Vegas, Day 1.

by A.J. Coltrane

Day 1 was Thursday..

…One sportsbook said Thursday was its biggest single-day win in memory.

“Epic day, absolutely,” Jay Rood, vice president of MGM race and sports, said of Thursday. “Tough day for the players coupled with the fact the books did well Wednesday, too.”

“Yesterday was amazing,” Dave Pemberton, director of specialty games for Caesars Entertainment, added Friday night.

Including the First Four games Tuesday and Wednesday, underdogs covered the spread in the first 10 games of the tournament. Favorites went 4-12 against the spread Thursday. No. 14 seed Georgia State and UAB pulled off upsets as double-digit underdogs, damaging brackets and destroying money-line parlays everywhere.

“We didn’t sweep the board [Thursday] but we were pretty close,” Jason Simbal of CG Technology’s sportsbook said.

I opened Thursday with zero wins against six losses. It got bad enough that I had to go to the ATM to continue.

Baylor by 9? Nope. Defeated. Iowa State as a 14-point favorite? Out of the tournament. Notre Dame didn’t cover, even though they had the #3 offense in the country going in. On and on it went.

Like most of the squares, I’d picked a bunch of favorites. Looking at my sheet prior to the first game it was obvious that it could potential trouble, but then even the picks I was extremely comfortable with failed.

About five hours into the massacre I got my first win — Arizona covered at the half. Fortunately I went 7-2 starting at that point to finish the day at 7-8. The three Over/Under bets and two halftime bets probably helped. I also won UCLA (+4 vs SMU) and Utah (-6.5 vs Stephen F. Austin). From the sound of it, I got off easy.


This is the one day that I skipped a game altogether. Kentucky was favored by 34 and I didn’t want to go anywhere near that one. (Kentucky wound up winning by 26.)


Vegas, Day 0.

by A.J. Coltrane

We arrived in the casino on Wednesday, early evening. The late, tournament “play-in” games hadn’t started yet.

The game that interested me was Boise St. versus Dayton. I’d seen both teams recently and felt fairly confident that I knew what they were — that I had a good idea of their styles, strengths, weaknesses, and true talent levels.

To backtrack a bit: We’d been enjoying adult beverages starting in the mid-morning. (Especially me.) Free cocktails in the VIP lounge at the airport. Free cocktails on the plane. I was well lubricated. I was ready to make a “fun” bet to kick off the weekend, and Boise St. – Dayton seemed like an excellent place to start.

We made our way to the sports book and were presented with something like this:


But the game I wanted to place a bet on said “SUSP”. Which I took to mean “suspended”. I didn’t know why the betting might be “off” on that game so I asked the attendant:

Me:  “Is the betting off on the Boise St. game?”

Attendant:  “Let’s see… no, the line is +4.5 for Boise St.”

That means that if I were to take Boise St. at say, $50, and they were to either win outright or lose by 4 or less, then I’d win $45.45 and pocket a total of $95.45, counting my original $50 I’d get back. Not bad. But then I’m thinking that if Boise St. is that slim of an underdog maybe I can make more money by betting them to win outright….

Me:  “What’s the Money Line?” (Odds for Boise St. to win outright.)

Attendant:  “+175″

Now that’s interesting! If Boise St. wins outright then I’ll win $87.50 and pocket $137.50. That, to my mind, is a good value bet in this scenario. So, quickly, and with confidence…

Me:  “$50 on the Money Line please.”

Random Regular Leaning On The Counter To My Right:  “Me Likey! They’re my team!”

And by that, he doesn’t mean he’s rooting for Boise St., only that he has money on them too. I take it as an encouraging sign that one of the degenerates approves of my taste in Boise St.

The game begins. Our favorite bartender is feeding me more adult beverages, and I’m feeling pretty good about things:

Boise St. led 29-17 with 2:09 to go in the 1st half.

Boise St. led 29-20 at halftime.

Boise St. led 50-41 with 6:36 to go in the game.

At the 1:24 mark it was still 53-50, Boise St.


[Dayton’s] Jordan Sibert’s two free throws tied it at 53-53 with 1:02 left, and his long 3-pointer gave the Flyers a 56-55 lead with 34 seconds to go.

After [Boise St.’s] Montigo Alford missed a driving bank shot, [Dayton’s] Pollard got the rebound, was fouled and missed both free throws with 14 seconds left, giving the Broncos a final shot.

The final, contested 3-point attempt by Boise St. missed everything.


But it gets worse before it gets better…



The Bracket Of Peril – 2015 Edition

by A.J. Coltrane

The Bracket Of Peril is back!

Link here.

The group name is Cheap Seat Eats. Password is TakeMeOut.

They made it easier to join this year. If you played in the group last year you can simply select “Rejoin Group”, and away you go. Up to three entries per person. Have some fun with it and make a non-Kentucky bracket too!

As usual, the winner gets a whole bunch of nothing!

Join soon, the tournament starts Thursday, with the play-in games on Tuesday.

The Pass-Catching Jimmy Graham

by A.J. Coltrane

You may have heard that the Seahawks traded for “Pro Bowl TE Jimmy Graham”. What that means is that during a game this fall you’ll hear an announcer say something like “Last season Jimmy Graham was 2nd among Tight Ends in receiving yards.”

Categorically ignore those statements. Jimmy Graham isn’t really a Tight End. He lined up wide on 67% of snaps in 2013. He doesn’t block much. During his last salary negotiations an arbitrator ruled that he was a Tight End, but that’s really just because the NFL nomenclature for hybrid Tight End/Wide Receiver pass-catchers hasn’t caught up to reality.

Graham is 6’7″ and 265 pounds. He’s more of the class of Tight Ends that includes Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates — guys who are basically great big basketball players who don’t quite fit in the NBA and aren’t really asked to block like a traditional Tight End. Calvin Johnson and Andre Johnson are reasonable comps too.

They’re all just pass-catchers who are matchup nightmares — too big to be covered by a Defensive Back and too fast for a Linebacker.

For fun:

Player Height Weight Nominal Position
Jimmy Graham 6’7” 265 TE
Rob Gronkowski 6’6” 265 TE
Greg Olson 6’5” 253 TE
Antonio Gates 6’4” 255 TE
Tony Gonzalez 6’5” 247 TE
Calvin Johnson 6’5” 236 WR
Andre Johnson 6’3” 230 WR

From there it’s a sliding scale to the big, pure wide receivers like Dez Bryant and Julio Jones at 6’2″, 220 pounds.

Given that Wide Receivers make more money than Tight Ends, the odds are high that the next “Jimmy Graham” insists he’s a Wide Receiver from the get go.


A special shout-out to Harold Carmichael, one of my favorite Wide Receivers of the 70’s and early 80’s. Carmichael played at 6’8″ and 225 pounds. He was a four time Pro Bowler, was named to the NFL’s “70’s All-Decade Team”, and is in the Eagles Hall of Fame. Excellent, fun, and unique player.

NFL Historical Imagery


The Beginning Of The Winter Harvest. In March.

by A.J. Coltrane

Well now I know:  Sowing seeds in late September or early October yields basically nothing for months.

Pak Choi (left), Mache (right).

Pak Choi (left), Mache (right).

Pictured is a sample of some of the greens that were sown late last year. It’s about enough for a couple of salads and a nice stir-fry.

Very little growth happened between October and February. I’m guessing the slugs and the cold “got” about the same amount of stuff as is currently in the containers — with the exception of the Pak Choi and Mache, most everything else is still pretty small. Hopefully we’ll see an explosion of growth over the next 30-40 days, because after that it’s time to prep for the summer veg.

I’m inclined to give it one more try next winter, though I’d better get it Right if it’s going to be worth the effort.

A Quick Pizza

by A.J. Coltrane

In between watching and recording 30-something college basketball games over the last few days — a two-hour pizza happened:

Goat cheese, roasted red pepper, and soppressata.

Goat cheese, red sauce, roasted red pepper, and soppressata.

50% bread flour, 50% “oo” flour, 60% hydration with a splash of white wine. 2% kosher salt. Baked on a stone preheated to 500F.

The “oo” flour continues to be super extensible. I thought maybe cutting in some bread flour would make it more controllable. It didn’t seem to have much impact.

As for other possible improvements — I think maybe I need to be slightly freezing the meat before slicing it. It would benefit the pizza if the soppressata was even thinner than I’ve been able to get it.

Overall though, I feel like I’m really starting to get the hang of the pizza peel and stone. It’s resulting in better pizza crusts. The pizza peel isn’t now as intimidating as I used to think it was.

More Baguettes

by A.J. Coltrane

I’m finally getting comfortable enough with the baguettes to bring them places and introduce them to friends.

150305 breads

That’s a No Knead on the left that I lightly slashed a couple of times. It wound being a fairly attractive example of the type.

I made six baguettes altogether, in two batches of three. The pictured breads are the from the first batch. The 2nd batch was more irregular and was quietly sliced and served in baskets.

I used a “poolish” when making the baguettes — 200 grams of water and 200 grams of bread flour were combined a day ahead of time and allowed to sit at room temperature. That’s done to allow enzymes time to break starches down into sugars, and in theory it helps the structure of the finished product.

The next day I added the poolish to the mixer, along with an additional 200 grams of bread flour, 52 grams of water, 8 grams of kosher salt, and one teaspoon of instant yeast. (That’s 63% hydration, 2% salt, and a normal amount of yeast for a 2-hour rise. Pretty standard.)

The dough was allowed to rise for an hour,  then was divided and shaped into baguette shapes. After another 45 minutes of rising the doughs went into a preheated 450F oven for 22 minutes. I tried adding steam but I don’t think that I used enough water/surface area to have much impact — there wasn’t much steam going on. Overall the whole structure of the baguettes wasn’t very “open”.

Still, the breads were well received, and I got at the three relatively photogenic baguettes out of the deal, so I’ll call that a win.

I think the next real breakthrough will come when I get a better handle on the steam thing.

Hops & Props 2015

by A.J. Coltrane

We’ve never missed a Hops & Props. [2012 post here.] Our group has evolved as some younger members hit drinking age, and the event itself has changed over the years too.

The first year, it felt like nobody really knew about it. It was mostly a beer-snob crowd. The next couple of years saw a lot more “beer tourists” come to the event — the crowd got younger, more attractive, and sloppier.

The tickets aren’t cheap:  $85 for non-museum members. I think that’s driving what we saw this year. The event had almost a hybrid beer-event/wine-event feel. As compared to a typical beer event the crowd was wealthier, more female, and by far better dressed. There were more than a few really expensive Cougars of the type you’d usually see at a wine thing.

It was dark and therefore blurry.

It was dark and therefore blurry.

It seems to me that the food has gone vaguely downhill annually since the first year. As an example, the 2012 post linked above shows full sized corn dogs. This year, one offering was a mini fringe-average corn dog. On the flip side, I think they had a broader variety of foods, from egg rolls to clam chowder to buffalo wings.

Still, a fun event, and highly recommended. Just make sure to buy tickets immediately when they’re available. This year it sold out in less than a week.


Last night I had a dream in which I invented a revolutionary new instrument. It was a sealed yellow plastic box, maybe 2′ long by 1.5′ wide by 1′ deep, with about 20 closely spaced plastic strings strung in parallel along the top. It also had around 20 buttons that when depressed would select a chord, the chord would be voiced when the strings were strummed.

The box was shaped like this:


You may have already seen one of these in real life:


The only real difference was that in the dream I had the chord-selecting buttons off to the side of the strings, rather than on top of them.


More “00” Flour Pizza

by A.J. Coltrane

I’m continuing to work through the 22 pounds (10 kg) of “00” flour that Iron Chef Leftovers gave me. That’s actually more than it sounds like — a typical pizza uses ~300 grams of flour.

150225 pizza

Caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, red sauce with a little sausage, and feta. The onions are hiding under the sauce, away from the heat.

The dough formula:  350g flour, 210g water (60% hydration), 7g kosher salt, 10g olive oil, 1 tsp instant yeast, and a splash of white wine. Baked in a 500F oven on a baking stone for 12 minutes total. The cheese was added with 4 minutes to go.

The post-mortem:  350 grams of flour makes for a fairly thick pizza. Most likely I’ll cut it back to 250-275 grams next time.

The “00” flour is crazy extensible. The dough was kneaded for 10 minutes, and did a “stretch and fold” on it probably 20 times after removing it from the mixer and it was still super duper stretchy. This time I patted it out on the counter, then carefully tossed it between my hands. There were some really thin places in the finished dough, so I clearly need more work on technique.

The pizza was very light and airy, which was probably partly due to all the “stretch and folds”, and partly the “00” flour. It was fully cooked, though next time I think I’ll let it go another 2-3 minutes for more color and snap. The caramelized onions really “made” the pizza. Tasty!

Bonus girl cat pic. She’s nestled in somebody’s lap, and on her favorite blanket to knead. Check out those claws:

150225 girl cat

My High School Teacher Was Right

by A.J. Coltrane

I had a teacher in high school who said that [paraphrasing] “football is only about being fast and big.” That quote has stuck with me all this time..

Yesterday I searched for a graph showing speed vs weight results at the NFL Combine and came up empty. FiveThirtyEight obliged today.


speed vs weight

The image is taken from a two-part piece that documents how the Madden player ratings are created. Unfortunately, Walt Hickey seems to be a complete non-athlete. He can’t throw, kick, or catch. (During tests, he kicked the ball 11 yards, and threw it 20. If you click on part two of the piece you can see his sad “kicking and throwing motions”.) I would have preferred that they at least tested a reasonably competent amateur, like a guy in his 20’s who was nothing special, but good enough to start at linebacker at a medium-sized high school (or something). Anyone closer to average might have provided more informative results.

Still, the articles are an interesting snapshot of the process of how the ratings are assigned.

The graph offers three takeaways:

1.  Note the Quarterback position. (purple) They’re just a little slower and lighter than everyone else.

2.  The offensive and defensive linemen cluster into two groups. The lighter group can run a little bit. The heavier group, not so much.

3.  A regression line wouldn’t wind up quite linear — it tails downward towards the right-hand end. Evidently there’s a limit to how much weight the human body can carry and still retain any mobility.

I didn’t quite believe Mr. Marsh in high school. Now I believe he had a point.