Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Test


Saturday, June 17, 2006

Jooooooooooooooooooke!

... would probably be the best way to describe the USA-Italy World Cup match today, which I managed to catch this afternoon in my well-cooled apartment rather than go anywhere near the 88-degree weather outside. The United States actually looked much sharper today than they did in the absolutely flat performance against the Czech Republic, dominating the midfield and attacking the Italian goal far more aggressively. Although a win would have been nice, the 1-1 final is something of a victory for the U.S., considering they've never even won a World Cup match on European soil, and Italians are simply an international powerhouse.

Unfortunately, the game itself was essentially ruined thanks to some horrific reffing. Three red cards in one game? Are you kidding me? In the refs' defense, when Eddie Johnson said preparing for this game was like going to war, he may not have been using such an inappropriate misnomer after all, as the two teams combined for 35 fouls in what was an ugly dogfight from the start. However, like well-behaved children shopping with their moms in a department store, referees should be seen and not heard, and should never have the sort of impact they had on this game. By the time the final whistle, both teams were exhausted, playing 10 on 9 for almost an entire half, and neither had a chance to break open the tie.

Sure, it's one thing to call De Rossi's red card when he flagrantly smacked McBride upside the head with an elbow, but the others were simply late slide tackles. Let's face it, soccer is a violent game, played physically at its highest levels of competition. The golden rule of reffing or umpiring a game in any sport is to try to let the players play the game as much as possible, and not let calls affect the final outcome, especially one of this magnitude. Why couldn't these guys figure that out?

Monday, June 12, 2006

Lightning-Rod


As a Red Sox fan, it's my natural duty, in addition to being irrationally obsessed with their success, to rip on Alex Rodriguez, the Golden Boy we once tried to bring over to Boston and has since had some difficulty living up to hype of being the face of baseball. I actually don't hate the man, per se, because I really think he does go out there every night and give 100%, but he's the victim of an unfortunate set of circumstances that he's going to have a lot of trouble getting out of. Making as much money as he does, and playing in the city that he does, there's a certain level of expectation regarding not only the product he delivers on the field but his persona as well. He's simply not a likeable guy, and that fact coupled with his failure to bring another championship to New York so far means he's a targeted man not only in Boston, but in his home city as well.

So it should be no surprise that a site like arodsucks.com, which, according to the site itself, A-Rod and his agent attempted to shut down, exists and is flourishing. The most interesting part about the site is the guestbook, which seems to have attracted just as many New Yorkers as Bostonians. Some are there just to bash A-Rod with the typical pointless drivel, but others, such as my roommate, prefer a far more poetic approach, which he submitted to the Boston Globe last year in support of David Ortiz being selected over Rodriguez for AL MVP, but was unable to get published:

"Papi ought to be, the AL MVP,
Sluggin' 600, 400 OBP,
You can do the math that on base plus sluggin',
Has got sucka MC opposing pitchers buggin'!

What did you do for the hurricane kids?
50,000 dollars, thats what Big Pap did,
Thats like 1% of his income--sheeeit!
The Pap has got heart, brawn and wits.

Shiftin' on my boy now, you mother@%!$%*&'n dunce?
Whatchoogonnado when the motha@%!$%*&a bunts?
Now the shift's off and you suckas be clowns
when the Pap drives the gap and you misplay the bounce.

Oh yeah, I've heard of ARod, I think I know the name,
That bitch who pads his stats in the 20 run games?
Well Papi's clutch hits put that playa to shame
Better pitch around my brotha or you'll wish you never came!

AROD YOU'S A LOSER, A MUTHAF@%!$%*&'n POSER!
STEINBRENNER BETTA TRAD'YA, FOR JORGE DE LA ROSA!
STEP YO ASS ASIDE, GET OUT OF THE RACE,
OR VARITEK IS GONNA GLOVE YA IN THE MOTHER@%!$%*&'n FACE!

Clutch hits keep comin' the VORP keeps climbin',
Four years with the twins you know this brotha put his time in,
Thats we standin' here bustin these rhymes and--
YO! Pap's the MVP, mother@%!$%*&er!
"

I can't imagine why.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Happy Birthday To Me!

So I was going to post about my raucous little weekend down in the Outer Banks, but that story is being overshadowed today in order to bring you the following important announcement: it's my birthday! Yes, I'm finally on the wrong side of 25, but it's only a number, right? And yet, it's hard to believe that I'm 4 years out of college and 2 years away from my 10-year high school reunion. Yikes.

A lot of people today are saying that 26 is the new 21, the age at which people finally become adults in our current society. It's when we're supposed to truly buckle down, take on the responsibilities of life head-on, and become shed all vestiges of childhood.

Phew. It's a good thing I got all of that irresponsibility out of my system last weekend.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

So Long, Indy

Over the past several years of playing kickball in DC, I think it's safe to say I've gathered enough experience to be in a position to make a few judgments about the quality of different teams and leagues I've played in (my closet full of old team shirts has enough color to look like one of those Ralph Lauren polo shirt displays in a department store). Some years have been good, others not so good, but this year stands out as the one that has finally caused me to say this the last time I play in the DC Independence Division.

I started out in that division simply because, way back in the day, a friend of mine was the division president, and was able to get our team registered even though we had been late to sign up. That first spring season was fun, only because I had nothing else to compare it to, but after playing in other leagues, going to other bars, and meeting other people, I've come to realize just how bad the Indy Division really is.

First, the fields. It was bad enough last year when we were forced off the Monument area fields because of unspecified construction that was beginning to rival Boston's Big Dig in efficiency, but when we returned to play on it this year, we found ourselves kicked off after only 2 games because we didn't have a permit. Are you kidding me? How long have we been playing kickball there, not mention alongside all of the soccer, flag football, and ultimate frisbee games that are blatantly going on without permits? The Indy Board, usually the ones who should be handling this sort of thing, had no response other than to have us skip a game and then move to another field the next week, where we can hopefully avoid the cops and squat the fields early enough to actually play.

Second, the bar. The Exchange is great in that they allow you sit outside and play flip cup until you pass out, but the set up is awful. Sitting at our long tables with just our team, it's like a high school cafeteria all over again, where nobody has the cajones (or maybe even the desire) to go up and talk to anyone on another team. I lamented this point to a couple of people on my team this week, and one of my friends had only this to say: "Well, at least we can mingle with the other teams at the mid-season party." Great. One night of meeting other people in the league and 8 weeks of being a little clique. Any division that goes to a place like Adams Mill, Tom Tom, or really any other bar other than the Exchange doesn't have this problem. On my DC Kickball team, we meet, mingle, and hang out with people on other teams the entire night, and it's way more enjoyable.

Finally, there just doesn't appear to be any life to Indy anymore. Maybe it's because I no longer know as many people in the league as I once did, but it's hard to feel a sense of spirit that I know exists in other leagues. Just take a look at the bulletin boards from other divisions on the WAKA discussion website, and you'll see what I mean. People actually talking about the games, parties, etc. The DC Dupont Division alone has over 300 posts this season! How many people in the Indy Division have anything to say? How about none? People just seem to be going through the motions, playing the game and then briefly stopping by the Exchange before going home early.

I could just be bitter about the fact that my team is still winless through the first 5 weeks, but honestly, I don't even really care about how we play on the field (my other team hasn't lost a game in the first 5 weeks, so I have plenty of ways to get the competitive juices flowing). My team itself is full of great people. I just want to feel like there's actually a reason to haul my ass all the way down to the Mall every Tuesday night. As I watch all of the players in other leagues walking to and from the other games actually looking as if they're having a good time, I realize that it's time to move on after this season. Anybody have a team with some open spots?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Idolnomics

Of all the social sciences, only economics knows how to cut to the core of a problem with rigorous methods and actually come up with real answers to some of society's most pressing questions. I really enjoyed Freakanomics , a fascinating look into how an upstart U. Chicago economist has been able to use economic tools to study everything from the organization of crack gangs to the kinds of names that people give to their babies. Why are black voting turnouts so low in some parts of the country? Why do women typically never marry down in terms of education? All of these questions are fair game for us.

It should come as no surprise, then, to see what a couple of friends of mine have decided to take a closer look at: whether certain characteristics make someone more likely to win American Idol. Forget global warming, this is the problem we need to be devoting our attention to. (Last year, this same friend and I created a formula for calculating a power ranking of the teams in our WAKA division based on kickball game and flip cup records, soooo... yeah, this is what we do).

Taking the results of all 5 seasons of American Idol, this crackpot team looked at the top 12 contestants for each season and categorized them according to sex (M or F), being overweight (yes or no), ethnicity, and home state. They then ran a regression of all these variables on the 60 contestants' ultimate finishes to find out if any of these characteristics contributed to how they performed. Here's what they found (most of the results are reprinted, with anyapologies to the author):

Table 1 - Analysis of American Idol Contestants

REG ProcedureModel: MODEL1
Dependent Variable: Rank
Number of Observations Used: 60

Analysis of Variance
Source/ DF /Squares /Square /F Value/ Pr > F
Model /4 /49.72031 /12.43008 /1.01/ 0.4091/
Root MSE 3.50393 R-Square 0.0686 Dependent Mean 6.51667 Adj R-Sq 0.0008Coeff Var 53.76871

Parameter Estimates

Parameter Standard Variable Label DF Estimate Error t Value Pr > t
Intercept Intercept 1 7.20664 0.93790 7.68 <.0001 .
SexDummy SexDummy 1 0.01242 0.91053 0.01 0.9892 0.98835
EthnicityDummy EthnicityDummy 1 0.10870 0.90567 0.12 0.9049 0.99788
WeightDummy WeightDummy 1 1.06355 1.33985 0.79 0.4307 0.98640
SouthDummy SouthDummy 1 -1.72671 0.91053 -1.90 0.0632 0.98835

The conclusion? I'll spare you the technical details, but the number in red shows that all else being equal, someone from the South is more likely to finish 1.73 places ahead of someone not from the South. This is pretty consistent with the fact that all of the winners so far, and 3 of the 4 runner-ups, have been from Southern states. Tonight's finale? The Alabama boy vs. the LA gal... take it for what you will.

Now, there are a few problems with this work. First, we can definitely tell there's a correlation between hometown and performance, but it's hard to say if there's an actual cause and effect here; in other words, can we actually predict if a Southerner is more likely to win in the future, or are we just proving past results. Second, there really aren't enough observations to say with a lot of confidence that this means anything -- the model itself fits pretty badly. But the fact that they found anything statistically significant is pretty damn interesting. Of course, if you really wanted to go nuts, you could easily set up some interaction dummy variables, basically to see if, for instance, black Southerners (Ruben Studdard) or skinny females (Kelly Clarkson, at one point in time) have the advantage...

And Hilary thinks that people my age aren't productive enough during their workdays. Whatever.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Simple Life



While DC remained sunny and in the 70s for most of this past weekend, I spent my time up in rural but cozy Burlington, VT for my brother's graduation from the School of Natural Resources at UVM. For those of you who don't follow the national news, however, a good part of New England has spent the last several weeks suffering from perpetual rain and flooding, and Burlington, although not in as bad shape as my hometown of Danvers, was no different. It rained, it poured, it was disgusting, to the point where I even had to go to the local EMS to buy a new rain jacket, the one I was using being not at all up the task.

Most of the weekend was relaxing, to say the least, as I spent most of my time eating on my parents' bill and lounging around the indoor pool. Although I arrived Friday night, there were no ceremonies or required events until Sunday morning, giving my parents, my aunts and uncles who attended, and me plenty of time to chill. The ceremonies themselves flew by, and I was back on a plane Sunday afternoon headed back to DC.


My dad, little bro, and me

This weekend, though, I came to an important realization. I think I've truly reached the point where I've been in DC long enough such that anytime I venture outside of the Beltway, I have to recalibrate myself to the outside world. I'm not really talking about getting used to the fact that everyone around you isn't outwardly political or somewhat self-centered, although that's definitely a factor, but more about getting used to a slightly slower lifestyle, especially in a place like Vermont.

I stopped by a convenience store Saturday afternoon and ended up in a conversation with an attractive but slightly older-looking woman working the cash register, who clearly hadn't had a customer in hours and was so bored that she almost literally wouldn't let me leave. As I was paying for my things, she took hold of the $20 bill I gave her and stared at it. "You know, I just love these new colored bills, with the new designs on them. They say you can go to the U.S. mint in Washington and go on a whole tour of how they make these things," she said, desperately trying to keep the conversation going.

"Oh, well, actually, I live in DC, though I haven't been to the Mint," I casually replied.

Looking at me with wide eyes, she responded,"Really? That's so cool! There are so many places to visit and things to do there."

And she's right. There are a ton of things to do here. Although Burlington is a great little city, it's a totally different world, and it's not until I went to a place like it that I realized just how much I have here in Washington.

The trip back to DC on Sunday was probably the most interesting part of the trip. Sitting alone in the tiny three-gate Burlington "International" Airport on a Sunday afternoon is a pretty freaky experience. Five years after 9/11, the woman working at the security counter that checks to make sure your ID matches your ticket was at least 70-80 years old and (I'm not making this up) crocheting in between checking people's IDs. If that didn't make me feel comfortable enough, there were so few people in the airport at the time that it was like being in the airport of the past dimension from the Langoliers. Two hours of sheer boredom were followed by a hellish rollercoaster ride on a propeller plane to NYC that held no more than 18 people and had to circle La Guardia for 25 minutes due to what the pilot referred to as "delaying vectors," and then almost missing my connector to DC.

When we finally touched down at Reagan, we had another 20-minute delay waiting for a gate to open up for us. But damn, was I happy to be back.