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Stretch's 2018 micro-thoughts for books and long thoughts about pencils

Club Read 2018

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1stretch
Jan 1, 3:19pm Top

I fell off the face of the earth about half way through 2016 and 2017 Club Reads. Life outside LT and all taking precedent. I wan to do better this year. This year I'm going to change it up a bit and go for shorter reviews of books read and poke around others threads a bit more. And also I'll talk about pencils again for way too long never a shortage of that! And this summer expect a lot of frustrated World Cup Rantings.

2stretch
Edited: Jul 15, 1:29pm Top

2018 World Cup Draw Group Stage:

Group A:
    1. Uruguay | 3-0-0 +5
    2. Russia | 2-0-1 +4
    Saudi Arabia | 1-0-2 -5
    Egypt | 0-0-3 -4
Group B:
    1. Spain | 1-2-0 +1
    2. Portugal | 1-2-0 +1
    Iran | 1-1-1 0
    Morocco | 0-1-2 -2
Group C:
    1. France | 2-1-0 +2
    2. Denmark | 1-2-0 +1
    Peru | 1-0-2 0
    Australia | 0-1-2 -3
Group D:
    1. Croatia | 3-0-0 +6
    2. Argentina | 1-1-1 -2
    Nigeria | 1-0-2 -1
    Iceland | 0-1-2 -3
Group E:
    1. Brazil | 2-1-0 +4
    2. Switzerland | 1-2-0 +1

    Serbia | 1-0-2 -2
    Costa Rica | 0-2-1 -3
Group F:
    1. Sweden | 2-0-1 +3
    2. Mexico | 2-0-1 -1
    South Korea | 1-0-2 0
    Germany | 1-0-2 -2
Group G:
    1. Belgium | 3-0-0 +7
    2. England | 2-0-1 +5

    Tunisia | 1-0-2 -1
    Panama | 0-0-2 -9
Group H:
    1. Colombia | 2-0-1 +3
    2. Japan | 1-1-1 0

    Senegal | 1-1-1 0
    Poland | 1-0-2 -3
Rooting Interests
    Heart = Iceland Group stage
    Head = Brazil Round of 8
    Neighborly Love = Mexico Round of 16
Best Game of the Tournament: Mexico vs Germany 2-1.

Second best Spain v. Portugal an amazing 3-3 tie. Argentina was a disorganized mess in the group stages (player mutiny). No clear front-runner, they all look rusty and a bit slow to start. A wide-open tournament from the start. Mexico is taking to this tournament and are a lot of fun to watch. Argentina makes out of the group but is clearly not the strongest team in the knockout stage, lucked outplay France in the first game. Germany is eliminated in the group stage with Mexico onto the round of 16.

Knockout Stage:
    Uruguay 2
    Portugal 1

    France 4
    Argentina 3

    Brazil 2
    Mexico 0

    Belgium 3
    Japan 2

    Spain 1 (3) | 1-1-0-1-0
    Russia 1 (4) | 1-1-1-1

    Croatia 1 (3) | 0-1-1-0-1
    Denmark 1 (2) | 0-1-1-0-0

    Sweden 1
    Switzerland 0

    Colombia 1 (3) | 1-1-1-0-0
    England 1 (4) | 1-1-0-1-1

Game of the 16: France vs. Argentina so many goals, but mostly bad play from Argentina.

Second best = Belgium vs Japan a great back and forth game with lots of scoring. The Narratives are being decimated. No Messi. No Ronaldo. No Spain. Mexico is out looking good, just beaten by a better team. Brazil looks like a complete team that could challenge for the cup. France and Belgium are going to be strong contenders as well. The England vs. Colombia got chippy and rough early turned into a game in the fading minutes.

Round of 8:
    Uruguay 0
    France 2

    Russia 2 (3) | 0-1-0-1-1
    Croatia 2 (4) | 1-0-1-1-1

    Brazil 1
    Belgium 2

    Sweden 0
    England 2
Match of the Quarters: Brazil vs. Belgium, Belgium was dangerous on the counter but able to control possession as well. Hella good game, could have gone either way.

France put together a semi-organized effort, nothing spectacular but good enough. France has yet to dominate a match. With all that talent on the field and depth, they really shouldn't be just getting by. England has stretched the Sweden back line, the best way to counter the counter-attack, keep attacking. Russia-Croatia a defensive affair that Croatia manages to pull out in another shootout.

Semi-Finals:
    France 1
    Belgium 0

    England 1
    Croatia 2
Best Game of the Semi-Finals France vs. Belgium, back and forth stalemate first half. Opened up a bit in the 2nd half.

This has been a year of the set pieces that's for sure. France grinds another one out. All that offense prowess without much production. Strong midfield play from France kept Belgium on their heels and neutralized De Bruyne. Yet another set piece goal to start off the Croatia and England game. Croatia played an aggressive forward attacking game. Croatia grew into the game during the second half, pressing a tired England deep.

Final Game:
    France 4 WINNER!
    Croatia 2
A high scoring final, the highest since '58 (7). Croatia has France pin backed for most of the 1st half. But France taking advantage of the dead ball situations. One a pretty clear dive. Croatia is fighting for this win and is putting so many great chances from the left side. A banger of a goal from them through traffic was an amazing screamer. Croatia looks the more dangerous of the sides at least in the 1st half. Wow, Pogba is so good, but the Croatian keeper was caught sleeping. France came alive after Kante sub and Croatia opening the game. Unraveled quickly for Croatia in the second half. Still a fantastic FINAL to 2018.

The third-place game was well the third-place game. Pretty pointless but Belgium gets to say they had their highest finish ever in World Cup.

Golden Boot

Harry Kane (ENG) - 6
Christiano Ronaldo (POR) - 4
Romelu Lukaku (BEL) - 4

Golden Ball
Luka Modric

Silver Ball
Kylian Mbappé

3stretch
Edited: Jul 3, 10:50am Top

Now a list I'll most likely forget to update:

Current:
If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?
Hiroshima Notes

Fiction:
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
The Store by James Patterson
Origin by Dan Brown

Non-Fiction:
The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter by David Sax
Reporting Vietnam: American Journalism 1969–1975
The Ball is Round: A Global History of Soccer by David Goldblatt
Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon by Nathalia Holt
Soccernomics by Simon Kuper

Short Stories/Long form Articles:
The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees by E. Lily Yu
Just-In-Case Stones by Mallory McMahon
Girls, At Play by Celeste Ng
The School by Donald Barthelme
Whenever I Sit at a Bar Drinking Like This, I Always Think What a Sacred Profession Bartending Is by Ryu Murakami
Premium Harmony by Stephen King


Pencils and Sharpeners Reviewed:

Forest Choice HB graphite
Mongol 482
Dixon Ticonderoga and Black
Papermate Mirado
Carl CP-80
General's Cedar Pointe
Staedtler Norcia 132 46 HB
Palomino Prospector
Mitsu-Bishi 9850 HB
Palomino Golden Bear
Musgrave Test Scoring 100
Staedtler Noris school pencil
General's Test Scoring 580
Staedtler FullHB
Helix Oxford Premium Grade
Write Dude's USA Gold #2
Blackfeet Indian Pencil
Palomino HB
Write Notepads Co. Lenore
Tombow Mono HB
Just/Basics HB
Mitsu-Bishi 9000 HB
Chung Hwa 6151
General's Kimberly 525
Papermate Earthwrite

✕ Books off the TBR as of 1/1/18
✓ Books acquired in 2018
Percentage of Books read off the TBR pile = 0.0%

4Polaris-
Jan 1, 11:38pm Top

Hi Kevin! Glad I’ve found your thread already! I’m excited to return to LT after a 2 year hiatus, and am looking forward to following your thread when I can. Hope to pick up some reading ideas as well as join in anything else I can learn about pencils (still using ‘em daily...they work well in the Welsh rain!), the World Cup, and things geological and beerological...

I see on your profile you like an IPA and Crabbies Ginger Beer as do I. For Christmas I got hold of some very tasty Verdet IPA and Verdet Blonde from the Duvel brewery. Recommended! Happy reading!

5Polaris-
Jan 1, 11:40pm Top

I’m interested to read what you think of The Ball Is Round in due course. It’s been on my wishlist for YEARS!

6stretch
Jan 2, 10:33am Top

Hey Paul, It's great to see you around these parts again. I too have been a bit absent the last two years and want to get back into CR myself. The Soccer bar I frequent just got the Verdet IPA, it looks like I have my next order next game day!

I'm actually nearly finished with The Ball is Round after nearly a year of reading, it's a Big History book and I have made a lot of side trips along the way. It is so much more than a soccer (football) history.

7stretch
Jan 2, 11:01am Top

The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter by David Sax



So the Revenge of Analog is series of profiles of companies bringing analog items (i.e vinyl records, notebooks, arcades, etc.) to the market and thriving in the digital age. As a user of woodcase pencils and paper notebooks I thought it would be interesting to read about other analog objects making a come back and how they are creating there own niche in a digital world. And there are a lot of interesting insights and tidbits to be found in this book. It's also a pop psychology look at why people choice to embrace analog even when digital is just as good. I found myself nodding along with the thinking, but I'm afraid much of it is a mix of wishful thinking with a mix of anecdote. I alone am A contradiction, I use pencils and paper to keep track of my life, but I prefer to read on an e-reader and use streaming services. I get joy out of both my analog and digital worlds. David Sax doesn't any outlandish claims but occasionally gets a little soap boxy when trying to fit analog users into a category.

Analog isn't dead for sure but it's not going to unseat the digital. And people are always going to mix media to fit their needs.

Origin: Canada
Date Published: 2016
Pages: 304
Rating: ★★★

8avaland
Jan 2, 12:40pm Top

Interesting review! I still like some analog because of the relationship with different materials, but it is of course my "native" media, as they say. I like the feel of a pencil in my hand, the fluidity of a pen line across a paper, the feel of a book in my hand, the smell of its paper.... Certainly, I use digital also (one can't avoid it) for efficiency, convenience, or to be able to go beyond the limits of analog...etc but I certainly don't think it has the sensory properties that come with analog. There's something very human about the imperfection of a vinyl record.

9Polaris-
Jan 2, 12:57pm Top

Off to a great start with a nice review of The Revenge of Analog. It’s an interesting subject, and although we obviously don’t match in every regard (e.g. I don’t like using an e-reader really, unless it’s the only option), I feel similarly to you, and will use whatever feels best for the job in hand. Having said that, I for one used to LOVE typing all sorts of nonsense on a typewriter whenever I had the time. My first job had me using both a typewriter and a word processor fairly evenly, but I really don’t think I’d like to revert to the old typewriter anytime soon!

10stretch
Edited: Jan 2, 5:46pm Top

>8 avaland: I think this is closer to the feeling most folks you actively use analog. The physical appeal of analog is undeniable. Digital can never replicate the tactile nature of holding a book or putting pen to paper for sure. One of the surprising factoids is that it isn't "native" analog users that are driving the analog push. It's generations that grew up in the digital era that are the new market for vinyl records, old typewriters, and even books to a certain extent. At least this according to the industries profiled in this book.

According to the book part of why vinyl has made a resurgence of audiophiles with their fancy speaker and headphone setups have found that sound is better since it lacks the compression of a digital copy. So part of the arguement in this book is that analog actually does some things better and in ways that digital can't reproduce. It also acts a a physical manifestation to others what your into as a person. A library of records is easier to show than a itune playlist. I think it's hard to nail down the intangible value we put in stuff and why develop preferences for the things we like.

11stretch
Jan 2, 1:16pm Top

>9 Polaris-: Yeah, I'm a fan of tools. In that I like having the thing that is best for accomplishing a specific task, it doesn't have to be fancy, it just has to work at the time when i want it to work. I really have struggled to understand my preference for my e-reader at times. It's really so outside the norm. A book as it is constructed is a perfectly serviceable tool. Does what it is asked and as evolved overtime to be well suite for humans to hold and flip through. And yet I gravitate to ebooks if given the chance. No idea why.

There has been a lot of typewriter stuff coming out lately form Documentaries, to podcast, to whole letter writing campaigns. I came in at the beginning of PCs taking over the world but even I typed my first reports on an old HP typewriter. With how bad I am at spelling I'm so happy to have spell check I can't afford the white out of a typewriter.

12avaland
Jan 2, 5:01pm Top

>10 stretch: That explains the re-surfacing of vinyl in the stores (er..the store). Certainly, this must mean we can sell the two manual and one electric typewriter we have had kicking around? I certainly like the digital keyboards much better (no changing of ribbons, much quieter and, as you mention, spell check).

13baswood
Jan 2, 7:13pm Top

>7 stretch: read your review with interest as people tell me I am still in the pre-digital age because I don't have a mobile phone. An art form that has really suffered because of digitalism is photography.

14dianeham
Jan 3, 1:56am Top

Kevin, I am guessing that you are not left-handed.

15stretch
Jan 3, 3:58am Top

>14 dianeham: Nope, I'm right handed.

16dukedom_enough
Jan 3, 9:54am Top

I have been pleased to see the reappearance of vinyl records in recent years. Owning physical objects on which music is carried flies in the face of the general pressure to get us to subscribe to streaming services, where we don't own anything. The new records are very expensive, though.

17stretch
Edited: Jul 3, 10:48am Top

Papermate Earthwrite*

Wood: Recycle incense-cedar
Core: HB core
Shape: Hexagonal
Finish: Thin orange-yellow paint
Ferrule: Aluminum ferrule
Eraser: Mint green plastic
Markings: Papermate logo, Earthwrite Log with HB and 2 in bright green paint
Origin: USA

So, one of the very bests ever made under the Papermate brand was of course discontinued. The Earthwrite was 100% recycled pencil made from reclaimed incense cedar fragments. The Earthwrite could claim to be one of the 1st eco-friendly pencils. Today it’s pretty much standard for pencils to be produced in a more environmentally friendly manner, but in the 90’s it was still novel marketing.

Gluing cedar fragments into slates to make full-size pencils has become more and more common for companies these days, even for manufacturers producing more premium pencils. (Personally, I think that slates made from sustainable forests are more eco-friendly than those constructed from wood fragments) The original Earthwrite was painted an orange-yellow with a green imprint. The painting was thin and cheap. The one aspect that really stands out about this pencil was its use of the mint green plastic eraser. The eraser is similar to the thin ones found under those capped mechanical pencils. Later versions of the Earthwrite were painted in a forest green with a white imprint. The paint job was much better and a big improvement look wise over the old orang-yellow version.

Really this was a typical cheap Papermate pencil with an odd eraser that works part-time. Where Papermate usually falls flat has always been with their cores. The Earthwrite while a bit scratchy and solidly in the middle of the darkness range for an HB core, it is consistent. And consistent is not something Papermate does. It’s amazing how much better a pencil feels when it writes the same way every time.

The Papermate in every way is just an average school pencil wrapped in eco-friendly marketing. And it is still the very best Papermate pencil I have used. Not a ringing endorsement, but I actually like it quite a bit. It’ll never be counted among the favorites, but I have plans to use every one of the few I managed to grab.

*Got to figure out a new place to host pictures of my pencils soon, so I'll update this post once I figure that out.

18dchaikin
Jan 6, 11:42am Top

Hi Kevin. Nice to see you posting reviews again this year. For whatever I read almost no ebooks last year and actively avoided them. I can’t say exactly why. I found the physical book somehow more. More what, I don’t know.

19AnnieMod
Jan 8, 1:33pm Top

>2 stretch: Ha, someone here cares about European football (well, I guess I should call it soccer). I am a Denmark fan - don't ask why - had been since the late 80s and I have no clue why - and had not found a reason not to be. So I will be interested in your rantings :)

20stretch
Jan 10, 12:50pm Top

Reporting Vietnam: American Journalism 1969–1975



This is the second of a two volume set of excerpts and journalism pieces from the latter half of the Vietnam War. The first installment was truly an excellent collection and revealing to how the war was covered here at home and abroad. The second volume was a bit weaker for me. There are a couple of really great pieces for sure. But where the first volume felt timeless, this one felt more cemented in time and place. Also, many of the pieces are far more self-reflective of the authors, how their feelings changed or morphed overtime. These aren't necessarily criticisms really, just observations. All the selections are of the utmost quality, which is to be expected coming from Library of America.

However this collection was just not as impactful as the first for someone like me, who is a generation or two removed from the events that are chronicled in this collection. I struggled with finding context for all the self-analysis and more period centeric articles.

Origin: USA
Date Published: 1998
Pages: 857
Rating: ★★★½

21baswood
Jan 10, 1:26pm Top

>20 stretch: interesting

22stretch
Edited: Jul 3, 10:48am Top

The Ball is Round: A Global History of Soccer by David Goldblatt



The Ball is Round isn't exactly a detailed history of the game. It's more of 'big history' viewed through the lens of soccer/football. You'll still get a thorough retelling of the history of the game, from it's earliest beginnings to the modern incarnation we see today. In fact, there is so much soccer in this book it's impossible to even begin to retain all the details without multiple re-reads. But really this is a history of how modern world has come to be shaped by war, by corruption, by authoritarian governments, and by the people trying their best to resist the forces out of their control, as told by the history of soccer. David Godblatt's exploration of how society shapes the individual game never devolves into cliche. Every detail is well supported and is just fascinating. The questions asked the proper governance of the game and how each country (which is pretty much every country) choices to answer those questions reflects the way in which they govern themselves; how much depravity and corruption they are willing to tolerate; how they wish to run their economies. Soccer isn't a religion or the end all be all, but it is a mirror and reflects our society for better or worst.

There is something to learn about the soccer or the world in general in every chapter. The only flaw in this book is that North America (both the USA and Mexico) and Australia are not covered in much detail. While we are fairly new the game there have been rapid developments in the version of the game we have on offer. And this book could use an update. The tenish years since the publication of this book have been a whirlwind of change. I'm biased because I love soccer so much but I think this book is phenomenal and one I think everyone could take something away from even if they don't care all that much about the game.

Origin: UK
Date Published: 2008
Pages: 992
Rating: ★★★★★

23baswood
Jan 16, 7:03pm Top

Enjoyed you review of The Ball is Round. A very serious book indeed (no sarcasm I am a football supporter/fan)

24auntmarge64
Edited: Jan 19, 8:34am Top

>22 stretch: I'm a big fan, too, although only in the last couple of years, since I began tuning in to share a nephew's enthusiasm. Now I watch much more than he and his wife (they claim they've created a monster). Arsenal and Barcelona, yay!!! And Liverpool, too. Thanks for the review - I'll hope for a new edition.

25chlorine
Jan 17, 6:16am Top

>22 stretch: I'm really not a fan of soccer in the way it is practiced currently, with all the money, riots between supporters, and sometimes the bad behaviour of players (I was horrified to learn that one player had bitten another during the last world cup, and on top of that that everybody expected it), but I agree that it seems like a very interesting book, even for me!
Thanks for the review.

26stretch
Jan 17, 6:56pm Top

>23 baswood: Goldblatt has done a very good job to take a book about a silly game, football/soccer, and tie it to something larger without losing the joy that is the game. I think as a supporter there is a lot that can be learned.

>24 auntmarge64: My deepest sympathies. One day Arsenal will get it's act together. And you're not a monster yet until you've spent an 18 hour day on a single bar stool watching the cornucopia of soccer available to the US on a Saturday:

7:00 to 7:30 EPL
9:00 EPL or Bundeglisa
11:00 EPL, Bundeglisa, La Liga, and Serie A
12:00 EPL, Serie A, and La Liga
3:00 Match of the Day EPL
5:00 USL and NASL
7:00 MLS
10:00 MLS

The key is Hydration. ;)

>25 chlorine: There are ugly parts of the game. And there have always been ugly bits in the past. A lot of emotion and furtunes have been tied up into such a silly game.

27lilisin
Jan 18, 3:14am Top

Always nice to see you up and posting again. I'll have to avoid your thread during the group stages as I tend to have to record the games so I can watch them at a more convenient time but I'm excited to see your reading throughout the year, even if you do disappear into the night midway through the year (as I do now these days as well).

28auntmarge64
Jan 19, 8:43am Top

>26 stretch: Yes, I'm not quite that far gone yet :)

>25 chlorine: There is some bad behavior, but in general it's a much more peaceful game than ice hockey or our own "football". At least in soccer there are disciplinary actions (sometimes career-threatening) for seemingly everything: violence, arguing, abusive language - hell, even delay-of-game or too much celebrating after a goal.

29shuwanted
Jan 19, 12:23pm Top

just dropped by to say hi again! doesn't seem like you've been reading much Japanese lit recently though? new interests?

30stretch
Edited: Jan 19, 2:08pm Top

>29 shuwanted: I had something of a fall off the last couple of years reading wise as a whole and LT in general. Last year I read I am Cat and Into a Black Sun but never got around to posting them here.

I can only read translated works and I have a lot of catchy up to do frankly, but re-engaging with reading means I have every intention of returning to Japanese Lit. I really hope to add a few this year. My Library recently added some Ryu Murakami titles and I am wait listed on. The other Murakami is in wide selection of course but I don't really care for his work, its a bit too modern(?) for my taste. I want to get into Japanese Sci-Fi as well more and actually find a Kobo Abe that I can get into.

31lilisin
Jan 20, 9:32am Top

>30 stretch:

I understand that fallout. I feel like I've become a fraud of a reader.

I highly recommend Ryu Murakami's From the Fatherland with Love as it just rips apart the Japanese government and its inefficiency in bureaucracy. It gets a little ridiculous but it was a fun ride.

Kobo Abe's The Face of Another is a much more comprehensible read compared to his other books and will help you see how he likes to comment on the individual vs society theme.

32stretch
Jan 22, 11:50am Top

>31 lilisin: I find it difficult to read first person narratives, but the Face of Another just from the short preview is so much easier to get through for me then The Woman in the Dunes. I could never get out of the first chapter. I don't really know why I struggle with the first person but I think if there is any Abe book to start with the Face of Another is going to be a good place to start.

33stretch
Edited: Jul 3, 10:47am Top

The Store by James Patterson



A thinly disguised critique of Amazon, and how it is becoming the everything store with Big Brother aspirations. But really its a poorly written half thought. Its plot is rambling, with poorly thought out ideas, and is often pretentious with somewhat well to do New Yorkers slumming it in the mid-west for their project. There are so many better-written books with similar topics that are much better written. {the Store is quickly written garbage.

Origin: US
Date Published: 2017
Pages: 304
Rating: ★
--------------------------------

Origin by Dan Brown



The latest Dan Brown novel centers around the controversial discovery of a futurist concerning the origins of life and where humanity is heading. Really the ideas are pretty stale at this point. Nothing to ride home about, but still a bit of a fun read.

Origin: US
Date Published: 2017
Pages: 480
Rating: ★★★½

34stretch
Edited: Jul 3, 10:47am Top

Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon by Nathalia Holt



My grandmother was a computer during World War 2 and her stories have always led to an interest in the often forgotten woman and human labor that went into solving our most complex problems. So I was excited to read about the woman behind the early JPL missile program and later the space program. It was a pretty straightforward profile of the women's work and lives outside JPL. There are plenty of interesting tidbits and fascinating insists into the program and the earliest stages of rocket propulsion. The parts about the personal lives were less interesting. People are people, their lives and troubles outside of the work they do are the same problems and issues that everybody has. The book drags when delves into these parts. Still a fascinating look at this period of history.

Origin: US
Date Published: 2017
Pages: 352
Rating: ★★★

35NanaCC
Apr 3, 9:19pm Top

>34 stretch: Having a personal connection to this book must have made it special for you.

36stretch
Apr 4, 9:25am Top

>35 NanaCC:: Yeah it put a different perspective on things. Funny part was that my grandmother was terrible at math and always struggled with the computing part but she was good at spotting patterns and finding the actual words in the massive amount of data. Which turned out to be pretty useful in the code breaking business. She retired as computer not long after the war.

37stretch
Edited: Jun 16, 10:22am Top

Not a reading update but the World Cup has started and already a couple of fantastic games in the books. Spain vs Portugal ended in a fantastic 3-3 tie was a last minute thriller. Yes ties can be thrilling. Ronaldo is putting an even bigger stamp on him being one of the very best players the game has ever seen!Australia put in a hell of a shift against France that ended in disappoint in the closest allegory team to the USA (We play similar game, not that Australia and the US are the same). Speaking of which the friendly between US and France before the tournament should fill the USMNT with hope. The kids are alright! And now Argentina and Iceland is so far an amazing game played by two very different teams.

This is so damn exciting!

Also, Romania is an amazing place to visit. And I will finish a book again one day.

38dchaikin
Jun 17, 10:24am Top

Enjoy. (posting between games :) ) Sadly, work and kids swim team have prevented from watching much far.

39stretch
Edited: Jun 17, 1:03pm Top

It started slow but like always the games are starting to heat up. I'm lucky my work hasn't figured out how to block my online soccer package, so I'm keeping it running on my second screen.

The knockout stage is going to be fun. Thus tournament is wide open, so many teams have a chance at taking it all.

Vamos Mexico!!! OMG OMG OMG they held on!!!

40stretch
Jul 3, 10:46am Top

Soccernomics by Simon Kuper



In the soccer canon Soccernomics is near the top of the list. It purports to be the Freaknomics of the soccer world. Really though it's a poor imitation of an economics book trying desperately to support the already preconceived notions of the authors.

The book is full of cherry-picked data and for those not well versed in stats a lot of ways of explaining regression to the mean. The constant insistence that everything ends near the 50/50 mark over tremendously large sample sizes and pretending that is a profound notion that will revolutionize the game is tremendously frustrating. All that ignores that short-term results are the important factor in sporting relevancy not something on the scale of decades. Then there is the hand picking of data that only supports the positions that make any of their conclusions suspect if not false.

The Numbers Game is the book that needs to be included in the canon and Soccernomics dropped unless you're looking to reinforce already entrenched ideas.

Origin: US
Date Published: 2012
Pages: 464
Rating: ★★

41stretch
Edited: Jul 3, 4:07pm Top

So the round of 16 has largely been a non-plus. Argentina and Portugal got bounced, which with how Messi and company have played and Portugal's overall drought of talent were not unexpected outcomes. That means arguably the two best players in the world are done for this year and in all likely hood done playing at their peak levels if either chose to return for another cup.

Otherwise not many big surprises this round. most of the teams that were suppose to win, won. Spain losing to Russia on paper is a shocking result, but really Spain has been relying on upon constant possession to win games and not creating attacking soccer. 2010 is long in the past. Russia is not a good team but the had the perfect subs to keep them running for 120 minutes.

The two games of the round have been France and Argentina which was fun to watch just to see how bad of a train wreck Argentina really was, on the other hand, Japan played Belgium hard even if the result doesn't reflect the effort. Mexico game was also well fought they just came up against the better team. A heated match between England and Colombia was compelling with a lot of set pieces and chances. Got bad-tempered early and often. So many yellows handed out, couldn't establish a decent rhythm to the second half. The Sweden and Croatia matches were pretty dull. I don't think either of these teams will make past the round of 8.

23 goals scored after the 90th minute so far, absolute chaos the ends of games! With 59 set piece goals, corners and direct free kicks are a crucial piece of the puzzle this Cup.

42avaland
Jul 4, 6:16am Top

I caught a bit of coverage yesterday but couldn't tell exactly where the World Cup playoffs were exactly—what round, so thanks! I'm not really following it, but when I catch a bit of the coverage I find it interesting (so much more interesting than football).

43stretch
Edited: Jul 5, 4:13pm Top

Red Card: How the U.S. Blew the Whistle on the World's Biggest Sports Scandal by Ken Bensinger



I know yet another book about soccer. I swear I'll find something else to read again someday. This one is at least topical.

FIFA an organization that governs the beautiful game and puts on the worlds biggest sporting spectacle in the world. All the while being one the most corrupt governing bodies ever. As a fan of the game that lives and breathes by this trivial pursuit, FIFA is something I loathe but at the same time can't help but admire all that has been achieved even with the mind-numbing amounts of graft.

FIFA is run by a group of mostly men who are largely apathetic towards the actual game. To them, the game is a vehicle for power. A power that is largely hidden. Fans of soccer are truly fanatic. They don't care how it all comes together, we just want to watch the game being played. The backroom dealing of sponsorships, media sales, and ticket allocation has little bearing to the average fan. We'd rather discuss tactics, whether player X is better than player Y, if our national teams have shored up our obvious weaknesses, what we'll chant, sing, and scream; hell the jerseys can spark hours of debate. Very little attention is paid to the organization that rules over the game. It is just an accepted fact that FIFA is corrupt. It has also been largely accepted that there was nothing that could be done. No matter how many articles are written and public admonishes, FIFA would always remain corrupt. That was until some clever prosecutors, a passionate IRS agent, and the power of the FBI turned their collective attention to FIFA.

Using powerful laws meant to take down organized crime and the sheer volume of money that flows through our financial institutions, the US was uniquely positioned as one of the few countries that could take down an organization who at times believes its laws supersede actual nation-states. No other laws have the combination of law, resources, financial power, and frankly the public apathy to go after something as big and important as FIFA. This was a complex and involved investigation consuming thousands of hours, taking nearly 5 years to build. All done in secret. A leak of the probe and its targets in any other country would have been disastrous. Here it wouldn't have even made the back page. How FIFA makes its money, how it divides that money, and how those payments are tracked is where the bribes and bribers have learned to thrive.

FIFA is a democratic organization. Every member gets a single vote. A country as big and powerful as Germany gets the same voting power as Malta. Also, money is divided equally among the members. Two million dollars annually is a drop in the bucket for the USSF, but for a country like the Bahamas, that is a huge sum. There are 209 current members, there are more member organizations within FIFA than in the UN. All that power is divided up into Confederations. One of the largest and most powerful is CONCACAF. This confederation includes all of Central and North America, as well as the Caribbean Islands. The Islands outnumber the rest of the confederation almost two to one. Controlling blocks of votes are the keys to power within FIFA. This is the situation for all the confederations. This gives tremendous incentives to those seeking power to buy votes, through grants and staging major tournaments in certain places. With little accountability bribes change hands from intermediaries and the powerful men that rule over this game with near impunity. FIFA only acts when those bribes become too embarrassing to ignore. What amazes me is that with all the money that has been funneled from the game into the pockets of a few, is how the game continues to thrive and grow around the world. Also, just how much money that is in the game.

Bensinger weaves a compelling story of how this investigation was able to weed out some of that corruption. Told in a way that makes it feel like he was a part of the investigation. It was a fascinating look at the inner workings of such an intricate and complex investigation. The outcome of that investigation is both satisfying and humbling in just far the game has to go before it can be called clean. FIFA has implemented some reforms that have made it more transparent. Confederations are implementing the kinds of governance that make naked corruption harder to hide. But still, the naked vote buying is present. And the changes are far too slow.

I believe that with FIFA there will always be a certain amount of corruption. When you involve the world you have to accept all the ways that business is done. Pretending that everything can be done totally above board ignore the realities of the state of the world. It's always going to be messy but I think we as consumers can do better to hold those in power accountable for what they can control and make real change.

Origin: US
Date Published: 2018
Pages: 464
Rating: ★★★★★

44lilisin
Jul 5, 7:58pm Top

>43 stretch:

An interesting review on a book about an interesting topic!

And you are right, us soccer fans just want to enjoy the game without having to think about scandals and corruption because that's all soccer is supposed to be. A good game about a herd of people playing against another herd of people kicking a round ball into a net. It breaks the experience when people start talking about scandals that don't belong on the field.

Don't even get me started when a group of idiot "fans" decide to heckle players due to their race. I mean, seriously?

Anyway, great review.

45stretch
Jul 7, 5:08pm Top

So the quarters of the cup are in the book. The big game was Brazil - Belgium, a hard fought game with a some great chances on both sides. Brazil wasn't able to convert so they are on their way home. They were my favorites to win the whole thing. The most complete squad of the tournament. Belgium however is a very tough team that can play with the best of them. France finally put together a comprehensive win. They are starting to heat up for the first time this tournament. England keeps on rolling into the semi-finals with a very good game against the Swedes. They have a favorable match-up with Croatia, that just managed to squeak by Russia.

Interesting match-up in the semi-finals and the potential final could be really fun to watch.

46stretch
Jul 7, 5:12pm Top

>44 lilisin: The Qatar 2022 tournament is going to be a tough watch. As someone who has defined life chapters every 4 years with the cup being the capstone, I'll be torn supporting an event but on modern slavary. Russia is problematic enough. I really don't have any idea what to do about it.

47stretch
Edited: Jul 15, 12:50pm Top

A spectacular Final to the 2018 World Cup. A high scoring affair even if France got a couple of calls to fall their way. The game really got going in the second half. Got to give Croatia all they credit played hard to the end and were frankly the more exciting side the whole game. It's a shame they got behind in the second half and couldn't find the goals for their fourth heroic comeback. They came so far and played so much harder than any of the competitors. It really was an excellent match up.

The third-place game was, well it was a match. Something to watch if nothing else.

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