Monday, November 23, 2015

NBA Season to Date Observations and Predictions

  The NBA season is almost a month old with every team except the Washington Wizards playing at least a dozen games. As I write this on Sunday morning the defending champion Golden State Warriors have yet to lose and the perennial rebuilding Philadelphia 76ers yet to win.

  I thought the Warriors would get fat, happy, and selfish after winning last year’s championship. Instead they seem to be focused on proving last year was no fluke. None of the many role players have tried to break out of their roles, content to let Stephen Curry take (and make) the bulk of the shots while moving the ball, playing tough defense, and waiting for their chances to score. The Warriors have hit a tough stretch (for them) of late, finding themselves trailing the Nets and Clippers in the fourth quarter of their recent games but have managed to pull out wins. Do I think the Warriors can break the 1995-1996 Bulls record of 72-10? I believe they are sufficiently motivated and if they stay healthy this team is the one that can break the record. Having said that, it is a long season and I think that the Bulls record will withstand this challenge.

  The team that got fat and happy seems to be the Warriors 2014-15 Western Conference Finals opponents, the Houston Rockets. In the offseason Rockets superstar James Harden signed a $200 million dollar show deal with Adidas and has taken up with reality TV show icon Khloe Kardashian. Harden seemed out of shape and not at all in the mood to even pretend to play defense this season and when the Rockets started what they hoped to be a championship season with a 4-7 record including 4 20 point losses, head coach Kevin McHale was fired because in the words of Rockets GM Darrell Morey “The team was not responding to Kevin McHale”. The team responded to new coach J.B. Bickerstaff with a comeback win against the moribund Portland Trailblazers before further responding with a road loss against the Grizzlies and a home loss to the Knicks. I was high on the Rockets two years ago when they acquired center Dwight Howard but Howard can’t stay healthy (he is already taking games off this season to rest his back) and the fate of the team rests on Harden who is a superstar that is not playing like one which is an awful combination for a player that needs to handle the ball most of the time to be effective. This turn of events is a huge blow for GM Darrell Morey, making the huge proponent of basketball analytics seem clueless to the dynamic of team building for a championship run as opposed to collecting talent and draft picks.

  My pick to win the championship is the Los Angeles Clippers who rewarded my confidence by following a 4-0 start with losing seven of nine games for a 6-7 record after Sunday’s loss against the Raptors. Despite the rough patch I think the Clippers are built for the playoffs. They need to stay healthy and get superstars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin get used to playing with newcomers Paul Pierce and Josh Smith. The wild card for the Clippers to me is whether Clippers owner Steve Ballmer will push the panic button and order GM/Coach Doc Rivers to shake up the team or even fire Rivers.

  I picked the Los Angeles Lakers to win 37 games this year which would be a 16 game improvement over last year. The Lakers have started 2-11 and would have to win more than half of their remaining 69 games to get to 37 wins. My prediction doesn’t look good but I still like the chances of the Lakers’ young talent to develop significantly as the season goes along and the less Kobe Bryant plays the quicker this process will be and the closer the team will get to 37 wins. As great as Bryant was, he is an aged (not aging) former superstar who takes more shots than anyone on the team while shooting 34%. Not only is Bryant unproductive he is taking minutes away from the younger players and disrupting their ability to grow as a team. Meanwhile the big surprise in the West is the Dallas Mavericks with a 9-4 start defying the skeptics that predicted the Mavs would miss the playoffs. I don’t believe in the Mavericks and think their record is the result of their brilliant coach Rick Carlisle. As the season wears on talent will win out over schemes and the Mavs will struggle with their aging roster. In the east I predicted the Atlanta Hawks would struggle to get 50 wins after getting 60 last season. The Hawks currently are at 9-6 which is a pace for 49.2 wins so I’m spot on so far. I also predicted the surprise team to be the Orlando Magic and said they would make the playoffs. The Magic have been inconsistent so far with a 6-7 record. I’ve seen the Magic play twice and they are not just inconsistent they are maddeningly inconsistent – looking like world beaters in one quarter and a turnover machine the next. Coach Scott Skiles is already running out of patience with his young team, benching center Nik Vucevic for the second half of their win against the Timberwolves and subbing the entire starting unit earlier this month. I knew Skiles would wear out his welcome in Orlando as he has in every other stop in his coaching career but I think his act is going to wear thin faster in Orlando than his other stops. It looks to me like the Magic are running the risk of a player revolt and a lost season unless they can pull off a few upsets on their upcoming western road trip in December to get the players to see success from Skiles hardcore methods.

  The most impressive team in the east to my mind is the Chicago Bulls. First year coach Fred Hoiberg has successfully shaken up the lineup by starting Tony Snell and Doug McDermott and bringing former Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah off the bench. Snell and McDermott have looked more productive, Noah is more rested, and the Bulls have looked crisp while going 8-4 to start the year. The other surprise team is the Knicks who have gone 8-6 to start the year including road wins against the Thunder, Rockets, and Raptors The Knicks have coalesced behind 7-3 rookie Kristaps Porzingas who has become an instant celebrity much like Jeremy Lin three y ears ago as can only happen in new York. I am impressed with the Knicks progress under club president Phil Jackson but I’m not convinced yet, preferring to see how the Knicks react when they run into their early injury problems and Porzingas hits the rookie wall.

  My basketball prediction program may have hit the rookie wall. I split my 2 picks on Friday, leaving me with a 10-3 mark and trimming my mythical winnings to $670. My unpublished weekend picks went 3-4 to take the program’s season mark to 30-16. One of the program’s flaws has been exposed, showing a certain slowness to detect a turnaround in a teams fortunes whether due to injury or a team suddenly jelling like the New Orleans Pelicans seemed to do this weekend with wins over the Spurs and Suns.

  Tonight there are three games I’ll put up $110 to win $100 using the lines as listed on the Yahoo Sports pagefor entertainment purposes only with no real money wagered. My program likes Charlotte giving 5 points to the visiting Sacramento Kings, the Pistons giving 2 points on the road at Milwaukee, and the Thunder getting 4 points from the Utah Jazz in Utah which seems to go against conventional wisdom to stay away from road teams on the second game of a back to back but I'll give my program a little leeway and take the risk.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Interviews

  Last week the company I work for hired me out to work for a company in Ames Iowa for the foreseeable future. Being farmed out is nothing new for me – I program for my employer’s clients who pay my employer, who then pays me. Normally I work out of my office but in 2013 I had to occasionally work 90 miles east in North Liberty Iowa and in 2014 I spent six months working in a bank in West Des Moines which was 55 miles southwest but only five miles further than the 50 mile commute to my downtown office. My new workplace is 37 miles west which is less than the 60 mile commute to my employer’s current office and more than the 20 feet I walked from my living room to my computer on the three days a week I’ve been working from home.

  Before I could work in Ames I had to go on an interview which must have went well enough since I was accepted for the assignment. During the 13 years I spent writing shoe store software I went on exactly one interview until 2007 when the owner of the company I worked for sold his company to people from Indianapolis who had their own programmers at which point I went on a number of interviews.

  I wasn’t very successful at interviewing in 2007 and I think it was because I badly wanted a new job and it showed which made me less than an attractive candidate in the way that the seemingly unattainable girls in high school were the most sought after at least that’s the way I remember it. Wanting a new job too badly made me not exactly myself in interviews. I came off trying to sound too professional and less funny than I am and I probably just seemed like a phony.

  Eventually one of my interviews panned out and I got my new job which was a two year contract so after two years I was out interviewing again in 2009. For this go round I was determined to be myself and even though I needed a new job instead of wanting one like two years prior I had a great time interviewing. I was at one place where I was told that the programmers were in charge of making the time estimates. I’d barely ever made estimates, preferring instead to say the project would take until it was finished and worked as hard as I could to get my projects done as soon as possible which almost always pleased my employers in terms of the time the project took and the quality of the completed project. I asked the interviewer how it would go over if I was able to complete a project earlier than scheduled. When the interviewer asked how that could be possible I explained that I had the occasional epiphany (meaning a burst of production or an amazing time saving idea) which enabled me to complete some projects well ahead of schedule. The interviewer sniffed “We do not have epiphanies at this company”. We made some more chit-chat but I knew there wasn’t going to be a job offer and the interviewer knew it wasn’t going to be accepted.

  I did much better on my next interview. The interviewer asked me if it was better to have a job done on time or done correctly. I said if the job wasn’t done correctly how could it be done on time? Since that got a laugh I told the story about how I took a job at a company and had to take over half of an overdue project from an overworked programmer who I shared the office with. The next week the overworked programmer was talking to our supervisor in our office at lunch not realizing that I was sitting at my desk reading. The supervisor mentioned that I did a good job on my half of the project and the programmer said that while I 'managed' to complete the project his design was “much more elegant” than mine. I got up from my desk and said that if the program didn’t have to work and didn’t have to be done on time I could be just as elegant. My interviewer roared at my story but I wasn’t offered the job because the company put on a hiring freeze. The happy ending was that a month later a position opened up at the company and I was offered the job without another interview.

  I interviewed twice for my current job. The first time I went to the downtown office with my current supervisor and his boss. I tried to be funny and got a second interview to meet one of the programmers over lunch. I didn’t want to drive around so I suggested the snack bar at a nearby Target superstore within walking distance. I got the job and my supervisor told me that he never had an interview at a Target snack bar before. I don’t remember much from the interview except the subject of my age came up and I said that while I was a dinosaur one thing to remember was that dinosaurs have big teeth and are more than capable.

  I didn’t have an interview for three years until the company put out notice that they were moving to the west side of West Des Moines. This would make an interminable 52 mile commute an unbearable 62 mile commute through 10 miles of the worst Iowa traffic so I was out .interviewing again. Most interviews are done through recruiters that have a job opening and if you fit in the salary slot they will pitch you to their customer as if you are the programming world’s answer to Elvis and Michael Jackson but if you don’t you will never hear from the recruiter until months or years later when they have another opening they think you will fit into.

  I had one interview at a huge insurance company that was in a huge 5 story building even further west in West Des Mones than where my company would be moving to. I parked in the full shopping mall sized parking lot and went in. My first meeting was with the department director and a programmer. They were the most exhausted people I’ve ever seen with huge puffy bags under their bloodshot eyes and the stooped over seated posture of someone who was about to fall asleep which I think they did. Their first question was whether I was willing to work overtime. I said I was on occasion if I was paid for it or given time off as compensation. I was told there was no extra pay or compensation and that everyone regularly worked between 55 and 60 hours because they were all “team players”. I mentioned that if these kind of hours were expected the team needed a new manager which was not met by laughter or even a smile. Then I interviewed with two other programmers and I asked them how many hours they worked. They told me they worked between 50 and 60 hours every week and didn't like it but did it because they were “team players”. After that I met with the finance vice president that was in charge of the programming. She told me that she liked to meet all the interviewees but didn’t have any questions and asked if I had any questions. I asked how long it took her to get out of the parking lot. She said it took no time to get out of the parking lot because everyone else was working late because they were all “team players”. My next question was if there were any finance vice president positions available and there weren’t. I wasn’t offered a job which was just as well since I was certainly not their kind of “team player”.

  My next interview was with a medical insurance clearinghouse company that was taking their programming needs in house and severing ties with the company that had developed their programs for the past five years. I interviewed with the president of the small company who was a lawyer armed with a list of 20 questions that I assume came from Linked In or some other website that she read off. Here are some of the questions, the preferred answers in bold, and my answers in italics.

  Where do you see yourself five years from now? I see myself advancing in this company because I’ll be helping it grow so much. I’m almost 55 years old and I hope to see myself in the mirror and not the cemetery.

  What is your biggest and weakness? My biggest weakness is that I care about my work and company so much I work tirelessly to accomplish my goals and have no personal life because I give my all to my company. I don’t have weaknesses or strengths. I have qualities and it is up to my employer to not make them weaknesses. One of my qualities is that I get my work done fast. It sounds like a strength but if I work for someone that thinks out loud about what they want me to do I will get a lot of useless work done because the person I work for wasn’t wanting me to do anything - they were just thinking out loud. If that guy is making the decisions don’t hire me – hire the person that waits until the last minute to do anything which seems like a weakness but will be a strength at your company.

  How do feel about supervising employees? I take pride in mentoring and building relationships. Can I fire them? I can’t supervise someone I can’t fire.

  As you might imagine I didn’t get offered that job either and I didn’t mind a bit. It is politically incorrect in this age of team building to talk about wanting to fire people but I’ve been saddled with having someone work for me who would only do the very minimum of what I asked and there was nothing I could do about it because we both knew I couldn't fire them. I think for me to supervise people effectively I need to have a nuclear weapon. If I NEEDED the job my answers would have been a lot different but since I didn't NEED the job it made sense to me to be myself so there would be no illusions about who I was.

  I had a short interview for my new assignment. I was asked very few questions of mostly a technical nature that gave me no chance to be my normally funny or insulting self. I was quickly accepted for the assignment which had less to do with my interview and more to do with the fact that as a contractor I can be gone at the snap of a finger. That’s OK with me. I have a lot of confidence in my ability to pick things up and quickly contribute and if I cant we’ll all be better off if I’m somewhere else.

  If my basketball picks keep up their current pace I expect to be giving interviews with gambling magazines and web sites. As I wrote on Monday I went 4-0 on last Friday’s picks to boost my record to 9-2 and my mythical winnings to $680. My prediction program went 3-2 on Monday’s pick (that I didn’t bet on). I’m concerned about the bias the program is showing towards road teams but the program is 25-12 including last night’s Warriors-Clippers game in which my program picked the Warriors to give 6.5 points to the Clippers in Los Angeles. So operating on the assumption that 'if it ain't broke don't fix it' I will be placing my mythical bets from my prediction program using the lines as listed on the Yahoo Sports page and as usual for entertainment purposes only with no real money being wagered. It is early on Friday morning as I write this and my program has determined only one of the 11 games on the schedule is worthy of a prediction with the lines for the Pelicans-Spurs,Thunder-Knicks, and TrailBlazers-Clippers yet to be determined. If me program decides to place a bet on those three games I'll put it in the comments by 7pm tonight and here is my program's one pick for tonight.

Philadelphia 76ers at Charlotte Hornets
The 76ers are once again angling for the worst record in the league and are off to a fine start with 12 straight losses to open the season, including Wednesday's embarrassing 23 point loss to the Pacers at home. Tonight Philly travels to Charlotte to face the Hornets who are on the second game of a seven game home stand. My program likes the Hornets to win by 16 and the spread is 11 points, just at the 5 point predictive cut off line. The 76ers have been marginally less awful on the road but the Hornets have shown the ability to score points in bunches with the additions of Nicolas Batum and Jeremy Lin so I'll go with my program and bet $110 on the Hornets to cover the 11 points and win $100.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Movie Review - Spectre

  After our dinner at Rancho Adelinas (you can see the review here), Kathy and I headed to the movie theater to see the new James Bond movie Spectre which is the fourth in the series with Daniel Craig playing 007. The first two Bond movies featuring Craig portrayed Bond as more of an action hero than a super spy and I thought they were great. The last Bond movie Skyfall was one of my least favorites with Bond in ‘McGyver’ mode as he fought off an army of spies and soldiers in his childhood home in the Scottish highlands with some paperclips and a car battery. I also didn’t like the heavy emphasis on Bond’s childhood and past. When I watch a James Bond movie I like to see action, adventure, and witty dialog and Skyfall was short in all three areas while long on pontifications about how James Bond became James Bond.

  I had high hopes for Spectre with the expectation that since the origin sagas had been told and the familiar cast of characters like ‘Q’, MoneyPenny, and ‘M’ already introduced in Skyfall this movie would be long on Bond action and short on Bond angst. We sat down in the theatre with three dozen or so other movie goers and the movie began.

  I don’t want to give too much of the movie away and I don’t think I am by saying the first 15 or so minutes are as action-packed as one would expect from a James Bond movie with 007 hunting down a terrorist threat in Mexico City while the streets are packed with a ‘Day of the Dead’ parade. The parade allows for plenty of weird skeleton costumes and panic in the streets when Bond’s confrontation with the bad guys lead to a building being demolished and a fight aboard an out of control helicopter dipping and diving perilously close to the crowd while Bond and his companion take turns being almost thrown out of the helicopter that travels every direction including straight up and straight down. This opening action was almost as good as the chase through the African town in Casino Royale.

  What struck me the most about Spectre was how it seemed mix the classic Sean Connery Bond with Daniel Craig’s action oriented take on the character. Craig was certainly channeling some Connery smooth when he seduces the widow of the man he killed to get some information about the criminal organization that he worked for. Did I mention that the seduction occurred the evening of her husband’s funeral. There was also a Conneryesque fight on a train where a physically outmatched Bond fights a massive hitman and only escapes via a conveniently placed rope wrapped around his adversary’s neck and some beer kegs which the hitman follows off the train. Once the train fight is over we get to see Bond in Craig mode as he and his latest love interest lustily go at each other after she was professing hatred at Bond for exposing her identity less than a half hour beforehand.

  Another element that came straight out of a Connery movie was when the villain of the movie captures Bond but instead of killing him like any pedestrian super-villain, decides on an insidious plot to strap him to a chair and drill holes in his head to gradually take away pieces of his mind with a device he no doubt specifically designed for that purpose. Naturally Bond escapes only to captured, hooded, zip-tied, and held in a truck under the watchful glare of two massive armed guards. As the truck doors open, the Daniel Craig Bond appears and takes out both guards in hand to hand combat while hooded and zip-tied.

  Writer John Logan and director Sam Mendes continued their use of Bond’s past as one of the main plot drivers with the main villain using the resources of his global empire to not only take over the worlds information systems but also to revenge a childhood grudge against Bond by revealing he was behind the deaths of the former ‘M’ and Bond girl Vesper in the previous movies. Thankfully these tidbits of Bond’s past served to give the movie nudges in particular directions and not become the entire story.

  The only thing I didn’t like about this movie was the portrayal of MI-6 (the spy agency that employs Bond and runs the ‘00’ license to kill program) and the one of the most ineffectual agencies ever. This group had no clue that the mysterious ‘Spectre’ organization even exists and has so little intelligence on the members of their own group or the mysterious ‘C’ that is taking over the entire worlds intelligence gathering through the ‘Nine Eyes’ initiative that everyone is shocked when some of them turn out to be agents of ‘Spectre’. I would have enjoyed more of a battle of wits between two highly competent organizations instead of MI-6 waiting for Bond to save the day.

  Spectre is a great spy/action movie and the best of the Daniel Craig James Bond movies. It looks like the franchise has found a way to integrate the smoothness the character should have with the action oriented slant Craig brings to the role. Craig is signed on for one more Bond movie and then it may be time for a new Bond to appear. With a few ups and downs along the way the Bond franchise is still going strong and it appears the proper formula has been found to mix the secret agent and action genres. James Bond movies are over 50 years old. When I think of long lasting entertainment franchises only Star Trek comes to mind as a rival to James Bond. Both franchises have had reboots, cast changes, and went dormant in the movies for a period (Bond was movie less from 1989-1995 and Star Trek from 2002-2009). Star Trek is different in that it has ensemble casts and had multiple television shows. I can’t imagine James Bond ever being a television show but I can easily see it being one of the binge-watch type of shows that gets released all at once on a Netflix or Amazon Prime. Marvel and DC comics have shown the profitability of combining movies and television shows and I think it’s only a matter of time before the Bond franchise follows suit and cashes in with a television series.

  You may not have noticed but my computer aided basketball predictions went 4-0 on Friday to boost my record to 9-2 and my mythical winnings to $680. This has prompted me to add a 'Donate' button so the readers that are profiting from my basketball predictive prowess can throw a tip or two my way. The formula I'm using has a decided bias towards road underdogs which is a hard way to make a living in my opinion. The road dogs in Friday's games could have gone either way with the Timberwolves, Hornets, and Trailblazers all trailing by more than the point spread at some point in the last five minutes. My program went 2-3 over the weekend and has spit out five picks for tonight's games with four more road teams being picked. I want to see this formula in action a bit more so I won't be risking my bankroll on tonight's games but I will publish the computer predictions for information purposes only. My program likes Indiana getting 5 at Chicago, Boston getting 4.5 at Houston, the Thunder getting 2 at Memphis, Dallas giving 8.5 at Philadelphia, and the home Spurs giving 12 to the Trailblazers. The lines are from the lines as listed on the Yahoo Sports page and I want to stress again that I am not playing tonight's games, mythically or otherwise.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Dinner Before a Movie

Welcome to Rancho Adelinas in beautiful downtown Marshalltown located conveniently next to the Villager rooming house...

  When Kathy and I take our beagles and occasional guest bloggers Daisy and Baxter on their evening walk we always pass the corner of N. Center and State streets. There have been very few changes to this corner in the 21 years I’ve lived in Marshalltown. The northwest corner is the police station and city hall parking lot which diagonally keeps an eye on the southeast corner’s ‘Corner Tap’ bar which has been suspiciously closed the past few weeks after being sold and having a grand reopening less than three years ago. The southwest corner used to have the library until it moved a few blocks away using money from a tax levy which the supporters promised if passed would allow the library to be open on Sundays which it has never been but a new tax levy was passed last week which the library promised would allow it to be open on Sundays which it has not been yet. The building received a $618,618 grant from the State of Iowa I-Jobs to convert it for use as the town’s Parks and Rec office and the City Council chambers which created 10 temporary part time jobs (I wrote about it here).

  The northeast corner of N. Center and State streets has seen a flurry of activity this year. There used to be a rundown building that contained a trophy store. There was an older man running the store and while I did use him to occasionally relabel older trophies his process couldn’t compete with the online trophy stores. The old man also had the U-Haul franchise and then a Ryder Truck franchise running out of his tiny parking lot until his death a few years ago. At that point the tiny rundown building was empty until this spring when we would occasionally see some workers refurbishing the building. A new concrete parking lot was laid down, an addition put on the newly gutted and rebuilt existing building, a lawn was created with fresh sod, and a fence put up to presumably keep the rabble from the Villager rooming house next door from wandering over.

  I assumed that the building would house an ethnic grocery store since there are four Mexican grocery stores and two Myanmar stores within four blocks of the corner of N. Center and State streets but I assumed wrong. Over the summer a sign went up proclaiming the building to be the new home of ‘Rancho Adelinas’ which would serve “Real Authentic Mexican Food” (Are there any restaurants that serve ‘imaginary authentic’ or ‘real fake’ Mexican food?). Slowly but surely the restaurant began to take shape with a dumpster and a large street sign making their appearance and the grand opening was announced for October 30th.

  I hadn’t been to a Mexican restaurant in years. Kathy and I used to go to the El Portal restaurant that is in a strip mall by the K-Mart until we went there one Valentine’s Day. We arrived and were seated by the drafty back door which sent occasional bone chilling blasts of freezing air right through our table where we were given a bowl of chips, some salsa, water for Kathy, and coke for me. We ordered some food off the menu and waited. And waited. And waited some more. After about an hour of freezing and rationing our dwindling supply of chips (no refills were offered) we left. Kathy has gone back to El Portal on occasion but I won’t step foot in the place. When I helped St. Mary with the Fall Festival we had a final meeting in 2011 at the Mexico Antiguo restaurant a few blocks from our house on Main Street. I had a bowl of Sopa de Mariscos (Seafood Stew) and it was awesome! The soup was spicy without making my eyes water and there was something different in every bite with shrimp, fish, octopus, clams, and crabmeat. We went to Mexico Antiguo on occasion until they closed a year later and I haven’t gone to a Mexican restaurant since unless you count Taco John’s which I don’t.

We sat in a large eating room with plenty of tables and selected from a large menu of choices.

  Kathy and I decided to go to Rancho Adelinas last Friday night and then catch a movie afterwards. We took Daisy and Baxter past the restaurant on their evening walk as usual and made our way back home. After putting the beagles in the kitchen we took the two minute drive to Ranch Adelinas and arrived at 6:15. The restaurant had one big room with booths, round tables, and square tables and a smaller row of tables on the other side of the restaurant near the bar with the kitchen in the middle. As we waited by the sign asking us to wait to be seated three of the waiters/waitresses were engaged in an animated conversation but after about two minutes the manager came out of the kitchen and joined the conversation which broke up quickly and Kathy and I were soon sitting in a booth.

  Once we were seated things happened pretty quickly. We got our water and some overcooked chips with two kinds of sauce; a mild red sauce and a hot green sauce. I say sauce and not salsa since there were no chunks of anything. The menu had all the familiar items and while everything seemed a dollar or two more than I remembered. Could it be that the price of food in Mexican restaurants had gone up in the past few years just like all the other staples of modern living like coffee and beef stick treats? Without thinking too much I went straight to the soup section and ordered the fish soup. If I had been looking more carefully I would have ordered the seven seas soup since that more closely resembled my El Antiguo favorite.

  Kathy doesn’t eat meat and normally gets a Mexican food staple with beans replacing any meat item. After getting over the shock of having the waiter call her 'Sir', she asked the waiter for a burrito with beans instead of the meat and a small chess quesadilla. The waiter had to ask the manager how to write up the ticket which only took a couple of second and our orders were on our way while we ate the chips and sauce. The big room we were seated in was very clean and quiet even as it filled up during the dinner hour and in ten minutes our food had arrived.

Looking at the pictures, Kathy's burrito and quesadilla may seem more appetizing than my fish soup but appearances can be deceiving.

  I ordered fish soup and I got plenty of it. Before me was a big bowl of soup with a fish in it! The fish was cut into three pieces and floating in the red broth with a few chunks of carrot and celery to keep it company. I broke the fish into more pieces. There were a few patches of skin but thankfully no fish head or fish eyes staring back at me. Kathy’s burrito looked huge but filled mostly with rice and lettuce and very little beans. He small quesadilla was good but she didn’t think it was worth the $4 it cost.

  As for me I liked the fish soup. The fish tasted good and the broth was just like Mexico Antiguo‘s- spicy but not enough to make me reach for some bread or water. The only problem I had was that every mouth of fish came with a mouthful of bones. I didn’t care much for having to pull bones out of my mouth all the time but I got used to it.

  We quickly paid $24 for our meal and were off to the movie. I think $24 is a little high for a dinner for two considering that there were no drinks involved – not even a soda but I liked the restaurant and Kathy and I were full enough that we didn’t feel the need to spend $10+ on movie popcorn and drinks. Rancho Adelinas is only a week old and hopefully the next time we head that way they will have figured out how to get the bones out of the fish soup, put more beans in the bean burritos, and not call my wife 'Sir'. I wouldn’t call give the restaurant an ‘A’ but it was a long way from failing either. Sticking with my grading system I’d give it a B- and an occasional place in our restaurant rotation which is almost completely occupied by the Buffet King all you can eat Chinese buffet just a couple of blocks away.

  Last week's basketball picks proved to be fishier than my soup as I went 1-2 to trim my season record to 5-2 and my winnings to $280. I was a game late on the Pistons fatigue on their West Coast swing and the inconsistent Wizards rewarded me with more in-consistence by getting blown out my the Celtics. This week I am using the assistance of my basketball prediction program. The season is so young there isn't enough data to rely and my program has spit out 3 road underdogs and a home favorite that I will go with for my mythical bets of $110 to win $100 using the lines as listed on the Yahoo Sports page for entertainment purposes only with no real money being wagered.

Charlotte Hornets at Chicago Bulls
The Bulls have had 4 days off to get ready to avenge their 25 point loss to the Hornets 10 days ago. The Hornets have won 4 of 5 games and have lost only one game this year by more than 10 points. Charlotte is getting 7 points in this contest and I agree with the computer that they will cover the spread if not win outright.

Minnesota Timberwolves at Indiana Pacers
The Timberwolves lost to the defending champion Warriors last night in a game that was close for the first 40 minutes and are traveling to Indianapolis to take on the Pacers who are on a 2 game winning streak with 2 days of rest. I think playing the Warriors last night will make the Pacers look slow to the youthful Timberwolves. I'll take the 'Wolves to cover the 7 point spread against Pacers.

Portland Trailblazers at Memphis Grizzlies
I am less sure about this game than the first two. The Grizzlies have been moribund so far this year and are on a 4 game losing streak but their bulk inside should bother the smallish Blazers who are riding a three game losing streak of their own. I like the fact that the Blazers won the matchup between these two teams two weeks ago in Portland and will take them and the seven points.

Philadelphia 76ers at Oklahoma City Thunder
Once again the 76ers are barely competitive and have lost their first 8 games this year while the Thunder rebounded from a 3 game losing streak with two straight blowout wins. A complicating factor will be the absence of Thunder all star Kevin Durant with a hamstring injury but I consider the Thunder to be a far superior team even without Durant and think only giving 13 and a half points to be a discount at home.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Beagle Birthday Reflections

It's that special time of the year to give the Broken Pawn over to America's favorite beagle bloggers - Daisy and Baxter

Hi Everybody! It’s Daisy…  and Baxter with another blog for our readers. It’s about time Hank let us write another blog Daisy.  I’ll say! I didn’t mind Hank writing on and on about playing chess in Minnesota because he won $65 dollars that he can use to buy us beef stick treats.  But then he went to South Dakota to play chess and he didn’t win any money to buy us beef stick treats but he still kept writing about playing chess and how the chess tournament was in a zoo and he saw zoo animals and there were a bunch of stuffed animals.  How boring. There’s no need to write about zoo animals and mounted animals when Hank lives with the two most interesting animals in the world.  Really! Who?  That’s us you silly Baxter! HELLO!  Oh yeah, I forgot how interesting we were for a second. 

Here we are eating premium dog food out of a can in our new coats. I blend into the background in my camo coat so well you can hardly see me!  There I am at the duck pond in my new heart coat!

Maybe some of our readers didn’t know that we had our birthday yesterday! Happy Birthday Daisy!  Happy Birthday Baxter! We turned five years old and thanks to all our fans that sent us birthday wishes and presents. What was your favorite present, Baxter?  That’s easy! My favorite present was premium dog food out of a can! YUM! I love premium dog food out of a can. It’s so moist and meaty.  I like premium dog food out of a can also but my favorite present was my new coats. In the spring Kathy got me a new hot pink leash and it just didn’t make the statement I wanted with my brown coat. My new coats are both pink and match my leash. One coat has a dog bone pattern for everyday wear and the other has hearts and a stylish button for a sassy yet refined look.  I got two new coats too! One is blue and the other is a camouflage coat. When I walk down the street in my camo coat I could be an action hero like Chuck Norris or Steven Seagal! 

Steak! YUM!!
Steven Seagal is so dreamy! I love his ‘Under Siege’ movies where he plays Casey Ryback the master chef and human killing machine!  Yeah. It’s too bad Steven Seagal didn’t send us a birthday card or a specially prepared meal. YUM!! I love specially prepared meals.  I was so sad Steven didn’t send us a birthday card but Kathy’s friend Amy gave us a steak this year!  That’s right! She said her family was cooking steaks and one was a little tough so she gave it to us! YUM!!! I didn’t think it was tough at all. YUM!!  A couple of months later she sent us another steak. They were both very tasty and we wish Hank and Kathy would take the hint and feed us steak on a regular basis. HELLO!  YUM! I love steak. YUM!  And don’t forget our friend Becky from down the block. She got us five giant Jack Links beef sticks!  YUM!! I love giant Jack Link’s beef sticks. We even got to see Becky’s mom Marilyn yesterday!  Marilyn and Bill and Abby the Cairn terrier live down the block next door to Becky. We visit with them when the weather is warm. Bill and Marilyn are really old and don’t like the cold weather so we won’t see them much until spring.  That’s why it was extra special to see Marilyn yesterday. 

It was so difficult to do everyday things wearing that stupid collar...  I didn't have to wear a collar all year so I could concentrate on more important things...

It sure has been a great year with steak, plenty of walks, and lots of beef stick treats, Daisy!  That’s very true Baxter, but don’t forget we had some difficulties along the way this year.  That’s right! I had to get my teeth cleaned and I accidentally bit Hank on the leg when I was trying to protect him from the crazy looking husky that got loose by the Depot liquor store.  I had some cosmetic surgery this year. I had a big wart under my chin removed and while I was at it I decided to have some skin tags removed.  Don’t you want to tell everyone where your skin tags were, Daisy?  Not especially. I had stitches and had to wear a collar for two whole weeks in the summer. It was so uncomfortable but I made the sacrifice for all my fans who want me to look as good as possible.  The skin tags were on your rear end. The vet had to shave your behind…hee…hee…hee. You sure looked funny.  Well thanks for sharing Baxter! As long as we’re sharing let’s be sure to mention that you bit Hank on the back of his leg while you were cowering behind him, not protecting him.  WAS NOT!  WAS TOO!  WAS NOT! I was trying to bite the husky and Hank got in the way.  OK. Baxter. Have it your way…sigh 

There was one thing we didn’t get for our birthday that I really wanted, Baxter.  What’s that Daisy?  I wanted to see more recognition for dogs in general and beagles in particular. I hardly ever see any dogs on television when Hank watches his shows.  What about the German Shepard on The Last Ship, Daisy?  He is a fine specimen but the German Shepard on Fear The Walking Dead didn’t make it past episode two and the only dogs on The Walking Dead were shot by Sasha!  And then Rick and the rest of the crew cooked the dogs and ate them! YUCK! 

Maybe if dogs had a better profile Harry the cockatiel would stop making fun of us.  Why is Harry making fun of us Baxter?  Harry says that there aren’t any professional baseball or football or basketball teams named after dogs but there are tons named after birds like the Falcons, Seahawks, Blue Jays, Hawks, Orioles.  I did hear him chattering about the Pelicans, Ravens, Eagles, and Cardinals but I didn’t know he was making fun of us. I wonder why there aren’t any pro sports teams named after dogs. There are plenty of college teams that are named after dogs but they're all Bulldogs for some reason.  It’s really kind of embarrassing. Even fish have sports teams named after them like the Dolphins!  Well Baxter I know what I want for my next birthday!  What’s that Daisy?  There’s a football team in Washington that has to change their name because it’s so offensive.  You mean the Redskins? I thought they were named after red skin potatoes. I love red skin potatoes! YUM!!  No Baxter, they aren’t named after red skin potatoes. For our next birthday I want to name the Redskins the Washington Beagles!  Then I know what I want for my present, Daisy!  What’s that?  I want Direct TV’s NFL package so I can watch the Washington Beagles play.  That’s a great present, Baxter. Then Hank can watch the games with us and we can share his snacks like pretzels and chips and salsa!  Oh Boy! I love pretzels and chips and salsa! YUM!! 

Wait 'till next year...  Can we get a picture of pretzels or chips in here? YUM!!