Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Today's Dumb Thing I Learned Is A Thing


That is, jumping off a pier or a harbor wall into the sea. It seems to be the coastal British press that has to deal with this, chiefly, and that's where the term is residing. It's not any sort of a new craze or anything, not by a longshot. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has a whole page and everything on it, a signifier of how often they have to deal with this that they had to make a page for it.

There are two major problems here: first, you probably don't know what's under that water or how deep it is. The lifeguard who jumps in after you knows, but you don't. Second, you don't know if there's a riptide waiting to drag you out to sea... which is why the lifeguard will be jumping in after you. And this doesn't cover the potential shock of cold water, or your ability to swim away even if you don't get pulled out to sea (two more reasons for said lifeguard).

Now, this is not to say it isn't an inherently bad thing to jump. Recently in Ocean Beach, CA, about 600 kids jointly jumped off a 30-foot pier. But there's a reason they did it: they were junior lifeguards in a four-week water safety training program, they were under the watchful eye of real lifeguards that, again, knew exactly what the conditions were at water level, and it was done with the express purpose of training them not to be afraid of the water. They paid a $75 donation to the Junior Lifeguard Foundation to get to do it. Their parents jumped too.

I hope I should not have to tell you not to try it.

All The Noises

Are you tired of attempting to categorize songs into some type of genre? Are you sick of attempting to determine whether a song is pop, rock, country, country pop, pop rock, indie pop, indie rock, or possibly something that has the word 'metal', 'house' or 'punk' in it?

I'm not sure how exactly you're going to take today's link.

There's a man named Glenn McDonald at the site Echo Nest. What he's done is create a scatter plot of 1,251 different musical genres. Each genre is clickable, presenting you with a sample song (hover over it with the mouse to find out what song that is), and from there, you'll see similar genres nearby. He has called this plot Every Noise At Once. Click the arrows that show up next to a genre's name, and you'll see another plot of artists grouped under that heading.

Then he went and did other things with it, such as show what cities are prevalent in producing. For instance, London is responsible for 28.3% of the genre labeled 'talent show', because it appears to encompass X-Factor alumni, including One Direction, and that's largely based in London.

Then there's a second genre called 'more talent show', which appears to cover alumni from The Voice, and a third called 'idol', which, well, you should be able to guess that one and probably recognize a lot of names on the plot.

I'll be hunkered over this thing for a long time now, if you don't mind.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Apparently This Is Just A Soccer Blog Now

Not really the intent, but dang it, it keeps coming up. The intent today was to start talking about the general mess going on in Ukraine. The civil war that's been basically instigated by Vladimir Putin and how the pro-Russian separatists have lately faltered. The shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, with all hands lost, and how the rebels- who appear to have fired the shot- look to also have taken all the bodies from the crash.

And then a soccer angle showed up, and I remembered how I like to stay away from the angles that have already gotten heavy coverage. So, I guess, here we go again. (Well, aside from the statement from UEFA on July 16 that they think it would be a slightly bad idea to make Russian and Ukrainian clubs play each other right now, nor would it be a good idea to hold any games in Israel due to their latest skirmish with  Palestine.)

The top club in Ukraine, having won the last five league titles, is Shakhtar Donetsk. They'll be seen in the group stage of this year's Champions League, again, for the fifth straight year. Their performance this year, though, may be lacking in both. On Saturday, Shakhtar traveled to France to play a preseason friendly against Lyon. Lyon won the game 4-1. That's not the worst part of Shakhtar's day. The worst part of Shakhtar's day came when six of their players decided that they had zero interest in returning to Ukraine and, seemingly, defected.

Five of the six have been identified, none of them Ukrainian, so that seems like it'd be more or less straightforward. Four of the players are Brazilian- midfielders Douglas Costa, Alex Teixiera and Fred (not the same Fred you saw at the World Cup) and forward Dentinho, and the fifth is Argentinian forward Facundo Ferreyra. None of the five have yet played for their country at senior level (Costa, Dentinho and Teixiera have played for Brazil at youth level), but all have appeal to clubs hungry to add a piece to their own arsenals. Manchester United and AS Monaco, in fact, are already making a move for Costa.

Given the profiles of the other five, it's possible, in fact likely, that the sixth is South American as well. Brazilians make up about a third of Shakhtar's roster; Ferreyra was the only Argentinian. This means they have more of a capability to get out of Dodge than the players actually from Ukraine. Which ought to prove troubling for any Ukrainian club with players who do have somewhere else to go if they decide they want no further part of the conflict either, especially players out on loan.

In fact, it's rather troubling for Ukraine in general. The players are far from the first non-Ukranian nationals to run, with the east in particular abandoned in large swaths by Ukrainians and foreigners alike. Vietnam has taken steps to evacuate any citizens that they have in the country. Donetsk is seeing people not involved in the fighting leave as fast as they're able to pack up, assuming they are in fact able to flee. The players are simply high-profile examples of this. The one circumstance to watch here is that they are under contract to Shakhtar, who in the end has the power to release them to a suitor club or not. If the suitor club offers up enough money, that should be a fairly easy decision, as it usually is in soccer. But the loss of all five of these players would gut Shakhtar's roster... a fact that appears to be at least partially out of their hands.

The two major questions, therefore, become, first, where do the players ultimately end up, and second, is that it or do more players follow them out.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Internal Programming Note

I lost a kitty today. My cat Tiger died this afternoon at age 21, which is a good, long kitty life, and in line with how long kitties last at our house. We had three others alongside Tiger over the course of my childhood; they made it to 18, 21 and 23. Female cats typically last 13-15 years. It was a peaceful death; she wasn't in any pain aside from arthritis.

So forgive me if I'm not exactly up to writing today or even tomorrow. It's kind of hard right now.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Indoor Soccer Is Not Soccer

NOTE: Minorly edited for clarity.

Wednesday, as previously noted, I was one of the 31,237 people who descended on Miller Park to see Chivas Guadalajara take on Swansea City; the game ended in a 1-1 draw after Chivas converted a questionable penalty call in second-half stoppage time. It was a really attacking game, if you ask me, in more ways than one: there were plenty of scoring chances, and the game was very physical, with a double red card coming out at one point in the second half, which you really do not see often. It was a heavily pro-Chivas crowd, but aside from Chivas and the much smaller Swansea contingent, there were a lot of neutrals who came out supporting the idea that soccer was in Wisconsin, and wore the apparel of whatever team it was they did support. Just from my personal observation, I counted the following clubs and countries noted in addition to the two actually present:

Countries: Argentina, Belgium, Bosnia/Herzegovina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Cote d'Ivoire, Croatia, England, Germany, Guatemala, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Portugal, Poland, Spain, Sweden, United States.

Clubs: AC Milan, Ajax, Arsenal, Aston Villa (me), Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich, Celtic, Chelsea, Chicago Fire, Club America, DC United, Dynamo Kiev, Everton, FC Barcelona, Liverpool, Leon, Leones Negros, Los Angeles Aztecs, Manchester City, Manchester United, Monarcos Morelia, Palmeiras, Paris Saint-Germain, Queretaro, Real Madrid, Seattle Sounders, Tigres, Torino, Tottenham Hotspur, Wigan Athletic.

Let me repeat: 31,237. That is better than last year's average home attendance of either club in their domestic league. I heard word at the game, albeit secondhand, that the stadium workers were already thinking about doing it again sometime because every aspect of the game from atmosphere to pitch condition to actual game went spectacularly (aside from not having a good way to tell who's who because there weren't any names on jerseys or programs or scoreboard display).

But do not tell this to Boro Sucevic, former head coach of the now-defunct Milwaukee Rampage, though. The Rampage was an indoor soccer team, as is the still-standing Milwaukee Wave. As Michael Hunt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel wrote:

"What scares me is we might be known as a city that will support an event like this and then we move on," said Boro Sucevic, former coach of the defunct Milwaukee Rampage.
Sucevic says Milwaukee never really supported the Rampage or the indoor Milwaukee Wave, despite the fact that championships were won by high-level coaches such as Bob Gansler, Keith Tozer and himself.
A group led by Milwaukee native and former Chicago Fire general manager Peter Wilt failed to attract a Major League Soccer franchise about 10 years ago because there was no appetite to build a stadium.
For that reason, as well as a history of shaky support, the MLS is a pipe dream for Milwaukee for the foreseeable future. Even the second-tier North American Soccer League is not a realistic goal anytime soon without the kind of support the city has yet to demonstrate for pro soccer.
"The bottom line is that in Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin, we did not do a good job of supporting our teams, from the Wave to the Rampage and the college teams," Sucevic said.
"Will this match make a difference for soccer here? In my heart I'd like to think so, but I've not seen the commitment."
Boro, let me tell you a thing. There's a reason nobody goes to Wave games, and there's a reason nobody went to Rampage games either. That reason is that indoor soccer is not real soccer, and American soccer fans have never gotten into indoor soccer. Ever. And they've gotten sophisticated enough to where they'd never accept it these days, or ever again. Indoor soccer is a thing where what is usually a six-a-side team plays on a shrunken field surrounded by the same kind of walls you'd have at a hockey game, complete with Plexiglass. There are four quarters instead of two halves. You play on turf, and because you play on turf, nobody is allowed to perform sliding tackles. You can score multipoint goals the same way you can make a three-point shot in basketball.

It is not administered by FIFA, but rather the World Minifootball Federation. As such, the Wave is ineligible to participate in any competition under the FIFA umbrella, nor are its players eligible to be called to national teams unless they go play for a team that actually plays soccer, which they would all love to do except that they've usually been rejected by enough lower-level soccer teams that they've been reduced to playing indoor ball just to keep their career going. These are people that are literally not good enough to play soccer playing a sport that is not soccer.

Did you know the first Minifootball World Cup is slated to be hosted by the United States next year? Neither did I. And I have no plans to attend either. Because I'm a SOCCER fan, and indoor soccer is not soccer. You will never see me at an indoor soccer game. Indoor soccer is a large part of the reason the US has taken so long to be taken seriously: because this is what the world figured we would do to soccer if we ever got hold of it. They were afraid we'd "Americanize" it. And hell, when MLS first came into being, we kind of did. We made the clock count down. We had shootouts to settle draws. We got laughed at. Loudly. We got laughed at so loudly that you will not see a serious American soccer fan caught dead at an indoor game for fear he'll give Europe another reason to marginalize us. Not only is it ignored, it is the enemy.

This is a recording of the Wave hosting the Missouri Comets (from Independence, just outside Kansas City) on March 2. You tell me if this is a thing you'd want to watch more often. (Skip to 24:40 to bypass the pregame show.)

I want real soccer. I don't want the jacked-up bastardization we had to make do with in the years between the NASL's death and MLS's inauguration that sees its national league collapse every couple years and the constituent teams scramble to form another league that will also collapse in a couple years. You know the league the Wave played in in that video? The one they were playing in on March 2? It's dead now. So are the other four leagues they've resided in since their 1984 inception; they've won their six titles in three of those five leagues. They've now migrated to league number six.

One of the Wave's former leagues was the Xtreme Soccer League, which had just one season in 2008-09. It had four teams in it, the others being in Chicago, Detroit and Newark. They had no playoff, because how the hell could you. Why should I have to put up with this kind of sport running this kind of league in order for me to eventually get to see the soccer I actually recognize as soccer? I'm not even talking MLS. Why should I be denied any professional soccer at all just because I refuse to accept a vastly inferior goat rodeo of a product that doesn't even play the same sport? We don't ask potential NFL cities to go support their arena football team. Why should soccer be any different?

I'll come see any two pro soccer teams you put in front of me, club or country. Any two on the planet you want to send to Milwaukee. Grab them out of the Mongolian league for all I care. Just make sure they're not bouncing the ball off of Plexiglass.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Schoolhouse Twerk

It seems today the Internet has decided to take an impromptu English lesson, courtesy of Weird Al Yankovic, who has just released his new album Mandatory Fun (which he claims to be his last full-length album, as going forward he intends to focus on singles to better keep up with a faster pop-culture cycle). Al, as part of the release, is putting out one music video every day for eight days, and today's is 'Word Crimes' a parody of Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke.

And oh, has it ever resonated with the denizens of the Internet. Probably you as well, because how many times have you had to try and get one or more of the following through to someone?

I post the video because, just in case there's something in there you don't know- diagramming a sentence or the Oxford comma, say, which are at least not elementary-level linguistic blunders (I certainly can't diagram)- everything is, in fact, properly grammatically displayed when it's brought up. So there's some Schoolhouse Rock, Weird Al-style, to be had here.

It's not the first time I've seen someone try to make a humorous run at giving the Internet grammar lessons. Years back, the comic Bob The Angry Flower embarked on what it referred to as the Unwelcome Education Project here, here, and also here. Meanwhile, Penny Arcade has its own character, Mr. Period, and his adventures can be found here, here, here, here, here, and here.

To think we have to go through all this to undo the damage Alanis Morissette did to the word 'irony'.

Back To Reality

I have a sad, because there is no soccer today.

Quick, let's see if there's soccer in the various competing nations! Maybe they have soccer today! Japan, do you have soccer today?

"It’s safe to say fans are disappointed, and there’s another group of people that acutely shares their pain: retailers stuck with boxes of unsold Japanese soccer team merchandise."

You don't have soccer today? You have piles and piles of clearance merchandise instead (figure about 1 yen=1 cent)? That won't do. Ghana, what about you? Do you have soccer today?

"Ghana has asked the Brazilian government to deport about 200 Ghanaian soccer fans seeking asylum in that country as soon as their Visas expire... The fans who were flown by government to Brazil to support the Black Stars in the 2014 World Cup tournament there, have argued that they are Muslims fleeing inter-religious conflicts in Ghana."

...oh dear. Oh very dear. ...Belgium? Do you have soccer today?

"French cosmetics giant L'Oréal has cut its ties with a Belgian football fan it had scouted as a hair model in the stands in Brazil after pictures of her on a big game hunting trip sparked outrage online."

Soccer is very depressing today... religious asylum seeking, big-game hunting... Honduras? Do you have soccer today?

"Honduran President Juan Hernandez blamed U.S. drug policy for sparking violence in Central American countries and driving a surge of migration to the United States, according to an interview published on Monday."

That's the worst not-soccer yet.

CONCACAF can't solve everything, I guess.