Pockets of Blue

musings of my mind

Month: December 2005

Shut the Hell Up and Play the Game

Time for a good ol’ rant…

I was watching highlights from the English Premier League matches on Boxing Day (today) and was very entertained with the exciting football that had taken place.  However, I was sorely disappointed with the emphasis on officiating placed throughout the show.  During an hour and a half of highlights the commentators managed to criticize a referee’s decision for just about every game.  Yeah, handballs happen, as do controversial tackles in the box and not-so-innocent nudges during cornerkicks, but remember that the referees are at just as high a skill level (in what they’re doing) as the players are.  Referee decisions are a part of every sport, and in the long run, these decisions always even out for any team.  What pisses me off is the constant complaining by players and managers alike.  During the highlight shows, for instance, after each match is a short interview with each team’s manager, no more than 20-30 seconds.  Yet somehow, the managers always focus this valuable time on criticising the referee rather than commenting on his team’s progress or performance.  For instance, after the Aston Villa/Everton match (in which Everton were thromped 4-0) the Everton manager spent his entire interview bitching about how the first goal should have been disallowed because it was a handball (it grazed Milon Baros’s arm), blah blah the first goal is very important in a game, yadda yadda it was the worst decision I have ever seen in my 40 years of managing etc etc…well maybe you should shut the hell up, and realizing how your team got it’s ass whooped, comment on your team’s atrocious defending instead of whining like a little girl.

This isn’t even mentioning how in all professional sports (footballers are especially guilty) athletes routinely criticize every decision by an umpire, referee, linesman, or whoever.  A typical sequence of events might be…

1. midfielder plays a thru-ball up to a forward, who controls it in mid-stride, fires and scores, then goes wild in celebration
2. linesman raises his flag, indicating the forward was offside, as agrees the referee
3. player runs over to the referee, shouting obscenities in a tantrum and carrying on like a three-year-old
4. referee calmy explains why he was offside
5. player continues whining like a little bitch, manager goes hoarse yelling obscenities
6. player throws the ball or kicks something/someone
7. referee awards player a yellow card
8. (repeat steps 3-5 until player walks away or is ejected)

Post-game whining is simply an excuse for a (player’s, team’s) performance that could’ve been better.   An extra effort on a midfield run to reach that low-crossed ball at the goal mouth, a lapse of concentration in the penalty box allowing an attacker to slip behind, a misplaced shot, poor defensive communication; these decisions and performances will decide the result of any given game, not a single refereeing decision.  So shut up already.

…Transition…

First I want to apologize for any access problems this past weekend…Typepad was having some issues which involved them relying on a 2-day old backup that was older than my Amsterdam post.  It took them quite a while to get my Amsterdam pics back on track, too, but all is well now.

I’m currently at a transition point.  Classes ended for the year last week and I don’t fly to England to see my wonderful Aunt and Uncle until Wednesday.  Most of my friends have embarked on their holiday vacation adventures so it’s been fairly quiet the last couple days here in Osnabrück.  Mine will start oh-so-soon, and I’m very excited.  The last week of break will find me in the heart of the Austrian Alps, enjoying some of the finest skiing in the world!

With all this free time I’ve been trying to stay moderately productive, which means revisiting past projects and studying some German.  This, of course, means revisiting HarmoGen, my AI class-turned-personal AI project which I have been working on sporadically throughout the year.  HarmoGen was recently published as part of RIT’s First Annual Conference on Computing and Information Sciences so I put together a web site hosting it, which can be found here.  There I detail some of the updates I’m working on, notably converting the input/output to handle ABC musical notation.  Well this hasn’t been as easy as I had imagined, and involves writing a lot of not-so-fun conversion functions, so it has been on the back burner since Fall.

Anyway, over the next month I’ll be posting plenty of pictures capturing my holiday vacation travels.  For now, a very Merry Christmas to all!

Amsterdam

This trip had been envisioned for quite a while…from the first time I looked at a map of Europe and found Osnabrück. Amsterdam is about 3 hours directly west (via train), tantalizingly close to Osnabrück. I decided that if I was ever going to get there for a decent price I would need to organize everything myself, which is exactly what happened. We needed six people to get the group discount (50% off) and managed to spend only 40€ apiece for the train there and back. The group consisted of me, two other Americans, two of our Swedish friends, and a friend from China. Quite worldly.

Having experienced the Netherlands twice now, I can say that it is thus far my favorite country in Europe. Their attitudes towards so many social issues align with my own. Amsterdam is well-known as the most liberal city in the world, and it was quite apparent. Prostitution is legal and regulated by the government, soft drugs are sold in shops, and pornography is almost entirely unrestricted (it’s kind of weird looking for magazines at a newsstand and seeing porno mags on the shelf). This is not to say I indulge in or even recommend such things, I just believe that individuals should have the freedom to do whatever they want to themselves. These policies were adopted for the betterment of Dutch society, and it shows. Amsterdam is a remarkably safe city with hardly a trace of the homelessness that terrorizes with an icy grip of black death the large cities of the US.

On to the adventure. We took off from Osnabrück around 3 PM or so and arrived in Amsterdam in time for dinner (I love trains). Upon leaving the train station I realized I had never looked at the directions to the hostel, just where it was on a map. No worries, I thought, and wandered around for a few blocks. Eventually I bit my pride and asked directions; on the second try we were successful and checked in to our hostel without a hitch. Next we got a bite to eat, then decided it was time to have a coffee or two. Well the coffee ended up being pretty strong (albeit delicious) and the time came to do some wandering. Unbelievably, nobody had the initiative to lead so I took it upon myself to, uh, guide us around the city for a few hours. My sole objective was finding a canal to follow; luckily, that’s not difficult in Amsterdam since just about every other street is parallel to a canal. At this point I was pretty wired from the coffee and almost incapable of meaningful communication, but somehow found our “destination.” The canal took us through part of the red light district (unbelievably surreal!) and at some point we wandered back to the hostel due to Lina’s map-reading skills. There we met up with Kevin who had been unprepared for such caffeinated coffee and went back early. The rest of the night was spent playing foosball, pool, and having a few pints of Heineken at the hostel. At some point we met a couple of coffee-enthusiast Aussies and chatted for awhile.

Saturday was a bit more tame. We had breakfast next door at this restaurant and I had a downright weird “Naturel” omelet with a cup of tea. From there we walked to the Rijks Museum, which had been recommended by an old German dude we were talking to on the train. It was expensive but I was quite impressed with the paintings on display (mostly Rembrandt and his students, all Dutch). Afterwards we got some pizza at a shady back-alley Italian joint and I elected we go to a pub and watch some football (apparently nobody else had any sort of decision-making abilities, so I was appointed “fuhrer” and sole decision-maker). Several pubs on our street were showing English Premier League games so we took a seat and watched Chelsea take on Wigan over a couple pints of Heineken. There we ran into a large group of drunk British arseholes (they seem to be everywhere, there’s even a group in Osnabrück) which started to tick me off. Why come to Amsterdam if you’re so damn intolerant and completely un-chill? After the game we wandered around a bit and found a Chinese restaurant for dinner, where Han ordered us some Chinese specialty. Twelve plates of food later we were ready to dig in. It was damn tasty, but to the flavor of 90€. Afterwards we did some more wandering and eventually ended up hanging around in our increasingly-cooler hostel, playing cards, foosball and pool. Most people were drinking coffee at the other tables, it was pretty late so I couldn’t really figure out why. I wasn’t really thirsty so I decided to have a poorly-crafted coffee-stick instead, and we lounged about until it was time for bed.

Sunday was warmer albeit busy. Han wanted to experience the sex museum, so we did. It was pretty funny, and surprisingly full of actual historic elements. We also wandered about a bit more and did a little shopping before making our way back to the train station. Then we boarded the wrong train (ours was going the same place but two hours later) so the conductor kicked us off in Amersfoort. There we sat around in a coffee/tea shop reading magazines and drinking tea until our train came. The rest of the trip went off without a hitch (well except the unexpected 1.5-hour wait in Bad Bentheim) and we were back in Osnabrück by 930 or so.

Christmas in Germany

Weinachtsmarkts, Feuerzangbowle, Glühwein…some of the many German traditions I’ve encountered over the past few weeks:

Glühwein
Basically a spicy red wine that is warmed up in a kettle.  Very nice on a cold December evening.  Sometimes you can order it with Amaretto or Rum for an extra kick.  You pay a deposit on the mug, so you can keep it if you wish.

Feuerzangbowle
Another wine-based Christmas beverage.  The feuerzangbowle we made for our apartment party had chunks of lime, orange, and cinnamon floating in a large pot of red wine.  Then, a large cone of sugar is placed over the pot and covered in rum.  The sugar is then ignited and melts into the pot.  Quite fun to prepare, and delicious!

Weinachtmarkts
The english translation is simply "Christmas market."  In Osnabrück we have an especially nice Christmas market which is very popular in northern Germany.  Vendors selling small Christmas gifts, crepes, candy, chocolate, Glühwein, Feuerzangbowle and other treats are all over the place.  The entire market in Osnabrück is decorated with Christmas lights and is right next to the Dom, the largest church in the city.

Weihnachtsfeiere
Christmas parties, where each attendee brings a small wrapped gift (something cheap, often that you have just lying around the house).  The process of exchanging gifts varies, for one party we played a dice game which distributed the presents over 15 minutes or so (sometimes unfairly, haha) and for another party we just picked numbers out of a hat and matched the number with a present.  It can be really fun, the more outrageous the gift the better!

As you can see the Germans really get into Christmas, which is great.  It’s been a fun past couple of weeks. 

This weekend I’ll be in Amsterdam.  Next week will be my next post..

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