Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Questioning Authority

When I first read about a federal report on obesity being questioned by a professor of medicine and chair of obesity research, I wanted to comment that we need to look at who is criticizing the report. Somebody whose career is based around researching obesity might have a vested interest to discredit a report that indicates that simple changes to diet and exercise patterns might reduce obesity cases significantly. I especially wanted to when Kelly McParland snarked: Walking around the block is going to offset the double baconator you had for lunch? I don’t think so.

Now comes along the New England Journal of Medicine and a new report which attempts to quantify what affect each type of food has on your weight. (Jonathan Kay has a handy summary of the findings.)

I'm sure there are holes to this report when considering the obesity issue, but it does lay out for us a few ideas when it comes to losing weight. Specifically, something along the lines of "fried carbs bad, naturally occurring foods good." I know that I lost a fair bit of weight by changing my diet to include better types of food (like nuts for snacks, whole grains and salsads replacing fries, and chicken replacing beef more often than not.) It just makes sense given what we know.

That's why I don't understand McParland and Dr. Sharma's full scale rejection of the idea that eating more fruits and vegetables and getting 15 minutes of exercising will lead to a decrease of obesity cases. I understand that there are some cases when this will not be able to be the only piece of a solution, but in many cases, it will help, if not solve the problem. One thing that will definitely not help is the defeatist attitude that McParland and Dr. Sharma seem to be willing to propigate. Encouragement helps people; dismissing a sensible claim immediately helps nobody.

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Monday, June 27, 2011

JayRo Watches: Expedition Impossible

(No true spoilers here.)

I watched the first episode of Expedition Impossible and enjoyed it a lot. That's all you need to know.

Well, maybe some description would be nice.

Expedition Impossible is essentially Mark Burnett's ode to the Amazing Race. It uses the familiar checkpoint/roadblock method of racing, but eliminates (a) the travelling from country to country via plane and (b) the puzzle side of determining where you have to go next. Both are replaced by having to traverse the landscape of Morocco, whether that be the desert, the canyons or the snow capped mountains. The last team to check in at the pit stop cross the finish line is eliminated.

One improvement on the Amazing Race is some of the humour added by "translating" the locals. (I put translating in quotes because it's not completely clear whether the locals are actually saying what the subtitles say.) On the Amazing Race, you normally are left to wonder what these locals are thinking about the crazy Americans doing wacky things in their country. Here, you get an answer, and it can be amusing.

The addition of team names is a mixed blessing - it's nice to have an easy way to identify the teams from the outset, but the names are pretty plain. They are pretty descriptive of the idea behind the team though, so again, it is appreciated.

If you like the Amazing Race, you will enjoy this show. It has all of the features of the amazing race, with some gorgeous shots of the Moroccian landscape that only a Mark Burnett production can provide.

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

It's all in how you present it

Robin Leach talked about Gordon Ramsay and his new Las Vegas restaurant and Hell's Kitchen when he wrote this:
Hell’s Kitchen is now the longest-running, non-celebrity contestant, reality TV challenge program, surpassing Donald Trump’s The Apprentice.

My first reaction was to try to come up with a snarky comment about Survivor not counting because it wasn't filmed in the US, and American Idol not counting because too many people watch it. But then I started to think to try to understand exactly what he was saying. So, I went to Wikipedia to see if they had a reference for that "non-celebrity contestant, reality TV challenge program" line It has this to say:
Hell's Kitchen has surpassed The Apprentice (hosted by Donald Trump) in number of non-celebrity-contestant seasons

So, I have no clue as to what a "non-celebrity contestant, reality TV challenge program" is. If I had to guess, it's a show where the winner is determined by some sort of judging and not by any sort of calculated measurement.

The true question now is where did Leach get this line? Did somebody read what Wikipedia said and then give it a bit of a flourish? did a PR flack give him that line to add into his column? Or was it a simple misinterpretation?

No matter what the reason is, that line is one hell of a thin slice to make in order to puff up somebody whose ego doesn't need any more inflating. But that is Robin Leach's style - gush about his subjects and write puff pieces. He doesn't need to question something so specific sounding. Why would somebody lie about something as specific as "non-celebrity contestant, reality TV challenge program." What would be the benefit of being the longest lasting of such a niche group?

I don't think there's a benefit to being the longest running anything of a limited subsection of television; it's clear that others believe that being number one in something has to be a positive.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Random Thoughts - June 22, 2011

  • It seems to be the norm, but Bell put their foot in their mouth again. Saying that it's preposterous that consumers should be able to see content on all cellphones and tablets is backwards and wrong thinking. You can sell access to the content and make money. As well, exclusive content does not drive people to particular providers - the hardware and vertical integration does. You'd think that Bell would have learned this by now - it's not like their Mobile NHL has dragged the customers to them.

  • Kayden Kross wrote an interesting letter attacking porn piracy (site is probably NSFW, but there is no actual nudity in the article.) She makes a strong point that the pirates could have worked with the porn industry and both could have made a lot of money. But her conclusion only looks at one part of the equation. Instead of blaming the pirates for causing a race to the bottom, she shoud also consider why the porn industry couldn't put together an equivalent website to the porntubes of the world, supported by both subscription rates and ad revenue. If it worked for anime, why couldn't it work for porn?

  • Unlike other privacy complaints we have seen, the complaint against eHarmony seemed to be resolved in a sensible manner. Privacy commissioner receives a complaint, investigates, the advises the site of the issues and their recommended way of resolving it. The website responds by saying they are working to implement similiar methods to resolve the issue and also advises of alternate methods to complete the action. Win, win.

  • From the category of teh awesome: Patrick Stewart is starring in a production of the Merchant of Venice which is being put on by the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford-upon-Avon. The twist? The play is set in Las Vegas


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Random Thoughts - June 21, 2011

  • To continue my recent Tropicana kick, I present this: John Curtas visited Bacio recently, and he agrees that the gnocchi is gummy. Considering when he visited Bacio, Chef Carla Pellegrino was in the restaurant, it's a safe assumption that it is something with their preparation instead of a one-off occurence. It's also encouraging that the other dishes he sampled were up to his standards.

  • While on the subject of Vegas, Vegas Inc. declared McCarran Airport as a highlight of Vegas. As somebody who travels through Terminal 2 of McCarran, I have to disagree. The benefit of flying into Terminal 2 is that you can get a cab almost immediately after landing, since it's a pretty quiet terminal. The downside is that the terminal really has nothing in it - a Pizza Hut or Burger King for food, a newsstand, but nothing too spectacular. If anything, it's the perfect compliment for your feelings when you are leaving Vegas - reserved to allow you to begin to revert to "real world" mode, and melancholy to reflect your sadness on leaving the city.

  • In the coolest thing to be seen in a long while, 10 Sports Illustrated writers drafted teams and then simulated them via Strat-O-Matic. I actually disagreed with the first pick in the draft, but won't spoil it for you.

  • Dr. Sanjay Gupta writes a fantastic article about Nick Charles' battle with terminal bladder cancer.

  • This sounds odd: Deep Fried Kool-Aid.

  • James McAvoy has limited any chance he has of ever working with James Cameron

  • Getting Blanked brings the baseball related funny.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Already setting up next year

Max Pacioretty wasn't happy with the Bruins winning the Cup. (Not that I blame him; and I congratulate him for not goin on the rant that I did after the end of round 1.)

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Friday, June 17, 2011

How to prove yourself to be a douchebag in one easy step

Second picture in.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Rethinking Tropicana's layout

I am a bit surprised to hear that Bacio at Tropicana has cut their hours. As I said in my review of the restaurant, I think it's a solid restaurant (though I'd stay away from the Gnocchi.) So for it to cut its hours is a bit surprising, and an indication that something isn't working. So the puzzle for the Trop to solve is why this restaurant isn't working. I can think of two reasons:

1. Pricing My Gnocchi cost $24. Ignoring my feelings on the quality of the Gnocchi, it's not a difficult pasta to make. And considering the sauce was a simple meat sauce, I'm not sure what gave it the $24 price point. That's not all though - get Veal Parmesan, and it will cost you $42! If they set the price point about $5 lower, people would be much more likely to eat there.

2. Location First, a story. Last year during my Memorial Day trip to Vegas, there was a pool party held at the Tropicana pool. It went well, but one consisten complaint was that it was difficult to find the pool, with the signage being rather confusing. The signage for the pool has been fixed, but it remains for Bacio. To get to Bacio, you have to go through the casino floor, take an escalator to the second floor, walk around a promenade and the go down a hall until you reach Bacio. When you enter, there is no signage to indicate where to go for Bacio, so unless you head towards the general area of Bacio, you wouldn't know where it is.

What's a bigger issue is that these issues aren't just Bacio issues, but they are common to all of the restaurants in the Tropicana. Indeed, if you enter the Tropicana through the main entrance, the only food option within any sort of sight line is the sundry store. The restaurants aren't even readily visible as you move around in the casino, or when you head down the path to lead you there. Instead they are buried behind multiple turns and are very close to "out of sight, out of mind."

You want to go to Biscayne? It's right across from Bacio. It's also more expensive than Bacio - the prices are closer to Carnevino. It's one thing for Carnevino to charge these prices - they have the star chef, along with a reputation for being a top steakhouse. Biscayne has neither of these. And implicitly, both Bacio and Biscayne acknowledge this by offering a prix fix menu at a great discount. Bacio gives an app, main course, dessert, glass of house wine and coffee or tea for $33.99 when it would normally cost $45+ for all of this. Biscayne has a $39.99 4 course meal which also includes a wine pairing. By putting these menus out there, they send a message that the prices on he actual menu might be exaggerated a bit.

Cafe Nikki also suffers from a similiar price issue - the cheapest entree it has is $24. It does have sandwiches and burgers available, but those are in the $15-$18 range. Want something decent for breakfast? Too bad for you. Cafe Nikki only servesa breakfast buffet now. Even the pizza place in the food court is somewhat pricey - a $6 single burger seems like the best deal there.

All of this works against Tropicana. While thir rooms are refreshed and great (review still to come, honestly!), the lack of clearly visible restaurant options which are reasonably costed are sorely lacking. It's more than enough to drive somebody to MGM Grand and one of their multitude of options, or to New York New York and their All You Can Eat Pancake deal. If Tropicana doesn't come up with a creative way to drive foot traffic to their restaurants, they will find their other restaurants going dark for a couple of nights a week.

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Sunday, June 12, 2011

UFC 131 Thoughts

UFC 131 ended up producing the desired winners in most matches.(*) More importantly, those winners gave performances that made the winners look like they are worthy of the next match they will receive.

Junior dos Santos absolutely mauled Shane Carwin in the main event. The match had already been declared for the next title shot, but with Cain Velasquez looking so dominant in all of his fights it was going to take a dominant performance to make people believe that Cain was in any sort of danger. dos Santos delivered this. The first round was a mirror of Carwin's last fight, only with Carwin receiving the benefit of the doubt from the referee. Make no mistake, Carwin was being pummelled unmercifully and could have seen the ref stop the fight. And if the round were 30 seconds longer, this likely would have happened. But with only 10 seconds remaining, and it being obvious that Herb Dean was not going to stop the fight, dos Santos relented on his attack, choosing to reserve his energy. Not that it mattered; Carwin's face told the story. dos Santos eventually ended up with a decision victory, but most everybody will remember it as a dominant performance, and one that made dos Santos look like a threat to Velasquez's title.

Similarly, Kenny Florian's defeat of Diego Nunes set Florian up for a future title featherweight title shot. This was also pre-ordained; if Florian was going to be able to survive his cut to 145 pounds, he would be lined up to face the winner of Jose Aldo Jr. and Chad Mendes. Florian did not look dominant; however he did look as though his skills did not suffer from fighting at a lower weight class. And that should be more than enough to sell a PPV.

Combine this with Donald Cerrone's victory and you have three matches that set up future contenders well.

(*): This is unlike UFC 130, where the right people won, but did not look impressive in winning.
More importanly for the UFC, this show was an entertaining one. After the end of UFC 129, and the whole of UFC 130, this was a welcome event.

It's said often that bad events will be forgiven by fans becasue the event is real. The fans understand that not all fights will be exciting, but so long as some are exciting to watch with a definitive end. This is true, but if you end up with enough boring fights/cards in a row, you will reach a tipping point where business will go down and (heaven forbid) the fad will pass. UFC 131 headed this off, but it is a real danger for UFC to consider.

The real issue that UFC has to fight against is the reality that this is a real sport. Fighters make money by winning, not being spectacular. As much as they want to score the memorable knockout, they want to win to keep their job even more. And UFC can not do much more than they have to incentivize their fighters to produce spectacular finishes - large bonuses (in many cases more than the purse for winning a fight) and more prominent positions on fight cards can only go so far. In the end fighters need to make the decision as to whether they are going to go for a bonus, or if they desire to win at all costs. It's a tradeoff that is difficult to decide.
My predictions were 4-3, putting me at 44-30-2 for the year. No wagers were made, so I am still at a net profit of $18.60 for the year.

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

UFC 131 Predictions

Not including the facebook fights, as I saw the results for them.

Jesse Bongfeldt over Chris Weidman
Yves Edwards over Sam Stout
Donald Cerrone over Vagner Rocha
Jon Olav Einemo over Dave Herman
Mark Munoz over Damien Maia
Kenny Florian over Diego Nunes
Junior dos Santos over Shane Carwin

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Random Thoughts - June 10, 2011

Some random thoughts for a Friday...

  • Compare and contrast time. Adam Daifallah on Wednesday about the Conservative Party of Canada's success:
    Another point has been the professionalization of the Conservative Party. Before Harper first won, the Tories had a weak, gaffe-prone communications operation. Since winning government, the Conservatives have (for better or worse) become a case study in professional political organization, from its tight scripting to message control to the way it has defined its political opponents, especially the last two Liberal leaders. It would be difficult to find another political party in the Western world today that has a better-oiled communications machine than Harper’s Tories.

    And his co-author Tasha Kheiriddin on Thursday, regarding the $50MM spent on Muskoka upgrades:
    The report also makes you wonder about the communications plan in the Prime Minister’s Office. The government took major heat over the budget for security costs when it was made public. Yet, as Fraser points out, officials knew that they were likely to come in under budget – so shouldn’t someone have advised the Tories to downgrade the estimates, to minimize public opposition to the price tag?

    That's the best communication machine of all Western world political parties?

  • Speaking of the National Post, Canada's best sports columnist, Bruce Arthur, has a fantastic article about how non-fans of the Canucks or Bruins feel about the series: No One is Pure in the Stanley Cup Final. And Down Goes Brown takes a contrarian stance by giving us positive things associated with both teams.

  • Toronto arrests their creepy weirdos who violate women by taking photographs up their skirts. Meanwhile, in Franklin County, Ohio, they make it much easier. (Money quote: "She speculates that men, who didn’t take half the population into account, designed the stairs." You think?)

  • Kelly McParland is confused that Shania Twain claimed to not be able to sing due to the trauma of her divorce, but has now announced a residency at Caesar's Palace. Maybe he missed the fact that it will start in December 2012?


Tuesday, June 07, 2011

JayRo Watches: The Green Hornet

I went into watching the Green Hornet with much trepidation. Most everything I heard about it was horrible, with reviews shitting all over it. To my surprise, I did not mind it.

I should be clear - this is not a fantastic film that people should hunt down immediately. The action was pretty pedestrian, the development of the Britt Reid character was forced, and the swerve of the big baddie at the end was pretty obvious. But this was balanced with Seth Rogan's performance of a bumbling super hero pretending to be a villain, along with the general greatness of the Kato character.

The plot of the Green Hornet is pretty straight forward - father dies, son turns to crime fighting then avenges father's death. The twist is that the Green Hornet pretends to be a villain to get closer to the actual villains. Along the way there are twists and turns, but the feel of the movie is very familiar.

In all, this is a mediocre film which you will end up sitting down and watching one day when it is on television. And after it is done you will wonder where your time went. It won't move you to buy a DVD, nor will it encourage you to want to see a second Green Hornet film, but you won't feel as though you have been ripped off on your time.

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Monday, June 06, 2011

JayRo Watches: X-Men First Class

X-Men First Class is definitely a Bryan Singer movie, even if he did not direct it. It follows through on X-Men 1 and 2, and ties up a lot of the loose ends. As well, it carries on the tradition of the first two movies to concentrate on characters and acting performances over action.

That isn't to say that there are no spectacular fight scenes. In particular, Magneto has quite a few scenes where he looked like the greatest assassin ever created. But what drives the movie are the performances of the actors.

James McAvoy plays Charles Xavier, and carries a lot of the heavy load in the first half of the movie. McAvoy brings a lot of Xavier's gravitas and mysterious ability to push and challenge his students. He also supplies the wisdom that you expect from Professor X. But in the second half of the movie, he hands over the movie to the true star, Michael Fassbender.

Fassbender plays Magneto with aplomb, taking what is initially a character who is driven solely by revenge, and helping to transform him into the complex character who desires to take mutant kind to rule the world. He takes us along with his own change into this character, letting us understand his motives while not necessarily tipping his hand as to where the character is going to go. It was a breakout performance for Fassbender; not necessarily an Oscar worthy performance, but on that should make Hollywood pay notice and get Fassbender many more starring roles.

I should also take a moment to commend Kevin Bacon on his performance; more often than not Bacon is treated as a bit of a joke, thanks to the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game. But his performance as Sebastian Shaw was a strong performance for somebody who normally isn't cast as a main villain.

I recommend seeing this movie, especially if you enjoed the first two X-Men movies. The acting carries the movie, though the story and action were not lacking either.

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