18 November 2010

NFL Win Total, Just Past Midway Update (AFC Edition)

Just before the season began, I picked against the win total lines. With the byes behind us, and all teams having played 9/16ths of their games, seems like a good time to evaluate which picks seem to be on track, and which teams I was way off on.

AFC North
my predictions BAL (over 10), CIN (under 8), CLE (over 5.5), PIT (under 9)
Baltimore needs to go 5-2 down the stretch to hit the over, and looking at their schedule, it's within reach, but they could just as easily slip to 9-7, so nothing is written in stone.
Cincinnati was even crappier than I expected, so no problem with them hitting the under.
Cleveland needs to go at least 3-4 to beat the over, and with CAR, BUF, and CIN on the schedule, should be possible, especially with how well Colt McCoy has looked.
Pittsburgh surprised me so far, they survived their time without #7, but with their makeshift offensive line, and a few tough road games left, their high side potential is probably around 10 wins, and it wouldn't be shocking if they slip to 8-8 by going 2-5 down the stretch, so I'm still hopeful that my picks are solid for this division

AFC South my predictions HOU (over 8), IND (over 11), JAX (under 7), TEN (over 8)
Houston sucks, they'll probably finish a disappointing 7-9 or 8-8.
Indy has been solid at home, but a bit shaky on the road, and would need to go 6-1 the rest of the way to have over 11 wins, not likely at this point.
Jacksonville already has 5 wins, so they'll probably get at least 2 more wins.
Tennessee has some solid wins, and confounding losses. They should go at least 4-3, but much better, or worse is possible.

AFC East my predictions BUF (under 5), MIA (over 8.5), NE (under 9.5), NYJ (under 9.5)
Buffalo has played well, yet they've only won one game, so feel pretty confident about them staying under 5 wins.
Miami has 5 wins so far, and with some easy games outside of their division 4 more wins are within their grasp, but they could also screw things up.
New England has done their smoke and mirrors thing and are tied for best record. On paper should have been a down year, but they do what they do. Damn, Belichick.
New York Jets season still might blow up, and all those close wins they've squeaked out for the first half, might become close losses down the stretch, still they'll probably make the over, and my picks for this whole division will probably be wrong.

AFC West my predictions DEN (under 7.5) KC (over 6.5) OAK (over 6.0) SD (under 11)
Denver looks to be the bottom dwellers of this crappy division, so the under feels pretty solid.
KC started well, but after two road losses within their division, they look a bit shaky, but will get at least two wins, so the over looks good.
Oakland might be pretty good this season, and should get at least two more victories.
San Diego seems to be doing their usual start slow, finish strong thing. They're putting up great stats, but have a mediocre record. They'd have to go 6-1 to hit the over, not impossible, but not probable, so I feel good about my pick.

The playoff picture is still pretty muddled in the AFC, Indy, Baltimore, NYJ and NE seem like locks, San Diego will probably rise up and sneak off with their division again, unless Oakland figures out how to win on the road and gets to 10-6. Pittsburgh or Miami will probably be fighting for the last wildcard spot. If I had to pick right now based on how the teams look at this moment, I think the division winners will be BAL, IND, NE, SD with NYJ and MIA getting the wildcard spots. It's going to be crazy down the stretch with a gazillion tiebreaker scenarios being the difference between division wins and being completely out of the playoffs for a few quality teams. 11-5 might be the best record, and 10-6 the worst that make it into the playoffs.

28 October 2010

Your Daily Photo (It's Palm Tree Thursday Edition)


Would your Thursday be complete without a snap of palm trees?

(didn't think so)

27 October 2010

Your Daily Photo (Yet Again with the Oranges Edition)


Didn't get out to shoot anything new today, allergies acting up with the wind blowing hereabouts.

Will have stuff possibly of interest tomorrow, the rest of my California ballot propositions voting suggestions, along with an early take on Rock Band 3 (summary, love it), and maybe even a few words on the Lakers and Clippers.

(regarding the photo above, you'd think I'd be used to the vagaries of the autofocus on the 50mm lens by now, but nope, I still forget to press the focus lock and manually focus when dealing with a shallow depth of field and a variety of things to focus on in the field of view)

26 October 2010

Your Daily Photo (This Is What Passes for Fall Colors in Santa Monica Edition)


Late October, and ripe oranges in the backyard. Life is good. Also, GO LAKERS!!!

25 October 2010

Your Daily Photo (Staring at Stairs Edition)


The stairs at the Broad Contemporary Art Museum at LACMA, rotated to an odd angle, just because.

24 October 2010

Your Daily Photo (Big Stripper is Big Edition)


Stay classy, Vegas...

(taken at the Miracle Mile Shops, in Las Vegas)

23 October 2010

Your Daily Photo (Mmmmm, Chocolate Edition)


The photo taken at the Jean Philippe Patisserie found at the Bellagio Resort in the Las Vegas.

(sorry for the Manolo-speak, can't help myself sometimes, if the model pictured in today's post at shoeblogs were to get within sniffing distance of the confection pictured above, I think she might the faint)

Also home to the world's largest chocolate fountain (not pictured, doesn't really photograph well, but it's impressive in person).

Split a nutella crepe after dinner (at Koi, well executed Japanese food, not insanely expensive) and a show (Peepshow, featuring Holly Madison, entertainingly cheesy/sexy) Tuesday night. It was far more delicious than you'd ever have a right to expect for a nutella based dessert.

22 October 2010

Your Daily Photo (Does a Pumpkin Have to Be Large to Be Great, Charlie Brown? Edition)


Just a couple hundred pounds worth of pumpkin for your Friday night perusal.

(shot Tuesday at the Bellagio in Las Vegas)

The Conservative Closet...

"It's difficult being a conservative here with so many liberals around, they don't want to hear or engage in any discussion," she said. "It's like name-calling, like calling the Tea Party people racist or not knowing much about someone like Sarah Palin and trashing her in front of me. Liberals don't really engage in two-way discussion. It's easy to be a liberal — it's more difficult, more intellectually challenging being a conservative."

From this Santa Monica Daily Press article on the shocking news that there are a few non-liberals scattered throughout our fair city.

Above, Beverly Hills resident, Diana Ross (I can not vouch for her political status, but you never know, maybe this song was about her 'coming out' as a GOP supporter...)

21 October 2010

Are You Propositioning Me? (Part I, Props 19, 20&27)

California voters are expected to legislate, since our legislature isn't up to the task. This election there are a nine statewide measures up for vote. Here are my opinions regarding three of them.

Proposition 19: Duuude, let's get stoned! (VOTE YES)
There are many reasons to vote no on this proposition, you may have a moral objection to the weed, you may think that the current medicinal marijuana laws are sufficient to supply people who have a use for the stuff (or perceive themselves as having a need) are covered. Or you may worry that passing such a law would set up an unwarranted conflict between state and federal law enforcement agencies. For me personally, that's the biggest reason to vote for this law. First off, prohibition doesn't work, substance use, and abuse, is part of human nature. Get enough people together and a certain percentage are going to want to get high on one thing or another. Criminalizing that doesn't prevent it, and seems to only make the trade in the substances more violent, militarizes our police forces, and in a perverse way, makes the drugs more glamorous. Pot would be that boring drug that old baby boomers smoke if it were completely legal. Take money out of the pockets of Mexican drug cartels, and put some of it into the state's coffers in the form of taxes on legitimate growers and sellers. Also, given that AG Eric Holder has already said he's against it, that's enough reason to be for it. At some point, the federal government needs to be challenged on this issue. I believe there is no legitimate basis for federal preemption with regards to any of the current drug laws, it's time for the states to step up and take on their proper role under the federalist system we have in place and assert the right of nullification under the 10th amendment. Nullification got a bad name when southern states tried to use it to get around Brown v Board of Ed, but the rulings against nullification were very narrowly defined, and cited other parts of the constitution (14th amendment, mainly) for justification. There is no constitutionally defined federal right to drug enforcement, so it would seem if this matter were brought up to the Supreme Court, California law in the wake of passage of Prop 19 would nullify federal pot laws within the state (the federal government could still retaliate using the power of the purse by withholding DEA funds, but the revenue from legal pot could be used to pay for enforcement of other drug laws, so that's not a problem).

Prop 20 & 27: Gerrymandering, it does a (political) body bad! Yes on 20, No on 27
Often, during the initiative process, when it looks like something that might seriously mess with the way the legislature does business might make the ballot and look attractive to voters, they use their ability to vote stuff directly onto the ballot that is similar enough to the citizen generated initiative as to cause confusion and possible preemption. When two initiatives attack the same issue, should they both pass, the one with the higher vote total is the one that becomes law. 20 and 27 are bound in this way, both are being sold as reforms to the process of redistricting. Prop 11 in 2008, which passed narrowly, was almost identical to Prop 20, with the only difference being that Prop 20 also extends to US Congressional redistricting. Prop 20 keeps the responsibility for redistricting to a 'non-partisan' panel, in the hopes that our districts will reflect geography and demography rather than the political interests of incumbents. Prop 27, in the name of 'cost-savings' does away with the panel and gives the job of redistricting back to our corrupt, ineffective, and Democratic Party dominated legislature. While the citizen panel lead redistricting may not end up giving us perfect districts, we can be assured that if our current legislature were given the power to draw up the next decade's worth of political boundaries, that the districts they draw will be perfectly terrible (from the voters standpoint, anyway, from an incumbency protection standpoint, they'll be perfect). If neither pass, Prop 11 will still be law, so an argument against voting again for a law that has already passed would be reasonable, but because Prop 27 is on the ballot, and because if it wins more votes than 20, it would preempt the better law, that reality forces voters to vote again for something they already voted for. Have I mentioned that this process really sucks sometimes?

And, here's a song some folks put together (with BANJO!) explaining each measure (without editorial comment of any kind).

Your Daily Photo (Emptiness Edition)

I15 Mojave Landscape

Long time no blog. Shot taken driving back from Vegas after an impromptu mini-vacation. Might post some other shots later in the week from the trip, or take new shots, we'll see. Going back to a single shot per day, instead of five shots occasionally. Also, plan on blogging daily, again. There's stuff happening worth talking about, and even if my opinions aren't always worth listening to, no harm in putting them out there.

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.