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June 30, 2006

20 minutes from the end of this entry

In 20 minutes, it'll be July, and to an end I can put the single worst month of blogging in the history of this here space.

There's a story that I like to tell, about when I was in college. Every term (we were on trimesters), our little 10-week session ended with an 11th week of finals, separated from the regular season by 4-5 "dead" days for us to prepare. And I always prepared, mostly, but one of the things I also did during dead days was to read voraciously. There were times where I averaged a book a day while I was supposed to be studying for finals. Whatever the reading equivalent of graphomania was, that's what I had. It didn't interfere with my ability to study and retain so much as it kept the wheels spinning so that I didn't need warm-up time when I turned to studying.

All of this is a roundabout way of coming to the realization that not writing here in June wasn't so much a matter of spending all of my writing time on other stuff. I just didn't write much. Looking back, it seems clear to me now that I needed a break, and a break I took.

I'm pretty sure that it's over now. Hello the July.

June 29, 2006

Who moved my Cup?

You'll forgive me for being a little jittery today, I trust. Today (or rather, yesterday) was the first in almost three weeks where I didn't watch at least a half of the World Cup. Yes, it's true. Although sometimes I just put it on and check when I hear the announcer's voices rise with excitement, I have been totally addicted to the football.

Whatever did I do without the football, you might ask? Well, I caught up on Bloglines, did a little research, and also a little fluff reading. The list of books that I should be reading continues to grow (with Michele White, Chris Anderson, and Edward Tufte each coming soon to add to the damn pile), but instead, I wanted something light. I was proudest, though, of the book that I didn't read, which I will share with you in the form of a link to Chris Sims' review of it: Chuck Norris' The Justice Riders. Chris normally reviews comics, complete with scanned-in panels. Lacking panels for Chuck's latest masterpiece, he turns, as he explains, to the crayons:

Chris Sims channels Chuck Norris

Here, let me start you off:

And no, your eyes do not decieve you: It took Chuck Norris and three other people to write this book, presumably because seeing more than a third of Chuck's original manuscript would leave any other man blind and possibly deaf.

Go read the rest, and join me in a silent salute to Chris, who read this book so that no one else would have to.

That's all. The football, it returns tomorrow, I think.

June 22, 2006

Cup, Part 3

Well, the US went out with a whimper. Rats. As bad as the refereeing was in their match with Italy, it was, as far as I could tell, pretty consistent during their contest with Ghana. The one obvious missed call, of course, was the phantom push that resulted in Ghana's second goal.

It's hard to get worked up about it, though, because (a) it was clearly a dumbass decision on Bocanegra's part to try and clear like that on a breakaway play, and that set up the play that resulted in the "foul," and (b) if the US couldn't score when they were a goal down, what makes us think they would have with the score tied? They should have been taking more risks a goal down, and they weren't. Beasley's pass was the single best kick of the Cup for the US, but they spent so little time over three games putting themselves in those kinds of positions.

I'm not among those calling for Arena's head, but I do think that this Cup demonstrated a couple of things. First, the MLS is not the place where the next gen of US soccer players should be honing their skills. They need to be competing with the best players in the world, and the MLS is not there yet. That was pretty clear. Second, there needs to be some emphasis on creativity. The US team played competently, but couldn't handle really creative strikers, and couldn't generate any offense on their own.

I'm disappointed, but really, I'd rather see Ghana advance than the US--they were a much more entertaining team to watch. And so, I'll be watching the knockout rounds--I've been seeing so much of the group play that I'm genuinely interested, even without my home team...

That is all. Back in Syracuse soon...

June 18, 2006

To be fair

I should acknowledge that yesterday's game was easily the best I've ever seen the US team play. Not only did they not suck, but they held up under adverse conditions to earn a draw. It's not encouraging to me that they have yet to actually score a goal, but their draw coupled with the Czech implosion against Ghana gives the US a decent chance to advance. Not a great one, but a decent one.

A couple of quick notes. I'm not sure why the US stopped playing offense with 15 minutes to go. It was frustrating to me, I'll have to admit. Nor do I know why, on the "deepest-ever US team," Arena chose to hold onto his final sub, even when it was obvious how tired the Italians were. I still believe that they had a shot to win, even down a man.

The Italian player who cracked McBride should be suspended for the entire Cup. It was that obvious and that intentional.

Announcers saying that Mastroeni's was a "make-up call" need to update their dictionaries. Make up for what? The US had double the fouls at that point as Italy, and were the victims of thuggery. A make-up call is typically one where a bad call is made to even out a bad call in the other direction. I suppose maybe you could say that it made up the man difference.

I'm with Balboa, though, on the piss-poor quality of the referee in general. Only 1 of the 3 reds was warranted, and the 2nd half was like watching a different game--it was incredibly inconsistent. I'm not a big conspiracy guy, but it sure looked for all the world like the ref made sure that the US wasn't going to get out there without more than a point. The offsides call on Beasley's goal was legit, but there was a lot of flopping and the US generally got the worst of it. Ugly for a different reason, that was.

Still. Great game for the Americans. Ghana's going to be really tough, and I don't expect the US to advance, but at least it's a game that counts for something.

That's all...oh, and happy father's day to everyone...

June 13, 2006

Our cup run eth over

Not a lot of time for posting today. I've been watching a fair amount of the World Cup though, and in addition to inching back to within one point of the lead in the Cup pool I'm in, I'm beginning to get a little more of a feel for the action.

And let me just say that we sucked. Really badly. The Czech Republic may have beaten the US anyway, but one thing that really came clear to me was the degree to which the US team had real trouble (a) running any kind of breakaway or counterstrike offense, and (b) defending against any kind of breakaway or counterstrike offense. Not that I'm psychic or anything, but in the first 5 minutes, on the first Czech goal, when I saw their wing trotting down to the corner unchallenged, I said "uh-oh," right before the ball bounced off Koller's head. No way a disciplined team allows that in the first 5 minutes.

The US attack looked like it was trying to emulate the 2nd tier Euro teams, with highly orderly offense, hoping for a break, but spending most of its effort trying not to get blown out. Every time they managed a one-on-one or mini-break, they cleared back out, and let the Czech defense set, and 9 times out of 10, they didn't even manage a shot out of it. It's very cautious offense--they're playing like a team with a lot to lose who's trying not to lose. And failing.

Ugly stuff from a team that all the talking heads are calling the best ever that the US has sent to the Cup.

June 9, 2006


Sign #whatever of my advanced age is the fact that this year marks the 20th anniversary of my graduation from high school. It's been a couple of years now since I could legitimately say that I'd spent more of my life post rather than pre graduation, but this is one of the first times that I've reflected on such.

I'd thought about this a few times, but it didn't really sink in until I arrived in Iowa that there would be a reunion this summer for my HS graduating class. Fortunately, it won't be until the end of July, and I will be safely away. I say fortunately, mostly because learning this absolved me of any real decision-making process in the matter. I don't really want to go, but I was actually a little pleased not to have to make the decision.

There is a webpage (isn't there always?), and so I'm still debating whether to drop my URL on it. At the risk therefore of alienating or offending a potential visitor from the class of 86 at Central High, let me say that the debate is largely over whether I really want to dredge up old connections from 20 years ago. As old as all this makes me feel, the vast (vast!) majority of those 20 years was spent without any connection whatsoever to any of the people I graduated with. Despite the fairly large graduating class (close to 500, if I remember rightly), only a few of us left the state for college, and once I did, I was pretty much gone. I didn't see anyone from HS at college (which was only slightly larger than my HS), and out of sight, out of mind. You know. My yearbooks are still in a box somewhere in some basement, I guess, and I can admit a little bit of culturally-induced nostalgia--in other words, I know that reunions are Events, even though I'm not really interested.

I'm vaguely curious about perhaps 4-5 people, but I definitely have no interest in the Judgment or the Display that such Events inevitably entail. You know: Oh! What darling kids! Oh! What a wonderful job! Oh! Look at how much weight you've gained/lost/redistributed! Yeah, it's making me tired just typing that. And it's not like I'm not easily located via Google, if any of my 20-years-ago people wanted to find out what I'm up to.

Ah well. Mostly, I'm struck by the artificiality and the arbitrariness of it all. Accidents of geography and multiples of 5. If I knew for sure that Minnie Driver would be there, well, that'd be a different story...

June 7, 2006

A la Road

If you haven't already gathered that I'm going to be intermittent whilst on the road, then I just don't know what to do with you.

Anyhow, I was thinking today about nothing much in general when I came across Laura's psuedo-signoff. Like the folks leaving comments, I hope that she takes some time off, reconnects with the people around her, and later on (post-diss, perhaps), finds a way to reintegrate blogging into her daily grind.

What strikes me about all this is the degree to which I'm basically the opposite. And I think that's a function largely of my lack of local connections. Asked last night if Iowa still feels like home, or if Syracuse has supplanted it, I ended up with a relatively unsatisfying "neither." It's not a sad nor a happy thing especially, but I was struck today by the fact that I feel more of the burdens and pleasures of connection here than I do in any particular locality. No, I'm not going to start waxing on about how this space is my home--it isn't. I don't feel anchored to any particular place. I have ties, and lots of them, to people and places, I suppose, but none of them seems to bear the weight in my head that's signified by "home."

I sympathize with and sometimes even envy those with a strong feeling of home, and I don't discount the possibility that I'll feel it myself at some point. And I'm fully willing to acknowledge that the fact that I'm currently traveling may have more than a little to do with how I'm feeling lately. Right now, I feel a little ghostly, floating around the country, not really tethered.

Like I said, it's not a good or bad thing. Just describes how I'm feeling at the time.