The Haphazard Blog

Archive for June, 2010

World Cup Update – Well Runs Dry, Terrible Refereeing

by on Jun.30, 2010, under Soccer, Sports

It was a good run for the United States, but it seems they were finally finished after giving up a quick goal in the extra time. In the whole tournament, only mid-fielders scored for the United States. They really didn’t get much from their strikers. Statistically, 1 assist. The United States lacks any type of skilled ball handler and scoring threat.

Up to the last game, I thought Bob Bradley did a solid job with the coaching. I’m not sure what the thought process was for that lineup against Ghana. People were puzzled and questioning it as soon as it was released. His contract ends this year, and while I think he’s a good coach, I hope the U.S. Soccer Federation makes a change and hires the guy they should’ve hired 4 years ago, Jürgen Klinsmann. I think he can bring an attacking mindset to the team and he won’t have any loyalty to any players (making replacing guys a lot easier).

The bad refereeing continued into the Round of 16. Had one goal a yard over the line that was not called a goal and another goal that had a player so offsides that no one was between him and the goal and they gave him the goal.

FIFA should not even be thinking twice about adding video replay as soon as this tournament is over. They can add a chip in the ball if they want, but they need replay. We saw replays within seconds often during the games. If all of us at home can know it wasn’t a goal within seconds by watching replays, it seems pretty simple to add a fifth referee (or make use of the fourth one)  to review every goal/non-goal and immediately notify the head referee of an error.

In the case of the blown England goal, as the play continued it would’ve been simply stopped and Germany would kick-off. In the case of the Argentina goal, as the players were celebrating it would’ve been waved off and Mexico would get a free kick. The flow of the game isn’t interrupted and it is limited to only goal/non-goal decisions.

Another rule FIFA (and the NBA) need is a harsh penalty for diving. FIFA should review game tape and hand out red cards to any player that dives from no contact or grossly exaggerates the level or location of the contact. (The NBA should fine and bench a player for a game.) In addition to the red card, they should also impose any penalty that their diving caused for the other team. So if a player took a dive and the other team got a red card, that player should get 2 red cards.

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You Can’t Count Them Out

by on Jun.23, 2010, under Soccer, Sports

The best way I can describe the game today is nerve-rackingly awesome. The U.S. run of scoring late continues. This time they were able to score during extra time to win 1-0, win the group and advance to the Round of 16.  Next up is Ghana.

Landon Donovan Celebrates

Landon Donovan Celebrates

The U.S. has shown that they can stand up to the pressure and that they finish strong. During qualifying they had to win after going down four times. Twice they came back from 2-0 to tie the game with goals in the last 20 minutes. They are stepping up when it matters the most.

There was another disallowed goal during this game. If the U.S. had tied, a very big deal would’ve been made about it because they would’ve been going home. I wasn’t really outraged. It was a bad call, but that kind of call happens. Sometimes they go your way, other times they don’t. The ball was bouncing around quite a bit and it’s a tough call to make in real-time.

John Harkes was pretty upset about it during the game and even rattled off a quick list of the big refereeing errors that cost the U.S. goals in the past. He wasn’t nearly as outraged when they made the same call (there was no goal to wave off) against Algeria.

I think this was the best 90 minutes the U.S. has played all tournament. They were hammering the Algerian keeper all game and finally — after a disallowed goal, a shot off the post, two players missing a wide open goal — they got one into the back of the net. They look to be getting better with each game.

Looking at the bracket now, the top quarter isn’t too bad. Uruguay (#16 FIFA Ranking), South Korea (#47), Ghana (#32) and the United States (#14). The rest of the teams in the top half haven’t been determined, but if I guessed now, it will be Netherlands (#4), Italy (#5), Brazil (#1) and Switzerland (#24). The Switzerland call is a tough one. I could see Group H going to coin flip.

The good news is, if the U.S. were able to make it to the Semi-Finals, only one of the other four teams will be left standing. But that’s getting way ahead of things.

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Panasonic Core Trainer Update

by on Jun.20, 2010, under Life, Physical Therapy

It has been a while (about 3 months) since my last update on the Core Trainer. I have gotten rid of all of my pain (upper chest caused by the Core Trainer) and lower back (had it for 7-8 months and I finally was able to fully heal by adding a second pillow to take some of the extension out of my back while I sleep).

My current goal is to ride the Core Trainer for the full 15 minutes with my trunk straight. To that end, I’ve been riding the Core Trainer every other day with the tilt all the way forward (it makes an anterior pelvic tilt for full extension of my lower back easier) at the second speed setting in manual mode.

I’m riding it every other day to give my muscles a chance to repair and recover. I know that I’m not exactly doing body building, but I think this is still applicable to me because I am trying to build muscle/strength as well as endurance.  This seems to be working. I can stay up for a minute and repeat that about 8-10 times during the 15 minute routine.

The next day, I also feel like I have more energy.

I also talked about using the stir-ups in my last post. I gave that a try a couple times. I could feel my legs working a little more, but it was at the cost of my posture. In the end, I want to focus on my trunk.

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NFL Expanded Season

by on Jun.19, 2010, under Football, Sports

This week it was reported that the NFL and NFLPA were going to discuss the idea of expanding the regular season from 16 to 18 games and dropping 2 pre-season games. Some players have come out against the idea of playing two more games given the added risk for injury and potential consequences of their long term health.

I wonder if that is such a big concern, why aren’t they pushing for a shorter season? I assume it is posturing to ensure that they get more money for the added games. They don’t want to play two more games for the same salaries. The NFL wouldn’t be trying to add these games if they didn’t feel that it would result in a significant increase in revenue. I’d assume their TV contracts would grow at least 12.5%, their ticket revenue would increase somewhat to fill up empty seats along with the accompanying game day sales. I’d expect NFL Sunday Ticket to cost more as well.

From my perspective, more games water down the game. It’s more games where a team could potentially rest. I also agree the risk of injury goes up, but there really is no telling when it will happen. Tom Brady’s season was over halfway through the 1st quarter of the 1st game (he didn’t play in any pre-season games) and Wes Welker’s season ended in the last game of the year (played 1 pre-season game).

I’d like to see a 17 game regular season and 3 game pre-season. My idea is to keep the current rotating schedule for 16 of the games. The 17th game can be scheduled by the NFL to create matchups that fans really want to see. For example, if the Colts and Patriots aren’t meeting, the NFL can assure that match-up happens with the 17th game. The 17th game should be played at a neutral site. This prevents any issues with home/away discrepancies.

Finally, the NFL decides that each game will have them paid with a “sanctioning fee” (like F1) in some type of clever/evil auction method to maximize payments. This ensures the NFL a guaranteed payment for each game. Cities all over the world can then go after a NFL game. The NFL would always maintain control over what cities could have a game. Cities would have to be pre-certified to host a game before they can bid. So in the spring, they would announce the schedule. They can begin the auction process after mini-camps end and make the announcements about where the games will be played during the NFL dead period in early July.

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Picross 3D (Nintendo DS) Review

by on Jun.19, 2010, under Entertainment, Video Games

I’ve been playing Picross 3D for a couple weeks now. Picross 3D takes the Japanese nonogram puzzle and adds another axis.

They take a slightly different approach from the nonogram in that they only provide one number for a row or column. This simplifies it on one hand, but on the other, the number could have a circle around it (means that it is broken in 2 pieces) or a square around it (means that it is broken into 3 or more pieces). I think this lets them make more complex puzzles using the smaller space they have. It seems the maximum size is 10x10x10.

Picross 3D Screenshots

The controls are pretty simple. You use the stylus to rotate the puzzle, show/hide layers and select blocks. By default the stylus interacts with the puzzle. You have the option of using the D-Pad (if you’re right-handed) or the buttons (if you’re left-handed) to toggle between the hammer (to remove blocks) or paint brush (to protect/mark blocks to keep). This toggle is a little bit hard for me since I generally can only work the D-Pad if I hold the DS with both hands. It works best if I set the DS down and play. I tried to come up with a way that would work better. The best I had was if you could just tap the hammer/paint brush icon (would need a 3rd icon so you can manipulate the puzzle) to choose a mode. The drawback here is the time it would add to constantly switch (the puzzles are timed) and to get a perfect score the time limit is low. You need to get a perfect score so you have a chance to unlock the 2 extra puzzles on each level. Having said that, it would’ve been nice to have that option as well so you could play it with only a stylus.

My only complaint is that you have to get through an entire level of difficulty to move onto the next level of difficulty. I’ve already completed about 170 puzzles and I would guess there are 100+ more before I finally get to Hard (there was Easy, Beginner and Normal so far). Overall. my fascination with Japanese number puzzles has me hooked and I find this to be a fun game that can take up hours of your time.

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Zen Vegetarian Cuisine Review

by on Jun.19, 2010, under Dining, Entertainment

I recently went to Zen Vegetarian Cuisine (note the menu at the website is not updated, but the items are the same or similar) in Wichita, KS and had a pretty good lunch there.

The concept behind this restaurant is to provide “Asian” food without meat. So take a traditional meal that you would find at a Chinese/Thai/Vietnamese restaurant and replace the meat with soy protein or tofu. It’s really that simple and I thought it was pretty good.

I ordered a “bento box” meal. It was the “Love & Compassion” which was fried soy protein (this was really good, it was crunchy, chewy and seemed hollow), pineapples, green and red peppers, mushrooms topped with a sweet and sour sauce. It also included a choice between fried rice and steamed rice. I chose fried rice, but in retrospect, the steamed rice would’ve been better because I just mixed it all with the main course.

Also, the bento box includes a choice of a couple soups (I went with the vegetable soup since the other was egg drop soup and our waiter wasn’t sure if they really used eggs in it or not), a spring roll, a cream cheese blossom (cream cheese deep fried in a wonton wrapper) and a bunch of tempura (for all the Indians out there, this is Bhajjiya or Pakora). It was a lot of food for lunch at a very good price. I was very surprised when it came to the table.

I also had a mango milk tea which was really good. There were what I thought was some type of black berries in it, but they were actually black tapioca pearls. Finally I had the mango ice cream for dessert. There wasn’t anything particularly noticeable about it that made it better than other mango ice cream I had before.

I really enjoyed the food at Zen. If I worked or lived near there, I’d stop in a every week or two. They had a lot of pages in their menu and you could try so many different things they have to offer.

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A Real Way to Start Energy Independence

by on Jun.18, 2010, under Politics

When I was a candidate for this office, I laid out a set of principles that would move our country towards energy independence.  Last year, the House of Representatives acted on these principles by passing a strong and comprehensive energy and climate bill –- a bill that finally makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy for America’s businesses.

Now, there are costs associated with this transition.  And there are some who believe that we can’t afford those costs right now.  I say we can’t afford not to change how we produce and use energy -– because the long-term costs to our economy, our national security, and our environment are far greater.

So I’m happy to look at other ideas and approaches from either party -– as long they seriously tackle our addiction to fossil fuels.  Some have suggested raising efficiency standards in our buildings like we did in our cars and trucks.  Some believe we should set standards to ensure that more of our electricity comes from wind and solar power.  Others wonder why the energy industry only spends a fraction of what the high-tech industry does on research and development -– and want to rapidly boost our investments in such research and development.

This is some of what President Obama had to say on Tuesday. It’s basically a rehash of what he (and many others) have been saying since they began to run for President. (On a side note, Jon Stewart has a great segment on how long we’ve been talking about energy independence and doing nothing.)

Here is my simple solution to get the ball rolling. I’m sure it has been suggested many times. Remove every subsidy that is given to the oil industry (and really any energy that relies on imports). This includes tax breaks, favorable loans for capital costs and removing legal protections that limit liability (for most of us, if something is too risky, we don’t do it, but if we could take those risks and have someone else shoulder the burden of the liability, who would pass on that?).

Take all that money (tens of billions) and start investing in alternative energy companies and technologies. People go where the money is. Start-ups will be chasing it. Companies who are established will be chasing it. All the companies who were getting all these subsidies will suddenly be very interested in alternative energy. Is there really any justifiable reason to prop up an industry that is more than capable of turning profits without this help? What is the argument against this? When these global oil companies complain about taxes, they aren’t complaining about the U.S. taxes, but their total taxes. What they want from the U.S. is for taxpayers to subsidize them to offset all the taxes they pay everywhere else. Just like prescription drugs, we get to provide the subsidies while other countries get paid the taxes.

I’m not saying we need to increase taxes, but this argument that taxes here are too high and if we increase taxes (many consider taking away subsidies the same thing) all these companies will just leave the U.S. If oil companies are paying almost 50% in taxes, and the maximum U.S. corporate tax rate is 35%, I’d think they’d prefer to pay those taxes here. It’s time to stop rewarding  oil companies and reward companies that are investing in the future of energy, whether it’s nuclear, wind, solar or something we haven’t thought of yet.

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