Saturday, October 10, 2009

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Eduardo Dive

Eduardo dove. He did not call out for a penalty. Perhaps he was trying to prevent injuring himself or the goalie. But he did not try to correct the referee’s interpretation that it was a foul.

There was no legitimate contact. It was a moment that could have changed the outcome of the game — after all it gave Arsenal the first goal. A two match ban is legitimate.

However I have two problems with this rule and its implementation.

First, UEFA allows video evidence to penalize a player for something a referee did not see. But it will not allow video evidence to overturn a referee’s decision: i.e. Abidal’s and Fletcher’s suspensions from the final in Rome (both were excluded on penalties which really were not penalties). This rule on simulation and its implementation just smacks of hypocrisy.

Second, what is to stop every team from claiming ’simulation’ when a player goes down, even if ‘diving’ is the only way to arrest a referee’s attention to the fact that a foul was committed? FIFA and UEFA have come a long way from the days when two footed tackles and challenges from behind were committed. By giving fouls referees protect players from injury. The game today is played at such a fast pace, which makes it elegant and exciting, but also makes it easier for players to get injured. The game needs to protect its athletes from injury (i.e.: Eduardo, who lost a year and a half to a horrific tackle).

It seems to me that the best solution is one that FIFA has been experimenting with — putting extra officials behind the back lines in order to act as extra sets of eyes. An extra official behind the goal would have had the angle to see that the goalie in this instance made no substantial contact with Eduardo and could have advised the referee and allowed for the referee to make the correct decision: a yellow for Eduardo and play on.

To follow up on my first objection, above, the English FA will review video evidence and can increase or decrease the penalties for on pitch behavior appropriately.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The madness...

The St. Petersburg Times finds some insiders who are willing to speak:
The church says that Rinder, Scientology's top spokesman for decades, is an inveterate liar.

I am in the middle of reading the first part (of three), and I have two observations. (I pulled that line for the link because of its sheer perversity.)

First, this is reminiscent of the floundering of the Hare Krishnas in the early 1980s (I think I have my time frame right).

Second, this stuck out:
At 49, Miscavige is fit and tanned, his chiseled good looks accented by intense blue eyes. His frame is on the short side at 5 feet 5, but solid, with a matching, vise-like handshake.

The voice, resonant and strong, can transfix a crowd of thousands. Many call him "COB," because he is chairman of the board of the entity responsible for safeguarding Scientology, founded by L. Ron Hubbard in 1954.

"He is one of the most capable, intelligent individuals I've ever met," Rathbun said. "But L. Ron Hubbard says the intelligence scale doesn't necessarily line up with the sanity scale. Adolf Hitler was brilliant. Stalin was brilliant. They were geniuses. But they were also on a certain level stark, staring mad."

The idea that Hitler and Stalin were geniuses is a Nietzschian delusion: that all 'great men' are intellectually superior. It is natural to want to believe that those who achieve such power must be better, greater than everyone around them -- and while cunning and political savvy certainly are hallmarks of intelligence, there is nothing in Hitler's or Stalin's lives to suggest an extraordinary amount of it (If anything, history suggests that Stalin more paranoid and more complacent, and perhaps stupider as a result, as his position became unassailable).

Or, to put it a different way: don't confuse sociopathy with intelligence!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Off season (in Europe) football news

I am amazed at how much that is reported in the European press with regards to football (soccer) is unsubstantiated b.s. There are a few papers that have standards.

I should really stop paying attention. And just tune in again in the fall when the next season starts again.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

In the battle of football pods there is only one clear winner...

This year I followed the Times of London's The Game Podcast (Never mind the fact that the podcast is impossible to find on their website) and Football Weekly from The Guardian. The Game is put out every Monday. Football Weekly has two editions, on Monday and Thursday.

Hands down, Football Weekly is the better of the two. Host James Richardson keeps things lively with humor, wordplay, the occasional note of movie criticism, and good questions. The podcast regulars are a motley, revolving sort, with usual suspects Sid Lowe (commenting on all things in Spanish football) and Barry Glendenning (who, humorously, does not care and cannot stop himself from caring about the game). Although at times the pod sometimes recycles common wisdom (i.e.: the myth that Liverpool have a small squad, and thus are disadvantaged vis a vis Manchester United), this happens rarely. The pod is actually quite good at popping balloons of hype and at getting to the nitty gritty of the day. Most of all, this pod is usually good fun to listen to because of the rapport between the pod-casters--at times I feel like I'm in a salon, and the topic just happens to be football.

The Game is nowhere near as good as Football Weekly. The game is hosted by Phill Jupitus, who does little to insert his personality into the proceedings, and who must feel, judging from the job that he does, that his role is to keep people talking. To be honest, he really needs to find the cajones to tell Gabriele Marcotti to shut up (better yet, to stfu) from time to time. Gabriele Marcotti is The Times' European Football Correspondent, and he is often offers an incredibly insightful perspective on the state of the game. I enjoy reading his columns. I appreciate that he has strong opinions. However, the man has a tendency to turn into a complete prick, especially when he disagrees with Alyson Rudd's take on the game. Mr. Marcotti is someone who needs a leash. He also needs to realize that as perceptive as he is, he is sometimes wrong -- I am incredibly annoyed that he cannot let referee Howard Webb's questionable call against Newcastle go: Marcotti sees it as a great injustice, I think it was a referee seeing a player impeding another player's access to the ball (there was another similar, talked about call, involving Liverpool earlier in the season). I also think that no matter how 'unjust' it may seem when referees' decisions can impact the outcomes of matches, that is why they are there -- not to act as advocates for the spectators or the teams, but as advocates for fair and fluid play. Ultimately the referee is a part of the pitch -- it is up to the players to play the game and perform on the field. If Drogba had scored in the second half of the second game against Barcelona (and he had ample opportunity to do so), then none of the so-called questionable calls the referee made would have mattered. If Newcastle had played better in their 37 other games, then one call by a referee would not have mattered.

One of the issues with The Game is that it would be very easy to mistake it for a Gabriele Marcotti podcast instead of a London Times podcast. Oliver Kay, who is incredibly knowledgeable and interesting to listen to, shows up rarely. Tony Evans has been spot-on all season about Manchester United's weaknesses is also an irregular. Some of the other infrequent contributors are complete and utter rubbish. One pod attendee actually suggested that all physical contact should be outlawed from the game -- I could not believe that someone who had lived with football all their lives would say something so stupid.


The quality of the posts at Soccer By Ives remains pretty good. The quality of the comments piss poor. I'm not saying that all of the comments are bad, but given the rottenness in the barrel, why bother sifting through them all?

Just to give you a taste. On a story about Oguchi Onyewu, an American player in the Belgian league who has decided to sue Jelles Van Damme, a defender for Anderlecht, over alleged racial taunting in a game, one commentator wrote:
I'm not surprised it happened in Belgium. This is the same country that just laid down for Nazi Germany. I guess some of that same Nazi hate still exists in Belgium today (assuming Van Damme is Belgian).

Like wtf?

Let me point out what is wrong with the logic that particular commentator used, by analogy:
I'm not surprised that Americans have a habit of ignoring racism; this after all is the same country that completely ignored the slaughter in Europe and Asia until the Japanese decided to bomb Pearl Harbor. I guess that same head in the sand "ignore everything that is unpleasant" instinct still exists in the United States today (assuming the commenter is American).

Monday, June 1, 2009


In NPR's coverage of the Sotomayor nomination this morning not one Democratic Senator or left-leaning pundit was interviewed. Just Republican after Republican after Republican.

(It is also a grim day in terms of normal news.)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Today's awesome amazing fact

I've often wondered why 100 proof was 50% alcohol. The Bourbon FAQ explains why:
Before the hydrometer became a common instrument of the distiller there existed a method of proofing known as "gunpowder proof". It was a simple procedure and took advantage of readily available "tools". Bourbon and gunpowder were mixed in equal proportions in a small fireproof vessel and ignited. If the flame burned yellow the liquor was too strong, if it burned blue the proof was true. A yellow proofed liquor was mellowed with spring water until it burned blue. The proof of a blue flame spirit was about 100, or 50 per cent.

I have to think there is probably nothing more awesome than taking gunpowder and spirit, mixing it together, and setting it on fire...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Jack in the box

This is old, but I just saw my first Jack in the Box stoner commercial. Apparently this is a series...

Saturday, May 9, 2009


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ignorance runs rampant...

Egypt orders slaughter of all pigs over swine flu
Swine flu is blamed for more than 150 deaths in Mexico and U.S. health officials reported on Wednesday the first known death outside Mexico — a 23-month-old Mexican boy in Texas. It has spread to Europe, Asia and Israel, which shares a border with Egypt.

"It is unfortunate," the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization Chief Veterinary Officer Joseph Domenech said of Egypt's decision. "The crisis today is in transmission from human to human. It has nothing to do with pigs," he told The Associated Press

Monday, April 27, 2009

human nature

Chiwetel Ejiofor on human nature:
One of the things he's gleaned from his empathetic studies is that, contrary to thespian myth, human beings transform themselves very little. "I think there's an obsession with arc," he says, "the arc of a character, the character's journey - but I don't think people change all that much in the end. I think people have a very primal, immediate nature, and they spend most of their time struggling against it or trying to reconnect with it."

Political gotcha

The Republicans responsible for stripping pandemic flu preparedness from the stimulus package.

I shit you not.

What tortured logic

Unprofessional behavior

Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Jermaine Jenas has slammed referee Howard Webb after his controversial penalty award in favour of Manchester United on Saturday.

It was a questionable penalty, but a referee must make his decisions based on what he (and his assistants) sees. While the penalty decision was an important moment in the game, Tottenham only have themselves to blame for losing this game (they were still 2-1 up after Ronaldo scored the penalty kick). Looking to blame the referee in this instance is genuinely unsporting.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Insomnia and movies

I saw Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels on Hulu last night. Not for the first time. An elegantly constructed crime caper with lots of clever word play and men behaving badly.

I then pulled out Snatch and watched it again for the first time in years. Snatch has more humor, actually. But the denouement is not as satisfying -- one of the charms of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels was the unexpected "wtf" factor. For example, when the protagonists discover the knocked out traffic warden in the van they've just nicked.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

One of the greatest penalty shoot-outs ever

What an amazing drama.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Texas secession

When Rick Perry talks about Texas seceding from the union we all know what he's talking about, right? After all, the previous two times Texas seceded, it was over slavery.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Racism and Juve

Juventus will be harshly punished following a series of racist taunts launched by Juve fans at Balotelli in this past weekend's Juventus-Internazionale game.

Balotelli is a promising young striker at Inter who has improved and matured quite a bit this season. Next season could be his break-out season (just in time for the World Cup).

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Notable managers in the English Premier League

Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United): Considered by many to be the best, however his primary flaw as a manager showed again this year with the expensive purchase of Berbatov. Ferguson has a history of expensive purchases of great players who either do not fit into his tactical schemes or upset team balance. Perhaps next year, with the eventual resolution of the Tevez affair, the Berbatov situation will be resolved. But, Tevez would normally be a better fit for United and has gotten far less playing time than Berbatov.

Rafael Benitez (Liverpool): A tactical master, whose major flaw has been player development. Liverpool has the team depth to sustain a long campaign and yet has played as if it were a much smaller team.

Arsene Wenger (Arsenal): Derided for dumping all of his established players for younger and inexperienced replacements, and strenuously hampered by injury problems, Wenger has fashioned one of the most formidable teams in the English League, several months too late. Wenger is smart, exceptionally shrewd on the transfer market. His flaw is that he does not exert enough discipline on his players. Look for Arsenal to be formidable indeed next season.

David Moyes (Everton): Impressive indeed. A manager who consistently looks to the future and builds for it. Tactically he may be too much of a traditionalist, since their best period of the season was when all of their strikers were injured -- forcing him to adopt a novel attacking strategy. When his strikers returned, Moyes switched to a more traditional attacking model and Everton's fortunes slumped.

Gianfranco Zola (West Ham): His first season at West Ham has succeeded beyond anyone's expectations. Too soon to see what his flaws are, since most of his problems are out of his control.

Martin O'Neill (Aston Villa): A seriously over-rated manager at a club that is desperate for success. Aston Villa's major problem has been lack of depth -- a problem exacerbated by O'Neill's reluctance to rotate players and develop reserves. Given that he pissed away Aston Villa's UEFA cup campaign in order to secure a top four finish and failed miserably to stay in the top four this is a seriously disappointing year for Aston Villa, given the amount of money they spent on the transfer market over the summer.

Roy Hodgson (Fulham): Hodgson has been rebuilding a club that still plays inconsistently and which only last year barely escaped relegation. Hodgson is consistently underrated.

Harry Redknapp (Tottenham Hotspur): I cannot take Redknapp seriously. He left Portsmouth a shambles. Nine-tenths of his success at Tottenham this season has been the departure of Juande Ramos. While smart enough to recognize how good Modric is, why the hell isn't Pavlyuchenko playing more often?

Terry Polis (Stoke City): Stoke City have been playing consistently all season and have had a comfortable year in the Premier League. Next year will determine if they will suffer from second season syndrome, or will be able to build a long term campaign towards glory in the premier league.

Phil Brown (Hull City): If Hull stay up it will be only due to a run of good form at the very beginning of the season. I expect them to go down next year.

Gianfranco to turn West Ham into a monster?

If anyone can do it, it will be Gianfranco, who has proved himself as a manager with vision.

However, his ability to succeed will depend more on the backroom than the field, with West Ham in serious financial difficulty.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Ancelloti to Chelsea?

This looks like a done deal.
An agreement has now been reached with the AC Milan coach, who is understood to have finally made a commitment to leave the San Siro and join Chelsea on a three-year contract.

As part of the negotiations the Italian has been promised the funds to land four high-profile players. The significant spending spree will, also, reaffirm owner Roman Abramovich's commitment after another season of upheaval.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sir Clement Freud dies

Obviously the man was well-loved, but this paragraph had me laughing:
In 1978 he was in China with the more junior MP, Winston Churchill, the grandson of the former prime minister. When Churchill was given the best room in a hotel because of his family, Freud said it was the first time in his life that he had been "out-grandfathered".

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Follow-up to yesterday's post about lung cancer and smoking, if the government was really serious about reducing cancer risk in smokers, it would subsidize nicotine patches (or gum) and push for them to replace cigarettes as a drug delivery system.

The future of the military

Gates is taking advantage of the piracy situation in Somalia (hug your mother, everyone) to change the future direction of the US military. This is another step in a push that started with the budget unveiling to radically alter the future of the United States as a global power.

Right now, it is looking like Obama knew exactly what he was doing when he asked Gates to stay on as Secretary of Defense.

A tough call?

"It must have been a tough call for Rush, deciding what he loves more: guns or CEOs. But I guess we now have our answer."

No More Onion Bags

The Guardian notes the coming end of Tommy Smyth's role as a commentator on Champions League games.

The NMOB blog is great, btw.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


I enjoy the football commentary-slash-news at SBI, but many of the commenters are ignoramuses. Every time I make the mistake of reading a thread, I consider removing SBI from my links list. Grrr.

No surprise

Smoking marijuana may increase lung cancer risk. That is, people who smoked both marijuana and cigarettes had a higher risk than those who just smoked cigarettes.

Inhaling smoke is bad for your lungs -- both because of the particulates (pollution) and because of the chemicals.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Departures looks like it will be quite good. To be released May 29th in the US.

Sleep Dealer looks like a next-generation Blade Runner. Looking forward to it as well.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Villa to Chelsea, then what?

I just don't see it.

Chelsea already have a world-class front man (Drogba), and since the next manager will likely play a 4-2-3-1 as well it seems unlikely that they have room for two front-center strikers.

Villa is a great player and is going to be picked up by a power team, but he needs to think carefully about what his role will be at whatever team he transfers to.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Dunning-Kruger Effect

I always suspected this, based on my own observations of human behavior, but now I learn that there is both evidence for it and that it has a name! Awesome!

Kruger and Dunning noted a number of previous studies which tend to suggest that in skills as diverse as reading comprehension, operating a motor vehicle, and playing chess or tennis, "ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge" (as Charles Darwin put it). They hypothesized that with a typical skill which humans may possess in greater or lesser degree,

  1. Incompetent individuals tend to overestimate their own level of skill.
  2. Incompetent individuals fail to recognize genuine skill in others.
  3. Incompetent individuals fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy.
  4. If they can be trained to substantially improve their own skill level, these individuals can recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Manchester United

Man Utd will need to win or draw the next leg 3-all. What a hurdle. I think this will be a stiff test.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Music notes

Listening to Technotronic's ground-breaking Pump up the Jam - The Album, which sadly has not stood the test of time. I am remembering why I did not keep a copy on my computer.

In a different genre, I remain surprised at how under appreciated Mighty Day on Campus remains. Under appreciated when it was released, and almost impossible to find (in a day and age when almost anything can be had through a quick Google search). Yet The Chad Mitchell Trio's first album, recorded live in front of a college audience, at the peak of the folk craze, is I think one of the best albums ever recorded.


Sinfest: 2 panels from FundyCats


Sunday, March 29, 2009

The new Bond

I finally saw Casino Royale for the first time last week. I watched it again last night after watching Quantum of Solace which was recently released.

I have to say, this is the best Bond yet. Coherent, gripping stories with a good pace, good acting, and satisfying payoffs. This is not the Bond of yore, which was adolescent in world-view and expectations. Dr. No was the first of the 007 stories to hit the silver screen. Dr. No is a fun movie, and one of its virtues is that it encapsulates the perfect male sexual fantasy of its time. James Bond is a dashing, irresistible to women, incredibly sophisticated, with license to do as he sees fit (even to kill if he has to). He drives the best cars. He has the ultimate high-tech tools at his disposal. Every woman he meets is desperately beautiful. Every woman he meets, he nails. In the end he kills the bad guy, has an incredible adventure, and seduces the intelligent but stupid Honey Ryder. It set the template for every Bond film to follow, save one, From Russia with Love.

The new Bond, portrayed by Daniel Craig, is not a sex fantasy, at least not first and foremost. The new Bond is an action-adventure fantasy, informed by a combination of influences: previous Bond movies, the highly successful Jason Bourne movies, and by various action video games. We can see this in the first color action sequence in Casino Royale, where Bond chases an incredibly acrobatic bomb-maker through a construction site. Here we see Bond thinking while running at top speed. He doesn't just follow the bomb-maker, he makes astute decisions, he gambles, he tries to make something out of nothing.

Of the two new Bond films, Quantum of Solace is the better of the two, despite the reviews. Casino Royale is a good film, and makes for an even better view the second time around, after one knows the story -- once you know the characters' motivations, the acting becomes that more convincing. The story is a good one.

What makes Quantum better is that it is a meditation on motivation. There are conflicting elements to the Bond character.

Of course, let's not forget that the Bond films remain action-adventure fantasies. Bond still drives amazing cars, even ones that come with built-in machine guns. Bond still seduces beautiful women. Governments use computer systems that do not actually exist, that can track people, bank transfers, and so forth in instants. Aerial dog fights can result in punctured canopies and disabled engines, but miraculously spare the wing, where most of the fuel is stored. In the hotel fire scene in Quantum, people do not miraculously die of asphyxiation (which is what would have happened in real life, given that hydrogen was the major accelerant), nor do they suffer from burns when they escape.

Regardless, I am looking forward to the next one.

The Liverpool 62

Liverpool has 62 players on their squad (17 on loan to other clubs).

This is a flabbergasting figure, especially since Liverpool's problem has been a lack of strikers to back up Torres when he's injured.

Inter's Jose Mourinho has said this season in an interview that he considers 24-25 to be the optimal size for a club -- that way there are sufficient backups and players can realistically compete for starting positions.

(However, to be fair, many of Liverpool's players are developmental players, young players Liverpool uses on their reserve team (since the English Premier League does not have a B-team system like the Spanish Liga does).)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Dear Basia (and Danny)

I have every album you have released in the states. I consider myself a fan.

So... I hate to say this, but I was disappointed by your latest album, «It's That Girl Again». Which is a real shame since it was you two who did most of the heavy lifting on the incomparably good «Matt's Mood».

I was especially struck by the obvious key changes in "Someone for Everyone", "Blame it on the Summer", and "Winners". I mean, come on... you two are much better songwriters than that. Why did you decide to rely on cheap key changes in those songs? Ugh.

Look, you two are still awesome. Perhaps you need to spread your wings a little bit further for musical inspiration.

Let me end on a positive note. Basia, I melt when I hear your voice. Whatever has happened, your voice is muy sexy. Basia and Danny, you still can create great music. There are some great tracks on your album (despite its inconsistency), which means you two have something to build on for the future.

And finally, thanks for getting back into the music game. It's been too long. I hope your next album will be sooner rather than later.

I will be buying that one too, with fingers crossed.


Nota bene

Not sure why, but the thirty second song previews on Amazon don't do the songs any justice. Not sure why? Bad compression maybe?

iTunes on the other hand... those previews are fairly reliable.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

It Happened One Night

I saw this depression-era classic, It Happened One Night, last night, and immediately after I came to a much better understanding of my grandparents. I cannot explain it, just suddenly my grandparents' mannerisms and humor made a lot more sense.

The story is maudlin, the characters irascible, the humor heartfelt, the acting sublime (holy cow did I underestimate Cary Grant's acting chops, and Claudette Colbert really shines), and the whole thing works. And it works because it is infused with an ethos that is both pragmatic and ethical. There is more wisdom in this movie (informed by the day to day struggles of a generation during the great depression) than in most philosophy books.

My favorite scene in the movie was the discussion of piggy-back rides. Both hilarious and observational.


The return of Hoovervilles.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Jonathon Wilson

A thinking man on the importance of fullbacks.

Wilson in his article points to this description of Dani Alves by Sid Lowe, which is probably the best written anywhere:
And right-wing. And just about everywhere else. Roman Abramovich decided €30m was too much for a defender but Alves is not just a defender. He's a one-man band wearing cymbals on his knees, a drum on his back, Johnny Cash's harmonica strapped to his gob and Barça sweatbands on his wrists like a 10-year-old suffering a Peter Withe fixation. He offers killer passes and crunching tackles: a screeching lunatic kid, perfect technician, tactical genius and - let's face it - sneaky little cheat, all wrapped into one hyperactive ball. A footballing Sonic the Hedgehog.

Economic blackmail

FedEx: no unions or no planes.

iPhone email

Now that I have an iPhone (which is great, btw), I am now more aware of all of the crappy email lists I have somehow gotten on (none of which I have signed up for)... since they are not filtered out by the iPhone's email reader.

I shouldn't complain too much... my isp does a good job of filtering out viagra, cialis, and Nigerian scam spam.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

the conspiracy

I am a slave to possibility —
you might, perchance, tell me that you love me.
I keep my cell phone always at my side,
check my email more than I should,
read every billboard, check every paper,
and glance from time to time to see if there
is writing written in the sky.

Patience is not a virtue for lovers —
time and distance are ancient enemies —
I am helpless against this desire
to sate my thirst of you,
thus, I conspire.

Monday, March 23, 2009


I'm a slightly blurry picture taken
two years ago — my cheeks are flush with wine —
I smile, but not with my eyes; often
I'm the photographer, but not this time.
You stand with friends, arms around each other.
Your picture shows a party in progress.
You face the camera with much laughter,
with friends, with joie de vivre, with a red dress.
I barely know you, but still I love you.
At least, I love the idea of you.
I'm smart enough not to believe my heart,
but wise enough to think the world of you.
I say too much, but my eyes bespeak true,
for you live life as your heart's work of art.

Tottenham vs. Chelsea

I saw the Tottenham-Chelsea game yesterday, delayed by 30 minutes due to a suspicious package, and it was a cracker. Going in I thought Chelsea were the stronger team, with a reinvigorated Drogba and the return, in sensational form, of Michael Essien. After yesterday's game I was shocked to see how weak Chelsea were in the midfield. Was Ballack having an off day? Would it have made more sense to shift Essien and Ballack at half-time?

I don't think that this game should be blamed on Ballack necessarily... the only time Belletti seemed to have an effect on the game was when he was booked. Ashley Cole seemed to be a presence, although at times he was out-hustled by Aaron Lennon.

Also, Tottenham were definitely up for the game -- every time a Chelsea player had the ball for more than five seconds he was surrounded by three white shirts. Tottenham were organized and were the better team. Redknapp is definitely not my favorite manager, but he must be doing something right. Maybe in the next season, Tottenham may challenge the big four. Definitely something to hope for.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


"As soon as I come up with a character, I want to start drawing them in pajamas. I don't know what's up with that." -- the ever-amazing Shaenon K. Garrity of Skin Horse and Narbonic fame.

I just received book six of Narbonic and am going to spend today reading through the entire series from the beginning. Definitely a noble endeavor.

Friday, March 20, 2009

How many teams should MLS have?

Major League Soccer has announced its 18th franchise, Portland.

The quality of play in the MLS leaves a lot to be desired -- the best players in the world will want to play in Europe, where they can make much more money and play against the best players. But I think that the quality of MLS can be improved, by hiring quality managers (basically the 'head coach' position), and by taking advantage of the expanding talent base in the United States, as soccer becomes more popular.

I can envision the MLS eventually capping out with thirty teams, divided into three divisions. Every team would play every team in their division twice per season plus every other team once, for a total of 38 games per season, which is quite reasonable for a soccer season. Then for the MLS cup tourney there can be wild-card games and so forth.

Regardless, I would like to see soccer return to the southeast (especially Florida). Plus I believe St. Louis and Montreal should join the league.

Champions League Draw Held

1. Manchester United against Porto: Manchester United are favorites.

2. Villareal against Arsenal: Two somewhat evenly matched teams. Flip a coin.

The Winners of 1 and 2 face each other in the semis.

3. Liverpool against Chelsea: Flip a coin, either team could win this one.

4. Barcelona against Bayern Munchen: Barcelona are favorites.

The Winners of 3 and 4 face each other in the semis.

Champions League Draw with tables.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


This is amazingly awesome. Great editing. Makes for a great dance track.

Gripe gripe gripe

Hmmm... I'm being a bit negative lately.

Obscene blindness

Zucker criticizes Stewart's criticism of CNBC, calling it absurd and unfair.

Based on this news story I would wager that Zucker wouldn't know what financial journalism was if it came up and hit him square in the face.

Based on this news story, I would say the same about the journalist who wrote the piece.


Maybe I'm crazy, but I have a great deal of respect for Djibril Cissé. I hope Sunderland survive this season and sign him on a permanent basis.


Some idiot, in response to a post at Political Animal on the Pope's anti-condom stance (because condoms don't prevent AIDS, unintended HIV-infected babies do), says this:
FWIW, the Catholic Church has the most expansive view of pro life. It is essentially humanism taken to its logical conclussion. The differences we draw between ourselves are meaningless, every person, regardless of stage of development or current human condition, has an inalienable right to life.

For the record, humanism is not the idea that every human has an inalienable right to life.

Humanism is the idea that people have an inalienable right to live their own lives.

Quite a difference between the two.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Gainesville a solar mecca?

An article about my old home town, in a national magazine, that does not mention the local university or its storied athletic teams... I am amazed.

The article is well worth a read, apparently Gainesville has become a hot-spot for solar power, thanks to innovative and left-leaning city policies (what the article does not mention is that the city owns the major energy utility in the area).

Monday, March 16, 2009


Every time I read about personnel problems at Manchester City I experience sublime schadenfreude... very bitter, slightly sweet, with just enough zest and effervescence to make it pleasing.

The idea that Robinho's reputation as an inconsistent trouble-maker would make any trade for a world class unappealing doesn't seem to enter these people's brains.

Friday, March 13, 2009


Objectivism is stupider than Marxism. Whereas Marxism was a philosophical and political response to the social inequalities brought about by industrialization, Objectivism was an emotional response to privation and the loss of social privilege caused by extremists, tarted up with pseudo-intellectualism.

One day this may become common knowledge in America.


I know this is a heretical concept, but there is nothing particularly special about cheese made in Wisconsin or Vermont.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Villa to Barcelona?

Apparently the rumors are that Barcelona is trying to snap up David Villa from a cash-desperate Valencia. Potentially, Barcelona will loan out Bojan and Cacares as part of the deal.

Valencia are in a world of hurt right now, with over 400 million euros in debt. So it is not a question of whether they will sell David Villa and David Silva, their two best players (both exceptional), but to whom and for how much.

My concern is what effect Villa would have on Barcelona should the transfer go through. Villa is an out and out striker who plays best in a forward position. Barcelona play a 4-3-3, with Henry and Messi as wingers and Eto'o as their power-forward. Eto'o is a large and gifted striker, who despite a slight lapse in form over the past few games makes for a great pass/cross target and is a deadly goal-scorer. I expect Eto'o to end the season strongly and with a vengeance.

So where would Villa play? Eto'o seems happy with the team and manager and generally loves the way Guardiola has been having him play. Is Villa a possible replacement for Thierry Henry?

Henry has had to adjust to being a winger again -- he was happier at Arsenal when Wenger converted him to a true forward. He runs much more than he ever used to. And while his play hasn't always been consistent, he remains a true scoring threat. There are rumors that Barcelona want to sell Henry at the end of the season, but while Henry has been losing pace and is getting old (for a footballer) he remains one of Barcelona's best scoring outlets and can still dazzle with the ball.

Would Villa play well in Henry's position? Would Eto'o? I doubt it. I seriously doubt it.

I also do not see Barcelona switching to an attack-minded 4-4-2, à la Manchester United (two central midfielders, two midfield-wingers, and two strikers (although Manchester United has actually been playing more with 4-2-3-1, with Berbatov dropping back into the second-striker slot)). Barcelona is a team that is very reliant on midfielders to defend and to set up the offense. There has to be room in the midfield for a Yaya Toure and an Andres Inieste and a Xavi. Otherwise, Barcelona becomes unbalanced.

This is why I am a bit skeptical of Barcelona reaching for Villa -- if Villa comes into the team, Barcelona would either need to restructure or sell Eto'o -- and basically Barcelona would be trading a tall player (and good target for passes) for another short player. Not sure that would be a good move.

David Silva on the other hand... wow. He could be an awesome addition to the Barcelona team. Barcelona's largest weakness over the past three weeks has been inconsistent play from the midfield (please sell Hleb! sheesh). Silva is a play-maker and goal scorer and could make an excellent addition to the team.

Enough rambling from me.

Sanguinity... lower

I am less sanguine about Manchester United's chances than I was yesterday.

The Rock Obama


Monday, March 9, 2009

Tim Vickery makes another astute observation

One of the best footballing bloggers out there, Tim Vickery makes an astute observation while looking at the changes in Brazilian football:
According to Moracy Sant'anna, one of Brazil's most respected physical preparation specialists, in the mid-70s it was generally true that players were covering around 5,000 metres per game. By the mid-90s that figure had doubled, and now some are even reaching 12,000.

So the physical intensity of the game is greater than ever before, and with the growth of the Champions League and the crowded modern calendar there is no respite. It is match after match, physical challenge after physical challenge.

This twin dynamic - greater rewards, greater sacrifices - helps explain why we are seeing so much inconsistency at the elite level of the game.

Manchester United looking forward to hosting Inter

This is a good overview of the FA Cup victory over Fulham and the upcoming Champions League match against Internazionale.

I am a fan of both teams. That said, I think Manchester United is the better of the two teams -- the Red Devils pass with fluidity and confidence and are good at creating chances. They know that they have to play better than they played in Milan if they want to go through, but their defense will be more cohesive than it was in Milan. Inter has good players, but they do not have the cohesiveness that Manchester United have -- they have been carried by Mourinho's tactical mastery of the game and the players own talents. But Inter have yet to demonstrate the magic, the spark that marks all great teams.

I worry about Mourinho, because I sense he is ambivalent about his position at Inter, that he is not completely committed to the project of making Inter a complete team. In part this is probably due to the lack of control he has in making executive decisions. He has inherited a bloated team with too many players, many of whom have a sense of entitlement that is perhaps undeserved (Inter's recent success is more the result of the fallout of scandal involving AC Milan and Juventus than good play on the field). I do feel that Mourinho could remake Inter into a European contender, but I do not think that this year is Inter's year: the team needs to cut its roster and perhaps bring in a few younger players and rebuild for next year.

The best comment ever

Kid Bitzer goes squiddy on Watchmen (warning spoilers).

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Special One

Sometimes I wish Jose would shut up.

Sometimes I don't.

He is a great tactician. But I question his man-management skills. I do not think he gets the most of his players in the long term.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Gold farming

Interesting article on gold farming at the Guardian. However, the reporter should look into the relationship between the gaming companies (like Blizzard) and the gold farming companies. I'm sure there is a story there.

Its a new world baby

Relive the recent past with book covers selling the stock market, day trading, and real estate riches.

Our Sicko System

My mother recently saw Sicko for the first time on Showtime. Ironically, seeing the disparity between health care in the US and abroad (where it is much easier to acquire and less expensive) made her sick.

Karen Tumulty writes movingly about her brother's experience with a life threatening disease. Definitely worth a read.


Beckham puts his own money where his heart is.

I expect England to make it to the World Cup. But they have to play better football than they played against Spain if they hope to progress through the tournament.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Friday, January 23, 2009

Teens face child porn charges

6 Pa. high school students busted after sharing nude photos via cell phones
In the WPXI story, which included contributions from the Associated Press, Saranko indicated that authorities decided to file the child pornography charges to send a strong message to other minors who might consider sending such photos to friends.

"It's very dangerous," he said. "Once it's on a cell phone, that cell phone can be put on the Internet where everyone in the world can get access to that juvenile picture. You don't realize what you are doing until it's already done." (Seranko could not be reached for comment on Thursday, and a woman who answered the phone at the Greensburg Police Department said, “Our department is not doing any more interviews on the case.”)

But Patrick Artur, a Philadelphia defense attorney who by his reckoning has handled at least 80 child pornography cases, said the prosecution of minors for photos they took themselves runs counter to the purpose of both state and federal child pornography laws: Preventing the sexual abuse of children by “dirty old men in raincoats.”

“It’s clearly overkill,” he said. “… The letter of the law seems to have been violated, but this is not the type of defendant that the legislature envisioned” in passing the statute.

Artur said that because there is no mandatory minimum sentence under Pennsylvania’s child pornography law, unlike the federal statute, the students would not necessarily be incarcerated if they are found guilty. But he noted that convictions would have "serious, serious implications," including forcing them having to register as sexual offenders for at least 10 years.

If there is a case that cries out for jury nullification this is it. That said, the chances of jury nullification occurring are slim, given that most people don't understand what it is (and what it is for), and prosecutors and judges tend to despise it. A better outcome would be a serious rethink at the legislative level of all of the sex laws and how they impact on teenagers -- that age when most sane people experiment with sex. The fact that there are people in jail and on sex offender lists for consensual sex with someone 1-2 years younger than themselves shows that something is out of whack.


1000 novels everyone must read

Some great suggestions.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Both heartbreaking and humane...

Steve Daley talks about his then-record-setting transfer to Manchester City in 1979.

Watch the video.


This seems particularly relevant today.


It is like Christmas

... except instead of gifts we get a new President!

Hope you have a nice Inauguration Day.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

My post for today...

I feel blah...
I was trying to find Drexel Morrow. [...] Drexel was a short man with long greasy hair and greasy hands that liked to grab people. You could not have a conversation with him, in person, without his hands touching you, feeling you, sizing you up. He was a scrappy guy, like many on the night side of Turner. His twisted nose attested to the number of times it had been broken in bar fights. He never bothered to have his nose fixed. For a guy like Drexel his nose was a badge of pride. Finding Drexel would not be particularly difficult — there were a finite number of bars in Night City.

The beginning of the chapter I am starting today. Needs work. And yes, Night City is a deliberate homage to William Gibson.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Maradona, still entertaining

Maradona: Player of the Year rules are stupid

Buried in this piece is news that France and Argentina will be playing a friendly on February 11. I'm looking forward to this one.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Looks like I (and every other sane commentator) am probably wrong. Apparently Kaka will move for 135 million pounds. Egads.


UN headquarters in Gaza hit by Israeli 'white phosphorus' shells

I am a bit incredulous at this. To be fair, the Israeli's claim they were responding to being fired upon from the UN position... however, bombing, with white phosphorous, in a civilian area a UN depot for needed supplies, food, and medicine is shockingly contemptuous of international law, the UN, and the human beings who live in Gaza.

Also this is not the first incident where Israel has attacked a UN facility.

Wenger on money and reality

The more I follow the soap opera that is football, the more I respect Wenger, the manager of Arsenal. He is v. good at building football teams and creating champions. This year, however, Arsenal will probably not meet expectations (deservedly so, but such a shame). But only a fool would write off Arsenal's chances, especially next year.

Wenger discusses Manchester City and the January transfer window.

From the Dept. of ROFLs

Whole lotta links

Revamping this blog a bit.

All part of my cunning plan...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Ex-cop charged with murder in Calif. shooting

Prosecutors in the San Francisco Bay area have filed murder charges against a former transit officer in the shooting death of an unarmed black man.

The big question people are asking is why Mehserle fired his weapon. I doubt Mehserle knows the answer to that. He drew his weapon and fired in time frame of about three seconds. Something was wrong with his pattern of thought. In addition to destroying the life of one individual, he has essentially destroyed his own.

A tragedy. I hope some good comes out of this.

Manchester City Drama

Man City is hot for Kaka, who they will not get. Kaka has not played as much as he would like at Milan, since the arrival of Ronaldinho, so there was speculation earlier in the year that he might be amenable to a move. Yet, he is a fantastic player who also enjoys winning championships. And Milan is a great city to live in.
"A deal this month is not impossible. Kaka will talk to Manchester City if the two clubs agree a fee. But Ricky would like a strong side. He would never do something like Robinho, who, just to earn more, contented himself with not a winning solution."
This statement, by Kaka's agent, is a bit unfair to Robhino. Robhino was clearly unhappy with Real Madrid during the summer, as Real Madrid focused all of its attention on acquiring Cristiano Ronaldo (who has this year won the golden boot, and FIFA Player of the Year) from Manchester United. Both Robhino and C. Ronaldo are strikers who play as right-side wingers, so the arrival of Cristiano would have meant Robhino sitting on the bench or switching positions (CR can play effectively anywhere in the front field, although he prefers the wing).

With this going on Robhino became desperate to leave Real Madrid -- apparently the acrimony erupted big time, compounded by ineffective team management. Chelsea offered a way out, but the price Real Madrid wanted for Robhino was insanely high... Apparently the machismo at Real Madrid was such that Real Madrid was willing to let Robhino sit on the bench for the year rather than take Chelsea's offer. At the last minute Manchester City put in an offer that met Real Madrid's demands.

And it is a shame really. Chelsea would have had a much stronger season had Robhino been on their squad, even with the injury troubles Robhino has had off and on. Chelsea's big problem this season is an inability to find goals when it counts -- although in their loss to Manchester United, that looked like the least of their problems. Chelsea seem to have gone off the rails slightly -- they have the talent. But one can see now what Robhino would have meant to them.

Manchester City, facing a relegation battle, is trying to buy its way out of trouble by spending mad money on stars. And yet the mad money has caused the team to implode -- most of the players on the squad don't see a future for themselves on the team, given that most are journeyman players. And their manager has completely failed to motivate the players and get the most out of them.

In a way I hope Manchester City does become relegated -- although it is a scenario I find hard to believe will happen. Should Manchester City go down it will prove that the English game is fair -- no match fixing, no shady dealings. It will also prove that money does not turn a team into champions (c.f. Chelsea), although it might help. It will also give Man Utd fans loads of material for chants to scream and sing at derbies, and it will inject the Champions League (the English second division, if you will) with a fresh bolus of drama and talent.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tom Vickery says...

The numbers game a bane:
There have been many times in the Maracana stadium when I have been sitting next to the team collecting match statistics. "Accurate pass by the number 5," the team leader would call out, though the ball had been blasted calf-height on the recipient's wrong foot, keeping the play so tight that loss of possession was inevitable, or "inaccurate pass by the number 8," after he had played an inspired ball inside the opposing full -back which might have set up a chance if his team-mate had been bright enough to read it.

Witnessing the match stats being compiled has made me acutely aware of their limitations. Football is too fluid for the rigidity of the statistical mind. Has the ball been used well? This depends, surely, on the situation of the game, the zone of the pitch - on considerations that cannot be reduced to a statistic.

If football were just numbers it would be bingo, and would not have become such a global passion. Even football's key statistic - goals - are not the be all and end all. It is often said that no one remembers who came second, but it's not true. The likes of Hungary in 1954 and Holland 20 years later lost World Cup finals, but their teams are still remembered fondly. Brazil didn't even make the semis in 1982 - but there are many all over the world that fell in love with football after seeing the beauty of the play from Socrates, Zico, Falcao etc.

A fascinating perspective

My Dinners with Dubya

Monday, January 12, 2009


Q&A with literary agents (thanks to CSS for this)


Going back over earlier portions of the novel -- editing, streamlining -- before continuing with the new stuff.

Since I am now at the end-game of the story, it is important to make sure everything is accounted for.

Top ten Bush moments

Apropos of a rant

Apropos (which is not really a word, you know) of a rant somewhere else...

I had just started graduate school and I was living in an apartment complex... a college student apartment complex with comely undergrads and a pool... so I had understandably misguided hopes about my future, based on my living conditions. I was working at home one day, since I like peace and solitude, and the freedom to speak aloud to myself (which is actually important when writing), when I, against my instincts, felt compelled to call the cops because one of my neighbors was playing incredibly loud music. And it was not even particularly hip or new, it was Black Sabbath -- I mean, I understand the sentiment, but playing Black Sabbath incredibly loudly is not awe-inspiring, its cliché (which is a real word).

And it was not even one of my neighbors in my own apartment building. It was someone in the apartment building that was two buildings away.

I felt as if I had transgressed against my music-loving, "if you dig it do it" soul.

But then, after the cops came, the music was turned way down, and I found the quiet I needed to write.

All was right in the world once more...


Research point: Divine languages

See also: Enochian and The Enochians

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Fifth Element

Ebert said, in 1997:
``The Fifth Element,'' which opened the Cannes Film Festival on Thursday, is one of the great goofy movies--a film so preposterous I wasn't surprised to discover it was written by a teenage boy. That boy grew up to become Luc Besson, director of good smaller movies and bizarre big ones, and here he's spent $90 million to create sights so remarkable they really ought to be seen.

That's not to say this is a good movie, exactly. It's more of a jumble that includes greatness. Like ``Metropolis'' or ``Blade Runner,'' it offers such extraordinary visions that you put your criticisms on hold and are simply grateful to see them. If Besson had been able to link those sights with a more disciplined story and more ruthless editing, he might have really had something.

He really needn't have said any more, except that he had column inches to fill. It is a hodge-podge of a movie with attitude and grace.

Doing the math

Hey maybe, just maybe, the USA's unqualified support for Israel's actions in Gaza will have negative consequences in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I don't want to be accused of crazy talk, so just treat it as playing devil's advocate.

The Fez

Apparently I'm not the only one who thought that The Fez, a brilliant, groovy song from Steely Dan's The Royal Scam (1976), was about condoms. Awesome song, btw.

Man Utd-Chelsea 3-0

The second and third goals in particular were amazing.

The first and third goals were from set pieces. Both teams at times had trouble maintaining possession, but Chelsea were not nearly as good as they should have been.

Friday, January 9, 2009


From 2007, but amazing how much skill Messi has while running at breakneck speed.

An American in Spain

Villareal see Altidore as a key to their future.

This is good news, both for Altidore, and for US Soccer. La Liga is currently one of the two best leagues in the world, and Villareal has been taking the steps necessary to challenge Real Madrid and Barcelona -- although this year looks to be Barça's year... they look indomitable. With a chance to grow and develop in La Liga, Altidore will be a future anchor for any US World Cup team (2010 will probably be too soon).

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Surgeon General

The Surgeon General is largely a ceremonial position with actual oversight of an important, but small agency. Most Americans are aware of the Surgeon General's office because of warning labels on Cigar, Cigarette, and (various) Alcohol products. The only Surgeon Generals to achieve notoriety for something different than warning labels were C. Everett Koop (an anti-abortion doctor who stood against the tendencies of the Reagan administration during the AIDS epidemic) and Jocelyn Elders (who made some ill-advised comments about masturbation and sex ed).

I started thinking about Surgeon General Warning Labels and wondered if the next Surgeon General... admit it, Surgeon General is a cool kick-ass title... should come out with a new, improved, extended line of labels.

"No Fat" food:
Warning: The Surgeon General has determined that eating this product will not cause you to magically lose weight, nor does it taste any better the second or third time you try it.

Bottled Water:
Warning: The Surgeon General has found that bottled water products do not provide any health advantages over drinking tap water.

Video Game Consoles:
Warning: In addition to wasting considerable amounts of your time and increasing your risk for repetitive motion disorders, the Surgeon General has found that this video game console will be obsolete in three years.

I wonder what other warning labels one could come up with...

(n.b.: I am a video game addict and have been known to drink bottled water. I detest 'no fat' food. Also I think the 'low carb' and the 'no carb' diets are unhealthy scams, but that is just my opinion.)

Holy WTF

A police officer is going to go to jail and a police department is going to lose a wrongful death lawsuit.

But more important than that: why in the hell did this happen? WTF were these guys thinking? And how can we stop this from happening again?

Update: More info in the following news report.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Monday, January 5, 2009

Watchmen watch

Just saw the two trailers for Watchmen (coming out in 2009, hopefully), and aside from Ozymandias, it seems to be incredibly faithful, visually, to the original comic. I have no idea how they are going to condense the story into less than 3 hours... but I'm hoping it will be good.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Nonsense still continuing

War Vet, 50, Stunned By New Deployment
"(I was) kind of shocked, not understanding what I was getting into," said Bandel, who lives in the Nashville, Tenn., area.

In 1993, Bandel took the option of leaving the Army without retirement and never thought he would be called back to action.

"Here he's 50 years old, getting his AARP card, and here he's being redeployed with all these 18-year-olds," said Paul's wife, Linda Bandel.

"I can understand, say, 'Here, we have this assignment for you stateside. Go do your training,'" said Paul Bandel. "But, 'Hey, here's a gun, go back to the desert.'"

Involuntary recall allows the military, regardless of age or how long someone has been out of service, to order vets back into active duty.

"Anger's not the word. I was more concerned about the financial impact it's going to do. My pay's probably cut in half," said Paul Bandel.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Short story

Taking a break from my novel in order to finish a short story I started in September.

My novel is at 58K words, which means that it will not be as short as I had originally hoped. Nonetheless, it is taking shape and hopefully will be completed either this month or next (well, the first draft).

Friday, January 2, 2009


Can anyone explain why bullshit should not be in a dictionary?

Rhetorical question.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Elegant evolution

Wired presents 12 elegant examples of evolution. Nature is beautiful.

For your own sanity, ignore the idiocy in the comments below. Humans can be ugly.

A new progressive era

British PM Brown:
Gordon Brown today braces Britain for potentially its worst recession since the second world war by promising to work with Barack Obama to create a new progressive era across the world. He claims he can build "a global coalition for change" with the US president-elect.

The prime minister said 2008 would be remembered as the year in which "the old era of unbridled free market dogma was finally ushered out". In his traditional new year message, Brown struck a tone of tempered optimism, saying that Britain can this year build a better tomorrow through strategic investments while dealing with the dangerous challenges of today.

He said: "The failure of previous governments in previous global downturns was to succumb to political expediency and to cut back investment across the board, thereby stunting our ability to grow and strangling hope during the upturn. This will not happen on my watch.

One can only hope that time will not look back on this speech as an act of hubris, but given the current political trends in the UK...

Once in a lifetime

Once in a Lifetime, by the Talking Heads

Happy New Year!