Saturday, July 6, 2013

Novak Djokovic: How Great is He?

Tomorrow morning Novak Djokovic takes on Andy Murray in an attempt to take his seventh career major title in the world of tennis. If you ask the casual sport fan who are the top men's tennis players currently in the world, Novak would likely be third or fourth (behind Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and possibly Andy Murray and that's also hoping that people don't think Andy Roddick still plays or that he was ever really any good). Since the start of 2011, no men's tennis player has been better than Novak and he has certainly earned being #1 in the world.

Since Wimbledon in 2010 Novak has reached at least the semifinals in each major event (13 in a row), 9 of those being finals appearances (counting tomorrow's match), and he has won 5 majors in that span, quite possibly making it six sometime Sunday. To compare to the other greats today, Roger Federer's best saw him go a 23 major span where he reached the semifinals, 20 of those saw him reach the finals, and 14 were major victories. Nadal's greatest streak of semifinal appearances is 5 and he has done that twice. Nadal has won eight French Open, and is the "King of Clay" but his case helps prove how unique of a player Novak Djokovic is, as he has shown the ability to be successful regardless of the surface. Djokovic will likely never reach the greatness of Roger Federer, but when you breakdown what he's done over the course of these last three years, his performance is only trumped by the greatest to ever swing a racquet.

So where does Novak Djokovic stand in terms of the all-time greats? We've already discussed Roger Federer, who leads all-time with 17 major victories, and Rafael Nadal, who has twelve to his credit, tied with Roy Emerson for third most all-time. Pete Sampras, who is 2nd all -time with 14 major titles, never had a stretch of more than three semifinal appearances in a row, and Pete's career is more defined by longevity (won majors of 13 year span) and his dominance at Wimbledon (won 7 out 8 years). If Novak wins tomorrow he'll notch his 7th career major title and that'll place him in a tie for 13th all-time (most notably with John McEnroe). If he was done tomorrow, I think he would be remember as dominant during a short stretch and he was the third wheel of this generation. For a player who is entering the prime of his career and is seeing issues with some of the other stars (Federer - age, Nadal - injuries), the stage is set for Novak to continue this pace for the next four years comfortably. One major victory in each of those four years would place him in the top 5 of major winners all-time (I think that'll be easily achievable), and it's realistic for Novak to set his sights on Nadal and Sampras's marks. I would be amazed if he ever reaches the standards set by Roger, and when all is said and done, I feel Novak Djokovic will be one of the five best men's tennis players ever.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

There are 4 of you left, and only 3 roses...

Uh oh, they left the door to my cage unlocked again and I found my way back.

In recent weeks on my other online home (Yes you’re going to get another shameless plug. We’re good people, give us a try ) I’ve been asked if I can do a post about cheap and easy meals that anyone can prepare. Now, I believe that anyone can prepare any meal with a bit of foresight and some gumption but the cheap part is the kicker here. So I’m going to take myself back to college and post to you about my personal experiences living on “Bachelor Chow”.

To start off, I guess we need to define what bachelor chow actually is. I think it is the food that young people make when they’re too busy chasing members of the opposite sex or having the blackout nights aforementioned in my “cooking with booze” post ( to care much about taking time to cook fantastic meals. I also suppose I should let you know that in college I was spoiled by having a full size deep freeze and a room mate whose father gave us 500 pounds of moose meat so I didn’t have to buy any variation of beef or beef like meat for the year I lived with him.

That leads me to my first tip, take freebies or good deals when they arise. If you have an uncle who raises pigs and he is willing to let you have some of the meat for cheap or free, JUMP on it. Store has a 50 pound bag of potatoes on for $3, BUY THEM. Of course there are limits here, don’t buy the 50 pound bag of tomatoes as there is no way you’d ever eat them before they go bad.

My second tip is to get some sort of a freezer. Apartment size freezers are fairly cheap and are worth their weight in gold if you use them correctly. Please don’t talk to me about the little freezer in the refrigerator either, we both know that it serves no other purpose than that of a liquor cabinet for college students. Having a freezer will allow you to make large amounts of food and freeze them in single servings for later when that hot redhead in your physics class is far more interesting than chopping onions. The freezer will also allow you to buy bulk packs of things (chicken, shrimp, sausage, frozen veggies etc)  for much cheaper than individual packs and portion them out as you want them.  Making your food this way is actually cheaper than buying premade canned or frozen meals and it is WAY healthier.

I know I was asked for specific recipes but I’m not going to go that route as I find it limiting and boring really. I’m instead going to go the way of giving ideas and letting your creative juices flow.

First idea is to get creative with what you have. Tired of eating KD, but you bought a 900 pack of it for $10 at COSTCO? Well make it anyways and chop up a couple of those hot dogs you have in the fridge and then add some of the salsa you have to it and boom, it aint KD no more. Add some different spices ( to things to totally change their flavor. Got a leftover smokie from that kegger a couple nights ago? Chop it up and add it to your Ramen noodles with some diced onion or peppers. The idea here is to look outside the box and try new things. Don’t be afraid of making something that isn’t gourmet, this is how you learn and even the best chefs in the world have made a few stinkers in their lives.

That smokie thought got me thinking about the next idea; make use of your leftovers. You’re on a tight budget, don’t throw money away by throwing food away. At the very least most foods can be chopped up and added to some diced potatoes and veggies to make a hash that will be passable as food in 98% of the civilized world. Or toss in a can of premade tomato sauce and $0.30 worth of spaghetti noodles and make a pasta dish. The point is that most things can be re-purposed as a secondary meal.

I suppose that both of those ideas are pretty much the same. It all boils down to being creative and not being afraid to fail. Once you get past those two hurdles, the possibilities are endless.

I want to make a list of things that I think every bachelor or bachelorette should have in their home so they can at the very least eat semi-healthy.

  1. A freezer – explained above
  2. Dry pasta – cheap to buy, keeps forever on the shelf and is very versatile
  3. Brown rice – see above
  4. Canned tomatoes – decently cheap, healthy to eat and available in a wide variety of flavors and styles
  5. Beans – fresh is more work than canned. Beans are ridiculously healthy for you and are cheap if you look around
  6. Fresh vegetables – Not always the cheapest but lets face it, you have to stave off scurvy somehow
  7. A good assortment of spices – not cheap to buy but they last a long time and allow you to make food that doesn’t all taste exactly the same.

That’s probably good for now. I may revisit this idea or just do a recipe post later.

Dogg’s Chili
(If you’re from Texas, I don’t want to hear about the fact that it “aint chili”)
2 pounds ground beef                                    3-4 cups home made baked beans (3-4 cans)
2 cans red kidney beans                                2 cans sliced mushrooms
1 medium yellow onion, chopped                    1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped                                   4 cloves garlic, minced
Chili powder                                                  Oregano
Basil                                                            Marjoram

  1. Add meat and garlic to large pot and cook on medium until meat is browned.
  2. add onion, peppers, mushrooms and beans and bring to a slow boil.
  3. add spices to taste.
  4. simmer for at least 1 hour, preferably 2, stirring often.
  5. serve with garlic toast. 
  6. if you're a bachelor, freeze some and use it on hot dogs later

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Monthly Dose of Westeros: Part 2-Bran Stark, Hodor, and the Reeds

Since Game of Thrones is currently on a nine month break, I will be providing my thoughts and predictions for one storyline every month until the show’s return. Since I have read the books, I know what should happen, but several plots seem to be taking turns away from the original material, while others are almost spot on. I will examine these apparent changes/accuracy, and do my best to avoid spoilers in “A Monthly Dose of Westeros”.

Next up is the journey of the crippled little lord of Winterfell to beyond the Wall. Bran Stark has officially parted ways with his brother Rickon and wildling companion Osha, who are now on their way to find safety with a Stark bannerman. This leaves Bran to continue north with his mentally handicapped companion Hodor and Meera and Jojen Reed. After a chance encounter with Samwell Tarly, the group will make their next appearance beyond the Wall searching for the three-eyed crow that Bran often dreams about.

I always felt kinda bad for Bran. The poor kid’s whole world gets blown to pieces and he has absolutely no way to fix it. Bran used to be a pretty cool character. He was awesome in the first episode...then he fell. He was alright as a crippled kid struggling with the fact that both of his parents, both of his sisters, and his half brother were not there with him when he woke from his coma...then Robb went to war and Bran was Lord of Winterfell. That’s where it all went downhill. Bran grew irritating and seemed like a character we could’ve done without seeing every episode. He did regain some points with me for going into Hodor’s body, but still. Bran is low on my list of favorite characters. As is Jojen Reed, who is a know-it-all kid trying to show Bran everything he can about a power Jojen does not even possess and trying to prove his “green dreams” really do tell the future.
Jojen dreams with his eyes open!
Basically, now that Osha and Rickon are gone, Meera and Hodor are the only reasons I can stay awake during Bran scenes. Meera is a warrior. And a girl. So that’s pretty cool. And Hodor is...Hodor. Everybody loves Hodor! And I’ll admit...Bran is pretty cool when he slips into his direwolf’s skin.

Now, there were many changes made to Bran’s story this season and I’m expecting even more to follow soon. First off, Bran and Rickon parted ways MUCH earlier in the books. Like as soon as they fled Winterfell. Yeah. They also departed without the Reed children, whom they later met in the woods. In the books, the kids came to a feast in their father’s place and remained with Bran all through Theon Greyjoy’s sack of Winterfell. This gave Bran more time to learn and practice his warg powers, although the show speeds up his progress to have him at the same skill level as he is in the books. Another minor change that I missed was the fact that the tower they stayed in when Jon Snow and the wildlings showed up was actually in the middle of a lake, accessible only by a hidden causeway. I am glad they kept Bran’s skinchange with Hodor in though, that was one of my favorite scenes.

So the third season of Game of Thrones was only the first part of A Storm of Swords. But the last part of Bran’s story we see in this book is the point they ended at in the season finale. There’s nothing left in the book to put on the screen. So I really don’t know what to expect here. The writers may create new parts of the journey to fill in the time until material from the fourth book starts to show up, probably for the same reason they included Theon’s torture scenes: they don’t want us to forget these important characters and feel lost next time they show up. I understand why they put all of Bran’s story in this season, though. The writers needed to make Jon and Bran’s paths cross now because there is still so much left in Jon’s storyline that they’ll need to fit in the next season, it just
Hodor lives for this
wouldn’t have worked to stretch Bran’s part out so far into it. Bran runs into a bunch of stuff out beyond the Wall that doesn’t seem to have a place in the show yet; it actually feels like there’s a little jump in time between Bran’s last chapter in
A Storm of Swords and his first in A Dance With Dragons.

My prediction for Bran’s storyline is that the writer’s will make up some stuff in order to fill the gap between where we are now and where we will be after the material from A Storm of Swords is finished up. Bran’s story gets a lot cooler later on in the series, but until then, be prepared for a long walk full of boringness. Hopefully, Bran doesn’t appear as much in the next season since there are simply more characters with a ton of story left to tell, and it would be unfortunate to take pieces of these stories out just to put more Bran in.