Saturday, August 29, 2009

Going on the record about UFC 102

Kyle and I did it with UFC 100, and it was interesting (at least to me) to see how we fared, so we're doing it again with UFC 102, tonight's PPV event. Here are our predictions, in which we disagree on six different outcomes! I fear I will be bowing to Kyle's fight-guessing superiority tomorrow, but I'm standing my ground nonetheless.

First, the main card:

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Randy Couture

Mark: Couture is 46, an age at which one is supposed to have given up professional fighting many years ago. Nogueira is 33. I'm picking Couture to win by virtue of Nogueira being too beat up. Big Nog has taken so much punishment that I don't think he can stand against Couture for all three rounds. I expect Couture to lean on Nog and neutralize Nog's ground game, which is vastly better than Couture's, and ultimately to finish Nog by TKO.

Kyle: You can't ever count Randy Couture out, but I think the years have finally caught up with him. As of this past Tuesday, it was two years since Randy Couture won a fight. He's only fought once since then, a loss to Brock Lesnar nine months ago, and he looked stiff and slow in that match. I'd be happy to be proven wrong, but I expect Nogueira to either submit him or stay busy enough to win a decision.

This is the Randy Couture who beat Tim Sylvia two and a half years ago.

This is Randy Couture today.

Somewhere in between, he got old.

Keith Jardine vs. Thiago Silva

Mark: This one is very tough to call, because if Silva can get an early jump on Jardine, as Silva has done in some fights, I think he can win. Jardine, though, trains under Greg Jackson, so I expect him to know to hang back. As time wears on, I think Jardine will ultimately pull out the win.

Kyle: Jardine is the most uneven fighter in the light-heavyweight division. Jardine beat Forrest Griffin who beat Stephan Bonnar who beat Jardine. Jardine beat Chuck Liddell who beat Wanderlei Silva who beat Jardine. I'm going to call Jardine the winner in this fight, just because that would give us another cycle: Jardine beat Thiago Silva who beat Houston Alexander who beat Jardine. I think he does it just to screw with us.

Nate Marquardt vs. Demian Maia

Mark: In an earlier conversation, Kyle pointed out to me that on the UFC Countdown show, which I have not seen, people in Marquardt's camp were concerned that he keep his ego in check and not go to the ground with Maia. If that happens, Marquardt wins. If he is dumb enough to think he can roll with Maia, Maia wins. I'm again betting on Greg Jackson's training to carry the day, so I'm picking Marquardt.

Kyle: I'm going with Maia. I think Marquardt is young and cocksure. He's confident in his groundfighting skills and won't be able to resist the temptation to try to beat Maia at his own game. He'll fail.

Krzysztof Soszynski vs. Brandon Vera

Mark: Vera should win this fight. He has superior skills and everything he needs to finish Soszynski--except a clear head. If a focused Vera shows up, he'll prove me wrong, but I'm going with Soszynski via decision.

Kyle: Vera. I think he's worked out his weight-cutting issues and figured out how to perform at 205. I don't see either fighter wanting to go to the ground, and I think Vera's superior technical striking will make the difference.

Jake Rosholt vs. Chris Leben

Mark: I'm no fan of Chris Leben and never have been. I want Rosholt, who's the better wrestler, to lean on Leben and win by decision. I just don't think that will happen. I have to pick Leben simply by virtue of being a more complete MMA fighter.

Kyle: The UFC has dug deep to try to find a tomato can that alcoholic ex-con steroid-user public-urinator Anderson-Silva-punching-bag Chris Leben can beat. In WEC vet Jake Rosholt, I fear they've succeeded.

Now, the preliminary bouts, at least a few of which I'm hoping we get to see.

Ed Herman vs. Aaron Simpson

Mark: Herman's a more complete fighter, but Simpson is stronger and a better wrestler. I'm going against the odds again and picking Simpson.

Kyle: Ed Herman. He's been hit and miss in the UFC, but he's been fighting a much stiffer level of competition than Simpson, who's another WEC refugee.

Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Chris Tuchscherer

Mark: Gonzaga should win this one. He's the odds-on favorite, he's more skilled, and he's competed against elite fighters. I'm bucking the odds again, though, by going with Tuchscherer in the belief that Gonzaga will take him too lightly and Tuchscherer will end up beating the snot out of Gonzaga on the ground.

Kyle: Tuchscherer by smother and grind. He's a big wrestler who's used to grappling with Brock Lesnar. He shouldn't have any problem getting Gonzaga down onto his back. As long as he can avoid submissions, the fight is his. See this story.

Mike Russow vs. Justin McCully

Mark: Russow by submission. McCully is vulnerable, and Russow is more than good enough to beat him.

Kyle: Russow. I know that McCully's a BJJ black belt. I know that he's won two out of his three fights in the UFC. But his performances in the fights I've seen have been so unimpressive that given a choice between betting on a total unknown and betting on McCully, I'll go for the unknown.

Tim Hague vs. Todd Duffee

Mark: I don't know much about these guys, but based on training camps alone, I'm going with Duffee.

Kyle: Duffee. He's beaten a bigger name (Assuerio Silva) and he comes from a better camp (American Top Team).

Nick Catone vs. Mark Munoz

Mark: Two good wrestlers going at it often yields a stand-up fight, which I predict would give Munoz the victory. Thus, I'm going with Munoz.

Kyle: Catone, because WEC fighters coming up to the UFC, like Munoz, just don't seem to be doing well.

Marcus Aurelio vs. Evan Dunham

Mark: The oddsmakers favor Aurelio, who has vastly better BJJ skills. I'm still going with Dunham, though, because he trains at Xtreme Couture and will be well-coached in and able to follow the same gameplan that others have used to beat Aurelio. Dunham by points after three or by TKO in the third.

Kyle: Aurelio, because I've heard of him.

Friday, August 28, 2009

On the road again: Austin, day 5

I'm tired of waking up in the single digits after less than four hours of sleep.
I look forward to being home and waking up in the double digits after less than four hours of sleep.

There's something wrong with that couplet.

Airport transport went well, with no traffic (thanks to our use of a toll road) and great navigating by Elizabeth.

The plane rides were uneventful, the first one too short for me to get any work done, but the second yielding a very productive session of over two hours.

It's fortunate that when I concentrate the world goes away, because that second flight also featured a baby who seemed to be crying the entire flight. The parents seemed to be clueless about giving the child something to suck on so she could equalize internal and external pressure. In an effort to avoid toting so much crap, I'd left my noise-cancelling headphones at home; I won't do that again.

I'm back safely now, fully unpacked, and now must try to catch up on all the stuff I found waiting for me. I intend to sleep a lot tonight.

On the road again: Austin, day 4

I'm kinda bored with myself on these Austin reports, because I can't discuss any of my business meetings, and they consume most of the day.

What I can discuss are the restaurants I visited.

Rudy's was our lunch destination, and a very fun meal it was indeed. They serve the food in a plastic basket on sheets of paper, and your plates are just more sheets of paper. Three of us shared turkey, jalapeno sausage, and brisket, as well as a few sides, and it was all yummy.

Dinner was at a very different sort of barbecue place, Lambert's. Lambert's blends traditional BBQ and gourmet recipes into a delightful set of offerings. We had a lovely dinner that included some excellent three-cheese macaroni and cheese, brisket, lamb chops, and very, very slowly smoked trout (they smoked it for about 28 hours).

We left there and headed over to a nearby Amy's for dessert. I've written about Amy's before and very much like the place. The ice cream there is, of course, wonderful, but I also love it for the atmosphere. To give you an idea of why I like it so much, I took this photo of the sign over the tip jar:

I left a three-buck tip on a thirteen-dollar order because, hey, I'd like those robots, too.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

On the road again: Austin, day 3

I realized late last night that the one thing I was doing wrong this trip was sleeping too much, so I fixed that flaw. Seven a.m. came mighty early. I am just not a morning person.

Thanks to Elizabeth's willingness to brave the morning traffic (and sacrifice some sleep), we were able to bring two dozen Round Rock donuts to an early meeting for a client and her team. These donuts are supposed to be very good, but as fate would have it, I ended up not getting one. It's all for the best, but I certainly would have enjoyed eating it.

The rest of the day was a blur of meetings and frantic email sessions as I struggled to keep up.

In one of those moves that I don't really understand, this hotel--a Marriott--has put a brochure in my room from which I can order Marriott stuff: towels, sheets, robes, a lamp, even an entire bed--all just like what I have in my room!

Who buys this stuff?

What's the thinking process? Wow, I sure wish my bedroom could look like this Marriott room. Maybe if I furnish it and my bathroom with cool Marriott stuff, I can get closer to my dream of living the Marriott lifestyle.

Not for me, not for me.

Dinner tonight was the tasting menu at Hudson's On the Bend, a very tasty combination of small plates heavy on local meats and vegetables. I quite enjoyed it, particularly the foie, which they served seared on top of a Poteet strawberry pound cake with a Cabernet reduction and just the right amount of red onion marmalade. (Yes, I was skeptical of the marmalade, too, but it worked.)

And now, as happens on these trips, I must work until late into the night, so to that work I go.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

On the road again: Austin, day 2

Waking up at seven-thirty always feels bad to me, but it's particularly awful when I don't go to sleep until after four a.m. So, the start of my morning was a bit rough.

Most of the day went to meetings, and the rest I spent working. In the course of all this, I learned the sad news that a friend and client had suffered a death in his family; my heart and wishes are with you, buddy.

Dinner tonight was a lovely meal at Jeffrey's. I'd never been there before, but I'd certainly go back.

Sitting alone in my hotel room last night, writing Children No More and falling completely into it, despite the hour losing track of time for a bit and just being in the story, I was struck by the power of storytelling. Whether telling a story or listening to it, if everything is clicking time melts away, even if only for a few minutes, and you are somewhere else, doing something else, and that is magic. When I was young, reading was often my only escape from a lot of very bad stuff, and when I couldn't read, I made up my own stories. I still do, and it's still magic, and maybe that's why I have to write.

Monday, August 24, 2009

On the road again: Austin, day 1

As anyone who's read this blog for a while knows, there's nothing I like better than getting up early on a Monday to head to an airport. I'm always so happy to be out and about in the single digits after having crawled into bed only a few hours later. Despite all that, I arrived at RDU in relatively good humor and had a decent flight to DFW. What stopped the flight from being good is that the seat-belt light never went out, I was in a bulkhead seat so my briefcase and computer were overhead, and our flight attendant actually enforced the rule that we were to stay in our seats. So, I was able to read and chat with my row-mate, but precious work time slipped away while my notebook sat over my head, mocking me.

After a quick lunch at DFW, I settled in to work--and then had to board early. Very frustrating.

Upon arriving at baggage claim in Austin, I was treated to this sight.

Your eyes are not deceiving you: those are indeed giant guitars sitting on the baggage-claim islands. Fun, interesting, and lovely.

We also had the oddity of waiting right behind Don Johnson, he of Miami Vice (and other TV show and movie) fame. He did not seem to be a happy camper, but like the werewolf of London, his hair was perfect.

I spent the rest of the day and into the early evening moving to the hotel and then working like mad. Finally, though, it was dinner time, so off we went to a perennial favorite.

Yes, we ate at County Line By the Lake. Had that sign said "Mark" instead of Jim and included the appropriate comma before my name, I might well have been unable to stop grinning for whole minutes. As it was, I was tickled to be there. I also exhibited admirable self-control: I managed to enjoy the 'que without overdoing it to the point of fearing my stomach would explode.

The trick to eating a reasonable (okay, not reasonable, but not insane, either) amount of food there is to taste only a forkful or two of each side, which of course means you end up leaving about two pounds of slaw, beans and potato salad on your plate. I've tried asking for the platter without the sides or even just with small quantities of the sides, but that's just not going to happen at the County Line.

I've shown the outside sign multiple times, but I've never posted a picture of the interior, partly because doing so would mean showing other diners. I decided to risk it this once, so those of you who've never been here can get a sense of the rustic, rather basic decor.

Business trips such as this one leave me unable to discuss most of my day, so from now until Friday I'll focus on food and any oddities that occur. Trust me, though: writing continues. Always.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

No one threw vegetables

or even fruit at my reading and signing today at the lovely McIntyre's Fine Books. In fact, everyone in the audience was quite nice, and the store staff were lovely to me even though I didn't move a lot of books for them. (The good news for them is that the folks who came with me ended up buying a lot, as did I. We're that kind of crowd.)

It's hard to make a reading exciting, because at it one, well, reads. And talks. And hawks.

Courtesy of Gina, we have action photos of me doing all three:


Yes, I need the reading glasses, but only for reading; I can't walk around safely with them on.

For those who are wondering, I did indeed for the first (and so far only) time share bits of Children No More. I read three short chapters, as well as a few pages of Overthrowing Heaven, and the discussion ended up focusing on Children.

That book is either going to be by far the best, most intense thing I've ever written, or a complete and utter failure. Boy, do I hope for the former.

Of course, all that reading lead to a lot of...


You gotta love a world in which you willingly post a photo of yourself with your mouth hanging open in mid-sentence. What is wrong with me?


Step right up, ladies and gents, and get your red-hot SF novel, flown here straight from the printer for your special attention.

Finally, I offer you this weird shot of me listening to a questioner. I have no clue what was going through my head at this instant, nor do I know what this expression means, but if I could replicate the look on command, I would use it frequently in meetings.

Of course, maybe I already do, and I just don't know it.


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