Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Nathan's Pac-12 Rankings Week 5

 They’re back!!  Yes, apologies for not posting any rankings for Week 4.  What can I say, I got busy.  What are you gonna do?  That’s the nice thing about starting a blog where you are mainly accountable to yourself and your tiny/non-existent group of readers!

 WOW!  I certainly didn't expect that my Wildcats would crap the bed against UCLA!  Not sure what to say, except they really didn't play well that night.  Congrats to UCLA for the great win!  They then followed up in their reign of dominance with a strong showing at ASU... Oh, wait, that's right...  They followed up by completely getting out-played at ASU.  Crazy week in the Pac-12!

Props to Oregon for finding a way to avoid a letdown so far.  They managed to beat Washington, the toughest opponent that they have left on their mild schedule, so things are looking good for them if they stay focused.  It seems that with the unbalanced schedule, there is little chance that Arizona, UCLA or ASU can catch them for the regular season title.

  1. Oregon (7-0,18-2, 2) Oregon heads to Stanford and Cal this week.  Teams that they should beat, based on how they've been playing, but the road in conference play is a treacherous place!  Will the Ducks show (again) that they have what it takes to avoid the upset?
  2. UCLA (6-2,16-5, 1) With only the cross-town game with USC on their schedule, this is a good week for Travis Wear to get some rest.  Let’s hope that the rumors of Shabazz getting the flu are exaggerated.
  3. Arizona (5-2,17-2, 3) The Wildcats continue to be ranked in the top 10, but it won’t last long if they don’t play with consistent energy during their trip to Washington.
  4. Arizona State (5-2, 16-4, 4) Big win for ASU over the Bruins, but that will seem far away if they don’t follow that up with some road victories in Washington.  I actually am starting to believe in this Sun Devils team, but a couple losses on the road would not help.
  5. Colorado (4-4, 14-6, 6) Colorado seems to have righted the ship.  They are finally back to .500 in conference play, and a win over rival Utah on Saturday can get them back in the conference race.
  6. Washington (4-3, 12-8, 5) - Washington couldn't pull off the win over Oregon, and have now lost 3 straight conference games.  The bad news is that they still have to play the Arizona schools twice this season.  At least this week they get a crack at them at home.  A split would be a good week for Washington.
  7. California (3-4, 11-8, 8) The Golden Bears have been a quintessential middling Pac-12 team so far this year.  They have talent at the guards, and occasional strong play up front, but can’t seem to put it together against stronger opponents.
  8. Stanford (3-4, 12-8, 9) I haven’t really watched Stanford, so I’ll just say that their domination of Utah on the road was impressive.  Not many teams score over 80 points against the Utes!
  9. USC (3-5, 8-13, 7) Southern Cal hasn't really impressed since the firing of Kevin O'Neill, so the verdict is still out on a mid-season coaching change.  I’m still convinced that there is more to the story on why they fired O'Neill mid-season as opposed to waiting until the end of the year.
  10. Washington State (2-5, 11-9, 10) Wazzu hung on for their first conference road win last week at Oregon State.  Let’s see if they can surprise either of the Arizona schools at home this week.
  11. Oregon State (1-6, 11-9, 11) The Beavers got a nice win over Washington, but then followed that up with a loss to lowly Washington State.  The road trip at Stanford and Cal doesn't look very inviting.
  12. Utah (1-7, 9-11, 12) The Utes returned to form last week after their surprising first win at Washington.  A victory over Colorado this week would be a big step forward for the program.

Picks for Wednesday and Thursday games:
Wednesday:  USC @ UCLA, Oregon @ Stanford.
Thursday:  Arizona @ Washington, Arizona State @ Washington State, Oregon State @ Cal

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Pac-12 Power Rankings (week 3)

A bit of a shake-up in the rankings after 2 weeks of full Pac-12 play!  Oregon and UCLA remain unbeaten, and Colorado appears to be on the ropes after such a great non-conference season.  I think the loss to Arizona has eroded their confidence, and they still need to find a way to get their mojo back!  Check out the Bill Walton Pac-12 Campus Tour, coming to a Pac-12 school near you!  Walton Tour Blog
(Conference Record, Overall Record, Prior Week Ranking) - *all rankings are as if the season ended today

  1. UCLA (4-0, 14-3, 2)  The Bruins were impressive in their wins over Utah and Colorado on the road last week.  The team seems to be playing much better defense, and the offense wasn't really ever an issue.  The key will be the Saturday game against Oregon.  A win could cement as the favorite for the conference title, at least for now.  A date with Arizona looms on 1/24.
  2. Oregon (3-0, 14-2, 3) The Ducks took Arizona's best shot, and still came out on top.  They managed to overwhelm Arizona after granting them a 11-0 lead last Thursday.  Then they took care of business (barely) against a game ASU squad on Sunday.  If the Ducks can win at UCLA on Saturday, they will be the kings of the Pac-12 (for the time being).  Be careful with that USC game on Thursday! 
  3. Arizona (3-1, 15-1, 1) The Wildcats loss at Oregon last Thursday night gave all the haters a chance to pile on after all of the last minute escapes by Arizona in previous games.  They were undefeated, but honestly not playing as well as early in the season.  I think the win on Saturday over Oregon State showed more of the potential of this squad, and I expect them to play better going forward after the "wake-up" loss.  Big rivalry game on Saturday at the Sun Devils.  Should be a great atmosphere in Tempe.
  4. Arizona State (3-1, 14-3, 5) ASU got the split that they needed on the Oregon road trip to stay relevant in the conference title chase.  They really had Oregon on the ropes, but couldn't quite seal the deal in Eugene.  BIG game this Saturday hosting the hated Wildcats!  If Arizona State could pull out a victory, that would be a huge boost for the program.  They have beaten Arizona before in recent years, but mainly when they were already out of the title chase.  Let's see if they can get it done with some actual expectations rising for this young team.
  5. Washington (4-0, 12-5, 7) A case could be made for Washington to be higher here, but their 2 road wins, while impressive, were not over the other top tier teams in the conference.  I reserve judgment until they play a tougher opponent on the road.  They looked like the hungrier and tougher team last night against Colorado, and they should take care of business against Utah to go to 5-0 in conference play.  Next week's trip to the Oregon Trail will tell us a lot more about this Huskies team.
  6. Colorado (1-4, 11-6, 4) I know, I know.  Colorado hasn't won any of their big conference games (yet).  I think they've had the hardest schedule to date, and I still believe that this team is too talented and will eventually right the ship.  They gave a decent effort against Washington, but combined with some really bad refereeing, they never really had a chance.  I look for them to get their first road win at Washington State on Saturday, and will look for improved play going forward.
  7. USC (2-2, 7-10, 9)  USC fired Kevin O'Neil earlier this week, and it couldn't have come soon enough (imho)!  O'Neil was an abrasive guy by nature, and he lacked the ability to implement an effective offense.  With USC averaging under 4000 fans per home game at the new Galen Center, they needed to go in a new direction.  USC actually looked strong in their excellent road win over Utah.  I think they even scored in the 70s!!!  Let's hope that the team can rally around their interim coach, and continue to play hard in conference play.
  8. California (2-2, 10-6, 6) Cal has been a bit of a mystery to me all year.  They have easily the most explosive back court pairing, yet they continue to lose games against their tougher opponents, even at home.  Playing on Saturday at Stanford will be a tough rivalry game.  If Cal can get a win, I think they might be able to build up some momentum.  
  9. Stanford and Washington State (tie) (1-3, 10-7, 10-11) I can't seem to separate these two teams, so we are going to keep them as a tie.  Both teams are 1-3 in conference, have talent, but are struggling to close out games.  Wazzu got their first conference win against winless Utah, and Stanford's only win was at home against Wazzu.  I'll call it a draw so far...
  10. Oregon State (0-3, 10-6, 8)  Oregon State has been struggling.  They lost their leading big guy/glue guy/rebounder, and it shows.  Tough games on the road against UCLA and USC present themselves this week.
  11. Utah (0-5, 8-9) I don't see Utah getting off the shnide @ Washington on Saturday, but maybe next week when Stanford and Cal come calling.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Weigh-In Wednesday: Good news

Quick post today.  I am pleased to say that i weighed in this morning with good results.

I was 305.8 last week, and 303.4 today.  So down 2.4 pounds!

I am very happy.  I was even lower on Sunday morning, but things change so often. lol

I decided to only provide weekly updates, so that I don't fixate on daily numbers.

Me on the scale, upside down.  sort of...

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Not So Manic Monday

I think the best news from this weekend was when I stepped on the scale on Sunday morning, but I am restricting my updates to my weight to weekly, so tune in on Wednesday to find out how I am doing! (I'm such a tease!)

I had a really great weekend.  My goals were to walk/hike/bike on both Saturday and Sunday, and I am proud to say that I met my goals, and that I am able to hike again now!  (...for the first time since the hernia surgery.)

On Saturay, I hiked 4.5 Miles out at Swallow Cliffs Woods.  It was a really chilly day, high in the low 40's, and overcast, but I got out there and walked with Sam.  We ended up having a great time!

Swallow Cliffs Woods is a forest preserve area southwest of Chicago that I like to visit.  It is a popular place to walk/hike and, believe it or not, walk "the stairs".  The main attraction is apparently the large stone brick staircase that leads up from the parking lot.  Many visitors spend their entire time going up an down the stairs.  It is great exercise, but really hard on your knees!  I don't know how people do it, to be honest.   

I hiked part of the "Yellow" trail loop.  If you take the whole thing, it is 8.5 miles, but I did about half of it, which was plenty for me right now.  I am still pretty out of shape, since I haven't been able to exercise much since the hernia surgery in September.

While I was there, I ran into horseback riders, joggers, dog walkers like me, and of course walkers and stair climbers!  It was a busy day, considering the weather wasn't that great.  I think Chicagoans are sort of immune to the weather as long as it isn't raining or snowing.  lol

Stay tuned on Wednesday for my weigh-in.  I am guaranteeing a decent number!  book it!

Sam in his Car Seat on the way to the Hike: 

The map of Swallow Cliffs Woods area.  I did the half of the Yellow loop to the right:

Me and Sam on the trail:
(Yes, those are circa 1997 Seattle Sonics warmup pants!)

Sam, eyeing a croissant sandwich:

A girl on a beautiful horse:
(Apparently the hat with ears is called a Spirit Hat, and all the kids were wearing them that day...)

View of "The Stairs" from the top:

The view from the bottom.  (Exhausting, right?):

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Restart attempt number 9?

Here I go again.  On my own...

OK, ok, sorry to quote some bad 80's music.  I just wanted to explain that I am trying to get my blog back up and running.  I am actually doing a blog for work, related to a weight-loss challenge.  So I am going to try to post stuff from there, over here on blogger, or vice versa.  Not sure yet...

Anywho...  Stay tuned for my re-restart/reboot/revamp/redo of my blog.

Dog drools over croissant sandwich.
Sure to include lots of cute puppy-like* pictures, so there is at least that...  (* he is actually 9 yo, but looks like a puppy.)


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Why public transportation isn't a viable option for many

Yesterday, I did something that I hadn't done in a while.  I attempted to go to the office in Hoffman Estates via public transportation.

I happen to live in the city of Chicago, and Hoffman Estates is approximately 25 miles from my house.  I decided to start my journey on my bike, so I left at around 7AM, and headed out towards Hoffman.
There aren't really any good biking routes in this direction (NW), so you pretty much have to ride on busy streets, and hope that the cars notice you and don't hit you.  I have a very bright rear light that flashes and rotates, etc.  So I felt fairly confident that cars would see me, and hopefully move over in the lane.  Thankfully this proved to be true, and I made it about 10 miles on the bike until it started to rain.

At that point, I decided to try to catch a train to Barrington, which is the closest spot to Hoffman Estates, and bike from there.  So I headed to the nearest train station in Park Ridge.  Thankfully, since it was after what is considered rush hour, the Metra was able to accommodate my bike on the train.

I caught the Metra in Park Ridge, and settled in for the ride to Barrington.  Then I remembered that I might be out of cash...  (doh!).  Yep, out of cash.  So now I was on the Metra, but had no money to pay for the fare, since Metra doesn't take any form of payment on the trains except cash.  I talked to the conductor, and he assured me that my only option was to get off the train at the next stop and buy a ticket.  Sadly, by getting off, then next train wouldn't be heading to Barrington for approximately 90 minutes, so waiting for the next train wasn't a very good option.  (In retrospect, it probably would have been my smartest option, since I ended up wearing myself out biking the rest of the way to Hoffman (another 15 miles, mainly uphill, in heavy traffic, in the rain, with a heavy bag in tow with my laptop and clothes for work).)

I eventually biked the rest of the way to Hoffman, and managed to even get a few hours of work in.  I had a 4:00 meeting with my Director, but when a preceding call went over by an hour, our meeting got bumped.  I was prepared to wait it out until she was available, but then I looked at the train schedule to get back to the city.  It turned out that if I didn't make it for the 6:18 pm train, then there wasn't another train for 2 hours.

So I gave up on the meeting and got back on my bike to head to the train in Barrington.  I hadn't biked this route before, but it was a straight shot (about 5 miles) up Barrington Road.  How bad could it be?

Well, it turns out that riding Barrington road in the dark is a very perilous idea.  I had a very visible tail light, but the road was so narrow (and the speed limit was 55mph in some places), that I spent most of the ride praying that nobody would hit me.  There was no shoulder, and no bike lane, so the impression I got from the drivers that honked at me was that I was intruding on their road.  (I guess these suburban drivers were'nt fans of sharing the road with bikes, not sure.)

The rest of my trip went fairly smoothly.  I caught the train to Jefferson Park, and then I caught the 81 Lawrence bus all the way back to Marine Dr, and easily peddled home.  (I had caught the 6:01 train from  Barrington, and then made it home by 7:30, which is definitely faster than trying to drive home from Hoffman Estates due to the congestion on the Kennedy Expressway.)

The problem was that I was completely exhausted, and had only managed to do about 5 hours of work, in what needed to be an 8 hour day.  Would I bike to Hoffman again?  Maybe.  But only if I could take half the day off.  And sadly, that isn't a very convenient option.