Journey to the Top of Lone Mountain

Fitz looks over the Las Vegas vallery

A few days ago, Fitz and I were at the local dog park. Fitz is finally starting to get used to the other dogs and was being, somewhat surprisingly, polite to the yorkie and terrier mix that were in the pen with us.

I was talking to the other owners and one mentioned that he likes to take his dog hiking and he had recently taken her to the top of Lone Mountain. I asked if she needed any help along the way and he confirmed that, due to the amount of rock scrambling, he needed to lift her up at times on the way to the top.

In my mind a challenge was born. I decided Fitz was getting to the top of the mountain without any help.

Yesterday, Fitz and I headed out as soon as we woke up. The sun was still low as we arrived at the trail head. I could tell Fitz was excited about the journey ahead. I decided I’d be happy if he made it halfway before getting tired. I knew this was something unusual for our little dachshund.

You can imagine my surprise as we reached the halfway point and Fitz showed no signs of slowing. He was ready to head for the peak. He let me know by continually bursting onwards and upwards.

In what seemed like no time at all we reached the summit. I’m proud to say that Fitz received no help as we headed to the top. He used his powerful little legs to hop on rocks and leap over crevices.

Fitz gazes upon his domain with pleasure

The way down was only slightly more eventful because we encountered another owner and dog. Fitz got into a barking match with the other canine, presumably discussing ownership of the turf.

Alas, Fitz’s energy ran low as we reached the car. After drinking almost a full liter of water, he fell soundly asleep on the passenger seat and stayed asleep almost the entirety of the day.

NFL Picks – 2013, Final Tally

A long time ago, I made the last post about our picks for each week. We continued to pick the games, but I stopped posting them here on the blog because of a lack of time.

With the super bowl less than a week away at this point, I figured it was time to loop back and post the final results. Here’s a complete breakdown of our record by week. Just as a reminder, we started in Week 2 and didn’t pick the Thursday game that week. Also, for some reason, we stopped picking the tiebreaker starting in Week 14, so that doesn’t change after that point.

Week Angela Nick Angela (Total) Nick (Total) Tiebreaker (Angela – Nick)
2 8-7 12-3 0-0 0-0 0-0
3 9-7 6-10 8-7 12-3 1-0
4 9-6 8-7 17-14 18-13 1-1
5 8-6 7-7 26-20 26-20 2-1
6 10-5 11-4 34-26 33-27 3-1
7 9-6 7-8 44-31 44-31 4-1
8 10-3 10-3 53-37 51-39 4-2
9 7-6 8-5 63-40 61-42 4-3
10 6-8 5-9 70-46 69-47 4-4
11 11-4 10-5 76-54 74-56 5-4
12 5-9 7-7 87-58 84-61 5-5
13 10-6 11-5 92-67 91-68 6-5
14 14-2 14-2 102-73 102-73 7-5
15 10-6 7-9 116-75 116-75 7-6
16 8-8 9-7 126-81 123-84 7-6
17 14-2 12-4 134-89 132-91 7-6
Final     148-91 (0.619) 144-95 (0.602) 7-6

As you can see, we both made pretty good picks throughout the season. Angela beat me out in the end, though, and she deserved it. She did her homework, watched the injury report, and picked her teams strategically. I tried to stay on top of things, but Angela always knew something I didn’t.

The Winnings

Angela and I made a small bet, but by the time the season was over I’d already bought my “prize” for myself as a birthday present. Angela won, but I’ll admit I welched on the bet. Instead of cleaning the apartment on my hands and knees, I purchased a voucher for house cleaning so that I could spend time with my wife rather than scrubbing floors and walls.

Overall, this was fun. It was kind of a pain in the ass to keep track of things manually (plus we could both see the other person’s picks depending on who picked first) so next year I’m going to propose we use one of the pick’em games on NFL.com or ESPN.com.

My hat is off to my beautiful wife for being a better game picker than I am. We’ll see who wins next year!

NFL Picks – 2013, Week 6

This is the fifth week of our season long pick ’em contest. Angela and I had five picks that differed last week and Angela managed to take the lead by winning one more than I. Here’s our records from last week:

  • Angela: 8-8
  • Nick: 7-9

And our overall records:

  • Angela: 34-29
  • Nick: 33-30

We’re also picking the Monday night score and whoever gets closer gets one tiebreaker point. Angela won last week so our current tiebreaker record is:

  • Angela: 3-1
  • Nick: 1-3

Here’s our picks for Week 6:

N.Y. Giants at Chicago Bears
Angela: Bears
Nick: Bears
Green Bay Packers at Baltimore Ravens
Angela: Packers
Nick: Packers
Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Angela: Buccaneers
Nick: Eagles
Pittsburgh Steelers at N.Y. Jets
Angela: Jets
Nick: Jets
Carolina Panthers at Minnesota Vikings
Angela: Panthers
Nick: Vikings
Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs
Angela: Chiefs
Nick: Chiefs
St. Louis Rams at Houston Texans
Angela: Texans
Nick: Rams
Cincinnati Bengals at Buffalo Bills
Angela: Bengals
Nick: Bengals
Detroit Lions at Cleveland Browns
Angela: Lions
Nick: Lions
Tennessee Titans at Seattle Seahawks
Angela: Seahawks
Nick: Seahawks
Jacksonville Jaguars at Denver Broncos
Angela: Broncos
Nick: Broncos
New Orleans Saints at New England Patriots
Angela: Saints
Nick: Saints
Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers
Angela: 49ers
Nick: 49ers
Washington Indigenous Persons at Dallas Cowboys
Angela: Cowboys
Nick: Cowboys
Indianapolis Colts at San Diego Chargers
Angela: Colts
Nick: Colts
Monday Night Score
Angela: 45
Nick: 56

What Football Means to Me

Recently, my Aunt Susan linked to a documentary regarding the NFL’s denial of a link between football and head trauma and the ongoing scandal that has resulted from the actions (and inaction) of the league. She asked what my brother and I thought about it which led me to think about what football has meant to me in general.

Let me lead by saying that I think it is unfortunate that the NFL has gone to the lengths it has to deny that football can have a negative impact on the brain health of players. Anyone with a lick of common sense can look at the recent research and see that repeated concussions are bad and that small head traumas add up over time. I think the NFL could act as a leader in more meaningful ways than they currently are:

  • Mandate safer helmets which have been determined to provide better protection against head trauma
  • Suspend players for violent hits rather than just fining them (unlike college, I believe these suspensions should be issued post-game rather than in-game)
  • Require that player helmets fit appropriately – a helmet coming off should cause a player to miss the remainder of the half
  • Reduce the number of total games played over a season (or increase the active roster size substantially)

I think this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what could be done. Major changes like revisions to the nature of helmet construction (padded foam rubber instead of hard plastic shells) and removing kickoffs from the game could be viable options down the line. Of course, I would be negligent if I didn’t mention the things that the league is doing already to protect players:

  • Hits to the head are punished (although it seems to be somewhat inconsistent)
  • Concussion testing is now mandatory for players showing symptoms
  • The NFL is promoting the Heads Up Football program in a big way (which is a huge deal, in all honesty)

All this being said, none of the recent research affects the way I feel about football, either as a player or a spectator. Here’s what I said on Facebook:

I know I’ve had concussions while playing and it may have affected me for the rest of my life. Also, the position I played is particularly susceptible to repeated small impacts, which some research has shown is actually worse than single big hits.

All that being said, I wouldn’t trade my playing experience for anything. I learned the value of camaraderie and being part of a team. I had experiences that I’ll remember the rest of my life and a lot of my physical fitness can be attributed directly to football. I think there are ways to make the game safer and I’m hoping they’re implemented, but I’ll never feel bad about enjoying the sport.

I love football. I loved playing and I love watching it. It is a chess game played by large, athletic men (and some women) who need to work together in a very precise way to achieve a shared outcome.

As a player, I experienced the whole gamut of human emotions almost every time I stepped on the field. From pure elation to the deepest despair. Sadness, joy, loneliness, and togetherness – all of these could be felt in a single game. I learned about myself as a man and as a leader. I pushed myself to the limits and the only thing I regret is not playing longer than I did.

As a spectator, I enjoy the technical aspect of the game. While most people who watch football follow the ball and watch the skill position players, I more often than not am watching the intricate stunts and blitz pickups by the defensive and offensive lines. I’m watching the techniques of the linebackers as they read their keys and either drop into coverage or attack. I yell at the TV and boo the refs like everyone else (if not, what’s the point of being a fan) but my enjoyment goes to a deeper level than the play on the screen.

If Angela and I are blessed with a male child in the coming years, I’ll probably encourage him to give football a try when he reaches adolescence and I think Angela will, too. I believe strongly that the benefits of a structured football program outweigh the risks.

NFL Picks – 2013, Week 5

This is the fourth week of our season long pick ’em contest. Angela and I only had one pick that differed last week, but she won it so we’re all tied up. Here’s our record from last week:

  • Angela: 9-7
  • Nick: 8-8

And our overall records:

  • Angela: 26-21
  • Nick: 26-21

We’re also picking the Monday night score and whoever gets closer gets one tiebreaker point. Angela won last week so our current tiebreaker record is:

  • Angela: 2-1
  • Nick: 1-2

Here’s our picks for Week 5:

Buffalo Bills at Cleveland Browns
Angela: Bills
Nick: Browns
New England Patriots at Cincinnati Bengals
Angela: Patriots
Nick: Patriots
Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers
Angela: Packers
Nick: Packers
Seattle Seahawks at Indianapolis Colts
Angela: Seahawks
Nick: Seahawks
Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins
Angela: Ravens
Nick: Dolphins
New Orleans Saints at Chicago Bears
Angela: Saints
Nick: Bears
Philadelphia Eagles at N.Y. Giants
Angela: Eagles
Nick: Eagles
Jacksonville Jaguars at St. Louis Rams
Angela: Rams
Nick: Rams
Kansas City Chiefs at Tennessee Titans
Angela: Chiefs
Nick: Chiefs
Carolina Panthers at Arizona Cardinals
Angela: Panthers
Nick: Cardinals
Denver Broncos at Dallas Cowboys
Angela: Broncos
Nick: Broncos
Houston Texans at San Francisco 49ers
Angela: 49ers
Nick: Texans
San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders
Angela: Chargers
Nick: Chargers
N.Y. Jets at Atlanta Falcons
Angela: Falcons
Nick: Falcons
Monday Night Score
Angela: 37
Nick: 31

My “Back on Track” Workout

I took about 6 weeks off of lifting weights in the months of July and August. I started lifting again at the beginning of September and it took a few weeks to get my body used to the stresses again. Last week, I finally felt like I used to and decided to ramp up my workouts a little bit. This past week has been a bit of a challenge, but I’m happy with the way things worked out and will be reusing this workout for at least the next 3 weeks.

There’s a few important things to note about my workout:

  • It is a hybrid split-body workout – most days get their own body part
  • I do intense cardio every day but Thursday
  • I don’t lift weights on the weekends
  • I decided on the weights I would use ahead of time so I wasn’t thinking during the workout

I felt like this week went really well. I feel stronger than I did at the beginning of the week and I feel accomplished because of what I did. I think the plan I followed could be used by pretty much anyone (with modifications to the weight based on your strength levels, obviously). Here’s what I did for cardio and on each day:

Cardio

Every day except Thurdsay, I do 15 rounds of jump rope. Each round is 60 seconds of work followed by a 45 second rest period. I jump as fast as I can and try to mix it up by jumping on one foot, jogging while jumping rope, jumping in a staggered stance, etc.

Monday – Shoulders

  • Barbell Overhead Press: 95×8, 115×8, 135×8, 155×8
  • Barbell Upright Row: 95×8, 95×8, 95×8
  • Dumbbell Lateral Raise: 20×12, 20×12, 30×8
  • Barbell Front Raise: 45×12, 45×12, 65×8
  • Shrug: 135×12, 135×12, 185×8

Tuesday – Legs

  • Back Squat: 135×8, 185×8, 225×8, 275×8
  • Front Squat: 95×8, 115×8, 135×8
  • Overhead Squat: 95×8, 95×8, 95×8
  • Romanian Deadlift: 145×8, 145×8, 145×8
  • Good Mornings: 135×8, 135×8, 135×8

Wednesday – Chest and Back

  • Barbell Bench Press: 135×8, 185×8, 205×8, 225×8
  • Dumbbell Chest Flyes: 30×12, 30×12, 30×12
  • Pull Up (strict form): 4 sets to failure (between 8 and 15, usually)
  • Bent Over Barbell Row: 95×12, 95×12, 135×8

Thursday – Olympic-esque

  • Kettlebell Swings: 53×20, 53×20, 53×20, 53×20
  • Hang Clean: 135×8, 135×8, 135×8
  • Hang Snatch: 95×8, 95×8, 95×8
  • Deadlift: 225×8, 225×8, 225×8
  • Lateral Bench Jumps: 20, 20, 20

Friday – Arms

  • Dumbbell Curl: 20×12, 20×12, 30×8
  • Barbell Curl: 95×8, 95×8, 95×8
  • Dumbbell Lying Tricep Extension (Skull Crushers): 30×8, 30×8, 30×8
  • Dumbbell Tricep Kickbacks: 20×8, 20×8, 20×8

Andre’s Las Vegas

Last week, Angela and I went to Andre’s Las Vegas for dinner. We purchased a TravelZoo Local deal for a 3-course meal (appetizer, entree, desert) at Andre’s because it seemed like a good deal and would be a good way to get out of the house and have a nice date night.

Andre’s is located inside of the Monte Carlo Casino. It is off the beaten path a little bit, located in a corner that you wouldn’t see unless you were looking for it. We had a reservation for 5:30 PM and arrived a few minutes before that time. We were immediately seated at a table.

The first thing I noticed was that there were only four other people in the restaurant – they looked like a group of businessmen attending a conference or something, so definitely not local. I wasn’t a big fan of the decor and just felt like there was a kind of weird ambiance. I didn’t take any pictures of our food because there wasn’t a way to do it inconspicuously where we were seated.

Our waiter was polite and prompt. He asked for our voucher and then provided us with a limited menu from which we could pick our courses. I chose Caesar salad, sauteed chicken breast, and a chocolate souffle. Angela chose French onion soup, potato crusted sea bass, and banana ice cream profiteroles. She also ordered a glass of Riesling wine.

After placing our order, we were provided with an amuse-bouche. The small plate had a fried pork belly sphere with a red pepper drizzle and a goat cheese and beet tart. Angela enjoyed both of the selections while I didn’t like either one. For me, the pork belly was too fatty and the tart was way too tangy. Not my style, honestly.

Our appetizers came out shortly thereafter. The Caesar salad was well dressed and had a parmesan flower instead of the usual parmesan strips. That was kind of neat. Angela’s soup was way too hot. She had to wait until I was almost done with my salad before she could even start eating it. She said the flavor was good but wasn’t happy that she burnt her mouth with her first taste.

Our entrees came out next. I was surprised to find that I didn’t get served a chicken breast, instead being provided with a wing and thigh. The flavor was OK, but the chicken seemed a little bit more fried than I thought it would be given that it was described as sauteed on the menu. Angela’s sea bass was done well and she enjoyed the flavor. The noodles that were served alongside the fish, however, were much too buttery. She let me have a taste and all I could taste was butter.

We each enjoyed desert, but we weren’t offered the option to order a la carte coffee or drinks to go with our dessert, which I thought was really weird. After dessert and before paying the check we were provided with a selection of four chocolate truffles. They were pretty good and a nice touch.

Overall, Andre’s isn’t somewhere we’d go again. The service was good but the food was just OK. The thing that really, really displeased me was not getting a chicken breast when that is what I ordered. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that before. If it is because we were using a TravelZoo deal, then they just shouldn’t put it on the menu. We would not recommend going to Andre’s when there are so many other good restaurants in Las Vegas in general. If you really want to eat at the Monte Carlo, just head to Brand.

NFL Picks – 2013, Week 4

This is the third week of our season long pick ’em contest. Last week was absolutely brutal for me whereas Angela made up 3 games in our season long record contest. Here’s our record from last week:

  • Angela: 9-7
  • Nick: 6-10

And our overall records:

  • Angela: 17-14
  • Nick: 18-13

We’re also picking the Monday night score and whoever gets closer gets one tiebreaker point. I won last week so our current tiebreaker record is:

  • Angela: 1-1
  • Nick: 1-1

Here’s our picks for Week 4:

San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams
Angela: 49ers
Nick: 49ers
Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills
Angela: Ravens
Nick: Ravens
Arizona Cardinals at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Angela: Cardinal
Nick: Cardinals
Pittsburgh Steelers at Minnesota Vikings
Angela: Steelers
Nick: Steelers
N.Y. Giants at Kansas City Chiefs
Angela: Chiefs
Nick: Chiefs
Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars
Angela: Colts
Nick: Colts
Seattle Seahawks at Houston Texans
Angela: Seahawks
Nick: Seahawks
Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns
Angela: Bengals
Nick: Bengals
Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions
Angela: Bears
Nick: Bears
N.Y. Jets at Tennessee Titans
Angela: Titans
Nick: Titans
Washington Indigenous Persons at Oakland Raiders
Angela: Indigenous Persons
Nick: Indigenous Persons
Philadelphia Eagles at Denver Broncos
Angela: Broncos
Nick: Broncos
Dallas Cowboys at San Diego Chargers
Angela: Cowboys
Nick: Cowboys
New England Patriots at Atlanta Falcons
Angela: Falcons
Nick: Falcons
Miami Dolphins at New Orleans Saints
Angela: Dolphins
Nick: Saints
Monday Night Score
Angela: 35
Nick: 32

NFL Picks – 2013, Week 3

This is the second week of our season long pick ’em contest. We each had a fair bit of success in the first week, although I came out ahead because two of my four picks won by a single point. Lucky me! Our current records:

  • Angela: 8-7
  • Nick: 12-3

We’re also picking the Monday night score and whoever gets closer gets one tiebreaker point. For our tiebreaker, the current record is:

  • Angela: 1-0
  • Nick: 0-1

Here’s our picks for Week 3:

Kansas City Chiefs at Philadelphia Eagles
Angela: Eagles
Nick: Eagles
Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens
Angela: Texans
Nick: Texans
Detroit Lions at Washington Indigenous Persons
Angela: Lions
Nick: Lions
San Diego Chargers at Tennessee Titans
Angela: Titans
Nick: Chargers
Arizona Cardinals at New Orleans Saints
Angela: Saints
Nick: Cardinals
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New England Patriots
Angela: Patriots
Nick: Patriots
Cleveland Browns at Minnesota Vikings
Angela: Vikings
Nick: Vikings
N.Y. Giants at Carolina Panthers
Angela: Giants
Nick: Giants
Green Bay Packers at Cincinnati Bengals
Angela: Packers
Nick: Packers
St. Louis Rams at Dallas Cowboys
Angela: Cowboys
Nick: Cowboys
Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins
Angela: Dolphins
Nick: Falcons
Buffalo Bills at N.Y. Jets
Angela: Bills
Nick: Bills
Jacksonville Jaguars at Seattle Seahawks
Angela: Seahawks
Nick: Seahawks
Indianapolis Colts at San Francisco 49ers
Angela: 49ers
Nick: 49ers
Chicago Bears at Pittsburgh Steelers
Angela: Bears
Nick: Bears
Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos
Angela: Broncos
Nick: Broncos
Monday Night Points
Angela: 45
Nick: 49

NFL Picks – 2013, Week 2

Angela and I have decided we’re going to do a pick ’em every weekend for the rest of the NFL season, just for fun between ourselves. Our current record:

  • Angela: 0-0
  • Nick: 0-0

Here’s our picks for Week 2:

New York Jets vs New England Patriots
Angela: Did not pick
Nick: Did not pick
Cleveland Browns vs Baltimore Ravens
Angela: Ravens
Nick: Ravens
Minnesota Vikings vs Chicago Bears
Angela: Bears
Nick: Bears
Tennessee Titans vs Houston Texans
Angela: Texans
Nick: Texans
Carolina Panthers vs Buffalo Bills
Angela: Panthers
Nick: Bills
St. Louis Rams vs Arizona Falcons
Angela: Falcons
Nick: Falcons
San Diego Chargers vs Philadelphia Eagles
Angela: Eagles
Nick: Eagles
Washington Redskins vs Green Bay Packers
Angela: Packers
Nick: Packers
Miami Dolphins vs Indianapolis Colts
Angela: Colts
Nick: Colts
Dallas Cowboys vs Kansas City Chiefs
Angela: Cowboys
Nick: Chiefs
Detroit Lions vs Arizona Cardinals
Angela: Lions
Nick: Cardinals
New Orleans Saints vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Angela: Saints
Nick: Saints
Denver Broncos vs New York Giants
Angela: Giants
Nick: Broncos
Jacksonville Jaguars vs Oakland Raiders
Angela: Raiders
Nick: Raiders
San Francisco 49ers vs Sevstle Seahawks
Angela: 49ers
Nick: 49ers
Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cincinnvsi Bengals
Angela: Bengals
Nick: Bengals