Shumpty’s Punt: Friday Mammoth Multi

I have been out of action this week on the punt with being flat out with work so to make up for that I have come up with a “mammoth” six leg multi arising from today’s American sport.  The multi will pay $66 for every dollar invested so it might be worth a look for even the most irregular of punters.

Leg 1: Toronto Maple Leafs to cover the line (-1.5 goals) against the Florida Panthers in the NHL

Leg 2: Columbus Blue Jackets to defeat the Washington Capitals in the NHL.

Leg 3: Boston Bruins to cover the line (-1.5 goals) against the Montreal Canadiens in the NHL.

Leg 4: Indiana Pacers to cover the line (-10.5 points) against the Phoenix Suns in the NBA.

Leg 5: Tampa Bay Lightning to cover the line (+1.5 goals) against the Ottawa Senators in the NHL.

Leg 6: New York Knicks to cover the line (-5.5 points) against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA.

As always, good luck and good punting.

Australia in South Africa: talking points

Whilst Australia remains in the heart of a short form cricket series against the England, I was reminded yesterday that we are only 2 weeks away from the start of Australian tour to South Africa. I have been involved in much water cooler talk, twitter discussion and pub ranting about the selection of Australia’s squad for this tour and have spent much time pondering how this tour might go for the Australians and it is clear to me that this tour has piqued an equal, if not greater, level of interest to any overseas tour by the Australian as I can remember of late.

Here are some talking points that have come to the front of mind when thinking about this tour:

1. Does Australia have a chance?

This tour is, afterall, a tour slated as a heavyweight bought between the current number 1 team, South Africa, and the, suddenly, new incumbent challenger for the heavy weight cricket crown, Australia. I wonder though if that incumbency has arisen under a false pretence? Yes Australia played well to defeat England in the Ashes but the more I re-watch the highlights of each test I am left with the nagging suspicion that Australia was flattered by just how bad the English were in Australia. Australia will not be able to draw on, for example, so many opposition wickets to bad shots and bad balls because the South African line up is just too disciplined for that. Don’t get me wrong: in any contest between two rivals both combatants always have a chance of victory so the answer to the question raised above is somewhat rhetorical BUT I suspect Australia’s chances are slimmer than many expect.

2. Who will bat 3 for Australia?

In the Ashes series Shane Watson held down the number slot with George Bailey batting at number 6. Bailey’s replacements in the squad, Doolan and Marsh (assuming he returns to fitness), are both top order batters who have spent the bulk of their careers (if not all) batting at no lower than number 4 in the order. One would have to think that one of Doolan or Marsh (if selected) would bat at number 3 and Watson would shuffle down the order to number 6 and play a true all rounder role. Why else would Inverarity have picked two top order replacements?

3. How will Australia react once there is "chum" in the water?

South Africa have made a mockery of many batting lineups in the last 2 years and have an imposing record of having bowled out opponents for less than 50 three times in that span. Metaphorically speaking, once the "chum" of early wickets floats in front of the sharks that are Steyn, Philander and Morkel, often batting line ups can find no way to get out of the chum trail and find themselves back in the field shortly thereafter. There is a frailty at the top of Australia’s batting line up that tells me that at some point they will face this scenario and if they react poorly a test could be taken away from them in a blink of an eye.

4. Warner v Steyn

I have been watching a lot of highlights of D Steyn’s bowling on YouTube of late. The biggest impression gained from this perusal is that Steyn bowls out left handed batters with weak defensive techniques for sport. He will go around the wicket to David Warner and will probe around his off stump at 145kms moving the ball both ways. Warner has shown a renewed application and focus on his craft against England in Australia however facing Dale Steyn is, in young people speak,"next level" and any weakness in his defence will be exposed.

5. No Kallis: no worries?

The South African hierarchy must have been planning for the retirement of J Kallis for some time but now that that time is here there will be a sharp focus on whomever replaces Kallis in the lineup. It is not possible to replace a player of Kallis’ stature (better than Tendulkar in my view) and thus how South Africa seeks to cover the hole left by this icon of the game’s absence will be both intriguing and, potentially, integral to the ultimate outcome of the series.

I have been asked by many to posit what the outcome of this series will be and I am sad to say that I am tipping, as much as it hurts my heart to do so, a South African series victory. I hope I am wrong but I remain worried about items such as the selection of out of form players by Australia, injuries to bowlers and the form line generally coming from the Ashes. Equally, it will be an enthralling series filled with moments of much drama and, possibly, the defining of some careers. Bring on the late nights night and banter!

Planes, wifi and customer service

I write this from a Qantas plane high above Queensland on my way to Cairns for work. I have gone in recent times from a weekly plane traveller to one with more of a sporadic use of my frequent flyer membership. That change in usage of planes for travelling has brought more sharply to mind the issue of connectivity on planes.

You see, when I was travelling weekly, I loved the down time that being unconnected from the world gave me: I could shut my eyes and relax away from the phone calls and emails and just spend time thinking. It was great and, at the time, I really needed that time.

Now though, the time spent on planes does nothing but irritate me. Forget for the moment the general lateness of planes coming out of Brisbane Airport (another 25 minutes late departure today) and the fact that if I don’t get an exit aisle seat sitting in economy class requires me to shape my body like an origami crane to sit with anything that resembles comfort. Those facts are things I have no real cavil with and have to expect from travelling on planes.

What really irritates is the fact that we still are forced on planes to shut down all electronic devices and are required to place all devices in flight mode. I understand the rationale: electronic signals might effect the navigational instruments on planes. I wonder though: is this risk an actual risk or an imagined one? Have you ever heard of a plane crashing and the reason given by the aviation authority’s is that someone broke the rules and was playing with his iPhone? I know I haven’t and, given that I do spend time on planes regularly, I am sure I would have remembered it.

Is the slavish devotion by airlines to the "no devices" paradigm more to do with customer service than safety? If that were the rationale it would be two fold:

1. I can think of nothing worse than sitting next to someone speaking on the phone for 2 hours so the fact that there is no phone connectivity does have the ability to improve my experience.

2. If I am not connected then I, as a passenger, can not jump online to whinge in "real time" about the service I am receiving which has the effect of sanitising the flight experience.

Those rationales are all well and good but is it too much to ask that I have access to my email whilst I am in the air? I know there are airlines in the US who have rolled out limited wifi services (I have seen people I follow on my twitter feed wax lyrical about them) and wonder why we don’t have the same on the "nations carrier"? If cost is an impediment I would gladly pay more but I suspect it is not cost that is the issue. I return to the customer service imperative noted about and wonder if a keenness for a lack of "live" criticism is behind the lack of a move to in plane wifi?

I know we are only 7 years into the iPhone age of doing business but airlines seem to be way behind in servicing their clients needs when it comes to business travel: if they weren’t I would be posting this blog immediately rather than when I take my iPad off flight mode upon landing.

That fact raises another question for Australian business travellers: wouldn’t it be nice to have a high speed train to get on for business trips? Again: I know I would pay a premium to get on a train: I would avoid the need for taxis to and from airports for a start and I am sure that such a train would have zero impediments on cellular use. I know Qantas would never let that happen but it is nice to dream about.

An Australia Day Long Weeknd Trageda: the Havaiana Blowout

I am Australian and I wear rubber thongs as my most regular source of footwear. I have been wearing the same pair of Havaiana rubber thongs for the last 4 years. Well I had been until yesterday when I had a “thong blowout.

That’s right: walking across the road to the bakery there was a tragedy. My left foot hit the gutter, my thong got caught and the “centre mast” of the thong was ripped out of the rubber. After I got up off the ground I tried to repair it and I tried walking with it but to no avail: my Havaianas were no more.

I told the story of my Havaiana blow out at a party I was at last night and most considered the story to be hilarious but I will genuinely miss those thongs. They had been worn so much they were almost like wearing a second skin. They fitted my thong notch perfectly.

Interestingly I also got to the thinking about all of the events in my life that those thongs have been with me through. Times spent with my family, times spent with good friends and times spent either watching or talking about sport.

So I will miss those pieces of rubber that were so perfectly formed to my feet. I, of course, gave them a deserved memorial and threw them in the bin coupled with a large tranche of profanity.

And now begins the search for my next pair of rubber thongs: one can only hope that they will give me as much joy as the pair now on the way to the Ferny Grove rubbish tip. Farewell faithful friends: you served me well!