26 September 2010

Your Daily Five Photos (There's One in Every Crowd Edition)

Been awhile, just haven't been shutterbuggery* lately. Wandered downtown to see the scene at this year's GLOW.

The art was crap, but there were people out and about, so decided to take my camera and take some snaps. Wanted to have reasonable shutter speeds, so went with high ISO (1600), shots are a bit 'noisy', but that doesn't effect the composition, or overall feel. The biggest problem was shooting with only those ghastly sodium street lamps for lighting.

The reason I call this set, "There's One in Every Crowd", is simple, seems like in every shot there is one person, and only one person, looking straight at the camera. Strange how that works, my favorite is the guy waving in the shot taken of the pier.

*note (if homosexuality had been more socially permissible during the early 1900s, I think SHUTTERBUGGERY would have been an awesome choice for the name of a gay lifestyle/photo enthusiast monthly magazine)

12 September 2010

Team USA FIBA Thoughts...

Team USA successfully stormed through the FIBA World Championships in Turkey. Great effort, and a solid coaching job by Coach K lead to a fairly easy tournament, despite being a very young, and seemingly undersized team.

Players who proved they belong in elite company, who might not have been thought of being at that level before the tournament are as follows:

Lamar Odom: LA Lakers
?!? Where was this player for the Lakers? He was the glue that held this team together, his rebounding, activity defensively, and superior athleticism compared to other centers (he played center mostly, in the tournament), were all big surprises. Kevin Durant was, without question, the best player in the tournament, but a strong case could be made for Lamar being the second best player for Team USA. Given that he's about the 4th or 5th best Laker, that's kind of shocking. Even with bigger stars looking for a place on Team USA for London 2012, Lamar should have earned a roster spot, assuming he remains capable of playing at this level (which given that he'll only by 32 then, he should).

Eric Gordon: LA Clippers
His shooting, strength, and quickness all helped to get him significant minutes backing up the 2 guard spot, and being brought in as a third guard when Team USA went small. Because of his strength, and FIBA rules allowing more contact than in the NBA, he was able to guard players a few inches taller than himself. Also, he probably benefitted the most shooting behind the closer in 3pt line. NBA 3s are just out of his range, but he has the perfect shooting touch for the international game.

Kevin Durant: Oklahoma Thunder
Everyone knows "The Durantula" is an emerging star in the NBA, but this tournament should leave no doubt in anyone's mind that he is in the conversation for best player in the league. Given that LeBron will probably play a sidekick role in Miami, Durant should be favored to win the MVP in the 2010-11 season. It's unfair that someone with his length has that kind of shooting touch.

Russell Westbrook: Oklahoma Thunder
Westbrook played his way onto the squad in Las Vegas (as Rajon Rondo played his way off) more for his willingness to play within the system than with superior talent compared to all the other 1 and 2 guards that were available. That coachability, combined with a commitment to playing solid fundamental basketball, make him worth more for his team than his basic physical toolset would seem to merit.

Players who probably played themselves off of consideration for the 2012 Olympic squad:

Chauncey Billups: Denver Nuggets
Older does not mean wiser. Too many times he took unadvisable shots in situations where more ball movement would have been wise. Wasn't great defensively, either, he wasn't terrible, but there a lot of younger players who are better physically and mentally at his position.

Tyson Chandler: Dallas Mavericks
Unimpressive tournament, he had a chance to shine, but against any but the slowest and crappiest big men, he looked lost and a bit lethargic. Dwight Howard will be the starter, and Odom and Bosh the backups in 2012, there's no roster spot left for Chandler, and he doesn't deserve one.

Looking forward to London 2012, I think the players who played well on this team should be rewarded with roster spots. Assuming these players stay healthy, then the 2012 team should be about half players from this squad, and half from the 2008 Beijing team. If I had to pick right now here's my 12 man roster for 2012:

C: Dwight Howard (he's the only true center you need)
C/F: Lamar Odom, Blake Griffin (Lamar's earned it, and Blake will be a monster once he gets back, he grabs the main big forward spot from Kevin Love)
F: Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, LeBron James (Melo is a fantastic international player, better at that game than he is in the NBA, and LeBron is LeBron, while Durant, by 2012, might be the best player on the planet)

Other bigs that might play their way on to the squad by 2012, DeMarcus Cousins (he's got huge potential), Robin Lopez, Kevin Love, Chris Bosh, and Amar'e Stoudemire.

SG: Kobe Bryant, Stephen Curry, Dwyane Wade (Wade and Kobe should still be playing at a high level, while Curry gives you unlimited shooting range to bust up any zone defenses they face)

PG: Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, John Wall (Williams and Rose are locks for this team, assuming they want it, and they're healthy, for the last guard slot, I think after 2 NBA seasons, it might be hard to leave John Wall off this team, he has that much potential)

Other guards that might play, Chris Paul, obviously, but the physicality of the international game means his size will be a liability, so I'd favor Wall over Paul amongst smaller point guards given Wall's superior speed. Russell Westbrook is another option, he's shown what he can do. Eric Gordon might fit, if they decide they need a role player off the bench, rater than another star. That leaves Rajon Rondo amongst top US-born guards, he played himself off the 2010 team by not following coaching instructions as well as Westbrook or Gordon. His inability to shoot also is a bigger liability under FIBA rules than in the NBA, but if he improves in coachability and shooting between now and summer 2012, he has a solid shot at making this team.

The line ups that team could put on the floor together would be frightening. They could go with four shooters and a slasher on the floor with Odom/Durant/Anthony/Curry/Wall, or they could go huge with LeBron defending the opposing shooting guard, and Kobe defending the point, while James handles the ball on offense Howard/Griffin/Durant/James/Bryant, or they could go lightning fast with three guards, and no center, Durant/James/Curry/Williams/Wall.

With that sort of line-up flexibility, that team should be able to create mismatches against any team they face, even with the improved level of play they can expect in London as fewer star players skip the tournament as they did in the just concludede World Championships.

There's a lot to like about the international rules compared to the NBA. I like the closer 3pt line, the 40 minute games, time outs on dead ball situations only, and even the trapezoidal lane. I think the NBA is right in keeping the game from becoming the wrestling matches that they allow under FIBA rules, and even though officiating in the NBA is at times questionable, in international play it is outright criminal.

If the NBA adopted the international rules, while keeping their own style of officiating, I think you'd get the best of both worlds.

08 September 2010

NFL 2010: Win Total Predictions NFC West

Thursday kicks off the new season of the true 'Greatest Show on Earth', that's right, NFL Football! All odds taken from Vegasinsider.com (opening line).

NFC West, I'm tempted to give up right now and skip this division entirely. San Francisco might be frisky, otherwise, crap, crap, and more crap.

Arizona Cardinals (Win total 7.5) UNDER!
Derek Anderson is their QB. Enough said.

San Francisco 49ers (Win total 8.5) OVER!
One of these teams has to win the division, might as well be them. If they sweep their divisional opponents and just go 3-7 in their other games, that gets them to 9-7. Ought to be within reach. Let's not go crazy and expect much more from them.

Seattle Seahawks (Win total 7.5) UNDER!
Pete Carroll is going to miss being around professional level talent like he had back in Southern California...

St. Louis Cardinals (Win total 5.0) UNDER!
Sam Bradford will be something in this league, eventually, but not this season. Probably trying to play themselves out of any chance at a new stadium in St. Louis, thus paving the way to return to Los Angeles. Sucks for any fans they have left, and sucks for Los Angeles if they end up coming back, oh well.

NFL 2010: Win Total Predictions NFC East

Thursday kicks off the new season of the true 'Greatest Show on Earth', that's right, NFL Football! All odds taken from Vegasinsider.com (opening line).

NFC East ought to be the most competitive division in the NFL, with three good teams, and one team capable being good, but most likely being pretty crappy. Matching up with the NFC North and the AFC South means this division has about the toughest schedule in the NFL this year. Should be three teams at 10-6 or 9-7 and one at 6-10 when the dust settles.

Dallas Cowboys (Win total 10.0) UNDER!
Plenty of talent, and they've had pretty good regular seasons the past few years, then screwed up post seasons, maybe this is the year they underacheive in the regular season and excel in the playoffs. This is a 9-7 team, no better, no worse.

New York Giants (Win total 8.5) OVER!
They should challenge Washington for the division crown, 10-6 ought to be about right for this squad. Hopefully their new digs will help come late season as Eli Manning is a horrible QB in the wind, and even though there's no roof, it's much more enclosed so the swirling winds won't screw up their passing attack.

Philadelpia Eagles (Win total 8.0) UNDER!
Kolb might be great, and might make them forget all about McNabb, or not. Probably not, this team is ready to fall off a cliff, and the legendary late game mismanagement by their coaching staff will cost them a few games and any shot at the playoffs this season. 6-10 seems about right for the Iggles.

Washington Redskin (Win total 8.0) OVER!
Shanahan is back in the league, and the 'Skins should be back as a contender. The Haynesworth crap has me a bit worried, though, maybe Shanahan is the wrong kind of coach for modern players and this team will fall apart quickly. This is a team that could do anything from 6-10 to 11-5, I'm leaning towards seeing them as at 11-5, but hard to know until they actually line up in real games. A motivated McNabb in a system he's well suited for, should produce solid offensive production, it's the defense that will put this team forward, or hold them back. I'm picking over, but this isn't a very confident pick.

NFL 2010: Win Total Predictions NFC South

Thursday kicks off the new season of the true 'Greatest Show on Earth', that's right, NFL Football! All odds taken from Vegasinsider.com (opening line).

NFC South should be an entertaining division, with two good teams, one enigmatic team, and one team continuing to rebuild. They face the creampuff NFC West and the tough AFC North, so their out of division match ups are a mixed bag. New Orleans should have another solid year, though their relatively weak defense may cost them a few more games than they did last year. Atlanta might be very good, or it might all fall apart, they have a lot of young talent at the skill positions, which means they're unpredictable. Carolina will probably be awful, unless they aren't, any result from 10-6 to 4-12 seem possible. Tampa Bay will play hard, but they lack talent, so playing hard won't result into a whole bunch of victories.

Atlanta Falcons (Win total 9.0) OVER!
This is a tough one, they feel like a 9-7 team to me, so most likely this will be a push, but if a few breaks go their way, 10-6 and a playoff berth should be within reach. Should be a fun team to watch, either way.

Carolina Panthers (Win total 7.0) OVER!
Another tough one, this is probably a 7-9 team, but they still have a pretty solid defense, so they might squeeze out a few 13-7 victories that push them to 8-8 or 9-7. Will be a frustrating season for their fans, and they'll probably be ugly games to watch, but they'll be about as successful as their talent allows.

New Orleans Saints (Win total 10.5) UNDER!
Another tough call, the lines on the teams in this division all fall right at the number of victories I expect. This is a 10-6 or 11-5 team, very solid, probably in the top four teams of the NFC, but nothing like the team the team that seemed so dominate offensively last season, and their defensive lapses will punish them in a few close games.

Tampa Bay Bucaneers (Win total 6.0) UNDER!
Might challenge for the number one draft pick this year. Don't think there are any 0-16 teams this season, probably 4-12 will be as poorly as any team does, and that'll be about where this team finishes, so on the negative side, horrible for their fans, on the plus side, they might earn themselves a pretty special player in next year's draft.

NFL 2010: Win Total Predictions NFC North

Thursday kicks off the new season of the true 'Greatest Show on Earth', that's right, NFL Football! All odds taken from Vegasinsider.com (opening line).

NFC North seems likely to produce one good team, and three mediocre to bad teams. Green Bay will probably be the best NFC team when the season ends, while Detroit, Minnesota and Chicago should all be .500 or worse. This division gets matched against both the NFC and AFC East, which is a tough draw with 7 very solid teams in those two divisions.

Chicago Bears (Win total 8.0) UNDER!
This isn't a good team. I repeat, they suck. Defense is aging, and they have no offense, 5-11 or 6-10 seem likely, they'll be lucky to get to 7-9. Not sure why bookies place them as a middle of the pack team, they get more respect than their coaching or roster would seem to merit.

Detroit Lions (Win total 5.0) OVER!
This isn't a horrible team. I repeat, they suck slightly less than the Bears. Probably a 7-9 team, maybe even 8-8, still pretty mediocre, but for the Lions an .500 season would practically feel like winning the Superbowl after so many futile years. There's reason for optimism in Detroit, but don't get too crazy, and hopefully the L.A. group trying to lure them away won't be successful (L.A. Lions as a franchise does have the advantage of alliteration going for it, though).

Green Bay Packers (Win total 9.5) OVER!
Best team in the NFC, at least assuming their defense shows any capability to stop opposing offenses. An explosive offense with an opportunistic defense should combine for best record in the NFC status in 2010. a 12 or 13 win season seems within grasp, even with a tough schedule.

Minnesota Vikings (Win total 9.5) UNDER!
By the middle of the season both the Vikings and the Brett will wish #4 had stayed retired. They still have Peterson, and they should still win some games, but I don't see them being better than 8-8 if Favre regresses to the NY Jets Favre rather than the improbably error free Favre from last season. Will be fun watching this team fall apart and point fingers every which way, though.

07 September 2010

Your Daily Five Photos (Great Views Edition)

Your definition of "great" may differ from that of our fine city government...

NFL 2010: Win Total Predictions AFC West

Thursday kicks off the new season of the true 'Greatest Show on Earth', that's right, NFL Football! All odds taken from Vegasinsider.com (opening line).

AFC West, ugh. I'm tempted to skip both the AFC and NFC West divisions at they both look horrible (again) this year. They should pick up a few easy wins being matched against the NFC West (the only worse division), but get beat up by the AFC South. If all the teams within the division beat each other, then they might all end up between 6-10 and 9-7. I can't believe I'm typing this, but Oakland has the potential to win this division if San Diego faulters, and cases could be made, even, for Denver and Kansas City. Still, most likely, this division is one big steaming mound of mediocrity.

Denver Broncos (Win total 7.5) UNDER!
I suspect they'll be the doormats of the division, I just don't trust Kyle Orton to produce more than 6 or 7 wins in a season given there's not a whole lot of defense on this team. Last year they started well, then collapsed, I think this year, they might win their first two, but then looking at their schedule a six game losing streak heading into their bye week seems probable. After that, they'll bounce back, but that won't be enough to win more than 7 games.

Kansas City Chiefs (Win total 6.5) OVER!
After last season's woeful 4-12 performance an 8-8 season probably will seem pretty good. That's all they'll get, but that'll be enough.

Oakland Raiders (Win total 6.0) OVER!
They haven't had more than 5 wins in a season since they lost in Superbowl XXXVII. Their "Commitment to Excrement" has been impressive in the seasons since 2002. Why should things turn around now? First, easy schedule, second, Jason Campbell is a huge upgrade at QB, third, they have a very good defense that if they don't make stupid mistakes, should put them in position to beat any team they face. They are capable of beating, or losing to, any other team in the league, not too many squads can say that. Let's not go too crazy, though, even 8-8 will look great after all the losing, but 8-8 is within reach.

San Diego Chargers (Win total 11.0) UNDER!
Along with the Colts, they share the honor of having the highest number where their win total is set. I think that's more a reflection of the division their in, then their talent level. Their defense is suspect, and their offense will miss Vincent Jackson if he is traded (or pouts). Norv Turner is still their coach, and that's still a bad thing. I think they slip to a 8-8 or 9-7 team this year as their division is more competitive than people are crediting, but that might still be enough to get them in the playoffs.

NFL 2010: Win Total Predictions AFC East

Thursday kicks off the new season of the true 'Greatest Show on Earth', that's right, NFL Football! All odds taken from Vegasinsider.com (opening line).

The AFC East should be entertaining with three solid teams, and one doormat. Their divisional match ups are both defensive minded divisions facing both the NFC and AFC North. Basically, every week is going to be against some of the top ranked defenses in the league, that's going to be tough on all these teams. The Jets are over-exposed, but talented, New England is either sliding into mediocrity, or might be good again, Miami will be solid if Chad Henne is capable of doing something, and Buffalo, along with Jacksonville, will be trying to play their way into a new sunnier and warmer address in Southern California.

Buffalo Bills (Win total 5.0) UNDER!
Buffalo is tied with Detroit and St. Louis for lowest over/under line on their win total, and rightly so. This team is devoid of talent, and are probably going to have the worst record in the AFC by the end of the season. Not much else to say, just hope they stay where they are, the only worse team for L.A. to pick up would be Detroit.

Miami Dolphins (Win total 8.5) OVER!
Miami looks poised to do some damage this season, and I think will win this division as the Jets implode and New England doesn't quite put things together. All three of those teams are going to finish somewhere between 8-8 and 10-6, though, so any result wouldn't surprise me, but I do think only the division winner will make the playoffs (the 2nd place teams in the AFC North and South should have better records than the 2nd place teams in the East, and in the West 7-9 might win the division). It's going to be just a few plays that make the difference between an unsuccessful 8-8 team and a playoff bound 10-6, though.

New England Patriots (Win total 9.5) UNDER!
I think their plateau is 9 wins. Brady might have a great season, but I think they're actually too young on defense (strange to say about the Pats) to be much better than a .500 team this year. Any result between 6 wins, or 11 wins wouldn't be all that surprsing, though. On paper, probably a down year, but Brady is still Brady, and they've got a coach who can squeeze talent out of players (or squeeze the life out of them).

New York Jets (Win total 9.5) UNDER!
They were a 9-7 team last year, and they'll be an 8-8 or 9-7 team this year. They lead the All Hype team, but Sanchez looks lost, the Revis thing will cause ripples (even though they did sign him), and Tomlinson won't contribute. Potentially a great defense, but that'll get wasted as their offense makes key errors at key moments. They backed into a 9-7 season last year, and they really aren't improved. The Hard Knocks effect, and NYC is the Center of the Universe effect explains why some are favoring this team to do damage this year. Don't believe the hype, this is still the Jets, and they'll find ways to lose.

NFL 2010: Win Total Predictions AFC South

Thursday kicks off the new season of the true 'Greatest Show on Earth', that's right, NFL Football! All odds taken from Vegasinsider.com (opening line).

AFC South is a tough division to gauge. The Colts are favorites to win the Superbowl this season, Houston might finally live up to their promise, and Tennessee looked awfully good last season after their horrendous start, so they might be interesting. That leaves Jacksonville, who seem to have a strong incentive to play their way out of Northern Florida and into the new stadium being built in glamorous City of Industry. Their cross division match ups are mixed bag, on the one hand, they're facing the strong top to bottom NFC East, on the other they get to face the cream-puffery of the AFC West.

Houston Texans (win total 8.0) OVER!
Seems like every year 'experts' predict that the Texans will put everything together and finally make the playoffs. Well, this year they're right! Woohoo! Matt Schaub had monster numbers last year that nobody noticed since the Texans missed the playoffs, but if he stays healthy (and with a very solid offensive line, he has a good chance to do just that), they've got a solid chance of improving to a 10 or 11 win team and nabbing that elusive playoff spot this franchise has yet to earn.

Indianapolis Colts (win total 11.0) UNDER!
At some point, the wheels have to come off, right? Too consistent for too long, I just don't trust them this year. Their offensive line is suspect, and Manning will get hurt, if that happens, their season is over. They do not have the depth they once did, and I don't think they'll luck out plugging in rookies in the gaps created by injuries as they have in past seasons. They look like a 6-10 or 8-8 team to me, but I seem to be alone in that sentiment.

Jacksonville Jaguars (win total 7.0) UNDER!
I think everything points to a lousy season for this team. Running backs fade, and fade fast, and while Jones-Drew seems capable, he hasn't had to be the sole featured back before, which is a recipe for problems. They still have a solid defense, but without any offensive production, they'll lose a lot of close games. But hey, they can turn things around when they come out to California for the 2011 season!

Tennessee Titans (win total 8.0) OVER!
I think they will challenge Houston for the division title this year, and should put together a nice run this year with Vince Young turning into something special as both a passer and a running threat. Or not, they are a tough squad to figure out, a lot of unknowns, but they do have the best RB, a solid defense, and have a coaching staff that's creative, so if they stay healthy, and figure out how to best utilize Young's talent set, they might end up challenging Baltimore for best record in the AFC.

NFL 2010: Win Total Predictions AFC North

Thursday kicks off the new season of the true 'Greatest Show on Earth', that's right, NFL Football! All odds taken from Vegasinsider.com (opening line).

AFC North looks to be one of the stronger conferences, with probable AFC Champion Baltimore in the mix with a possibly frisky Bengals team, and a Steelers team that could go anywhere from 7-9 to 12-4 depending how healthy they stay on defense, and how they react during #7's absence. Even Cleveland might be something, but then again, they're Cleveland, so probably not. Teams presented in alphabetical order. Their divisional cross-match this season is against a solid AFC East, and the NFC South (home of the current NFL Champion Saints). None of these teams are going to get any weeks off, really. Not being matched against either of the two crappy divisions (AFC West, NFC West) might reduce each team's win total potential.

Baltimore Ravens (win total 10.0) OVER!
Despite being in a strong division, I think this could be a 12-14 win team this season, so taking the over seems like a no-brainer. A lot depends on how healthy their defensive stars stay this season, but there's no reason to suspect they won't have another competitive regular season like last year. 4-2 in division, and 8-2 outside of their division seems like a pretty good bet to make on this team. They had an easier schedule last year, yet stumbled to a 9-7 mark, but I think they'll perform better this season, some of their losses were pretty flukey. If they play smartly on both sides of the ball, they'll be hard to beat. Unfortunately, they have a history of boneheaded-ness at key moments that might undermine their talent. I'm almost talking myself out of picking them over, but on paper this is one of the strongest teams in the league, and should challenge the Colts for the AFC Championship.

Cincinnati Bengals (win total 8.0) UNDER!
Too many distractions, this team always seems ready for a breakthrough, and then something happens off field and their season goes south. I'm going with history on this one. Excluding the 1982 scab season following their Superbowl loss, the Bengals haven't had consecutive winning seasons since 1977. I have faith in this franchise that they'll find a way to fall apart and lose 10-11 games despite all the talent they seem to have.

Cleveland Browns (win total 5.5) OVER!
Cleveland's taken enough abuse this year, their NFL Franchise will give them a glimmer of hope, mainly because I expect bad things from divisional opponents Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, though, not because the Browns look particularly strong. They'll scratch out at least 8 wins this season, that'll be enough to distract Cleveland fans from all the fun the Miami LeBrons will be having in the NBA during November and December.

Pittsburgh Steelers (win total 9.0) UNDER!
If their defense stays healthy, and Dennis Dixon does a decent job, they might do well, but those are two huge ifs, and I think they'll lose key defensive players to injury, and when Ben #7 comes back after his suspension, that things won't immediately click into place. This is a 7 win team waiting to happen.

02 September 2010

Enjoy Your Laborious Weekend...

No photos today, or until Tuesday. Also, will whip up a bunch of NFL predictions to be printed posted then.

(EDIT: Why did I type the verb "printed"? How very anachronistic, fixed now)

Have fun, or at least as close to fun as is allowable by law in whatever jurisdiction you reside or are currently vacationing.

01 September 2010

Your Daily Five Photos (Give the Drummer Some Edition)

More shots from the salsa thing Saturday, this time focusing on the drummer. Had a good vantage point from which to take his picture, hard to capture a good shot though. Surprised he was drumming in work boots, seems like an odd footwear choice to me. When I play Rockband I rock out with my socks on (and nothing else..., on my feet), but maybe that's just me.