Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Soccer--A Bit Baffling

Any soccer fans out there? Perhaps you can answer a question. I've been recording some Champions League matches the last couple of days for a young footballer that I know from church, and have been watching the games myself while I've been at it. As with most sports that don't involve people beating each other senseless, I generally enjoy soccer, although I don't watch it much. I didn't grow up on the sport, and find myself with enough questions as I watch to find it sometimes frustrating, and much to my disappointment, the TV announcers don't spontaneously answer those questions--a ridiculous and inexcusable oversight, if you ask me. (Truth is, my questions are so basic that any announcer spending his time addressing them would be driven off the airwaves by all the massively bored soccer fans who actually understand the sport already and are looking for more substantive commentary.) My husband, who doesn't usually have much patience for watching sports on TV, watched several World Cup matches with me two years ago, which was fun, since we had the opportunity to be confused together. If you're going to be confused, it's much better to do it with company. We did learn a lot during that World Cup, mostly about yellow cards, or at least we think we did, but since we were explaining things to each other, it was pretty much the blind leading the blind.

It's an interesting sport, once you get past the basketball-and-American-football-induced desire to see actual scoring--which brings me to what's baffling me this time around. I understand that soccer is not a high-scoring sport, I have watched enough of it to know at least this much, but the match I'm watching right now is a European Championship semi-final, and--if I heard this right--one of the teams vying for the right to move on to the championship game hasn't scored in their last eight match-ups!! How does that work?! How did they manage to get this far without scoring at all? Is it really just that this team is so outstanding defensively that no one else scored either, and they moved on by virtue of superior league record or something, or is there something else I'm not getting? Basketball teams that don't ever score don't reach semi-finals. There must be more to it than there seems to be. Or, maybe not. If you are an Internet-surfing soccer aficionado, perhaps wandering by because the word "soccer" appeared in the blog post title, take pity on my ignorance, please, and explain a few of the deep soccer mysteries which puzzle the uninitiated.

If you're ever in Portland. my husband and I will take you to Kells and buy you a pint in reward.

Update: The team with the scoring drought just got the ball into the net. tying the game. Their fans are on cloud nine. When points are that few and far between, their occurrence is momentous indeed. Of course, if you can win without them...

Update II: Turned out to be quite a fun game, with overtime goals determining the winner. This further exacerbates my confusion about how a team with no scores advances to the semi-final. Were there no overtimes in the matches leading up to the semi-final? Do overtimes and penalty kicks only enter into the equation further into a tournament? How does this work?!

Update III: An apparently shy person sent me an email rather than leaving a comment, but shyness is to no avail--I'm posting it anyway!! (I got permission):

OK. You missed some stuff in your blog post about the game. The graphic they presented regarding Liverpool was that they hadn't scored in 8 games played at Stamford Bridge, which is Chelsea's home pitch. Liverpool have scored very well recently, and also have a good defense. They were unfortunate to lose, and should have won the home game last week. This was the 2nd game of a home and away. The first game was 1-1. Liverpool scored and would have won if not for a last second own-goal in the dying minutes of injury time. Heartbreaking. But soccer often is.

This makes much more sense, and I'm feeling rather silly, but I often am rather silly, so I'm quite comfortable with that. I think the problem was that I didn't actually see the graphic. I heard them talking while I attended something else. I don't think the game had started yet, and who sits and watches the talking heads? (Although, if I'd known there would be explanatory graphics I might have paid more attention!)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Thrill Seekers Are Crazy People

Watch this video of some crazy person walking at El camino del Rey. "Originally built in 1901, this walkway now serves as an aproach to makinodromo, the famous climbing sector of El Chorro." You couldn't have gotten me to walk this path when it was new! I love to hike, like really love it, but not this much...

I can't even imagine doing this while giving half my attention to operating a video camera. (Here's the link to where I originally got this video.)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Men Are Not Idiots

This is just a drive-by blog post to pass you on to this article in Advertising Age, on the coming (and long overdue, IMHO) revolt against the negative portrayal of men in advertising. Glenn Sacks and Richard Smaglick explain rather effectively why it would be wise for advertisers to reconsider the standard ad portrayal of men as buffoons and idiots, because it's not going over very well with either the men they target, or the women who love them. I totally agree. I get so sick of seeing husbands and fathers portrayed as stupid, selfish, lazy, dishonest, incompetent, base brutes. This is just not the majority of men that I know, most of whom I greatly respect for their character, intelligence, hard work and devotion to their families. A little "truth in advertising" would be nice. I won't even start on what the men-are-pond-scum approach to advertising says to the boys who are growing up in the world today, trying to figure out who they are supposed to become as adults. I know we're a long way past the age of "Father Knows Best," but could we at least acknowledge Father Knows Something?

Hat tip: Instapundit

Friday, April 11, 2008

Running Tally

I ran five miles straight again today. It took some mental pushing, because it was a little harder lung-wise this time. That could have something to do with the fact that I ran the whole thing ever so slightly uphill--that and the added bonus fact that I took five minutes off my time!! I'm feeling rather triumphant again, but also fairly tired... I better snap out of it, though. We're having company over for dinner tonight. I need to take a shower and start cooking!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

A Walk In Portland's Chinese Garden

We decided to introduce a new friend to our favorite Pittock Mansion hike. Everyone who lives in Portland should discover the beauties of Forest Park as soon as possible. Ked and I didn't know about Wildwood Trail for far too many years, and when I think of all of the lovely local trail time we missed I have to quickly change mental subjects, or risk sinking into maudlin despair and regret. Oh, the humanity. Anyway, this new friend (a very fascinating man from Egypt) does volunteer work as a greeter at the Classical Chinese Garden that is tucked quietly into downtown Portland. Ked and I had only visited the place once before, so, since our greeter friend was on duty at the garden right up until the time we were scheduled to pick him up for our hike, we and our friend Su decided to arrive early and take the opportunity to get more acquainted with this little oasis of peace in the city. I have pictures to share.

The garden is full of these amazing paths, with patterns of stone leading you onward.

I liked this picture of Su and Ked. Su can complain later about lack of picture-posting clearance, if she wants to, but really, since I already went to all the trouble of putting it up here, I think she should grant me retroactive dispensation, don't you?

This is one of those bridges that doesn't even have to go anywhere to serve a purpose in the world. Even if its only purpose was to stand there looking beautiful, that would be enough.

Don't you want to see where these doors lead?

I'm not usually big on such minimalist floral arrangements, but this scene is just plain pretty.

Isn't this a cool way to dress up a window?

Here's a lovely profusion of delicate spring color.

The Chinese sure have the whole "cool window screen" thing down pat, don't they?

All this shot needs is a butterfly or two.

Here is the tea house in which they serve a dizzying array (at least a gazillion varieties) of that Chinese staple. Really, there's a whole menu--maybe 8 pages--of all the different teas, with a description of all their flavor and scent characteristics, meanings and purposes. Clearly, tea is a far more complicated thing than I am used to considering it.

I really like the feel you get from this picture, where the garden takes its place in the context of the city around it. While you are wandering around, the city really doesn't call too much attention to itself. The garden easily remains the focus, but when you stop to connect the garden to its surroundings, the contrast can be oddly appealing.

Here is another one of those intricate paths, drawing visitors on to new vistas of pleasure and repose.

Aren't these windows simply beautiful? I love how you can catch glimpses of the garden in their reflections.

This last image is from a little later in the day, when we finally left the garden and proceeded on our hike. Having gotten a later-than-planned start, we didn't walk far (which is just as well--that no-migraine streak I was talking about last post broke this week with a vengeance. I'm on day four of a sometimes-off-but-mostly-on headache, and am actually using most of my energy reserves just to cope right now). However, by starting farther up the trail we still got to let our friend see Pittock Mansion. He was suitably impressed. On the way back we saw this charming little sign of floral determination pictured above. Since our new friend is a landscape architect, he was able to tell us that the intrepid fronds claiming a place in the branch of this tree are licorice fern. Looks right at home, don't you think?

That's all for now. Happy wandering to you.