Came across that picture over here. I am glad not to have been directly underneath that thing (not trying to fly through it, for that matter).
Monday, December 13, 2010
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Congratulations are in order, I think, to this place:
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...and to this place:
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Why, you ask? Because of this!
Russia getting the World Cup makes perfect sense. The event has never been held in Eastern Europe, to begin with. Furthermore, the award comes at a time when Russian soccer is on the rise, both internationally and at club level. Yes, Russia failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, but that was viewed as a shock, where once it would have been accepted with a shrug. Finally, Russia should have no difficulty getting infrastructure together.
Qatar's win is a bit more of a puzzle. The economics of the thing should be no problem - Qatar is a very rich place, and the stadia they intend to build are gorgeous. However, it's a tiny country (this is going to be the most compact World Cup ever), and FIFA itself has raised concerns about the summer heat - concerns that the Qataris have responded to by promising air-conditioned stadia.
In both cases, however, I must say that I think FIFA got it right, with all due respect to the other countries who are bidding. The first ever Eastern European World Cup, to be followed by the first ever Middle Eastern World Cup? Sounds good to me.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
...The Blog hungers.
[Scene: A kitchen in the Warrens. Enter two panicky Kobold Blog-Herders.]
First Blog-Herder: Ohgodohgodohgodohgod - it's hungering! Do something!
Second Blog-Herder: Find it something to eat!
[They rummage through various cupboards, fridges, pantries, freezers, coolers, store-rooms, butteries, cellars, sideboards, and so on]
Second Blog-Herder: Aha! We could toss it a musical interlude or two!
First Blog-Herder: Won't work - it'll just be hungry again in a day or so. Should we fry it up a nice Catullus poem, or something like that?
Second Blog-Herder: Takes too long - that thing is ravenous (you could put some out to thaw, though - we haven't had any Catullus in a long time. Am I actually speaking in parentheses? I am! Cooooool...). Hey look! We've got half a barrel of Edmonton Oilers material - we could whip that up in a jiffy!
First Blog-Herder: Ennh, it's not very nutritious, especially right now.
Second Blog-Herder: Some Millwall, then?
First Blog-Herder: Better, but still - same problem. [wanders into cooler] Hey look! We've still got that pot of snark we made this summer and never used! You remember - the one with the ESPN guy who wrote the column about how the main problem with sports these days is that athletes don't hate each other enough, the column in which he completely screwed up the anecdote about Ted Williams! That one!
Second Blog-Herder: Ooh, I remember that - that was good snark! Well-researched, if I recall. Let's save that one for a special occasion, like next week.
First Blog-Herder: Ok. Hmm, what's in this jar marked "Use only on Fridays"?
Second Blog-Herder: Who cares, it's Thursday. [wanders into larder] Oh, here we go - I've got just the thing! [emerges from larder bearing bag labelled "Emergency Blog Food"]
First Blog-Herder: What's in that?
Second Blog-Herder: A slow loris being tickled.
First Blog Herder: Perrrfect.
[Exeunt. End Scene]
Thursday, November 11, 2010
The temptation, of course, is to try to say something meaningful, but I think instead I will simply let Lt. Col. McCrae take it from here:
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Update: Also, go here and watch the video. You will probably want kleenex.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
As you are no doubt aware, if you follow the sport of hockey at all, last night marked the first inductions to the Hockey Hall of Fame of female players, namely Angela James and Cammi Granato. This has prompted a mild outbreak of hooting and feces-throwing in comments sections around the interwebs, but most people that I've read seem to recognize the inductions of James and Granato for what they are: thoroughly deserved and completely unimpeachable.
The question now, I think, revolves around who the next women inducted to the Hall as players will be. Hayley Wickenheiser, whenever she decided to call it a day, is probably automatic, and I've heard Manon Rhéaume's name out there as well. Angela Ruggiero deserves some consideration, I would think, and I'm sure I've left some out.
I would like to make a humble suggestion on this subject, however. In the photograph above, sitting in the front row at the viewer's far left, is a woman named Hilda Ranscombe, star of the Preston Rivulettes. The Rivulettes were basically the Edmonton Grads of womens' ice hockey, dominating the game during its first heyday in the 1930s. I will at this point cede the floor to this superb article on the topic of the Rivulettes and womens' hockey between the wars.
Let me close by saying merely that Hilda Ranscombe, among several other female players from that era, would be an admirable addition to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
And so we have a resolution, of a sort, to the whole Omar Khadr affair, which featured successive Canadian governments boldly and decisively aided and abetted in the torture and prolonged incarceration, without trial, of a juvenile Canadian citizen.
Oh, Omar Khadr got his trial in the end. And therein he was given a choice: Admit to being a war criminal, plead guilty, and be free man in a few years, or contes the trial and spend the rest of his life in prison (anybody who thinks the possibility of acquittal was greater than zero is deplorably naive). And hey, look, he admitted to being a war criminal and pled guilty! Well shit, I'm convinced!
Of course, the fact that Omar Khadr was physically, mentally, and emotionally tortured before being put though a judicial process that would give Josef Stalin pause for thought in no way reduces the magnitude of the tragedy that has befallen the family of Sgt. First Class Christopher Speer. Compassion for Khadr does not in the slightest degree preclude or prevent compassion for them.
Anyway, I have very little more to say about it, particularly given the volume of material out there on the case already. Here are a couple of good reads, though:
"America rewrites the laws of war for Omar Khadr" from The Guardian.
"Khadr case: This is war, not a war crime" from the Halifax Chronicle-Herald.
As one of Khadr's lawyers put it, accurately and succinctly, "fundamental principles of law and due process were long since abandoned in Omar's case."
Friday, October 22, 2010
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
And thus ends an interesting month or two in local politics. It was actually, on the night, a bit anti-climactic here - every single incumbent got in, most of them handily. And, while the turnout was still low, it was (a lot) better than last time.
In the end, the right choice was made, at least as far as the mayoral race was concerned. Mandel may not be perfect, but he's better than the other guys, good Lord. He campaigned basically by not making mistakes, and by not getting that grumpy, even as his character, morals, business connections, leadership ability, and general decency were hammered away at by a consortium of shrill, petulant, passive-aggressive, dirty-tricks-playing whiners (yeah, Envision Edmonton, I'm talking about you), a mob whose repeated accusations of undemocratic behaviour were made all the more galling by the fact that they couldn't and didn't recognize democracy when it rose up and repeatedly bit them in the ass.1 In facing them down, Mandel never stooped to the level that, y'know, I just did.
And so congratulations to Mr. Mandel! The next three years should be good ones for Edmonton.
1Perhaps I am hard on Envision Edmonton. However, I remember overhearing a conversation one evening at the pub involving an EE volunteer, someone who'd been working fairly hard on their petition drive. That conversation dealt, in part, with Steven Mandel, and featured repeated uses of the word "Jew-boy." Now, I do not for a moment assert that Envision Edmonton is an anti-semitic organization, but one can occasionally be judged by the company one keeps.
Friday, October 15, 2010
Remember the bad old days? Remember how, back in Medieval times, if the bubonic plague or rampaging Vikings didn't get you, well, there were always the marauding packs of wolves to contend with? Remember that?
Yeah, marauding wolves. Good thing we don't have to worry about them any more!
In unrelated news, here's some surveillance footage of a completely routine traffic stop just outside Rostov-na-Donu, Russia:
And we would be remiss if we were to pass up this opportunity to provide the following musical interlude:
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Thursday, October 7, 2010
And so another hockey season is upon us, and for those of us in Oiler land, it couldn't come fast enough given the debacle that was last season. And what's that wafting through the air? Could it be the sweet sweet smell of optimism drifting down this way from RX1?
Well, probably not, actually, at least not in the short term. I've seen the phrase "exciting last-place hockey" being bandied around the Oilogosphere, and it's not entirely tongue-in-cheek. Yes, there are going to be some long, long nights this season. The nights when the three musketeers (pictured above) are looking every bit as young as they actually are. The nights when whichever one of our 523 goaltenders is in goal is doing his best impersonation of a menhir. The nights when it is painfully obvious just how little depth we have on defense. The playoffs are almost certain to remain a phenomenon that happens to other teams.
Oh, but there will be other nights. The nights when the sheer amount of latent skill on this team shines through, and it feels like the kids can score at will. The nights when the breakout passes are hitting guys in stride. The nights when it's the Oilers taking liberties, and not, as has been so often the case in the past, the other team. The nights when it is obvious that Shawn Horcoff was the right choice for captain, thank you very much. The nights when we can see the first germinations of playoff runs yet to come.
So sit back and enjoy - these are the humble beginnings of something pretty special!
On a side note, various sibling units are taking part in the pre-game singing of "O Fortuna," from the Carmina Burana. If that's not an awesome way to kick off a hockey season, I don't know what is! May it inspire the lads to roll over the Flame-like things from Calgary.
Oh, and the Stanley Cup? Pittsburgh over Vancouver. Book it, done.
Monday, October 4, 2010
Well, I did say there was going to be something about an Irish monk...
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Ok, so it's about the 8th century A.D., and the scene is Reichenau Island,1 in the very very South of what is now Germany, as seen on the map above. Specifically, we are looking at the Benedictine Abbey of Reichenau, founded in A.D. 724 by St. Pirmin, who may have been a Visigoth although that's beside the point. The Abbey of Reichenau is believed (to this day!) to contain the jug used at the Wedding at Cana, although that too is irrelevant to our purpose.
No, our interest today is drawn to the abbey's scriptorium, wherein we shall find a possibly bored monk.2 He is busy working on a document that will become known as the Reichenauer Schulheft (Stift St. Paul Cod. 86a/1), which translates as the Reichenauer Primer. The Primer contains a general miscellany of writings, mostly in Latin, but including some Greek and bits of Old High German. It was probably intended purely as scribing practice, which may explain why the monk is bored. Here's a sample page:
And how do we know/suspect that the monk is finding this day's work a bit tedious? Well, we know because he has become distracted by the antics of his little scriptorium cell's other denizen. The end result of this distraction is a short poem, jotted down in the Primer in Old Irish, which we may safely assume is the monk's mother tongue. The poem is at the bottom of the left-hand page in the above picture, but here it is, in its original language, so that you don't have to squint:
cechtar nathar fria saindan:
bíth a menmasam fri seilgg,
mu memna céin im saincheirdd.
Caraimse fos (ferr cach clu)
oc mu lebran, leir ingnu;
ni foirmtech frimm Pangur Bán:
caraid cesin a maccdán.
O ru biam (scél cen scís)
innar tegdais, ar n-oendís,
taithiunn, dichrichide clius,
ni fris tarddam ar n-áthius.
Gnáth, huaraib, ar gressaib gal
glenaid luch inna línsam;
os mé, du-fuit im lín chéin
dliged ndoraid cu ndronchéill.
Fuachaidsem fri frega fál
a rosc, a nglése comlán;
fuachimm chein fri fegi fis
mu rosc reil, cesu imdis.
Faelidsem cu ndene dul
hi nglen luch inna gerchrub;
hi tucu cheist ndoraid ndil
os me chene am faelid.
Cia beimmi a-min nach ré
ni derban cách a chele:
maith la cechtar nár a dán;
subaigthius a óenurán.
He fesin as choimsid dáu
in muid du-ngni cach oenláu;
du thabairt doraid du glé
for mu mud cein am messe.
Now, I confess that my knowledge of Old Irish is practically non-existent. I know that "bán" means "white," or "pale," or, in modern Irish, "blonde," and I can hazard a guess that "lebran," in the second verse, means "book," on account of us dealing with an Indo-European language. I've got some vague notions about a coupld of other words in the poem, but that's about as far as I can go, so I will step aside, and hand things over to a translation by J. Marchand (found here, with some other translations). Of all the translations of the poem that I've seen, I prefer this one, as I get the sense that it sticks quite closely to the original language.
1. I and White Pangur, each of us in his special craft. His mind is set on hunting; my mind is on my special subject.
2. I love resting (better than any fame) at my book, with diligent understanding; White Pangur is not envious of me; he loves his childish craft.
3. When we are (tale without tiredness), in our house, being alone, we have an endless sport, a thing to which we may apply our skill.
4. It is usual, at times, by feats of valor, that a mouse sticks in his net. As for me, there falls into my net, a difficult rule with hard meaning.
5. He points fiercely against an enclosing wall his eye, bright, perfect. I myself direct against the keenness of knowledge my sharp eye, though it be quite weak.
6. He is happy with swiftness of movement upon a mouse sticking in his sharp paws. Which I understand a difficult pleasant problem, as for me, I am happy, too.
7. Though we may be indeed (like this) at any time, neither disturbs his partner; good to each of us is his art, each rejoices in them.
8. He himself is master of it, the work which he does every day. To bring clarity to difficulty, I am at my own work.
A more poetic translation may be found here. Anyway, there we have it. A monk at work in a scriptorium took a brain-break, and because of that, 1250 or so years later, we know of the existence (and name!) of a particular white cat. Neat, hmmm?
1At least, it's probably Reichenau Island, or at least somewhere in the vicinity.
2It is just possible that this monk is Sedulius Scottus, but we don't know for sure.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Well, better late than never! Yes, Serie A is techinically 5 rounds into its season, but here we are with a preview nonetheless.
And what a bizarre 5 rounds they've been! If the season were to end today, Inter would win the title, which is not surprising at all, but they'd be joined in the Champions' League by Lazio, Chievo Verona, and Brescia. At the other end of the table, Lecce would be relegated, which may happen anyway, but AS Roma and Udinese would also take up residence in Serie B. Newly promoted Cesena, who haven't been in the top division in a couple of decades, have already drawn Roma and beaten AC Milan. Weirdness abounds.
The oddity that is this young season was perfectly encapsulated by the events that occurred late in the Brescia-Roma match on September 22nd. In the waning moments of the game, with Brescia leading 2-1, Roma goalkeeper Julio Sergio threw himself into a reckless sliding tackle on Brescia's Panagiotis Kone. The Roma player ended up with a yellow card, and, more seriously, a dislocated and generally torn up ankle. However, Roma were already down a man due to an earlier red card, and had used up all their substitutions. And so poor old Julio Sergio was hastily taped up, and then forced to remain in goal, though obviously in extreme distress, until the end of the match. It was all rather... well, awkward and uncomfortable, actually, although probably not as uncomfortable as it was for Julio Sergio, who's expected to miss a month or so of action. Here's the whole sordid affair, set to piano music for some reason:
Early season weirdness, however, does tend to sort itself out, as injuries pile up, slow starters get themselves settled, and talent, or lack thereof, begins to tell, and the final table will probably look at least moderately familiar. The big four look to be in pretty good shape to take the Champions' spots, but the wizened seers see the title moving across Milan to reside with Berlusconi's boys, with a lingering chance that this occurs for reasons other than on-field performance. As for the relegation question, Lecce and Cesena appear weak, despite the latter's early season feats, and I just have a bad feeling about Bologna. Between those two extremes it's a hard to say. Economic crisis and a new, more equitable, TV deal, are in the process of bringing more parity to Serie A, even as Italian clubs slip back a little bit in comparison with their Spanish and English counterparts (the German and Dutch leagues have undergone the same process in recent seasons). Although the big clubs still have their noses in front, it's likely that this season and those to come will see more competition and excitement than there's been in Serie A for some time! Anyway, here's your predicted final table:
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
More regular blogging will resume in the near future! We've got a Serie A Preview that is rapidly becoming a Postview, and something about an Irish monk. And some other things. In the meantime, have some delicious delicious geekery:
Update: Meant to mention: I've updated the list of Kobold-brand(tm) Sporcle quizzes to the left. Have fun!
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Friday, September 3, 2010
For some reason I have a Tegan and Sara song stuck in my head. This is not my default state. Stupid radio station that we listen to at work...
You gotta admit that it's pretty catchy, though. I'm told that Tegan is the cute one, and that the other cute one is Sara.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
From an Edmonton Sun editorial suggesting a solution to the issue of Tamil or other dark-skinned refugees appearing on our shores in search of, yes, refuge:
Yeah, I know, but it happened. A major daily newspaper, in Canada in the year A.D. 2010, actually proposed sinking ships carrying refugees. Somewhere, Captain Gustav Schröder shakes his head in disgust.
Friday, August 13, 2010
Yes, 'til the season again! And once more, we are here with fearless predictions! This year, I've decided to divide the Premiership teams up into groups, based on their rough projected finish. Furthermore, I have wittily named these groups after Clash songs. So here we go (teams are listed in alphabetical order in each group, and last year's finish is in brackets after the team name)!
"Brand New Cadillac": Arsenal (3), Chelsea (1), Manchester City (5), Manchester United (2). You can probably lay down money that your champion will come from this group, and there's a good chance that these teams will hog all the Champions' League spots. Large questions remain concerning Man City's ability to get their very expensive lineup to gel (and they're not done tinkering with it yet), but I think they're ready to make the jump. The other three teams here are long-standing members of the "Big Four," and it'll be no surprise at all to see them clustered at the top of the table again. These teams have no chance at all of being relegated, and failure to qualify for Europe will be viewed as a catastrophe.
"Safe European Home": Everton (8), Liverpool (7), Tottenham Hotspur (4). Here we have the teams that are likely to take the Europa Cup (formerly UEFA Cup) spots. These teams are dangerous, and do have a chance to creep into the Champions' League, as Spurs did last season, but they probably won't contend for the Premiership title. Fortunately, relegation is also virtually out of the question. And what is Liverpool, traditionally one of the "Big Four," doing in this lowlier group? Suffering from major financial problems, is what. Liverpool are actually very hard to figure out for this season; they could rise above it all and get in there with the big boys at the top of the table, or they could implode, sell all their good players, and finish 16th.
"Lost in the Supermarket": Aston Villa (6), Birmingham (9), Blackburn Rovers (10), Bolton Wanderers (14), Fulham (12), Newcastle United (promoted), Stoke City (11), Sunderland (13). Ah, here we have the great "meh" of the mid-table of the Premiership, with no disrespect intended. These teams generally don't have the financial clout to compete for Champions' League spots, and can really only hope (faintly) to fight their way into the lesser Europa Cup. Relegation is also unlikely for these teams; however, a bad run of injuries or loss of form could land any one of them in hot water quite quickly. The mystery team here is Newcastle. They're back, obviously, and they've certainly got the fan-base to compete with anyone, but the seers have foreseen a season consolidation before they once again assail the upper reaches of the Premiership. We also originally had Aston Villa in the "Safe European Home" group, but their manager walked out on them this week, three days before their first game, and that's not going to do their chances any good at all.
"Should I Stay or Should I Go?": West Bromwich Albion (promoted), West Ham United (17), Wigan Athletic (16), Wolverhampton Wanderers (15). No, I do not have anything against the letter "W". These teams must be a bit nervous looking forward to the season, since two of the relegation spots are likely to go to members of this group. Mid-table safety will be quite acceptable, and a spot in Europe next season would border on the miraculous. West Ham are probably the strongest of this group, and the most likely to survive.
"Train in Vain": Blackpool (promoted). Almost dead certs for relegation, unfortunately. Once one of England's great teams, Blackpool last saw the top division in 1971, and have stumbled around the lower flights ever since. Now, a couple of years back Hull City managed to survive their first ever Premiership season, so the situation isn't totally hopeless, but Blackpool's chances are slim and none, and slim's in the taxi on the way to the airport. Blackpool just don't have the resources to compete at this level. At least they'll always have "The Matthews Final."
So, in the end, your Premiership table is likely to look roughly so:
|16||West Ham United|
|19||West Bromwich Albion|
And what of Millwall, back in the Championship, the second tier of English football? Well, to be honest, their goal this season is to finish above three other teams in the standings. I'll be happy wherever they end up, as long as they don't get relegated straight back to League 1. And they're off to a decent start; the Championship actually began play last weekend, and Millwall strolled off to Bristol City, a team with a genuine shot at promotion to the Premiership. Sometime later, they strolled back to London, having thrashed City 3-0. So that was good, but there's still a long road ahead of them.
And finally, you didn't think I'd do the whole "Clash song title" thing and then not post a vid, did you? Here's "Safe European Home":
Thursday, August 12, 2010
So with the Premiership season due to commence on Saturday, the wizened Kobold seers are even now adding the eye of newt and such to the scrying cauldrons to see what may be seen. Last year the seers did pretty well, actually correctly selecting the three relegated teams (missed on the title winners, though, and went three-for-four on Champions League participants).
That's for tomorrow, however. In the meantime, behold! as one of the greatest scientific questions of our age is at last answered:
Friday, August 6, 2010
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Crime rates drop in most provinces
Last Updated: Tuesday, July 21, 2009
The crime rate was down across the country and in most provinces for the fifth consecutive year in 2008, according to a Statistics Canada report released Tuesday in Ottawa.
So, great, right? Who, in their right mind, could possibly object to a declining crime rate? Well, step forward, Government of Canada!
Treasury Board President Stockwell Day says the government will go ahead with its plan to spend billions for new prisons, suggesting statistics that show crime is declining in Canada are not accurate.
During a news conference on Tuesday in Ottawa, Day said the government has received indications that more and more people are not reporting crimes committed against them.
"Received indications," eh? "Decided to pretend, since we really, really, reeeeeeeelly want some shiny new prisons to put people in so that we can look tough" is closer to the mark here. Even for a group as ideology-driven as the Conservative Party, this is pretty blatant.
When questioned by perplexed reporters, Day did not elaborate on what information source he was basing his claims, but said he would provide figures to them later.
"Our interns are nearly finished making these figures up," he did not add, although strict honesty would probably require him to do so.
It's a very great shame that actual crime prevention, from the standpoint of public policy, isn't sexy. It requires extending compassion, time, understanding, and often public money to folks that your average cheerful middle-class voter likely finds pretty unappealing. Furthermore, it doesn't allow people like Stockwell Day nearly enough opportunity to go into full Wyatt Earp mode. And that's how we end up with governmental attacks on safe injection sites, billions spent on the closing of barn doors long after the horses have vanished over the horizon, and the bizarre spectacle of the party in government acting butthurt because the crime rate isn't high enough for them.
Friday, July 30, 2010
I am off to cat-sitting job number two, spending a couple of days looking after Benny, about whom I have blogged before. Benny seems fine - he is now a mostly full-time indoor cat, which spares him from the malicious attentions of the magpies outside, among other things.
In the meantime, here's the Noisettes doing a cover of a very early Buzzcocks song (the Buzzcocks are, I think, one of the great overlooked early punk bands). I gather that the cover version was recorded to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martens boots. So, a worthy cause then. Original version of the song is here.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
I am currently on that gig once more, hence the lack of much blogging in the last week or so. This time I have three furry ones to take care of, although they're pretty good at taking care of themselves (particularly the eldest of the three, who is prone to holding the other two down and giving them tongue baths.
Friday, July 16, 2010
Monday, July 12, 2010
In no particular order:
To the Netherlands, for being this close, again.
To Jules Rimet, for coming up with the whole idea in the first place.
To the Diegos: Uruguay's Forlán, for being justly chosen the best player at the World Cup, and Argentina's Maradona, for somehow making himself into a genuine feel-good story.
To Andres Iniesta, for honouring Dani Jarque (see picture in post below).
To New Zealand, who went unbeaten(!!!!!!!!).
To Slovakia and Serbia, who were there, technically, for the first time.
To Müller, Villa, Sneijder, and Forlán, who scored 5 apiece for their countries.
To Algeria and Honduras, who failed to score at all.
To Ireland, who should have been there.
To Laurent Blanc, half of one of the greatest pre-game rituals ever, who now has the job of putting the French team back together.
To Cesare Prandelli, who'll have the same task with Italy.
To the young, skillful, and entertaining German team, from whom more will be heard in the future.
To England and Portugal, who didn't get to play their traditional quarter-final thriller this time around.
To Robert Green, may the leather-lunged ruffians on the terraces be kind to him.
To Gattuso, and Cannavaro, and maybe Buffon, and the other Azzurri that we won't see in that shirt again.
To Canada. One day, one day...
To Iker Casillas, for embarassing his girlfriend while she was at work. And for being the best 'keeper on the planet.
To Ghana, who deserved better.
To the United States, who served notice.
To Tim Howard, who joined Brad Friedel and Kasey Keller, and possibly others, on the list of strong, classy, American goalkeepers, and did so while suffering from Tourette's Syndrome.
To the dreaded penalty shoot-out, which claimed only two victims this time around (Japan and Ghana, in case you're wondering).
To Uruguay. Who'd have thought they'd be the last South American team standing?
To the refs. Out of 64 games, we had about 4 which involved any kind of serious officiating controversy. Not bad at all.
To the host country, which did a spectacular job, vuvuzelas and all.
To Brazil, now on the clock.
And finally, to Spain, who deserved it in the end.
More, perhaps, as/if I think of them - feel free to add your own in the comments! In the meantime, it was a good World Cup.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Saturday, July 10, 2010
A quick vignette from the Bookstore:
We have doing some fairly hard-core cleaning and reorganization of the textbook section lately, and this has led to the discovery of some interesting cultural artefacts. My favourite one so far, discovered slipped down inside one of the shelves in the Health Education section, has been...
...wait for it...
... a copy of the Dragonheart Picture Storybook. You may remember Dragonheart as being the movie that managed to suck despite having Sean Connery playing a dragon.
The things people leave behind...
Friday, July 9, 2010
And that's an all-of-a-sudden sort of thing, isn't it? Weren't we just tuning in to see South Africa play Mexico yesterday?
- Do make a point, if you can, of catching the third-place game. It may be a mere consolation prize for the losing semi-finalists, but for that very reason it often produces spectacular soccer, as nobody worries too much about making mistakes. The third-place game can also yield remarkable "moments," like the touching joint celebrations after the 2002 match between South Korea and Turkey (see photo above, and note that that is a Turkish player carrying the South Korean flag). Definitely worth watching!
- And then, on Sunday, we will see a country win the World Cup for the first time. We will also see a European country win the Cup outside that continent for the first time. And, we will see the first ever World Cup final not to feature at least one of Italy, Germany (inc. West Germany), Brazil, and Argentina.
- Sunday's game is to be refereed by Howard Webb, a policeman from Yorkshire. So, either FIFA has changed the rules, mentioned in the last World-Cuppity post, about the geographical origins of its refs, or they feel that Webb is one hell of an official. Collina seems to like him, in any case.
- While we're on the subject of officials, one of the linesmen ("referee's assistants," in modern parlance) for the third-place match on Saturday will be Hector Vergara of Winnipeg, working his final international game. Another reason for Canadian fans to watch!
- Finally, nothing at all against Spain (I'll be genuinely pleased for them if they win on Sunday), but we here in the warrens will be pulling for the Netherlands. Hup, Hup! etc.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Saturday, July 3, 2010
And we're down to the final four! As expected, South American giants Brazil and Argentina have progressed, untroubled, to... um... the... ah... wait, what?
- Yes, this was really looking like it was going to be South America's tournament. All five teams from the region made the round of 16, and, furthermore, no team from Europe has ever won the World Cup outside its home continent. In fact, FIFA had even taken the step of sending home most of the South American referees, since there were obviously so few games left that would not involve South American teams. And now, all of a very sudden, we're down to one South American team. Brazil were undone by nerves and poor discipline, not to mention a Netherlands side that was more than equipped to take advantage of both those defects. Argentina were simply run over. And now, barring some kind of miraculous performance from Uruguay(!), it's Europe's tournament.
- Just to clarify on the referees: No World Cup Finals referee can officiate a match involving a team from his continent. An exception to this rule was made in 2002, for the final between Germany and Brazil, to allow the man pictured above to take charge, since he was clearly the best referee in the world at that time. For those of you unacquainted with him, his name is Pierluigi Collina, he's Italian, and he is now sadly retired from refereeing.
- Last word on referees: The refereeing in this tournament hasn't been that bad. Of course, hideous blunders have made headlines, as usual, but most of the games have been professionally and competently handled. If I'm selecting the ref for the final match right now, it's Yuichi Nishimura of Japan. When I've seen him, he's been calm, dignified, decisive, and fair-minded without being pushed around. In particular, I thought he did a fine job with the Brazil-Netherlands game.
- From the department of over=reacting: Nigeria's president has suspended its men's national team for two years, for the purposes of reorganization, and the French government has launched a formal probe of their own team's debacle. This is fairly heavy duty; Fifa takes a very dim view of government interference with the various national soccer associations, and both France and Nigeria could end up suspended from all international play (including women's and youth tournaments). In my experience, however, these things do tend to get resolved before the more drastic steps are taken.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Monday, June 28, 2010
You simply cannot strike a soccer ball any better than Carlos Tevez does in this video:
That, my friends, is a perfect shot (it was measured at 111 kph). The best reply of it is the one that begins at 1:09.
(apologies for the dodgy video quality. I'll try to find better)
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Well, the round-robin portion of the World Cup is now behind us, and I had been thinking that it might be fun to take a look at the teams that failed to advance to the knockout stages, and take a stab at analyzing what happened. Then Italy were eliminated. So now I think it would be useful to take a look at the teams that are going home early. So let's do this thing!
Why Are They Out? Sadly, their only thing they really had going for them was home-field advantage. In a combination of bad luck and bad planning, they ended up hosting the tournament at a time when their national team was as weak as it's been in years. Any Positives? They did win a game, if only over the shattered remnants of the French team. And hey, they're hosting the World Cup.
Why Are They Out? Because the Soccer Gods will not be mocked. You may recall that the French qualified for South Africa '10 under highly dubious circumstances, and this tournament was a disaster for them. One of their best players was sent home, their captain was benched, the team refused to practise, and a grand total of one goal was scored. At press time, Ireland was still giggling. Any Positives? Nope.
Why Are They Out? They were never likely to qualify out of a group that included Argentina and Nigeria, and the only big surprise was that it was South Korea who pipped them for the second spot. They did themselves no favours by coming out flatter than flat against Korea in the opening game. Any Positives? When opportunity presented itself suddenly against Nigeria, the Greeks took full advantage and went on to win the game.
Why Are They Out? Nigeria are usually among the strongest of the African sides, but they were a pale shadow of that this time around - in fact, they were damn lucky to qualify for the finals at all. Then, in their game against Greece, Sani Kaita lashed out petulantly at a Greek player and was justly sent off. Nigeria lost the game, and that was pretty much the end for them. Any Positives? They'll be back - they're still likely favourites to be the first African team to actually win the Cup.
Why Are They Out?The second half against the United States destroyed them. If they'd held onto their thoroughly deserved 2-0 lead, they'd have won Group C. Any positives? Well, they did get themselves that 2-0 lead against the U.S. The ex-Yugoslavian nations tend to punch above their weight, football-wise, so I doubt we've seen the last of the Slovenians at this level.
Why Are They Out? They were in over their heads in this group, and it showed, as the Algerians scored a grand total of zero goals at South Africa '10. They can probably be filed under "just happy to be at the finals at all." Any Positives? Their defense was excellent; Algeria conceded just two goals, and one of them, against Slovenia, was a muff by the goalkeeper. In addition, they forced a draw against England (it was unquestionably the worst game of the tournament so far, but that's beside the point).
Why Are They Out? Australia got run over by Germany in their opening game, and, although they rallied somewhat, it wasn't enough. They also had discipline problems, picking up red cards in each of their first two games. Finally, this year's edition of the Australian team was perhaps just a tad long in the tooth. Any Positives? Prior to the qualifying tournaments for this World Cup, Australia made the risky decision leave the Oceania group and try to qualify out of Asia. It's paid off in spades already, and the improved competition will only raise the quality of Australian soccer.
Why Are They Out? They were really very close to progressing, but played terribly in their last game, against Australia. Nerves, in this case, may have been the issue. Any Positives? Sure. This was an independent Serbia's first World Cup, and I'm sure they'll be back (see comments, in the section about Slovenia, on ex-Yugoslav teams). From this tournament, they can at least take away the memory of having beaten Germany.
Why Are They Out? In a weird way, the Danes are only going home because Japan turned out to be stronger than anyone thought they were. However, Denmark were too often guilty of an inability to create their own scoring chances; their three goals at the tournament came from two defensive errors and a dubious penalty. Any Positives? They took good advantage of Cameroon's defensive frailties, and at least came away from the tournament with a win (and scored a lovely goal, for all that it came out of comedy defending).
Why Are They Out? Cameroon were just awful on defense. Their defenders were caught out badly twice by Denmark, and the goal they gave up against Japan was preventable as well. Cameroon were probably the most disappointing of the African sides, losing all three of their games. Any Positives? Cameroon's poor performance at South Africa '10 was probably just a one-off. They will be back.
Why Are They Out? On paper, they were the weakest team at this World Cup. They surpassed all expectations for them (and how!), but didn't quite have enough to claim one of the top two group spots. Any Positives? Oh Hell yes! Of all the eliminated teams, the All-Whites can probably hold their heads up the highest. They didn't lose a game at the tournament (Ok, they didn't win one either, but still), and the 1-1 draw with Italy will go down as one of the country's most glorious soccer moments.
Why Are They Out? I could go on at length. In short, though, they were nervous and poorly prepared. The Azzurri far too often looked like they were playing to not lose, rather than to win, and even Gattuso's eventual inclusion in the third game couldn't pull them out of it for all his efforts (* puts away dead horse and whip *). They also never settled tactically; one newspaper report that I read noted that Italy, in three games, used three formations, "each worse than the last." Any Positives? They're hard to see, but they are there. There can surely be no opposition at home to the notion of bidding farewell to what's left of the 2006 team, and there are some useful young guys on the way. Expect to hear the names "Montolivo" and "Balotelli" quite a lot in any future discussions of Italian soccer.
Why Are They Out? Ah, at this point the old "Group of Death" syndrome raises its head. Each World Cup seems to feature a group with three deserving teams, and at South Africa 2010 it was Group G, which featured Brazil and Portugal along with Ivory Coast. It came down to the Ivorians needing Brazil to do them a favour against Portugal, and that simply didn't happen. Any Positives? In any other group, the Ivory Coast would have stood an excellent chance of progressing.
Why Are They Out? In that group, they never had a chance. North Korea don't qualify often for the World Cup, and it's pretty easy to see why. They were simply and completely out-classed, losing their last two games by a combined score of 10-0. Any Positives? They hung with Brazilians for an hour before finally going down in one of the tournament's better games. Plus, they produced one of this World Cup's "Awwwww" moments, when one of their players burst into tears during the national anthem before their first game.
Why Are They Out? Their opening-game win over Spain turned out to be a fluke, not an indication that the Swiss were stronger than they appeared. They failed completely to follow it up, losing to Chile and bowing out of the tournament after a tepid draw with Honduras. Switzerland simply lacked the quality to find a way into the second round. Any Positives? They did earn that famous victory against Spain.
Why Are They Out? Honduras were another team that were in a bit over their heads, particularly when it came to attacking the opponents' half. Like Algeria, they failed to score in the tournament. Any Positives? the Hondurans can take some comfort from the fact that they kept all three of their games close.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Well, that went very poorly. My man Gattuso played the first half, and did what he could, but despite an exciting conclusion to the game, one never really got the feeling that Italy were going to pull it out. Big changes coming to the Italian national team, and not all of them are going to be voluntary.
Full congratulations, though, to Slovakia.
Anyway, to take all our minds off it, here's some vuvuzela-related hilarity:
*"Never [before] so ugly." - The headline in La Repubblica, referring to the overall performance of the Azzurri.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
It's either that, or blog about Pat Quinn, and I'm not dead sure what I've got to say about that just yet. Anyway, to the thoughts, at the beginning of the final set of round-robin games:
- From the "Hoist on Your Own Petard" files, we have the situation in which the Ivory Coast finds itself. It's simple actually - the Ivorians need to beat North Korea in their last match, and they need Brazil to beat Portugal. Furthermore, the combined margin of victory in those two games must be at least 9. In other words, it would be really nice for the Ivory Coast if Brazil could score a boatload of goals. Unfortunately, Brazil will play Portugal without Kaka, one of their top offensive talents. Why? Because he picked up a red card in Brazil's last match, which was against, you guessed it, Ivory Coast, and is thus suspended. And how did he get this red card? Well, he bumped, lightly, into an Ivorian player, who promptly went down as though he'd been shotgunned in the face, and the referee swallowed the act hook, line, and sinker. And so, in a weird way, justice will be served if the Ivorians go out of the World Cup because Brazil had a player suspended.
- It's actually been a dismal tournament for the African teams. As of right now, the six teams from the host continent have played 14 games, in which their collective record is as follows: 2 wins, 4 draws, 8 losses. South Africa, Nigeria, and Cameroon are already eliminated, and it's quite likely that the Ivory Coast and Algeria will join them. And, while Ghana are currently atop their group, their last match, against Germany, will be their most difficult, and qualification for the next round is by no means assured.
- Italy have been stumbling. An acceptable opening-match draw against Paraguay was followed up by an unacceptable one against New Zealand. However, all is not lost; a win in their final game, against Slovakia, will see the Azzurri through whatever else happens, and even another draw will suffice if Paraguay can beat New Zealand. Time, methinks, to get Gennaro Gattuso in there (yes, I'm biased). It's true that he's getting on a bit (in fact, this tournament will be his last go-round in international soccer), but he won't be outworked, and his ability to wreak havoc in midfield should give the Slovakians pause for thought.
That's all for now! There'll be more at the end of the round-robin.
Friday, June 18, 2010
And here we are, one-and-a-half rounds of matches into the World Cup. Some observations:
- As you're no doubt aware, one of the features of this world cup has been the omnipresent high-pitched nasal drone of the foreign press complaining about vuvuzelas. Even the usually enjoyable Rick Reilly has stepped up to the plate (ooh, mixed sports metaphor!) on that front, producing what must be the silliest thing he's ever written (I think it's supposed to be funny. It fails). Anyway, FIFA boss Sepp Blatter got it absolutely right when, in response to calls to ban the horns, he pointed out that an African world cup was supposed to sound and feel different.
- Speaking of the feel of the world cup, did anybody realize (and I certainly didn't) that holding it in South Africa meant that it would be the first world cup played in the cold? I've seen a couple of matches in which the temperature was right around the freezing mark.
- At some point, the US will win a world cup. From what I have seen so far in this year's tournament, it's going to be sooner rather than later.
- It's been, obviously, a rough tournament for goalkeepers. England, Algeria, Paraguay, and Nigeria have all lost points due to bad goals. Throw in injuries to Italy's Gigi Buffon and the US's Tim Howard, and... well, eek.
- For some reason, I think the match that I've enjoyed most has been Brazil versus North Korea. Brazil deserved to win, and did, but North Korea definitely deserved to take something out of the match, and duly got a late goal to make things interesting. Well played all 'round.
More thoughts as this thing progresses!
Monday, June 14, 2010
So, some time ago I promised you Saskatoon pics, so here you are! If you can't tell, I'd been playing with the "panorama" feature on the camera again.
Here's a look at the Saskatoon skyline from the place we were inhabiting for the weekend:
As always, click to make big!
Thursday, June 10, 2010
It's once again time to hand out the Scalies - the De Koboldorum Rebus awards given to our beloved Edmonton Oilers for services rendered during the hockey season just past! I tell ya, one of these years they're going to make the playoffs, and then it's going to be really hard to pick these. In the meantime, not so much.
Team MVP: I have, over the course of the last couple of months, heard and read a number of people performing variations on the theme of "if you had told me in September that the Oilers would finish dead last by a mile but nobody would be mad at Dustin Penner (pictured above), I would have laughed." The man's eerie similarities to Frank Mahovlich have been noted elsewhere, and this year we got to see the "thunderous power-forward" side of that equation, as opposed to the "guy in the coach's doghouse" side of previous years. Despite a mid-season slump, Penner became the second Oiler, after Wayne Gretzky, to lead the team in goals, assists, points, and +/- over a season, and although it must be said that he didn't have much competition, that's still pretty impressive. So yeah, this one's Penner's.
Best Rookie: , I think. While Dubnyk, in the way that rookie goaltenders do, probably contributed more than his share to the graying of his coach, there were nonetheless very promising signs towards the end of the season. He even managed to get himself an admittedly odd call-up to Team Canada for the World Championships, although he didn't see any action. The Oilers will probably have to decide between him and Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers this summer at some point, and the general consensus that I'm seeing is that they'll go with Dubnyk. The fact that he's 6'6" doesn't hurt him at all.
Most Under-Rated Player: It was Shawn Horcoff, my goodness. Yes, he had a terrible year. Yes, his +/- was one of the worst in the entire league. Yes, he's overpaid. But he was likely playing hurt, he's one of the few guys on the Oil who can reliably take a faceoff, he's by all accounts a classy guy, and his work ethic is legendary (this last is an important consideration given the large number of young guys likely to be kicking around training camp this fall). In a just world, Horcoff would be a shoo-in as the next Oilers' Captain. However, this is not a just world; this is a world where Shawn Horcoff was booed this past season by his own fans after picking up assists.
Most Improved Player: After some pondering, I think this one has to go to Gilbert Brule. The Blue-Jackets made him the poster boy for guys brought into the league too young, and this was past year was his first chance to really turn things around. He took advantage of it, with goal and point totals that were by far career bests. There's some question, of course, as to the role of luck in this renaissance (Brule's shooting percentage was suspiciously high), and thus as to whether he can keep it up, but in the meantime it was a nice job by the young man.
And thus another year of Scalies comes to a close. And now, we wish to take you back to a brighter time, the time of "a few games into the 2009-2010 NHL season," when the Oilers were more-or-less healthy, and did not despair even when down 4-1 in the second period. Watch, and enjoy (you can especially enjoy Penner's drive to the net at the 2:00 mark of the video. Remind yourself that that's an NHL defenceman trying to stop him. Even though Penner didn't score on the play, it's still impressive - truly Mahovlichian, in fact).
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Ok, maybe not really "breaking," so much, since this story is a few days old, but to make an 8-years-long story short, Alberta finally got around to putting the grizzly bear on the Threatened List. Now we wait to see if the gov will in fact follow through, and start taking the necessary steps (restricting access, etc.) to actually protect the grizzly population. At least, in the meatime, the bears can't be hunted.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Monday, May 31, 2010
* Reads newspaper *
Hmm, so, let's see, what's up in the world these days? Well, everything seems to be going swimmingly in regards to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Why, the next attempt to contain the leak will probably only INCREASE the rate of flow from it by 20%!!!!!!!! Sucks to be you, things that live in, on, or by the Gulf! Fortunately, the head cheese of British Petroleum says that things aren't that bad at all, and we should all just settle down and not pay any attention to those horrible sciencey people, with their science and everything. Next up - hurricane season!
And... look over here! An attempt to lessen, in some minor and perhaps symbolic way, the suffering of the city of Gaza has been met with lethal force, thus providing the extremist wings of both sides of the Israel-Palestine debate with a prime chance to get up and scream at each other. At press time, Gaza itself remained more-or-less screwed.
On the local front, someone took it upon him/her/itself this past weekend to wander down to the zoo and wipe out the guinea pigs. "Why?" you ask? Nobody knows. However, I feel strongly that The Stealthy Dachshund's response has much merit to it.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Saturday, May 15, 2010
And to think we said we'd never make a sequel... Anyway, since we last blogged on this topic, there's been a change in the awards, so there's a new entry in the list! That, and we forgot one.
First, to the change. Sadly, this season we bid "adieu" to the Lester B. Pearson Award, about which we blogged here, and which has been retired and replaced. You may recall that this was the award handed out, on behalf of the NHL Players' Association, to the player voted "most outstanding" by his peers. Now, we are generally against the replacing of the NHL awards, and we're against this one. Nonetheless, we can have no objections to the man chosen to be honoured by the replacement award, especially given that it's handed out by the NHLPA.
The Ted Lindsay Award: Ted Lindsay (pictured above bothering Jacques Plante) was a hell of a hockey player. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, he made up one third of the "Production Line" in Detroit, alongside Gordie Howe and Sid Abel. How good was the line? Well, in the 49-50 season, Howe finished third in the NHL in scoring... behind Lindsay and Abel.
Despite his on-ice prowess, however, Lindsay is better-known for something he did away from the rink. In the mid-50s, he and Doug Harvey of the Canadiens launched an attempt to form first an association, and then a union, for NHL players. Lindsay's career suffered for it; the Norris family, who owned the Red Wings, ended up trading him to the then-moribund Chicago Black Hawks. However, the players duly got their union, and the men who today pull down millions to play the game, and actually have some say in where they play it, can thank Ted Lindsay for that.
The Ted Lindsay Award will be given, as the Pearson Award was, to the league's most outstanding player, as voted upon by the membership of Ted Lindsay's NHLPA.
The Roger Crozier Saving Grace Award: This is the one we forgot. The Roger Crozier Saving Grace Award is awarded by MBNA America (a bank, in case you didn't know) to the goalie who records the best save percentage over the course of the season.
Roger Crozier was a capable goalie for the Red Wings for most of the 1960s, when he twice led the league in shutouts. In 1970, he moved to the expansion Buffalo Sabres, and became their first ever starting goalie. Crozier played the rest of his career in Buffalo, apart from a very short (3 game) stint with the Capitals, and retired in 1977. After his retirement, he went to work for MBNA America, and the award that bears his name was donated by his employers after Crozier's death in 1996.
No Oiler has ever won the Roger Crozier Saving Grace Award.
I should point out here that there are a couple of other NHL awards; however, they're not named for figures from hockey's distant past, and I don't see much point in discussing them at any length. They are the NHL Lifetime Achievement Award (Current Holder: Jean Beliveau) and the ScotiaBank Fan Fave Award (Current Holder: Roberto Luongo).
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
The federal government breached parliamentary privilege with its refusal to produce uncensored documents related to the treatment of Afghan detainees and must provide the material to MPs within two weeks, Speaker Peter Milliken has ruled.
In case you were wondering at all, that was an important and historic statement by the Speaker. To sum it up (the full transcript is here, Mr. Milliken ruled that
Charles I Stephen Harper and his cabinet cannot refuse to do the bidding of Parliament, period, full stop. The notion that Parliament, not the executive branch, runs the show goes back a fair ways, probably at least to the above-alluded-to English Civil War, and it is really no exaggeration to say that, had the Speaker ruled differently, the Canadian political system would have been dramatically altered at a stroke. So, it was a big day for the country, and again, a hearty "well done" to Mr. Milliken.
Anyway, long day at work, so I'll wimp out at this point and let you go and read Dr. Dawg's excellent and detailed analysis of the situation!
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Question: What do Cree, Dakota, Dene, Inuktitut, Michif, Ojibway and Oji-Cree have in common? Well, apart from, obviously, being Native American languages, they're about to be given official status in the province of Manitoba. Apparently, they will be recognized as Aboriginal Languages of Manitoba, and efforts will be made to preserve their use.
This is a very good and encouraging thing. Indigenous languages have become notoriously fragile things (the tsunami of 2005 irretrievably eradicated five languages in the Bay of Bengal alone), and any official intervention to forestall the loss of them is more than welcome.
So here's to Manitoba, and may we see the same sort of project undertaken in other provinces soon! Oh, and the comments section for the story linked in the first paragraph is every bit, and I mean 100%, as non-ignorant as you thought it would be.
UPDATE: The Calgary Herald story seems to have gone away. I've replaced it with something form the Winnipeg Sun.