More World Cup Thoughts

Well, the first round finished, with all matches going roughly as predicted. I was surprised Paraguay and Japan came down to penalty kicks (the worst way ever to break a deadlock, I think). And Paraguay is now up to 326 minutes without allowing a goal in World Cup play; only 130 minutes or so from the record.

But I started looking back yesterday, and was interested to note a few things. Theoretically, the world rankings should be fairly indicative of talent, so we'd expect the top thirty-two teams to make it.

Surprises coming in
Missed out Made it in
Rank Name Rank Name
10 Croatia 34 Slovakia
11 Russia 36 Denmark
12 Egypt 38 Honduras
22 Norway 45 Japan
23 Ukraine 47 South Korea
26 Israel 78 New Zealand
28 Romania 83 South Africa
29 Turkey 105 North Korea

And, of course, #9 France only made it on a handball goal.

Getting out of the group stage, there were more surprises:

Group Stage
Missed out Made it in
Rank Name Rank Name
5 Italy 17 Mexico
9 France 18 Chile
13 Greece 31 Paraguay
15 Serbia 32 Ghana
34 Slovakia
45 Japan
47 South Korea

And moving to the round of eight, we've got:

Group Stage
Missed out Made it in
Rank Name Rank Name
3 Portugal 16 Uruguay
8 England 31 Paraguay
32 Ghana

So what does all this tell us?

Not a whole lot, I think, but it's interesting to see how these things play out. That is why they play the games, of course.

So who do I like, going forward? I'm picking Uruguay, Argentina, Netherlands, and Spain to move on.

And man, what about all the blown calls in the latest round? Spain and Argentina score while offsides, and England loses a legitimate goal. I've got to think that that's a record for most blown calls in one round. Portugal, in particular, was really hosed by that, given that that was the decisive goal.

And I love FIFA's reaction: we won't show the replay on the jumbotron in the stadium. Some people will never learn. How about something like, "We're not going to change the rules in the middle of a tournament, but we'll look in to reasonable changes to prevent this happening again once the Cup has been awarded." Is that just too easy?


At the beginning of the season, one of the projection systems (CHONE?) was predicting a 2.50 ERA for Strasburg, based on Major League Equivalencies of his college (and Arizona Fall League?) stats.

That seemed outrageously low; I thought he'd be doing well to get a 3.50 ERA.

But after four starts, and in spite of allowing a ridiculously high .358 BABIP, he had a 1.78 ERA. And his FIP was even lower. Huh?!? Amazing.

I remembered, when I was giving my daughter a bath, this evening that Strasburg was starting tonight, and got downstairs in time to catch the strikeout to end the sixth inning. Unfortunately, things fell apart for him after that.

A leadoff double was completely wasted by a sacrifice and a strikeout (chasing a pitch nearly a foot off the plate).

And then the wheels fell right off the cart. A leadoff walk to Chipper was followed by a single up the middle by McCann. Then a sure double-play ball was booted by Desmond. And it just kept getting worse.

Strasburg ended up responsible for four runs (although perhaps they weren't all earned; I'm too lazy to check), and the Nats were down 5-0 at the end of the inning.

Ugly, ugly stuff.

It'd be really nice if he could get some run support, so he could think about getting wins to go with his excellent performance.


Taking a Holiday

Just watched the old classic, Roman Holiday, a few days ago.

I'd been curious about that one for a while, and finally bought it a couple of month or two ago, and watched it a week or so back. It was a very funny movie, well put together. Audrey Hepburn was amazing. Gregory Peck was quite good as well, although I do wish Cary Grant hadn't turned it down. Two screen presences like Hepburn and Grant together would have been quite the match.

Of course, it could have been the match that burned down the whole movie, who knows? But boy, it would have been interesting.

Getting back to the movie, though, it was neat watching them move through Rome (sometimes ironically, sometimes sentimentally). It's such a beautiful city, and I love that one of my favorite spots in the city (Castel Sant'Angelo) was featured fairly prominently.

But it really brought back my two trips to Italy, as I'd seen most of the spots they stopped (including when they stopped at a cafe next to The Pantheon, though they never showed the whole building). The only major landmark I didn't recognize, I think, was the wishing wall; I hadn't even heard of that one. I'll have to look for it if I make it back over there.

I was a little disappointed that the only appearance of the Vatican was an outside shot of St Peter's Square, although I suppose that isn't someplace you'd go when searching for a bit of excitement. But the art collection inside is certainly hard to match.

In any event, I enjoyed the movie a great deal. The whole thing felt a little contrived, but not so much as to ruin the movie. The setup with her at the embassy gathering the night before was very well done, with her losing her shoe, and the Ambassador smoothly helping her recover it was fantastic.

And the ending, with her walking into her duties with full knowledge of what she was doing was very well done. She had obviously grown up, and it was impressive and sad to see.

The ending definitely wasn't what I was expecting, but they really hadn't built any hints of anything more than that. I just expected something more of the typical Hollywood ending, and that definitely wasn't it.

I was awfully surprised also, when they said in one of the bonus features, that the reason for filming in black and white was to keep Rome itself from overpowering the actors. It did make sense, though; those were some awfully powerful backgrounds as it was. They might well have been overwhelming in color. Nevertheless, it seems a shame.

Rome isn't my favorite city, but it's close, and one of the most beautiful.


La Coupe mondiale en pensant

Just watched the US/Slovenia game and Germany/Slovakia. Man, that was some bad officiating in both.

Germany looked quite good for most of the game. Podolsky's shot was definitely off for the entire game. I was certainly apprehensive when I saw that he was going to be taking the penalty shot. And Klose? He was having a very good game (it was the best passing I'd seen from him) before the two cards. And both of those cards were terrible calls.

Actually, I think there were only two legitimate cards in that entire game. The only positive thing I can say is that at least both teams were hurt by it, but Germany quite disproportionately so, with the ejection. Both teams are going to have to be very careful in their group game, with so many players carrying a yellow over.

And the US game? It was actually kind of interesting, for me. I almost found myself rooting for Slovenia, just because it was so cool to see such an underdog doing so well. They really dominated the first half, looking much better than they did against Algeria.

But the waived third US goal? That was atrocious refereeing. Really terrible. Two US players being handcuffed in the box, and the US goal got vacated. I didn't understand that one at all.

Oh, and Guch was completely overmatched by Nojakovic (sp?). He just didn't have the speed to keep up at all.

And one detail I forgot to mention yesterday. I'm used to seeing Nigerians (or am I getting confused with Nairobi, which I know is in Kenya?) in marathons and other long distance runs, so I picture them as sticks. That Nigerian back line? Those dudes are scary. They look like they could be bouncers at bars.


Denken am Fußballweltmeisterschaft

Just finished watching Uruguay pummel South Africa, and had a few thoughts.

I mentioned a couple of days ago that the scoring was very low this time around, but we'd see what happened when Brazil, Portugal, and Spain got into it. Average goals per game when I mentioned it? Almost exactly 0.75 per team per game. Those three? 0.67 per team per game. What's up with that?

And Brazil managed to be the only winning team to surrender a goal in their first game. I'm not sure what's weirder there, that only one winning team surrendered a goal, or that that team was Brazil, or that the team to score in the losing effort was North Korea. Bizarre any way you slice it.

And one of the guys doing the right-side throw-ins for Honduras (I missed whether it was Palacios or the midfielder)? All of his throw-ins were allowed to stand, even though they had more spin on them than the average MLB slider. Huh?

I wonder what the biggest surprise of the first round of games is. Switzerland over Spain (man, that was a strong swiss bunker; never seen that strategy work so effectively)? Japan over Cameroon? South Africa's draw with Mexico? The US's draw with England would also be in the conversation, but I would rate all three of those others as bigger surprises.

The first round of games ended with twenty-five goals in the sixteen games. Oy.

I'd really like to see a histogram of when soccer goals are scored. That is, something indicating frequency of scoring at any particular moment of the game. I suspect there isn't much of a pattern, but I'm curious if there is. I suspect the only pattern is that goals in the first minute or two are very rare, and that goals at the very end of each half are more common. I wouldn't be surprised if the middle looked like a scatter chart, though. But I still wonder.


Kung Fu Kid?

For the first time in several years (I'm not sure how many; maybe as few as five, perhaps as many as eleven (Phantom Menace was definitely in that category)), I actually caught a movie on opening day. I seem to have chosen Karate Kid to break the string.

I wish I'd watched the original more recently; I haven't seen it in something like twenty years. It would have been nice to be able to do a closer comparison. Of course, having Jackie Chan as the "old wise one" meant that his mastery was a little clearer.

As expected, seeing Jackie Chan in that role was a bit weird, but he did a very good job with it.

I very much liked the beginning. The scene with Jaden looking over all the marks made on the doorway over the years did a fantastic job of showing what his life had been in a remarkably compressed fashion.

Unfortunately, I think that was possibly the high point. Jaden Smith did a pretty good job as the kid. I have only one or two minor complaints about his acting. Thinking about it, he did do a very good job in the most important scene in the movie, where he explained why he wanted to fight in the final match, despite being hurt.

Also unfortunately, there were a couple of problems with that final fight. For one, I didn't understand why Cheng didn't keep hitting him when he knocked Dre down. He did that in the earlier matches, and there didn't seem to be any stigma attached to it, so why didn't he do it in this one that meant so much more to him?

And that final move? I just don't buy it; that would take way too much strength for someone that young. Maybe if he'd had both legs available. Maybe.

Another thing; that visit to ... Dragon Mountain, was it? That was neat, but I really think that needed more explanation. It just seemed... I'm not sure... Random, maybe. Why was it so important to Mr Han? That needed more than one sentence.

And I think they should have found a way to explain the shao-Dre. Han blew it off as 'little Dre', but I suspect it's more of an endearment than just a nickname.

All in all, I thought it was an ok movie. I'm a bit surprised the IMDB has it rated so low (about 5.1/10 at the moment), but that's probably pretty fair overall.

Oh, and I've flown on Air China before. I don't picture them putting a blanket on a sleeping kid. Nor do I picture it being that quiet. When I took them, it was sheer chaos. I've never been on such a noisy flight on any other airline. Maybe I was just unlucky, but I doubt it.

And for the Other Cup

I always love it when the World Cup comes around. The excitement, and the level of play, are both usually unbelievable.

Of course, it was a failure to continue that level of play that led to the US managing a draw (actually, some were calling it a 1-1 victory, which I'm not entirely sure I disagree with). To some degree, I feel sorry for Green. I don't know what happened there; I suspect a lapse of concentration, but I've no idea what caused it. The only other thing I want to say about that game is that the US did a really good job of controlling the midfield in the first half of that game; they had a number of really nice passing sequences. Now if only they hadn't had those defensive lapses...

What has struck me so far, though, is mostly just how low-scoring the tournament has been. Only three teams have managed more than one goal, and two of those only got two.

One of the commentators made a comment about how it had been a terrible 24 hours for goaltenders, with the Green goal, and then one that was only a little bit better (Slovenia's, maybe?). But even with those two, it was still very low-scoring to that point. At that point, only one team had managed more than one, and them only two.

Even after Germany's four-goal outburst (and man, that Aussie defensive back line looked bad in that game. I've never seen so many breaks that got behind the defenders), there have still only been 17 goals in 11 games. That's about 3/4s of a goal per team, per game. I'm too lazy to go back and look at previous tournaments, but I wouldn't be surprised if that's about half of the normal average.

I guess we'll see if Brazil, Portugal, and Spain break things open.

Cup-ward bound

After the Caps wiped out so improbably this post-season, I've been watching, on and off, the progress of the Bears. I'm really happy they've put the finals on TV; it was good to actually see them playing, rather than just reading about it.

Anyway, at the tail end of a very lackadaisical power play, the Bears got a perfect screen, and slipped a fourth goal past Krahn to put the exclamation point on the Cup.

I hope watching this is just a preview for the Caps for next year (especially with the first two goals coming from Alzner and Carlson, who'll certainly both be with the big boys next season).



Was stuck in a training class today. The class wasn't too bad, although only marginally useful for what I do. But because of it, I couldn't keep track of what was going on in the world around me. Generally not too big a deal, but I didn't hear about the new iPhone until a few minutes ago.

I've actually been holding off on getting an iPhone for several years now, because I don't want AT&T as a service provider. Mostly, because they've been much too enthusiastic in selling out their users to illegal government surveillance. Does it really matter? Probably not, but it's enough reason for me to avoid one of the coolest toys out there.

In any event, I looked at the video at Apple's web site, and I don't think I had the reaction for which they were hoping. I looked, and said, "Damn, I want an iPad with those enhancements!"

Man, that looks like a sweet phone (although I really wish it had 128GB flash; my music collection is up to 87GB. I'd really like to not have to manage syncing myself). C'mon, Apple, set them both free. Me want.


More Thief's Notes

Getting back to how strong Abe's drakon are (discussed here and here), I finally talked to a friend of mine today about that iron door. He's a structural engineer, so I knew he'd be a great one to ask about the relative strength of iron and steel (specifically for compressive loads).

It turns out that wrought iron is even stronger than steel (for compressive loads only; not for tensile loads). This means that not only were the drakon stronger than any weapons made back then, but they were stronger than any WWII-era weapons also (non-nuclear division, of course).

How much energy are we talking about? Well, firing a shell at maximum power, the Iowa-class Mark VII guns used 800MJ (in 660lbs of smokeless powder). That's about 222kWhr. Given that that's not enough to power a fair-sized house for a month, that might not seem like a lot, but consider where the energy for it is coming from. It's coming from the food they ate. How much food would you need to eat to strike one blow that strong? About 3.35M calories (technically, kcal, but food labels in the US are labeled calories). Given that most people eat about 2500cal/day, that's enough food to feed 1338 people for a day. How long is that going to take to eat?

Update: On the plus side, that would be one hell of a weight-loss program, as it would take 818lbs of fat to be burned off at once. And if you don't have that much fat on you (and they don't), it would take a bit more than twice that much muscle to be burned.

Suddenly, saying that you're going to eat a horse doesn't sound like a figure of speech at all, does it?

And remember, they might well be stronger than those guns, given that they're damaging a stronger armor.

Now how hard does it sound like it'd be to keep them bound?

And is there any way I can beat this further into the ground?


Reading Dad?

Amazon, in the same spot where it's had an ad for Kindle for the last year or so, now has one that says, "Is Dad a Reader? Give Kindle..."

You'd think Amazon would know, better than anyone, what the likelihood of Dad being a reader is, though. I remember hearing on NPR a couple of years ago that the average American male doesn't read a complete book after finishing high school. (They were interviewing an author who'd written a book about the circumstances leading to that. I wish I could remember the author or the book.)

As you can tell, by the fact that I remember it from so long ago, I was more than a little shocked at this. Well, shocked and disturbed. As someone who's read a book a month or more since at least elementary school (and that's not counting all the technical books, which are almost never read cover-to-cover), and who first read The Lord of the Rings when he was eight, this absolutely blew my mind. Actually, since most of my friends also read regularly, this was really outside of my experience.

Every so often, you get a reminder (sometimes pleasant, sometimes painful) of how far outside of the average your own existence can be. This was one of those times.

In any event, getting back to the point, what does this say about Amazon's ad? I gotta say it sounds either stupid or disingenuous, and I'm leaning toward the latter given that I can't imagine Amazon wouldn't know something that fundamental about the book market.

Dance to the Beat!

When my wife and I got our old house ready to sell, I had to pack away DDR. In particular, the pads were too big and heavy to keep handy (I got metal pads from this place, which are fantastic if you play on the higher levels of difficulty, and especially if you play a lot). I also packed the game discs away quite early (well, most of them), which made the pads issue pretty much immaterial.

Being unable to play most times of the day also limited options (between work and my daughter's sleep schedule), and the game being set up on the top floor of our old house meant it was nearly impossible to play for six or so months.

Well, I finally got everything set up last night. Actually, that was kind of interesting also; previously, I'd had the game hooked up to an old 32" CRT. Well, here I had it hooked up to a 1080p LCD. I didn't really expect that to cause any issues (I'd only seen issues with that sort of thing once at a friend's house (he had a DLP rear projector that caused about 7/10ths second delay; boy, was it fun playing DDR with that. I had to re-teach myself how to play, practically)), but was surprised to see that there was a noticeable delay (probably two to three tenths of a second). After monkeying around for a bit, I found a game mode which got rid of the delay.

But the new house got rid of most of the difficulties. It's a) single family, so I don't need to worry about the neighbor; b) can set up in the basement, where the sound doesn't carry; and c) because of those first two, I can play after my daughter goes to bed. I knew there was a good reason we moved. :)

Well, after not playing for over half a year, I was surprised that I didn't have too much trouble playing at the Hard difficulty level. I wasn't in any danger of getting any AAs, but only one or two might have tossed me (I had it in exercise mode, so it's difficult to be certain).

I played for 27 or 28 minutes, and burned about 450kcal, according to the game. My only recent exercise being chasing my daughter around, I was surprised that I wasn't wiped out by that at all. In fact, the calories are close to twice what I was planning to do; this was supposed to be very light exercise (ok, compared to some of my workouts when I was serious (either trying to get in particularly good shape, or to lose a little weight), that is very light, but I wasn't comparing against that standard in my mind). It made for a very pleasant surprise.

It'll be very interesting to see what happens when my daughter gets old enough to play. I could see that going in several different directions; although the thought of her possibly being able to beat me when she's like seven or eight is a bit scary. Well, a bridge for when we come to it.