More tiring than expected...

Teaching my daughter to ride has gotten me back into biking a bit (or at least got me interested; it is a bit early to say that I am or am not "into it", I guess).

My front derailleur cable was recently almost pulled out of the shifter when it fell off of most of the hangar it was on, and was caught completely by that cable.  Luckily, that was the extent of the damage.  And thank goodness it was caught, because it was hanging above my car, so the car would have been damaged as well.

Anyway, after getting a bicycle repair book, which was actually an impulse purchase when getting my daughter a new helmet, I managed to mostly fix it.  It's a three-crank device, and now goes from inner to middle to outer, but only back down from outer to inner.  One of these days I'll get the two adjustment screws right for that, but it's workable, so I'm leaving it for now.  It's easy to work around.

Having that fixed, I decided to take my first (semi)serious ride today, and figured I'd just loop around several of the local roads.  I must admit that I hadn't appreciated just how hilly the roads are; I got an app which tracks, among other things, altitude, and the altitude graph is a lot rougher than I'd've guessed.

I ended up going 3.57 miles over 15:36, which is roughly half what I'd planned, although at a higher average speed (that's 13.7mph; I'd've guessed I'd be closer to half that).  I didn't expect to be pretty near wiped out at that point, but I was.  And I'd've definitely guessed that that was more than 150 calories.

Be that as it may, I'm glad I finally got out, and I'm looking forward to getting a heart-rate monitor and speed/pedaling monitor for more accurate data (I looked into getting something like a Garmin bike computer, but I think these, along with Cyclemeter (or maybe Wahoo's own app) will do a better job, cheaper.  And hopefully give me fewer batteries to keep track of.

Most importantly, hopefully I can keep with this.  The Quick4 is a pretty decent exercise (and short enough that I've been able to keep up with it almost six days a week over the last several months), but does about nothing for aerobic fitness.


What does accessibility mean?

I was listening to the latest Debug podcast, which was talking about Swift.  There were a number of interesting technical bits in there, but they made a detour into accessibility, and there were several eye-opening things for me when they talked about that.

The first was thinking of accessibility a little differently; thinking of it as just "inclusiveness".  And one of the guests, Ms Natalia Berdys, after bringing that up, also brought up an pretty amazing Vimeo video by Robin Christopherson, that showed a lot of what Apple's accessibility enabled.

I'd heard of adding accessibility before, of course, but never thought a whole lot about it.  It was just incredible to see how it all worked, and how fast he could manipulate his iPhone, despite being blind.

It's fairly lengthy, but even the first ten minutes is enough to give you quite a feel for how it works.


Power weirdness

The county is putting a sidewalk in front of my house and needed to move the utility pole in front.  No, they couldn't take the opportunity to run power lines underground (which might not be cheap, but is a lot cheaper than it used to be), instead they'll move the pole a foot or two.

Turns out doing this not only took my power out (which they kindly warned me about, giving me time to fix my UPS configuration), but also took out my FiOS connection.  They didn't interrupt the line, as far as I can tell, but it seems to've taken out the Verizon distribution box (though I talked to them a few minutes before that, and they assured me that wouldn't be the case).

When the power was put back on, everything came back, including the connection, and I didn't even lose my IP reservation.  Which spared me having to call Verizon, and made me somewhat happy.

What music you got?

So, I pointed out earlier that iTunes was taking, at best, a long time to import songs.  It turns out that restarting iTunes helps when it gets stuck (which has happened a number of times), but despite fairly regular restarts, I still haven't managed to get my full library processed.  The best I've gotten (a couple days ago) was 17356 of 21k.  And I lost some of those the next two times I restarted.

So, in about seven weeks, still not quite there.  Beginning to think I need to ask for my money back.


And it all goes to hell

I alluded to the attacks of Israel on Gaza, a few days ago.  Well, the one part I didn't know at the time was that Hamas was firing missiles at Israel.  I don't think it changes the entire equation, but it's certainly a stupid (if understandable, given their frustration at not being able to control their own homes) provocation for a situation that didn't need any more.

But on the flip side, Israel has now also attacked such insurgent hotbeds as hospitals (to much lower casualties than I would have expected, though I imagine it's "the gift that keeps on giving" as the Palestinians have less ability to treat people wounded in the assault now).

As you'd probably expect, casualties are running about 20:1 Palestinian vs Israeli (honestly, that's a lower ratio than I'd've expected, given that Israel is using tanks and airplanes, while Palestinians are using unguided rockets and handguns).

The one thing I can't figure out is what is the endgame that Israel envisions.  This is supposedly deterrent for three teenagers killed by a radical fringe group.  When does it stop?

And do they really think that this will stop radical fringe groups like that?  I'd bet it gave groups like that virtually unlimited volunteers for further mayhem.

But to get back to Israel's calculus, when do they stop?  They've already passed 100:1 killing of Palestinians vs the three Israeli teens who were the justification for the attack (in fact, my numbers are from this morning's Post, and I wouldn't be surprised if they've cleared 200:1 by now).  Do they stop at 1000:1?  10000:1?  When they've pushed everyone in Gaza into an area of a few acres?  I don't know, but this kind of mass killing is just horrific.


The Vault of Hades

One thing that did go roughly according to plan was that I followed Hades with finally reading Butcher's Skin Game.  And that took about a day (I can't remember if it made it to two or not).

I mentioned, in reviewing Cold Days, that he had kind of taken a step back, to get more of a strategic view than a tactical one.  Well, not unexpectedly, Skin Game was a step back in, and was very immediately focused around Dresden.

You could certainly see where much of what happened would have wider reverberations in that strategic view from the last book, but it was very tightly focused on Dresden and the people around him.

And the people around him... well, let's just say that I wish I'd re-read the whole series.  Several of the people who showed up were significant in earlier books, but my memories of most of them were very vague.

Basically, Dresden was hired out, by Mab, to Nicodemus of the Denarii.  And he was to help Nicodemus raid the vault of Hades (amusing coincidence, reading this right after The House of Hades) to steal the Holy Grail.  Oddly, the latter point doesn't come out for quite a while, in the book, but I mention it since it somehow made it onto the dust cover summary.

Dresden's mission is to help Nicodemus up to the point of getting the artefact, then find a way to screw Nicodemus as hard as he can.  And survive, somehow.

And Nicodemus' other helpers are not people with whom Dresden wants to be associated, as you'd expect.

My one complaint of the book is that Dresden mentions an ace in the hole fairly early on, and says he can't talk about it; he has to play his cards very close to the chest.  That was how he tried to keep from alienating both Karrin and Butters, to varying degrees of success.  Of course we didn't see the scene where it was set up; no issue there.  But we don't get a hint of it when we're in his thoughts either, and there were several circumstances where he would have at least been thinking about it.  Nobody can play their cards THAT close to their chest.

In any event, when we do find out about it, we find out a system was set up.  It might be worth re-reading the book, just to check on that system.  I'll have to think about it.  And this really made me want to reread a bunch of earlier books.  That's been on my queue for a while; I might need to move it up a bit.

In any event, this book met all my expectations.  The only thing it might have done, that it didn't, was that it hinted again at Dresden's mother, but we still didn't find out anything about her.  I've been looking for that since the first book, when Dresden met Chauncy.  I hope he gets around to it.

I also mentioned, in the last book, about how Dresden had had so many of his toys taken away recently.  Well, he had remade a staff in this one, and he might have gone a heck of a lot further as well for the next book.  Plus, he's got a little bit of money that kind of fell into his hands.  It's unclear how much it is, but certainly a lot more than he's ever had before.

Oh, and Dresden finally met Maggie, and he and Karrin finally decided to pick up where they were right before he got "killed".  Plus, another child enters the picture, in a very odd way.  That part is actually another reason to go back and reread previous books, though I'm not sure how much they'll reveal.

Anyway, it was an excellent book, and I'm anxiously awaiting the next volume.

Out of the Underworld?

It took considerably longer than I expected (the World Cup didn't help, obviously), but I did finish Riordan's latest, The House of Hades, several days ago.  I think I'm just getting a bit tired of the format; it wasn't bad, but obviously didn't hold my attention as well as his earlier books did.

In sections, it was very good, but didn't hold together as well as many of his earlier books.

Part of that is my fault, of course; I have far more distractions, these days.  But I think part of it is just getting a bit tired of the format.  Travel a ways, part of the group splits off for a small-group quest, they succeed, repeat.

And the other part is that it's a larger group, so you don't get nearly as invested in any group.  There's some pluses to that, in that you can get different variations via different combinations, but it doesn't balance out for me.

And several of the quests just seemed too easy to me.  Or, at least, the difficulty was only shown externally, maybe.  I'm having a hard time explaining it, I think.

As far as continuing the storyline, it does a good job.  The heroes soldier on for the book, and find some unexpected allies along the way.

Frank got two big scenes, neither of which did much for me.  The first involved killing a bunch of monsters that weren't threatening when they were left alone.  So it didn't seem especially heroic to me.  The second was a little better, but... It was along the lines of leading an army which, while important, is not as personally involving.  Perhaps, also, that part was explained in less detail (not enough of movements, and why each one was important, maybe).

Anyway, I'll still get the last book (I'm pretty sure there'll only be one more), but a lot of the excitement and enjoyment was lacking.  Perhaps if I re-read the original Jason and the Argonauts (which I haven't read since middle school), that would help.  Though my suspicion is that this series isn't nearly as much a retelling of Jason and the Argonauts as the Percy Jackson series was a retelling of the Labors of Hercules.


Deutschland ueber alles

Ok, maybe that's a bit much; let's all be glad that isn't the nationanl anthem any more (though I did just find out that the model of the "perfect aryan child" used by the Third Reich was Jewish, which is hilariously ironic).

My prediction of the score was definitely way off the mark, and Germany's match against Argentina was far more of a piece with the rest of this World Cup.

Argentina, still missing di Maria, was largely content to sit back against the Germans, and attempt counterattacks.  And that strategy worked ok for them, as all of their chances came on the counterattack.  But they had a bit of bad luck, as Higuain (called hig-wayne by one of the commentators; think rhyming with lil' wayne's older brother) put the shot off to the side of the net on his first chance, when he tried to chip Neuer* (Boateng might well have been able to head it away if it had been on target).  And Higuain was called offside on his second chance, which did end up in the net; his celebration went halfway around the field before he noticed the flag.

* A small shout-out to the German midfielder who headed it over his defense, and straight to Higuain to give him that chance.

But the Germans had even less luck.  Repeatedly going into the teeth of a harsh and ready defense, they had few chances; none as good as either of those by Higuain.

The only decent chance I can remember from Argentina in the second half had them again shooting wide from in-close, but I have no notes on the game, so I can't say when it happened.  Or exactly who had it, for that matter.

In any event, Germany had some good chances in the second, but only forced one good save that I can recall.

So, into extra time they went, again tied at nil (for the fifth time, by my count).  And really, not much was going on there.  Nobody got terribly close (there were several dangerous free kicks, but none were close to scoring) before Goetze received the ball in the box in the 113th minute.  He had some time, but was still quick to blast it past Romero for the lead.  And for the win, as it turned out.

Argentina tried pushing forward, but had no luck.  Their best chance came in stoppage time, when Messi had a 25-yard or so free kick, but the direct shot went well over the net.

And, with that, Argentina's chances dimished to nil, and the Germans started celebrating.

Loew, like van Gaal, also showed some class, subbing Mertesacker in for Oezil just before stoppage time.  I assume that was mostly as a career thank-you for Mertesacker, who has given yeoman service to the national team in the past, but played very little in this tournament (I think he might have been a late sub in one previous game.  Maybe).

So, despite a bunch of surprises along the way, the tournament ended with a predictable bunch, and a predictable victor.  In fact, I seem to recall a friend telling me that a computer simulation (done by ESPN with the latest FIFA game, I think) came up with Germany as the winner before play started.

And I was certainly hoping for German victory, so I was happy with the result (and I can't express just how much happier I am that it didn't go to penalty kicks).  I wonder how Klinsmann feels...

(And I feel a bit sorry for Messi, who's undoubtedly getting a great deal of undeserved criticism from Argentinian fans.)

No consolation

It seemed like it would be impossible for Brazil's finish to the World Cup to get worse, after a 7-1 drubbing at the hands of Germany (their first competitive loss at home in 62 matches).  And they certainly came out fired up to show that that was a fluke.

The Netherlands got the ball to start, and the hosts were chasing the ball, on defense, all the way back to the goalie.  But the Dutch dealt with that pressure, and after the ball getting all the way back to the goalie, they pushed it way upfield with a couple of passes.  One of those went to van Persie in the air, and he headed it straight up in the air.   It came down at his feet, with him facing his own goal.  He saw Robben breaking, to his left, and turned and put it into space behind the defense.

Robben ran to the ball, and Silva, who'd been on van Persie, had to pull Robben down by his jersey at the top of the box.  It was a weird call by the ref, who awarded the penalty kick and gave Silva a yellow card.  Normally, a foul at that spot would be a foot or so outside the box, but it was a foul by the last defender and clearly should have been a red card.

By the time they finished arguing that out, and van Persie put the penalty kick into the top-right corner, it was still only the third minute of the game.  The Brazilians were clearly off-kilter, though, at being behind so early, and it took them a while to settle down.  Before they did, however, the Orangemen scored again with a run down the right side that went all the way to the touch line.  From there, it was centered back to Blind, in the middle, who might have had enough time to drink a coffee while he took three touches, in place, to get a controlled shot into the net.

That was in the seventeenth minute, and was pretty much the end of the match, competitively speaking.  The Brazilians did get several chances over the balance of the game, but were unable to convert any of them, putting it off to the side a couple of times.

Ramires, who'd had a decent game against Germany (one of the few; he came on as a sub for Hulk around halftime), and who looked decent against the Dutch, went out in favor of Hulk around halftime.

Hulk tried to repeat his runs down the left that showed some threat against Germany, but it was nothing doing.

The final score of the game didn't come until stoppage time, when Wijnaldum was left alone in the middle (this seems familiar, somehow) to knit a sweater for a relative.  Or put the ball past Cesar, he had a difficult decision.

I've been very impressed by the Dutch coach, van Gaal, and he showed his class by subbing in his third-string goalie, Vorm, a minute or two after that.  With that move, he'd managed to get his entire line-up onto the pitch at some point in the tournament.  My understanding is that van Gaal is going to Man U for next season, and I think that'll work well for both him and the team.

In any event, while the Dutch went home fairly happy (but not going into space; nice PR move to make that offer), for the second time, hosting the World Cup ended in misery for the Brazilians (maybe they'll look for a co-lo host next time).  It was the first time that they had lost consecutive home games of any sort in seventy-odd years; I can't imagine what the locker room was like afterwards.

In any event, it left only the title game to be played, with Germany taking on Argentina.


Palestine's getting worse

I don't really know what I want to say here.  The ongoing violence is horrific, and the people in charge (that would be the Israelis, as they're the ones with the money, big guns and bombs) need to make it stop.

Responding to a small-scale terrorist act with large-scale bombing just shows a government lacking in ... well, I was going to say legitimacy, but at that point you're really getting to the point of lacking basic humanity.

Bombing random people never, ever works.  Well, not unless you're willing to bomb them back to the stone age.  It just makes more people who are ready to perpetuate the violence.

The whole situation is just awful.


I just listened to Planet Money's latest podcast, The Case Against Patents, and had several comments on it.  (And perhaps I should preface this by mentioning that I'm a regular reader of TechDirt, and if you search for patents there, you'll find a lot of problems with the system.  And probably links to the works of the economists interviewed for the show.)

My biggest problem with the podcast has to do with the language used.  In particular, referring to working from someone else's patent as "stealing".  It isn't stealing; nothing is being taken.  And if I invent something, and can't use that idea better than someone reading my patent, I deserve to lose the possible opportunity cost losses from that person using that idea.  That opportunity loss is the only thing "taken", and under no circumstances should that be referred to as stealing.

Further to that point, developing a patent is roughtly one percent of the cost of developing a product.  If I develop that patent first, I've got a leg up on doing that other 99%; I've started first.

And frankly, if the market opportunity itself isn't enough incentive, in its own right, to turn that idea into a product, then the idea isn't worth a patent anyway (or shouldn't be).

And a note on drugs: putting the government more directly in charge of choosing directions would certainly have some downsides, but here's one upside.  There would be development on antibiotics again; right now, there's almost nothing, because it doesn't pay well enough.  They'd rather develop drugs for chronic conditions, because it forces people to keep buying the drug.

Also, the governments review all the studies that drive approval forward already, so the government knows how it's done.

There's another benefit as well.  When studies show bad side effects, they are sometimes re-done to try to avoid those showing up (which is one of the reasons we get things like Fenphen and Ephedra going on the market, even though they'll sometimes kill people.  Not the only reason, but it does happen).  When those studies are re-done, the government usually doesn't see the bad studies until after the fact (if ever).  If the government is directly running the studies, they'll see all of them.



As busy as the action was in the Germany-Brazil semifinal, the Netherlands-Argentina semifinal was a real snoozer.

I didn't realize it before the game started but di Maria was out with a minor injury; I didn't hear whether he'd be back for the last game (final or third place).

The only thing I really found interesting about the play was that the Dutch were playing a possession game, rather than a counterattacking one.  I wonder if that was a sign of respect for the Argentine attack; certainly, it shows that the Dutch are well-coached.

It was a game marked by defense; very closely marked, in fact.  So much so that there was very little room for anyone in the attacking third.  When Robben or van Persie got the ball, they only had space for a single touch.  When Messi got it, he had someone with him at almost all times.

But the Argentinians had far more chances for a long while.  It turned out that there was only one shot on net in the entire first half, and that was a Messi free kick (skirted the left side of the wall, and struck hard, but still not a hard save for the keeper).

As far as chances, I didn't count, but those from the land of silver definitely had more of them (though really, there were very few really good ones, and those were mostly shot off-net).

The second half played pretty evenly, maybe slightly still in favor of the Argentines.  But again, there wasn't much going on; neither team did much in the attacking third of the pitch.

So regulation expired without anything much having happened.

Extra time came, and saw the play definitely favor the Dutch, who had a few good chances, but they still couldn't convert any of them.  The Argentines did manage a couple of chances, at least one of which was very good, but spoiled again.

Neither goalie was really pushed much.  By the end of extra time, they'd made six saves between them, and I don't think any of those were especially good saves.

So the ho-hum game went to penalty kicks, which was at least going to force the goalies to work a bit.  The Dutch were out of subs by that point (they'd used their third sub to put Huntelaar in for van Persie a short bit into extra time), which I think they regretted.  Not only were they missing van Persie's shots, but they couldn't put Krul in at goalie again, either.

But it likely didn't matter; Vlaar came up for the first kick, and put it waist-high on the left.  The Argentine goalie dove out to his right and knocked it in the air and back to him.

I was surprised to see Messi come out first for Argentina, and you knew he wouldn't miss (top-center, if you're wondering about placement).

Robben came out next for the Netherlands, and you knew he was good for it too, putting it hard into the right side of the net.

Garay was next for the South Americans, putting it low and left, just below the diving keeper to keep Argentina ahead.

Sneijder came up next, and you were sure he wouldn't mess it up.  But he put it in the goalie's reach, and it was knockout well away from the goal to largely guarantee loss for the Europeans.

Aguero, who was a late sub, came up next and clinically kept the pressure on the Orangemen.

Kuyt came up next, with a very long run-up, and put it bottom-right to stay alive.

But then Maxi Rodriguez came up; it took me a few minutes to place his name.  He'd had the unbelievable goal in the 2006 World Cup (quite possibly the prettiest of that World Cup) against Mexico to win that game.  Well, he calmly finished this one (with some luck; the goalie deflected it up, but into the back of the crossbar) for the win, also.

So Argentina will go up against Germany in the final, with the Dutch falling into a rematch of their knockout game with Brazil in the last World Cup.  I don't see the Brazilians being heavily favored, this time.  Nor do I see the hosts winning, unless the Dutch fail to take the game seriously (which I highly doubt).

In Sunday night's final between Argentina and Germany... It's funny, thinking about it; all the upsets and surprise eliminations in pool play, and even a casual fan would be likely to get at least three of the final four right.  And a Germany Argentina final was probably considered one of the more likely possibilities, even back then.

I'm going to have to go with my ancestry, and pick Germany.  Messi will definitely be the best player on the pitch (by a pretty good margin), but the Germans will hound him relentlessly.  And the Europeans will attack in waves as well.  A 3-1 result would not surprise me in the least (though it would be a bit out of character for this World Cup, which has seen far too many knock-out games go scoreless in regulation); if the one was a pretty Messi score, that would be perfect, in my book.

Pounding away

I still need to write up my notes on the quarter-finals of the World Cup, but holy crap! that game yesterday.

I figured it'd be close to a toss-up with both teams at full strength, so with Silva and Neymar out, I did expect a German victory.  But man, did Brazil crap the bed.

I joked to a friend of mine, after the third goal, that it looked like Brazil had already given up.  He responded that they were doing the traditional turtling, defensively, except that this turtle was on its back and thrashing.

And then there were a couple more German goals, in short order.  After that stretch, figured the Germans would score a few more.

What I didn't realize, going in, was how key Silva was at the back end.  I knew how big a deal Neymar missing was, but didn't know that Silva was the coordination for the defense.  At least, I hope that was it, because there was no coordination on the back end.

For a while, not only were Germans finding space anywhere they wanted to, but they weren't even being pressed until they got within ten yards of the Brazilian box.  It was incredible.

When Mueller scored in the 11th minute, on the Germans' first corner, he was basically uncovered.  I saw a tweet saying that he'd "found a thiago silva-sized hole", and that seems about right.

It took about ten more minutes for the Germans to score again (Klose, this time, with a generous feed from Mueller and a bit of luck on a rebound.  That was enough to give him the all-time World Cup goal-scoring record), but then they scored three more in rapid succession after that.  The remaining fifteen minutes or so of the first half went fairly quickly,  with the Germans able to move about at will, but unable to score.

The second half finally showed a bit of spine from the Brazilians; in fact, they had several good scoring chances in the first few minutes of the half.  Some of that was due to the German's playing extremely avoiding of any fouls, and thereby giving a lot of space.  That still might have been a good strategy, though, as the Brazilians were diving all over the place, and that might have been less obvious.

But Schuerrle came in for Klose not too long after, and he got into the scoring act with a pair of his own (to match Kroos' brace and exceed Khedira's lone tally).

The rest of the game was pretty desultory, with occasional attempts by each team to score (Oezil missed a nearly-empty net off to the side some time around the 85th minute), but the only remaining score can from Oscar in the 90th minute.  I was surprised the ref gave them as much stoppage time as he did, but it was still two minutes.

I saw a funny tweet doing scoring equivalents of that final margin.  Though funny, it seems a bit off-base, in some of those sports.  Baseball being twenty-two seems reasonable.  NFL seems twenty or so points high as well (it's been well over 800 games (how many all-time World Cup games there've been) since anyone has scored even 80 points in an NFL game.  Actually, just did a bit of research, and highest score since 1940 seems to be 73 (when the Bears beat the Redskins for the title; hadn't realized that was highest-scoring game since then).  So 107 is pretty bizarre.

And the NBA one is just wacky-land.  I'm fairly sure no one has ever scored even half that many in a single game.  One quarter that many is well short of an everyday occurence.  484 is eight points a minute.  That's at least three baskets a minute over an entire game.  Crazy.

And I might need to rethink that NHL comparison.  Since the 1917-18 season, there have been eight games with 14+ goals scored by one team (none in almost thirty-three years).  Eight in almost a hundred years.  Over 12000k games just in the last eleven seasons.

One in 800+ would be significantly less than that, and this was not the most lopsided result ever seen in the World Cup, so probably eleven or twelve would be a more reasonable number for NHL equivalence.


Round of Sixteen

There were no surprises in the round of sixteen of the World Cup.  How they got to the results was a surprise in a couple cases; how close the result was, in some cases, shocking.

Brazil beating Chile was certainly expected; when Neymar scored in the eighteenth minute, it seemed like a harbinger of more to come.

But when Chile stole the ball from the defense, fifteen minutes later, and promptly equalized, that was not at all expected.

The reffing seemed generally favorable to Brazil (as you'd expect); when Jo went flying into the goalie with his spikes extended, he got away with only a yellow.  But when Hulk used his mighty thews to knock down a ball in the offensive zone, preparatory to a scoring kick, I didn't expect the goal to be called back, let alone for him to get a yellow.

But basically all of the game, after Chile's equalizer, minus a couple brief forays upfield, was all Brazil hemming in their Spanish-speaking rivals.  But the Chileans held on, all the way to the end of regulation and stoppage time.  And then all through thirty minutes of extra time.

So it came down to penalty kicks.  Things really looked bad when Ceasar blocked the first two from Chile.  But the Chilean goalie stopped the second, and Hulk's shot in the fourth slot went over the net.  When Neymar nailed the fifth for Brazil, Chile needed to score to stay alive into sudden-death.

And the ensuing kick was beautiful, curling in to the inside of the right side post.  But it bounced out, curling around the far-size post and landing behind the goal line.  I suspect it was only millimeters from going in.  Such a disappointing finish for a really good game.

Uruguay's game against Colombia (the only one of the round I probably would have gotten wrong, if I'd done a bracket as planned) was a game of attractive, attacking soccer, with both teams attempting to break through via build-up.  But almost all of the shots were very long ones, from outside the box.

One that was a little shorter came from James Rodriguez of Colombia in the 28th minute.  He fired it off his right foot, on the half volley and right into the top of the net.  And it was shot so hard that the goalie got his hand on, but it was barely even deflected, let alone stopped.

The only other goal of the game also came from Rodriguez, and it was also pretty, but because of the passing that led to it, not the shot itself.  It was first crossed too high across the box, then crossed back to the far post, where it was headed into the middle, where Rodriguez was waiting.

Uruguay had a few chances, but they were largely outplayed.  And Rodriguez was electric.

The Netherlands v Mexico was one of the games I was most looking forward to, in the round.  And it was a build-up vs counterattack game, with the Dutch mostly sitting back.  And getting pretty seriously outplayed; their counterattacks were basically nonexistent in the first half.  I think RvP only touched the ball on one possession (for two touches) in the entire half.

Meanwhile, the Mexicans had a number of attacks that went all the way down to the endline but only managed a few shots off of them.

Offensively, the Dutch were mostly just playing back and forth, then trying to go over the top to connect with the offense.  Their few forays downfield were down the sides, with no results.

Holland's only real chance in the first half was when Robben was taken down in stoppage time in the box, but no call resulted.

In the second half, Mexico finally broke through when Dos Santos pulled the ball down at the top of the box, in the middle, drifted to the side a little, and placed an innocent-looking shot into the bottom corner of the net.

In the seventy-fifth minute, there was an official water break, and the Dutch coach showed why he was selected.  They abandoned their few attempts to build up, and went purely to the long ball.

That paid off in the 88th, when a cross in was headed out by a defender on the goal line, and the rebound went right to Sneijder, who put it into the left side of the net.  And then it paid off again in stoppage time, when Robben got the ball in the box, and took a complete dive to get the penalty call.

Huntelaar took the shot from the spot (van Persie had already subbed out), and ended the game in a bit of an anticlimax.

It really looked like Mexico was going to pull off the upset, and that was a really terrible way for it to end.  Very disappointing.

When Costa Rica and Greece faced off, I was feeling a little bit guilty.  The Greeks had played some impressive (for almost completely lacking offense) soccer to get to that point, and I'd been cheering against the all the way.  But Costa Rica had gotten there with some very impressive wins.

Ruiz scored first, for the Costa Ricans, with a shot from the top of the box that went into the side of the net.  It was uncharacteristically terrible defense from the Greeks, who neglected to cover him.

But things looked really bad for the Western Hemisphere when Duarte was sent off with his second yellow card in the sixty-sixth minute.

From there, it was just waves of Greek attacks, crashing against the buttresses of the Puerto Rican defense.  Every so often, one of the clearances would get to Campbell, and he'd attempt to make something out of it.

But it was a lot of defense for the Pura Vidans, and just as the commentator was saying how great they'd been, in stoppage time, the Greeks pulled down a ball bouncing around the attacking box, and Papastathopoulos put it past the goaltender.

That sent the game into extra time, with Puerto Rico still defending, down a man.  They even managed a couple of close chances while defending, but the game went into penalty kicks.  And my recording cut out a couple of minutes before that, so I didn't see Puerto Rico's 5-3 win there.

Not a good day for the Mediterranean.

The next day, things went a little better for Europe.  I don't have any notes on the game, as I watched most of it in a restaurant.  France beat Nigeria 2-0, but the game was much closer than that score indicates.  It took France close to 80 minutes to score, and they allowed many, many chances the other way during that time.  In fact, it looked like Nigeria scored, early on, but the offside flag was up (though on replay it looked like it should have counted).

All in all, France was the better team, and did deserve to win, but with a little bit of luck, Nigeria could have won.  And the game itself was one of the better-played ones of the tournament, with less diving, and both teams attacking constantly.  I would not have been even a little disappointed for it to go to extra time.

The late game, that day, had Germany versus Algeria, and the Algerian's definitely learned from the Americans game, and improved on the strategy.  Germany's attack was very much side-to-side, while Algeria was straight-forward, going over the top to turn it into a footrace with the German defenders.

Algeria never scored that way, but they forced Neuer to come a long way out of his net to prevent some of those passes from connecting.  Algeria definitely had, by far, the better of the play through the first half.

I'm not sure what the Germans changed at the half, but they did much better in the second half.  In the first ten minutes of the second half, they forced several good saves out of the goaltender; I don't think they managed to do that once in the first half.

But Algeria kept coming at them, and kept getting good chances.  Neuer was up to the challenge, mostly because he was so adept at reading the play, not because he was making such great saves.

Mueller probably would have scored in the 81st, if he'd been comfortable taking a shot with his left foot.  But his great job bringing a long pass under control only left him space on his left side, and he still tried to shoot with his right; it was not close.

But neither team was able to capitalize in the first ninety, so it went into extra time again.  Scoreless, instead of tied at one.

But it didn't stay scoreless long; the Algerians had already been looking tired, and allowed a goal less than two minutes in.  Mueller made a nice run down the left side, and crossed in to Schuerrle just past the near post.  Schuerrle slightly overran the ball, but managed to deflect it just enough with his trailing foot to send it in.

Algeria got a few more chances in extra time, but were unable to capitalize.  And Germany got an insurance goal in the final minute, as Oezil and Schuerrle combined to pass back and forth several times, shedding defenders, before Oezil put the ball in.  And my recording stopped just after the replay of that goal, so I missed Algeria scoring one to make it closer.

The final day had Argentina attacking Switzerland.  Unfortunately, I missed the first eight minutes, but what I saw was Argentina attacking hard, both with and without the ball.  Their aggressive defense resulted in Switzerland not holding on to the ball, and put them in good position on counterattacks.

Because of that, it took twenty-seven minutes for the Swiss to get their first chance (and only good one of the first half).  Meanwhile, the Argentines had a number of chances, twice forcing the Swiss keeper to come out to stop crosses into the box.

In the second half, chances were a bit more even (and Argentine defense was a bit more passive).  Di Maria did have one interesting run down the right hand side, but got to the end line and was unable to cross with his right.  So he tried crossing his legs to center with his left; it didn't work, but was an interesting attempt.

Shaqiri was certainly doing everything in his power to push the Swiss to the next round, but despite his best efforts, I think Benaglio felt like he was in a shooting gallery.  Thankfully for him, the Argentines put a lot of shots over or wide of the net.

So regulation ended scoreless again, and both teams looked really tired going into extra time.  In particular, there were a lot of wild clearances from the defenses, with fewer passes to the midfield.

And all of that resulted in getting to the 118th minute without a goal.  Then Messi made a run down the center, avoiding defenders, and passing outside from just above the box.  The entire defense had collapsed on him, leaving di Maria with an open shot to the far side of the net, and he didn't miss.

The Swiss got very close three times in the remaining couple of minutes (Benaglio was even in the attacking box a couple of times, and looked useful there.  And not just on their corner kick), but were unable to get closer than hitting the post from an in-close header (which bounced right back to the shooter, off his leg, and out of bounds).  I really felt bad for the Swiss, coming so close.

The final game did not go so well for the Americans, as they faced off against Belgium.  And basically, Belgium just ran over, around, and through them.  In the first half, the Flemish were one of eighteen on crossing attempts.  Good center defense to stop so many attempts; terrible outside defense to allow so many.

Howard certainly felt like he was facing a firing squad; he turned in the best goaltending performance of the tournament with sixteen saves.  He got them all the way to extra time (and almost to winning, but Wondolowski was unable to put a ball headed to him in the last minute or two of regulation into the net with the goalie out of position.  He kicked it over on the half volley from the inner box), but the Belgians kept attacking.

Origi was a beast during regulation, getting his first shot just forty seconds in and being a large part of the constant attack.  He shot several of those crosses, and headed a couple more towards net.  And had a couple other shots as well.

Fellaini was largely contained, due to Beckerman being benched and Cameron covering him.  That helped a lot with breaking up those crosses, but it definitely hurt the American attack, as his passes were much less reliable.

But despite his yeomanlike work in the center, the US was just getting used on the outside.  And that stayed the case all game.

But, as mentioned, the US managed to survive the barrage into extra time, but it took only two minutes for the Belgians to finally score.  Lukaku, who came in for Origi at the beginning of extra time, charged down the right and crossed in to de Bruyne.  He put several moves on the US defender, and finally got a clear shot from inside the box.  Howard had his first moment of weakness, and was off-balance when the shot finally came.

It took another twelve minutes, and a couple more saves for Howard, before the Dutch struck again.  And again, it was Lukaku leading the charge, this time down the left.  And this time he just took it himself to very close, and was able to beat Howard to the near post.

I actually turned the game off at that point (I'd promised to take my daughter bike riding), so I missed Green's gorgeous goal a couple minutes later (at a sprint, on a full volley, he kicked a ball coming over his shoulder from behind, into the net.  Give him ten more chances at that shot, and I'd be impressed if he could do it twice).  A friend texted me, though, so I watched the last few minutes (we'd gotten delayed from the bike ride).  But nothing more came of the last few minutes.

It was a disappointing end, but by no means was the loss undeserved (or unpredictable).  Belgium will be a handful for Argentina.  Perhaps it's just that the US isn't as good as their survival of the Group of Death would seem to indicate, but Belgium looked much better than they had in any of their earlier games (and they were one of two undefeated teams in the group stage.  Part of that might have been starting Origi instead of having him on the bench).

Anyway, France plays Germany tomorrow in the first quarterfinal.  Brazil will play Colombia later.  Saturday will start with Argentina facing Belgium, followed by the Dutch facing Costa Rica.  And as much as I've enjoyed watching Costa Rica, their magic runs out there.

I would pick Germany over France, but France has looked very good in this tournament.  I haven't really noticed how much speed France has up top, but if they have that, they can certainly win.

Brazil and Colombia will be an interesting match.  Rodriguez has been a match for Neymar so far, but the hosts have a much better supporting cast.  Like Costa Rica, I can see this one being a blowout.

I think Argentina and Belgium will be the most fun game to watch.  Neither team is particularly prone to diving, and both will be attacking with speed.  I'm looking forward to it.  I think the South Americans will win, but I wouldn't be surprised if it went 3-2 or 4-3.


A further note on the Roberts Court

The ideologues on the Right that made up the majority of a bunch of decisions recently seen frightfully bad judges.  Their MO seems to be to predetermine the result they want, and then craft their decision to get that result, and try to make it as narrow as possible to keep from influencing later decisions.

This is really terrible in several ways.  One, it makes it really hard for lower courts to make later decisions based on recent ones (eg: did the recent decision in re: Aereo negate the old Cablevision ruling?).  Two, their narrowing sometimes fails (as is likely with the Hobby Lobby case; in fact, as they made clear the next day that one particular narrowing wasn't even intended).

Three, it makes clear that their intent is to make new law.  Funny how we hear so much about "legislating from the bench" from right wing sources when it comes to abortion decisions, but nary a peep when it comes to, say, campaign financing laws.

And all of that reduces respect people have for the Court.  Roberts, in his confirmation hearings, said he wanted to restore respect for the Court.  If so, Mission Accomplished, I guess.

Lobby your hobbies

The Supreme Court decision on Monday to allow Hobby Lobby a (as John Oliver put it, in his typically brilliant segment) line-item veto on corporate obligations is just all sorts of non-sensical.  It's just the latest in a series of decisions that is destroying all respect any thinking person would have for the Court itself.

Let's just start counting a few of the ways this is a disaster in the making (and yes, some of these come straight out of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's blistering dissent):

1) This is straight-up discrimination against women.  If a closely-held corporation wants to deny Viagra to its male employees, is that going to fly?  I'm betting no.

2) This is attributing religion to a fictional entity.  This literally makes no sense.  This is not a thinking being that can possibly have an opinion on whether God exists, and what it means if He/She/It does.  This is not something with a soul, that can be saved.

3) This allows a corporation to get between a woman and her doctor.  There are a lot of medical reasons to take birth control pills that have nothing to do with avoiding pregnancy.  In fact, there are even extreme cases (women with incredibly irregular periods) where a woman might take birth control pills to facilitate pregnancy.  A friend of mine in college was born this way (thanks for telling me about it, Arthur).

4) This allows imposition of religion by business owners on their employees.  Man, is this an impossibly slippery slope.

5) This was all based on a conception of conception that is not backed up by science.  The majority said that "It is not for the Court to say that the religious beliefs of the plaintiffs are mistaken or unreasonable".  That's generally true (and we'll revisit this), but the specific beliefs in this case are contrary to science.  Do we want to encourage people to believe that gravity is optional?  That's the same idea.  Giving equal weight to "sincere belief" and to observable fact is not a way to run a country.  At least, not if you don't want to end up like Afghanistan when the Taliban took over.

6) How can the religious beliefs of a corporation be determined to be sincere?  With this ruling, the courts must determine this.  Are they sincere beliefs, or are they just trying to save money on their bottom line?

7) The majority held that the easiest way to provide remedy for the "burden" of having to provide contraception is for the government to provide it.  Ginsburg's dissent listed several ways that this is a burden on the employees.  What I remember: a) not everyone knows about it, b) it's more complicated on everyone, c) unless it's free, poor people will be unable to afford it.  I think there were several others.

But even ignoring all that, that's an argument that allows any corporation to get out of any monetary obligation, because it's always possible for the government to pay it.  It might bankrupt the government, but that doesn't seem to a concern.

8) A day after the ruling, the Supreme Court affirmed that the ruling applies to all contraceptives, not just those on which this case was based.  So the Court doesn't think that the government has any business getting involved in someone's sex life, if they might be sodomizing a willing partner, but if a woman wants to keep from getting pregnant while having consensual sex, then that's not ok.  Wow, is that a mysogynistic viewpoint.

Note, too, that this is all ignoring that, prior to passage of the ACA, Hobby Lobby provided the contraceptives over which they went to court.


Waffling play

The last group to play had Algeria playing Russia and South Korea facing Belgium.  Belgium was already guaranteed to advance, and could only not win the group with both Algeria and South Korea winning.  But the other position was wide open, with all three teams having a chance (though the Koreans were a very long shot).

Not having any real feel for things, I opted for the Belgian game, hoping for an upset.

And the South Koreans came out as a desperate side, playing hard, possessing the ball and dominating the game for more than twenty minutes at the outset.  They weren't getting  a lot of great chances, but they were keeping the Belgians from having any chances.

The Belgians' first chance came in the twenty-fourth minute, but Mertens managed to put the ball over the net from point-blank range.

Five minutes later, the Koreans had several very good chances, but were unable to capitalize.  The first came off a long shot by Ki, which the goalie did well just to get a hand on it to deflect it out of play.  On the resulting corner, the ball ping-ponged around a bit in the box and the Koreans were finally able to head it towards the goal.  But the forward was unable to get enough on it to put it past the goalkeeper.

Mertens got another shot a minute later, but was called offsides (and his shot went over the net anyway).

The complexion of the game changed significantly right as normal time expired for the half, as Defour got a straight red for a dangerous challenge where he went spikes-first into a Korean player, missing the ball by a lot.

Stoppage time went by very quickly, without anything interesting happening.  But it certainly looked likely that the Koreans would win, at that point, and even that they might be able to win by enough to move on (helped by the Russians being ahead in the other game, at that point).

But that wasn't the way it played out at all.  In fact, the Belgians actually played better, the rest of the way.  They held the Koreans to only a couple of chances, and finally scored, themselves, in the 77th minute.  Origi got a pretty good shot off from the top of the box, and the rebound went straight to Vertonghen, who calmly slotted it home without any defenders close enough to challenge him.

That goal basically took all the wind out of the sails of the Koreans, and the game was essentially over, then.

So Belgium won the group cleanly, and Algeria took second spot, as they had managed to equalize against Russia.  That pits Belgium against the US, and put Algeria up against Germany.

USA loses to advance

In group G, the Group of Death, there was a lot of talk that the Germans and US might have an gentleman's agreement to play to a draw, so both would advance.

Then it appeared likely that the game would be cancelled, as Recife was experiencing severe flooding, and it was very difficult to drive the hour out of town to get to the stadium.  But everyone made it, eventually, and the game went on as scheduled.

Well, it quickly became apparent that there was no agreement, as the Germans came out firing, getting several chances in the opening minutes.

A pass across the box to Mueller in the eighth minute was one of those chances, where Mueller jumped at the ball, leg outstretched, but it was a foot or so off.  A minute later, the Germans had a corner that was immediately played out, leading to another corner.  That one ended up with two Germans interfering with each other, to keep either from having a very good chance.

The US played up, and there was a foul on the play.  Odd that the ref stopped play immediately, instead of allowing US to continue play upfield.  Regardless, the possession lasted well over a minute and was the longest that the US managed in the entire game.  And they never even threatened to score.

The Germans came back fairly quickly, and in next several minutes forced Gonzalez to break up a couple plays across to Mueller.

Things went back and forth a bit less eventfully for a while after that, but the Germans did force a really good save out of Howard in the thirty-fourth.

A few minutes later, a nice through pass was put to Podolsky, but his pass across the box went to Howard.

A minute later, the US managed to get a corner, but the cross flew over everyone.

That was it for chances in the first half, but it was certainly clear that the battle lines were drawn.

In the second half, Germany was even more aggressive in going for the net.  Klose, who had just come in, had a great chance in the air in the 50th, but the serve across was off by an inch or two and he was unable to put it on net.

A few minutes later, Howard made a fantastic save off a shot in close, but the rebound bounced all the way out to the edge of the box, to the right of Howard, where Mueller was waiting to pound it into the far corner of the net.

Almost ten minutes later, the US managed a bit of a threat with a long pass from Bradley to Jones, which forced Neuer to come thirty-five yards out of his net to break up the play (see foreshadowing here to the Germany game against Algeria).

The US might have had another threat on the counterattack a couple minutes later, but there was a breakdown in communication that kept the ball from moving upfield quickly enough.

In the 69th, the US got a pair of corner kicks, and were threatening on the second one until Jones and Bedoya ran into each other at speed, breaking Jones' nose and knocking Bedoya down.  Both ended up continuing, but it didn't look good.

While they were being looked at, Schweinsteiger went out for Goetze.  Seems like an odd substitution; wonder what the reasoning was.

In any event, the Germans continued attacking, and Gonzalez was called upon again in the 82nd, to break up a diagonal run into the box by Hoewedes.

A couple minutes later, the US threated again, until a miscommunication by Bedoya and Dempsey broke up the play.

The Germans brought the ball back down after that, and Gonzalez again broke up the play, although the offside flag went up anyway.

The US managed a final offensive push just before the end of the game, in stoppage time.  The first of them was pushed outside by Neuer, where it was retrieved by the US and crossed back in before Neuer could get back into position.  Dempsey was on the receiving end, but headed it over the goal from only a few feet out.

Although the score was 1-0, the US was never in danger of winning the game.  And they wer definitely watching the progress in the other game.  Although they were never in position to be eliminated, they were very worried when Ghana pulled even with Portugal.  But Ronaldo delivered a second goal for the Portuguese to win the game, which ensured US moving on.

The US performance was very uneven, although maybe it showed some weakness at the German back end.  But the US couldn't get the ball up front; I think Dempsey only had two or three touches (one of which came via him coming back well into the midfield).

Really, the only two Americans who consistently looked good were Jones, who made some great runs upfield, and Gonzalez, who was the rock in the defense.  Let's hope they can improve.