Monday, June 28, 2010

A Little World Cup Humor

Believe it of not, there are funny things about the World Cup that have nothing to do with the fact that the games are being officiated by the 3 Stooges, The Marx Brothers, and Beevis and Butthead.

First, thanks to Fiona, who has regained control of her email account, for THIS hilarious story about increased condom sales in S. Korea after their team wins.

And thanks to Dave Barry for the quote below about the behavior of the French team.
So despite the bad call, there is hope for the U.S. team. This is more than you can say for the French team, which -- I am not making this up -- went on strike. Yes! They went on strike during the World Cup. This has to be one of the most spectacular exhibitions of Frenchness in the history of Frenchitude.

Getting the occasional Dave Barry column in your local paper is the only reason I can imagine anyone would live in Miami! You can read the rest of the column HERE.

Oh, and speaking of Korea, North Korea hired Chinese actors to go to their team's games and cheer for them. Not sure why, since no one in N. Korea has been allowed to watch the games, until Dear Leader approves of the results. I wonder if in North Korea the winner of the Cup will be North Korea.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Banjo Billy v Man v Food

Not long ago I told you that the Banjo Billy Bus would be on the Travel channel show "Man v Food". Well, the bus never made it on the show. But, they did put a segment on their web site about the bus. You can watch it HERE

Football in the USA, and why Guiseppe Rossi screwed up!

Back in the 70's some folks were sure that football (again, until the World Cup ends, I will refer to the world's most popular sport by its correct name) was about to explode in popularity. And in the 80's. And after the US hosted the World Cup in 94. And after the success of the US in the 2002 World Cup. And we still haven't heard the boom. But there have been a series of small pops, and this World Cup is another step as football establishes itself as a viable sport here.

While an explosion has not taken place, a slow evolution has. Clearly, football is in no danger in the US of overtaking American football or basketball in popularity. But it doesn't have to. If you look at the changes that have taken place over the years, it has all been good. The MLS is now 15 years old, and continues to expand. Ratings for this World Cup have been huge, and ESPN is happy to show all the games, not just the US. Americans have packed bar around the country to cheer on their lads, and even sportswriting fossils like Woody Paige have been forced to watch.

Will this all cause the explosion that's been expected for 40 years? Probably not, for several reasons. First, even if the World Cup games have caused you to take a new interest in football, you may not have access to the quality stuff you are now watching. MLS is truly a minor league, and other than Landon Donovan, who appears happy to be a shark in a pond full of flounder, you won't see most of the US guys you cheered on the past 2 weeks. Good players play in England, Spain, Italy and Germany. OK players play in other countries in Europe. The guys in MLS are either lacking in real talent, talented players near the end of their careers who thought it would be fun to live in the US like Beckham and Freddie Lundberg (and, rumor has it, one of my all time favorites Thierry Henri, who is rumored to be on his way to the Red Bulls), or, a few talented young guys who are hoping to get a chance in Europe (Jonathon Bornstein may be packing his bags soon after his strong play this week).

Second, even if we did have the best player here in the US, a regular season match would not match the intensity of the World Cup. We see this with hockey as well. Everyone wanted to watch the Olympic final against Canada. But if you turned on the and NHL game the following week, a league that does have the world's best players, well, it just didn't seem to matter.

Here's the good news about soccer in the US. The idiots who said it is boring were proven wrong. People cared and learned the names of some of the players. The US team continues to get better, and the pool of talent deepens. We are in no danger of winning the World Cup soon, but we can now play with anyone, and only a well constructed but unfinished chances yesterday keep us from advancing. And good athletes in the US for whom soccer would be their best sport are playing the game, instead of more popular sports for which they are less suited. And, Guiseppe Rossi has been shown to be a fool!

Who is Guiseppe Rossi? He is a very talented 23 year old who was born in New Jersey to Italian immigrant parents, which gave him the choice to play his international football for either country. He chose Italy, whose coach decided to take a bunch of old guys to South Africa and leave Rossi behind. Had he chosen correctly, he would have been teaming up with Landon Donovan to terrorize defenses in the World Cup. Instead he was left off a team that plays dinosaur football.

Enjoy the rest of the Cup.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

US is #1 in Health Care.....for cost and bad results!

Just as I was celebrating the fact that Italy, the guys who make soccer boring, was vanquished from the World Cup, I find this bit of news to bring me back to earth. If you don't think we need to drastically re-think our health care system, take you head from your butt and read the chart.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Fiona's Email Has Been Stolen

I am writing this for 2 reasons: 1) Because Fiona, who is currently teaching in South Korea reads this blog and I know no other way than email to contact her and 2) to warn everyone about this type of scam.

I received the following email from Fiona's email account yesterday morning:
'm sorry for this odd request because it might get to you too urgent but it's because of the situation of things right now, i'm stuck in Cardiff Wales, United Kingdom right now. I came down here on vacation, i was robbed, worse of it is that bags, cash and cards and my cell phone was stolen at GUN POINT, it's such a crazy experience for me, i need help in sorting out the hotel bills, the authorities are not being 100% supportive but the good thing is i still have my passport but don't have enough money to pay the hotel bills and get back home, please i need you to loan me some money, will refund you as soon as i'm back home, i promise.


It was early in the morning, and I thought she was in trouble, even though it did seem like that language and grammar in the email were unlikely for a librarian who values the English language. The idea that she was in Wales was not farfetched, as she is an English citizen. I responded "how would that work".

Shortly after that, having biked to school and given it some thought, it occurred to me that this is likely a scam. But, it was signed with her name, so clearly not your typical junk email.

I got a reply asking me to wire $2500 to an address in Wales, which I later googled and turned out to be the Cardiff courthouse. At this time I responded that I wanted to confirm it was her, and asked a question that she would know the answer to, but no stranger could. I have not heard back. (Fiona, if you are reading this, it had to do with your least favorite character of mine!) If it was really her and she was in trouble, I certainly wanted to help.

In the meantime, now getting pretty sure that this was not a real request, I checked her twitter account, which did not mention any vacation. I also emailed her sister, who, I was sure, would be helping her out if she were really in trouble. Helen responded that is was a scam, but that she was slightly fooled for a bit as well.

What is scary is that someone has been able to use her account, and knows her name. I am concerned for Fiona as to what else they might know about her.

Oh, and Fiona, if you have to change your email account as a result of this, please let me know the new address.


Soccer is SOOOOOOO Boring!

Soccer is boring. You've heard it from American sports journalists who revel in a 4 hour Yankees/Redsox 2-1 game where no one will get in the batter's box, or a 44-0 halftime score at a college football game, or the NFL, where the ball is in play for 11 minutes out of the over 3 hours the game takes to conclude.

If you watched today's Team USA game you know what a lie that is. One of the most exciting sporting events I've ever witnessed. My heart is still pumping 4 hours later.

It would have been a crime if the US team had not advanced to the next round. Again today a goal was stolen from us, this time indisputably. Had Donovan not banged in the winner in extra time, the team that had played the best football in Group C would have been packing for home, having 2 wins stolen by bad officiating.

Instead, the US deservedly won the group, and will go on to play Germany or Ghana....likely Ghana as Germany leads 1-0 with 5 minutes left as I write this. Are we going to win the cup? Hell no! Do we deserve to be in the next round? Hell yes. Can we beat Ghana? Why not!

I'm just glad that the World Cup will continue to interest sports fans in this country for at least 3 more days.

I watched the game in a packed bar in Boulder, my third choice as to places to watch, but numbers 1 and 2 were full long before game time. I told people this morning I have now seen 2 things that I never thought I would in my life: A Black President, and Americans filling up bars at 8AM to watch soccer. It's so Boring!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Our sports controversies are soooo lame!

If you've been paying attention to the World Cup, you might get the idea that football fans around the world are crazy. And the coaches, players, and managers as well. And you would be right. The stuff that happens around the world related to football is way wackier than anything you'll find here....and that includes the days when Dennis Rodman was still around (is he still alive?).

An example is the French team, where the players seemed to have gone to war with the coach, who apparently consults astrological signs before making his lineup. Or, take the English side. Not only are they being booed as they again fail to meet the over-inflated expectations of their lads, but a fan storms into the locker room to yell at them. Could you see a Jets fan doing that?, ok, so could I, and probably with a gun. But even before the cup started, the English had controversy, as their captain John Terry showed his leadership style by impregnating his mate's bird, as they say. I'd like to see ARod pull that one on Jeter!

Face it America, when it comes to sport lunacy, we are a second rate power. We don't shoot players who score against their own team (Columbia after the 1994 cup), stampede each other to death, or need a moat around the field to keep fans from storming the pitch to kill the ref (many South American countries). We think if we get drunk at the tailgate, paint our face, and take our shirts off in 10 degree weather we are crazy. We get outraged when a player salutes jeering fans with a single finger.

As more teams are eliminated, look for more crazy headlines about players yelling at coaches, fans attacking each other and their team, and secret romantic trists...and who knows what else. The soccer world is a wild and nutty place, and if America wants to move up in the world's most popular sport, we had better start behaving much worse!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Kind of cool thing at the New York Times

I was reading the GOAL blog at the NY Times sports page this morning while watching Chile play Switzerland. Chile scores, and a few seconds later, my computer cheers and honks horns, and the blog instantly updates the score.

While the Times is not known for its great sports coverage, the GOAL blog is an excellent source of football news all year round, and particularly during the World Cup.

Friday, June 18, 2010

US Loses 2-2

We were supposed to win this one, over a country with the population of Houston. But a combination of bad early defense and clueless officiating left the US footballers with a 2-2 tie.

I hate to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but I can not recall the US ever getting the benefit of the type of mystery call that nullified the winning goal by Maurice Edu off of Donovan's beautiful direct kick in the 85th minute. I can remember us getting screwed out of many goals we deserved (such as the hand ball on the goal line not called against Germany in 2002). Can't remember us on the other end. Enlighten me if you can come up with one.

The real loss of the day was England tying lowly regarded Algeria 0-0, which puts the them in third place in the group. I just checked a few of the London tabloids on line, and they are being roasted and toasted (or maybe boiled and fried, since they are English) by the press.

So, what happens next? England plays Slovenia on Wednesday at the same time that the US plays Algeria. If the US wins, there is no combination of results in the other game that will stop our lads from advancing as we would have 5 points. If we tie, we would still advance if England and Slovenia also tie, if England did not score at least 2 more goals than we did, as goals scored is the second tie-breaker. Here's the crazy one: if the US and Algeria tied 0-0, and Slovenia and England tie 2-2, that means the advancing team would be chosen by a random draw.....a coin flip. Oy!

Keep you calendar clear for Wednesday morning!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Afganistan's Mineral Riches Will Make Things Worse!

Earlier this week the BIG NEWS was all the mineral riches that appear to be underground in Afganistan. This was presented as if it were news, which it apparently wasn't as the report about it came out in 2007. It was also presented as if this were good news for Afganistan, which it most definitely is not.

Why would a bunch of valuable minerals under your land be bad news? Well, if it was your land personally, maybe it wouldn't. But a quick look around the world at what countries are rich, which are poor, and which are war torn will show you that countries whose only wealth comes from natural resources are some of the poorest, most unstable countries in the world.

Take for instance.....well, pick just about any country in Africa. Or, more specifically, read about how the oil industry is benefiting Nigeria in this story in today's NY Times. The fact is, without a stable democracy to make sure that some of the wealth from the minerals gets put into things like education, infrastructure, and health care that will benefit the whole country, mineral wealth tends to be seized by a few businessman and/or corrupt politicians. Oh, and you might expect there to be lively warring factions trying to get control of the minerals.

So, what does this mineral wealth mean to Afganistan? More war, more foreign invaders, more political corruption(if that is in fact possible in Afganistan) and little benefit in terms of a better life to the people.

Hey, but there is good news: Our laptop batteries could get cheaper!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Man VS Food in Boulder on Tonight

The Travel Channel show "Man vs Food" that was taped in Boulder a few months ago will air tonight at 7:30 mountain time on the travel channel. For their slide show from Boulder, go HERE

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Read this between Football matches

From now until the end of the World Cup I will be referring to soccer by it's correct name: Football. Why we call our favorite sport "football" is a mystery, and we should find it a more appropriate name.

I put links before to columns by NYTimes columnist Thomas Friedman, and HERE is another one. He is the most reasoned, intelligent analyst in the country, but since he doesn't foam at the mouth, he doesn't get enough attention. Another excellent column today about the things we need to do to move ahead in this country.

Now back to Football!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

US Wins 1-1!

Robert Green, meet Bill Buckner. And Scott Norwood.

No doubt every punter in a pub in England is cursing the English keeper for his gift to the US team of a goal that he clearly should have stopped. For the US, this is a great result. A tie with the heavily favored English side means we head into what are supposed to be the 2 easy games in good shape.

It is likely that Slovenia is going to play a tight game and a horrible 0-0 draw with them is a strong possibility, but if we do that and beat Algeria, the US lads should be through to the next round.

Oh, and I hope you saw the Argentina-Nigeria game this morning. Great action.

By the way, I don't know how popular the World Cup is where you live, but here in Boulder it is pretty huge. I had to work on the Banjo Billy bus this afternoon, so I went downtown early to watch the game in a bar before I worked. I went to what might have been my #4 choice of a place to watch, but even that was packed. I ended up going to the Corner Bar in the Boulderado Hotel, where they were clearly expecting very little business, and were shocked by the overflow from every place else in town coming in to watch and eat.

Me on the Banjo Billy Bus

The Daily Camera, our local "newspaper" (not much of a paper anymore) sent a reporter on the Banjo Billy bus yesterday, and did a brief interview with a certain tall, thin guide.

Monday, June 7, 2010

World Cup Preview

The first time I was able to watch any of the World Cup was back in 1982. I don't remember if is was because the games were on in Canada, or I watched some of them on a spanish language station, but I have been hooked ever since. Being one of only a few American soccer fans over 50, I feel obligated to write a bit about this year's cup, which starts on Friday.

Teams and Players Worth Watching

The best player in the world is Argentina's Lionel Messi, and amazing little guy who seems to be able to change directions instantly at full speed without ever losing control of the ball. He is worth getting up at 5:30 AM to watch, except that Argentina is coached by their last World Cup hero, Diego Maradona. Maradona, famous for the "Hand of God" goal against Germany in 86, was a brilliant player, but is certifiably insane, and not at all professional as coach. Thus, you can expect him to be unable, despite an enormously talented team, to figure out how to find his star player a way to get the ball, as every opponent will be focused on Messi. With a professional coach, I would be tempted to pick Argentina to win.

Like Argentina, Portugal will be worth watching if only for the amazing Cristiano Renaldo. Spain, the European Champion, plays a beautiful game, and has quite a few players who can create magic, and is picked by many to win it all. But the Euro champ seldom wins, and some of their stars are pretty banged up. AND, they lost to the US last year, which means I can't pick them.

Other fun teams to watch are The Netherlands, who have some great talent and love to attack, and the African teams, who all have some talent but lack the disciplined defense to win. But they sure are fun to watch.

North Korea might also be fun to watch. Because they are so withdrawn from the world, nobody knows much, or expects much, from them. But, these guys might be the only North Koreans without bad pompadour haircuts who you'll even see.


4 years ago the US was in the "Group of Death", with Italy, the Czech Republic and Ghana, and got their asses kicked. This year, our boys are in an easier group. The are unlikely to beat England in their opener, but you can't count them out. The pressure on the English side, who may expect to win (not me!) is immense. But if we can't beat Slovenia and Algeria everyone comes home in disgrace. So expect the Yanks to make it through to the second round.

Two things will decide the fate of the US: 1) Can our suspect defense hold up at this level and 2) can the inexperienced set of strikers we are sending finish their chances. Good results in those 2 areas could carry the Americans a long way. But if the D breaks down, or the forwards don't finish the chances they'll get being set up by Landon Donovan, then it ain't gonna be pretty, and the folks at Disney are going to cry.

The Champ!

I am going out on a limb here and picking......BRAZIL! First, cups played outside Europe have always been won by a South American team. People are sick of seeing Brazil, Italy and Germany always in the late rounds, but you can probably expect them to be there again (although I would love to see Italy, and their negative style, go home early). But Brazil has the most talent, and they have adopted the type of defense that will make them very hard to beat. So, sorry folks, but until someone proves they are better, I gotta go with the Samba Boys.

Whatever the outcome, this is THE big sporting event in the world, and I will be getting up early to watch every game, or recording those I can't watch. There will be upsets, surprises, drama, comedy, and a few bad calls by the refs that folks outside the US will talk about for generations. Don't miss a minute!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Solution to the Gulf Spill Being Ignored?

One of the cool things about living in the most educated city in America is that when you stop in for a beer at happy hour, as I did earlier this evening, you may end up chatting with somebody really smart, as I also did this evening when I plopped down at the bar next to a guy we call Doc. Doc graduated at the top of his class at Johns Hopkins, has invented a bunch of stuff, and probably has an IQ of 300.

Along with baseball and hockey and other normal guy stuff, we got to talking about the gulf spill. I told him my thought that, although certainly no engineer would wish for a disaster like the gulf leak, it is also a dream situation for an engineer, in that there was a difficult problem to solve and unlimited funds to do so. Well, Doc, who has a company that makes a product that soaks up oil that he expects to sell a lot of to BP, told me that he knew of one BP wouldn't pay for. Doc says that there was a spill in the gulf off Saudi Arabia in the 90's that was even bigger than this spill that was kept secret. The oil was soaked up by a fleet of tankers, who were not only able to suck the oil out of the water, but were also able to salvage most of the oil. He said BP was not willing to pay for it.

Well, I had to check this out, and discovered THIS STORY IN ESQUIRE about the American, Nick Pozzi, who worked on that Aramco accident, and has tried to get through to BP and the government to help now. I was unable to find any mention that BP or the government had balked at the cost, but instead it appears that bureaucracy and red tape had kept anyone from trying this the methods used by the Saudis. But the fact that this spill occurred, was kept quiet, and was cleaned up by a fleet of tankers appears to be true.

I can't imagine there is a price tag on any solution to this problem that would be too high. But then, I can't imagine people would be so reckless as to allow this to happen in the first place.