Thursday, July 30, 2009

An American in Paraguay

I’m as American as they come. Hot dogs and beer are regular parts of my diet. I love football and think soccer is boring. So my two week trip to Paraguay was filled with some eye-opening moments, considering I’ve never left the country except for brief stints in commercialized tourist spots like Jamaica, Cozumel and the like.

Here’s the five things that stood out about Paraguay.

1. The moment I stepped into the Paraguay airport I saw people wearing masks over their mouth. I was told it was to avoid the swine flu. Now, I don’t anticipate that Paraguay is trying to become a major player in the worldwide tourism industry, but if they ever plan on it, they might to avoid having half the people in the airport looking like this:

Also, I’m obviously no doctor, but is the swine flu really going to be stopped by a flimsy paper mask? Anyway, I caught a minor cold in Paraguay but no swine flu, so no harm, no foul.

2. People in Memphis always complain about how bad Memphis drivers are. All of those people need to shut up, immediately. Paraguay has driving like you’ve never seen. Most of the roads are big 2 lane roads. Drivers treat them as the tightest 4-lane road possible. Motorcycles are everywhere and weave in and out of the lanes. At most stoplights there are people walking beside the car trying to sell you bootleg DVDs, gum, fruit, bread and other random items (I saw a total of 0 purchases). Plus, there’s guys trying to wash your window for coins. To top all this off, you finally get off one of the main roads and you find yourself on painfully bumpy cobblestones roads desperately trying to hold in your bowels. If going without pooping was a sport, the Paraguayan cobblestone roads would be Augusta.

3. There’s a ton of cheese eating down there. I love cheese as much as the next guy. It’s awesome. I like cheese on my cheese. My stomach finally met its match. After about 1.5 weeks of constant cheese eating, my stomach finally clogged up and said no more. The real loser in this situation was the dry cleaner’s bathroom I had to use after the cobblestone roads loosened me up. (And by the way, in Paraguay the pipes are relatively small, so you don’t flush toilet paper, you simply wipe and put it in a trash can with a lid on it next to you. It’s different).

4. America still dominates. I drank lots of Coke. There was McDonald’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut, T.G.I. Friday’s and Hooters. I even ended up one night in a stereotypical Irish bar listening to a band cover mostly American songs (Pearl Jam was the best).

5. I got to see cool things I never would’ve seen before. Seriously, just look at the picture below and bow down.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The gang is back together

After two weeks of me carrying RTS alone, Chris has returned to North American soil to help share the load. As he was in South America with limited internet access, I had to fill him in on some of the NBA's goings-on while he was away. Below is a transcript of our e-mail exchange today:

I'm officially talking myself into Andre Miller on the Blazers.

Help me out with some NBA info. Did Paul Millsap end up with the Blazers for 4 years, 32 million? What is the point of the Okafor-Chandler swap? Does it save someone money? Otherwise, it's like trading a brown M&M for a black M&M.
Is Andre Miller on the Blazers now, or are they just flirting with him?

-Millsap signed an offer sheet that Utah matched. It was ridiculous- they were going to pay $32 million for someone to back up LaMarucs Aldridge. Portland went into panic mode when Turkoglu turned them down.

-Okafor-Chandler. Beats the hell out of. It was like trading two dimes for four nickels.

-Yes, Miller signed with the Blazers. I'm on board.

By the way, if you want a laugh, Google Marcin Gortat's contract status. Seriously, it's hysterical.

Millsap is a bargain, although he made no sense for Portland. When does Carlos Boozer get shipped out?

What did Miller sign for?

Marcin Gortat, what a joke. Can we call him Jim Mcilvaine yet, or do we have to wait 2 years?

Why isn't Jerryd Bayless the point guard yet. Isn't he a better fit than Miller. I don't trust point guards that can't shoot the 3. Especially when that's what the Blazers need around their slashers.

Miller got a 3 year deal, about 7 million per. It's not bad. The 3rd year is a team option so it's pretty reasonable. But yeah, outside shooting is still a problem. Apart from Roy, no one can make outside jumpers consistently. That'll be an issue.

As for Bayless, he's a classic 2-guard in a point guard's body. He really doesn't fit here. There's probably a place for him somewhere in the league, but he's always looking for his own shot and is a terrible floor leader.

Marcin Gortat...even Austin Croshere was a better bargain.

I'll go ahead and wager $100 that 35-year-old Miller doesn't come back for the 3rd year. He'll probably have 2 broken ankles from trying to guard CP3 and Williams 8 times a year.

I like Bayless, although I don't think anyone really fits well next to Roy. Is Roy a shoot-first point guard or just an average shooting guard? I don't understand him really. (Almost like OJ Mayo, actually).

Roy...he's a tough one to figure. He's tough to categorize, since he's a PG/SG hybrid who could play SF if necessary.

He's a better shooter than he gets credit for, and a better slasher than he gets credit for. He can bring the ball up and run an offense, which is usually what happened in the fourth quarter of close games last year. Often, he'd be the de facto point guard while Blake would be a shooter.

But he can't guard other points, and doesn't seem like someone who can function in an up-tempo system. He's much better in the half court when everything is structured. But he also needs the ball to run through him on every possession.

I like Roy a lot, but a local writer here made a great point that Miller seems to fit better with Aldridge, Oden and the SF group better than with Roy. We'll see how this works out.

Let's recap my sports emotional level currently, on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being diehard and 1 being nothing.

U of M basketball - 5. I'm actually very happy Cal is gone, but also accept the fact that we'll be lucky to make the tournament this year. This number was a 10 for the past 3 years, although I feel dirty about that.

U of M football - 2. whatever, they suck, this is where the Grizzlies are headed

Miami Dolphins - 5. Our ceiling is a 1st round playoff exit, and we could be 6-10. Whatever.

Fantasy football team - 7. I'm excited about the draft, but I'm in a keeper league and we can keep 2 players. I'm keeping Peyton and Steven Jackson and hate myself for it. I vowed to never keep Steven Jackson again but if I don't, I'm looking at my starting running backs being Pierre Thomas and Beanie Wells or something. Whatever.

Interesting idea about rating sports emotional level. Here's mine:

Mariners: 6. The season is over, and they should be in sell mode with the trade deadline this week. But they made a trade today that puts them in buy mode. It makes no sense. But, they remained relevant until mid-July, a huge improvement over previous years when it was clear May 1 they were overmatched. So that was nice.

Packers: 9. Can't can't can't can't can't wait for NFL season. I think the Packers have a good shot at the division title. The Vikings have no QB, the Bears have no WRs, and the Lions are the Lions. They're not NFC title material (yet), but 10-11 wins and a first round playoff victory are possible.

Canucks: 7. Good enough to make the playoffs, not good enough to make conference finals or beyond. Same story every year since 2001.

Blazers: 6. Let me know when the season starts.

College football: 0. This number never changes.

Yeah...I'm excited about the NFL SEASON, and football in general, I guess I should say that is a 10. I love football, absolutely love it. I just an not that emotionally connected to any team. I'm just connected to sitting on the couch for 10 hours a day.

As for the Dolphins, last year was such a pleasant surprise and they sucked me back in for the first time in about 5 years. I like our coach, like our guys but realize we overachieved with a poor schedule last year and this year we get the division title schedule instead. Nothing screams 8-8 more than this team right here. Then again, last year we were supposed to be 4-12 and pulled it out of our asses, so we'll see. I think I'm talking myself into this team as we speak. Damn you!

As for the Packers, getting rid of Favre last year was the best move you could've done. I like your team. I hate your division. The Bears finally got a QB but I still hate their offense. Plus, their D is overrated. They're good one year, and suck the next. I can never explain it. The Lions are probably going to be 3-13 this year and lose every game like 45-27. The Vikings are 8-8. The Pack should go 4-2 in the division, at the least.

Football season might be the biggest reason not to have kids. As it is, I barely see him during the week. Once hockey season starts, I work most weekends. And when I don't, and theoretically have time to sit around all day and watch football, I feel guilty about it.

I've been living the good life the last few years. My wife hasn't complained about me watching 3-6 hours of college football (or going to college football) games and then watching 2-3 games on Sundays. I've seriously been doing this for the past 2 years pretty hardcore with maybe 2 complaints. It's amazing. I feel like DiMaggio's streak. She even encouraged me yesterday to spend the extra $100 to get the NFL SuperFan package when I was talking myself out of it. Last year was also the first time in 4 years I didn't win any fantasy football money. It's a golden age my friend. I know it won't last, but it's been a good run.

That's outstanding. She's a good woman. My wife is similar- she actually likes football, and enjoys spending the day watching games (until our son came along, anyway). I've never had one complaint at all about watching too much football.

I'll be honest- that was a major selling point when it came to deciding whether I should marry her. I couldn't be with someone who would either bitch about it, or give me a guilt trip.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Some thoughts on a Friday

-I like the 90s as much as anyone, but I'm going to call for a 5-year moratorium on radio stations playing Nirvana songs. Look, I liked Kurt and the boys as much as anyone, but given they have a limited catalog, it's the same 4 songs all the time. I'd be ok if they played some of the album tracks, but most radio program directors would rather soak their nipples in acid than play a song people haven't already heard of, so instead we get to hear Teen Spirit 4 billion times. I need a break.

-Speaking of Nirvana, isn't "What if Kurt Cobain had never killed himself?" the greatest music what if of all time? I me an, it was a great career move, no question, because that was a band that had no long-term prospects. But what would have become of Dave Grohl? Would he have stayed with Nirvana much longer? Would the Foo Fighters have ever been born? And if Grohl did leave, had Kurt not killed himself in 1994, would he have done it in 1998 when Dave Grohl became bigger than him?

-Why in God's name should I care that Steve Spurrier left Tim Tebow off his preseason All-SEC ballot? The only thing I care less about is Comic-Con.

-Speaking of Time Tebow, thanks SI, for the 3,000,000th Tim-Tebow-is-awesome feature this week. I had no idea he liked Jesus. Thanks.

-Could the Angels just lose a damn game or two?

-Things I have no idea what to make of: Jarrod Washburn's sudden dominance, Dahntay Jones being worth $11 million, and my parents listening to The National.

-So Pete Yorn knows it's ok to put a few faster songs on an album, right? After Nightcrawler, which was slower than Zach Randolph trying to get up the floor, he puts out Back and Fourth, a decent effort, but comprised almost entirely of slow songs. Where's Life on a Chain? Crystal Village? Come on Pete, kick it up a notch, we know you have it in you.

-As a Packers fan, I'm not concerned about Favre possibly signing with Minnesota. A 40 year-old QB who bombed last season and is coming off shoulder surgery? Whatever. Bring it.

-Similarly, as much as everyone loves Jay Cutler in Chicago, his receivers probably couldn't cut it in the CFL.

-Deadspin sucks. You can't link to the Erin Andrews video for cheap page views, then turn around and talk about how disgusting the video is. I'd always been on the fence about Deadspin, but this just pushed it over the top.

-If you're not careful, you're next The Big Lead.

-HBO's Hung...Meh. I'm not ready to give up on it yet, but I'm perilously close to cancelling my subscription when the current season of Entourage ends. And in fact, if this season is all about E's love life, I may cancel before then.

-Only a few weeks until Psych and Mad Men start. Finally, some decent summer TV is just around the corner.

Monday, July 20, 2009

7 seconds or take the money and run

I guess Steve Nash isn't so different after all. Forget the social conscience, the goofy haircuts and the freewheeling offensive style. Turns out, he just wants to get paid like everyone else.

How else to explain his decision to take a two-year, $22-million extension from Phoenix when he was a year away from free agency?

In 2010, he could have gone to almost any contender he wanted. He could have joined LeBron in New York under old coach Mike D'Antoni and been an instant title contender. Could have joined Dwyane Wade in Miami. Dwight Howard in Orlando. Brandon Roy in Portland. OJ Mayo in Memphis...ok, maybe not.

But any of those other scenarios would have given him a legit shot at the title. The downside is that he wouldn't have gotten $22 million. You'd think that wouldn't matter, given that's already made almost $72 million, with another $12 million due this season.

But obviously, it does.

So he'll stay in Phoenix, where they can't seem to figure out just what direction they're going. It's like Steve Kerr is the guy in Memento who wakes up every day with no recollection of what he's done before..."We're going to sell all our first round picks! We're going to trade Shawn Marion for Shaquille O'Neal! We're going to trade our best defensive players for Jason Richardson! We're going to give Shaq away! But no youth movement, cause we're re-signing Grant Hill! We're going to run with D'Antoni! We're going to play defense with Terry Porter! We're going to run with Alvin Gentry!"

My God, I thought Nash would bolt the first chance he took. While Phoenix can't get out of their own way, the Lakers don't look like they'll be giving up the Western Conference anytime soon, San Antonio got Richard Jefferson and Portland may still be a factor before it's all said and done.

And all this with diminishing returns from the Suns every year...the Western Finals in 2006, second round loss in 2007, first round loss in 2008, and no playoffs at all in 2009.

You'd think the writing would be on the wall for this team. Hell, it is on the wall- it's written in Jerry Colangelo's blood.

Nash is a smart guy. He knows all this. But he took the money, and is doomed to end his career with a string of first round losses.

And while I can't really begrudge anyone for taking $22 million, I thought Nash was different.

Guess I was wrong.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Me angry!

I get fired up a lot. This whole site is an excuse for me to rant. But not all rants are created equal. Some are trivial. But not this. This legitimately fires me up. Read this article.

It's not so much the lax security at federal buildings that offends me. It's this passage:

"The GAO also released a photograph of a guard asleep at his post and detailed an instance in which a woman placed an infant in a carrier on an X-ray machine while retrieving identification.

Because the guard was not paying attention and the machine's safety features had been disabled, the infant was sent through the X-ray machine, according to the report.

The FPS dismissed the guard, who, as a result, sued the agency for failing to provide X-ray training. FPS lost the suit because it could not prove that the guard had been trained, the report says."

OK, so a guy asleep at the wheel puts a baby through the X-ray machine, and successfully sues because he wasn't trained to use the machine? Did he need a class to know you shouldn't put babies through x-ray machines? Is he the most retarded person alive? How did he get this job in the first place? Was he the only one who applied? Who was the jury? Did the judge immediately quit when the verdict came down?

Honestly, I hate America sometimes.