Monday, June 11, 2018

Icelandic Soccer

Shirt badge/Association crest

So the World Cup is fast upon us. Perhaps the most surprising entry into this year's field is the Iceland National Team. What a delight to have a team from a country that is home to around 400,000 people, and how wonderful that they actually have a shot....

One of the things I love most about soccer is that it's not a race that goes to the biggest and most wealthy. The US, arguably one of the wealthiest countries that has ever been, has a difficult time fielding teams - our US Women's Team is phenomenal and a perennial powerhouse, but the men's team is lackluster. I'm honestly more surprised that they go at all, ever, to any World Cup.

Here's the problem - and it's been a problem for years. Soccer in the US doesn't get the attention that other sports get. I'm talking about the big three - football, basketball, and baseball. We do well in the Summer Olympics, generally in the flashy sports like swimming and gymnastics... But in other events and in the Winter Olympics, it's a different story, and it's literally anyone's game.

Soccer, like these other sports, is a fairly low-cost sport. All you need is a ball (of whatever kind) and a couple of goal posts and you're in business. It's why countries that aren't super rich can do well - the infrastructure that's required to play a football game (especially the NFL) is just prohibitive for other countries to consider.



Sadly, the other issue facing soccer in the US is the lack of good coaching. My brother recently started in as a girl's soccer coach for a local high school. While there's no doubt that he's an amazing guy and probably a fantastic coach, he's not been groomed like the Icelandic teams' coaches have been.

Here's a link to an article on what I'm on about:

https://www.maxim.com/sports/iceland-world-soccer-powerhouse-2018-3

So, the US, which has 1000 times the population of Iceland (literally) and which should therefore have no problem finding players or coaches, finds itself behind the ball (pun intended) when it comes to this sport. Part of it is that we have other sports that provide diversion and FAR better salaries. That's where our priorities lie, and I don't see that changing.

So in the meantime, I'm rooting for Iceland. They've got a tough group/bracket... Here's hoping!


Monday, June 4, 2018

What life may come

Come what may, and love it.

When Elder Wirthlin spoke these words several years ago, I was struck by how beautiful and simply profound they are. Life moves fast. It moves in ways and takes you in directions you wouldn't anticipate. Always moving forward, always headed onward, the time flies according to He who pulled the bow. In conversation with an amazing friend, it occurs to me that in the inexorably straight arrow that is time, we exist and persist at the very tip of the arrow...

Maybe like a bug resting on the grille of my truck?

Maybe the roadrunner stuck to the front of a speeding train?

Or maybe, just maybe, we are all at the tip of the arrow because that's where existence is most significant, most real, and most beneficial....

I don't know. I'm not smart enough to know all of these things.

I do know that it's a pleasure to go along with you on this journey, dear, constant reader. I don't know the end of where this is headed - that's not given to us to know. We're rushing headlong and oblivious into whatever future awaits. But I'm so very much enjoying it with you.

I love you. That's forever.

Monday, April 2, 2018

LA Woman


My family recently spent some time in the beautiful and always impressive Southern California. This is where I was born, where my father and grandfather were born. And in some ways, it feels very much like home, while in others, it's as foreign to me as a completely different country.

What I'm interested in at the moment, however, is something I just noticed while looking at Google Earth. Yes, I know I'm a geek - and you love me anyway. Thank goodness.

I was noticing the different and contrasting ways in which the city looks from this image. Taken at a virtual altitude of about 50 miles, this image includes the Santa Ana range slashing across the middle of the image, with the Santa Monica Mountains and the San Gabriel Mountains on the north. The San Gabriel Mountains are the closest I got to snow until after I was eight years old and moved to Utah. It snowed that night, and in the morning I woke to the strangest and most beautiful sight I'd ever seen. It was this time of year, and the snow melted off quickly, but it was quiet and cold and beautiful. But I digress...

Notice the areas of lighter colors as they spread across the region. These are largely the roofs of vast warehouses, signifying industrial areas in the region. These areas seem to center around rail access as laid out in the early part of the 1900s. Because the rail lines operated on steam locomotives, access to water was vital to their survival and performance, so the rail lines generally followed the streams and rivers. Further, the railroads need to operate on a very gradual slope, so they follow along the paths that the rivers follow as well. The freeways came later, but not much later, and are used to connect, interconnect, and by-pass certain areas. 

On the far easterly side, above the cities of Norco and Eastvale, and just below Rancho Cucamonga (which is a name I just love!) is another large area of warehouses and industrial uses. Still located along traditional rail lines, this area is much more recent and is quite obviously more dependent on surface transportation. In fact, the rail lines in this area seem largely ignored, perhaps a missed opportunity for commuter rail or freight lines. This area has developed along a much more orthogonal grid pattern, rather than in the organic lines that rivers and rails prefer. 

On the westerly side, there are the large swaths of land that are used for warehousing and manufacturing supported by the coastal resources (ports and airports) and the oil refineries. These serve to cut off the beach cities from their neighbors and create an isolation between the two industrial regions - the coastal and inland areas. This is also where, interestingly, the traditionally more blue-collar and economically disadvantaged areas of the region are located. No million-dollar homes, here - these areas sell for half as much or even less than what areas just a few miles away are selling for. 

All of this has implications to the urban form as well as broader social concerns. As the "have" regions continue to do well, compared with the "have nots", there is a split between which cities have access to better resources and which continue to be underserved. Since a large portion of a city's revenue comes from property taxes, those which are disadvantaged financially will most likely continue to be that way, with property values remaining depressed. These cities, thus affected, will not be able to offer services that other cities may be be able to do fairly easily. There needs to be a cooperative agreement of profit sharing between cities like Beverly Hills and Compton so that everyone benefits thereby. A regional approach should be implemented to promote growth and progress across city lines. It's never too late to begin with the way things ought to be.


Monday, March 26, 2018

Inclusion

So I read this article this morning:

https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2018/03/16/economic-inclusion-key-growth-prosperity/?utm_campaign=Brookings%20Brief&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=61599999

It's a bit technical, but the last line is the point of the article, anyway:

This admittedly wonkish analysis thus points to a simple insight that should guide regional economic development efforts: although it may be elusive from year to year, in the long run, inclusion may provide the key to true economic success.

I won't pretend to understand all of the sordid details in the article, much less the social implications of what is there. What I would like to point out is that this idea is at once fairly intuitive as well as revolutionary. As in, literally revolutionary. This is what Marx was talking about nearly 200 years ago, when the industrial revolution was just in the throes of making a bourgeois plutocracy even more distant from the proletariat than the original aristocracy. I don't subscribe to Marx's theories, but on some things he was right on. This is one of them.

I've written about this before (here and here). But now you have some empirical proof of what I'm on about. Economic progress does not just equate to growth - it implies stability and diversity. Those economies (in this study, the metro areas are noted, but I believe it applies to regions, nations, and globally as well) that are most inclusive are also the most progressive and therefore the most robust and resilient. And eventually the disadvantaged will take power unto themselves and work to achieve a more equitable solution. Whatever that is, and however it is achieved.

The solution? Easily said, but immensely difficult to achieve. I believe the solution is love. It's love on behalf of those who could have more for those who are disadvantaged, where they share what they have so that the poor can be better off. It's love on behalf of the disadvantaged, recognizing that people who have things are not inherently better or worse than they. It's a willful and proactive elimination of pride in an effort to support, respect, and care for one another.

So, yeah. Probably not going to happen. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Ch-ch-ch-changes



I still don't know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild
A million dead-end streets
Every time I thought I'd got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me
But I've never caught a glimpse
Of how the others must see the faker
I'm much too fast to take that test

[Chorus]
Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes
(Turn and face the strange)
Ch-ch-Changes
Don't want to be a richer man
Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes
(Turn and face the strange)
Ch-ch-Changes
Just gonna have to be a different man
Time may change me
But I can't trace time

[Verse 2]
I watch the ripples change their size
But never leave the stream
Of warm impermanence and
So the days float through my eyes
But still the days seem the same
And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They're quite aware of what they're going through

[Chorus]
Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes
(Turn and face the strange)
Ch-ch-Changes
Don't tell them to grow up and out of it
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
(Turn and face the strange)
Ch-ch-changes
Where's your shame
You've left us up to our necks in it
Time may change me
But you can't trace time

[Bridge]
Strange fascination, fascinating me
Changes are taking the pace I'm going through

[Chorus]
Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes
(Turn and face the strange)
Ch-ch-changes
Oh, look out you rock 'n rollers
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
(Turn and face the strange)
Ch-ch-changes
Pretty soon now you're gonna get older
Time may change me
But I can't trace time
I said that time may change me
But I can't trace time

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Marching Toward Madness

march madness without cable

So. It's that time of year again.

If you're not familiar with this phenomenon, March Madness is what it's called when the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament takes place. For months, people watch teams that are varying levels of proficient get selected for the Tournament, and it's a very quick thing. There are 68 teams selected; after one week, 48 of those will be eliminated, leaving us with the Sweet Sixteen. Then, after another week, twelve of those teams are eliminated, leaving us with the fabled Final Four. One more week to get to the finals and play the championship game, and you can see why this is such a whirlwind of fun.

Here's some terms you may enjoy:

March Madness - The wide-eyed craziness that you get when you think about the games that you could be/are watching.

Image result for the big dance

The Big Dance - Another name for the Tournament. Getting your dance card punched used to be a thing (I guess), and the act of even getting invited is a big deal.

Image result for on the bubble

On the Bubble - Teams that are doing well are considered to be "on the bubble". This could be a team that is unexpectedly rising above expectations, or a team that is expected to do well and is meeting those expectations. The problem with bubbles is their propensity to break, particularly for those teams who are doing unexpectedly well.

Image result for cinderella basketball

Cinderella (Team or Story) - References the classic fairy tale, meaning a team that was unexpectedly invited to the Big Dance and is doing surprisingly well. Usually a lower-seeded team - likely a 12 seed or lower.

Image result for seed

Seed - the position a team gets in the bracket. Teams with better seasons (more wins) typically get higher seeds (1-8) while teams with not as good seasons (fewer wins) get lower seeds (9-16). It's always fun to see a lower-seeded team do well.

Image result for ncaa bracket

Bracket - The tournament bracket - that series of lines that link teams to potential future games. People try to guess what the various teams will do, often "filling out" or "doing" a bracket. The first weekend (which we are currently in) can totally kill one's bracket if the team you'd picked to win does not do so hot, throwing off the whole rest of the schedule. Some people fill out a bracket after each round, but more commonly people will fill out the whole bracket at once. Many people use this as an office pool or friendly-wager kind of thing, just to make things more interesting. I've always found it interesting enough on it's own...

Image result for orem mountain view

I'm not one to think I could ever guess correctly. We filled out a bracket when I was a junior in high school (GO BRUINS!) and every team I'd picked to win - lost. I mean, EVERY SINGLE TEAM. It was actually kind of amazing. And as my Utes are playing in the NIT - which is kind of like going to a family square dance while the cool kids go to the Prom - I'm just having fun with it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The End

Image result for Mount doom

There's a moving scene in The Return of the King where Sam and Frodo are lying on the slopes of an exploding Mount Doom. As you will recall (spoiler alert, if you don't!) Frodo and Sam have made their way from the beautiful and verdant Shire through perils and dangers of all kinds. Frodo decides at the last second that he can't throw the ring into the Crack of Doom and destroy the power of the evil. The greedy Gollum eventually bites off Frodo's finger (!) and falls into the pit himself, thus unwittingly ending his own life and saving the world as the ring is destroyed.

But what I love is that Frodo is now free, and while their deaths seem imminent, they are at peace - the journey is complete, the task is finished, and the evil threat has subsided.



For me, the best moment is when Frodo, his arm around Sam, says - I'm glad to be with you, Samwise Gamgee, here at the end of all things.

The story is about Sam and Frodo (in that order). About their friendship. About real, self-sacrificing love. About two people who are willing to die for each other, but more importantly, are willing to LIVE for each other. It's a delightful and powerful thing, one we don't often think about. When you are in your darkest moments, when life is tortuous and difficult and arduous, when you feel so utterly alone and despondent, and above all, when you feel just at the very end of your rope, you find out who your friends really are.

Here. At the end. Of all things.