Friday, June 27, 2014

The World Cup teams that have impressed me so far (highlights)

I tried to watch every goal of the World Cup that I could, if not live at least the highlights. In case you missed one, here's a supercut of all 136 group stage goals. 

This year's tournament has been fantastic. United States success aside, the games have been high scoring, we've had great goals from Messi, not that many ties, plenty of surprises. It's been a joy.

Coming into it, I already was a fan of the USMNT. And I also like Argentina, both for Messi and I really enjoyed my time there (plus their uniforms are snazzy).

Some other teams have impressed me.

First, the Netherlands for their dismantling the reigning world champions. Just watch. After giving up a questionable penalty early, van Persie scoring a diving header that was the early goal of the tournament. Also, van Persie is really fun to say in a soccer announcer voice. Then Robben showed world-class touch and finish. After another Dutch goal, it was van Persie who scored again by picking the ball off the goalie and Robben's turn again to show speed and then control. Those are beautiful goals.

Then, Switzerland. In their first game against Ecuador it was 1-1 in the 92nd minute in a 93 minute game. Ecuador had the ball in the box. And Behrami on the Swiss team makes a slide tackle in the box, dribbles it out is knocked to the ground but without a whistle, so he gets up and continues dribbling. He passes it to Seferović who swings it wide and then is on the receiving end of a low cross. It's an end-to-end goal to win the game in stoppage time. Watch at the :42 mark. My favorite part is that Behrami wasn't looking for a whistle, he just keep running. In their third game, a Swiss defender make a brilliant kick save on the goal-line against Honduras.

And then we get to Costa Rica, the CONCACAF team that nobody gave a chance. They came from behind to beat Uruguay 3-1 with a nice range of goals. And then they beat Italy (which eventually gave Costa Rica 1st place and knocked out the Azurri) with a goal that was correctly called, where it was a good thing that goal-line technology existed.

I mentioned that van Persie had the early goal of the tournament. Well, I think he was on the field for the goal that deserves that title. Australia earned 0 points but this volley from Cahill will live on.

I can't overlook Argentina. Or should I just say Messi. There was his marvelous goal in the first game, his game winner over Iran in stoppage time, and two goals against Nigeria including a free kick.

And of course, the United States. The game winner from Brooks that would outrank Donovan's 2010 goal if it was the last game in the group stage and the equalizer from Jones that I could stare at for hours.

Evaluating FiveThirtyEight's Predictions

Before the World Cup started, FiveThirtyEight posted predictions of each team's chance to win the Cup, finish first or second, and even percentages to win each game. Some of their odds were reviewed in the comments as obvious, others seemed to be off. I knew from their NCAA tournament that they would update the odds as they went along, which is very helpful. And yet it erases their pre-tournament predictions, something that important for judging their model in the first place. 

The trick for evaluating their odds is obvious. If you say that Germany has a 69% chance of beating Ghana and a 20% chance of tying them, and then they your model correct and this was a 1 in 5 scenario...or did the model undervalue the chance of a draw? With small sample sizes, there really isn't a good answer. The best I can do is to measure how often they were accurate and make a subjective evaluation if that seems within a margin of error, considering the sample size. 

I captured screenshots of Group G (because Group of Death and USA) and Group D (because they predicted England would advance while the comments seemed certain that Italy would advance). 

Germany took first place. They were given a 69% chance of doing so.
USA took second place. They were given a 25% chance of doing so.
Portugal was eliminated. 55% chance of that.
Ghana was eliminated 70% chance of that.

This group is interesting in that the three non-Germany teams each had the most likely odds of not advancing. (This is always an interesting conundrum. See also: That the favorite to win the NCAA tournament only has a 14% chance of doing so.) Basically, whoever got 2nd place was going to be unlikely, and yet we know it had to be someone.

Let's look at the individual matches.

USA-Ghana. Highest odds were a USA win at 38%. Correct. (Again, the USA win should only happen, according to the model, less than 4 out of 10, but it was the model's most likely outcome.)
Germany-Portugal. Highest was Germany win at 63%. Correct.
USA-Portugal. Highest odds was a Portugal win at 39%. Incorrect. Draw was 29%.
Germany-Ghana. Highest odds was a Germany win at 39%. Incorrect. Draw was 20%.
USA-Germany. Highest odds was a Germany win at 67%. Correct.
Portugal-Ghana. Highest odds was a Portugal win at 41%. Correct.

4 out of 6 correct in this group.

Costa Rica took 1st place. 9% chance of that.
Uruguay took 2nd. 28% chance of that.
Italy was eliminated. 53% chance of that.
England was eliminated. 36% chance of that.

FiveThirtyEight was really down on Costa Rica. It seems like this was a genuine surprise run. And 30% chance of advancing seems to reflect a puncher's chance.

Without typing out all the matches, 538 was only assigned 2 of the 6 matches the highest odds correctly.

My net conclusion is that 538 has reasonable odds predictions, but aren't really any better than just a soccer fan's common sense. They claim to offer specific percentages but they don't really mean anything.

USA advance to the Knockout Round

in consecutive World Cups for the first time ever.

We had a World Cup party where about 20 people gathered to watch the US get zero shots on goal. But I just realized...what if the games had been in reverse order.

After the first game this would have been the table:

Germany 3 gd+1
Portugal 3 gd+1
Ghana 0  gd-1
USA 0 gd-1

Our hopes would have been slim. A loss to Portugal would have eliminated us. That early Portugal goal would have been a dagger. And then we would have been ecstatic to take the lead (as we were on Sunday) and then heartbroken with the final goal.

Germany 4 gd+1
Portugal 4 gd+1
Ghana 1 gd-1
USA 1 gd-1

So for our final game, here's what we would have needed. Beat Ghana AND require that either Germany or Portugal win AND make up the goal differential.

In the first minute, Dempsey scores. USA looks good. Then we see that Germany is pulling away from Portugal. By halftime, it's clear: just hold on to the win and we're through. And then Ghana ties it in the 85th minute. Those motherfuckers. The ensuing Brooks goal would have been the biggest highlight in U.S. soccer history. It would have been incredible.

And really, all of that happened. Just not in that order. So yeah, we're through and it's awesome.

Spain. Italy. England. Portugal. All of them are at home.
The United States lives to play another day alongside Brazil, Germany and Argentina.

In 2010 we had a better result than Italy, and the same as England and Portugal. So by advancing in 2014, the USA has outperformed Italy, England and Portugal over the last two World Cups combined. These are countries where soccer is everything. That feels pretty nice.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Saturday, June 21, 2014

USA scenarios, updated

with USA WIN
Germany 4
Ghana 1
Portugal 0

Germany 4
Ghana 1
Portugal 1

Germany 4
Portugal 3
Ghana 1

A win puts the USA through (and not a bad shot of finishing first).

Even a draw tomorrow, sets up the USA well. Germany and USA could settle on a draw to push them both through. If the USA draw tomorrow and then lose by 1 to Germany, Ghana would need to beat Portugal by 2, or Portugal would need to win by 5 to knock out the USA.

A loss means they need a draw or better vs Germany.

Which is expected. I just looked at the last three World Cups. There have been many teams to advance with 4 points, none with 3.

- - -

Also, for the first time I just looked at Group H to see the USA's potential opponent in the the round of 16. Belgium is worst case scenario. Could be South Korea, Russia or Algeria. None of those are particularly scary.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Decision, part two

Even though I often get confused for him, I am not LeBron James. But if I were LeBron, I would not go to the Western Conference. The Clippers may be an attractive team/destination, but I'm trying to win titles and that means staying in the East.

But at this point, with no 3 or 4 peat on the table, does another title in Miami mean that much? And seriously Wade and Bosh made a big 3 in 2010, but they're not set up well for the future.

So what other teams are in the East that could make sense? Brooklyn and New York are great destinations, but their teams are kind of a mess.

If I were LeBron, I'd really consider trying to assemble a roster in Cleveland. Winning a title there would be the biggest and best achievement. They've got Kyrie Irving and the #1 pick that could turn into Kevin Love or Wiggins. And if you're LeBron, couldn't you arrange for some other free agents to meet you in Cleveland? Trade the pick for Love and add Melo as a free agent? Plus Irving and LeBron? I'm just saying.

Thursday, June 19, 2014


There's a story on about Embiid's injury. On the article there's a video. Before the video plays, there's a short commercial from Subway starring Pele. All of this is great. 

Except the Subway commercial contains a line that is too perfect.

The Search for Denver's Best Burrito:
El Taco De Mexico

This is the fourth installment of this series that I explained fully here.

Denver Burrito #4: El Taco De Mexico
714 Santa Fe

I had high hopes. This was highly recommended on both yelp and reddit. Inside there are a few tables and a large counter with stools. A menu board is posted above the counter and runs twenty feet wide.

(all photos from Yelp, not mine)

An elderly woman was standing behind the counter. She didn't say anything and I wasn't sure if I was supposed to sit at a table or order. I went with the al pastor burrito, no beans, smothered. I was pleased to see on the menu board that it would have arroz inside. Smothered it was 7.55, over 8 bucks with tax.

I sat at the counter. Within minutes I was served a burrito on a plate. It looked more or less like this:

Smothered in green chili, with white cheese on top, rolled and folded at the ends. It was large, which I suppose is standard. The first two bites are nothing but tortilla. Now I see the benefit of El Tepehuan leaving the ends unfolded.

And then I got to the al pastor. Right away you know you're in for a treat. This is the third time now I've been very, very impressed with the flavor of the meat at these authentic places. Spicy but not too hot. Just big bold flavor. I expected to find some pineapple, but didn't. Regardless the meat is fantastic.

The rice is a welcome addition. It was spanish rice (or perhaps they would prefer I call it Mexican rice). Flavorful and complemented the meat. The more bites I took, the more flavor seemed to be revealed. Yes it was a bit spicy, and I was drinking my water, but it seemed to be just well-rounded, deep flavors. I dug a bit and found bits of cooked onion and cilantro. There was more going on than they boast on their menu board.

The green chili supported it nicely. It's a bit different structurally from the salsa on the inside, but the effect is the same. Likewise for the cheese.

The tortilla was there to not get in the way. It wasn't bad, not noticeably great. Just a typical flour tortilla that brought it all together. But there was tons of flavor inside and out. The meat is the star, but it had supporting elements that brought their own flavor to the party.

In at least one aspect, this search is already a success. I found a burrito superior to Chipotle. Which I suppose, means it's the best burrito I've ever had.

El Taco De Mexico 9.5
Chipotle 8.5
Bocaza 7.5
El Tepehaun 7.5
Tacos Rapidos 7

Length in sport seasons in days

The Seattle Seahawks played football from September 8 to February 2. 148 days.

The Boston Red Sox played baseball from April 1 to October 30. 213 days.

The Miami Heat played basketball from October 29 to June 15. 230 days.

The LA Kings played hockey from October 3 to June 13. 254 days.

Manchester City played soccer from August 19 to May 11. 266 days.

A vs B

The winner of Group A will play the 2nd place team from Group B and vice-versa in the round of 16. I originally noticed that Spain could face Brazil in the Final or as early as the first knockout match. After Spain's first loss that seemed very much in play. Now they're eliminated. But there is a very interesting situation still brewing.

First let's look at Group A.

Brazil 4
Mexico 4
Croatia 3
Cameroon 0

Since Brazil is playing Cameroon you would think Brazil will win and win the group. But you never know. The possibility is there that they could play to a draw like they did against Mexico. Mexico vs Croatia should be for second place, Mexico only needs a tie, Croatia a win.

At this level of analysis, it's not just if you advance, but who wins and who finishes second because of the powers looming in Group B. If Brazil draws, either Mexico or Croatia could win the group and Brazil could finish second. (If Croatia wins by a goal, and Brazil would need to lose to Cameroon by 3 to not advance. So yeah.)

We'll come back to the winner of this group in a moment.

- - -

Here's Group B at the moment:

Netherlands 6
Chile 6
Australia 0
Spain 0

You would think there's no drama here. We know who's advancing. But Netherlands vs Chile is quite important. It determines who wins the groups and therefore, which opponent they'll get in the round of 16. And despite Brazil having less points than either of these two teams, the home country in the knockout round is not your preferred choice. I think either NED or CHI would be favored against MEX or CRO but an underdog against BRA.

So it's simple enough, we'll know who won Group A and assuming it's Brazil, then Netherlands vs Chile will be for the right to avoid them...except it's not.

I'm assuming because of time zones, the Group B matches are before the Group A matches. (3 of the other days are out of order: BA, DC, FE, GH.) So we'll know who wins Group B. And then we get to see the Group A matches.

Which brings strategerie to Brazil. If I'm them, I want to avoid the Netherlands. Perhaps Chile is just as strong, but I think the Netherlands could reach the Finals. If NED wins, extra motivation for Brazil to win their group. Say Chile wins but on a fluke penalty and NED again looks like one of the best teams. I would be very tempted to merely draw with Cameroon to get Chile.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

the best microbrew...sodas

So we buy all our baby clothes at Carter's. And just a few stores away from Carter's is Rocket Fizz. So now it's a tradition for Brit to go buy clothes and I take the boys to the candy and soda shop. And I usually end up buying a soda. Here are the best brands.

Sprecher - Their root beer, cream soda, and cherry cola are all superb. Their puma kola isn't for me.

Boylan - Big fan of their root beer, creme and black cherry. Avoid the shirley temple.

Hank's - I've tried their Philadelphia root beer and their black cherry and both were good.

The Search for Denver's Best Burrito:

This is the third installment of this series that I explained fully here.

Denver Burrito #3: Bocaza
1740 E 17th Ave

Boca means mouth. Bocaza means big mouth. If I place were to open up in say, Iowa, called Big Mouth Burritos, I would probably think it a bit lame. But Bocaza as a name works just fine by me.

There is a method to my madness. I started an authentic hole-in-the-wall that allegedly served a California burrito. Then I tried a smothered burrito. One of my strongest recommendations, I've saved for the #4 spot, so I could have a better foundation to judge.

#3 however, is the only mission-style burrito I could find at a semi-authentic place. Not only that, but they offer a fajita burrito with peppers and onions in place of beans. The place itself is not a hole-in-the-wall but also not as pristine as a Qdoba. It's clean, simple. They had one television on Univision playing the Netherlands-Australia highlights. I learned that in Spanish, Netherlands is "Holanda."

In addition to burritos, they offered tortas and other more authentic specialties. But I'm here for the burrito. They offered three kinds of tortillas (I chose the simple flour) and two kinds of rice, spanish and cilantro-lime. I went with cilantro-lime but perhaps spanish would have been better. I debated between barbacoa and carnitas, and was swayed by their menu board that seemed to highlight the barbacoa.

I chose medium salsa (which was green, same as Chipotle) and cheese and sour cream. In short, this is an exact replica of my order at Chipotle. Same size, same shape, same foil wrap.

I had high hopes. My previous two experiences had shown me that authentic places make better meat than Chipotle. So if I found a place that serves the same ingredients, but they can make them better, than this would trump Chipotle, no?

Well. As it turns out, the barbacoa was not up the standards of the previous two Denver burritos. Nor was it as good as Chipotle's. It was a little bland. Likewise, the peppers and onions weren't as good. They weren't cooked as much, which did give them a good crunch, but they didn't have hardly any flavor. The rice was about as good, but still maybe lacking a bit in flavor.

I swear I saw her put sour cream in the burrito, and yet it seemingly disappeared into the ether. Or more realistically, into the rice.

The one thing that Bocaza's burrito did better than Chipotle's was the tortilla.

This is a fantastic tortilla. It wasn't too thick yet still held together. It was soft yet had a bit of delicious crunch to it. Probably the best tortilla I've had anywhere.

I would be interested in going back some time, trying the spanish rice and something other than the barbacoa.

So now we get to ratings. I know it wasn't as good as Chipotle. I think it's proabably on the same level as yesterday's, just a completely different style.

Chipotle 8.5
Bocaza 7.5
El Tepehaun 7.5
Tacos Rapidos 7

Week 7

Week 0: 200
Week 1: 195.5
Week 2: 194
Week 3: 191
Week 4: 190
Week 5: 189
Week 6: 186
Week 7: 186

This is a bit frustrating because I was really good this week. I went out for barbecue on Father's Day, but then ate super under Monday and Tuesday. I even saw 187 when I woke up, but weighed myself later and saw 186. 

(I did have that burrito yesterday, but I had a small breakfast and that was lunch & dinner.) I didn't eat before my soccer workout last night but then had a carnitas soft taco at home afterwards. Perhaps that was my downfall. 

It's not the worst. It's still an average of a pound and a half over the last two weeks. If last week I saw 187, this would be no big deal. So hopefully I can at least be 185 or below by next week. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Search for Denver's Best Burrito:
El Tepehuan

This is the second installment of this series that I explained fully here.

Denver Burrito #2: El Tepehuan
3457 S Broadway

One of the things that was implied but sort of went unsaid is that this burrito search will take me to places I've never been, but more than that, the kind of places that I've never been. Hole in the wall, authentic, taquerias and restaurants, mostly run by people that speak Spanish and serve to Spanish-speaking clientele.

This is a modest sit-down restaurant with three TVs--two flat-screens and one SD television sitting on a tall beer cooler. I happened to go during the Brazil-Mexico game and it was on all three TVs. It was surprisingly unobsessed with the soccer game. Two of the employees were wearing Mexico flag shirts and there were enough people sitting at the tables, but very quiet.

This place serves the opposite of Mission-style burritos. They are served on a plate covered in green chile. I came here second because I wanted to get one of these under my belt quickly, to have a better frame of reference for judging other burritos.

I ordered the Adovada burrito, no beans. I realize this whole "no beans" thing may be affecting the process. The description on the menu said "marinated pork, beans, smothered with green chile." So I was axing half of the interior ingredients. The thing is, I just dislike beans enough that I prefer burritos without them. Since this is a sit down restaurant, tax and tip brought this burrito to over 11 dollars.

So it comes just like you'd expect. It's rolled but open on both ends. The burrito is smothered with green chile overflowing onto the plate and then topped with shredded cheese. Lettuce and tomato are piled on the side, but I ignore them.

I used my fork to cut off a piece and stir in some of the pooled green chile for my first bite. The pork is outstanding. I look inside and it really is the only thing inside the burrito. So it's a pork and cheese burrito with green salsa, except the last two ingredients are outside the tortilla.

One of the knocks against the smothered style is that your tortilla will likely suffer. It's not going to have any of that griddled flavor. It probably has to be thick enough to handle the sauce. And even if you serve a good tortilla, it will probably get soggy and overwhelmed. The tortilla at El Tepehaun does suffer from all of these mentioned, and yet it's still pretty good.

The pork is the real star of the show. As I take more bites I discover there are bits of pineapple mixed into the small cubes of pork. The color of the meat is a rich burnt orange. Again, it tastes authentic--heavily seasoned, probably cooked on a grill that has accumulated it's own seasoning profile. The pork even has crunchy bits of char that are delicious and make up for the fact that the tortilla has not been crisped. (The tortilla did seem to have a bit of crispiness on the inside, though the green chile was wet enough to counteract that.)

The green chile was pretty darn good, but not mind-blowing. It had a good heat level, good flavor. Solid but not that memorable.

I find myself drawing many similarities to the hand-held burrito I had last week at Tacos Rapidos. In both cases, they were full of meat and hardly anything else. Luckily the meat was very good. But both are missing the range of flavors that I've grown to expect in a burrito.

I think that today's was superior to my first outing. Trying to assign these burritos number ratings has been harder than expected.

At the moment, I'm thinking:

Chipotle 8.5
El Tepehaun 7.5
Tacos Rapidos 7

But all of these ratings are still fluid and may rise or fall.

Monday, June 16, 2014

USA scenarios

Germany plays Ghana Saturday. I will assume Germany wins. Here are the three tables following USA-Portugal on Sunday.

with USA WIN
Germany 6
Ghana 0
Portugal 0

Germany 6
Ghana 0
Portugal 1

Germany 6
Portugal 3
Ghana 0

A win clinches a berth in the knockout round.
A draw doesn't clinch, but is pretty close because USA has a +5 goal differential over Portugal.
A loss leaves work to do, hoping to best Portugal's fate against Ghana.

In short, win or draw vs Portugal and we're sitting pretty.

Way too premature and unrealistic guide to the U.S. advancing

I mean, the US will probably finish the bottom of the table. But still...

With Germany holding at 3-0 lead at halftime and one of Portugal's key defenders being sent off (and therefore will miss the game against the U.S.) here's an optimistic way this could shake out.

Germany. They will get the 3 points against Portugal. They will likely get all 3 against Ghana next.

They're in. That leaves one extra spot.

Let's say the US and Ghana draw today. 1 point each.

Then let's say the US beat the Pepe-less Portugal in the jungle.

The table looks like this heading into the last game:

Germany 6
US 4
Ghana 1
Portugal 0

At that point all the US would need is a draw against Germany, or even it a loss to minimize the damage and advance over Ghana on goal differential, assuming they can earn 3 against Portugal. that requires a win over Portugal... what if...

the US draws instead with both Ghana and Portugal...

The table looks like this heading into the last game:

Germany 6
US 2
Ghana 1
Portugal 1

If Ghana and Portugal draw, it's the same situation for the US. Draw and you're in. Otherwise just minimize the goal differential.

It's totally possible. Both of these scenarios are based upon a draw vs Ghana today. Win vs Ghana and they're sitting prettier. Lose against Ghana and then a win against Portugal is necessary. Here's that table:

Germany 6
US 3
Ghana 3
Portugal 0

At that point, it still doesn't look good. Germany wouldn't even be clinched so they would come out with full intensity.

Basically, it all comes down to today. Draw Ghana and you're okay. Win is great. Lose, means you're looking at 2018.

One-Hit Wonders at Golf's Majors

It had seemed to me that in the Tiger Woods era, either it was Tiger (or Phil) winning a major. Or it was a guy you had never heard of. And the best way for me to quantify "if you've heard of them" is if they've won a major before.

So let's start with the numbers.

1950-1959: 27/40 won by multiple major winners
1960-1969: 24/40 won by multiple major winners
1970-1979: 33/40 won by multiple major winners
1980-1989: 32/40 won by multiple major winners
1990-1999: 26/40 won by multiple major winners
2000-2009: 25/40 won by multiple major winners
2010-present: 9/18 won by multiple major winners

The first thing that sticks is out that the 70's and 80's were dominated by big names, more so than the two decades before or after. The 90's and 00's are surprisingly consistent with the 50's and 60's.

Yes, the current decade is on pace for 20/40, but let's not jump to conclusions. Because of the way this is setup, yesterday's win counted for two points in this decade. (Kaymer has now won majors in 2014 and 2010.)

Let's take a look at the previous decades counting only the first 18 majors of the decade.

2000s: 10/18 (Can't count Phil's first)
1990s: 10/18 (Can't count Olzabal's or Els's first)
1980s: 14/18 (Can't count Crenshaw's first)
1970s: 14/18 (Can't count Irwin's first)

So there you go. This decade's pace is slightly lower than the previous two decades. Across 40 years of data, we can expect that about one more person that won their first major this decade, will win another. The candidates include: Scott, Rose, Dunfer, Simpson, Schwartzel, Clarke, Bradley, McDowell, Oosthuizen. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Was Rooney shit or shite?

In case you missed it, (spoiler alert) Italy defeated England 2-1 and Rooney in particular was awful. I went to twitter to search two strings without quotes: Rooney shit and Rooney shite. I thought that I would be able to do a simple count and compare, say 34 to 16 or something, which adjective people who follow the English team use.

Well there's upwards of thousands of both. But the initial sampling suggests that shit is perhaps twice as popular as shite.

Though this much is clear. Rooney is shit and shite.

Friday, June 13, 2014

My previous post was supposed to be about how I think the Netherlands are always really good in the World Cup and I picked them to advance, while others were picking Chile. They've advanced in the three other World Cups I've watched, and made it to the Finals in 2010 and the Semis in 1998.

How the World Cup intersects life

(I touched on this a bit previously, but let me do a better job...)

The World Cup first mattered to me in 1998. Summer is amazing when you're 14. You're not old enough to have a job, but you are old enough to know what you're doing and appreciate the time off. Virtually every morning that summer, I woke up and watched Patrick and Olbermann do SportsCenter. I listened to Hello Nasty and watched the video for Intergalactic. And I watched the World Cup.

This commercial was the greatest thing I had ever seen.

From the beginning, the World Cup was not about the knockout rounds for me. I fell in love with the group stage. The round robin where wins and ties matter and scenarios unfold over the course of weeks. And each game is on one at a time. So you watch Brazil and France, but also Iran and Japan.

This was my first World Cup. I was just a boy.

Four years prior, I was a ten-year-old who knew nothing. The World Cup was actually in America. I remember being on vacation and for some reason, I was wearing a Germany t-shirt for no reason. I suppose I thought it was neat. Anyways, we were at a restaurant and the waiter asked if we where there for the World Cup.

By the 2002 World Cup, I had already completed a year of college. Perhaps I was still a boy, but I had a summer job. And with the time zone difference between South Korea and Peoria, the games were on at 2 and 4 am. I tried to watch a U.S. game but have little memory.

In 2006, I fell in love with again, for good. And I have Ted Grossman to thank. This was my first year in the workforce. We were working together and he was super into the World Cup. He talked me into cutting out of work for a long lunch to watch some games. We went to this Irish pub down the street. I believe we watched Netherlands defeat Ivory Coast, 2-1. We watched a lot of games. It was pretty fantastic. I watched the U.S. lose twice and draw once.

So 2010 was really only my third World Cup. I was already 26. I had been married for four years. We were trying to have a children. Perhaps I was still a boy in some aspects, but I was also sort of grown up. I was still at the same agency as 2006, but now in a different building. Our company had merged since the last Cup. This agency knew that people wanted to watch, so instead of having hundreds of people stream the games across their network, they happily set up a viewing room. There would always be a few people there, sometimes as many as 20. A lot of Spanish speakers. Watching the World Cup with rabid fans is far more satisfying than watching by yourself. This was the year that the U.S. won their group and it was pretty amazing.

Which brings us to today. Only my fourth World Cup. I'm 30. I have two kids. I have a house.  I've changed jobs and moved across state lines. There's no viewing room here, but we're making it work. It really is a special tournament, that sort of lives outside of sport and in this strange place where the world can come together and agree that even though it doesn't really matter, it's all that matters for the moment.
The possibility just opened up for what I mentioned previously. The overwhelming favorite and host could face the #1 team in the world and defending champion...not in the Final but in the first game of the knockout stage. (This will happen if Brazil finishes first in Group A and Spain finishes second in Group B.)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

I predict the next three games of the NBA Finals will be won by the home team. Game 7 will be won by Miami.

Week 6

Week 0: 200
Week 1: 195.5
Week 2: 194
Week 3: 191
Week 4: 190
Week 5: 189
Week 6: 186

This number might be deceptive. On Monday I was 187.5. Tuesday I was 188. So this was a two-pound drop in a day, that just happened to be my weigh-in day. Tomorrow I could see 187 or 188 and not be too surprised. 

Yesterday we had a salsa taste test contest at work. (I made a salsa. It was not too bad but not as good as some others.) The way it worked out was that I skipped lunch because I wasn't hungry, which may have been the first time in history. I'm not sure why I wasn't hungry. I did eat a lot of salsa/chips but it was my lunch and dinner. 

And then last night I did another soccer workout. The morning after I do a soccer workout, for two consecutive weeks, I feel incredibly lighter. Sure enough the scale reflected that today. (Last week the scale didn't show any weight loss from the workout for a couple days, and who knows if that was related.)

Feeling good. 180 is my wedding/college weight, so that's always a nice milestone. Maybe this time I can actually cross it and stay on the other side for a while.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Lyrical Analysis

This post is about the lyrics of a band called New Found Glory. But my findings can be extrapolated across a lot of other bands, particularly in this genre.

I've always noticed that their songs all seem to be about the same thing: relationships. Not only that, their songs seem to use the same structural technique of addressing an unnamed female as "you."

Example lyric: "Distance means nothing to me, it only makes me want to see you longer."

There's nothing notable or wrong with this lyric in theory. It's just that it seems that every song they write does this. So I thought I would crunch the numbers. How many of their songs are about relationships? And how many address the subject of the song as "you."

There you have it. 90% of their songs are indeed about relationships. And all but two are ostensibly from the lead singer to some girl directly. Those two are "Vegas" and "Boy Crazy." Both of those use "you" talking to guys about girls.

One of the eight that didn't count as being about a relationship is called "Failure's Not Flattering." It uses the "you" structure and you could make the case that it's referring to dating, but since it wasn't obvious I didn't count it.

These results can only lead to so many conclusions.

1. The singer is writing songs that are fictitious.
2. The singer has written multiple songs about the same girl.
3. The singer has been in 75 different relationships.

World Cup Nicknames

I was all set to do a lot of research putting this together and Googled to see if anyone had done my work for me. And they had.

Here's a list of all the nicknames for the international soccer teams in the World Cup this year, including translations and explanations.

Monday, June 09, 2014

The Search for Denver's Best Burrito:
Tacos Rapidos

FiveThirtyEight is in search of America's Best Burrito. They released their bracket for the West and it includes two from Colorado, both in Denver. Illegal Pete's and The Original Chubby's. I've had Illegal Pete's burritos on at least three occasions. They are a Chipotle clone, but nothing special. I prefer Chipotle. But it got me thinking. Is Chipotle really the best burrito that Denver has to offer?

To answer that question and expand my horizons, I will be taste-testing burritos across the city.

Before I get into burrito #1, I should say what I like about Chipotle. First off, I don't do beans. Fortunately, Chipotle offers grilled peppers and onions as an alternative to beans and they're delicious. Here's my Chipotle order:

White cilantro-lime rice
Fajita veggies
Barbacoa or Carnitas
Green Salsa
Sour Cream

There's really three structural ingredients and three condiments. The balance is fantastic. I also will use fresh lime wedges and Smoked Tabasco or Green Tabasco for additional flavor.

This is really my standard. It's not that I think Chipotle is perfect, they offer everything I want. So for me, the question becomes: Is there a place that does what Chipotle does better?

(I should probably mention Qdoba. They're basically just as good as Chipotle but they annoy me because they charge extra for veggies even if I say no beans. Also, if Brit orders their nachos (which all come with meat) and holds the meat but asks for guac, they charge extra for that too.)

- - -

My Denver burrito research informed me of two interesting things.

1. Basically everyone in Denver is crazy for breakfast burritos and not so much for lunch or dinner burritos.
2. Most of the lunch or dinner burritos appear to be served on a plate, customarily smothered in green chile. The mission-style burrito will be potentially hard to find.

- - -

Denver Burrito #1: Tacos Rapidos
2345 W Alameda

I started here because Yelpers said that they offered a "Colorado burrito" that is actually a California burrito. I ordered a Colorado burrito, no beans. (I'm not sure if it would have come with beans anyways.) I asked if it came with sour cream. They said no. I asked if I could add sour cream. They said yes.

Here's what's inside:
potatoes (aka french fries)
shredded cheddar
pico de gallo
sour cream (by request)

That's it. No rice. No veggies. French fries. I was skeptical.

I was handed a white grocery-style plastic bag. Inside there was a large burrito wrapped in yellow paper, not foil. It was a true cylinder, not nearly as wide as Chipotle's but much longer. I'd estimate it was about the width of a soda can, and about two cans in length, maybe a little more. With the addition of sour cream and tax, I paid about 6.50.

My first bite was surprisingly good. Very flavorful steak coming through. I don't how else to describe the steak other than "authentic." I don't know how the process for cooking meat is different at an authentic taqueria, but there was no mistaking this meat for Chipotle's steak.

I sort of missed the rice, but the potatoes weren't bad. I took a bite of one on it's own, and it was not a good french fry. But as a complement to the steak, it worked.

I was glad I added the sour cream. The pico de gallo was barely noticeable and the cheddar was mediocre and not uniformly scattered.

One nice thing was the finished product got a bit of time on the grill. The tortilla was still soft, but had some crispy, delicious spots.

I took bite after bite and was trying to compare it to Chipotle and ask myself would I come back here over my standard? This one was lacking balance. It tasted very much of one note: flavorful steak. That's a pretty good note. But it was missing depth of flavor.

I'm reserving the right to revise scores once I've toured the city a bit. Right now I'm thinking that Chipotle is either a 9 or an 8 out of 10. And I think Tacos Rapidos is one point below. So either a 8 or a 7, right now. Solid.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

my world cup bracket

Spain vs Brazil could be the World Cup Final.

Or if one of them finishes 2nd in their group stage, it would be the round of 16.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

DIY Soccer/Hockey Goal

I've wanted to do this for a while. With H almost three and able to kick a ball, I didn't have a reason not to do it any longer. 

There are plenty of plans online to build a goal out of PVC pipe. The problem is they weren't what I wanted. All of them look the same. They all have a diagonal bar connecting the crossbar with the back frame. See here. And here. Or here.

What I wanted was a horizontal bar coming off the crossbar, making it deeper so the ball wouldn't just bounce down and out of the goal. I found this plan and started sketching.

On my first trip to Home Depot (there were many) I discovered they didn't have the three-way connector that design required for both the crossbar corners and the bottom frame corners.

So I was back to the drawing board. I eventually realized that I could take the most popular design and instead of a straight diagonal put in two bars with an angled connector. So I started to gather parts and start building, going off a design that I created, something I couldn't find on the internet. (I'm sure I'm not the first person to do this, but the cool part for me was following my own design, not that it's never been done.)

Supplies List
(3) 10' x 1.5" PVC pipes
(6) corner connectors
(4) T connectors
(2) 60-degree connectors
PVC hand saw
54" Reebok hockey net
11" white zip ties

I found the net online. Everything else was at Home Depot. I also bought PVC pipe cement that I didn't end up using. And 7" zip ties that were just half an inch too short. The pipes were $15, connectors about $20, saw $15, net $20, zip ties $4. It's a $75 project. 

My initial idea was 6' x 4' and then I realized that's really big. I scaled back to 4" x 3". It's not too bad sawing through PVC. It only took me two hours to build the frame. 

The net arrived and I just had to hope that it would fit. It was amazingly close. But a little short from side to side. At that point I measured the inside opening. It was 54". I had started with 48" crossbars, but the connectors add width. So I cut 6" off each crossbar and the net fit. And I ended up with the 48" opening that I had originally planned on. 

Most of it was easy. The only trick was figuring how deep to make the goal and how long to make the diagonal supports. The end result was I have a 9" deep horizontal off the crossbar and a 20" deep bottom frame. Because of the angle (60 degrees) and the lengths that I had, when it was assembled the bars coming off the crossbar angled down a bit instead of being perfectly horizontal. But I decided that was okay. And it actually provides a benefit. If I made them truly horizontal, I would have needed a deeper frame. Keeping it 20" makes it very easy to fit through doorways and hallways. 

Enough preamble. Here's what it looks like.

(The goal is level. Our back yard is slanted.)

It looks nice. It plays real nice. It's very sturdy. It could probably handle a regulation soccer ball, as long as it wasn't Messi kicking it. A serious upgrade that should last their whole childhood. 

I specifically bought a hockey net and not a soccer net so this could be an all-purpose goal. Soccer, hockey, even lacrosse. I'm very happy with it. 

Friday, June 06, 2014

a good walk spoiled: part nine

This was the best round I've played in nine years.

Yes it was a Par 3 course. But still.

Prior to today, my best finish was +9 on August 27, 2005. And I've made a total of four pars.
Today I was +10 and added another two pars to my career.

I really played great. Remembering to follow through makes a big difference.

Most of my tee shots felt great. The strange thing was that I didn't land any on the green. But I put about 4 or 5 on the fringe.

I'll go hole by hole as best I can remember.

#1. First shot came of nice. Put it on the fringe, short and left. A nice chip and a good first putt left me with an easy 4.

#2. My tee shot also landed on the fringe, short and left. But it wasn't as far as on the first hole. I use my PW to chip and it was amazing. For a second I thought it was going to roll into the cup. Instead it stopped within two feet. Easy one putt for par.

#3. I followed my par with one of my worst tee shots, a skimmer along the fairway. But I was able to put a 9-iron close enough to two-putt.

#4. All I remember about this hole is that I made an 8 to 10 foot putt to save my four. Best putt of the day.

#5. This one is deceptive. It's all uphill and the pin was at the very back of a deep green with multiple ridges. My tee shot was my best all day. It landed on the fringe but close to hole. I had a birdie putt. It wasn't that realistic, but I had one. I came close to making it but pushed it past the hole far enough that I three-putted.

#6. Very similar to my par on hole #2. My tee shot again landed on the fringe. This time I putted it to two feet away. As simple as it gets.

#7. I again followed my par with one of my worst tee shots, high but way right over a hill, 50 yards from the pin. From there I hit one of the best shots, a 9-iron that got up over the hill and landed on the green, close enough to two-putt.

#8. This one played really long. I use the 3-iron off the tee for the first time. Didn't hit it that well. Second shot got close and then I duffed my chip on the next shot.

#9. This green was tough. (Come to think of it, these greens were much tougher than Walnut Greens back in the day.) The pin was on a small raised tier. My second shot was a chip that got up on the tier and then rolled into the fringe. From there I putted and almost saved par, but rolled down the tier. Fourth putt was good and almost went in.

So there you go. +10. Probably was the best I've ever played.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Hockey and Time Zones: Part Two

Back in November, I took a look at how time zones affect the start of hockey games.

I found that for the Avalanche, local time is fairly consistent, usually 7 or 7:30. But because games are all over the country, mountain time varies from 5pm to 8:30.

- - -

Yesterday I was thinking about how a LA-NY series is kind of a nightmare for scheduling. We can start with the idea that a 7pm start time is ideal.

If the game is in LA, a 7pm start time means the NY TV market doesn't start watching until 10pm. That's no good.

If the game is in NY, a 7pm start time means the LA TV market is still at work when the game starts at 4pm. That's no good.

In my head, you have to cater to the local crowd and do your best to accommodate the national TV market.

I figured that means on a weekday, you start the game in LA at 6pm. NY will start watching at 9pm.
In NY, you can start the game at 8pm, LA can start watching at 5pm.

- - -

So what did the NHL decide?

Game 1, 5, 7 on a weekday in LA: 5pm
Game 2 on a weekend in LA: will start at 4pm.
Game 3, 4, 6 on weekdays in NY: will start at 8pm.

I have no problem with the weekend start time. But that's three games in LA that the local crowd has to be there by 5pm.

All the weekday games start at 8pm Eastern which is great for the NY crowd and poor for the LA crowd.

- - -

Just for reference, I thought I would look at the NBA and their start times.

Game 1, 7 on a weekday in San Antonio: 8pm
Game 2, 5 on a weekend in San Antonio: 7pm
Game 3, 4, 6  on a weekday in Miami: 9pm

Since you're looking at Central and Eastern, to me it would seem easy enough to start every game at 8pm Eastern. Instead 5 of the 7 games are at 9pm Eastern. Even the ones in Miami. Perhaps it's better for a national TV audience, but it seems a little late for East Coast watchers, no?


Some people take burritos very seriously. I enjoy burritos quite a bit. But I also have no problem saying that Chipotle is my go-to, even though that would get me blackballed from FiveThirtyEight.

In a strange bit of serendipity, this morning before I saw the FTE burrito contest, I was thinking about this burrito that I read about a few months back. I never really got it out of my head.

I found the article I read. The burrito is from Mission Cantina.

Here's what makes me eager to try it:

"The first and most important part is getting awesome tortillas. Ours come from Mi Barrio Tortilleria in Bushwick, and the guy makes them for us fresh every morning. A lot of places steam their tortillas. It's fast when they heat it up in a flash steamer. But I hate that. The way you digest a steamed piece of flour versus something that'd been griddled and crisped is different. It sits in your stomach differently. If it's a vegetarian burrito, we griddle it in a bit of olive oil, but if it's a meat one, we griddle them in chicken fat, which gives it a nice texture and flavor.

We toast them on each side, and then we put some of our smoked queso Oaxaca in there, and some shredded fresh mozzarella. We add a bit of cilantro and chopped-up onion, Rancho Gordo pinto beans that are cooked in bay leaves and onions, and avocado. I don't like re-fried beans: A lot of times they're cooked in fat, and they're a lot heavier. Another thing I hate is when people put guacamole on burritos. It's nice to have a little contrast and not have all the ingredients get soft. Slices of avocado taste a lot cleaner and hold a lot better. We also add crema, which we're about to start making in house with buttermilk. And salsa fresco with onions, tomatoes, jalapeño peppers, and salt.

We roll it all up and it goes back onto the griddle. It's griddled on all four sides, Dorado-style. Nice and crispy."

That sounds really good.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Parity has not reached the World Cup

In the last 50 years, there have been 12 World Cups. That's 24 teams in the Finals. Here's the list:


24 Finals spots. 8 Countries. 

Germany six times. Brazil four times. Italy four times. Argentina three times. Netherlands three times, all in the losing column.

4 out of the 12 were won by the host country.

All-time, Brazil, Argentina and Spain are the only teams to win it all not on their home continent. 

All-time there have been 19 Cups that have only been won by 8 countries. Subtract Netherlands and add Uruguay from the list above. 


"That's because the World Cup is awesome and baseball is terrible."

We also would have accepted: "Baseball? What's baseball?"

Week 5

Week 0: 200
Week 1: 195.5
Week 2: 194
Week 3: 191
Week 4: 190
Week 5: 189

One the one hand, the scale's not moving as swiftly as I would like. But last week I stayed home from work and got off my routine a bit. Friday I played golf but then ate about 6000 calories at an Indian buffet. And then shot some baskets on a full stomach.

Last night I did a soccer workout and woke up feeling great, like I've lost 5 pounds. And I'm still losing. Perhaps with some more soccer/basketball and back in my healthy routine, I could lose two pounds this upcoming week. 

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

$18 NHL Dream Team

Bobby Hull, Jagr, Gretzky, Bourque, Chara, Belfour

Who you got?

$15 NBA Dream Team

First Team: Isiah, Jordan, Durant, Duncan, Shaq

Second Team: Stockton, Jordan, Bird, Duncan, Hakeem

Third Team: Magic, Jordan, Pippen, Duncan, Hakeem

What do you think is the best team? What's your team?

- - -

I feel like Jordan is worth the value in all scenarios. Then you can look at the pairs in the frontcourt and backcourt.

Isiah & Durant: $5
Stockton & Bird: $6
Magic & Pippen: $6

Can't go too wrong with any of them.

If you only have $4 for PF and C, here are your options:

Duncan & Hakeem
Shaq & Dirk
Garnett & Wilt

To me, Duncan is a significant upgrade from Dirk or Garnett. But Shaq is my favorite center. You could talk me into either Duncan/Hakeem or Shaq & Dirk.

Monday, June 02, 2014

finals schedules

Wednesday, June 4: NHL Game 1
Thursday, June 5: NBA Game 1
Friday, June 6: no games
Saturday, June 7: NHL Game 2
Sunday, June 8: NBA Game 2
Monday, June 9: NHL Game 3
Tuesday, June 10: NBA Game 3
Wednesday, June 11: NHL Game 4
Thursday, June 12: NBA Game 4
Friday, June 13: NHL Game 5
Saturday, June 14: no games
Sunday, June 15: NBA Game 5
Monday, June 16: NHL Game 6
Tuesday, June 17: NBA Game 6
Wednesday, June 18: NHL Game 7
Thursday, June 19: no games
Friday, June 20: NBA Game 7

notes on ice

The LA Kings won three Game 7s on the road. A new record. They can't do it again because they have home ice for the Cup Finals.

The Kings have played seven elimination games this year. They are still alive. 7-0.

After the Kings' first three playoff games, they were down 0-3 to the Sharks, having been outscored 17-8.

Here are the series so far this year that went to seven games:
Rangers over Flyers
Wild over Avalanche
Kings over Sharks
Canadiens over Bruins
Rangers over Penguins
Kings over Ducks
Kings over Blackhawks

5 of the 7 involved the Kings or Rangers.

The Avalanche and Blackhawks were eliminated in overtime in game 7.