Monday, March 27, 2017

settled dust

Another very good-not perfect--day of prognosticating.

I went 1-1 on the money line.  South Carolina did defeat Florida as predicted, but Kentucky lost in the last .3 of a second to UNC.

Against the spread, I went 2-0. South Carolina was a dog so since they won, they covered the spread.  Kentucky lost by 2, but the spread was 2.5 so they covered by a half a point.

For the sweet sixteen weekend, I picked ten out of twelve correctly on the money line which includes four dogs. Against the spread I picked eight out of eleven with one push.  If I had been in Vegas, and had put my money where my wisdom was I would have been the sort of winner who is thrilled in the short run, but eventually comes back to bet on dubious wisdom. This person walks around with a barrel around his naked body at the airport on subsequent trips.

The South Carolina, Florida game was one of the better college basketball games one will ever see. In the second half the defense was so good that neither team could hit a three.  Great game.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Beat goes on--Sort of

So my undefeated streak came to an end last night, but nevertheless it was not a bad evening for prognosticating.

I went 1-1 on the Money Line. And 1-1 against the spread.

 In the first game, Gonzaga did indeed beat Xavier on the money line. But I thought Xavier would cover and they did not.

In the second game, Oregon did indeed beat the spread, but they also won on the money line. If you read my blog from yesterday I thought Oregon was not smart enough to beat Kansas given a really dumb play they made against Michigan.  I'll contend again that the way they played last night once they had the lead was not from the Mensa play book. And Oregon was fortunate that Kansas did not make some big shots that could have reversed the result.  Still, Oregon, had some horses with Jordan Bell playing as good a defensive game as I have seen in years.  In my brackets I have Oregon winning the whole shebang so some good news came from the victory.

One more day. Thus far, for the sweet sixteen weekend I am 9 for 10 against the money line--including three dogs.  Against the spread I am 6 out of 9 with a push including the first Gonzaga loss where they missed covering by half a point.  Of course, I wagered not a dime as I live outside the great state of Nevada, but had I put my money where my predictions were, I would maybe have been able to pay for the hotel room and flight.

Given my success these past days, run from today's wisdom.

I like both dogs on this final day of the sweet sixteen.

Kentucky will defeat UNC, so take them on the money line. Grab the 2.5 to enjoy victory against the spread. I saw UNC play live this year against Miami and they did not impress losing big against a team that got knocked out early in the tourney.  Say what you want about Calipari, the guy has his teams ready to play. Memphis, UMass, now Kentucky, his teams dance for a while in the big dance. Go with Kentucky.

I like South Carolina against Florida on the money line and especially like them with the 3.5 against the spread.  Florida won on Friday because of a last minute shot.  South Carolina plays very good defense and has been impressive. Besides South Carolina is coached by a former assistant coach here at Northeastern.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Again--Just sayin'

Um, just saying-- once more.

Picked four for four last night on the money line.  That is 8 for 8 in the sweet sixteen.  This is the kind of thing that gets people to look up flight times to Las Vegas.  Eight for Eight--three of which were dogs.

Against the money line last night I was two for three (with one push).  So far in the sweet sixteen, the only major loss against the spread was the Butler game last night.  Gonzaga had to cover  3 1/2 and only won by 3.  I can cut myself some slack for the half a point.

One of the bad things about living on the east coast (in addition to snow on the ground in March) is that it is tough to stay awake for the night games. When the kid from Florida hit the three to beat Wisconsin, I had already been cutting zs for an hour.  I woke up in my chair at 2, checked my ipad, and saw an e-mail which read, "I don't think I have ever seen a game like that."  Quick I look up what transpired and see that Florida won at the buzzer.  And, consequently, the kid who hit the shot made me a winner in all 8 games in the sweet sixteen round on the money line.

Today, take Gonzaga and Kansas on the money line.  But neither will cover.  Take Xavier with the 8 against Gonzaga. Take Oregon plus 7 against Kansas.   I had picked Oregon to win it all, but they made such a bonehead play against Michigan at the end that could easily have cost them the game, so I don't think they are smart enough to beat Kansas on the money line--but do think they will cover. And I am not certain they won't prevail outright.

Now, the smartest bet is not to pay any attention to someone who is 8 for 8, because as the people who count shekels in Las Vegas know, eventually you are going to lose more than you win.  So, you might be wise to bet the opposite of any of my suggestions.

Friday, March 24, 2017


Against the spread

Take Butler plus 7.
Take Kentucky give up the 1.5
Take South Carolina plus 3.5.
Take Florida give up the 1.

Money line

South Carolina

Just sayin'

If you read the final paragraph of the blog I wrote last night you will see that I picked all four games correctly on the money line--two of which were dogs.  Also, I picked three out of four against the spread. The lone non winner was off by only a half of a point.

In case you missed it, I've copied last night's wisdom below.

Just saying.

Tonight:  Take Oregon plus 1 over Michigan. Take Kansas -5 against Purdue. Take Xavier plus 7.5 over Arizona, Take Gonzaga -3.5 over West Virginia and run.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Round 1

Today begins the second week of the tournament.  This blog post is about last week reflecting how up to date I am at this moment.

I flew to Florida for the first weekend of the tournament.  Since 2013, as opposed to going to Las Vegas to watch the games on tv, I have picked a venue and been a live spectator for one of the double headers. In 2013 Philadelphia, '14 Buffalo, '15 Columbus, '16 Brooklyn and this year Orlando.

The day started out gorgeous, but I missed the first half of the first game because the traffic around the AMWAY center was (predictably) congested.  By the time I parked and walked and found my seat UNCW had squandered its lead to Virginia.

I was sitting on the mooooon for the end of the first game and beginning of the second. I bought my tickets on stubhub and they were pricey.  For pricey I figured I would not have to buy oxygen.  Very tiny players on the court.  The good news was that from that vantage point you could really see the plays develop.  I don't think I have ever sat that high for a basketball game before and it was an educational experience. I could see why coaches might sit in the upper deck to look at some plays and players.

Three law students from the University of Florida were my neighbors.  Their school was playing in the second game of the doubleheader.  My immediate neighbor hailed from New Jersey, a Yankee, down below the Mason Dixon line to learn the law.  He sure knew his sports and it was a joy to converse with him about game histories.

UNCW was terrific but they could not defeat Virginia which just had better horses. Nevertheless UNCW worked hard up to the very end. Their reward is that their coach was snatched up by North Carolina State shortly after the defeat.

Florida had little difficulty taking care of East Tennessee State. The dogs in these first round games either come out like rabid pests intent to expend every ounce of their energy to upset a favorite, or like scaredy cats thinking despite how they posture that they have no business being on the court with an opponent. UNCW was like the former. ETSU looked like the latter.  Florida is a good team, but ETSU was outmatched from the word go.

Each school gets about 200 seats for the games and these dedicated seats are terrific.  I've bought directly from the schools in '15 and '16 when I had connections to the universities that were competing.  This time I could not get a seat in these sections so that is why I found myself in the stratosphere with the law students.  What happens, however, is that the spectators from the teams that play in the first game of the doubleheaders often leave when the second game of the doubleheader takes place.  During the first half of the second game, I was able to see from my vantage point on the moon that the Virginia section had a vacant row. So I moved down for the second half of the Florida game.    The seats for the second game were rich guy's chairs.

When I left the arena I found myself in a crowd comprised of those exiting the first doubleheader, and those waiting to get into the second doubleheader.  Very crowded.  The AMWAY center sits on Church Street. Walk down Church Street into town less than a 1/4 of a mile and you are on a road that was shut down--at least for this day.  It is a row of taverns on each side complemented by a row of outdoor taverns right in the middle of the street.  A church street it is not.  The place was jumping. My notion of Orlando was that it was Disneyworld and that was it.  This downtown area at least was quite tony.  I went beyond it to get some coffee so that I would stay awake for the ride home.  I found a Starbucks a few blocks away that was part of a very hoo hah hotel.  I saw some beautiful city greenery and buildings.  Maybe downtown Orlando begins and ends where I was, but it was impressive.

I woke up on day 2 feeling like a million bucks.  I was energized after watching parts of the night games on tv and on having been a spectator in the first round.  Went to a whirlpool, got some lox, eggs, and onions in a cafe (don't knock it if you haven't tried it).  Later, for the first time in the 15 plus months since my hip replacement I took a tennis ball to a handball court and really tried to retrieve the balls. Once last July I swatted a few back and forth with a crony who was similarly impaired. This time I was really whacking the ball and retrieving. I got tired but the ability to move was encouraging.

Then, an injury I have dreaded most of my adult life seemed to occur.  I went to hit a ball on what was going to be--really-my last exchange with the wall, and it felt like a brick was hurled on my calf. I turned around--no brick on my calf.  Then I remembered that this sensation is what all those who have achilles tendon ruptures experience.  Achilles tendon ruptures are terrible terrible injuries.  Usually takes a year to recover. For someone like me who eats like a gourmand and exercises so that I maintain something of a svelte look, the prospect of being immobile for a year means I can take my 34" pants and toss them out the window.  Plus I know I will be a sourpus and grouch.

When I got back to Boston on Monday I went to a doctor who, within seconds, told me I ruptured my Achilles tendon and would need a cast and be out of action from 6-18 months.  He gave me a boot told me not to walk on it and to use crutches.  I went for a second opinion. Number two said it could be more like weeks but he too thought it was an Achilles rupture of some sort.  I went today for a third opinion. This guy, to my wary delight, said it was a calf rupture and I would be better in 12 weeks and can walk on the boot.  So, who knows what it really is, but I am relieved to at least have one opinion that suggests that I will be able to get a cup of coffee from the kitchen without being an acrobat.

Before I got to Boston, but after the injury, I went on that Friday--the second day of the tournament-- to a sports bar. I was pretty glum as I was limping like an old man and looking like a limping old man. I figured going into a sports bar would buoy my spirits and besides watching the NCAA tournament for me is like doing research//my job.

I walk into the tavern and I see not sports zealots but face a wall of silly green--and realize that it may be the second day of the tournament but it is also St. Patty's Day.  Just great. Dancing, drunken green all around me. A woman with green tentacles is giggling and has a t shirt that reads, "I can drink that bitch under the table."  Who would buy such a shirt let alone wear it even on St. Patty's.  Every one but a few of the patrons had some martian green costume and the place was hopping around.  Some shmegeggi was also leading a Trivia Night contest.  This was no real sports bar on 3/17. People in this joint would not have known a basketball from a tangerine.

Tonight:  Take Oregon plus 1 over Michigan. Take Kansas -5 against Purdue. Take Xavier plus 7.5 over Arizona, Take Gonzaga -3.5 over West Virginia and run.

Princes of Maine, Kings of New England

One of my favorite books of all time is The Cider House Rules.  Often when I see a movie after I read the book, I am disappointed. I cannot remember exactly what my reaction was when I first saw the movie version of The Cider House Rules, but I recall, vaguely, that I thought it was the exception to the rule.  I was flipping the channels tonight and saw the movie again from nearly the beginning.

It is such a good story.  We are not beholden to someone else's rules. It is our job to find out what our business is, and to be active in whatever it may be.  Someone posts rules in a cider house who does not live in the cider house? Why should we adhere to them.  Why should we assume they are the right rules, particularly when they do not seem to make sense.

If you have never read the book and you are a reader, go get it from the library. If it wasn't for the fact that the story centers in large part about an orphanage that, on the down low, is also an abortion clinic--I believe the novel would be required reading throughout the land--at least in blue states.  If you are not a reader, take out the movie.  Tobey Maguire is great as Homer.  Michael Caine is at his best as Dr. Larch.  Charlize Theron is terrific.  Likewise Delroy Lindo.

I just finished a fast read--nothing of the calibre of The Cider House Rules, but better than decent. I picked it up because I'd read another novel by the author which I was not crazy about--but was a fast read, and I did not feel like working hard.  The book, Range of Motion, is about a woman whose husband is felled by a shard of ice that falls on his head. He is in a coma and the story, written mostly from the perspective of the wife, is about how she deals with her children and her new life without her love. There is an interesting side story with her neighbor who suspects her own husband of infidelity. This is the third novel that Elizabeth Berg wrote and one of the ones that brought her the acclaim she now enjoys.  If you feel like you want a book to jump start your reading, you can knock this off easy in a couple of days and figure, subsequently, that reading the book was worth your while.

Friday, March 17, 2017


I will write more later, but after seeing the end of the Michigan//Oklahoma State I want to explain why erstwhile hirsute Michigan bettors may be bald now.

The spread was Michigan -2 1/2.  Michigan is up by 2 and is fouled. Guy hits both foul shots. Michigan up by 4 with three point something seconds left.

Oklahoma State races up the court and throws up a desperation three at the buzzer.  Swish. Michigan wins. Michigan bettors lose and that wail is the noise you heard if you live near the state of  Nevada.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Something Must Be Done

I have, on more than one occasion, been a late adopter.  I got a credit card years after they were commonplace and only succumbed when I tried to rent a car and the agent said I needed a credit card to do so.  Nearly everyone I knew had a cell phone before I purchased one.  Other things too.

So maybe it makes sense or follows that it was after African American History month that I happened to pick up two books about the struggles black Americans have faced.

Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County is part history and part memoir.  It is about the resistance southern states put up in the face of the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Ed Supreme Court decision.  That ruling made it unconstitutional for school districts to have separate but equal schools.  Separate but equal was deemed inherently unequal.

For those under 50 it may seem bizarre that there was reluctance to desegregate.  But if you are eligible to collect social security, the saga of Little Rock in 1957 is likely vivid. Stories about that battle--and listening to radio broadcasts reporting the incident--are among my earliest recollections. I have a vague memory of my parents nervously awaiting the 1956 presidential election, but the 57 Little Rock incident is more clear.

Growing up in Brooklyn, the concept of fighting over segregated schools was tough to get.  I lived in an integrated apartment complex and went to integrated schools.  I could not get the fuss.  But a fuss there was as Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County describes.  It is not about Little Rock in 1957, but a small town called Farmville, Virginia in the late 50s and early 60s.  Farmville had segregated schools and did not care that they were supposed to desegregate. What they did is incomprehensible fifty plus years later.  The County literally closed the public schools rather than comply.  Then they opened a private school which admitted only white students.  So, black kids in Farmville had no place to go to school.  It was the only county in the country that had no public schools.  Robert Kennedy then the attorney general took on Farmville and eventually--four years later--the county established public schools.

The book is as much about the author's experience living in Farmville as the incident itself.  As the author explains, her grandfather was among the townspeople who implemented the plan to close the public schools.  Her parents, of my vintage, attended the private school and, significantly, the author--thirty years my junior attended the private school even though by that time there were public schools.
The author claims that she had no awareness that there was a problem, and now feels guilty about her ignorance and her family's complicity.  The guilt is magnified because she married a mixed race man who would have been deprived of schooling had he lived in Farmville.  Also, her black maid growing up had a daughter who was a contemporary and she had to leave her mother's home to live with a relative in order to get an education.  So the maid--someone the author loved and admired--was separated from her daughter and the perpetrators of the injustice were her employers.

I am glad I read the book but I cannot recommend it. The commingling of the family saga with the events of the day is not blended well.  There is a good deal of repetition.  I think the details of the incident might have been presented with a preface or epilogue describing her family's involvement.

The Underground Railroad is a novel that takes place before the emancipation of the slaves. It is centrally about a slave who escapes.  The book begins with Cora, the slave, enduring the horrors of slavery.  Bleak and ugly are words insufficient to describe her experience.  She decides to flee and does so with another slave.  Cora travels on an actual underground railroad.  We know that the underground railroad is used to describe how slaves escaped with "railroad" used as a metaphor for the series of "stops" where slaves could hide as they escaped.  Cora goes on an actual railroad. I am not sure this aspect of the book is necessary. What is significant is who she meets and what she has to deal with in order to escape.

Usually when I read a book I race through the second half. I thought the writing in the first half of this book was great, and much better than the second half.  Colson Whitehead, the author, depicts portions of Cora's journey very well.  Other characters--the slave catcher, other slaves, the people who help her escape--are also well drawn.  I recommend this book, but for me at least it was not all that easy sledding toward the end.

Some buddies were in town this past weekend. The three of us--white folks in our mid to late 60s--recalled an incident that we witnessed in the dormitories.  Black students had petitioned successfully for there to be separate corridors within the dorms.  The people who lived on these corridors were not all activists, some just wanted the comfort not to feel discriminated against. There were some vocal political figures in the group.  One week, a group of other students--a group comprised of both blacks and whites--had petitioned the dorm directors for a forum to make a presentation against the dedication of corridors for black students. This group claimed that segregated wings of a dormitory undermined attempts for racial harmony.

So, there was a meeting. And it was no fun.

This was the 70s with significant political tension.  The black and white students from the integration group were surrounded by the black students from the segregated corridor.  The forum had no chance to be peaceful. Forty minutes into the tensest of tense conversations a fight broke out and the head of the residence halls got whacked in the face as did a member of the integration group.

The next day black and white parents came up from New York to protest the way their kids had been manhandled.  It was a mess.

But if you read Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County and The Underground Railroad, you could understand how the residual effect of slavery and segregation could lead to the tensions that existed that day in the dormitories and really continue to surface into the 21st century.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017


Yesterday, Tuesday, I had a strange experience with technology.  On Monday I was in Florida at the condo my brother and I inherited three years ago today.  I was there because the air conditioning unit needed what is called a "tune up."  If I did not have this done in early March I would have lost the opportunity to have it so tuned up for reasons that are related to a contract we have with a vendor.

So, I was given an 8-12 time slot for Monday.  I was parked in the house with my phone in my hand starting at 745 a.m.  When, at noon, nobody appeared, I called the business.  I was told that he would be there any time now.  When, at one, nobody appeared, I called the business.  The technician was "just finishing up a job" and would be there shortly.  At 130 the technician called to say he was on his way.

At 2 pm in came a technician who looked like he had heard that I was sore.  I explained that I had no beef with this poor shnook who probably just goes where the business tells him to go.  And probably hears an earful from frustrated customers at every stop.  Twenty minutes and some friendly conversation later, the air conditioner was tuned up. I signed a document and all was well in the world.  Sure I had only a few hours of Florida sunlight left, but hey, there are worse problems.

It was cool on Monday night for Florida. I took a walk and needed a long sleeve shirt and even with that it was a bit brisk.

I woke up on Tuesday and noticed that the air conditioner was not working. Just great.  Less than 24 hours after it was tuned, the thing that had been working before it was tuned, now--tuned--was not functioning. I figured it had to be something minor that the technician had done inadvertently.  So, I go to call the business using my cell as we have no landline at the condo.

I see that the call is going out, but I hear no ringing at the other end.  I try again. No ringing.  I call another number, the call apparently is going out, but no ringing.  I go to the cafe in the complex and ask someone to call me.  She tries. Her call goes directly to voice mail.

Just great. The air conditioner does not work.  I am leaving for the airport in a few hours, and I can't contact the business.  My laptop is functioning so I have to write to my brother in New Jersey and ask him to call the company and set up an appointment.  I tell him I have to be out of the condo by two.

In my car I go and drive to an A T and T place. They reset the phone (not before trying to sell me a new phone) and the phone works.  I call my brother. He tells me that he has made an appointment for 1 oclock (they promised) for a technician to see what the trouble is.  I drive back to the condo.

Yesterday, go figure, it had gotten warmer in Florida so I am warmer myself in the not air conditioned unit.  Also, go figure, the technician is not there at 1.  I go to call the business as I have to leave at 2 for my flight.  The phone does not work.  I shut it off. I turn it on and it works. I call the company and they tell me that the guy is just finishing up a job and will be there in ten minutes.  I have heard this refrain several times in the last day and a half and now know that the person who is giving me the likely time of arrival is full of fecal matter.   When the repairman does not appear at 130 I go to call the business. The phone does not work.  I'm having just a wonderful day.  I shut the phone off, and turn it on.  The phone works. I call the business and the spewer of false information tells me that the repairman is on his way.  Sure.

At 2 he shows up. Another poor shnook who is just going where they tell him to go.  In thirty seconds he sees that his colleague who was there yesterday had turned a dial one way while tuning the air conditioner  and had forgotten to turn it back.  Zip zip the air conditoner is fixed. I get in the car to drive to the airport. I go to call my brother to tell him all is well and the condo will not melt.  The phone does not work.

So, today during lunch hour I go to the apple store which is an enormous three story building in prime real estate on Boylston street in Boston. If you ever want to know why your ipad costs what it does, go check out this building.  Must cost a sweet bundle to rent the spot.

When I walk into the building I see, all over the first floor (and then later I see them all over all floors) an army of smiling 20 somethings with ipads. They are all there to deal with guys like me who either want to buy a product or more likely need service.  The fellow I deal with is wearing a sock hat inside and duds that are a college student's attire except for an apple tee shirt.  He is all positive when I tell him what I need. He tells me that a technician will be with me in 45 minutes. The guy pokes at his ipad and I get a text telling me that I will get another text when they are ready for me. I ask if there is a Starbucks nearby. He says there is. I say I will go there. He says "Awesome."

I take a walk to the Starbucks a half block down.  A 20 something woman with green hair says "awesome" when I ask for an egg sandwich and coffee. When I ask her if I should swipe my card or use the chip, she tells me to swipe.  When I do so, she says "Awesome." I sit down, sip my coffee, pick up my sandwich when my awesome sandwich is ready.  I take a number of bites in my sandwich when I am buzzed to be informed that the technician is ready for me.

Back I go to the Apple Store with smiling apple shirted believers swarming around.  One such smiling kid says I should go to the third floor. I walk up the stairs, see more smiling children on the second floor. I walk to the third floor. There are dozens of swarming smiling Apple people there. Every one is saying terrific or fantastic to whomever they are chatting with. I go to a counter. I tell the smiling kid there that I was buzzed. She asks my name. I tell her. She pokes her ipad and says, ALAN! like I am someone she has been looking forward to seeing and is now delighted that I have arrived.

I say, yes, I am Alan.  She says, "Awesome."  Then tells me to sit down on a bench and a techie will come out to check out my phone.

I sit down and feel like a very old guy.  I have to be forty years older than every smiling apple-person. These people look like they have found religion and have taken some drugs along the way. They are all so smiley and happy looking like they have found the right route to spiritual salvation.

My mental meanderings and thoughts that I am ancient are interrupted by a young smiling woman in an apple shirt with a ring in her nose who says she is "looking for Alan!"  I tell her she found me, but feel like asking if she is old enough to drink.

She sits down and tries to explain what might be wrong with the phone and what she is going to do to try and remedy it.  I swear I do not understand a single complete sentence she is uttering. I get a few words here and there, but if I have to take a listening comprehension test when this is over I will fail miserably.  I ask some questions which sound to me, let alone to her, as if I am saying something like,  "So you think that 2 and 2 is 4?"  And she is trying to be patient with me and smile.

She takes the phone to a backroom and I sit on a stool near a long bench on which sits maybe thirty IMACs for those who are waiting or are just meandering about.  Back comes the 20 year old and tells me what she did and how I can do it myself.  Yeah, right, I think.  She sees my doubt and shows me. "You just hit this, and then you hit that, and then you hit that, and you are all set."

By the time I get to the second floor I am sure the technology will have changed so the instructions she gave me will be worthless.  I pass, not kidding, at least twenty more apple clad smiling people and I feel like I have just spent time in a building that a cult has rented.

I ask someone on my way out, how she became so knowledgeable about this stuff.  "Just by playing around" she says.

When I got back to the office I spotted something on the net about the best places for people to retire.  I went through the list.