Why Men’s Pro Tennis is Better than Women’s (Right Now)

•June 27, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Recent discussion in the Jon Wertheim’s SI.com Tennis mailbag has dealt with why parity at the top of the women’s game is decried as a lack of quality, but the dominance of Federer and Nadal in the men’s game is not viewed as top heavy. I think the reason is it is obvious to tennis fans that the current overall state of quality in men’s game has never been better. Besides the consistent brilliance of Nadal and Federer, you have other jaw-dropping talents in Djokovic, Murray, Del Potro, Roddick, Monfils, Tsonga, Verdasco, Gonzalez, Soderling, etc. The women’s game currently offers past-their-prime Williams sisters and a bunch of baselining clones with suspect mental toughness. I think you could argue the reverse was true about six years ago when youthful Venus and Serena were battling stars such as Henin, Clijsters, Davenport and Capriati, while the men were ruled by the likes of middleweights Hewitt, Kuerten and Ferrero. You can’t quantify or prove this fact, but I think most knowledgeable tennis fans would agree the quality of competition in the men’s game right now is far superior to the women’s, and thus much more entertaining. Somewhere in this subject lies a Malcolm Gladwell chapter about gut feelings waiting to be written. Only goes to heighten the accomplishments of Federer and Nadal, by the way.

Serbian star Novak Djokovic is a superb player who would have been number one in the world were he playing the pro tour 7-8 years ago.

Serbian star Novak Djokovic is a superb player who would have been number one in the world were he playing the pro tour 7-8 years ago.


Freakishly talented Gael Monfils is just one of a plethora of men's stars right now.

Freakishly talented Gael Monfils is just one of a plethora of men's stars right now.

Pimp My Attic

•May 31, 2009 • 1 Comment
After: 19 inches of insulation and cover for whole house fan

After: 19 inches of insulation and cover for whole house fan

Before: Measly insulation and air flow loss through whole house fan vent gaps
Before: Measly insulation and air flow loss through whole house fan vent gaps

That’s right, I tricked out my attic this past week. Inspired by the presentations of EPA Region 4 Energy Star Coordinator Danny Orlando, I decided we could save a lot of energy and money by sealing and insulating our attic. I guess I’ve been working at EPA too long since insulation was exciting to me.

I wanted to do it right so I did a lot of research and got several different quotes. Before any work began, I crawled around through the attic and sealed numerous air flow gaps into the house with a can of spray foam. Be careful–I got some of that crud on my dirty hands and the dirt was encased for days. Very embarrassing.  I also bought and assembled an insulated attic stair door cover, a whole house fan cover and whole house fan vent cover.

I briefly toyed with the idea of installing the insulation myself but I’m glad I didn’t. It would have been a hot, messy, pain in the rear, especially in our attic where you have to crawl on your hands and knees. Besides some of the quotes were not much more expensive than if I’d rented the supplies and bought the insulation to do it myself.

I ended up hiring a company called Home Energy. Their manager, Phil, seemed more knowledgeable about energy issues than the reps with the other companies. He even does some little extra stuff around your house to help you save energy in other places while his crew blows in the insulation, like put a blanket on your water heater, seal leaks in your ducts, install insulation pads in outlets and spray foam air gaps.

Before our attic had only had a measly 3-6 inches of insulation. Now it has 19 inches of fiberglass insulation which is the recommended level for this part of the country. We should also get about $500 next year in tax credits for all this. If the experts are right that you should see a 20-25% energy use savings for this type of project, we should see a complete return on our investment within five years. Of course, we’ll reduce our carbon footprint/greenhouse gas emissions too. I’ve made a spreadsheet charting our electric and gas bills at this house since we moved in two years ago and I’m going to track our energy use in the future to see if that bears out. I’ll post a progress report at the end of this summer.

10 Greatest CDs of All-Time

•May 17, 2009 • 6 Comments

Ok, here for you consideration and then acceptance are the 10 greatest CDs (albums for you old foggies) of all-time, at least that I’ve heard, in reverse order. If you asked me tomorrow, I’d probably rearrange it or trade in a few others, here’s what I’ve got today. In my opinion Greatest Hits compilations don’t count because that’s cheating, cramming all your best songs together into one CD.

10. Welcome Interstate Managers – Fountains of Wayne: Excellent song-writing throughout. Pop-rock at its finest. A variety of memorable gems and great for singing along to.

9. Nothing’s Shocking – Jane’s Addiction: This CD hit me like a punch in the face. A punch I deserved. A punch I savored. Fury crossed with powerful, crunchy guitars overlaid with Perry Ferrell’s semi-crazy, evil/childlike banshee cries.

8. Moving Pictures – Rush: While Rush has almost become a punchline, there’s no denying the sonic power and precision of this CD. While the band is well known for Geddy Lee’s shrill soaring voice and Neil Peart’s flashy rhythms, Alex Lifeson truly shines on this CD with brilliant guitar work, especially on “Spirit of Radio.” I’m embarrassed to say the crescendo of that song still gives me goosebumps.

7. Document – R.E.M.- Thoroughly creative, fun, thoughtful and varied CD of a great band in its prime.

6. Purple Rain – Prince and the Revolution: Prince is a weird dude, and I haven’t liked much he’s done since this, but this is one of the most creative and yet catchy pop CDs ever made. And the little guy jammed on the guitar too.

5.Across the Borderline – Willie Nelson: Most underrated Willie CD because it came far after his supposed glory years. Fact is, Willie continues to crank out greatness, including the bewitching Teatro. But this collection of collaborations and remakes is my favorite of numerous Willie classics.

4. Synchronicity – The Police: The final CD of a unique, smart and extremely talented band. Apparently their varied musical passions pulled the band apart. But with this CD they perfectly melded their eclectic and eccentric sound into haunting, unforgettable rock.

3. X&Y – Coldplay: I used to hate Coldplay, or at least the idea of it. You could say this CD changed my mind. (Vida La Vida, by the way, almost made me reconsider.)

2. The Song Remains the Same – Led Zeppelin: Jimmy Page spills out his genius over two CDs of mind-blowing riffs, while Robert Plant summons the gods. Greatest live performance ever by anyone.

1. The Joshua Tree-U2: Not debatable. The greatest of many masterpieces from the greatest band ever. Majestic, rustic, organic, beautiful, primitive.

Honorable Mentions: Sheryl Crow-Sheryl Crow, numerous other u2 CDs like (Unforgettable Fire, Acthung Baby, Rattle and Hum and All That You Count Leave Behind), Loretta Lynn-Van Lear Rose, Pink Floyd-Wish You Were Here, Moby-Play, Junior Brown-Semi Crazy, The Sugarcubes-Life’s Too Good, Led Zeppelin-Houses of the Holy, and many others I’m sure I’ll think of later!

Tribute to Jim Wooten, AJC Columnist

•April 30, 2009 • 1 Comment

I’ve vowed to keep my blog light-hearted and apolitical, but something has come up I must address: the retirement of AJC columnist Jim Wooten. While I try to view issues independently, I’m fairly left of center in most cases. Wooten, on the other hand, is far, far to the right…of Dick Cheney. Jim once waterboarded his kids when they wouldn’t admit who broke the window with a softball. Just kidding!

Anyway, I have no problem with Wooten being conservative. I’m not one of these people who believes anyone who thinks differently than me is stupid or evil. Heck, many of my friends and family are conservative, and only some of them are going to hell, according to top liberal insider, Jesus. Again, just kidding! No really, what I’ve always disliked about Jim’s columns is his lack of independent thought and analysis beyond the surface of issues. He simply resorts to knee-jerk, right-wing responses and never (that I’ve seen) criticizes his own side. I hate this we’re-always-right and they’re-always-wrong mentality because it’s clearly false, and it ruins your credibility. I don’t like it when Limbaugh or Hannity do it, nor when Michael Moore or Al Franken do it either. I don’t have a problem with you making an argument different than mine, but at least put some intelligent thought and fairness behind it. Be open to changing your mind too when facts build against what you’ve previously believed.

In some ways, I’m disappointed Wooten is leaving. As the token conservative columnist for the AJC, he’s always been the Washington Generals to the Harlem Globetrotters of insightful liberal columnists Jay Bookman and Cynthia Tucker. Many of the columns published during the AJC’s contest to replace Wooten as a conservative columnist were quite well done so perhaps the person chosen to replace Wooten will embrace more thoughtful arguments. I believe the strongest, most persuasive believers of a cause are also the ones most critical of the obvious failures of that cause too, instead of just ignoring or refuting the clear truth or fingerpointing at the other side.

Anyway, it wouldn’t be a true retirement for Wooten without a good-natured, old-fashioned roast. For this purpose, I’ve adopted the thought processes and writing style of Wooten to write a brief column on global warming. Here goes:

Yesterday, Macon set a record for lowest temperature for that date. Wow, that’s gotta be embarrassing for all those global warming alarmists! Talk about egg on your face. Hope that egg doesn’t fry under this supposed heat wave.

I know, I know, 99% of the world’s top climate scientists agree global warming is occurring and is due to human activity. And I know Arctic ice is melting at a disturbingly fast pace, sea levels are rising, yadda, yadda, yadda. But just yesterday I was talking with a climate scientist (I believe he works with Exxon) who was telling me he was still not absolutely certain it is occurring. While he did not have facts to back him up, he did point out that at one time climate experts thought perhaps the atmosphere was cooling! Aha! That ought to be enough right there to put the brakes on any earth-saving-but-somewhat-inconvenient efforts.

Still another scientist (with Chevron I think it was) told me global warming might actually be a good thing. Think of all the new farmland that would open in an northern regions like Siberia. It’s hard to say if there might also be downsides, such as disturbing the delicate balance of the Earth’s ecosystems at the same time they are already stressed by the human population explosion, but so what? I’m sure we will pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and innovate our way out of any situation that might occur, regardless of the bounds of science and reality.

April 29 modification to this post: Just as I was about to hit the “Publish” button on this article, I saw a Jim Wooten column on the lottery that I actually thought was pretty good, so I thought in fairness I should add the link.

Sony Ericsson Tournament Summary

•March 31, 2009 • Leave a Comment
Roger Federer on the practice court. Yes, those are robots on his shirt, depicting his on court demeanor, I suppose.

Roger Federer on the practice court. Yes, those are robots on his shirt, depicting his on court demeanor, I suppose.

Last week I spent three days watching tennis at the Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, FL with my friend Steve. It was a great event, even better than we expected. We got to see numerous great matches and practice sessions by top players in the world like Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Roddick, Marat Safin, Dinara Safina, and Ana Ivanovic to name just a few. We missed out on Andy Murray, the Williams sisters and Bryan brothers but they were around too. There were so many great players and matches going on at any given time it was hard to pick what to watch. It’s like if you were a classic rock fan and you had the Stones on one stage, Led Zeppelin on another and Jimi Hendrix on a third.
While the tournament is not cheap, it’s a bargain compared to the US Open in New York City. Steve and I found we preferred watching matches on the outer courts more than in the stadium court. Even though the bigger name players typically play in the stadium, the reasonably priced seats are pretty high up. We arrived early to the general admission grandstand court to watch Nadal play doubles on the grandstand court and sat about 5 rows up in the middle of the court. If we had tried to get seats like that to watch Nadal play his singles match in the stadium court, it would have cost us hundreds of dollars.
Traffic and parking is not ideal at the tournament, since there is only one road onto the island from Miami. In the future I hope to stay on the island and ride a bike to the tournament like many of the locals do.
All in all, we had a blast and hope to come back to the tournament in the future.
Below are some photos from the trip

Rafael Nadal is about to inflict some pain on this ball.

Rafael Nadal is about to inflict some pain on this ball.

 

Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga smacking a powerful serve. This guy is a beast. He will win some majors if he can stay healthy.

Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga smacking a powerful serve. This guy is a beast. He will win some majors if he can stay healthy.

 

Tennis Roadtrip to Sony Ericsson Open-Key Biscayne

•March 19, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Next week I’m fulfilling a long-time desire to go to a big-time tennis tournament. Not as a player, of course (although that would be nice), but as a fan. On Tuesday I’m driving from Decatur, GA to Key Biscayne, FL to watch the first few rounds of the Sony Ericsson Open.

I’m very psyched. All the top men’s and women’s players are planning to be there, including Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, Murray, Williams sisters, etc. This tournament is one of just a handful of non-Grand Slam tournaments where the men’s and women’s tours play. Because of that and the money and prestige associated with it, it has been nicknamed “the fifth Slam.” Like most fans, I’ve always dreamed of going to one of the Grand Slams, but they are prohibitively expensive and crowded. With this tournament, my travel expenses will be relatively cheap because I’m driving. I’m even saving money on lodging by sharing a cabin at a nearby state park with my friend and co-worker Steve who is also a tennis fan. We’re going to go see the first three days of the tournament, which will give us a chance to see lots of matches and most of the top players. Many of the matches will be played on the outer courts where you can get really close to the action. I’m anxious to see what it looks like when Roddick serves or when Nadal whips a topspin forehand. I’m looking forward to watching the players warming up on the practice courts almost as much as the matches.

If Steve and I get tired of tennis, there’s plenty of other cool things to do in the area we’re staying including snorkeling, mountain biking, kayaking, and so on. And I’m sure we’ll enjoy a little Miami nightlife too.

Thoughts on the 2008 Dallas Cowboys

•March 4, 2009 • 2 Comments
Terrell Owens needs to be dropped from the roster like one of his flubs on almost any key third down.

Terrell Owens needs to be dropped from the roster like one of his flubs on almost any key third down.

It is hard to stomach giving an assessment of the 2008 Dallas Cowboys’ season like I did for the Texas Longhorns. Frankly, I’ve blocked most of it out of memory. It was a season of high expectations initially but ultimately disappointment. That has become a familiar pattern for Cowboys fans. I was pretty disgusted when the season ended for numerous reasons, but now with a few months of perspective, I’ve tried to summarize the key points:

  • The season in a nutshell: The offense was good in the beginning of the season, while the defense was bad; in the second half of the season the roles reversed. I think the offense started well when everyone was healthy. Rookie RB Felix Jones looked to be a perfect explosive compliment to bullish Marion Barber. But when they got hurt, the running game struggled despite a respectable job by Tashard Choice. Without the running game threat, teams swarmed Tony Romo and the passing game struggled. The defense underperformed early on, causing Dallas to lose some games it shouldn’t despite scoring a lot of points. Later when Wade Phillips took over the defensive coordinator role, the defense noticeably improved but by then the offense had fallen apart. Bottom line, the team was inconsistent and couldn’t seem to put together a complete game.
  • Terrell Owens is no longer a superstar. He’s now an above average receiver, but the tantrums, selfishness, and divisiveness that comes with him is no longer worth the headache. It is clear he is driving a wedge on the team between Jason Witten and Romo and some of the top players like Barber and Newman, just as he did in SF and Philly. I hate to use the cliche, but he epitomizes “locker room cancer.” This seemed obvious at the end of the season that he was at the heart of the chemistry problems on the team. I’m shocked that he hasn’t yet been cut. I think Jerry Jones’ ego is the only logical reason it hasn’t happened yet. I’m going to be really pissed if Owens is on the team next year. It will also be hard not to expect the same dysfunctional outcome for the team.
  • I think Wade Phillips showed in the second half of the season, he knows how to coach defense, and I think that’s what saved his hide. But whether he has the strength of personality to deal with the various prima donnas on this team, I’m not sure. Just once, I’d love to see Phillips (or Romo) get in Owens face during one of his sideline tirades and tell him to shut the f*%& up and stop dropping so many balls.
  • I must admit when Dallas traded for Roy Williams from Detroit last season, I was excited. As a Longhorn fan, I can still remember seeing Williams’ first diving catch as a true freshman and thinking he would someday be a star in the NFL. He was big, strong, acrobatic, had great hands and had been the Texas high school champion in the 100 meter sprint and long jump. Williams had some success in Detroit including a Pro Bowl season, despite being stuck on the worst team in the league. So when he came to Dallas it seemed like a marriage in heaven: Dallas needed a young complementary stud WR to go with Owens, and Williams would get to come to his home state and finally play with a big time offense. But somewhere along the line, the marriage failed, at least in the first season. I’m not sure if the blame lies with Romo not looking his way enough because of his comfort in throwing to Witten and Owens, or if Williams just wasn’t getting open. Or perhaps the stalled running game prevented Dallas from throwing downfield much. Whatever the reason, Williams was somewhat of a disappointment the first season. I hope he comes around in 2009. Perhaps if Owens is banished as he should be, Williams will assume the role of top receiver. If that happens though, Dallas could still use a quick, elusive type receiver to go with Williams. During last season’s draft I wanted Dallas to draft Desean Jackson to fit that role, and he proved to be excellent with the Eagles (of all teams). Still the guy Dallas did pick, Felix Jones, looked pretty good before getting hurt.
  • Though he has received a ton of flack, I still believe Tony Romo is one of the most talented quarterbacks in this league. When you have a top quarterback, you have a chance to go to the playoffs and make a run every season if you plug in the right players around him. Romo is elusive, athletic, accurate, and is a charismatic leader. He is also fearless, almost to a fault. He reminds me a lot of his idol, Brett Favre, in that sometimes he gets himself into trouble trying to do too much, which leads to sacks or turnovers at the worst of times. He needs to temper that impulse a little and play a little more conservatively like Ben Roethlisberger. I think many of his misfortunes though have just been the result of bad luck, such as the fumbled field goal hold against Seattle in the playoffs a couple of years ago. Sure I would agree flying to Mexico with Jessica Simpson the week before a big playoff game was not a good idea, especially from a PR perspective. Can’t fault Romo for enjoying the perks of his position, but I kind of wish he would tone down the nightlife and jetset, celebrity tabloid lifestyle. Still, you gotta love a guy who worked himself from an undrafted free agent that nobody had heard of to becoming a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback for America’s Team. I think Dallas has some problems they need to fix to get over the hump, but I don’t think Romo is one of them. If the fundamental split on your team is between a young, franchise quarterback and an immature, selfish, over-the-hill wide receiver, to me the answer is obvious—get rid of Owens. That’s a no-brainer.

    Despite some struggles in big games, I still believe Tony Romo is a franchise quarterback.

    Despite his struggles in some big games, I still believe Tony Romo is a franchise quarterback.

  • Looking to 2009, even Cowboys haters have to admit Dallas still has a very talented team that could potentially make a run. Las Vegas oddsmakers have Dallas near the top of the heap in terms of odds of going to the Super Bowl. And if they can re-tool a little and stay healthy, who knows. So far this offseason though, I haven’t seen enough action taken to rid the team of the problems they suffered last season, which leads me to believe it will be another frustrating, underachieving season.  But as long as the Eagles still don’t have even one Super Bowl championship, I can find some satisfaction in a season.