/2

Supercontest: Last week: 1-4. Overall: 33-27
SF -1 (Loss)
Ten +6 1/2
Min -2 1/2
TB +3 1/2
Az -2 1/2

Nov 23, 2014

NFL Week 12: The Guangzhou Marathon

Well, I made it! Today was the big day - my first half-marathon at the Guangzhou Marathon. I blogged a few weeks back about the qualification process and what a disaster that was. Today's race was just the opposite - fairly well organized with nothing too much out of the ordinary.

I have to admit, I didn't train very well for this half marathon. I kept jogging 3-4 times a week, but never built up the endurance I needed for the run. The longest I ran during the training period was about 12K. (For those of you that are metric-challenged, the half marathon is 21.1 K). But - what could go wrong? I felt halfway fresh after that 12K; I could push through that final 9K (!) on race day.

The day was hot and muggy - the sun was out at 7:30 coming through the haze and pollution; the weather felt fine at the 8:00 start time but we all knew it would get worse quickly. This sign near the start was ominous....

I planned to run at a 6 min pace per KM; I set it a little faster on the treadmill when training, so a 6:00 pace seemed doable - for a while. The first few splits came in at 6:05, 6:10 - uh oh. I knew we would have some sort of problem.  It wasn't getting any faster, and my legs weren't responding; my legs felt tired already at the 8 km mark. My upper body - head, chest, lungs - were all fine. The legs just weren't there.

The crowd was into the race; there were plenty of groups of spectators lining most of the course. One notable group was a group of 15 old ladies doing Tai Chi next to the course. Not sure if this was meant to help the runners, or if they were pissed at all of us disturbing their Sunday morning routine.

I hit the 10 km mark at about 1:04 - not bad, but I did feel unexpectedly spent. I made it to the 12.5 km marker before I had to stop and walk for a bit; I resumed running at the 13 km mark. But I was no where near the pace I had set before. Now I was doing 7:30, 7:45 minute km's.

We turned to go over the Pearl River at about the 15 km mark - and that's when I started to get a slight second wind; this picture of the bodies running over one of the iconic bridges in Guangzhou will be a keeper for years to come. However, the minutes crawled from 16 km - 19 km; won't this race ever end?

It was now about 10:15 am, the temperature was 85 and climbing with the trademark humidity. I had to stop one more time - at about the 19.5 k mark - for another walking session. Feeling a little better, I "ran" (if you could call it that) for the last 750 m or so to the finish, completing my first half marathon in 2:24. I did not feel an immediate sense of relief or elation. All I wanted was a banana, Clif bar or water. The P&G nurse was there, seeked me out, and asked if I was OK multiple times. Did I really look that bad?

Nothing too dramatic happened during the race; I did see a stretcher being rolled past me going the other way around the 11 km mark; no idea what was going on behind me. Almost all the runners had appropriate running outfits on. It felt like any normal road race in the US.

I got home, crawled upstairs, laid down on the bed - and was out for 90 minutes. I woke up - of course my whole body was sore - and pains in places that never hurt. (Is ass cheek chafing a thing for runners?) . Now that I've been done for 10 hours, I feel better and there is a little sense of accomplishment. Give me a couple weeks and I will probably want to do that again.

Will Josh Gordon be this sore after his first game back with the Browns? Lord, we need the help on offense....and I hope Atlanta is just the right opponent for Flash to ease into the league. Big game here.....should be a close one; Hoyer needs to have a steady game and we should be in it at the end.

On to the games:

TB 24, Chi 23: I think TB has the passing attack to exploit the weak Bears' secondary.

Hou 20, Cin 17. Well, I'm even more convinced at the strength of the Texans' D after last week; I think they will pressure Dalton into multiple turnovers.

Ind 27, Jax 17. How many big games can the Colts have in a row? This has to be a bit of a letdown for them.

GB 24, Min 20. Outdoors, on the road, the Pack have not been that impressive. Taking the points here with the improving Vikes.

NE 23, Det 20. The Lions have the D line that can dominate the Pats O-line and cause Brady to rush his throws. The reason I'm not calling the outright upset is because Detroit has limited offensive potential.

Phi 31, Ten 17. Tennessee threw everything at Pit last Monday; I expect them to have nothing in the tank for this road game.

SD 27, StL 13. Yes, Rivers may be hurt - but the Rams can't score at all. I expect the Chargers to get into the 20s, and that will be enough.

Sea 24, Az 17. The last stand for the Seahawks; I expect multiple trick plays from Pete Carroll.

Den 34, Mia 20. Peyton will be determined to fix the offense here at home vs. a decent Miami team.

SF 23, Was 17. You all know I hate the Niners, but I can't predict the upset here.

Dal 27, NYG 16.  I know, this is a huge trap game for the Cowboys. Why am I falling for it? Because the Dallas O is multi-faceted. The pass will set up the run.

NO 31, Bal 20. The Saints will have fun, at home, against a still banged-up Ravens secondary.

NYJ 19, Buf 16. I think Buffalo is imploding now after some horrible recent losses. Hope the implosion continues into next week as well!

Best bets: 13 of them. Last week: 7-8; overall: 67-86-3. Wow.

TB +5 1/2
Cin/Hou under 43 1/2
JAx +13 1/2
Jax/Ind under 50
Min +7 1/2
Det +7
Phi -11
SD -6
Den -6 1/2
Mia/Den over 47 1/2
Dal -4
NO -3
NYJ +2 1/2

Supercontest picks: Last week: 4-1; overall: 32-23
NYJ +4 1/2
Min +9 1/2
Det +7
SD -4 1/2
NO -3 1/2


Nov 16, 2014

NFL Week 11: Overloaded Bicycles

For anyone who has spent any appreciable amount of time in China, this image will be of no surprise - and will feel common. We're talking about how the Chinese love to carry cargo on their bicycles on public streets. And when I mean cargo, I mean 4 or 5 bike-loads of stuff all tied together in one load.

For whatever reason, styrofoam is a common cargo for these bikes. This is a typical bike we see on the    street on any given morning. Some enterprising man is collecting used blocks of styrofoam to be "returned" to God-knows-where in exchange for a small fee. So - the more you can cram on the bike, the larger the fee! These guys must think it's a big lego puzzle to do this.

Never mind that he can't see anywhere to the side or behind him- that's your problem to worry about. The traffic laws in China are kind of like "every man for himself" - if you crash into someone, it's your fault since you didn't move. That's why the streets seem chaotic, but it all works somehow.

Back to the cargo - besides styrofoam, other "loads" of goodies that are hauled away by these bicycle Santas:
- Cardboard ; all folded up and attached in a similar method to the bike. I thought I had a picture of this, too, but I can't find it at the moment. I'll attach if I do.
- Water cooler bottles! Again, each one is worth something, so you better attach as many as you can. In this case, the bottles are attached laterally, so a bike is wider than some cars as they try to get 4-wide with the jugs.

Life is a bit like this for me at the moment; traveling right now to finish up transition of my role here in preparation for the move home, but so many things to do at home to get ready. Trying to handle a mortgage application from China is excruciating. All of the Vegas crew is getting ready for Vegas in February and comparing travel itineraries; I can't see past January 1 at the moment.

But a Browns win this week will help that! My goodness - I am scared that we are going to lay an egg here against a rested Texans. And we never do well vs. a rookie quarterback. (I think this started way back in 1993, when a young Scott Mitchell replaced an injured Dan Marino and tore us up; Detroit then signed him to an enormous, undeserved contract). Mallett will pas for 350 and then sign with teh Jets in teh off-season, where he will lead the Jets to numerous 5-11 seasons.

On to the games:

Min 26, Chi 23. What more needs to be said about the Bears? Can teh Vikes exploit the swiss cheese secondary?

KC 20, Sea 17. I don't like Seattle's chances of scoring at Arrowhead.

Car 20, Atl 17. Just a hunch; I think Atlanta is overrated and does nto play well on the road- and this is their 5th week away from Atlanta.

NO 31, Cin 20. The Saints are desperate and need this win and will take it out on the weak Bengals defense.

Was 27, TB 24. Washington should not be favored by this much over anybody. I like the McCown-to-Evans connection for the Bucs.

Den 27, StL 23. Another game where we will see plenty of trick plays from the Rams. 3rd straight road game for Denver.

NYG 23, SF 20. I really don't like how Kapernick looks this year. Yes, yes, they won last week, but they got lucky to send it into overtime.

GB 31, Phi 20. Motivation for the Pack? How about if the playoffs started today, the Browns would host a game and the Pack would be out???

SD 28, Oak 24. Why do I irrationally like Derek Carr?

Az 24, Det 17. Yes, The lions D is excellent, but does anyone notice that they have problems scoring, even with Megatron?

NE 23, Ind 20. I can't see Belicheck letting this turn into a shootout in Indy. Take the under, and I like my chances with Belicheck in a close game.

Pit 27, Ten 17. The Titans will be amped up (a little) for this game, but the Steelers will force themselves to concentrate here and not stumble again. 

Best bets: 15 of them. Last week: 7-6; overall: 60-78-3

Min +2 1/2

GB -6

Car +1 1/2

Atl/Car under 47

NO -7

TB +7

TB/Was over 45 1/2

StL +9 1/2

NYG +4

Oak +10

SD/Oak over 44 1/2

Az -1

NE +3

NE/Ind under 57

Pit -6 1/2

Supercontest: Last week: 3-2; overall: 28-22

Az - 2 1/2
NO -7
StL +9 1/2
TB +7
NE +3

Nov 9, 2014

NFL Week 10: Trucks

OK, it's late, and I am just getting started on the post. Wanted to share this video of normal everyday traffic in Guangzhou - especially the overloading of trucks that are on the roads highway. This is shot on the main road where our complex is located on - this is my jogging path. I had to stop my run and take a video of this monster turning left.

Trucks like this of this length are commonplace; most of the time the load is covered up tightly with blankets/cover and roped down multiple times. I asked our driver once what would be under the covers for the load of a giant truck -- he replied: "Oh, anything, really. Furniture, garbage, metal...."

Um, yeah, sure.....anything.

It's amazing we haven't seen more accidents with trucks of this size up and down the road. The truck drivers themselves are not bad drivers - usually very safe and they obey the speed limit - it's the other drivers of the cars they have to watch out for.

But let's move to more important things - like THE FIRST PLACE CLEVELAND BROWNS! 6-3, with these games coming up (not in order):
Home: Indy, Houston, Cincinnati
Away: Baltimore, Atlanta, Carolina, Buffalo

I will leave it as an exercise for the reader to project the win total for the 2014 Browns - and, as extra credit, predict the win total of the AFC North Champion and the 2 AFC wild cards.

About my picks: I feel as though I have been run over by one of those trucks in the video with the results of my picks. Another horrid week - everything has been going wrong. I think I'm taking the easy way out on some of these games, and it is costing me.

(Will I fall for some similar traps this week? You betcha!)

On to the games:

Bal 27, Ten 17. Something tells me the Titans will keep it competitive against the banged up secondary of the Ravens.

Buf 23, KC 20. Just don't feel like the Chiefs can score enough on the road in Buffalo. I never get this team right.

Det 27, Mia 20. Who has Miami really beaten? I don't give them much credit for a win vs. a San Diego team that didn't show up last week.

Dal 20, Jax 17. Yes, I know Romo is probably going to start (right?). How effective can he be?

NO 26, SF 24. This is the last stand for the Niners; they will throw everything they can at the Saints in a place where Kaepernick plays well.

Pit 24, NYJ 17. I don't see a way for the Jets to stay in it against a Steelers team that needs a win to stay ahead of...ahem....the Browns. Will this reverse jinx work?

Atl 23, TB 17. Betting the bye to work wonders for Atlanta.

Den 30, Oak 20. Will be interesting to see if Carr can keep up his growth in this game.

Az 27, StL 13. Not sure how the Rams will score points; I am scared that the Cardinals are due for a clunker sometime soon.

Sea 24, NYG 20. The Giants need to get out of New York, and maybe I am starting to realize the Seahawks can be beat - especially deep. If the NY O-line can give Eli some time.....

GB 27, Chi 24. I don't believe that both inter-divisional games will be blowouts; one of them will be close. The Pack won 38-17 or something 5 weeks ago.....this one will be closer.

Phi 31, Car 17. Not sure if Carolina is an average defense any more, especially on the road.

Best bets: 13 of them. Last week: 2-12. Holy crap...Overall: 53-73-3. This has got to change....NOW!

Buf +1
Det -3
Jax +7
Dal/Jax under 45
SF +5 1/2
Pit -3 1/2
Pit/NYJ under 47 1/2
Atl -2 1/2
Atl/TB under 47
Az -6 1/2
NYG +8 1/2
Chi +7
Phi - 7

Supercontest: Last week: 2-3. Overall: 25-20

Det -2 1/2
SF +5
Az -7
NYG +9 1/2
Chi +7

Nov 2, 2014

NFL Week 9: Planes

Airline travel in China is painful, for several reasons. First, afternoon and evening flights are usually
always delayed. This is because the government owns about 80% of the air space in China, so the air routes to/from the big cities are very limited. It's like if there was 3 two-lane roads entering and exiting Cleveland. The morning flights are usually on time, but whenever there is a small blip - bam! things get backed up in a hurry.

Customer service is not seen as a quality that the airlines want to deliver. Whenever delays occur, those delays are announced late - maybe 10 minutes before the original ETA, when it's obvious that the flight will be delayed but no one wants to admit it. A new ETA is never given, so you are just stuck there at the gate with no idea when you will go. And once you are on the plane, there's no guarantee of taking off; my parents and Janice and the kids and I sat on the tarmac for 4 1/2 hours heading to Singapore. It was hell.

Finally, air travel is exploding in popularity, but the airports aren't being expanded fast enough, so planes are "parked" way out in the tarmac for boarding and disembarking. This means you have to file into busses that take you out to the plane, where you get off the bus and head right on the plane to find your seat. There's usually two buses that leave from every gate; the first bus is jam packed with 200 people squeezed up against the windows, where you then sit on the plane for 15 minutes as the next bus with 40 people comes along. It's insane.

The Chinese are fascinated with airplanes. So when we pack in the bus and head out to the plane, many people do not just head directly to the stairs. They loiter around the plane, taking pictures of the nose, tail and body, and even pose for pictures underneath the plane. I have seen Chinese be shooed away from going to the other side of the plane on an active runway.

This first picture is extremely typical of the boarding process and where the Chinese travelers flutter to when boarding. Sure, let's go under the nose and pose! You may even be able to make out the peace sign that the subject is making with her left hand for the pictures.

When landing and exiting the plane, the same behavior is seen; several people stop, turn around, and take a picture of the majestic plane they just flew on . This is a picture when returning on an evening flight (delayed, of course) from Shanghai; I think it was a Friday night when I was in a sour mood as I just checked my golfer's status for the 2nd round and he was well below the cut line. I just want to get to baggage claim to get my bag and go home; but no, I have to evade all these picture takers and then board the bus from hell to ride to the terminal.

My mood in this picture matches my current frame of mind with respect to fantasy football this year. I am in 3 leagues and struggling mightily in 2 of them. In the Guangzhou league, my team is a mess as I drafted Adrian Peterson with the first pick (and drafted Matt Prater, Mr. DUI). I'm 1-7 with no hope of the playoffs. In the league I have been in for 15 years (and am defending champion), I have the 3rd highest point total but am 2-6, always facing the top point-getter of the week. I am in one other league from my church back in Cinci; I am 5-3 but the scoring system for that league is so wacky that results are close to random.

So I just want fantasy to be over so I don't have to concentrate on it; I feel like the angry traveler leaving this plane in the night just wanting to get home and have the day be over, but I have to wade through the minefield of photographers all in my way. I have to keep pushing on in fantasy even though it's useless.

On to the games:

Cin 20, Jax 13: Hey, if the Bengals can give up 37 at home to an anemic Carolina offense, maybe the Jags have a shot here!

Dal 20, Az 17. Who knows if Romo is going to play? I'm not ready to wager on Romo not playing...just yet. I do see this being a low scoring game no matter who is the QB. (Of course, to spite me, Weeden will porbably put up 41 vs. the Cards).

By the way, I did no work last Tuesday morning for the hour of Monday Night Football where it was Weeded vs. McCoy. My God! What hath God wraught on the NFL this season when these two are in a prime time matchup?

Hou 27, Phi 17. What have the Eagles proven on the road? I still believe in the Texans' D; I think they will dominate the Eagles O line and give Foles & co trouble.

KC 23, NYJ 20.  I know, I know. The Jets' can't be any lower, and I think Vick will be mediocre with a full week of practice. And it will help that they are out of New York.

SD 27, Mia 24.  I've been burned by Miami before at home - there is no home field advantage, and San Diego has extra rest.

Min 24, Was 13. The Vikes are a sneaky good team with Teddy at the helm, and Washington is below average in both the passing and running game. I know RG3 is back, but ....Im expecting him to be a bit rusty. And this is a possible letdown game after the huge win on Monday night.

SF 27, StL 16. I've given up trying to figure the Rams out. I think they will show something in this 2nd game against the 49ers in 4 weeks....I hate those quick rematches; they never go the same way as the first.

Den 31, NE 24. I just think NE has no real answers on the defensive side to stop Manning. Denver's defense will get just enough stops to win by 7 or so.

Sea 27, Oak 10. The Browns do not have a good defense by any stretch of the imagination, and yet the Raiders went at least 1 1/2 quarters against us where they did nothing. Imagine what the Seahawks will do- in Seattle.

Bal 26, Pit 17. Bal will be revved up for this game; how many "big" games can Pittsburgh rise up for in a row? I just think the Ravens match up well vs. the Steelers.

Ind 24, NYG 20. Monday night, on the road, Coughlin will have something ready for Luck. But in the end, the Colts are just too talented.

Best bets: 14 of them. Last week: 8-7 (woo hoo! finally, a winning week). Overall: 51-60-3

Jax +10 1/2
Jax/Cin under 43 1/2
Az/Dal under 44 1/2
Hou +2
NYJ +9
SD +2 1/2
SD/Mia over 45
Min -1
Was/Min under 43 1/2
Den -3
Sea -14
Oak/Sea under 43 1/2
Bal -2
Ind/NYG under 51

Supercontest: Last week: 2-3; overall: 23-17.

Jax +11
Hou +2
NYJ +9 1/2
Min -2 1/2
Bal -1


Oct 26, 2014

NFL Week 8: The Marathon Qualifier

Well, we had a fun experience this weekend. P&G is a premier sponsor of the Guangzhou Marathon, which is coming up in late November. I signed up for the half marathon through the work contact - where the application asked nice questions like weight, blood type and salary. Ha! I've always wanted to run a half marathon over here before I leave -the farthest I have run is 10K in Cincinnati a few years ago.

The application also asked for a "certificate" to show that I am "qualified" to run in the marathon or half-marathon. Well, I don't have that, since I haven't run in one before! So the leader told me I had to go do a test run - any applicant that doesn't have experience needs to run in the test run on Oct 25. As I found out more about it, I had to run 8K - about 5 miles - in less than 2 hours. People who can do that would be qualified and can run in the half marathon in November.

(Why this qualifier? Well, last year, so many Chinese natives signed up for the marathon that were novices. Some couldn't even run 1K, let alone 13 or 26 miles. 2 people died in the race because they weren't accustomed to running these distances. So they put in this qualifier to weed out these novices before the real race. )

The registration was supposed to start at 8:30, and at 9:30 the race would begin. The cutoff time was 11:30 - so you had to finish by 11:30 to get your certificate. I arrived at the stadium - it was on a university campus - at around 8:15. I immediately saw a huge line of people by some tents. Uh oh - the lines were enormous even before the check in was supposed to begin!

My registration number was "17" out of like 2500 or so.....they put all the foreigners in the first 100 numbers..... I stood in line for the tent labeled "0001-0400". 400 people will come to register at this tent.....and there were only 2 people staffed at this tent. Red flags started waving in my brain.

At 8:15 I was about 75th in line; at 8:30, the processing started and it was a sloooooooow go. Around 9:00, I was getting near the front - about 10 away from the table - when I saw some people running on the track next to the line and heading under a tunnel. People were putting cones out and the Chinese officials were yelling some directions in Chinese. What's going on? Has the race started? But me and 1500 of my Chinese friends are still in line!

I finally get to the front of the line; I get my bib sticker and told to head to the left side of the track. I go over there, get in a group of 20 or so people; an official barks some instructions in Chinese and a few runners take off..... I stand there motionless.

Thankfully, a native Hong Konger comes up to me. "Hello", he says. "I know English"

Great! Can you tell me - what's going on? Is the race starting?

"Uh, no, the officials realize they can't register everyone in time for the start. So they've changed the qualification course."

OK.....what is it?

"Well, we run once around the track here in the stadium, go under the tunnel to the soccer field across the street, run once around the soccer field, and then collect our certificates." it timed?

"Oh, no, if you can complete that in any time, you can be qualified. Want to join me while we jog? "

Sure, I said, as I just shook my head.

videoWe ran about 6 minutes - maybe, at most, 3/4 of a mile. The video here tried to capture the course; the starting stadium is in the background with the poles; this is the final soccer field where we picked up the certificates at the end.

For this run, there were 4 water stations - where you could pick up cups of water, if needed - and the ambulance. I did not need any water.

All that on a Saturday morning - for a 6 minute run. I went home and ran for about 45 minutes while finishing the Week 8 Beating the Books podcast.

The runners? Most were dressed appropriately and looked like they knew what they were doing; however, there were the few dressed in collared shirts, slacks, cargo pants, and sandals. Here's one runner who completed the qualification....

This whole experience does not surprise me ....fairly typical of a Chinese event. You never know the surprises that will come up.

Talking about surprises- well, that's what the Browns gave me last week. I should have saw that coming a mile away......Hoyer had not had a bad game yet, and was due for one; we seemed to have read all the press clippings that declared us to be 6-2 automatically. I think we will focus at home here and run Oakland out of the building in the first half, and then have to hold on for dear life at the end to win......please, don't lose again to a winless team.

On to the games:

Det 24, Atl 13.  Atlanta is horrible. Why did I pick them last week? Baltimore moved the ball at will last week. How does Atlanta score on Detroit?

Sea 23, Car 20. Seattle's not good enough just to show up and run someone out of their building, but I don't think Carolina has the weapons to take advantage.

Bal 27, Cin 24. The last stand for Cincinnati, and Baltimore will want to win after losing in week 1.

Mia 24, Jax 16. Yes, the Jaguars defense is good - but their offense is horrible. I don't know how they break 20 here vs. a revitalized Ryan Tannehill.

KC 26, StL 16. St Louis played every trick known to Lombardi against Seattle, and barely won. I know KC is off a big win and may have a letdown, but the Rams will have the bigger letdown.

NE 30, Chi 27. Discouting the Bengals win, the Pats' defense is not that good. Chicago has the weapons to stay with them in a shootout.

NYJ 23, Buf 17. Orton with no running backs heading to the Meadowlands to face rex Ryan? I know the Jets are 1-6, but I don't see the Bills scoring more than 20, and I am trusting the Jets offense to continue to improve.

TB 28, Min 23. The only reason for this pick is that Tampa is off a bye.

Hou 24, Ten 17. Houston's defense vs a rokkie QB making his first start? I know it's a road game, but I don't see Tennessee moving the ball much.

Az 27, Phi 20. Just can't shake the feeling that the Az D line will eat the Philly O line for lunch.

Ind 23, Pit 13. Pittsburgh is not good. If they didn't have those 3 minutes at the end of the half vs. Houston, they would have been blown out.

GB 27, NO 24. Not sold on New Orleans' defense to close out a critical game like this.

Dal 23, Was 20.  These games are always close, right? And it's Colt McCoy's homecoming!!

Best bets: 15 of them. Last week: 6-7; overall: 43-53-3

Det -3 1/2
Atl/Det under 45 1/2
Bal/Cin over 45
KC -7
Chi +6
Chi/NE over 51
NYJ -3
Min/TB over 43
Hou -3 1/2
Az -1 1/2
Ind -3 1/2
Ind/Pit under 49 1/2
GB +2 1/2
Was +9
Was/Dal under 49

Supercontest picks:  Last week: 2-3; overall : 21-14

Det -3 1/2
NYJ -3
Hou -2
Ind -3 1/2
Was +9

I really don't like having 4 favorites on that list.