2016-17 European football leagues – analysis

After skipping last year’s recap article – due to the Euros (very conveniently I take off in World Cup and Euro years, which essentially means that I publish posts like this every other year :D) – I’m back to dissect this mundane, yet topsy-turvy, season.

[all snapshots courtsey Goal.com]

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English Premier League – Chelsea won its 5th top flight league title, the first in five-year, at the beginning of May, with 3 games to spare. Scratch that. That was the line from 2 seasons ago. Chelsea won its 6th title, with 1 game to spare. After finishing 10th last season, Chelsea bounced back like a cat on a trampoline. 1st-10th-1st. That one game to spare turned out to be an awkward homage to John Terry’s last game in a Blues shirt. Spurs finished 2nd two years in a row, and managed to finish over Arsenal in 22 years. Arsenal was 5th, consigned to the Europa league next year. In fact, I have never witnessed Arsenal outside the top 4 in my 20 years of seriously watching and following European club competitions, that incidentally matched their longest top-4 finish. The saving grace for Arsenal was winning the FA Cup, beating Chelsea, who by the time the final rolled in were in warm beaches, at least their minds were. Leicester after the fairy tale run last year settle into 12th place not before scaring everyone with a potential relegation.

Harry Kane continued his fine form by topping the scoring charts for 2nd consecutive year. Lukaku flourished under Koeman with Everton. The rest are usual suspects.

My prediction for 2017-18

It’s hard to see both Arsenal and ManU not improving upon this season, though even harder to see how they can dislodge the teams above them. Wenger staying on at Arsenal could actually bode worse for the team. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him sacked if there is a spell of few losing games. He’s on thin ice, I think. Conte has won the league the last 4 times he has coached a club (Juve 3, Chelsea 1). Would be foolish to count them off. Liverpool under Klopp is coming together nicely, missing only a few pieces. Guardiola will be in his 2nd seasoan as coach of City. This campaign was the only time in his entire career that he hasn’t won the league as a coach.

My top 6 for next year: Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Man United, Arsenal, Tottenham.

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German BundesligaThe German top flight has become a one-horse league. Munich won their 3rd 5th straight title, 2527th overall. Dortmund’s challenge has fallen off and no other team even thinks, let alone look, to fight for anything higher than the 2nd place spot. [copied pasted from the article 2 years ago]. Leipzig, newly promoted last year, finished a distant second. With Robben and Ribery not getting any younger, though you wouldn’t know that by watching the last 2 games of the season where Robben scored absolute scorchers; Mueller not playing up to his erstwhile golden standard; Lahm and Xabi Alonso (two of the behemoths of the game) retiring – it will be interesting to see how Ancelotti shapes up this Munich team. Dortmund has a young, pacy, exciting team. The strange thing was their coach Thomas Tuchel was sacked after Dortmund won the DFB Pokal (German Cup)!

Aubameyang and Lewandowski continue to score for fun and old warhorse Mario Gomez still is hunting. Incidentally Lewandowski was the leading scorer heading up to the final game day, where Aubameyang scored 2 goals and Lewandowski scored none, and later complained that he was very angry at his team mates by not giving him opportunities to score!

My predictions for 2017-18

Whoever takes the reigns up at Dortmund will inherit a technically talented team with young, speedy players. The US teenager Christian Pulisic has put in impressive performances for club and country and will only develop more. Munich will NOT finish lower than 2nd place. The rest are just guesses; not educated guesses, just guesses.

Top 4: Dortmund, Munich, Monchelgladbach, Werder Bremen

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Italian Serie AMuch like the Bundesliga, Juventus has turned the Serie A into something they own. The Bianconeri won their 46th title in row, 31st33rd overall, and they won the Scudetto with 41 game to spare [copied pasted from the article 2 years ago]. Even a slew of high profile departures such as Tevez, Vidal, Morata, Pogba has not prevented them from bossing around the league. Mandzukic and Khedira have reinvented themselves while the Argentinian duo of Dybala and Higuain have a tremendous chemistry in front of goal. BBC (Bonuci, Barzhagli, and Chielini) hold up fort at the back, with the very sprightly 40-year old Buffon in goal.  Roma and Napoli had a concerted challenge throughout but it was quite evident that they were jostling for the 2nd place. Atalanta was a surprise finishing as high as 4th, while both Milan and Inter failed to land any European action next season. Milan is so pathetic that it is embarrassing. Hopefully the new Chinese buyers will get on the path to restore a semblance of the old Milan of lore, whose sheen has been worn out by previous owner Silvio Berlusconi (yes, the disgraced ex-Prime Minister of Italy) and longtime GM, and godfather lookalike, Adriano Galliani. Totti ended his 25 year career with Roma.

Juventus though couldn’t attain the treble by losing the Champions League final to Real Madrid.

Edin Dzeko, formerly of Man City, was the surprise lead scorer and both he and his Roma team Mohammed Saleh (Chelsea) are having a great resurgence. The diminutive Dries Martens filled in the void left by Higuain at Napoli, with Calderon and Insigne picking up a fair amount of goals as well. Higuain’s move to Juve gave him the 4th place.

My predictions for 2017-18

Hard to predict against Juve. With Totti now retired, I think Roma will flourish more without having to fit in the 40-year old. Napoli should be in the mix as well. Milan will still flounder.

My top 6: Roma, Napoli, Juventus, Inter, Milan, Lazio

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Spanish La Liga – Real Madrid won their first league title after 5 years. Think about it for a moment. The richest club in the world, with all the Galacticos, could not win the league 5 years in a row. This was their longest streak since 1980. Barca gave them a tough fight till the end but their one extra loss in the whole campaign (4) compared to Madrid’s was the deciding factor. Messi’s superlative performance in the second El Classico was a performance for ages but ultimately that win could not make up for ground lost earlier in the season. Sevilla and Atletico had something resembling a challenge going on but those aspirations faded by April.

Messi with a tally (*mediocre* by his lofty standards!) of 37 goals was the Golden Boot winner in Europe. The big guns from Barca and Madrid filled up the top slots, though Neymar not featuring in the top 5 had some bearing on Barca not winning the league.

My predictions for 2017-18

Atletico will sell their best player (Griezeman), Madrid will add a couple of more Galacticos, Ronaldo and Messi will keep on scoring. The same, the same …

Top 4: Barca, Madrid, Atletico, Villareal

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French Ligue 1 – Monaco has got to be this year’s Leicester! The brand of fearless, attacking football played by their young squad, epitomized by Mbappe and led by the written-off Falcao, was a treat to watch. Unay Emery’s first year as coach of PSG can only be described as a failure, though there are reports that he will get another year. To be pipped by Monaco by 8 freaking points is nothing short of a catastrophe! And Monaco made it further in the Champion’s League as well.

Cavani continues his domination of the minows in Ligue 1 and needs a ton of scoring opportunities to actually score. Lacazette continues his impressive run and is bound to be snapped up by top clubs this year. Falcao has risen like a proverbial phoenix.

My predictions for 2017-18

With Monaco selling their prized assets (their and Atletico’s off season game plans are very similar) to bigger clubs, it will be hard to repeat this season’s triumph. PSG will reclaim their throne, and also continue to falter in Europe. Nice was the another surprise package this year; should not be repeated again.

Top 4: PSG, Lyon, Monaco, Marseille

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Big clubs, big decisions their way

After Barcelona’s incredible win against PSG with a few controversial calls going the victor’s way, and a couple of games this past weekend, where bigger clubs were awarded decisions which turned the games in their favour, I decided to write this post.

The 3 games I’m going to talk about here are: UCL Barca-PSG on Mar 8th, Serie A Milan-Juve on Mar 10, La Liga Real Madrid-Real Betis Mar 12.

Let me be clear on one thing. In all the three instances, the eventual winner was the clear favourite (before and during the game) to win. I am not for a moment suggesting that somehow the losers were “robbed” of a win. What I am suggesting is that the eventual winners could may have lost or tied the games had some very debatable decisions not gone their way.

Ok, so for the UCL game the 3 crucial calls the referee made mistakes, in my opinion, are the penalty call on Neymar (by Meunier), the penalty call on Suarez (by Marquinhos), and the non-penalty call on Di Maria (by Mascherano). Mascherano even openly admitted to his foul in post-match interviews.

The author at this URL has made lucid points on the all the 3 decisions I mention above.

There was one other non-call for a penalty that was made in the same game, and I believe that was the right call. This was a penalty call against Mascherano in Barca’s box when he slid in to stop in a cross from Draxler (#23). Even though the ball clearly strikes Mascherano’s hand, he was barely a foot or so away from Draxler when the shot was taken. There are 3 things to consider while making the decision to award a penalty based on a hand ball: 1. Intention, 2. Proximity for body from where the ball was kicked, 3. Unnatural positions of arms.

Now, to the Milan-Juventus game. In the 95th min, Milan’s De Sciglio stops Lichtsteiner’s (#26) cross while they are both inside Milan’s penalty box. There was no way De Sciglio could have avoided contact with the ball, he was barely a yard away when it was kicked at him!

And the third incident happened on in the Madrid-Betis match. Navas was waaayy off his line trying to clear the ball and he completely missed the ball and took out, I mean TOOK OUT, the Betis midfilder Darko Brasanac. It should have been a free kick (as it happened outside the box) to Betis  and a red card to Navas (last man, clear goal scoring opportunity). Neither was given.

 

Then, I read this report from La Liga, about Barcelona getting more penalties in La Liga than any other club.

A little more digging brought up these numbers from UCL:  Most penalties for, and most penalties against.

From the above 2 list of numbers I made the following list for most net penalties awarded to clubs in UCL.

You could very well argue that these biggest club play in the most games and they have the most gifted forwards so they get more penalties. That certainly can be a part of the answer, maybe not just the whole. Any one who has followed Champions League football over the years will remember how ManU, in their heydays, could be certain for the game to go on till they equalized or won. Same with Milan of the early 2000s. Barca, Madrid, Munich and Juventus in the recent few years.

Clubs Penalties For Penalties Against Difference (For – Against)
Barcelona 42 16 26
Real Madrid 38 20 18
Bayern Munich 35 22 13
Manchester United 24 11 13
Liverpool 10 2 8
Chelsea 19 12 7
Sevilla 8 1 7
FC Porto 18 12 6
Juventus 19 13 6
AC Milan 18 13 5
Internazionale 8 3 5
Borussia Dortmund 8 4 4
Manchester City 12 8 4
Arsenal 26 23 3
Atletico Madrid 8 5 3
AS Roma 10 9 1
Bayer Leverkusen 13 13 0
Celtic 9 9 0
Valencia 11 11 0
Olympique Lyonnais 10 13 -3
Shakhtar Donetsk 10 13 -3
Olympique Marseille 5 10 -5
Benfica 5 11 -6
Paris Saint-Germain 7 14 -7
AFC Ajax 4 13 -9
PSV Eindhoven 7 16 -9
Olympiakos 7 18 -11
Categories: Analysis, Loves | 1 Comment

10 years

I landed in the US for the first time on Jan 3rd, 2007, exactly a decade ago. Flew from Chennai to London to D.C, on British Airways. Donakaku picked me from from IAD and we went to his home in Richmond, VA. I stayed there for 4 days and landed in Minneapolis, MN on Jan 7th.

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Chennai International Airport, with my then roommates – Subhankar, Pari and Avik

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IAD parking lot with my uncle

 

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Outside Star’s school

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BYOD – Build your own deck

Or BOOD. Built Our Own Deck. Nah, BYOD sounds better.

Ever since we’ve moved into our home in Savage over two years ago we knew we had to get a deck. This wasn’t a wish list item for us: the dining room sliding door opened up into 4 and half feet of thin air. Quite a bit of work went into planning, designing and actually erecting the structure.

With this post I hope to bring some clarity to the whole process and maybe help someone who’s thinking about building their own deck. I’ve put down 7 steps which took me from the conceptualizing stage to the final end product.

Step 1: Start off with some idea of what the deck will look like

The size of the deck, the decking material, the brand, the colour. Don’t worry this will be just the first iteration, just to get the ball rolling.

The two sizes I was considering were 16’x16′ or 20’x14′. We knew that we didn’t want a deck that would require regular maintenance so wood (pressure treated wood) was out. Composite was the the way forward for us. Trex, Azek, TimberTech and Fiberon are the main players in the composite market, where “composite” is a mix of wood and plastic. The type of plastic and their percentage obviously vary by the respective proprietary formula used by each company, but the basic premise is this: since these aren’t wood products, yearly power wash and staining is not required. As for the colour, we wanted a lighter colour, which looks close to wood.

Step 2: Do lots of research

Learn (if you don’t already know; I didn’t) what the basic components of decks are: footings, posts, beams, joists, deck boards, ledger boards and so.

Look up videos on YouTube on how to build decks. This series of videos are perhaps the most comprehensive ones out there.

Try to narrow down the decking material you want to use. What separates an Azek from a TimberTech (incidentally both of these are now owned by the same parent company, CPG Building Products).  Are there other options out there? I came across BamDeck from CaliBamboo which uses a bamboo based composite, NyloBoard which uses 100% recycled carpet fiber – no wood, no PVC (but when I called them to inquire where their closest dealership is, they informed they were going out of business), Natural Composites which uses plastic and wheat (yeah, wheat). Got a couple of free samples of BamDeck decking delivered from California!

Read reviews, among others, at sites such as Houzz.

Step 3: Get quotes

Lots of them. Fine tune your requirements each time you meet with contractor, talk to them, get their opinion, receive their quote. I got quotes from 6 different places, ranging from established and referred-to local deck building stores, individual contractors and big box stores. This step will give you the best idea of what your dream deck is going to cost.

I’ve attached 3 quotes below just to give an idea of the range we were looking at. From almost $19K to $12K.

uglydeck quote

Quote from uglydeck.com

 

saleen quote

Quote from individual contractor – not including the permit

 

dsbahr quote

Quote from D.S. Bahr Construction

By the end of this step, I knew I wanted a 20’x14′, TimberTech Legacy Tigerwood decking, with a “picture frame” (border), stairs, risers and fascia of TimberTech Tropical Caribbean Redwood, with Westbury aluminum railings.

Step 4: Get hold of someone who will undertake the project on an hourly rate basis

Now, for most people the previous step will culminate with them signing a contract for one of the quotes, probably the lowest one, and then sitting back and enjoying while someone builds the deck for them.

I, on the other hand, wanted to build it myself. Let me take that back.  I wanted to build the deck with my hands, with someone along with me who knows what he was doing. Besides, when I sourced the materials myself the overall cost of the project was bound to be significantly lower.

Struck gold on Craiglist. Came across this individual who showcased his work (decks) with something along the lines of “I am willing to help homeowners how much or little they want me to”.

Once Pat came over and we talked, I knew that he would be the one helping me in building the deck.

Step 5: Get the permit

Once I got my rough drawing to Pat, he used a software to create detailed drawings that would need to be submitted to the city to get the building permit. We also went through a few iterations to create the list of materials, down to the nail.

Drawings – 1234

material list

Once you submit plan to city they will, in most cases, come come back with some questions. While some questions might be innocuous ones such as “what exact product from TimberTech will you be using?” to more arcane ones such as “are the stair handrails compliant to the IRC- R311.7.8 code?”

Step 6: Source the material

From TimberTech’s website I found the “Silver dealership” (no “Gold” ones in my area!).  All the dealerships were big lumber yards. Went down to the two closest to my place and with the material list, got quotes.

Scherer Bros quote  Lamperts quote

I was a little disappointed as the cost of the material was actually a bit higher than I had accounted for. When I had almost made up my mind to go with Lamperts, I decided to check out Dakota County Lumber, another Silver TimberTech dealership. DCL is a locally owned lumber yard based in Farmington, about 20 miles from my place, with no branches. But boy, glad that I made the trip! The sales guy Eric was a huge help, assisting in modifying – trimming down actually – the material list based on his experience. And when their quote came in, it was a no-brainer.

DCL invoice

Make sure to have the materials delivered at least 2 days before your intended start build date.

Step 7: Start building!

The plan was to have Pat and me take 2 full weekends (32 to 40 hours) with a third weekend as back-up. The first weekend we ended up having my father-in-law and my sister-in-law’s husband helping out on both days. Also Pat brought over his almost-adult son. The five of us put in 10 hours on Saturday and 8 hours on Sunday. The next weekend, my father-in-law came down to help again. Pat, he and I put in 9 hours on Saturday, and we were done. Complete.

The first Saturday when we started working at 8 am, the air temperature was 32 deg F (0 deg C), with windchill of 27 deg F. We started off with 3 layers of clothing and stripped down as the day wore on. The next Saturday was a balmy 60 deg F at 8 am going up to 80 deg F (27 deg C) in the afternoon!

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Monetary cost of the entire project: $10,763

Non-monetary costs: Sweat, sun burn, pain in arms

Would I do it again: Absolutely

 

Here are some in-progress and finished pictures.

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ledger board on

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Diamond pier footings in place, steel rods waiting to be pounded in

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Working a 35-lb demolition hammer is fun!

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deck boards going over the joists

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finished work

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Brinda loves the deck

Note1: Diamond pier footings blows away traditional poured-concrete footings. Check out videos here. I had to rent the electrical breaker hammer. DCL supplied the 1-1/8″ hex bit required with the hammer.

Note 2: If anyone in the Twin Cities area is interested to get Pat’s contact details, let me know. Most highly recommend him. His work ethic, love of the job, collaborative spirit and his honest & open persona makes him a joy to work with.

Categories: Demystify, Home | 3 Comments

Selling our old house

He had a harrowing – at times felt like nightmarish – experience selling our house in Brooklyn Park. All it took was 11 months, 4 purchase agreements, 5 closing dates, and 2 real estate agents to get it done. And none of this was because the house was priced too high or had anything wrong with it.

We put in the house in the market on June 4, 2015, listed at $X thousand. We had renters in there at that point and the idea was to get it sold off by the end of the month so that we won’t incur any costs after the renters moved out when their lease ended in the end of June. Wishful thinking!

We had an offer on June 16, 2015, at $(X-1)thousand. We had our 1st signed purchase agreement on June 17, 2015. The buyer had the home inspection done, it came back with a couple of things, we corrected both. On June 26, we hear from our realtor that the buyer did not qualify for mortgage financing and the deal fell through.

The house stays in the market for the next couple months. We get calls from Canada about someone wanting to buy all-cash, though at quite a discount. We decline. A couple of lowball offers; we decline. We are in October now; summer is gone and we are tense. We get an offer for $(X-18) thousand. We accept. Second purchase agreement is signed on October 6, 2015. This buyer seemingly is better qualified than the first one in terms of securing financing for the purchase. The buyer conducts their own home inspection; we “fix” (very little to fix as now the inspectors are running out of things to find) whatever they ask for. On Oct 14, 2015 we hear from our realtor and this is her exact email:

Well I just got a phone call from the other agent, it appears the buyer has had a nervous breakdown!!!!  Yes I’m telling you the truth.  You could hold her to the PA but I don’t think it is in your best interest as she wouldn’t show up to closing it sounds like.  It sounds like she is going to Seattle to seek help and family!  I have never has this much go wrong with a listing in my life!!!  Call me when you can!  I am so sorry!!!

We then decide to take the house off the market. Before we do, we get an offer of $(X-26)thousand with a closing date of January, 2016. We decline and take it off the market. I can’t find the exact date when we had a new listing going on but let’s say around mid November. During the next 3 weeks we have plenty of showings and “positive” response from different sets of buyers but no formal offer. By the second week of December we were desperate enough to get back to the offer of $(X-26)thousand that came in October and see if they were still interested. They were! On December 15, 2015 we sign our 3rd purchase agreement for $(X-26)thousand, with a closing date of January 29, 2016. This buyer incidentally wanted a radon test to go along with the home inspection. The radon test revealed that the radon levels were higher; we fixed that for $1,600. All good.

On January 27, 2016 we hear that they can’t close on January 29 because of a “stupid date thing”. We are assured that the buyer’s financing will take only a week more and we will close on February 5, 2016.

On February 4 we hear from our closing agent that they heard from the buyer’s title company that they had not heard from the lender. When our realtor talks to the lender it was found out that they buyer has to go through underwriting again! We go back and forth for almost 2 weeks before we finally pull the plug on February 23 and sign the cancellation for the purchase agreement. We expire the listing and say bye to our realtor with whom we’ve worked with for the past several months.

The weekend of February 27-28 we embark on finding a new realtor by interviewing 4 individuals we think have a good handle on the Brooklyn Park market. End up going with the realtor who sold the house next to our old place (the one we’re trying to sell). The new listing goes live on March 4, 2016. We have 3 offers by March 5. We sign our 4th purchase agreement on March 7, for $(X-20)thousand and have a closing date set of April 22, 2016. The end is near, but not quite yet.

On April 20, 2016 we hear that there is a “minor loan issue” holding up the closing scheduled for two days later. We get washed over with feelings of disbelief and bewilderment and déjà vu. Our realtor vehemently tries to assuage our doubts that this time will be different (she knows about what we’ve been through with the other realtor). New closing date set for April 28, 2016. We spend 7 days and nights in mental agony.

And we do finally close on April 28. A BIG, red-lettered day for us. Vivian and I take half the day off and after the closing we go with our realtor to a bar to celebrate the end of a particularly trying chapter in our life!

 

Categories: Demystify, Home, Life | 3 Comments

2014-15 European football leagues – analysis

After skipping this exercise last year – World Cup year – we’ve come to our 3rd annual Krishanu’s analysis and predictions of the top 5 football leagues in Europe: England, Germany, Spain, Italy, France. Here are the pieces of from 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons.

[all snapshots courtesy goal.com]

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English Premier League – Chelsea won its 5th top flight league title, the first in five-year, at the beginning of May, with 3 games to spare. There was a point where Arsenal were challenging City for the 2nd place, but slots from 2nd to 6th neatly fell into place without much drama, except for Liverpool’s 6-1 hammering by Stoke, which saw them slip to 6th and lose out on a Europa league spot to Spurs. I think this is the best thing to happen to Liverpool! Without Europe lurking mid-week, they should be able to do better in the league next year.

Premier League table 2014-15

Premier League top scorers

Harry Kane was the surprise package with almost claiming the Golden Boot before Aguero took matters in his, well, own feet. It is amazing how Spurs keep on producing world-class players and then sell them off.

My predictions for 2015-16

It will be hard to dethrone Chelsea with the squad they have, and especially with The One as their manager. Mourinho has to be in the top 5 best managers ever in club football. Under LVG, United should see the renaissance continue next year. Arsenal is just 2 signings away (a defensive midfielder and a defender) from launching a legitimate bid to the title. Hard to say.

This would be my top 5 finish next year: Chelsea/Arsenal, City, United, Liverpool.

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German Bundesliga – The German top flight has become a one-horse league. Munich won their 3rd straight tile, 25th overall. Dortmund’s challenge has fallen off and no other team even thinks, let alone look, to fight for anything higher than the 2nd place spot. Wolfsburg – where Kevin De Bruyne has had a superlative season establishing him as one of the top midfielders of the world, and Bas Dost, who came from nowhere to score 16 goals, had an excellent campaign –  made the 2nd spot their own. Dortmund were languishing at the bottom of the table at the start of the year, but managed to finish 7th. They could have claimed a Champion’s League spot by winning the DFB-Pokal (the German cup) but De Bruyne was there again to inspire Wolfsburg to the title. It was a disappointing year for Schalke but they will take consolation from finishing above Dortmund.

Bundesliga table 2014-15

Bundesliga top scorers

My predictions for 2015-16

With Jurgen Klopp departing from Dortmund, it would hard to say whom the club lands up with, and that will in turn have bearings on where they end up next year.

This would be my top 5 finish for next year: Munich, Wolfsburg, Schalke, Leverkusen, Dortmund

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Italian Serie A – Much like the Bundesliga, Juventus has turned the Serie A into something they own. The Bianconeri won their 4th title in row, 31st overall, and they won the Scudetto with 4 games to spare. But the Italian League is in decline and has been for some years. Nothing encapsulates this decline better than the exploits of  38-year old Luca Toni, who finished as the top scorer. My Milan finished lowly 10th, and the reason I had to extend the table! Lazio and Napoli had a last day skirmish where the winner (Lazio) got the Champion’s League play-off spot. Juve also won the Coppa Itallia (Italian Cup) and were on course to win the coveted treble with the Champion’s League against Barcelona (which did not happen).

Serie A table 2014-15

Serie A top scorers

My predictions for 2015-16

Until something dramatic happens, Juventus will continue to steam roll opponents. Rafa Benitez leaving Napoli can only mean good things will happen to Napoli. God help Real Madrid! There has been a lot of talks about Milan being sold to a Mr. Bee or a Chinese consortium. Whatever happens, a buyer with a cash infusion will be the best thing to happen for Milan in the past few years. Berlusconi is mad, Galliani is incompetent, the coaches (Seedorf, Inzaghi) were great players, the club needs money to buy quality players in every single position (except maybe for keeper).

My top 5 finish for next year: Juventus, Roma, Napoli, Inter, Lazio

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Spanish La Liga – Atletico Madrid claiming the league last year was such a punch in the face for Barcelona and Real Madrid that it couldn’t be allowed to happen again! And, by the way, Atletico’s achievement was so big that Diego Simeone should have won the Coach of the Year Award (instead of Joachim Lowe of Germany’s national team). Barcelona righted that wrong from last year. With MSN (Messin, Neymar and Suarez) hitting 122 goals combined in all competition, there could be only one Campeones! Madrid had a streak of 22 wins in all competition at the end of last year but Luca Modric’s injury and subsequent lay off showed how important he’s to the center of the field. Having won the Copa Del Ray (Spanish Cup) and the Champion’s League, Barcelona has achieved the treble.

Primera Division table 2014-15

Primera Division top scorer

In any other league around Europe, Neymar’s 22 goals would have landed him the Golden Boot. Not in La Liga. Messrs. Messi and Ronaldo have very different ideas on how to win the Pichichi.

My predictions for 2015-16

Barcelona and Madrid are still too strong for anyone else. Rafa Benitez will conspire to bring Madrid down and will probably be sacked mid-season. The new coach will get Madrid up to top 3 with Atletico claiming 2nd.

My top 5 finish for next year: Barca, Atletico, Madrid, Sevilla, Bilbao

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France Ligue 1 – PSG were in a spot of bother in April and going out of the Champions League against Barcelona was the best thing that happened! Under pressure from Lyon and Marseille, they managed to win the important games at the business end of the season. Ibrahimovic was carrying PSG for most the season until Cavani decided to justify his price tag last summer. He score the bulk of his goals at the end of the season to hand PSG a domestic treble: League, League Cup and French Cup (Coup de France).

Ligue 1 table 2014-15

Ligue 1 top scorer

My predictions for 2013-14

Lacazette is very fast rising star and I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes a move to a club in the top 4 leagues in Europe (Ligue 1 is 5th). With Lacazette gone, Lyon will find the going tough. Monaco has done tremendously well after the sell-off of last summer. They will continue to improve. Gignac would have shone with Marseille, but he has signed for Mexican club Tigres. PSG is 3 pieces away from European glory: a goal keeper (Sirigu is solid but makes some key errors), a creative midfielder, and a Thiago Silva-class defender (David Luiz IS a liability, in any team he plays for).

My top 5 finish for next year: PSG, Monaco, Marseille, Lyon, Montpellier

Categories: Analysis, News, Sports | 2 Comments

Food insensitivity

And I’m not talking about breaking out in hives after eating peanuts.

Have you ever paused to consider why some kind of food, perfectly acceptable in some cultures and countries, are totally a no-no for you? Not because you don’t like them – you haven’t even tasted them in your life – but you can’t even entertain the thought of consuming them. You have put them away on the list of “Food that I won’t ever have”. What brings such strong emotions to edible, palatable, even delicious food?

If you are an Indian, and a “non-veg”, stop and think about why you won’t eat cow’s meat. I’m not talking about eating it in India where political forces are at work. But if you are living in the US, (or Australia or Canada), and beef is generally the most accepted form of meat. Is it because of your upbringing, where you not only never had beef but were also told that it is against your culture, your religion? If it really is religion, then stop reading this post. I have nothing to offer you. But if it is some psychological barrier that you haven’t yet overcome, or even tried to overcome, then maybe it is time to address the real reason.

If you are an American, consider the following prospect: you are served a perfectly cooked plate of horse steak. Did you just throw up a little in your mouth? If yes, you’re not alone. According to this piece, eating horse meat was “abolished” on religious grounds. But in today’s world it has all to do with the perception that most Americans hold of horses. Ohh, so lovable creatures. I can’t possibly eat a horse, that’s preposterous! The same with dogs and guinea pigs, which are eaten in many parts of the world.

Now that I have managed to gross out all of my readers, let me point out the lack of sensitiveness we show when we hear about or, worse still, are actually offered to eat a food product that we – as individuals or as a collective society – have quite arbitrarily deemed not fit to be eaten. We flinch, we cringe our nose, our eyebrows arch up with the absurdity of the mere suggestion. That sends a powerful message to the person around you, who is completely at peace with eating whatever you feel is the last thing you’ll ever eat: that I’m being judged and judged to be BAD.

So, the next time someone says that they enjoy a certain food product you consider un-edible, do yourself a favour and stop showing signs of revulsion. And then go a step forward. Actually try out a new food!

Categories: Culture, Rant | 1 Comment

Garage shelving

Organizing the garage to utilize the space have been one of the ideas that we have been working on since we moved to the new place. We have so much junk stuff that not even a 3-car garage is sufficient to hold them AND be empty enough to work in!

Going through various ideas on DIY websites and YouTube, I decided on a flexible shelving system attached to the walls.  There are 4 components to these shelving systems: the hang tracks, the uprights, the brackets, and the wire shelves.

The uprights hang on the hang tracks’ ledge, the brackets fits into the slots of uprights and shelves fit snugly on the brackets to make the perfect storage system.

I used the Tough Stuff series for all the 4 components for its greater carrying capacity. Each 4′ shelf, hanging on 3 brackets, is supposed to hold up to 400 lbs. There is a price upcharge for the Tough Stuff but worth it when you figure in the load carrying capacity and durability.

For the most part it was nice and easy. Drill into the studs, ours were 16″ apart. Screw everything on to the studs. We really ran into trouble when affixing the shelves on the brackets, after the brackets were slotted into the rails. This is what the manual tells you.

tough stuff manual

But this will NOT work. The much easier way is to mark out the specific wires each of the brackets will go on. Then fix the brackets on the shelves first, and then attach the whole shelves-with-brackets on the uprights.

Here is a video of my father-in-law and I doing this last piece.

And here is the finished – and occupied – product.

20150117_192123

 

Tools you’ll need for this project: stud finder, impact drill, level, screws, marker, pencil.

I used one 80″ and one 40″ hang track. Four 70″ uprights and two 47.5″ uprights. Fifteen 16″ brackets. Five 48″x16″ shelves.

Categories: Demystify, Home, Tip | 2 Comments

It’s different this time around

This week I’ve been awash with emotions that I haven’t experienced in a long, long time. The last time I was anticipating a grade (or a number or a “marks”) on an exam was in my final year of college (2003). You can perhaps include the CAT percentile anticipation the next couple of years. Still that makes it almost a decade since I’ve had to wait to hear back on how I performed in a class.

I had enrolled for the first 2 classes in my MBA program this fall. The final grades for both the classes came this week. It was different this time around. I wasn’t having sleepless nights wondering if I might “fail” or not get acceptable grades. The fear, the apprehension, of waiting to hear my fate of my undergrad days were gone. Also was gone the almost physical tension that caused digestive issues.  I know that I had put in good work and would get a grade commensurate with the effort. And I wasn’t disappointed.

I would tell this though: just the sight of a “good” grade made me realize how much I was looking forward for the official affirmation.

How things change in a decade. And how still they remain the same.

Categories: Life | 2 Comments

First real ride of 2014

Yesterday was my first real ride of this season. A group of people from work have a standing ride scheduled on the 3rd or 4th Wednesday of the month. This was my first time riding with this group. Nine people, including me. Except for me, everyone was over 40, with 1500+ cc of mostly Harleys. The ride was a little over 100 miles (160 km), after we got off from work around 4 pm. Really refreshing.

Here is the full route:

2014-07-23 USB group ride_main map

 

The highlight of the ride was a little stretch of 8 and half miles on County Rd O, from the Gas Lite pub in Trimbelle, WI to the Great River Road. Full of twisties and turns and curves; of full throttle and hard braking!

2014-07-23_close up of Gas Lite to Great River Road, on Count Rd O

 

 

Categories: Loves, Motorcycle | Leave a comment

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