December 31, 2013

2013 NFL Power Rankings, Week 17 (SEASON FINALE)

At last, the regular season is over.  This weekend (Saturday & Sunday) is Wild Card weekend, where the top seeds in each conference take a much-needed rest while the other teams battle it out to decide who's going where next week.

It's exciting stuff, but it hardly ever goes the way I want it to.

So, what about the 2013 season?  I didn't really plan out anything, so I don't have "Red's NFL Awards" or some nonsense like that.  That's actually not a bad idea, even if just a blogger nobody really knows (or, God forbid, reads).

At any rate, let's move past my own self-serving nature.

In 2013, Denver was the "most powerful" team, ranking in the top 5 every week I posted a set of Rankings (to wit, I missed Week 7 because I was on vacation).  Seattle was a close second with 14 of a possible 16 weeks in the top 5.  New Orleans and New England weren't too bad either: they were in the top 5 12 out of 16 weeks.  Does this really mean anything for the playoffs? No, not particularly.  It just means they were good in the regular season, especially in Denver's case.  That, and despite the number of teams that finished with 10 or more wins, there were never enough of them at any one time to get Denver out of the top 5, which is quirky if nothing else.

I think the only problem I had with the final week was that Pittsburgh didn't make it into the playoffs.  It was looking good for them up until the 4th quarter of the Chiefs/Chargers game.  Technically, it was looking good for 59:52.  Then in the last 8 seconds, Ryan Succop missed a field goal slightly to the right and the Chargers eventually won in OT.  Chargers are in, Steelers are out.  If it were Pittsburgh going to Cincinnati, I'd bet the house on them. Since it's San Diego (and we have no idea if they can force 4 INT's out of Dalton or take advantage of such a situation if they do, unlike effing Baltimore), I wouldn't bet squat.

Also, the Cowboys finished 8-8 and Jason Garrett is apparently safe.  I'm not sure which of those is more disappointing.

Here are the Rankings for Week 17:

1.) Denver (13-3) [no change]
 They were pretty much the best team from the word "go", the Thursday night opening demolition of the Ravens.  Peyton Manning is the MVP, the only thing to figure out now is who's going to be a rebel and vote for someone else. Oh, and there's the whole playoff lack of success story that will be repeated ad nauseam until he gets another Super Bowl.

2.) Seattle (13-3) [no change]
 Without a doubt the best team in the NFC and damn near unbeatable at home.  Seattle's success is a bit surprising to me, at least, because they have a throwback offense (literally, since they hardly throw the ball downfield and are content to run it with Marshawn Lynch ad infinitum) and attempt to win with defense in a time when neither one ought to work.  Somehow, it does work, and the Seahawks are tied for the best record in the NFL.

3.) Carolina (12-4) [no change]
 Probably the most surprising of the teams in this top 10.  When they started 1-3, I had no expectation of them doing anything good, especially finishing 12-4 and making the playoffs.  They also won the NFC South over the Saints (more on that below).

4.) San Francisco (12-4) [no change]
 Credit is due to Jim Harbaugh, who took a team to a Super Bowl earlier this year and then got them back into the playoffs.  Hard to believe, especially when one considers just how limited that offense is.  Their defense is for real, but Kaepernick can barely throw the ball most days.  The running game is fairly strong, I suppose.  It doesn't interest me, and San Francisco moving on is not something I look forward to.

5.) New England (12-4) [no change]
 Tom Brady had a "bad" year according to most metrics, yet the Pats are 12-4, won their division (again), and get a first-round bye.  Pretty impressive stuff considering the player movement prior to the season and the eventual loss of Rob Gronkowski.  Are they going to win the Super Bowl?  Probably not, but it's not like I expect them to lose to anyone other than Denver, either.

6.) Indianapolis (11-5) [+2]
 Some expected a bit of a step back from the Colts in Luck's second year.  I was not one of those people.  In fact, I wondered aloud just what would prevent them from winning the AFC South.  The answer is nothing, because none of the other three teams put up anything resembling a fight.  I guess Tennessee is the closest, but that's not saying much.  They also get a rematch with the Chiefs in the first round, which should mean another win, but like I said above, these things hardly ever work out how I want them to.

7.) New Orleans (11-5) [+2]
 I expected more from the Saints, really.  To finish 11-5 and second in their division is pretty disappointing to me.  They whupped Carolina at home (as expected), but their road performances were all sorts of terrible.  They didn't show up at Seattle and played poorly in Jersey, St. Louis, Carolina, and Tampa (yet somehow won that one due to typically moronic Bucs nonsense).  It's hard to believe they actually went to Chicago and won, but that did happen. I don't know what to think of the Saints now.  They're stuck with the 6th seed and given how they've played on the road lately, their chances of advancement have to be in the 0-10% range.  This is particularly galling because Drew Brees is one of the few bonafide elite QB's in the game today, he's got weapons galore, a decent if unspectacular running game, and a defense that is opportunistic and quite good.  So basically, I'm throwing my hands up and walking away.

8.) Kansas City (11-5) [+2]
 A meaningless game (for them) results in the Chargers making the playoffs. The fall is more cosmetic than anything.

9.) Cincinnati (11-5) [-]
 I had to let the Bengals back in thanks to them winning the AFC North and being flat-out better record-wise than Green Bay or San Diego.  That said, I don't expect much out of this team, unless you count INT's and general buffoonery.  And an inevitable loss in either the Wild Card or Divisional Round.

10.) Philadelphia (10-6) [no change]
 Philly won the NFC East by beating Dallas in Jerryworld.  As expected, they took advantage of a late turnover to seal it.  At least this time it was Orton and not Romo.  I guess that's something.  At any rate, Philly might actually be dangerous.  I don't expect them to go into Seattle and win, necessarily, but I think they'd make a game of it since they can actually play offense (unlike Carolina or San Francisco).  However, their defense is not great. Actually, it's probably not even "good".  I don't think that's a problem if they're putting up 40 or more.  But can they put up 40 or more against the defenses they could potentially face?

That's all for this season.  I'm always unsure as to how I'll cover the playoffs, or if there's actually a point to it.  That said, if I do post anything, it'll be here on NHC, likely after all the games have been played next week.

December 25, 2013

Christmas

Merry Christmas to everyone here and abroad.

Not only has NHC reached 3000 total views, but December is the third month in a row with over 500 views.  I wasn't sure anyone would actually read this blog when I started.  I had no expectation of anything, really.  So to be at this point in just a few months feels quite nice.  It's been a success as far as I'm concerned.

My thanks go out to everyone who has viewed the blog since June, the people who commented on various threads, Metal Bandcamp (without which the seed for NHC would not have been planted), and all the people who follow me on Twitter.

Thank you, everyone.  Enjoy your holiday.

Bleach 563 - Superstar Never Die

It's Christmas and there's a new Bleach chapter out!  What are the odds?

Spoilers after the cut.


December 24, 2013

2013 NFL Power Rankings, Week 16

I guess it's now a given that unforeseen crap will occur in any given week. This week it was the supposed favorite losing at home for the first time in what seems like a millennium.  That's right, Seattle went down and it was one of the ugliest games I've seen this year.  Actually, I didn't even see that much of it because the Red Zone channel was covering other games.  At any rate, it's not like the Rankings are totally screwed up, but there was a lot more movement than there should have been.

Probably.

The playoff picture has just about shaken out, but there are a couple of teams that can clinch in the final week.  Obviously, the ones people will be looking at the most are Philly and Dallas, as they play each other Sunday night with the division on the line.  It's been crap for most of the year, but both teams appear to have rounded into form somewhat.  That said, even though my team won (barely), I think Philly looks better.  It doesn't hurt to put up 50, that's for sure.

I'm undecided as to what I'll do as far as the playoffs are concerned.  Power Rankings are pretty useless once the regular season is over, but I should probably write something about the games either as they occur or after they're all finished.  We'll see how it goes; the playoffs are a different animal and one that usually annoys me more than any given week of the regular season.

My picks are usually worse.  That said, I did get 10 right in Week 16.  So I'm finally not being total shit.  Yippie.

Here are the Rankings for Week 16:

1.) Denver (12-3) [+1]
 Peyton & co. regain the top spot with a record-breaking performance and a galling loss by Seattle.  Losing Von Miller to a knee injury hurts an already compromised defense.  We'll see how that affects them in the playoffs.

2.) Seattle (12-3) [-1]
 Really, an inexcusable loss, even considering that Arizona is a division rival. The Seahawks intercepted Palmer FOUR times and still couldn't get points on the board.  I find Seattle's offense to be incredibly boring, much like San Francisco's.  I don't know why they insist on running the ball as much as they do (or how it's so successful in a time when passing is supposedly the better option), but it's really galling to see them pile up so many wins only to disappoint here at the end.

3.) Carolina (11-4) [+1]
 Is Cam Newton clutch?  Not really.  He got a lucky break, again.  Still, it looks like they're a serious contender since they can play defense (despite it being legislated out of the league) and Newton can kinda throw, sometimes.

4.) San Francisco (11-4) [+1]
 NaVorro Bowman was the hero last night.  Somehow, when SF lined up on defense for that play, I felt that something good was going to happen for them.  What do you know, they get the right bounce and Bowman takes an INT 89 yards to the end zone.  That seals up the game and San Francisco is looking a lot better today.

5.) New England (11-4) [+1]
 Just when you think they're due to stumble (again), Brady and Belichick say "not so fast".  A pretty incredible win.

6.) Kansas City (11-4) [-3]
 I haven't lost faith in KC.  Then again, I didn't have that much to begin with.

7.) Arizona (10-5) [+1]
 I still don't think Arizona is a contender.

8.) Indianapolis (10-5) [+1]
 A surprising win for the Colts.  I hardly expected them to beat KC (though I did pick it, so there's that).

9.) New Orleans (10-5) [-2]
 Another disappointing performance on the road leads to another loss. The Saints were looking like one of the great teams, and then they went to Seattle, St. Louis, and Carolina...and went 0-3.  Utterly ridiculous.  I think they'll win against Tampa in the final week, if only because they're at home.  Then again, Tampa played them tough....

10.) Philadelphia (9-6) [no change]
 Six losses ensure that Philly stays where it is, despite the very impressive 50+ point performance.  Let's face it, it's their matchup with Dallas that everyone cares about.  The rest was merely a lead-in.  Funny how things turn out, especially in a league where every game supposedly matters more than any individual game in any other league.

Three Games to Watch (Week 17):
Green Bay @ Chicago (FOX)
San Francisco @ Arizona (FOX)
Philadelphia @ Dallas (NBC)

That's all for this week.  See you next week.

December 18, 2013

Bleach 562 - The Villain 2

The newest Bleach chapter is out.  So let's talk about it!

Spoilers after the cut.

December 17, 2013

2013 NFL Power Rankings, Week 15

I'm guessing that if there was a result you didn't want in Week 15...things didn't go your way.

Another crapshoot with the picks.  But that's what happens when a bunch of games go bonkers.  So-called contenders went down left and right and pretenders were exposed (I'm looking at you, Dallas).  It was rough all the way around, really.

Here's hoping for better in Week 16, but if the last few weeks have taught me anything, it's that crazy shit is in and predictability is long gone.

Here are the Rankings for Week 15:

1.) Seattle (12-2) [+1]
 Given that they were playing a bad team on the road, it'd be (somewhat) excusable for Seattle to win with a bit of trouble.  Instead, they dominated. Color me surprised.

2.) Denver (11-3) [-1]
 The #1 seed in the AFC went out on Thursday and got beat.  Truly pathetic, especially considering who they lost to.

3.) Kansas City (11-3) [+2]
 Meanwhile, their main competition in the AFC West went out and blew the doors off of Oakland, putting up 56.  That's the highest number of points scored in a single game this season.  Alas, KC's defense gave up 31, so it wasn't quite the runaway the "blew the doors off of Oakland" makes it sound like.

4.) Carolina (10-4) [+2]
 Just when you think New Orleans has the NFC South locked up...they have another inexcusable road loss and Carolina handles a bad team at home. Pathetic.

5.) San Francisco (10-4) [+2]
 A solid, if unspectacular, road win.  But let's face it, they weren't going to look more impressive than Seattle this week.

6.) New England (10-4) [-3]
 Disappointing.

7.) New Orleans (10-4) [-3]
 More disappointing.

8.) Arizona (9-5) [+1]
 Surprisingly, the Cardinals remain in the conversation.  How this is possible, I have no clue.  They're still on the outside looking in since the NFC's wild card teams are quite burly, but they still have a chance.  It's more than I thought I'd say after 15 weeks.

9.) Indianapolis (9-5) [+1]
 Domination.  That is what you do when a division rival comes to your place. You let them have a field goal (maybe) and then proceed to outplay them in every phase of the game.

10.) Philadelphia (8-6) [-2]
 If I expected anything out of the Eagles (aside from disappointment, I suppose), I'd be really disappointed.  I didn't foresee them losing on the road to Minnesota, but at the same time, I'm not terribly surprised that it happened.  Now if only Dallas hadn't failed to capitalize on it....

Three Games to Watch (Week 16):
New Orleans @ Carolina (FOX)
Indianapolis @ Kansas City (CBS)
New England @ Baltimore (CBS)

That's all for this week.  See you next week.

December 11, 2013

Bleach 561 - The Villain

The newest Bleach chapter is out.  So let's talk about it!

Spoilers after the cut.

December 10, 2013

2013 NFL Power Rankings, Week 14

A bit of a weird week, especially early on Sunday.  To be honest, I didn't care for it much.  Still, the playoff picture is starting to shake out a bit, especially since six teams have already been eliminated in the NFC.  That makes it a lot easier to determine who has a shot, obviously.  The AFC remains a mess of mediocrity with a scant few good teams at the top.

But it's not like anyone is perfect.  Everybody has flaws and the weather will surely expose them now that it's getting colder across the country.

The interesting results meant that my picks were pretty disastrous.  I ended up 8-8 straight up after the Cowboys' Monday night debacle.  It's pathetic, really.

Here are the Rankings for Week 14:

1.) Denver (11-2) [+1]
 Back at #1, but for how long?  I'm hoping the next three weeks, at least. Then when the playoffs start, everyone is back to square one.  Well, everyone who makes the playoffs, that is.  Peyton Manning slightly allayed concern about his cold weather performance.  Of course, it doesn't really matter now as much as it will next month.

2.) Seattle (11-2) [-1]
 The darlings of the NFC were bound to slip up on the road again, apparently. I wish someone would have told me in advance.  Seriously, it's a really good thing for them to have all but sealed up home-field advantage.  If they can't beat a team with no offense just because they're playing on the road, that is troublesome.

3.) New England (10-3) [+1]
 Speaking of troublesome, the Pats now have to regroup without Gronkowski, again.  I can't say I'm terribly confident about their chances.  Sure, they'll win their division and likely get a first-round bye, but what happens after that? Most likely a tough loss.  If anyone can prevent them from getting into a funk, it's Tom Brady.  That said, his weapons seem far less imposing, especially without Gronk.

4.) New Orleans (10-3) [+1]
 What better way to rebound from a terrible loss than to put it to a division rival?  New Orleans fairly well dominated Carolina and look like they'll take the NFC South and if they're lucky, a first-round bye.  I wouldn't want to play them in New Orleans, though they seem to be fair game anywhere else.

5.) Kansas City (10-3) [+1]
 They put a drubbing on Washington.  Still, it looks like the fifth seed or bust.

6.) Carolina (9-4) [-3]
 I wonder if that ball control stuff will work in the playoffs.  Maybe if they're not playing Seattle or New Orleans.  Otherwise, I don't particularly like the Panthers' chances.

7.) San Francisco (9-4) [no change]
 The offense is sickening, even with the overhyped return of Crabtree.  But at least they showed up this time.

8.) Philadelphia (8-5) [-]
 Trading out one NFC East team for another.  But let's be honest here: that race won't be well and truly finalized until the last week of the season. Unless Dallas continues to bumble their way to bad losses, Philly will still have to beat them in Dallas to secure the division.  Who'd have thought that the winner would have a >.500 record?  It's gonna happen.

9.) Arizona (8-5) [+1]
 I thought the Rams would give them more of a fight.  Oops.  So now the Rams are eliminated and the Cardinals still have a shot, amazingly.  I don't think anyone expected them to be the dark horse in the NFC West.

10.) Indianapolis (8-5) [-2]
 Despite winning the AFC South, the Colts hardly look like a threat to anyone. I didn't think they'd miss Reggie Wayne quite so much.  I mean, it's one thing to not perform as well when missing a star player (which Wayne clearly is), but it's quite another to look as badly as the Colts have looked over the last few weeks.  I hope they can right the ship, but I wouldn't put money on it.

Three Games to Watch (Week 15):
New Orleans @ St. Louis (FOX)
Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh (NBC)
Baltimore @ Detroit (ESPN)

That's all for this week.  See you next week.

December 4, 2013

Bleach 560 - Rages at Ringside

The newest Bleach chapter is out.  So let's talk about it!

Spoilers after the cut.

December 3, 2013

2013 NFL Power Rankings, Week 13

It stinks.

Well, maybe "stink" is the wrong word for it.  At any rate, things are not so rosy at the moment, though the Rankings seem pretty strong.

I'm disappointed in New Orleans' complete and utter lack of effort.  They weren't in that game from the opening whistle.  Also, I believe I called it about Arizona not being a contender.  So how do I explain Cincinnati and Carolina?  I mostly throw my hands into the air and walk away sulking.

I still have no clue how Pittsburgh managed to give away that game on Thanksgiving.  And as far as the supposed story with Tomlin goes: nothing happened.  He didn't touch Jacoby Jones or the side judge who was following the play.  Nothing should happen to him as a result, especially this ridiculous nonsense about draft picks.  That said, the NFL will probably fine him.  I don't think it's deserved, but as you probably already know...I wasn't consulted.

Here are the Rankings for Week 13:

1.) Seattle (11-1) [no change]
 A nice win, I guess, but it's rather obvious that the Saints can be had on the road.  I still have a problem trusting Seattle on the road, as they are much closer to mediocre than great outside of whatever they call that architectural marvel.  They put teams away at home, though.  And that will serve them well as they run off to the Super Bowl.

2.) Denver (10-2) [+1]
 It's probably just me, but with Peyton Manning's performances the last couple weeks, I could see someone else sneak into winning the MVP.  True, he tossed four TD's to Eric Decker (he who couldn't catch a cold through most of the season), but the sharpness we were accustomed to seeing through the first half of the season is starting to wear off.  It's nothing huge, really, unless his current play continues into the postseason.  But with a first-round bye and a home game to follow, they have no excuses anyway.

3.) Carolina (9-3) [+2]
 I've been wrong on this team so far.  And now they go to New Orleans; the winner is the favorite to win the division...until the next meeting.

4.) New England (9-3) [+2]
 I love how beating a crappy team could somehow be turned into accusations of cheating.  Incredible.

5.) New Orleans (9-3) [-3]
 A tough road to hoe, perhaps, especially with Carolina coming up.  But Drew Brees was bad from beginning to end and they never looked like they were in the game.  A concern.

6.) Kansas City (9-3) [-2]
 The darlings of the first half of the season have fallen on hard times, losing twice to Denver and once to no-account bums San Diego.  Even with Alex Smith playing slightly better (he still doesn't throw it down the field enough for my taste, but no matter) and putting up points, all of a sudden the defense is sagging.  Talk about yards all you want, it's scoring defense that really matters.  The Chiefs are now hemorrhaging points and can't get pressure on the opposing QB.  Not a good combo.

7.) San Francisco (8-4) [no change]
 They won and Crabtree is back.  Yippie.  Now do us all a favor and beat Seattle, okay?  Or at least try to compete this time around.

8.) Indianapolis (8-4) [+1]
 The Colts have to be concerned.  By all accounts, they're an shoe-in for the playoffs, but boy, do they look confused.  I'm not sure how Andrew Luck will do in the postseason.  Maybe it doesn't matter.  But right now it looks like one win in the Wild Card round and then out to a significantly better team in Denver or New England.  Ouch.

9.) Dallas (7-5) [+1]
 November has ended and December begun, which usually doesn't bode well for the Cowboys.  The division is eminently winnable.  How they'll do in the playoffs is anyone's guess.  Assuming they get there.

10.) Arizona (7-5) [-2]
 "Dude, I called it".

Three Games to Watch (Week 14):
Indianapolis @ Cincinnati (CBS)
Seattle @ San Francisco (FOX)
Carolina @ New Orleans (NBC)

That's all for this week.  See you next week.

November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone here and abroad.  Even if you don't celebrate the holiday (and to be honest, I don't really "celebrate" it in any special way other than stuffing my face full of ham, stuffing, and pie), surely you can find something to be thankful for.

And if you can't, well, that's cool too.

What am I thankful for?  Primarily, good health, sports, and metal.

It's been a difficult year, as I've alluded to previously.  But ever since I got back from Vegas, things have been going well.  I look forward to seeing what 2014 brings (though I can't say I'm looking forward to turning 30).

That said, there are still things to do in 2013.  Here at NHC, since I attempt to cover metal (not that well during football season, obviously), that means putting out my Best of 2013 lists for albums and EP's.  This is simultaneously my favorite and least favorite part of the year, as far as music is concerned. It's my favorite because I like highlighting what I think is great music.  It's my least favorite because reading other peoples' lists usually makes me want to yell at them about how wrong they are.  2013 wasn't a good year for metal, especially in comparison to the last couple of years, so I think the great releases are obvious.  But with so much crap to sift through, I guess it's not terribly surprising if some people get ensnared.

That doesn't mean I won't judge, though!  Haha.

Well, it's the holiday season, so I can't be too harsh.

November 27, 2013

Bleach 559 - The Night Right

The newest Bleach chapter is out.  So let's talk about it!

Spoilers after the cut.

November 26, 2013

2013 NFL Power Rankings, Week 12

As I stated on Twitter, my picks this week were garbage.  As you can see from the Rankings this week, there were some changes as teams moved down and a couple of the winners made hay as a result.  Seattle was on a bye and managed to move up thanks to the ineptitude of the Denver Broncos late Sunday night.  That game was really quite ridiculous for just about all 60 minutes.

It looks like there will be a lot of good games this week.  That said, there are plenty of chances for teams in my top ten to fall on their faces.  I'm not a fan of that, per se, as I would hope that things would get more solidified with just a few weeks to go in the season.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  Enjoy the football on Thursday and Sunday.

Here are the Rankings for Week 12:

1.) Seattle (10-1) [+1]
 On a bye and moving on up.  This may not last more than a week; we shall see.

2.) New Orleans (9-2) [+2]
 Drew Brees wasn't great, but got the job done against Atlanta.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised because it was a division game.  Still, it's troubling when Brees is playing at home and can only put up 17 points when he put up 49 just a couple games before.

3.) Denver (9-2) [-2]
 A bad loss thanks to a muffed punt and a terrible performance from Peyton Manning, who looked like he didn't want to throw the ball and wasn't competent when he did.  Blegh.  I guess it's a plus that Knowshon Moreno ran through the Patriots' defense at will...but what did it get them, exactly?  The defense was a letdown and Manning's inability to throw the ball didn't help.

4.) Kansas City (9-2) [-1]
 It'll be problematic if Justin Houston and Tamba Hali miss more than a couple games between them.  But now all of a sudden it looks like the Chiefs might be able to throw the ball around a bit.  That bears watching, because if their offense gains any competency whatsoever, they have to be looked at differently.

5.) Carolina (8-3) [no change]
 And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I don't trust Carolina.  Props for the win, but good Lord, was that ugly.  It should not have been that difficult.

6.) New England (8-3) [+1]
 Tom Brady might have taken the first half off (again), but he rounded back into form rather quickly in the second.  Somehow, with that win he looks better than Peyton Manning, despite the fact that Peyton locked up the MVP in the first 8 or 9 weeks.

7.) San Francisco (7-4) [+2]
 It would be foolish to suddenly take Colin Kaepernick seriously based on Monday's game.  He has been a decent player thus far in around a year of starting NFL games.  But he's not revolutionizing the game as some *cough* Ron Jaworski *cough* claimed he would.  That may have something to do with his receivers.  I don't know for sure, I just go by what I see.  So far, aside from last night, what I've seen is a guy who isn't playing that well on the whole.  But he does have moments where it looks like he'll eventually turn into something great.  It's just that those moments are less frequent those of say, Russell Wilson or Andrew Luck.

8.) Arizona (7-4) [-]
 Not a contender, but they're looking good right now.

9.) Indianapolis (7-4) [-3]
 Speaking of Andrew Luck...whoa.  He might be taking a step back after losses in two of three.  At least with this guy, I know what the problem is: Reggie Wayne's absence.  That, and the running game is probably not where it needs to be.  I loathe the running game, but it looks like Luck needs some production out of it for him to be successful.

10.) Dallas (6-5) [-]
 I'm not sure about the tiebreaker situation.  At the very least, Dallas is tied for the lead in a crappy division.  So they're in for this week.  Yes, I'm biased.

Three Games to Watch (Week 13):
St. Louis @ San Francisco (FOX)
Denver @ Kansas City (CBS)
New Orleans @ Seattle (ESPN)

That's all for this week.  See you next week.

November 20, 2013

Bleach 558 - The Wolf's Heart

The newest Bleach chapter is out.  So let's talk about it!

Spoilers after the cut.

November 19, 2013

2013 NFL Power Rankings, Week 11

A somewhat disappointing ending to a decent week in the NFL.  The Monday night game has just finished as I write this; New England lost to Carolina after a potential penalty in the end zone was picked up.  The Pats had a horrific defensive lapse that allowed Carolina to score the game-winning TD. So that was disappointing.

Otherwise, things went much like I thought they would.  Although I'm a bit annoyed that Cincinnati isn't in full collapse mode as the Miami loss might have suggested.  Then again, despite them being 7-4, I refuse to include them in my top 10.  Call it bias or whatever else; they're not getting back in this season unless they really show me something.  Considering that they still have Dalton at QB...I'm not holding my breath.

Denver won a game it probably needed to have.  I don't think they're feeling a whole lot of trepidation about facing New England or playing KC in Arrowhead. KC doesn't have enough on offense to compete and their defense wasn't exactly successful in slowing down Manning.  The Pats are a question mark on offense and their defense can be had, even by a sub-par QB.

Seattle and New Orleans both look fairly sharp.  I was a bit concerned about how much trouble Drew Brees had with the 49ers defense.  And let's be honest, that last call against Brooks was a pure "let's defend the QB" thing by the refs.  I'm glad the Saints won, but it's not like it was all skill like the week before.  Seattle might actually be getting stronger offensively.  I guess having their O-line intact is important to them playing better.  Who knew?

Here are the Rankings for Week 11:

1.) Denver (9-1) [+1]
 Manning didn't get hit.  Not surprisingly, the Broncos won and made it look...not incredibly difficult.  They probably weren't at their best, necessarily, but given how the Chiefs offense is run, I'm not sure they had to be.

2.) Seattle (10-1) [+1]
 Let's all jump on the Percy Harvin bandwagon.  Nevermind, that's not my thing and it never will be.  Russell Wilson is turning into a player, but at the same time, he's not at the MVP level just yet.  Not when Manning and Brees are doing what they're doing week in and week out.

3.) Kansas City (9-1) [-2]
 Let's slow down with the "fraud" talk.  Everyone and their mother should have known this was going to happen.  Things may be different in Arrowhead, and if they are I'm sure people will then overreact to what they see there.  If it wasn't already abundantly clear, there is a ceiling to Alex Smith.

4.) New Orleans (8-2) [+1]
 It never hurts to be lucky.  And it never hurts to play against a team that makes dumb mistakes like running into a guy who called for a fair catch. Still, I thought the Saints played far too conservatively for a team who routinely performs so well at home.

5.) Carolina (7-3) [+1]
 Still not buying that they're a contender.  Getting lucky on a screen pass isn't the kind of thing that impresses me.

6.) Indianapolis (7-3) [+3]
 Playing last Thursday means the Colts are a bit lost in the shuffle as it were. They still look like they're among the better teams in the AFC.

7.) New England (7-3) [-3]
 Despite the record, this is a seriously flawed team.  20 points scored against a team that's not really that great, plus a lack of coverage on a screen pass. I'm not sure what to think and it's not like there have been a ton of games where Brady's been on and you think it's his year again.  This is definitely not one of those years.  But maybe something will happen in the playoffs.

8.) Detroit (6-4) [-1]
 Idiotic fake field goal call and no scoring in the second half leads to a loss to one of the worst teams in the league.  Pathetic.

9.) San Francisco (6-4) [-1]
 Kaepernick still can't throw and the offense is pedestrian as a result.  Not that I expected them to beat New Orleans in the Big Easy...but they did put in a game effort, at least.  Now if only people would shut up about Crabtree; he's not the Lord and Savior of this team, people.

10.) Chicago (6-4) [-]
 A rough win, but a win nonetheless.  Green Bay is falling off the face of the earth and Detroit looks like they can be had despite being so prolific offensively.  The Bears are making headway, but they have to win the division outright; they can't bet on tiebreakers saving them.  Cutler or McCown?  I'd stick with the hot hand until the petulant whiner is healthy.  Even still, Cutler's not a franchise QB and shouldn't be treated as such.  Nor should he be paid as such.

Three Games to Watch (Week 12):
Saints @ Falcons (NFL Network)
Colts @ Cardinals (CBS)
Broncos @ Patriots (NBC)

That's all for this week.  See you next week.

November 13, 2013

November 12, 2013

2013 NFL Power Rankings, Week 10

Another ugly week in the NFL as a couple of teams that were looking solid dropped games that they should have won.  I'm hard-pressed to explain what happened in Indianapolis.  People are looking at that one as an anomaly. Maybe that's the case, but without Reggie Wayne, one would have to assume that the Colts offense was going to take a hit at some point.  It wasn't going to be bread and circuses the rest of the season.

But to lose to St. Louis?  That's what I don't get.

Meanwhile, on the west coast, San Francisco is back to looking inept on offense.  When they can't run the ball effectively, they're toothless, because Colin Kaepernick is so inconsistent passing the ball.  He looked unable to do it against Carolina, and while they've got a strong front seven, their secondary hasn't been getting as many plaudits that I've seen.  On the other side, Cam Newton wasn't exactly a world-beater either.  They seemed lucky to get the one TD that was scored in the entire game.  I'm sure people in the NFL offices are throwing their hands up in disgust at that result.  After all, the rules weren't changed to ensure a passing league (not that anyone really takes advantage of it) to then have a mess like the one that played out in SF.

Thankfully, the New Orleans Saints were ready to throw the ball as many times as necessary until it was demonstrated that they no longer needed to do so.  It came at the expense of my Cowboys, but no matter.  I picked the Cowboys to win and was disappointed.  I figured that if Drew Brees didn't come out like a house on fire, the Cowboys would have a chance.  What do you know, Brees comes out a little shaky (but nothing like the crapfest that was the previous week's game against the Jets) and the Cowboys took a lead.

Then Brees had his turn.

It was 28-10 at halftime and anybody who was watching knew it was already over.  But what a display.  After watching so much crappy football through Week 10, it was nice to see Brees and his receivers get into such a relentless groove.

Here are the Rankings for Week 10:

1.) Kansas City (9-0) [no change]
 The last undefeated team was on a bye before heading to Denver in Week 11.  I guess that's good scheduling?

2.) Denver (8-1) [no change]
 Manning is not looking too healthy at the moment, specifically in the lower body.  That said, I'm not worried about how he'll play.  Now, if the O-line allows Poe and Houston to get in his face and take him off his spot, then they'll have problems.  But as of right now, I think it'll probably be fine. Probably.

3.) Seattle (9-1) [no change]
 What Seattle really needed was a solid road win.  And boy, did they get one, as they shellacked Atlanta in the Georgia Dome.  I didn't hear much talk about Matt Ryan's gaudy record there.  Couple this win with SF's loss and Seattle is looking like a #1 seed already.  Who's better?  Maybe New Orleans.  Maybe not.

4.) New England (7-2) [no change]
 Pats were on a bye and head to Carolina in Week 11.  Assuming a good performance by Brady, I think the Pats win a close one.  But if the Carolina front seven pulls one on Brady like they did on Kaepernick, it'll be long and ugly.  Not something I want to waste my time watching, really.

5.) New Orleans (7-2) [+2]
 It still looks like the Saints are a 12-win team.  It helps when they play a defense that isn't as good, but I'm still a bit concerned with some of their road performances.  If they have playoff game(s) at home, I like their chances, because they look damn near unstoppable.  Otherwise, it's a roll of the dice, and if they have to go to Seattle, well, just forget it.

6.) Carolina (6-3) [+2]
 I mentioned last week that I wasn't really a believer in the Panthers and that I'd re-evaluate them if they beat SF.  Well, they beat SF (barely), and I can report that I remain unconvinced.  They don't look like a Super Bowl contender, which is what everyone in the national sports media is trying to make people believe.  I suppose they're a good team, but much like KC and Denver they've made hay against a fairly weak schedule.  Now they get the Patriots at home and have another chance to impress.

7.) Detroit (6-3) [+3]
 It looks like Detroit might be a division champion in 2013.  The Bears are having trouble keeping Cutler healthy, as usual, and didn't stick with the hot hand.  Green Bay is moribund until Rodgers returns, by which time they may already be out of the division race.  So that leaves Detroit, since everyone knows that Minnesota isn't making the playoffs.  The Lions are a hard team to defend, so maybe they can do something in the playoffs this time around. It wouldn't hurt to have everyone healthy this time.

8.) San Francisco (6-3) [-3]
 The way they lost was more galling than the fact that they lost.  I could accept them losing 24-21 or something like that.  But to only put up nine points and have Kaepernick look inept for basically the entire game? Unacceptable and inexcusable.  It's hard to think that SF is a contender when Seattle and New Orleans look so much better.  Hell, Detroit might be a better team at this point.

9.) Indianapolis (6-3) [-3]
 The Colts fall back just a bit, but I expect a bounceback sooner rather than later, despite not having Reggie Wayne.  I know that missing your best receiver is not usually a key to success, but for some reason I think the Colts can do just enough without him to score and win games.  Maybe it's just blind faith.  It could also be the fact that the rest of their division is crap. Tennessee, the team that will likely finish in second, just lost to Jacksonville. So yeah, I'm not really feeling the AFC South so much.

10.) Green Bay (5-4) [-1]
 Predictably, it was ugly without Rodgers.  It will likely stay that way until he returns.  Hopefully they're not already out of it by then.

Three Games to Watch (Week 11):
San Francisco @ New Orleans (FOX)
Kansas City @ Denver (NBC)
New England @ Carolina (ESPN)

That's all for this week.  See you next week.

November 9, 2013

Altars - Paramnesia (2013)

First things first: listen to Paramnesia on Bandcamp.

Altars is a death metal trio from Australia.

Naturally, there's a giant comparison waiting to be made.  However, me being who I am, I'd much rather avoid that and talk about the music.

As I've mentioned elsewhere (or maybe here as well, who can remember), 2013 has seen a resurgence in quality death metal.  Sure, there are a whole bunch of mediocre albums out there in all genres, death metal being no exception.  But for the first time in a couple years, it looks like death metal will make up the majority of my year-end list.  Also, there are a couple of gigantic records coming out later this month that will muddy the water even further.

Where does Altars fit into all this?  Put simply, they've written a hell of a debut.  It's one of the great records of 2013.

What makes it great is the interplay between the musicians.  They also have a nice amount of ambition in sum.  These two things converge in third track "Khaz'neh", which displays an effective use of coordinated rhythm playing across the instruments being used.

Speaking of ambition, the title track is split into three parts, including the ten-minute finale.  The closing track and "Solar Barge" might be the slowest-growers on the album; the other tracks mostly have immediate impact. Fear not, there are rewards aplenty among them, but they only reward those with patience.

On the whole, Paramnesia is a great start.  I look forward to hearing where they go in the future.

November 8, 2013

How's Your 2013? October Update

Some thoughts on the releases I was looking forward to in October and a couple of surprises I had been unaware of previously.

First up is Castevet's Obsian.  On this record, Nick McMaster of Krallice plays bass.  The first four songs go about as I expected; McMaster's inclusion in the band hasn't changed anything.  The songs still sound like a combination of black metal and hardcore.  He doesn't provide vocals, either.  The last two songs veer off into weird territory.  The title track is an instrumental and the closer incorporates clean vocals that are a bit off-putting.  Overall, it's a good record, but not quite the match of Mounds of Ash.

I don't think I'm in the right frame of mind to assess the new Pelican or Corrections House.  I should revisit them early in 2014.  At least, that's what I'm going to try to do.  We'll see how that turns out.

I wasn't necessarily surprised about the new Inquisition album.  I'd say more, but since I'll be reviewing that one elsewhere, it's best for me to save my comments for that.

That leaves the other two bands who did surprise me: Thrall & Zemial.

I was a fan of Thrall's last release, Vermin to the Earth.  I thought it was an underrated slab of blackened (among other sub-genres) art.  But I wasn't really prepared for how different Aokigahara Jukai is.  The vocals are far more expressive, even if I can't understand the words most of the time.  The music behind the vocals seems to be more well-written and better-paced.  They labeled the last track "Slaves" as a bonus; I think it's one of the better songs on the album.  Not bad for a bonus!

I had heard about Zemial's new album Nykta by reading reviews of it.  I figured it might be worth a listen, but when I did listen to it, I was blown away.  I knew it was worth my money immediately.  What Zemial does isn't all that weird; Archon has taken influence from 80's thrash and the first wave of black metal to create a record that sounds like an artifact from that time while bringing the riffs and a bit of weirdness.  Pretty much every song starts out with a speedy riff that gets expanded on with progressive structures. There are also some funny-sounding toms and creepy keyboards.  The lead guitars are worth mentioning too, as they take over "In the Arms of Hades" and "Pharos".  All of these elements swirl together to create a great record that should be on many year-end lists.

I'm sure people are aware that Ă†vangelist's new record was pushed back to later this month.  So I should be ready to give my thoughts about that one early next month.  I have no doubt that it'll end up somewhere on my year-end list.  Death metal in particular has done quite well in 2013 after a couple of off years.  It wasn't something I expected, by any means.

November 6, 2013

Bleach 556 - The Wolfsbane

The newest Bleach chapter is out.  So let's talk about it!

Spoilers after the cut.

November 5, 2013

2013 NFL Power Rankings, Week 9

It was a bit ugly around the league this week.  Lots of teams that people think are "good" or maybe even "great" struggled mightily.  In fact, New England was one of the only teams to put together a consistent effort. They also put up four TD's in the 4th quarter, which makes them look a lot better by default.  Denver was on a bye.  That helped them look good too, since they didn't shit the bed like some teams.

I'm not sure we actually know anything about any of these teams.  One week they could be world-beaters (i.e. the Pats) and the next week they could be losing in OT on a fluke safety (i.e. the Bengals, who will not be returning to the Rankings in 2013; I've had enough of them).  There's not a lot of consistency other than in KC and to be honest, KC has been lucky the last couple of weeks to escape with wins.

We'll have to wait and see how Aaron Rodgers' injury affects Green Bay.  My guess is that they'll fall off until he returns.  Their backup QB situation is not good; Seneca Wallace couldn't complete a pass that wasn't a slant last night, and he had trouble with those, even.

Here are the Rankings for Week 9:

1.) Kansas City (9-0) [no change]
 The defense did their part, scoring two TD's.  The offense could be considered a work-in-progress if there was any sign that it's going to get better at some point this season.  Alex Smith is a bad QB who is propped up by his winning percentage and defenders in the national sports media who refuse to rely on what they see as opposed to the numbers.

2.) Denver (7-1) [no change]
 On a bye, the Broncos don't move up or down, as usual.  They head to San Diego in Week 10.  It should be a good one if both teams show up and play to their capabilities.

3.) Seattle (8-1) [no change]
 Inexcusable first-half effort from the Seahawks against a winless team. What makes it worse is that they were at home, where they are usually unbeatable. Not only that, most teams that go into Seattle barely have a chance of keeping up with the Seahawks.  Not Tampa Bay, apparently.  I get that losing both tackles on the O-line is problematic for the offense in general.  I also get that Russell Wilson is probably still growing into his game as a second-year player.  But that offense looks bad and the second-half comeback doesn't really change that perception.

4.) New England (7-2) [+3]
 Yes, the Steelers are not good this season.  But the Pats just put up 55 points, the most scored in the league so far.  Is this team dangerous with Gronk and Amendola back and healthy (for the moment)?  You bet your ass. Tom Brady hadn't played so well prior to this game, but he came out slinging and the running game worked well enough to take pressure off him too. Dominant effort and one of the few that we saw.

5.) San Francisco (6-2) [no change]
 On a bye, the 49ers don't move up or down, as usual.  They face Carolina at home in Week 10.  Somehow, I bet they end up flustering Cam Newton and forcing him into errors like the ones we saw against Atlanta.

6.) Indianapolis (6-2) [+2]
 Despite taking the first-half off, Indy rallied for yet another 4th quarter comeback and victory.  Andrew Luck was missing Reggie Wayne, obviously. But that didn't seem to affect him in the second-half as he was bombing away to T.Y. Hilton or tossing fades to Coby Fleener.  Impressive effort to come back, but there's no way they should have been down 21-3 in the first place.

7.) New Orleans (6-2) [-3]
 One of the worst efforts I saw this week was without a doubt put forth by the Saints.  I've been saying since the start of the season that they look like a 12-13 win team.  I'm not moving off of that by any means (just look at their division, blegh), but I think I have to doubt them on the road just a bit after their latest gaffe-fest.

8.) Carolina (5-3) [-]
 No, I do not take the Panthers seriously.  If they beat the 49ers, then I'll re-evaluate.

9.) Green Bay (5-3) [no change]
 The Packers might be going down for a while if Rodgers is out for any length of time.

10.) Detroit (5-3) [no change]
 On a bye, the Lions don't move up.  They go to Chicago in Week 10.  Unless Stafford gets injured on a fluke play like Rodgers, I expect the Lions to win pretty handily.

Three Games to Watch (Week 10):
Carolina @ San Francisco (FOX)
Denver @ San Diego (CBS)
Dallas @ New Orleans (NBC)

That's all for this week.  See you next week.

November 3, 2013

Vegas! - Day 5

Finally, the last day of the Vegas trip.

As I said at the end of the previous entry, one thing we were looking forward to doing was going down to Guitar Center to play out a little.  We left fairly early and got down there without much trouble.  We then spent a couple hours screwing around with whatever we could play on.

I found out that ESP guitars are fun to play and worth whatever they cost.  I also found out that impulse buying could be a killer, as I tried out a couple of Les Pauls and found that I didn't really care for the feel of either.  So buying one of those without putting it through its paces could be a tremendous setback.

We also hit up the acoustic section to try out various steel and nylon-string guitars, plus a ukulele and acoustic bass.  Smaller instruments are particularly challenging for me because I have fairly big hands.  Fretting strings on them can be a bit of a pain.  On the other hand, the nylon-string acoustics were easy to play.  I should have started off with one of those, I think.

I also messed around on an electronic drumkit that had double bass pedals. Not as fun without the sticks.

While there I got some picks, so now I am set on those.  I am very particular about the picks and strings I use; consistent use of them provides me with a consistent sound that isn't terribly difficult to reproduce.  Although most stores make it difficult by not stocking the exact kind of strings I want.

One place I had yet to see was the Cosmopolitan.  It was one of the high-end casinos that was somehow left out of the whirlwind tour of the first night. It was surprisingly narrow.  This is because the building is housed on a smaller bit of land than most of the other casinos and thus it had to go upward instead of outward.  There is a different vibe in that place that I really enjoyed.  It was just classier overall.  As I recall, we didn't do much gambling there, so we didn't really win or lose much of anything.

With those things done, it was time to eat.  But instead of going there right away, I decided that I wanted a trophy from the trip and so we hit up the mall to see if there was a place to get sunglasses.  Truth be told, I could have used them at the Valley of Fire and probably won't have much use for them now that I'm back home.  At any rate, I managed to find a pair I like that weren't too expensive.  I was still ahead in terms of money even after the purchase.

Red Robin was the destination, a timely one at that and conveniently located near the parking lot.  I got a chicken sandwich and fries.  Both were more than I bargained for, in a good way.  We got the food and headed back to the room.  Once we were finished eating, we had one last run at the slot machines downstairs.  Then it was time to part ways.

The next morning I got up early for my flight and ended up back at my place around 5:30 PM.  It was a fun time and I'll probably go back before long.

November 2, 2013

Vegas! - Day 4

Finally, the long-awaited trip to the Valley of Fire.

Nominally, it's a large pile of red rocks, with a visitor's center and well cared-for roads leading all around.  But to actually be out there and seeing it for yourself, well, that's an experience that I can't accurately describe.  Once again, I had the cell phone out to take pictures, and I was thwarted by the sheer scale of the whole thing.  So I stopped trying and accepted that I'd have to use my brain to remember the imagery.

I probably shouldn't have had pizza the day before.  Certainly not five slices.

We tried to make the best of it anyway.  Any time we saw a giant rock formation (which was often), we speculated about seeing people atop it slugging it out with supernatural phenomena.

There's nothing like slugging it out with supernatural phenomena.

After seeing all that was out there at Valley of Fire (including petrified trees, petroglyphs, and plenty of red sand), we took the scenic route back to the city.  It's a longish road that doesn't seem too pleasant for much of it, but there are some great views of Lake Mead to be had.  Eventually it comes back to Lake Las Vegas.  It was interesting to see that from the other side that we hadn't explored before.

Since we had been up early and gone hiking through the entirety of the Valley of Fire, we figured it was probably time for a drink.  So we headed back to the hotel and camped out in the room for awhile.  Once we got hungry, we headed down to the buffet.  It wasn't quite as good as the one at Green Valley Ranch or Red Rock.  Ah, well.

I had to take a break for a bit after our trip to the buffet.  But once that was done, we headed out.  Back to the Strip we went; this time our destination was two casinos situated next to each other: the Palms and the Gold Coast. The major attraction at Gold Coast were the baccarat tables.  It also helped that I hit a bonus on a slot machine and doubled up on my initial bet. Baccarat looked fun, but good luck getting a seat.  All the tables there seemed to be full.

Another thing we had looked forward to doing was hitting up Guitar Center to try out some guitars we couldn't afford.  More on that next time.

November 1, 2013

Vegas! - Day 3

We really had no idea what we wanted to do on Day 3.  I had steadfastly avoided any and all tourist-y crap (besides the Strip, which has to be seen no matter what) but was at a loss for something to do.  So we decided to hit up Hoover Dam and Lake Mead.  As it turns out, the natural wonders really are the best things to see, even if there are a ton of people around.

We commenced somewhat early, though probably not as early as the previous couple of days.  The first thing to do was stop for supplies.  It doesn't pay to be all the way out there with no water, after all.  With that finished, we headed down the highway toward the dam.  It's a scenic route, made more so by stopping through Boulder City.  It's a bit slower that way, but well worth it to see the shops and whatnot.

Once we arrived at the Pat Tillman Bridge, we got out and trekked upward so we could get a good view of the dam.  I had my cell phone out and snapped a couple of photos.  Surprisingly, there were a lot of people there, walking around and taking pictures for the most part.  They were all over the bridge, too.  Looking out from the bridge to the dam was pretty awe-inspiring.  What was even cooler was driving over the dam and seeing the bridge from the other side.  It looms large, maybe not quite like a skyscraper, but certainly a monument to man's ambition and perseverance.

The next place to see for us was Lake Mead.  Technically, we only saw part of the lake on this day; it stretches and moves up and around in an odd way that I didn't expect.  I guess there are different names for the parts that extend outward from the actual lake that we were looking at.  Most of that water is going to Los Angeles, a fact that I found a bit disturbing.

On our way back to the city, my friend proposed a side jaunt to Lake Las Vegas.  It's a fairly small area that is set off from the rest of the city, but has tremendous views, apparently.  There were far fewer people there, a fact that I appreciated.  There was supposed to be more development (and thus more people) but the economic crash/collapse/whatever prevented that.  Still, it's a nice place to be and if I had the money, I'd certainly consider it.  The lake water was a bit brown, though.

Finally, we were ready to eat, so I suggested we hit up the buffet at Green Valley Ranch.  My friend had mentioned sometime before that their pizza was the best he'd had in the city.  Naturally, I wanted to try it.  So what did I do? I had five pieces and basically ruined the next day.  Alas, these things happen, I suppose.

After stuffing our faces, we headed back to the hotel.  My friend had a test to prepare for and went off to do just that.  I was a bit lost at that point, as I had no idea what I wanted to do.  I knew that there'd be a football game later on, but I had some time to kill.

Eventually, I went downstairs to watch the game on a bigger screen.  Nothing against the TV in my room, but I needed something with HD and more size. Of course, that point was moot as the game was terrible.  But even terrible football is improved by watching it on a screen that dwarfs your entire body.

My friend finished up and I was still sitting in front of the giant screens.  Since we had nothing better to do, it was time for a drink.  I went with a Bud Light and then a Newcastle.  A surprisingly good combo.

We eventually went back up to the room with our drinks in hand.  There we saw the end of the game (still a piece of crap) and planned our next move. Day 4 was the long-awaited trip to the Valley of Fire, but we had to get an early start once again.  More on that and what I saw there next time.

October 31, 2013

Vegas! - Day 2

"KITTIES!"

So began day 2.

It was around 8:30 AM and we had places to go.  Despite the whirlwind tour of the previous day, we still weren't sure where we'd be watching football.  It's funny how early it starts in the Pacific time zone, too.  When you're used to football at noon in the Central time zone, starting at 10AM can be a bit disconcerting.

There was breakfast to be had.  I insisted on waffles the previous night and got my wish.  Then I ate half of a giant waffle and decided that was enough. Oops.

After making a couple of unwise bets, we headed for Green Valley Ranch and arrived at the sportsbook just in time to get seats as the early games started. I don't think either of us slept much the previous night; I sure as hell didn't. My mood didn't really improve either.  The results were not what I had hoped for.  Overall, I think I was 8-7 on the week, which is hardly better than the proverbial monkeys typing up Shakespeare (and a favorite reference of mine whenever I do something in a mediocre or incredibly poor way).

Once the early games ended, I figured it was time to stuff my face with more garbage.  So I had a couple slices of pizza that were a little greasy, but generally good enough to satisfy me.  We then returned to the sportsbook and caught up on the late games.  Those went slightly better, but that's not saying much.

One of our bets turned out to be a winner.  I think we cashed that in the next morning.

Of course, no day in Vegas would be complete without bowling.  As it turns out, the hotel I booked has one of the largest bowling centers in the city. And there was no blacklight bullshit to deal with this time!  I can't say that I did much better, though I did finally win a game after losing two the previous day.  I also tried a gin & tonic, which I did not particularly care for.  Initially, the plan was to head up to a wine bar in Town Center and try some whiskey. After that gin & tonic, I became convinced that the hard stuff is not for me. It probably wasn't even the gin...alas, I am a stubborn man.

That was the first night in the hotel.  It was weird to be alone again.  Thankfully, we had big plans for the next day and needed to be up early...just like that day.  More on that tomorrow.