Friday, March 27, 2009

novel update

I couldn't stick to my May 9th date. Stay tuned for updates.

Update: look up.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I had to go and open my big mouth

So that serves me right. This year's Sweet 16? Only 2 upsets with 2 perfect regions.

Luckily I got 1 right (Purdue), so that means I got 3 wrong (W. Kentucky, Florida St., and Dayton) plus the one I missed (Arizona). So I got 12 right and I would have been better off to be like my wife and go all chalk and only miss the 2 upsets.

Sweet 16 History

2001: 6 upsets, 1 perfect region
2002: 6 upsets, 0 perfect regions
2003: 7 upsets, 0 perfect regions
2004: 7 upsets, 1 perfect region
2005: 8 upsets, 0 perfect regions
2006: 6 upsets, 0 perfect regions
2007: 5 upsets, 1 perfect region
2008: 5 upsets, 1 perfect region
2009: 2 upsets, 2 perfect regions

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bracket Philosophy: Sweet 16 Upsets

I've studied this at length and here's the long and short of it: I think people rely too much on chalk when making their Sweet 16.

As defined for Hoagie Central, an upset in the Sweet 16 is any team not seeded 1-4. Here's the history dating back to when we started college for number of total upsets, as well as times that a region went by chalk 1-4.

Sweet 16 History
2001: 6 upsets, 1 perfect region
2002: 6 upsets, 0 perfect regions
2003: 7 upsets, 0 perfect regions
2004: 7 upsets, 1 perfect region
2005: 8 upsets, 0 perfect regions
2006: 6 upsets, 0 perfect regions
2007: 5 upsets, 1 perfect region
2008: 5 upsets, 1 perfect region

It would seem recent history would suggest that you should have between 5 and 8 upsets in your Sweet 16, with either 1 or 0 perfect regions. So let's look at how we've picked this year.

2009 Group Summary
Brittany: 0 upsets, 4 perfect regions
Savan: 2 upsets, 2 perfect regions
Mark: 2 upsets, 2 perfect regions
Obama: 2 upsets, 2 perfect regions
Laura: 3 upsets, 1 perfect regions
Matt: 4 upsets, 2 perfect regions
Steve-O: 4 upsets, 1 perfect region
Niraj: 4 upsets, 1 perfect region
Me: 4 upsets, 0 perfect regions
Bobby: 5 upsets, 0 perfect regions


I admire Bobby as he was able to do what I couldn't. Although he always sucks at brackets. I mean, Ohio State to knock off Louisville? They won't get past Siena.

Of course, even if you anticipate 5 or 6 upsets, it only counts if you pick the right ones. So I understand the argument that if you're not sure where the upset will be, not to pick it. But come on, this is March Madness. Not March play it safe and hope everyone else screws up. Of course, my wife was the one who went all chalk. Whatever.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Italia Recap

This post is a way for me to record/remember the trip, and a resource for anyone planning a trip to Italy in the future.

General
We went to Rome, then Florence, then Venice. Which I think is the right way to go. You don't need to go to Milan or Naples based on what I've researched. So when you're doing the big 3, Florence has to be in the middle because of it's geographic position. And for a variety of reasons which I'll get into, it's better to start in Rome than Venice.

We arrived at our Rome hotel about 8pm, so that first night doesn't really count.
So we had planned to have 4 full days in Rome, 5 in Florence, and 1 in Venice.
We audibled during the trip to have 4 in Rome, 4 in Florence, and 2 in Venice. The 4-4-2 worked out quite well and allowed us to go at a leisurely pace. If you were short on time/money you do Rome in 3, Florence in 3, and Venice in 1. Counting the night you land, that's 8 nights, 7 days in Italy.

The time of year you go is extremely important. I'd heard about how you can wait in 1-3 hour lines at the Vatican/Colosseum/Uffizi during the summer, plus it gets really hot. Going in March, our temperatures were in the 50's and we never waited in line. Conversely, I remember going to Paris over New Year's and it was gray/chilly. Definitely try and avoid June-August, especially August since all the shopkeepers leave because of the heat.

Rome
Usually we book hotels through Hotwire.com, and we did for Rome and Venice. In case you don't know, Hotwire saves you a lot of money, in exchange for not knowing the name/location of the hotel.

Despite Hotwire getting us great deals in Paris and twice in London, in Italy the deals weren't any better than what they offered directly on their websites. So I would recommend booking directly through websites. You should be able to get something for about 100 euro/night.

Between going to the Vatican, the Colosseum, and the Train station, it's beneficial to being near the Metro. We stayed at the Ambra Palace near the Vittorio E. station on Line A. Our hotel was fine, but the neighborhood was sketchy and far. It would be best to try and get a hotel near either the Spagna, Barberini, or Reppublica stop.
The main airport FCO is 30 minutes away from the center of Rome. Here's what happenned when we tried to get a taxi:

Taxi guy: Where are you going?
Me: Ambra Palace.
Taxi guy: 70 euros.
Me: No. 40.
Taxi guy: Okay, 50.
Me: No. 40.
Taxi guy: No. 50.

At that point we walk away and take the Leonardo Express train from FCO to Termini. It was 11 euro a person and just as fast as the taxi. And you don't have to deal with shady taxi guys. From there you can pay 1 euro for a metro to anywhere.

We went to the Vatican Musuem in the afternoon to avoid the crowd and there literally was no line. If you go in the afternoon, be sure to leave enough time to go into St. Peter's, see the Pieta, and climb the Dome if you want.

We also went to the Colosseum in the afternoon. We ended up getting a tour guide from Discover Rome. It also covered the Palatine Hill/Roman Forum and we liked that guide (Sean) so much that we went a walking tour with him that night that covered the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps and other stuff.

On our last day we took another Discover Rome guided tour to the Catacombs outside the city walls, which was just okay.

Basically, I think you need one day for the Vatican, one for the Colosseum/Forum, and one more to just walk around whatever.

Best Gelato Ever: Della Palma It's up the street north of the Pantheon. You must go here. They have over 100 flavors and it tasted like nothing we had all trip. You must go here.

Good Pizza: Gallina Bianca

Best Orange Juice Ever: It was at a fancy cafe kiosk inside a galleria at the corner of Corso/Sabini across from the Piazza Colonna. It was 5 euro which is sort of outrageous, but it was so good that we don't regret it. We've never tasted anything like it.

Go to Termini a day ahead of time and buy Trenitalia tickets to Florence. We got 2 for 70 euro. (2 hours)

Florence
This was our favorite city. We stayed at the Hotel La Venere which was fine, but actually a little creepy. But it had a good location. I'd stay in that area again, 5 minutes north of the Duomo, near the Galleria Academia (Michelangelo's David).

Florence is so small that you can walk around everything. But keep in mind where the SMN train station is when you're booking your hotel, so you don't have to lug your bags across town.

Michelangelo's David was absolutely stunning and is a must-see. You can do that with the Duomo, and the Piazza del Signoria and Ponte Vecchio all in one day. We climbed the Duomo and it was worth it for the views, but a less-claustrophobic option would be to climb the bell tower attached to it. I chose to climb the Duomo over the bell tower for the chance to see the inside of the painted dome on the way up, but I don't know if that made up for the narrow, circular steps.

I suppose you also have to do the Uffizi, but I don't think it was worth the hype. To avoid the 2-hour line even in the offseason, buy them in person at the Pallazo Pitti across the river. At least it's cheap. After the Uffizi we took the #7 bus to Fiesole for amazing views. People also recommend taking the #12 bus to Piazzale Michelangelo. We loved Fiesole and wish we got there well before sunset, instead of as the sun was almost down. (The bus tickets are just regular city bus tickets that cost $1.20 and can be bought from shopkeepers.)

On our last day we went on a Chianti wine tasting trip through Viator (booked ahead of time) for $50/person. They took us out to this Castle (Castello il Palagio) and we got to taste 4 wines: a chardonnay, some basic red, the special Chianti Classico Reserva, and a desert wine, along with cheese, salami, olive-oil covered bread, and almond cookies.

(Funny side note: The castle owner made a big deal about how the Reserva is so special and how it has to have 90% of this grape...blah blah blah...and then she told us to dip the almond cookies in the dessert wine because they are so hard. So this clueless American woman next to us dips her olive-oil soaked bread into the Reserva and eats it. If the owner would have seen that I bet she would have had a heart attack.)

BEST PANINI EVER!: Antico Noe I already wrote a whole post on them. Best sandwich of my life.

Best Dinner in Italy: Lo Scudo I had the Bistecca Fiorentina and Brittany had broccoli tortelli. Amazing. We went back for more. Just behind the Duomo on Oriliuo on the way to Antico Noe.

Best Gelato in Florence: Festival del Gelato on Corso, just off Calizoli.

Thick, rich hot chocolate and handy restroom: Rivoire This is a nice cafe where you can sit outside, inside, or go up to the counter to get everything half-off. Also handy because it's in the Piazza del Signoria and it's hard to find a restroom when you're out.

Two Trenitalia tickets from SMN Florence to Venice were under 70 euro. (2.5 hours)

Venice
So there's not much to do in Venice. You see the Rialto bridge/Grand Canal. Then you go in St. Mark's Basilica and square and you're done in about 2 hours. You spend the rest of your time walking through alleys. There's a reason that people take day-trips, or just stay 1 night.

We stayed at the Hotel Santa Maria which is the only hotel we stayed at that I would recommend. It was centrally located between the Rialto, St. Mark's, and the pier that takes you to the airport. We got a classic room for 80 euro (special low-season rate) directly through their website and it was a great room.

The hotel offered a free trip to Murano for a glass-making demonstration. Notice I said "to" as in one-way. The ride there was a private taxi on a speedboat which was half the fun. The glass demo lasted 5 minutes and was cool. But then they take you through their showcase/gift shop for 20 minutes and you're own your own to take the water bus back. (13 euro for both of us)

Oh yeah, and since the only thing in Venice is glass shops and other tourist stores, when they close at 7pm, the whole city looks shut down and it's a little strange. I ended up watching soccer in the hotel in Venice and we ate at pizza stands on the street. I would recommend staying a night there, maybe two if you have your heart set on seeing 5-minutes of glass making.

Summary
You go to Venice to see the canals.
You go to Rome to see the important/historic attractions.
You go to Florence eat, drink, tour the countryside, soak up the culture, and love Italy.

Post Script
We had a night in London on the way back and it was enlightening. Because we spent 5 days in London a year ago, it was interesting to see how we felt about it. We saw the Tower of London and Parliament/Big Ben, went to afternoon tea, had fish and chips, saw Stomp in the West End, and walked around.

The Tower and Parliament felt boring, like I was just there. But the tea, the fish, the theater, was as fun as ever. It's a good lens to examine Italy though. I feel as though I've seen Venice and Rome enough to not go back until I'm 50, but I would love to go back to Florence anytime.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Panoramas of a Lifetime

Basically, Italy is panoramic. Like Europe in general, the scenes aren't very tall but stretch forever along the horizon. So I made 4 panoramas using Hugin. Enjoy.

Roman Forum

Florence from the Ponte Vecchio

Grand Canal

Grand Canal from the Rialto

I spent about 20 minutes trying to figure out where I could host original size panoramas without creating a new account. Flickr capped the horizontal resolution at 1024 pixels. Blogger caps it at 1600. Bayimg wasn't working. And Imgur capped the file size at 2mb. And then I remembered Dropbox offers public links and is the easiest way to do it. (Incidentally, I used Dropbox to transfer all 500 Italy photos to work, because I knew it would be so much faster to upload the best 200 using my work connection.)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Panini of a Lifetime

That really is the caption of our 12-day trip to Italy. It almost makes me want to change this site to Panini Central. Almost.

We woke up around noon on Saturday, March 7 in Firenze. We strolled through the street markets buying scarves and ties and necklaces. And then we were ready for lunch. In my internet research I saw that one person said they the best sandwich of their life was in Florence. So of course, I wrote it down and mapped it out.

We walked past the Duomo in the center of town and turned down an alley that isn't marked on any map of Florence. And there it was. L'Antico Noè. (Which I just translated to "the ancient Noah")


When we arrived the line was a bit longer than it is in this picture. On the right wall there is a menu posted of 22 pre-made sandwiches but it seems that people in the know just custom order their own.

So I ordered sausage, spicy salami and provolone in Italian (salsiccia, salame piccante e provolone). Brit got the caprese (tomatoes and mozzeralla) but added spinach.

The first thing he does is slices off some pieces of sausage and puts it on the panini press. Then he grabs this huge chunk of salami and provolone and puts in a slicer, fresh made to order. He then slices a crusty piece of bread down the middle, assembles the sandwich, and put in the press for a good couple minutes. Here's what 2/3 of it looks like.

It was amazing! I've never tasted anything this fresh, this bursting with flavor. Just big, bold taste. It was obvious that the ingredients were local, and so fresh that you just can't get anything like it in the States.

It was so good we went back on Sunday. Only to find shut doors. It seems that a lot of stuff is closed in Italy on Sundays. I guess between football and Church who has time to work?

So Monday was our 4th and last day in Florence, and we had to make it count. Last chance. This time I added peperoni (red peppers) to my previous order, which took it to another level. Also, this day they had round bread. This truly was THE PANINO OF A LIFETIME.


So now you know where to go to get the best sandwich in the world.

L'Antico Noè
Volta di San Piero 6r
Firenze
Tel. 055 234 0838
Closed Sun (and for several weeks in August)

How To Get There

Start at the SE corner of the Duomo and walk east down Oriuolo. San Piero isn't on any maps, so I've placed it in green on this custom map.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

The DaColbert Code predicts the 2009 Final Four: Midwest

Who will join UConn, Louisville, and Oklahoma in the Final Four? Only DaColbert Code knows...


Remember to scroll slowly to unravel the mystery properly.

Next up is the Midwest Regional which take place in Indianapolis.

Indy 500...

checkered flag...

checker board...

board game...

Candy Land...

candy bar...

Baby Ruth...

Barry Bonds...

bail bondsman...

Beetle Bailey...

Dilbert...

glasses...

classes...

college degree...

Degree deodorant...

armpit...

Pit something something...

Pit blank blank...

Pitt pit pit...

Let's just say Illinois!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Travel Update

We're on a train to Venezia. We've got one more night in Italy, and then we've got tomorrow night in London, and then we'll be back in the states on Friday. I'm sure we're looking forward to the US of A.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The DaColbert Code predicts the 2009 Final Four: West

Who will join UConn and Louisville in the Final Four? Only DaColbert Code knows...


Remember to scroll slowly to unravel the mystery properly.

Next up is the South Regional which take place in Arizona.

Arizona was in the Super Bowl...

soup bowl...

soup nazi...

nazis were from Germany...

as is the Shamwow...

cheesy commercials...

5-hour energy...

e=mc(squared)...

M.C. Escher...

skewed perspective...

You're watching Perspectives, and it's 4:54 in the am...

oh, what a beautiful morning, oh, what a beautiful day, I've got a beautiful feeling, everything's goin' my way...

Oklahoma!

Oklahoma is the third team in the Final Four! Check back Thursday for part four.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Bloggy McBloggington

Bloggy is a sad little boy in the 5th grade. Bloggy lives in Bloggington, Indiana. It smells like sulfur.

He has a crush on Bloggifer Bloggenstein. She's brings her lunch because her parents are so tight with money.

Bloggy is taking Bloggifer to the school dance which this year is themed: 20,000 Bloggues under the Blog. At the dance, Bloggy sees a girl out of the corner of his eye. He can't take his focus away from her. She is captivating. Her name is Podcasty Podcaster.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Travel Update

We're on a train to Firenze. Tuscany. I'm anticipating a slower, less crowded scene. On my list is a place that allegedly sells the best paninis on earth.

We're going to try and take a bus out to Fiesole, a town overlooking the Florence cityscape.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

The DaColbert Code predicts the 2009 Final Four: South

Who will join UConn in the Final Four? Only DaColbert Code knows...



Remember to scroll slowly to unravel the mystery properly.

Next up is the South Regional which take place in Memphis.

Memphis Grizzlies...

grizzly bears...

Jumanji...

Robin Williams...

Roy Williams...

NO! I won't have it...

Okay, let's start over:

Memphis barbecue...

baby back ribs...

saddlebacking...

anal sex...

Albert Poo-holes

Cardinals...

Louisville!

Louisville is the 2nd team in the Final Four! Check back next Tuesday for part three.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

a live post from rome

I can prove it. On Sunday, AC Milan beat Sampdoria 3-0.

Yesterday, I ate a panini that was the size of a laptop.

Okay, I lied, this was future blogged. F you space time continuum!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The DaColbert Code predicts the 2009 Final Four: East

In case you're not familiar...


Last year's DaColbert Code Bracketology got 3 out 4 teams right: Part One and Part Two

I can't let this code fall into the wrong hands. Remember to scroll slowly to unravel the mystery properly.

We're starting in the East Regional which takes place in Boston.

Boston tea party...

Tea time...

Tool Time...

Tim Allen...

Detroit...

Economic crisis...

Stimulus Plan...

Barack Obama...

Joe Biden...

Amtrak...

Railroad Tycoon...

Jim Calhoun...

Connecticut!

UConn is the first team in the 2009 Final Four! Check back Thursday for part two.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Travel Update

Today I woke up in Roma. I'm sure we had pizza last night. Umm...I don't know what else to say. Hopefully the weather is nice and it's not too crowded. Stay tuned for actual content.

UPDATE as of 15'30. So we didn't have pizza last night. But I did get a salami sandwich for lunch today.

We got to Rome at about 8pm last night and was dead tired. But the hotel did have free internet so I checked my email and right before I signed off, I logged on to arrowheadpride.com. And there I saw 10 posts about Matt Cassell. I saw the Vrabel trade before we left Chicago and was happy with getting him, but never expected to land Cassell.

I always wanted him this offseason but never really thought it was possible. I'm not 100 percent certain that Cassell is a franchise quarterback but for a 2nd round pick I think it's a great move and I'm excited for 09.