Sunday, July 15, 2018

WC 2018 final

What an entertaining game! 90 minutes of action, never a dull moment. Some weird things, too: fans on the pitch, goal-keeper mistakes, own goals, video-replay penalty kick.

I cannot believe how hard that Croatian team played. Outmatched from the start, they never played like it. Falling behind, they never gave up. Right down the very last minute, every single step they gave more, worked harder, over-achieved and over-achieved.

But what an astonishingly great French team this was! I may go a long time before I see another team as strong and deep as this one.

Interestingly, I thought it all changed when Kante came off for N'Zonzi. Perhaps it was Kante's yellow card, perhaps he was tired, I suspect he was hurt. Whatever it was, N'Zonzi came on and then in the span of 10 minutes it was decided. Pogba's lovely goal, followed by an equally lovely effort from Mbappe.

Vive la France! Well-earned, and well-deserved, and a most entertaining end to a most entertaining World Cup.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Talos Principle: a very short review

ICYMI, the mouse roared today, and defeated the mighty lion.

It was a joy to see my Croatian colleague as happy as I've seen him in quite some time.

Meanwhile, in other news Croat, I've been playing the lovely The Talos Principle, from the Croatian gaming studio Croteam.

I'm kind of a sucker for puzzle games.

But this is a very nice puzzle game. It's clever, clean, elegant, appealing to both the eye and ear (make sure you get the version with the nice soundtrack included), and entertaining.

As to the sci-fi part of it: well, I'm not sure how much I care about that frillery.

But it's a lovely puzzle game, and a great way to while away the hours.

Monday, July 9, 2018

WS 2018 Semifinals

We're getting down to it.

In many ways, trying to make picks isn't a lot of fun at this point. For one thing, the field contains only very strong teams, so no matter what happens, some great teams are going to lose out. For another thing, I rather like all these teams.

But, anyway:

  1. Belgium vs France

    This match is the REAL final, I think: who prevails in this match will also win on Saturday. Belgium's attacking group (Hazard, De Bruyne, Lukaku, Fellaini, Chadli, Witsel) are certainly as good as any cup winner in decades, and Thibaut Courtois is the goalkeeper's goalkeeper.

    But, France measure up well everywhere. Even though Belgium must be feeling quite confident after the way they dispatched Brazil, France will be the hardest test by far. If Pogba and Kante play as well as they can, France can prevail. Vive la France! If you only watch one World Cup match, make it this one! It goes to extra time, but France are able to score the decisive goal in the 97th minute.

  2. England vs Croatia

    I think that the reason that England are in the semifinals is because they have the youngest team (2nd youngest?) in the tournament. However, this is also the reason that England's tournament is about to end. Croatia showed their experience and maturity in defeating the hosts, and they will bring that same discipline and coordination and mettle to this match. The match will be long and exhausting (to watch, not only to play). By the end of the match, which will go to 120 minutes and end up with 10 vs 10 on the field, Croatia will, for the third consecutive game, prevail in the shootout, much to the dismay of the English fans who will instantly decide that the curse has returned (they should not, for this is a fine English squad and hopefully is the sign of many great things to come).

Oh, by the way, pay some attention to the referees for these matches, for you're seeing the best referees at the peak of their skill, and being a World Cup referee is a particularly interesting and unusual skill:

  1. Cüneyt Çakır
  2. Andrés Ismael Cunha Soca

I hope this means that Néstor Pitana will referee the final! (Or Björn Kuipers, too, he's great. Just not Mark Geiger.)

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Up, up, and away!

If there's a slowdown, it hasn't arrived here yet:

  • How Window Washers Almost Sunk Salesforce Tower’s Interactive Light Sculpture
    There’s a reason that most LED installations face the LEDs out—that’s easy, you just stick them on a surface. What Campbell proposed instead was really hard.

    “We had designed these rods sticking off the side of the building to hold the LED hats facing in,” Campbell says. And then “the window washers told us they would end up breaking some off every day. It took us six to 12 months to figure out what to do.”

    Campbell and his team first considered making the rods too strong to break, but realized that if they did that, a blow to a rod would end up bending the aluminum shell of the building, and that would be even worse.

  • Oakland Office Development Plan Would Rival SF Salesforce Tower
    The Eastside project would take up the entire block bordered by Telegraph, Broadway, 21st and 22nd Streets, nearly 1.6 million square feet of office space.

    “You see a lot of parking spaces around Oakland that are being developed for housing and other things. I think people are looking at it and saying, ‘We’re this close to transit.’ Transit is an issue. We think about environmental issues. It’s an ideal place to build and could be a catalyst for Oakland in terms of bringing good quality jobs.”

    Hutson notes Oakland has gone on a housing building spree, with 4,000 units under construction right now and says the ripple effect is two-fold. People can live in Oakland and stay in the city to work, avoiding the arduous commute to Silicon Valley; or they could continue to live near BART stops across the East Bay and shorten their public transit commute by getting off in downtown Oakland.

    “Given the fact that there’s so little commercial space in the Bay Area, certainly in San Francisco, Silicon Valley and certainly looking at Oakland, I think it’s a logical gamble,” said Hutson.

  • $1 Billion Alameda Point Construction Project Shifts Access
    the former Navy facilities and heavy industrial equipment are being torn down, while major infrastructure improvements are being built including new water, sewer, electrical and gas lines, newly paved streets with bike and transit lanes, and bulkhead improvements on Seaplane Lagoon for the new ferry terminal.

    The new mixed-use community will include apartments, townhomes, parks, and nearly 100,000 square feet of space for restaurants, retailers, makers, R&D, and office users.

  • Why are there suddenly so many ships on San Francisco Bay?
    The longshoremen who load and unload cargo ships had July 4 and 5 off for Independence Day, creating a bit of a backup on moving freight.

    “We have five ships at berth this morning and five due,” Bernardo said. He added that many of the ships are oil tankers and fueling vessels not headed for the port.

    So if ship-spotting is your thing, this is a good time. And it turns out a spectacular cargo ship is due to enter the bay Monday. That’s when a 1,036-foot-long, cherry blossom magenta-colored container ship is set to arrive at the Port of Oakland from Long Beach. Named the ONE Competence, the ship is the newly branded symbol of Japan’s recently consolidated container shipping lines. The ship will depart Tuesday for Hong Kong.

    The color represents a cherry blossom tree, symbol of Japanese spring, the port said, adding that ONE plans to brand more of its 240 vessels with the vibrant hue. The ONE Competence can carry more than 8,000 20-foot containers.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

WS 2018 Quarterfinals

Oh, here we are again! Time for those picks!

I seem to have done OK on my Round-of-16 picks, but that will not stand.

Partly, this is because my ambivalence is high, because, out of the 8 teams remaining, I now have to make some Very Hard Choices.

Enough whining: here we go:

  1. Uruguay vs France.

    Oh, tragedy! My favorite two teams have to play each other! Uruguay, possessors of the greatest of World Cup history, and far-and-away the hardest working team in this World Cup, have to play France, my top pick. Drat! But, did I mention that France are my top pick? Sorry, Uruguay, France prevail 3-2 in a beauty of a game, reckoned by all as the best game of this World Cup.

  2. Brazil vs Belgium.

    Again it happens! I wanted to see several more games from each of these exciting and entertaining teams. But it is not to be. Although Belgium give Brazil everything they can handle, the game is tied after 90 and Brazil score in the 107th minute to win 2-1.

  3. Sweden vs England.

    Sweden are the "winning ugly" of this World Cup, but England's victory over Colombia is uglier than anything Sweden have come up with so far in this tournament. Will I watch? Of course I will, but I'll be shielding my eyes the entire way. England somehow win, 1-0, in regular time.

  4. Russia vs Croatia.

    I knew Denmark would be a hard battle for Croatia, and frankly it's a wonder Croatia advanced. But advance they did, and are rewarded with the hosts. Russia have been batting WAY above their average in this tournament, and finally it catches up with them, as they face their complete equal in hard-nosed, disciplined play. This one is 0-0 after 90, 1-1 after 120, and Croatia move on after Kicks From The Spot

Ole!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Not rain

Around the middle of yesterday afternoon, the skies darkened.

The sunset was deep red, terrible and angry.

This morning we awoke to a coating of ash-fall all around.

It's that time of year again.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

WC 2018 Round of 16

Well! That was a lightning-fast first 48 games for the 2018 World Cup, wasn't it?

But we can take our breath, rest for a day at least, and, of course, make our picks for the Round of 16. (Though it's not at all the same without being able to debate them with Sandy)

So here we go:

  1. Uruguay vs Portugal. Uruguay is one of only three squads to win their first three matches, but in Portugal they face a substantially tougher opponent than they've seen so far. Portugal win, 2-1.

  2. France vs Argentina. Argentina somehow came to life in their third game, with their backs against the wall, but it feels like too little, too late, and I wonder how much of their energy they spent just getting this far. France win a game that is not as close as it sounds, 1-0.

  3. Brazil vs Mexico. Which Mexican squad will attend? The one who defeated the defending world champions? Or the one who were annihilated by Sweden? I fear it will be too much of the latter, but Mexico will make Brazil work for it. After regular time, it's tied 2-2, but after extra time Brazil take this 4-2.

  4. Belgium vs Japan. Japan delightfully made it through on the "Fair Play" tie-breaker over an equally-deserving Senegal, but still they earned their presence in this game. But Belgium are going deep in this tournament and are barely tested, beating Japan 3-1.

  5. Spain vs Russia. The home team have a powerful advantage, but Spain have a powerful squad. This one goes to extra time, and finishes 1-1. Spain advance on penalty kicks in the shootout.

  6. Croatia vs Denmark. I like both these teams. One of them has to lose. It is Denmark. Croatia win an hard match, 1-0.

  7. Sweden vs Switzerland. Another rough, physical bout. This one is 0-0 through 90 minutes, and 0-0 through extra time, and isn't decided until the 9th player steps to the shootout spot, at which point the Swiss prevail.

  8. Colombia vs England. The liveliest of all the round of 16 matches, this one features two high-scoring teams full of firepower and perhaps just a bit lacking in defense. Colombia exhibit the quality that brought them to the tournament from the hardest qualifying region, but this English team has youth and passion and, most importantly, for the first time in decades they have a goalkeeper who won't let them down. After finishing 90 minutes tied 2-2, and falling behind 3-2 early in extra time, England somehow rally and move on, 4-3.

And, before we leave, let's join Deadspin in saluting the real reason that we watch the World Cup: South Korea's Performance Is Why The World Cup Exists

Fans and commentators love to sing the praises of teams and players that step up when the stakes are highest, but there’s also something to be said for giving everything when the stakes are obscured. South Korea came into today’s game knowing that even if they played perfectly and somehow managed to defeat a much more talented German team, there was no guarantee that their efforts would amount to anything. They were facing not just the long odds presented by their superior opponents, but those presented by their broader circumstance. They looked all that in the face and then went on to win the hell out of a soccer game.

In doing so they did everything an underdog is supposed to do. They packed it in and rabidly defended every German attack; they ran hard on every counter attack and kept running hard even as each one fizzled in increasingly frustrating fashion; they never for a second looked ready to accept their role as a station on Germany’s redemptive path.

The fun resumes in 36 hours!