Quick US view on soccer/football

With the world cup now over (Congrats to Germany) I can officially say I won’t miss all the “Why American’s don’t like soccer” talk. This time around we got see ridiculous political <insert favorite derogatory term here> go off the rails, we heard sports radio and tv spout a multitude of reasons but I have yet to see any of these “folks” actually ask some everyday, ordinary Americans why they don’t find soccer more entertaining. Now before you hear from a person who actually was born and raised in the US, some quick background notes.

I am not your typical American but who is? Remember we are a country built strong by our diversity and people from all around the world have come to live in this country. (remember that part) Are we perfect? Far from it but that’s who we are and I am one of them. I grew up playing and/or watching baseball, football, soccer, basketball, cycling, hockey, tennis, golf, and bowling. Since I was young my parents made sure I tried alot of different sports to find the one I liked. That’s why my favorite sport to actually compete in is Triathlons and to haka_rugbywatch is currently Cyclo-Cross.  For 6 years I hosted a podcast that covered UCI cycling, WRC (rally racing) and FIA Formula 1 racing. I had someone from the UK join me during the show and my audience during the show’s run was not just in the US but abroad. To end, and to provide further evidence of my global awareness, without a doubt the best pre-game “ritual” in the world has to be the All Blacks Haka; period.

So now that you know I’m not someone who is unaware of sports beyond my boarders, lets present some of the reasons as to why I do not follow soccer.

Viewing Competition

This may sound strange but the US has the same problem with football as the world has with soccer. Every year a bazillion people, from all corners of the world, tune in to watch the SuperBowl. Yet the US cannot get the rest of the world to buy into American football. They have international teams, and leagues and games played about but most European’s just don’t like the sport. At the same time American’s just don’t seem all that interested in soccer except during the world cup. I guess the same can be said about the Olympics as well. It’s not like downhill skiing, bobsledding or track and field are huge draws in the US outside of Olympic time. Sound familiar doesn’t it?

Here is another point, I’ve been to Portugal twice and while not statistically significant, I did notice the following. There are no baseball diamonds, hardly any basketball courts, no deck hockey rinks, very few skateboard parks, etc, etc. Conversely when you travel the US (I’ve been to every state on the east coast and a few on the west) almost every park has many choices. There is always some basketball courts, baseball diamonds, some have skate parks, others have tennis courts, bocce fields, or volleyball courts. Simply put there is alot of choice.  I honestly believe that choice is part of that reason the US doesn’t go crazy for soccer. American kids have so many sports to pick from other then soccer that most grow up playing other things.

Corruption

mosleyAs an F1 fan (although this year is just a joke) I am well aware that the FIA is far from being called “pure as the fresh driven snow”.  But FIFA seems to be corrupt from head to toe. Every time I read a story about corruption in sports, FIFA’s name is always somewhere near by. So if you want me to watch, you have to clean it up. I don’t expect perfection but what you have running the sport now cannot be taken seriously.

Shoot Outs

I’m sorry but the shoot out system should be erased from all sports. (Hear that NHL?) To be fair, in the playoffs the NHL play until someone scores. Some games have actually gone into triple over time. That means two games were played back to back. So what would I replace it with? Extra time, say 15 minutes.  If no one scores during that time both teams lose a player. Repeat until someone scores. This will probably force the coach’s to use more players from the bench. Trust me after an extra 30mins of play, that new guy will have fresh legs and might just score the game winning goal. Now that’s excitement.

Flopping

But the absolute worst part of the sport, which you must eliminate if you really want me to get serious, is all the faking, flopping, diving, etc. For me, it ruins the game. I remember a while back watching how Italy took a dive in the box against the Aussie team which gave them a penalty kick thus giving them the game. I thought our NBA players were actors playing to the ref’s to get the call but soccer players take it to an entirely new level of faking. It’s so bad there are YouTube channels dedicated to all the flopping these guys do.

BqSRK0wCMAAkFxIAs an example of how not to fake it, and in this case, how to play through a real injury let me introduce Gregory Campbell.  ( http://ftw.usatoday.com/2013/06/bruins-player-keeps-playing-hockey-on-a-broken-leg) I can hear you now, “Oh but he’s the extreme case, no one else plays with anything broken” and you would be wrong. Enter Matt Fraser who scored a game winning goal while playing with a broken foot. (http://nesn.com/2014/05/bruins-matt-fraser-played-canadiens-series-with-broken-foot/) To be blunt, that’s only two players from one team in one sport. Football players, American football, routinely take the field with something wrong. I’m sure Rugby players would fit into that category as well not to mention a certain Alberto Contador and his fractured tibia.

For me flopping can be easily stopped. Add more Ref’s and put in some form of instant replay review. Here is how it would work. To start, with extra eyes watching the game some of the glaringly obvious calls would be made right away. If not while the “downed” man is on the ground flopping around, a review person in the booth could quickly see a few replays. If the guy is completely faking it, Red card and a fine. If there was contact but the guy is overacting, Yellow card. If the injury is legit, like a pulled muscle, or the contact was on the bad side, the ref can be told via his ear piece to allow time. But to see players “taking a dive” after the ball is taken from them, on the ground acting like they are about to bleed out only to bounce back up into the play when they realize they won’t get the call, is pathetic at best. By the way, Rugby has instant reply to make sure of the calls so soccer can have them too.

So there you have it, just another worthless American view. To end, I was going to bring up the whole college sports and scholarships connections but I couldn’t find enough evidence to support my theory. If you or you know someone who has done the research please let me know but my little voice says, US colleges are not exactly handing out tons of soccer scholarships, but I could be wrong.

 

 

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Have we improved anything? No seriously, have we?

As the new year began I had a talk with someone who was looking at his new smart phone while wincing. One of his young children had gotten hold of his last one and well you can guess the rest. Smash, boom, bang…Daddy needs a new phone. So here is this guy, with what looked like the latest and greatest phone, and he turned to me and asked this simple question, “Have we really improved anything?” And for what seemed like a long time, we both just stared at his brand new phone not speaking, wondering if his question had an answer. My engineering background kicked in and I got ready to put forth all the things we have improved via great steps in technology. But I never did speak, reply or even try to answer the question because the more I thought about it the harder it became.

This blog post, and maybe others, will attempt to identify where those improvements really lie. But how does one define an improvement? Well thanks to Merriam-Webster’s wonderful online dictionary we have these definitions.1

: the act of improving something : the act or process of making something better

: the quality of being better than before

: an addition or change that makes something better or more valuable

After reading the above, two words jump out at me, “Quality” and “Valuable”. The problem with both of these words is perspective. While most people understand what quality is, value is a whole other issue. But when you connect the two that’s when problems kick in. Lets apply this logic to the above new phone. Was the phone an improvement over the previous model? I think most would agree yes, but at what cost? Did the guy value his phone more then he did before? Judging from his words we can answer, “No.” The only reason the guy had a new phone was a result of the old one breaking. Also what happened to that other phone? Was is properly disposed of? Or did it end up in some land fill somewhere? How many natural resources did it take to make that phone? Did someone in a certain communist country have to work long hours for very little pay to assemble that phone? But most of all did this guy’s quality of life improve with this new phone? According to him, no. He joked that on Fridays he would often lets his cell battery run out because he enjoys the quiet period heading into a weekend. So where was the improvement?

While researching this entry, I kept coming across the same kind of statement made over and over.

The invention of machinery played a big part in driving forward the British Agricultural Revolution. Agricultural improvement began in the centuries before the Industrial revolution got going and it may have played a part in freeing up labour from the land to work in the new industrial mills of the 18th century. As the revolution in industry progressed a succession of machines became available which increased food production with ever fewer labourers. 2

In the US it was the same. Until food production increased, people ready and willing to work in the factories were not available. So before there was any form of industrial revolution there needed to be “improvement” in agriculture.  Once man figured out how to mass produce food, man was then free to direct his efforts elsewhere. So lets take a look at those improvements.

Has agriculture improved?

Unless you’ve been purposely ignoring the entire subject, these numbers should not come as a surprise to anyone. According to the CDC:

  • More than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) are obese. [Read data brief [PDF-528Kb]]
  • Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death. [Read guidelines]
  • The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion in 2008 U.S. dollars; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.

The numbers are staggering with some suggesting this generation will be the first in history to have a shorter life expectancy then the previous. Yet as some countries are eating themselves to a shorter life, other countries continue to suffer the harsh reality of little to no food. Now consider how much waste the US creates and/or how much food we throw away. 4 Some estimates are so large that it makes the numbers seem fictitious. The answer to the above question does not appear to have a positive response nor does the data show any sign of improvement. Simply put our current agricultural system is failing us.

On the surface the answer is no, but it’s worse then that. How much oil are we using to help produce, transport, market, stock and sell these foods? Plastics are used in all phases of production, packaging and in the final sale which creates additional waste for our land fills. Gas is wasted transporting food back and forth across the country. Because of this travel, we have the pollution created by the planes, trains and automobiles. I hate to sound all doom and gloom but the more I look into answering the question regarding improved agriculture the more I see how bad things are. So I will end with this one last point to ponder.  What if I told you the tomato you just had in your salad has less nutritional value then the one your parents had 30 years ago? 5. Well it’s true, and it’s not limited to the tomatoes, but also broccoli, just to name another.

It’s time to answer the first of many questions which I plan on posing.

Has agriculture improved?

The answer is simple, the current agricultural system has not improved nor does it show any signs of improving. Unless something changes people will experience shorter life spans while their quality of life declines.

Sources:

1 -http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/improvement

2 -https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Industrial_Revolution

3 – http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html

4 – http://students.arch.utah.edu/courses/Arch4011/Recycling%20Facts1.pdf

5 – http://www.nbcnews.com/id/37396355/ns/health-diet_and_nutrition/t/nutritional-value-fruits-veggies-dwindling/

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TweetDeck vs Hootsuite

So you are surfing the web looking for something to use to make better use of your twitter account. Like me, you think the website, twitter’s that is, just doesn’t work for you. You like the idea of lists and how they can be used to separate your main stream into something manageable.  You keep hearing about three main choices: TweetDeck, Seesmic and Hootsuite but don’t know which to pick. Well I’m hear to help. To start, Hootsuite bought/owns/etc Seesmic so there are actually only 2 big players in the market for people to use. So without wasting anymore of your time, here is why I started with TweetDeck, tried Hootsuite and decided to just stick with TweetDeck.

Real-estate

Loosing work area

Loosing work area

As you can see, because H.S. runs in a browser you lose some work space when compared to Tweetdeck.

More usable space.

More usable space.

Now I know someone is going to cry foul and before you write me a long email defending H.S.’s integrity…yes yes I know, I’m comparing a web app to a desktop program. But H.S took over Seesmic which was a desktop program sooooooooo….. you see my point? Good.

Menu and the GUI

The menu to the left really shows you just how different each program is. For HS you have Analytics, Publisher, Assignments and Contacts. In TD, you have an icon for each list you are using. For those of you who want the quick and dirty final word and don’t want to read any further, HS seems totally geared to people who use twitter in some business fashion. These people want to know when the best time to post is, how many people read your post, etc, etc, etc. And if I were a business I would want that information too. But I’m not, so those features are not important to me. I just wanna read stories and talk to a few friends in the quickest way possible. So if you want to see the furthest list to the right, in HS you need to drag the scroll bar. If you want to go back to the left most list, you again need to drag the scroll bar. In TD this same action is done with 2 clicks on the left menu.   In TD I can use the arrow keys to read post after post just by hitting the down arrow. I tried but HS doesn’t seem to allow for that. The one thing HS absolutely nails dead on is (drum roll) each acct has it’s own tab. Brilliant! Now that’s a great idea. It allows you to make sure you know which acct you are posting/replying/talking in.

This next comparison is a really weird one. In TD if you set your streaming to real time things will fly by as fast as they are posted. This can be both good and bad. I should be fair in saying while this seems to work great TD doesn’t update the list columns anywhere near as fast as they should be and DM replies sometimes grind to a halt. In HS the fastest you can get anything to update automatically is every 5minutes. Now I only tried the free edition just like TD but for a program that focuses so much on business, I would think instant updates would be their “thing”. Then again twitter has all kinds of weird number of times you can ask for updates thing so maybe it’s not HS fault.

Wrapping this up.

HootSuite

Pros

Data to make better decisions about when and how to post to maximize your ROI.  Divided Accts using tabs. Easily schedule posts.  You want access to your apps no matter where you are.

Cons

Small work area. Arrow keys don’t work. No simple way to jump from list to list. Have to manually log in each time which for me means I have to open Keepass since I don’t actually know my password. Slow 5 min update time.

TweetDeck

Pros

Full screen gives plenty of work area, navigating lists are very easy. Navigation without a mouse is easy. No logging in issues.  Instant updates in full stream.

Cons

Additional resources needed to run separate program. Lists sometimes don’t update at same rate as mainstream. DMs can be very slow. All accounts on one screen, can forget which account you are using. If you want to schedule tweets, ability is kinda buried.

Like I said, I’m sticking with TweetDeck but if I were the media relations person at some business I would use HootSuite.  Use what works best for you.

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Please, just stop with the -Yoga is Anti-Christian- posts.

I’ll admit I can only take so many rants, discussion, posts and all the other forms of communication before my patience is worn to the born. When that I happens I have to step in say something or my head will explode.

Now before I begin, I’m going to make a few assumption about you the reader. If you do not meet these requirements, please do not proceed with reading this post. And no, “a good friend told me…” is not acceptable as a replacement for anything.

1. You understand we are talking about Yoga the action and not the religion associated with it.

2. You have studied yoga for yourself. Meaning you have actually looked into it, have talked with multiple instructors and most importantly have actually taken a course or observed one in person.

3. You have performed research in the health benefits of yoga. For example, here is a recent study by some folks in Germany Yoga and Low Back Pain , covered by Runner’s World. And when I say research I mean from all areas. Not just from Christian sites but places like the AMA and health and fitness areas.

If you meet those requirements, lets knock down the ultimate issue most Christians have with Yoga and it goes something like this:

If you are performing Yoga moves you MUST also be participating in Hindu religious beliefs.

Buzzzzz!!!!! Thanks for playing but you are Wrong! Wrong! And Wrong!!!

Yoga can and has been separated from it’s belief systems. Don’t believe me? Fine, then maybe you’ll believe “Scholar Georg Feuerstein” [sic] and how he “worries that yoga is losing its way”. Heck he even wrote a book about it. “Georg Feuerstein, author of “Yoga Morality: Ancient Teachings at a Time of Global Crisis,” is worried that, in the process of becoming so many things to so many people, yoga has lost its ethical, philosophical and spiritual roots.”

The article goes on to explain:

most of today’s yoga practitioners don’t care about, or don’t understand, the tradition’s moral teachings, which could offer guidance on sexuality, war, corporate greed, racism, politeness, gluttony, financial debt and pollution.

When tens of millions of North Americans find their identities in saying they “do yoga,” Feuerstein says, widespread ignorance about yoga’s ethical traditions represents a tragic lost opportunity.

For most of those who try yoga, the ancient practice is more about physical fitness than spiritual discipline,

So here we have one of the big names in yoga basically saying people are performing the “motions” but little else. That last sentence nails it, “more about physical fitness than spiritual discipline. Need more evidence? Fine.

During high school I developed some arch issues and as a result saw some fitness folks who game me some exercises to help strengthen and improve flexibility in the area.  Do you want to guess what some of those “moves” were based upon? Yup, yoga. So for around 4-5 yrs I was doing yoga moves and didn’t even know it. It wasn’t until I saw some book that explained some of the same moves I was doing that I even realized. Sorry Mr. Feuerstein I am part of the problem you are facing.

So I hope that dispels all myths regarding yoga being separated from it’s spirituality.  With that wall knocked down, lets go for another. With yoga now being treated as two parts could you in fact combine the physical with another religion? Why of course you can. I know for a fact there are Catholic Yoga classes being offered in my area. Instead of Hindu practices they say Our Fathers, the Hail Mary and sometimes the Rosary.  This is why I am growing rather tired with all the pounding of chest by so many “Christians”.  What really makes me crazy sometimes is the same people who will get in your face about this whole subject have no issue with Nancy Pelosi and John Kerry being labeled as Catholics.
They are doing the same thing Mr. Feuerstein talks about. Both Pelosi and Kerry are against some of the most sacred Catholics tenets yet no one has thrown them out saying they do not represent what Catholics believe or stand for.

 

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My plan for 2014

Well it’s that time of year when tons of people look back on their previous year and create a plan for the up and coming one. I tend to avoid the word “resolution” and stick more to the “looking to improve” mentality. So without wasting any more time, lets jump in.

I’m looking to Improve my family, my faith, and my fitness. 

I’m sure some of you are going, “That’s it? Nothing else?” Well for me, these pretty much cover everything.

When I say improve my family that covers many areas. It can mean spend more time, having more patience, being more helpful, providing better food, etc, etc.

When I say faith I again mean as an individual, as a parent who encourages, and as a person in his community.

When I say fitness I’m talking about my own fitness but also to encourage my family to remain just as active as we are but also to look for areas where everyone can improve.

Still sounding a bit vague? Let me give you an example. By spending more time in the garden instead of say, the internet, I will do many things. I will provide better food for my family. Present learning opportunities for my kids, while also sending a good message that being outside is a healthy choice. There are other things that can be done to improve my big three like not taking on to many tasks. Obviously things need to get done around the house but these tasks need to be weighed against the above three. If I am spending all my time working and not spending time with family I need to ask “is this project worth it?” If the project only lasts one day then that should be fine but if it’s going to last 2 months, I really need to take a step back and re-asses if it’s worth it. Gardening is an excellent example of finding the right balance. Spending an hour a day in the morning while leaving the rest of the day for family and fitness time works. Spending 4hrs at the expense of family and working out, needs to be avoided.

Some would call this a “Keeping it simple” methodology and I probably wouldn’t argue that point. For me society is now doing it’s best to fill every waking moment of your day. Between work, sleep, eating, school, sports and many other things, free time comes at a premium. By attempting to keep it simple, I hope to improve my family, my faith and my fitness.

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