Virginia Tech Hokies Women’s Soccer

I tweeted about this the other day but I’d like to expand a little.

Last year I attended a game or two, but this year, I’ve been to several Hokie soccer games: at least one of the men’s team and several of the women’s. It has been a lot of fun. There’s a smallish crowd, which is enough to make it fun, but not the insane size of the football games. It’s free to get in and parking is easy.

I’m going to give the men’s team another chance since they didn’t really impress in the game I saw, but I am really enjoying watching the Women’s Soccer team. They are extremely skillful and have many of the qualities of a great team, but they are not quite converting their dominance into goals as much as I think they should.

I thought they were unlucky in North Carolina (let’s just say that I didn’t entirely agree with the refereeing) and that they dominated Boston College for much of the game. They do seem to be a bit vulnerable on set pieces.

Their ball movement, patience, discipline, possession, and general talent are all fantastic. They play a little like Swansea in that they’ll typically move the ball out from defense on the ground with calm, precise and well-controlled passing. Several times, I’ve seen their central defensive players turn the opposition inside out before making a simple release pass. They are very good at relieving pressure in that regard.

The team seems to be setting up in a 4-1-3-2 formation and their midfielders are impressive. The one caveat is that they feel unimaginative on offense in the final third. What I have seen to this point are through balls, long balls, and runs that tend to be vertical (straight up and down) with few overlaps from midfield and less diagonal movement. Several times I’ve seen midfielders creating space in advanced positions by fantastic passing and then it fizzles out, either in a wayward shot or a tackle.

I’m not sure of the underlying reason. It could be intentional positional discipline, but the last game I saw there was at least one occasion for a clear overlapping run by an outside midfielder and the player just stayed in place. The other part of the equation is the offensive players themselves who seem a little static or “one note”. If you aren’t faster than the defense and being quick is your thing, then your options close down. If being tall is your thing, then you need service from the wings.

My understanding of an attacker’s role (and I say this both as a fan, and primarily a defensive player myself), is that it is at least in part to make defenses constantly worry about where you are, to get on their blind side, to get into positions where they can’t see both you and the ball, and to make runs off and away from the ball to draw the defense into bad positions. That off-the-ball mischievousness and creativity is what I think I’m not seeing. I’m not sure of the solution from a tactical point of view, but the team feels only a fraction shy of being a truly great team. They could easily have beaten North Carolina and Boston in my opinion.

Either way, they play again this Sunday, and I’m planning on enjoying the game, whatever the result.

Ah, !@$# it!

I’m quite a fan of ufyh (warning: language NSFW), but less for the 20-10’s or the concerted effort to fix bits and pieces. I definitely see the utility of those and do something along those lines occasionally (those baking soda and vinegar volcanoes really work), but really I think it’s as much about a state of mind that says, “^@#% it! This thing isn’t as big a deal as my stupid brain is making it. Do it now!”

Cases in point:

  1. I’ve had a chip in my windshield (windscreen?) for month or so now. Every time I see it, it niggles me. I really need to do something about that. In a very stupid way, it was chipping away at my self-esteem every time I saw it. It was my car telling me that I’m too incompetent, too lazy to get around to fixing a stupid chip in a stupid screen, which could be a REALLY BIG DEAL if and when the windshield broke because I hadn’t got it fixed. It’s nuts. Brain’s are stupid that way. Today, I finally got to that point, and in a five minute phone call arranged for my insurance to get it fixed for free tomorrow in my driveway!
  2. Daughter #2 never puts her laundry away. She’s allergic to it, I think. As a last resort, I put her on a timer last week. It took her 3 minutes…well, 6 minutes to get it into her room and in the drawers. 6 stupid minutes. Staring at that %@#%ing pile of laundry had been eating away at me for weeks.
  3. I had a caulking gun sitting in my bathroom for a month or two. I needed to fix the caulk around the bathtub. Two bloody months reminding me of what I hadn’t done. When I finally was willing to say “@%#$ it! Let’s do it now!” it took me less than five minutes to lay a bead where it needed to go. You may well (and correctly) claim that I probably did a half-ass job, but it’s done, which is a heck of a lot better than “not done and mocking me.”

The thing is that this kind of thing happens all the damn time, but a slight shift in perspective can really help move things along. There’s a really annoying story about starfish stranded on a sea-shore. You know the one. I don’t think in those terms, but doing something, anything, begins to move things in the right direction. I pick up a couple of dust-bunnies from the floor. It’s nothing, but you know, there are now two fewer dust-bunnies. I put away the dishes. It’s nothing. It takes two, maybe three minutes, and makes hardly a lick of difference, but now I can actually do the dirty dishes and fill the dishwasher. These things seem like they count for nothing, but they actually move things forward, even if it’s only an inch at a time. It’s still an inch in the right direction and pretty soon you realize that you’ve cleared space both mentally and physically.

I’m not so damn special that it has to be right, and I have to look perfect. I should forgive myself and be willing to get it wrong, to screw up, to apologize, to fix, to move forward. The thing done is better than the thing not done. The email sent. The phone call made.

I’m not going to do the exact exercise that I should, but any exercise is better than no exercise. I’m not going to eat in the healthiest way possible, but I’ll add something to the mix, and that’s better than not.

So anyway, this post is a reminder to myself that sometimes you have to be willing to ignore that over-analytical brain and say “@#%& it! Do it now!”

Oh…and make your bed!

Triathlon

sotto voce: one of a series of long unfinished posts that I’m just throwing out there.

So, I completed my first (sprint) triathlon in June. A Roanoke Times news report is available for some while.

There are some pictures online, but I’m not going to link to them, mostly to spare you the sight of my astonishingly blanched farmer’s tan. I do have a picture of me in the bike-to-run transition, which is, I’m told, not bad.

Bearing in mind that this was immediately after falling and grazing my elbow quite badly, I’m doing okay.


It’s many months later, and post Lyme’s disease and appendicitis, I’m sure I’ve forgotten many of the little lessons I could have taken away from the experience. Let me think…

  1. have flip-flops to walk around in after dropping off your gear in the transition area, and a small bag for glasses(?) or other stuff that you can leave by the pool and pick up later after the race.
  2. the bike section is the longest section in terms of time, and as a result where there is room for the biggest improvement, i.e. a 10% improvement in a swim time would be less than a minute and would require a lot of training, 10% in the run about 3 minutes, but 10% bike improvement would be about 5 minutes.
  3. I don’t have my own fancy bike and if I want to keep doing this I’ll need to buy one 🙁
  4. The camber on the run was quite tough. I don’t know whether I suffered more due to the tick bite on my ankle (and swelling), or perhaps somewhat newish shoes, or just the length of the race, but my feet hurt for a while afterwards.
  5. I was in pretty reasonable shape at the end
  6. I think I’m in better shape now than I was then. My achilles is a bit sore these days, but fewer other things ache or hurt…well, except my knees sometimes.
  7. loosen both your pedal cages before getting to the end
  8. getting up early was a bit of a struggle
  9. those gel packs do seem to make a difference

Nothing else springs to mind, but it was fun, and I’m glad I did it. In general terms, doing multiple sports does seem to lessen the risk of injury and develop more balanced fitness. I’m still biking, running and swimming, although I’ve no concrete plans for another race, and I’ve added a little bit more strength work recently through some body weight exercise. I think that’s helping. I’m trying out tracking with Fitocracy too.

When exactly will the “War on Terror” be over?

When exactly will the War on Terror be over? You do wonder. It’s not really a question anyone ever asks. When will it be over and when it is, will our privacy and liberty be restored? Like the War on Drugs or the War on Poverty, it will never be over until it stops being a war at all. One way to “win” is to refuse to fight the same battle as your opponent. Win on your own terms, not theirs.

Not holding my breath on that. What a mess.

BBWorld 2011

sotto voce: one of a series of long unfinished posts that I’m just throwing out there.

I returned from Blackboard World 2011 on Saturday. It was a good conference. I went early for the Oscelot/Open Source Day, and DevCon. Both were excellent. OSD was a good easy start and a nice small event to get things going. Glad to see Mark O’Neill is still involved while having a critical role within Blackboard and he’s just a nice, smart guy. I also got a chance to get to know Wim and his team from K.U. Leuven, who are great guys and do interesting work. Getting to know them, the various ex-pats from the U.K. (Scots in England, and English in Scotland), and Jose from Monterrey.The Belgian and Monterrey schools are institutions of somewhat similar size and have faced many of the same challenges that we have, and found many of the same solutions. The guys from the U.K. are doing excellent technical work particularly with standards.

Anyway, a week in Las Vegas with lots of free alcohol. What could be better? Well, I’ve been sick for quite a while and it really dialed up this past week. I felt pretty awful and was taking ibuprofen every 4 hours or so. Without it, mind-bogglingly bad headaches started, shooting pains, muscle aches, etc. Very hard to sleep when your scalp(!) hurts to the touch and you are waking up every few hours. Friends with medical experience were quite worried. Anyway, the flight back was tough and I went straight to my regular clinic and a new doctor who very promptly diagnosed Lyme disease. There’s a test which will take a while to come back, but the diagnosis seems right and matches up with the “spider” bite that I had sustained just before I ran the triathlon a little over 3 weeks ago. Since I’d been taking ibuprofen for the swelling, I suspect it masked a lot of the initial symptoms. I’m finally on the right antibiotic and I hope, improving.

— picking up again after a long while —

So, I went on antibiotics for the Lyme disease which immediately started clearing up…and consequently developed Bell’s Palsy, which really freaked me out. Apparently it’s a relatively rare side effect of Lyme’s disease as the 7th facial nerve has been compressed. At one point, I was on an anti-inflammatory, anti-viral (just in case it wasn’t Lyme’s–the test takes a long time to come back), and antibiotic. This was as I was headed to England for an overdue vacation.

Anyway, back to the conference. Since I’d been feeling so bad, I kept putting off the work I needed to do on my presentation. In the end I dragged a co-worker into presenting a little bit, but I did the majority of it with very skinny slides. It turned out very well. The room was full to overflowing and I was asked to do a repeat session, which I ultimately decided to decline. The recording is/was online fwiw.

A long time since, what do I recall of the conference. Not much to be honest. It was a good conference, but the whole experience was colored by my illness. I hope this year it will be more fun.

…pulling the trigger on this one.

Soccer Commentary and Counter-Productive Takedowns

sotto voce: one of a series of long unfinished posts that I’m just throwing out there.

Good grief, an excellent soccer strategy site is asked to stop using photos of matches in his analysis. God forbid that enthusiasts get interested in all dimensions of the game! It’s a common theme for copyright holders to take actions directly contrary to their own long-term interests, but it springs from fundamental misunderstandings of the internet. See also: SOPA, ACTA, etc.

A five-year plan

Still working on those unfinished drafts… 😉

Do you have a five-year plan?

I don’t.

Should I?

Occasionally, I run across that advice in one of those columns that tells you how to fix your life. It’s attractive. Hey, I’m a person with a plan who is going places…

Well, I think I’m a guy who knows where my towel is (unless my daughter has left them on the floor of her room again), but I’ve not really approached my life that way. Having a family tends to throw a monkey wrench in one’s good intentions. Maybe one day I’ll work out how to be a super dad who makes crafts with his awesome kids while hang-gliding, or maybe the trick is to save that for grandchildren.

Isn’t living in the moment meant to be a good thing anyway? I suppose it is, unless one isn’t living, unless one isn’t anaethetized by modern media, distracted by cat pictures. Hmm…that reminds me, I’m not sure I’ve seen a text from the Dalai Lama recently? Best check my twitter feed….

Yunomae Town, Kumamoto, Japan

Last one…….I’m never going to finish these… and that was five years ago!


 

When I was 22 I lived in Yunomae, Japan for two years. It was a both a wonderful time and a very difficult time. I find it hard to think about because I have real regrets about the experience. If ever there was a case of being older and wiser, and thinking that youth is wasted on the young, this pretty much fits the bill.

I lived in a beautiful location, had free time, and was hosted by incredibly generous and wonderful people. At the same time, the work was unfulfilling, and the culture shock eventually became a very real thing.

When I think about it, I’m very sad to have lost touch with the lovely people I met and who were so kind to me.

by david tod