Wednesday, April 27, 2011

something for everyone??

Wow, have I been lazy these past few months or what! A brief summary on what has happened in the world—for those of you who use this website as your primary news source—hey it beats fox news, and who wants to pay for nytimes these days anyway?? Neither of them would have covered this illustrious first category anyway:

I learned a valuable lesson: when your knee swells to seven times its normal size, GO TO THE NEAREST LICENSED MEDICAL PRACTITIONER. This I learned after spending a day thinking the swelling would clearly subside—it was just bruised, after all!—and then seeing a doctor—at my sister's insistence—who had the worst bedside manner imaginable. Snippets from our initial conversation:
Doctor: Wow...that's really bad. Can you move it?
Me: No.
Doctor: Not at all??
Me: Not really.
Doctor: Huh. Wait, how did this happen?
Me: Playing soccer.
Doctor: Really?
Me: Yes.
Doctor: This??
Me: Yes.
Doctor: Wow, look at the swelling there! Does this hurt?
Me: Yes.
Doctor: That's really terrible, huh. No that's really bad. Have you been to the hospital? I'd better get another doctor in here.

I can laugh about it now, because a) despite the doctor's initial fears, my MRI showed no permanent damage, and no ruptures, and b) I haven't received the hospital bill yet. And I just got off crutches today (sorta kinda almost). But apparently it could have been really bad, and I should have gone to the ER, like right away.

Barcelona continued to be awesome, but not quite as awesome as they were in the fall. I was lucky enough to see them play Arsenal in the second leg of the Champions League round of 16, and they are really something to behold at their best.

Recent developments had footy fans the world over licking their chops over four highly anticipated Clasico matchups with Real Madrid within a month's time. Barca battered Madrid 5-0 in November in what was surely one of the greatest, if not the greatest single game ever played by a football team. But since then Madrid have found their form, winning convincingly in la liga and the Champions League. We all thought we were in for four classic games, with the two best teams on the planet showing their best. How foolish, how naive we were! Madrid's coach, the great tactician Jose Mourinho, wouldn't have it that way. Too proud to risk attacking Barca again after seeing how it worked out in the fall, he has opted for a very different approach. How disappointed we've been after seeing 3 of 4 games unfold! My take:

The first of the 4 was the Spanish league match in Madrid, and least consequential of the four, given Barcelona's 8 point lead in the league with only 8 matches to play (Barca have only dropped 11 points in the league all season). Madrid came out cautiously and played a very physical game, but still managed to counter-attack frequently. They eventually went a goal, and a man, down, when Albiol brought down David Villa as he closed in on goal and Messi converted from the penalty spot. Interestingly, Madrid played far better once they were down a goal and were forced to attack more openly, and fought back well for a draw (though David Villa missed a couple of late chances to win it!).

The King's Cup final four days later was a totally different game. Once again I was suckered into thinking that maybe Madrid, buoyed by their performance with ten men in the last half hour of the league game, would come out and play and we'd see some real soccer! Instead, in the first half, there was almost no soccer at all, as Madrid played instead with extremely high defensive pressure, fouling at every opportunity. Some of their play, from Arbeloa's "accidental" stamping of two separate players, to Pepe's continuously reckless tackling, was pretty brutal. Barca, unable to settle, responded somewhat in kind. But Madrid were somewhat punished for their energetic tactics in the first half, as they were pinned back for the entirety of the second. For 25 minutes from minute 60 to 85, Madrid literally completed fewer than 15 passes (that's right I started counting), total, as Barcelona completely dominated the game, and forced Madrid's goalkeeper into a number of great saves. Unfortunately, in overtime, Madrid found a chance through Angel di Maria's cross to Ronaldo after some clever dribbling on the left side and found their goal—a game-winner.

Today was the first leg of the Champions league semifinal, back in Madrid. Mourinho clearly realized his luck in not conceding a goal in the second half of the cup final, and his team came out much more cautiously, allowing Barcelona near total possession from the opening whistle. Madrid hardly ventured forward at all with the exception of Ronaldo, who at one point in the first half was so frustrated at being the only player to chase the ball that he practically threw a hissy fit near midfield. You could understand his frustration: a team with so much attacking talent and so many good players, and no attempt to play at all! Early in the second half, Pepe was harshly sent off for what was probably no worse than a yellow card foul. I have little sympathy, though, as he was lucky to stay on the pitch in the previous two games. At any rate, the game opened up slightly (though Madrid still didn't look like they had any interest in attacking), and Barca finally got their long-awaited goal from some neatly-worked passing and an exquisitely-timed run from Messi.

Then Messi struck again. Watch the highlights here (the second goal all the way at the end). Despite all of Madrid's negative, ugly play, the genius of the little Argentine still came through with a stunning individual goal. Really one of the best individual goals I've ever seen. Maybe Ronaldo is a better all-around player, as Sir Alex Ferguson insists—but you'd never know it from the shackles Mourinho puts on him. Hopefully we'll get to see him really play in the second leg. It should actually be a decent game now that Madrid have to score!

Looks like those clowns in Washington have done it again! What a bunch of clowns. (How do I keep up with the news like that?)

So how about that debt ceiling thing? What a joke! Wouldn't it be obviously unconstitutional for Congress to force the US into default (14th amendment section 4?). When did Congress even get to start setting a "debt ceiling" and what's the point if Congress passes all the laws that appropriate money for all that debt anyway?

Really, though, the debt limit thing makes me wonder couple of few other things:
1. Political game theory: why are the Republicans so damn good at it? In game theory, we learn that often, by being completely and utterly irrational, or at least appearing as much, you get the upper hand in certain types of interactions. By convincing Democrats that, no really, they will vote against the debt limit increase, Republicans appear likely to reap all sorts of political gains, even though by their own recognition this would be completely insane and throw the country to the dogs. And they would be blamed for it!
2. Of course, they'd only be following the polls! It turns out, a massive majority of Americans support voting against the debt limit increase. Clearly, they are wildly misinformed. But it's not-so-rare case where it seems the voters have been strongly influenced by the political conversation, rather than the reverse. I mean before last year I only had a vague idea that Congress had to sporadically approve an increase in the debt limit, as did most people, I'm sure. But all of a sudden Republicans start harping on about not increasing the debt ceiling, and the whole country is on board! There must be studies out there that track timing lags between shifts in polling data and political agendas....generally we tend to think that the politics follow the polls, but I wonder how often it is actually the opposite....

Oh man am I tired now! I'll get to the rest of the world's important developments next much to look forward to, right?!?!

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