Mar 3, 2015

2015 Vegas Diary - Part 2

Thursday, February 4, sometime in the early morning

It was dark when I heard Layup's phone make noise. There was no sun peering through the shades. I didn't even bother to look at the time. I saw Layup get up and turn the noise off the phone.....
I had plenty of drinks myself, plus the Zzzquil - as soon as he turned the phone off I closed my eyes.....

Thursday, Feb 4, 7:20 am

I wake up - check the clock: almost 5 hours of sleep. Not too bad! The sun is coming in the room. I move around a bit - and see Layup sleeping in the other bed. Hmmmm...I'm sure he got up for his call.

After about 5 minutes of trying to go back to sleep, I start playing on my phone - and that's when Layup stirs in his bed. He slowly gets up and then - it hits him. "Oh Shit....Oh shit....What time is it?"

It's about 7:25 or so.

"Oh no...oh dammit".

Apparently, his alarm was not enough to get him awake enough for his call at 6; I guess he went right back to bed after his alarm went off. He then spent 30 minutes on the phone with his boss and co-workers profusely apologizing. That quickly scattered any remnants of alcohol in his system.

After breakfast, the three of us went back to - where else? - the UTH table for morning sessions. During the play, we put in some of our favorite head-to-head matchups; we vehemently disagreed on one- Paul Casey vs Pat Perez. Wiz and Layup loved Perez while I like Casey. Side bet done. It took us about 20 minutes, but we finally got the pit boss to change the TV channel from beIN Sports to the Golf Channel.

It was at this table where we watched Tiger start his round; I think he bogeyed the first 2 holes and was struggling on the front nine. Would he make the cut?

I had a massage (with probably the Mirage's worst massage lady) and a haircut (first haircut back in the US) around noon, and then back to the UTH table. That's when we saw Tiger hit a drive on 10 or 11 and clutch his back. Uh oh.  I think I was playing a 10-6 unsuited when Tiger withdrew.

The massage break worked; I had two losing UTH sessions before the break - that's 7 losing sessions in a row - before winning 100 in the session afterwards. Still, I felt I was in a continual downhill slide.

Don and Mike were supposed to join us this afternoon, but never made it to the casino that afternoon. Hmmmmm...I wonder why? They made a last minute decision (on Wed night) to take the clubs; they were on an empty Royal Links that afternoon enjoying the 78 degree weather. But we saved these seats at the table for you!

Wiz left for his massage, so where could Layup and I go to waste time? Of course -Baccarat! Not much happened in this session except for seeing some random African-American at the other table with a pile of yellow and purple chips, waiting in vain for some sort of streak to appear.

We went to get ready for dinner and meet Mike and Don at the UTH table before heading over to Bartorelli's over at the Wynn. We were a bit early, so why not sit down and play - again? We stayed for 5 hands; I broke even while Layup went in 4x on most of the hands and lost each one. So a innocent 10 minute stay turned into a $500 loss for Layup.

On the way over to dinner at the Wynn, we noticed Wiz was wearing flip-flops. WTF, Wiz? We are going to a nice dinner - can't you be presentable?

" I only packed tennis shoes and flip flops".

Well, I hope we won't get kicked out because we needed proper shoes....................... of course, that's what happened, as Wiz was denied entry as the restaurant required closed-toe shoes.

"Suits me fine! More time for gambling!" he laughed as he took off.

What a meal for the four of us! A seafood feast - the best calamari I have ever had, and I voluntarily ordered grappa at the end of the meal. My first recollection of Grappa was from college when our Ukrainian friend tried to give us all taste; I drank it, quickly spit it out calling it "Spic N Span". But the grappa we had Thursday night was smooth and oddly addicting.  A great end to a great meal.

(We did get a text from Wiz during the meal: "Flip-flops == Money!". He had success at the tables during dinner).

The trip doesn't truly start until all 5 of us are at the UTH table - and that's what happened after dinner with Ruth, our favorite dealer. She has dealt UTH to us for a few years now and is good for several laughs during the night. It was a great session for me - breaking my losing streak of about 24 hours (except for that one small winning session). A good 3-4 hour session that night.

But was it over? No! Over to the salon to see if we can parlay those winnings into something more.... no. This trip wasn't as bad as the first, but still it was a losing trip, and I think I made out the best.

We stumbled across a fairly empty craps table and decided for one more session that night.... Olga, our favorite box-lady, was there, so we jumped right in. Well, it was a good decision. I rolled extremely well (and so did Wiz)...I hit an all small for myself (#2 of the trip) and rolled for about 20-25 minutes for one roll. That roll contained a whole lot of "8"s that Layup was on with a come bet with max odds....he was always getting "off and on" money. It was right up there as one of the best craps sessions I have had at the Mirage - erasing all the losses from the day. The other two - Layup and Wiz - made far more. The day ended well.

I bought cards and Wiz and I started our gin adventure, playing under some messed-up Maryland rules. I won't go into it any more.


Mar 1, 2015

2015 Vegas Trip - Day 1

Well hello! It's about time I finally put my thoughts on paper and summarize the Vegas trip for 2015. It's only been about 3 weeks since the trip - and real life will start for us this month with my return to work tomorrow and Wiz's second baby coming any day now.

Every year I wonder if we will have enough material for the trip - and every year I am never disappointed. Vegas is always an adventure for us - if it's not for the gambling, it's because of the people we see and interact with during our 100+ hours at the casino.

The trip was a hard-core one this year, with just the 5 regulars of Don, Mike, Layup, Wiz and I attending. One of the subjects we talked about was - do we need to expand in future years? The thought is to recruit as many people from the Golf Side Pool as possible - I know many of you out there are reading this. Leland should be in for 2016, as well as some others from the pool. Next year's trip should be a more populous one.

Now on to the diary as I try to put all the pieces together from my notebook....

Wednesday, February 4

The fun this year started on the plane ride to Vegas. Wiz and I were supposed to meet around the same time in Vegas so Layup could take us both. About 2 hours to go, we started getting texts from Wiz that he may be delayed. There was a "situation" on his plane. It turned out to be a health situation - the guy next to Wiz was having all sorts of serious breathing problems, and may have to require an emergency landing. Apparently, everything was solved with the flight attendants doing their job and getting the man to be stable - and Wiz helping out too by holding the IV bag. I'm sure that's how Wiz wanted to start his trip.

Anyway, with Wiz being late, Layup picked me up and headed for the Mirage. On the way, we put odds for the first table we would gamble on within the first hour:

Ultimate Texas Holdem : -130
Craps: +200
Salon: +250
Other game: +500

We got there and was turned down by the VIP desk. What the F, Mirage? We had to wait out in the "normal" line with everyone else......the line was only 3 people long, but it took forever. Finally, after 20 minutes, we get our keys and head up.

10 minutes later, Wiz texts us and lets us know he has arrived - and that "we need to come up and see the room". We head up - and he's got a suite, complete with a living room and a kitchen area. The suite also has a connecting regular room as well; why don't we stay there?

So - it took about an hour, but we packed up, made all the arangements at the desk to stay in the connecting room, headed up and re-unpacked. We were finally ready to go about 2 hours after arrival.

The  winning bet in the wager above was "No Gambling in the first hour..... +3000". What an upset!

Of course, after all the room changes, the first game we played was UTH. We also had some nice wagers going on Maryland 2nd half vs Penn State. It took an act of God to have the put boss change the channel to the Big Ten Network - this was a recurring issue all week, and really came into play on Sunday. Maryland hit two free throws in the last seconds for the miracle cover. Yes!

The first dinner for the trip was the bar at Tom Coligio's .... great steak, as usual....not good service, as my fries went missing. (another theme!). Plenty of drinks at the bar.

Layup then started mentioning he had to work on this trip - he had an important 6:00 am call with the CEO and his boss and some leaders in London. Sucks to be him, we said! He mentioned it many times throughout the night that even we knew he had this call.

Craps was next - I actually rolled half way decently and beat Wiz in a head-to-head matchup of rolls and won $10. Got the signature of Wiz confessing his loss in my notebook in perpetuity. After a winning craps session, what could be next? Of course, the Salon.

We are now at hour 4 or 5 of the trip, and we start going into the Blackjack salon. I didn't want this so early in the trip, but what did I expect with these two? Of course, the drinks were flowing some more and I was the first one out in that session - I constantly got 15s and 16. I ran out of money for that session and left the two of them at the table. I went over the baccarat - another bad decision - and lost some more. About 15% of my overall bankroll now gone with those two sessions. instead of going back in, I decided to play pai gow with more losses. Argh.

Wiz and Layup came out of the Salon finally and seemed to be well oiled. We decided on one more UTH session - and it was now clear that Layup was drunk. He was confusing his hands in UTH on when to go 4x....he said something like "You have K-7 suited! You don't go in on that! You only go in on that if it is unsuited!" Um, ok.  Layup was getting close to being borderline belligerent to some of the players and the dealer.....maybe we need to wrap this up soon.

After about 2 hours or so at UTH, and another losing session for me, it was about 2:30 and time to go upstairs. I took my ZZZquil and laid down after drinking a lot of water. I saw Layup set his alarm. I wonder if he will wake me up while taking his 6:00 am call with the CEO.....


Feb 2, 2015

Random Notes - and Pre-Vegas thoughts

Well hello again! I know it has been awhile, maybe about 6 weeks since my last post. We are safely "settled" into our house in Cincinnati; the boys are in school and doing fairly well. Our stuff is still on a boat from China and should be in Houston soon; hope we can get it by the end of the month.

We got our stuff out of storage and - wow! - all sorts of miscellaneous crap was found. We set up our craps table right away; I dealt for the 3 boys that night. By the end of the night, they were pressing their 6's and 8's and yelling at each other for sevening-out. They will be ready for Vegas in 10+ years!

Everyone is still getting adjusted to life back in the US; it took me a week to realize that I could buy anything I wanted at Target and not have to worry about fitting it in a suitcase. The boys are watching TV and memorizing every commercial that comes on. Martin will be a voice-over announcer when he grows up, as he is quoting every commercial out there.

Life is peaceful at the moment; the kids are not in many after school activities so our weekends are still fairly free and they are coming home on the bus at normal time. This will all change in March when they start spring sports/activities. We actually went to a movie this weekend - I took F & W to "Project Almanac" on Sunday afternoon (to kill time until the Super Bowl). Hoo boy. That whole movie was filmed from a camera phone perspective (a la Blair Witch). After an hour, I had to step out. I was physically sick - I felt like I was going to throw up with all of the movement of the camera. I don't do spinny rides well at amusement park, and watching this movie was like a 2 hour ride on the tilt-a-whirl. Ugh.

I don't want to spent too much time of the SuperBowl, except:
1. If the Browns ever get there, they will certainly lose it in the way that the Seahawks just did. And, if the Browns were in the Pats's shoes, they would drop the interception.
2. Deflate-gate: this is a serious charge that needs to be investigated. The non-elite teams (and fans of those teams) need to make sure that all 32 teams are playing on a level playing field.
I wish the investigation was completed by the Super Bowl. If it turns out the Pats were innocent, then the game was unfairly tarnished; and if it is found the Pats did cheat - a big if - then a disqualification would be the correct penalty.  Now there is no way to punish them in an appropriate manner if - and again, a big if - if it was found they cheated.

Now on the Vegas! Vegas is this week; for many reasons, the trip has been moved up to February for this year. I'm sure we will go back to Championship weekend in March next year.
10 random thoughts about Vegas 2015:

1. Only 5 of us on the trip this year; I'm thinking we should use this trip as a convention for all the Golf Side Pool members out there. I think we should invite all 18 for 2016.

2. No golf this trip - which will be different. This means I need to find other activities to eat away some time and get me away from the tables; we've got bowling scheduled and probably 2 afternoons at the spa will happen.

3. Over/under on the number of hours all 5 of us are at the UTH table? I say 20.

4. I won't be jet lagged (I hope) this year! Could I actually get some decent sleep? I'm packing my gallon of ZzzzzQuil. Maybe I can go to bed before 1 am some nights......

5. I feel like my schedule won't be packed, like it was from 2011-14. We had to do the Target run, two golf rounds, 3 my non-existent sleeping schedule; it seemed I didn't have much time to relax. Now, I think there will be plenty of downtime and nap time available.

6. Still trying to figure out my betting/session strategy for each game. It's good to have an idea on how to bet -and how much - for each session. For examples, craps...if it's is a $15 table, what will I bet on for each roller? This should be known ahead of time and memorized so that I can fall back on it when we are all drunk Friday night ready to show the world we can roll. (hint: we can't).

7. Please drag me away from the baccarat tables.....

8. Can we gamble at more than one casino this year? Would love to head to the Aria at some point.....

9. In order, I'm excited about.....
 a. UTH with the group
 b. Craps with everyone
 c. The occasional salon session
 d. One salon roulette session
 e. Drinking Don's drink in the Salon (the Hearth drink)
 f. Grand Mariner Cinquinteniare
 g. Grand Mariner at the Baccarrat table (um, see #7 above.)

10. I've never had a winning trip in Craps over the last 7 years... maybe this is the year to break that streak.......

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