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Many owners have wanted to expand the NFL regular season to 18 games as it gives them the chance to make more money but they are going about the expansion the wrong way. They want more games. But players are already banged up from the physicality of crunching 16 games into a 17 week schedule.

If the NFL expanded to 24 weeks but kept the game schedule to just 16 games they could give more players time to recover from injuries.

While people affiliate the NFL with Sundays, the games are currently televised Mondays, Thursdays, Sundays and occasionally Saturdays. That’s four of the seven days.

Currently the Monday and Thursday night games are routinely bad.  With just one game it’s hit or miss on whether good teams are going to be playing on those nights. And lately it’s been a showcase of more bad teams than good.

I’d propose getting rid of Monday night football.

I propose scheduling one game for Saturday primetime.  This game should feature top teams.  It should be considered the top game of the week with only Sunday night primetime being the other slot where top teams should be scheduled.  I’d continue to allow for games to be flexed on Sunday nights.

Now here is the big shakeup:  I’d move half the games to the middle of the week
It means playing games on Wednesday and Thursday nights.  With 8 games expected to be played it will give some great games so we won’t be stuck in the 1 game that sucks hole that Thursday night has become.

Each team would swap schedules between mid-week and weekends.  It effectively gives them an average of 9-10 days rest between games instead of just six as it is now.

Why it makes sense for fans:

The NFL season is too short! Fans are shortchanged with just a 17 week regular season. Stretch it out over 24 weeks and we get almost two more months of football!

Not only do we get more football but we also get more opportunities to watch other teams. Currently with so many teams playing at the same time it gives a very limited opportunity to follow multiple teams. The expanded weekend games as well as the extra weeknight games give fans more chances to support the sport.

How players win: Players get more time to rest their bodies.

How owners win: Financially the sport is giving away the excellent opportunity to make money on Saturdays. I personally don’t enjoy college football nearly as much as the NFL. And if I had the chance to watch on Saturdays including Saturday night I’m sure I would love that opportunity. Why are they just giving that day away to college sports? I don’t get it.

And with concussions needing more time to heal this seems like a no brainer way to help alleviate these issues while making a ton more money to the owners through expanded TV deals.

Also it gives teams who travel to places like London and Mexico more time to recover from those trips.

The only downside is that you could argue Sunday day games take a slight hit.  But with so much upside this seems like a small price to pay.  Anyways if you wanted a way to have two more months of football, less concussion issues, less injury issues in general here ya go!

December 13, 2016 0 comment
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Draft season has finally ended. For some of us it means getting a considerable part of our lives back. Maybe I’m not quite ready. I’m still soaking in the 2016 draft and what it has meant for my favorite team the Dallas Cowboys.

First I want to talk about a perspective on the draft that few consider: every team comes out of the draft with an improved team.

I say this because every team has holes, some or all of those holes “theoretically” get filled in the draft and what happens is you then compare your team as it is now to how your team was at the end of the previous season. Every fan comes out of the draft feeling better about their team and filled with hope. But you tend to forget that 31 other teams also improved by adding players to their team in the draft.

Since every team will come out of the draft with an improved team, the only true measure of draft success is how much a team improves itself comparatively speaking to every other team.

Teams picking ahead in the draft hold a slight edge. But draft success is about making your picks count throughout the rounds.

There’s no such thing as a sure thing and even high first round draft picks regularly bust.

It’s why the Cleveland Browns have been so great at being mediocre – they have absolutely blown their first round draft picks over the last decade.

The high bust rate of NFL draft picks in general means the more picks your team has the better.

As further proof the most widely used NFL draft chart statistically gives the team trading down a far higher hit rate than the team trading up.

And while the numbers are there for any NFL GM to see, they still often ignore them feeling they can beat the odds by trading to get their guy. In the end it’s the team trading down that usually winds up winning the deal.

In this year’s draft we had a trade that never happened that will help illustrate this example perfectly:

Jerry Jones wanted to trade up to get Paxton Lynch. He missed out on the deal and he’s already said he has regretted not giving more value to get the deal done. I’m guessing in a year or two he will be very happy he “missed out” on that trade. He needed to give his 2nd and 3rd round picks to make it happen. Those picks translated to Malik Collins and Jaylon Smith. Malik Collin has a chance to be a special player at the three technique position on the defense line. It’s arguably the most important position in Marinelli’s scheme so if the pick pays off it’s a huge hit. The Jaylon Smith pick is still very much up in the air. He’ll be out this year. If he comes back next year healthy, he’s expected to be an all pro type linebacker. It’s a big risk with chance for high reward. The most interesting part of the trade that never happened is it allowed them to pick Dak Prescott in the tail end of the 4th round. It’s a quarterback they spent more time with than other other during the draft evaluation process. So my look on the trade that never happened is you get those three players instead of getting Paxton Lynch. If two of our three players turn out to be hits this was a great trade for us never to make.

We also have to look at the pick of Ezekiel Elliot and realize we gave up a ton of value to get a running back. He’s going to be great. But he has to be. He’s already getting paid like one of the top running backs in the league and he’ll be running behind what is arguably the best offensive line in the league. The pick will be looked at as if we hit. But we could have arguably gotten a similarly talented running back in free agency and used the 4th pick in the draft to trade down. That would have been the direction I would have gone. Basically we could have gotten Lamar Miller for similar pay as Zeke PLUS we could have gained a ton of draft picks by trading down and who knows what those picks could have become.
I’m also a little confused why we took Jaylen Smith so high in the second round. I think we could have gotten him later in the draft and possibly traded that pick down to acquire more picks later.

The Jackson & Brown picks in the sixth look great. Rico Gathers in the sixth seems a little like picking Jaylon Smith at the top of the second: it’s a reach pick but if it pays off it could be huge

Those are my negative takes on the draft. We got great players but I think we could have maneuvered around a bit and improved more. It doesn’t seem our coach is not a fan of this and he’s been a big part of our draft success over the last 5- 6 years so I’m fine with his conservative stance on trades.

Overall I’m happy with the draft class. It could have in theory been improved with some trade down opportunities but at least we didn’t ruin anything with a dumb trade up. Now I get my life back till the season starts up again.

December 13, 2016 0 comment
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We were going to Bali in a few weeks.  Our tickets and accommodations were booked and in the meantime we were enjoying absolutely perfect weather in nearby Phuket, Thailand.  I say Phuket is “nearby” because on a global scale these two tropical paradises were neighbors in my mind. But the reality is over 3000 km separates them.

I had also assumed that the dry season in Phuket also meant the dry season in Bali – big mistake!!

Bali Rain Season

Our Villa had a Private Pool! Nice!!

After leaving Phuket, we came to Bali on January 18 and stayed for 30 days.  It rained for 29 of the 30 days.  And on many days the rain was a constant downpour for hours.

I had read on blogs that Bali was a great place to visit year around. After spending a month during the rain season I’d have to say I don’t recommend. 

Unless you like cloudy skies, mosquitos and wet clothes you should avoid Bali during the rainy season. 

Bali has six months of dry weather. 

Plan your Bali trip between May and October. 

Those are the best months with July & August being the best. 

More reasons to come in the dry season:Bali Rainy Season

  • This also happens to be when waves are the best for surfers
  • Visibility for snorkeling and diving is best

We had a chance to go back to Bali in May.  The weather was so much better and we had a great time on our second visit.  

Bali is amazing destination.  We just visited 18 countries in 18 months and Indonesia strongly stands out as a place we are desperate to get back to. And in particular Bali and the islands close to it.  But we will be making our third trip there during the dry season!

December 13, 2016 0 comment
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I’m certainly not a professional and my technical skills & knowledge would make most professional photographers laugh. But I have taken enough photos over the years to offer some ideas for aspiring photographers to make their images better.

Tip #1 – Start by making photos of compelling subjects.

I can’t imagine anything more important than this. If you want a great photo put something in your viewfinder that is going to excite people.  Here’s a start:

Parliament in Budapest

Parliament in Budapest, Hungary

Two compelling subjects in the same shot is even better:

Chain Bridge in front of Parliament

The Chain Bridge with Parliament in the background

And another example:

Parliament from Fisherman's Bastion

Sexy & Parliament – oohlala!

An average shot of something special is still going to excite a lot more than a technically great shot of something boring.

Tip #2 – Take photos of amazing things at the right time!

Most everyone knows sunrises and sunsets are some of the best times to make photos. But just before sunrise is an interesting time.  You have enough light for your camera to make a great capture:

Torres del Paine at dawn sunrise

Torres del Paine at dawn El Chalten, Argentina

And just after sunrise you can catch a sunburst if you shoot with your lens closed down (smaller aperture like f16 or higher):

Triple Falls in Glacier National Park

Triple Falls, Glacier NP
Montana, USA

Tip #3 – get close enough to fill your image with your subject

It means finding the right angle and position so that what you frame is truly the best part of the scene. Cut out the rest!

Grizzley Bear in Katmai NP

Grizzley Bear in Katmai NP Alaska, USA

My friend, David Bank of London England, is a professional photographer.  He took this outstanding daytime image of Rio de Janeiro:

Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro

I took a similar image standing at the same spot but at dawn and focused on the main part of the city with Sugarloaf Mountain in the center:

Rio de Janeiro at dawn

Rio de Janeiro

 

Equipment is not going to make or break your images. I’m currently using an Olympus model camera that was made in 2012. If you want a full run down on the equipment I use and why see here:

Hope you get some great photos!

December 13, 2016 0 comment
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Patagonia Travel Guide

PatagoniaAfter three trips, I can give some solid advice for others wanting to travel to this area for the first time, especially for those who want to see Torres del Paine National Park in Chile and Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina.

…..

Just say the word Patagonia and it conjures up images of majestic mountain peaks, gigantic glaciers and enormous landscapes. But ask most people where Patagonia is and few know. Some even respond – isn’t it a country?

Patagonia – Where is it?

Patagonia is in Argentina & ChilePatagonia is a region in the southern end of South America; part of it is in Argentina and another part is in Chile.

It’s a vast region of over a million square kilometers. To give perspective, it would take two Californias to equal one Patagonia.

While most of the region is dominated by steppe plains, the Andes Mountain range also stretches its southern end into Patagonia.

It is here on the southern end of the Andes Mountain range where the most famous parts of Patagonia are:

  • Torres del Paine National Park in Chile
  • Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina

When is the best time to visit Patagonia?

If your goal is to see the glaciers or the national parks they are open year around.  There is so much wind that snow rarely accumulates to deep depths — even in the winter. The strongest winds are during the summer season. And we are talking strong winds of up to 120 kilometers per hour (74 mph). The strong winds can sometimes be an advantage as they can help clear the mountain peaks of clouds.

Torres del Paine waterfall at Salto GrandeYour biggest obstacle when visiting Patagonia is going to be the weather. And it’s not uncommon for famous peaks like Fitz Roy to be engulfed by clouds for weeks at a time.

There’s no perfect season. Summer (December through March) has the highest number of visitors and also the best chance for warmer weather and clearer days. But don’t be surprised if you get blanketed out by clouds on your trip. It’s happened to me on at least a portion of all three of my trips, and I visited at or close to the peak times for good weather.

Some people also consider Bariloche to be part of Patagonia. This is an area most famous for its ski areas & lakes. If you want to go for skiing/snowboarding, the best time is July to September.

If you are hoping to see Orcas, go in late February to late April.

Los Glacieres National Park (Argentina)

There are two main reasons visitors come to this park:

#1 Perito Moreno Glacier

#2 The famous peaks of Mount Fitz Roy & Cerro Torre in El Chalten

The main base for visiting Los Glaciares National Park is the town of El Calafate, Argentina. You can fly in from connecting flights through Buenos Aires (Argentina) as well as Santiago, Chile. From El Calafate, you can drive north about 75 km and arrive in approximately 80 minutes to Perito Moreno Glacier. The fantastic trekking town of El Chalten is about a 2.5 hour drive from El Calafate.

El Chalten, Argentina – an Amazing Town for Hikers

El Chalten with Fitz Roy mountain above

Fitz Roy above the town of El Chalten, Argentina at dawn

If El Chalten had high speed internet and better weather, I would probably live there. I love to hike, and it boasts a half-dozen trails that start right from the town itself.

For mountain climbers, it holds two of the most difficult peaks in the world to summit – beautiful peaks Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre.

Speaking of Cerro Torre, it’s a mountain I’ve never been able to get a nice photograph of. In each of my three trips, the peak was hidden behind clouds. And you can’t photograph what you can’t see. Very frustrating! So again I’m mentioning it here – if you go to Patagonia with the idea of seeing all the famous mountain peaks in just a few days, you might want to prepare yourself for disappointment. You might get lucky, but the norm is clouds.

The front doors of the Visitor Center in El Chalten, Argeninta

These are the front doors of the Visitor Center in El Chalten, Argentina. The mountain scene reflecting off the front doors are the famous peaks Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre

When you arrive to El Chalten there is a visitor center at the start of town. There you can get local info on trails and campsites.

One of the cool things about hiking and camping in the area is you do not need any kind of reservation or permit. You just go. The downside is you might not get your favorite campsite if you don’t arrive early, especially during the high season (December to February).

You won’t see Guanacos around El Chalten or on the trails.  If you are hoping for that, go to Torres del Paine in Chile.

The internet barely functions in El Chalten. It’s better in El Calafate but that puts you 2-3 hours away by car. When weather was bad on my trips, I kept myself in El Calafate. And when I thought there was a chance for good weather, I stuck it out in El Chalten waiting for the perfect moments. Patagonia requires patience and longer itineraries. Or luck!

Perito Moreno Glacier:

Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the few glaciers in the world still growing in size!Perito Moreno is the most famous glacier in South America and maybe the world. It’s one of the very few glaciers that is still growing in size. You can go there by car or bus. Most people go by one of the many tour buses leaving from El Calafate. You can also get an up-close view of the glaciers crashing into the water by boat tour. Many people go to Patagonia just to see this beautiful glacier. For more info see this:  http://www.alongdustyroads.com/posts/2015/11/29/perito-moreno-transport-entry-costs-bus-el-calafate

Perito Moreno Glacier near El Calafate

 

Also sticking to our theme of clouds in Patagonia, Perito Moreno is normally clouded over but in this case it’s a good thing! The cloud cover makes the amazing colors of the lake and glacier pop out. On sunny days, the colors are much more bland. So plan to go Perito Moreno when the weather is bad.

Torres del Paine National Park (Chile)

Torres del Paine is one of the best spots to see GuanacosAn amazing place for hikers and photographers. You can get to the park from Puerto Natales, Chile in two hours by car. The advantage a car gives is you can pick which spots you want to stop for photos. Most visitors go by one of the many tour buses leaving each morning from Puerto Natales.

Day trips on a perfect day might give the casual visitors enough of the park.  But there’s so many great things to see that you could easily spend a week or more.

Torres del Paine is arguably the best place in the world to see Guanacos in the wild. And with the abundance of Guanacos, it is also naturally one of best places in South America to see Pumas. The Pumas of Torres del Paine are known for being the biggest in the world. But seeing a Puma is very rare! I came across their hairs and scat on hikes but never got the chance to see one.

If you like to hike this is easily one of the top ten places in the world to do it. The “W” trail is a multi-day trail usually done in 5 days (100 km). More info here:  http://www.back-packer.org/trekking-guide-how-to-hike-the-w-in-torres-del-paine-patagonia/

You can also stay in the park itself and elect to do small trails rather than an overnight. But as a warning, the hotels inside the park are not cheap. And they fill up fast during the high season.

Torres del Paine mountain in ChileThere is internet available at some of park hotels but expect speeds that will barely open emails.  Do all of your researching before you arrive to the park as you’ll be very frustrated if you hope to use the internet while in the park.

The most famous part of the park are the three towers themselves for which the park is named: Torres del Paine (Paine Towers in English)

There are some okay views of the Torres that don’t require any trails. But the absolute best way is to view them from the official viewpoint that requires a hike up to get to. The best time to see the “torres” are early morning at sunrise. We started our hike at 2:30 a.m. to arrive before sunrise. The image here shows the towers on a clear day just before sunrise. I think sunrise was around 5:30 a.m. So we booked it up 3500′ or 1000 meters in less than 3 hours!

Icebergs floating in Lago GreyYou can see some of the most amazing blue colored icebergs floating at Lago Grey (Grey Lake).  Kayaking is a popular way to get an up-close look.  A boat tour operates during the high season that takes visitors near the icebergs, and they also offer day trips to Lago Glacier.

There are even wild horses that roam the park.  Here is some great information about the horses:  https://www.cascada.travel/en/News/Wild-Horses-Patagonia-Interview-Victor-Moraga

The main base for visiting Torres del Paine National Park is Puerto Wild horses in Torres del Paine National ParkNatales, Chile. It’s about a two-hour drive to the park from Puerto Natales. Most visitors go by bus and do an all day tour. A rental car gives you the freedom to pick your favorite spots on your own schedule. Again, I’d recommend staying in the park for at least a few days. And keep in mind if bad weather rolls through, as it often does, you might get a stretch of clouds hiding the parks mountains for your whole trip. Patagonia is a love/hate relationship!

How to get between the parks in Patagonia

Pink Flamingos in Patagonia

You can get from El Calafate, Argentina to Puerto Natales, Chile by bus. The trip will be around 4 hours.

Or you you can drive yourself in about 3 hours. You’ll need  to cross the border and show identification as well as the legal papers for your rental car. The drive is a bit boring but occasionally you might see Guanacos, Flamingos or other wildlife so keep a close eye on your surroundings. Also keep in mind there are few places to stop for gas. And sometimes the gas stations themselves are without gas for stretch of days. Start with a full tank!

I found that rental cars in Chile are slightly cheaper than renting one from Argentina.

El Calafate versus Puerto Natales:

These are the base towns for exploring the two main parks in Patagonia. If you plan to visit both parks, it’s likely you’ll base at least part of your trip in each town. But if you are planning to visit only one town, my own experience is that El Calafate offers a little more than Puerto Natales. My reasons for that are the food is a little better, the shopping is a little better, and the vibe is a little better. I’m not trying to make any enemies here and some people might prefer Puerto Natales! 🙂

Where to Start?

Paine-Grande

Paine Grande is the tallest peak in Torres del Paine N.P.

To get to Patagonia you’ll most likely connect through either Santiago (capital of Chile) or Buenos Aires (capital of Argentina). Either city makes a fun stop for a few days. From either spot you can fly into El Calafate, Argentina. Alternatively, you could fly to Punta Arenas and then drive or bus up to Puerto Natales, Chile. I personally think El Calafate is a lot more fun, and you save yourself the drive from Punta Arenas. But there’s a lot of variables. If you are coming from North America and don’t want to see Buenos Aires, then Santiago is going to be the best connecting city. From there you can easily connect to Punta Arenas and then drive or bus up to Puerto Natales. I’ve always gone to Patagonia from Brazil and hence Buenos Aires was more convenient. Also, having spent enough time in both cities, I’ll give Buenos Aires a slight edge for culture. Both cities make a worthwhile stop if you have the time.

How to see Orca Whales in Patagonia:

Ever see Orcas snatching seals off a beach? Yes Patagonia is where it happens. The area where you can see this, Valdez Peninsula, is nowhere near the parks I was interested in seeing. Patagonia is huge! And the logistics of seeing the Orcas never worked out. But I hope to do it someday. I do know the best time to go is between end of February till end of April. More info here:  http://eco-lodge-en.blogspot.com.br/p/orca-season-in-punta-norte-peinsula.html

Ushuaia: The End of the World

Many people go to Patagonia to get to the furthest reaches of South America. For that, Ushuaia is the unofficial capital dubbed famously as “The End of the World.” It’s an interesting area that many people go to. For more info:  https://www.outsideonline.com/1857106/ushuaia-end-world

Bariloche – is it really Patagonia?

I’m not even sure. Some say it is. Whether it is or not, I can only say I have never been to Bariloche. But I’m not discounting it. There’s mountains & lakes and it looks beautiful. Not beautiful like the southern part of Patagonia, but still ok. If you want to ski/snowboard, it’s the place to go. If you want to hike or see beautiful landscapes, the national parks in Southern Patagonia are much better.

After 3 Trips Would I go Back to Patagonia?

Mount Fitz Roy in El Chalten, Argentina

Mount Fitz Roy at sunrise

I never did get a great photo of Cerro Torre and with it being one of the most beautiful mountain peaks in the world, it’s a great desire of mine to get that photo.

Plus I’d love the chance to see the Orcas in Valdez.

Jeremiah Thompson PatagoniaIt’s never easy to visit Patagonia. It requires more money and more time than many places you could visit. The weather can be terrible and often requires longer trips and patience to get the right weather. The hotels, food and everything else is only ok at best — especially compared to other places you could visit. If you go to Patagonia, it’s to see nature. Few places in the world can match the beauty of this area. And yes I would definitely make another trip and hope to soon!

 

November 15, 2016 0 comment
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