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Failed Throw-ins and Other Soccer Stupidity

May 11th, 2017 · No Comments · Arsenal, English Premier League, Football, soccer

This has driven me to distraction for decades, going back to when I was a know-almost-nothing parent coaching my kids’ soccer teams in Highland, California.

I was hazy about numerous concepts of the game, but one I understood quite clearly … and in the decades since have seen screwed up all the time, from kiddie games to the highest levels of professionalism.

The throw-in.

And I am very, very pleased that someone is keeping track of how often throw-ins go wrong, at least in the English Premier League, because the numbers are as astonishing as I expected they would be.

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Hey, Wait! My Favorite Hockey Team Is in the Conference Finals

May 10th, 2017 · No Comments · Uncategorized

I follow ice hockey in fits and starts. It is difficult to keep track of the sport on this side of the Atlantic; it’s not like it’s background buzz in generic sports news, over here.

Also, at my last job, “hockey”, without a modifier, was assumed to be field hockey. No. Really. (India used to be really good at it.) In North America, there is hockey and field hockey. In Asia, there is hockey and then there is ice hockey.

So.

Paying attention a little bit, here in France, because I can see snippets of pucks on the cable package we have.

And, to be honest, I really enjoy a particular National Hockey League statistic, the one about how no Canadian team has won the Stanley Cup since 1994.

Canada is nuts about hockey; loony about hockey. And it has had to suffer through 21 seasons of American teams winning the Cup. Several of those championships were won by teams located in hockey-blase Sun Belt cities like Tampa and Dallas and Raleigh, N.C., and Anaheim and Los Angeles — twice.

So, a week ago I began checking scores to see which Canadian teams were still alive in the playoffs, and I found Ottawa and Edmonton, and the latter was playing the Anaheim Ducks.

Which actually is my favorite NHL club, if I were to pick one.

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Marathon Effort Comes with Too Much Help

May 9th, 2017 · No Comments · Rio Olympics

Last week, on the 63rd anniversary of Roger Bannister‘s breakthrough “sub-four-minute mile”, Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge ran the fastest marathon in history.

Kipchoge covered 26.2 miles in two hours, 25 seconds, falling 26 seconds short of cracking the increasingly less awe-inspiring “two-hour barrier”.

The Rio 2016 Olympic gold-medalist’s run came as part of a Nike-sponsored effort to sell more shoes through the attention lavished on its Breaking2 campaign.

(Adidas apparently is working on this, too.)

The time will not stand as a world record, however — Dennis Kimetto’s mark of 2:02:57, set at Berlin in 2014, still stands — for several good reasons.

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Freakshakes: Yes, It’s a Thing in the UAE

May 8th, 2017 · 1 Comment · UAE

Never minimize the United Arab Emirates’ ability and willingness to be part of any conversation about overindulging. The country may not have invented wretched excess, but it has embraced it.

Take, for instance, the so-called “freakshake”, described in this story in The National newspaper as “basically, oversized, pimped-out milkshakes. … The bigger, the better.”

Freakshakes apparently were invented in Australia, made their way to London and now can be found in several gut-busting varieties in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Take, for instance, the Mud Pot freakshake (see above), which they will whip up for you at the Central Grounds in the lobby of the Marriott Hotel Downtown, in AD. One of the seven freakshakes they make there.

What is in the Mud Pot?

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Blown Away by Too Many Strikeouts

May 7th, 2017 · No Comments · Baseball

Baseball is becoming dull, and the strikeout is to blame.

I woke up early today, with the TV still running, and while looking for the NBA playoffs I came across the New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs, at Wrigley Field, just as the bottom of the ninth was happening.

I decided to stay with it and see how Aroldis Chapman fared in his chance to close out the game.

He failed, the Cubs scoring three to tie, the third “driven in” by Mike Rizzo, who allowed a ball to bang off his arm with the bases loaded.

That led to nine more innings of baseball, and lots and lots of strikeouts. To the point that the game I was watching set a Major League record for most strikeouts in a game. (Which is, perhaps, the first MLB record I have seen “live”.)

Forty-eight whiffs. A four followed by an eight. 48. Shattering the previous record of 43, set in 1971 by the Angels and Athletics, who needed 20 innings to get to that number. (The Cubs and Yankees zoomed past it in the 17th.)

And it reminded me how the strikeout often is the dullest event in the game, and lots of people think baseball already is plenty dull.

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Unglamorous Southwark: The Gate to London Attractions

May 6th, 2017 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Pretty sure that when I heard about central London south of the River Thames, say, 30 years ago … it was largely dismissed as a crime-ridden area with nothing to see. No need to go. Terra Incognito, down there.

Even the locals seemed to ignore it, although the area has been part of London for years now.

The areas of Southwark and Lambeth, two major chunks of the south-of-Thames bits off the city, were almost off the grid, in terms of transport.

Even now, an area that would be served by a dozen Underground stops on the “city” (north) side of the Thames parcels out exactly five tube stops in Southwark and Lambeth — Lambeth North, Waterloo, Southwark, Borough and London Bridge.

And why are we talking about this?

Because we have just now discovered that hotels in this part of London not only tend to be cheaper, they put the tourist within walking distance of many of the city’s top destinations.

In short, if you anticipate some dry weather, Southwark and Lambeth make key parts of London walk-able.

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The Book of Mormon: Give It a Miss

May 5th, 2017 · No Comments · London, Movies

I was prepared to like The Book Of Mormon, the musical that deeply involves the South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

The show made its debut in 2011, but only last night did I get around to seeing it, at the Prince of Wales Theater in London’s Soho district.

I have a sense of humor crude enough that much of Parker & Stone’s material in South Park, the TV show, or their two movies, delights me and very little of it offends me … but The Book Of Mormon?

Mildly but consistently offensive, arguably racist, with music that leaves no impression on the mind.

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London, where King Cash Has Been Overthrown

May 4th, 2017 · 1 Comment · London, tourism, Travel

I must have missed this.

Some time over the past year or two London has become a post-cash society.

Yes, a few holdouts can be found, mostly among immigrant-run businesses that don’t like the idea of credit cards. Such as the Chinese noodle house on Wardour Street, in Soho. A pot of tea had already arrived when we spotted the “cash only” notation on the menu, and picked up and left.

To that point, we had gone nearly 24 hours and a dozen business transactions via credit card, in London. Including for a cab ride and a couple of small drinks at a theater.

So, after the incident at the Chinese resto, 10 minutes later and two blocks north, after being seated at the Hummus Bros. Levantine Kitchen, we asked the proprietor if he accepted credit cards.

He laughed. “Of course! Nobody in London uses cash anymore!”

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Go to London, See a Show

May 3rd, 2017 · No Comments · London, tourism, Travel

That is what a person does. You go to London, you eventually make your way over to the West End and settle in at one of those grand old theaters and let someone sing and dance at you for two or three hours.

We carried out that plan perhaps too aggressively.

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‘A Green Worm Is Going toward a Green Glass’ and Other French Nightmares

May 2nd, 2017 · No Comments · France

I have lived in France for about 15 months now and I am sometimes asked: “How is your French coming along?”

The answer?

It ain’t.

As I told a fellow Yank, a few weeks ago: “My French is nonexistent.”

He chuckled at that. “Nonexistent. Ha.”

It would help if I were trying harder than “puzzling through French text” and “listening for key words in the conversations of others”. By, you know, taking lessons or devoting myself to study. But I prefer to take a whack at the idea of gradually absorbing the basics through osmosis.

Part of my problem with French is that it doesn’t have enough words. No. Really.

Steve Martin, the comic, once complained, tongue in cheek: “The French have a different word for everything!”

But he is wrong. The French often have the same word/sound for wildly different topics.

Take for example, this infamous French sentence: “A green worm is going toward a green glass.”

And how would the French say it?

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