Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

As you most likely know, last week my part of the country was severely damaged by the "superstorm" known as Hurricane Sandy. This is what I can say about its immediate impact on me personally:

The house where I have been living the past year or so is, as far as I know, still without power. It has lost a few trees (none of which hit the house as far as I can tell), and the back cover of a side mirror on a friend's car I was watching while she was overseas has gone missing. My landlady is without heat or light in the house, but she does have a fireplace and a generator, so she's doing better than many.

Knowing about the storm in advance, I was able to get down to my girlfriend's house before it struck. We lost power there for a few days but have had it back for almost a week now. Her sister's house is still without power, so she and her child have been staying here as well. My friend's flight was supposed to come in the day Sandy struck, so she ended up coming in a few days later. Having power and heat, we were able to take her in for a couple of days while she waited for her girlfriend to be able to get back into the country. We were also able to give a ride to a friendly stranger who had arrived back in this country and was unable to get in touch with her family to arrange a ride, since internet and phone services were still impaired at that time. Apart from some minor to moderate tree damage and a mysterious flat tire on my car (no apparent holes, maybe somebody let the air out?) there was no other damage to this house.

The place where I work is, to my knowledge, still without power but is otherwise undamaged (despite being relatively close to the beach at Belmar). We have all lost several days of work, and since there is no paying clientele while we're closed, there is no way to compensate us for time lost. Even if we had been able to reopen on Monday, I wouldn't have been fit to work, since I've picked up the nasty virus that's been going around this house for the past week. The virus has also cost me three separate opportunities to volunteer my services as a massage therapist to the firefighters and other workers being overtaxed by patching things up in the aftermath of the hurricane.

In other words: I have been very, very, very, VERY, VERY fortunate. Many people are still without power in this state and in others. Many people suffered severe flood damage. Many lost their homes altogether. Some have even lost their lives. Boardwalks, homes, and businesses have been washed away. Fires have rampaged. Trees have been uprooted. Public transportation was devastated. Gas lines still go on for miles in some areas. But in my small corner of the universe, I and my loved ones have been virtually untouched. And for this I cannot be grateful enough.

My family is safe. My friends are safe. I am safe. I have a home with electricity and heat that I am welcome to stay in until my other home is habitable. I have a job when the power comes back on. I have a car to get there. I have lost nothing but a little bit of time and a little bit of money.

I am incredibly, almost impossibly, fortunate.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Roller Coaster Ride of the Semifinals

After the US v Brazil quarterfinal game of the 2011 women's World Cup, I thought I would never again see a game of that intensity. Even the US v Japan final of that tournament, though it came very close, didn't strike quite as strong of a chord. As of Monday night's Olympic semifinals, I am happy to announce that I just might have been wrong about never again seeing a game as intense.

Japan and France kicked off a day of incredible soccer. I haven't had time to rewatch the game, so I can only get into so much detail, but it was an amazing performance on both sides. I've been a fan of the Japanese goalkeeper Kaihori for a while now and am less familiar with Fukumoto, so at first I was a little disappointed to see Fukumoto in the net. But after her phenomenal efforts in the Japan V France Olympic semifinal, I am officially a fan. Hope Solo is widely recognized as the greatest keeper in the world, but in my opinion, Fukumoto could definitely give her a run for her money in that respect. She pulled out save after save after absolutely gorgeous save, letting only one goal slip through after the relentless French attack. I don't remember the exact stats, but I remember France having an incredible number of shots at one point. I tend to give keepers a lot of credit, but I do think that Japan's defense as a whole was incredible. In terms of organization, Japan might just have the best team I've ever seen. Their passing was a bit off in the first maybe fifteen minutes, but they generally pass as though guided by lasers. Absolutely surgical precision. Their entire style of play is very appealing to me. As far as I can tell, they play the cleanest game of any team. France had, I believe, about five yellow cards from previous games coming in to the semfinal. Japan, I believe, had none. France fouled the Japanese players left and right. The Japanese players never seem to take a dive, rarely foul, and usually recover from being fouled more quickly than their opponents. One of the major issues I had with the (breathtaking) US v Canada game which followed is how long the players of both teams would stay down on the ground after being hit, not necessarily clutching injuries, but protesting that no call had been made on the foul instead of accepting the ref's decision, getting back on their feet, and getting on with the game. The Japanese players usually bounce right back up and get back to business, which I respect immensely.

In the wake of the US v Canada semifinal, I think a lot of the tension and brilliance of the Japan v France game was forgotten. It was an incredible battle that came a hair's width from going into overtime and kept me on the edge of my seat. I set the DVR to record US v Canada, went to work, and tried not to think about it, though I felt guilty for asking my girlfriend not to watch the game while I was at work. When we were finally able to watch that game, I stopped feeling guilty, because it would have been far worse to make her watch it alone. The drama of US v Canada was so intense that it virtually wiped out the memories of Japan v France, leaving us both breathless and astonished at the end.

US v Canada has already been the subject of many an article and blog, largely for its controversial aspects. The biggest controversy has been about the officiating, and about the Canadian reaction to it. In a nutshell, numerous questionable calls were made by the ref (and many things that should have been called were not), and after losing the game several Canadian players were quoted as saying negative things about the officiating and essentially blaming the ref for their losing the game. This is apparently a huge offense, to the point that there has been some question of the bronze medal match between France and Canada potentially being postponed to investigate the issue. Yes, the ref did not always make the best calls. But they were not 100% in the favor of the US team, and had we lost the game we most likely would have had similar complaints. For instance, there was a moment when I personally would swear by the position of the arms that Tancredi (Canada) was hooking her arm around Rampone's (US) to impair her defending (and eventually throwing her to the ground with the hooked arm), but a foul was called on Rampone. There were also numerous shirt pulls that weren't called, and Rapinoe (US) in particular seemed to get fouled an exceptional number of times without any call made. If I had to guess, I would say Canada are primarily looking at the circumstances of one particular goal. Apparently, Wambach had started counting aloud the number of seconds the Canadian keeper, McLeod, was holding the ball before putting it back into play, which ultimately resulted in a rare call being made. Keepers aren't supposed to hold the ball for more than six seconds, but this kind of time-wasting is almost never called. This unusual call gave us an indirect free kick, which ended up striking a Canadian player in her somewhat extended arm, which was called as a handball, despite feasibly being an act of self defense. This handball call gave us the opportunity which led to an equalizing goal. Without this opportunity, the US would very likely have lost to Canada. Was the game and the potential for a gold medal stolen from Canada?

As far as the gold medal goes, I say no. Was the officiating perfect? Definitely not. Officiating in soccer is an imperfect art, which is one of the things that makes soccer interesting but also one of the things that makes it frustrating. Although we as the audience get to see replays and multiple angles, the ref has to make every call based on what they see in that split second of action, and they cannot possibly be right 100% of the time. Was it sportsmanlike of Wambach to count aloud? Not especially, but it isn't very sportsmanlike to waste time, particularly when your team is up one goal against a team you have a long history of losing to. Honestly, I saw some poor behavior on both sides. Sadly, a lot of the time it's just kind of part of the game and it really isn't shocking. But overall, I would say that US is the stronger team and therefore more "deserving" of moving on to the gold medal match. As the commentators noted, Canada haven't beat the US in 11 years, well over 20 consecutive games. One of the more frustrating things about soccer is that in situations like this, one game decides the fate of the teams.

All controversy aside, this game was absolutely stunning. Yes, it was rough, it wasn't always clean play, and wrong calls were made. But it was intense and beautiful, the way soccer should be. Both teams are incredibly skilled, and both desperately wanted to win. A play by play account can't really capture the emotional roller coaster ride that was this game. Canada up by one, then that brilliant corner from Rapinoe... Three times, Canada pulled ahead (all from Sinclair), and three times the US was able to answer back. A tie sustained through overtime, and then, seemingly out of nowhere, Morgan managing to pull out a fourth goal for the US in the last seconds of stoppage time, preventing the game from going to penalty kicks and securing an Olympic medal for the US. This game was heart-stopping. Words cannot truly describe it. And tomorrow we get to witness a much-anticipated "rematch" between the US and Japan. It will be interesting to see if, as happened at the World Cup last summer, the US are able to step up their level of play to match the precise, clean play of the Japanese team. And it will be even more interesting to see if this time, that will be enough.

Monday, May 28, 2012

US v China

As usual, there are many things that have happened since I last blogged (graduating massage school, working as a massage therapist, my girlfriend graduating with her masters - congratulations honey, working on a comic book, working on a novella) that I could now blog about, but instead I'm going to talk about soccer. After admiring the US WNT from a distance for many months, last night I got to see them in action live and in person as they took on the Chinese National Team at PPL Park, and it was a beautiful sight. As soon as my girlfriend and I went to find our seats, we found Nicole Barnhart and Hope Solo mere yards away, warming up. Like many fans, we were instantly mesmerized -not only are they both even more beautiful in person, they project POWER- and stood for a long time snapping pictures. Unlike several fans, we did not catcall Hope Solo (more on rude fans later, unfortunately). After a while the rest of the team came out to warm up, to much applause. It was kind of surreal to see all of these people, many of which I've only seen on tv or online before, in person. The Chinese team was warming up on the opposite side of the field, so sadly we never got a close look at them.

The game itself was pretty excellent, 4-1 to the US, with China coming on especially strong in the first half. There was some incredible play on both sides (as well as some pretty rough play, but I guess that's no shock), and though our seats weren't as close to the field as would have been ideal, we still had a great view from behind the goal. And since the US scored twice in the second half, we got to see those goals up pretty close, which was awesome.

Really my only qualm with the game had nothing to do with the game itself. Though shortlived, there was a point when a row of young women were chanting "Go home, China, go home," which I guess might be considered an acceptable (though rude) chant during most sporting events but comes off sounding pretty racist when the team is from another country. Of course I don't know if those girls were actually racist, or if they were just used to chanting for rival teams to go home and stopped when they realized that it sounded racist when used against an entire country. There was also someone holding up a sign that said "More like Chino," which was not only confusing (aren't "chino"s a kind of pants?) but also came off sounding kind of racist. As I've said before, I'm pretty new to being a sports fan. But personally, I don't think it's necessary to be rude to the opposing team, whether they're representing a specific country, a specific city, or what-have-you. I believe in strongly supporting your team while maintaining a level of respect for the opponent. China played a great game and are obviously a strong team, and I don't think me saying that makes me any less a fan of the US team than the people who booed the Chinese players for falling down when our players fouled them. I've been told that fans in the Philadelphia area are notorious for being rude, to the point that one stadium had to have jail cells built, but I don't remember that from any of the Independence games I went to, including the one in PPL Park. If I heard people yelling for the magicjack players to go home, it may have bothered me (slightly) less when these girls chanted at the Chinese team. But I don't remember hearing anything like that.

Okay, one other qualm. Not that I was crazy about the last uniform our team had, but at least they were legible. The new uniforms are a step in the right direction in that at least they have the colors of our flag on them, but I'm amazed that at no point in the design phase did anyone notice that you cannot read the names or numbers. Obviously, at this point they've already been produced and distributed, so there's not anything that can be done, but it's definitely something they should remember when they design the next uniform. Fortunately, that seems to happen pretty frequently.

Apart from that, great game, great day. Stopped and got a fantastic Philly cheesesteak on the way home, just like old times. With the dissolution of the WPS, we probably won't be able to see too many more games this summer. But despite my grousing about fans and uniforms, I'm genuinely glad we were able to see this one.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


I'm still pretty new to being a sports fan, so I'm sure there are aspects of the game I still just don't understand, especially when it comes to Olypmic qualifying games and things like goal differentials. And I suspect that I should be excited to have watched (even online) a game that broke records. But honestly, it left me with a bad taste in my mouth. The US WNT built up a lot of goodwill with the World Cup, between snatching victory from the teeth of Brazil in the quarterfinal and their ultimate honorable loss to Japan in the final. Total domination of an up-and-coming team like the Dominican Republic by an American team already established as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, in the world really takes away some of that goodwill, I feel. The whole game I felt like I was watching the big kids on the playground mopping up the field with the little kids.

Personally, I always tend to lose interest with a soccer game when the score gets to around 5-0. At that point, the teams are so obviously mismatched that it gets boring to me. The only reason this game held my interest is because they were so *appallingly* mismatched. 5-0 is a rarity in soccer, and I like it that way. The fewer goals that are scored, the more exciting it is when someone scores. 14-0 is so rare as to be virtually unheard of. 5-0 could be the result of one team being slightly stronger and having a really good day, and one team being slightly weaker and having a really bad day. 14-0 can only happen when one team is extremely strong and the other is so much weaker as to be essentially helpless in the face of their opponent. You could even see the power disparity in their uniforms: US with their crisp, properly fitted uniforms and the DR with their baggy, ill-fitting uniforms. I guess the US had their reasons for continuing to push for more and more goals even after it was painfully obvious that DR was not a fair match for them, but as an observer rather than a member of the team, it came across as needless bullying.

I can't speak for anyone else, but I would rather watch 80 minutes of keep-away after it was obvious in the first 10 that there was no real contest than what actually ensued. I love Amy Rodriguez, but 5 goals in one half (your team having already scored 7 before you hit the field) just seems uncalled for. What I especially don't understand, more than continuing to score goals after it becomes obvious that it is unnecessary, is that we continued to celebrate. Maybe not as garishly as we would celebrate scoring against a stronger team, but still. It boggles my mind that you could hear fans groaning in dismay when we missed a scoring opportunity even in the second half. My girlfriend and I pretty quickly started cheering DR's saves rather than US's goals. It's not that we wanted the US to lose: we still love this team and desperately want to see them take home Olympic gold when the time comes. But if DR had been able to score a goal or two against our juggernaut, you'd better believe we would have cheered.

Honestly, I would rather watch our team lose in a fair fight (US v Japan) than watch them slaughter and demoralize a team that lacks the training and resources that our team has been so fortunate to have (US v DR). I felt much, much better about that loss than I do about this win. US v Japan was the cleanest, tightest game our team ever played, and although I was sad to see us lose, we lost with skill, heart, and class. It could hardly even be considered a loss. A win of this epic proportion is, in a way, a greater loss. It potentially loses us goodwill and respect by making us look like bullies, and it has the added risk of making our team potentially overconfident going into subsequent matches. When we played Japan, we saw their incredible skill level and stepped up our own to match it. And we came damn close. After totally dominating DR, our team has no real incentive to put on their best game moving forward.

And none of this is even the worst part. The worst part is that, in this totally lopsided game, we still sustained injuries. In the case of Ali Krieger, possibly a quite serious injury. Just to be clear, I IN NO WAY FEEL THAT KRIEGER'S INJURY WAS HER FAULT. I couldn't find a clip to review, but my memory of the incident is that she had possession and a DR player gave a bad tackle that missed the ball completely and hit Krieger's knee instead. If it were any other match, I probably would have screamed for a yellow card, but in this game it would have been pointless. Although the injury is not Krieger's fault, I do suspect that injury would have been less likely had US not continued to play with such intensity against an opponent that didn't require it. Not to mention, it seems tragic to suffer an injury in a game like this, where one really doesn't need to be playing with a high level of intensity because your team already won in the first few minutes and the rest of the game was essentially a formality, and to then have to miss out on however many games Krieger is now going to have to miss, games where she really might have made a huge difference. Again, I do not blame her for her injury; I just think it's a damn shame and a waste.

Which is pretty much how I feel about this game as a whole. I just hope that, moving forward, our team is sufficiently challenged (without being overwhelmed, at least not in a game that could keep them from playing in the Olympics) and gets back to playing with their hearts as well as their boots.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

You're doing what now?

As first semester madness prepares to die down (it hasn't actually died down, technically: I've got a final exam on Monday, a final exam Tuesday morning, and a final eval Tuesday afternoon) and clinic madness prepares to commence, I realize that I haven't actually blogged about massage school much. Granted, I haven't written much of anything in general, or drawn anything, or any of that fun stuff, because I've been too busy learning bony landmarks, muscle attachments and actions, and how to give a killer (and ethically safe) Swedish massage. But I figure the end of my first semester is as good a time as any to reflect on what's been going on these past three months that doesn't involve sweaty women in uniforms running amok on a field.

So, massage school. It's both harder and easier than I imagined. Touching people daily is a strange and sometimes wonderful (and sometimes incredibly awkward) thing. I've learned that I can still give a really good massage to people I find irritating, which is good. I've learned a lot about bones and muscles, which is probably my favorite part, oddly enough. I've learned that I don't really like being on the table for too long, which is unfortunate. I'm pretty sure I've done something awful to my knee, which is REALLY unfortunate. I'm pretty sure the something awful has something to do with giving two back to back 90 minute massages, plus driving on the parkway in the dark for the first time the next night. Plus STILL being unable to find satisfactory shoes that fit me properly and don't make me look like a nurse. A nurse with a lazy mohawk, to be sure, but still a nurse. Seriously, why are wide width shoes so hard to find, and so ugly when you do find them??

But I digress. I started clinic on Thursday, which was sadly kind of a big bust. I got myself all nervous and excited, and I set my little massage cubicle up all nice-like and found my client's file (eventually) and worked out what I was going to say when she got there and everything... and then she never showed up. Bleh! Disappointing. Especially since I had to wait out the full hour anyway before I could go back into the room to get my stuff, since that would be disturbing to the clients who did show up. But at least I still get credit for the hour since she didn't cancel. Also, she appears to have re-booked for the same time this coming Thursday, and I'm assigned to her. So I (hopefully) will get the chance to work on her after all. (And no, I'm not going to ask her why she didn't show up last week. that would be rude) So clinic has been a whole lot of nothing so far (nobody booked me for Friday), but the graduating class is leaving really, really soon, so things will soon be totally out of hand. I really want to try to find some time to squeeze in a visit to my family and friends in New York, but I'm starting to doubt if that's possible between clinic, a half marathon I'm interested in working for clinic hours, and Amanda's class schedule. Which sucks, because I really miss my family, and things are only going to get busier from here.

On the plus side, I'm going to be moving closer to campus soon (still need to work out the exact date... why is my two week break seeming so much more stressful than the semester??), which will enable me to work more clinic hours more easily. I'm hoping this move will be a good thing. It's not going to be easy getting used to not living in the same house as my girlfriend again... But I really need to take care of these clinic hours, and taking some of the stress off my driving knee and a whole lot of time off my commute should help.

So, that's life right now, mostly. Too much stuff, not enough time. So what else is new?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Closest Game Ever?

It was like US v. Brazil all over again... if Brazil had won. Still and all, as sad as I am that we didn't win, I am immensely proud of my Cheesesteaks. It was an incredibly close game (seriously: tied in regular time, no goals in overtime, Flash just barely got 5 out of 5 penalty kicks in the shootout and Independence got 4 out of 5), especially considering how many severe thrashings we were dealt from the get-go. I mean, Flash was VIOLENT. And our girls were HARDCORE. The Western New York Flash should be renamed the Western New York Bash... YourNoseInWithOurElbowAndNotGetCarded. Kai should have gotten a medal just for staying in the game. What with the bashed in nose (I really wasn't joking about the nose bashing) and the concussion and all. And everyone should buy Amy Rodriguez a drink for how many shots she took (even if she only made one. hey, she tried really hard). I wouldn't be surprised if it went into the double digits. Our girls may be limping back to the bus without medals, it's true, but they should be limping back with pride.

Friday, August 26, 2011

"It's the Standard Grandpa Drill"

In a way, I was very lucky to grow up without television. When the weather was bad, I could be blissfully oblivious to how much everybody was freaking out and just take it as it came. So right now I'm having a hard time telling if this hurricane's really going to be THAT BAD, or if I'm just so unused to crazyweatherhype that it seems scarier than it really is. I mean, the weather channel made the rain last week look crazy scary, and I only encountered slightly more puddling than usual. Know that they're truly whipped up into a full fever pitch frenzy, I'm having a hard time deciding just how hysterical I should be. Television has me wanting to evacuate the whole damn state and write it off as a loss, but my girlfriend assures me (as she stockpiles giant jugs of water and canned goods and tarp) that the worst her house is going to get is maybe some flooding in the basement and a power outage. Oh, and I should maybe move my electrical stuff away from the windows. Y'know, just in case they shatter. No big deal.

Still and all, it could be worse. My school has already canceled classes for Monday, so I don't have to worry about missing another day (I already missed Wednesday and Thursday due to severe vertigo and then severe exhaustion from the medicine I was put on for the vertigo). My team is playing the Championship game in Rochester instead of on their home turf, so it shouldn't be canceled due to flooding. Plus Amanda and I won't be so tempted to go and end up getting stranded in Philly in a hurricane. And if the storm is really as bad as the hype, I've got valium now! Yes, apparently they can treat vertigo with valium. Who knew?

On a down(er?) note, my mom has informed me that apparently our surviving cat, Gracie, went out early Wednesday morning and has yet to return. She's pulled stunts like that before, though not often and not recently, so I'm trying not to panic yet. But if she doesn't return before the storm, I don't like her odds. She's a scrawny little thing, nineteen years old, arthritic... Very spry still, but I don't like her chances against hurricane force winds. Even if nothing bad's happened to her yet, I doubt she'll make it through the storm without someone taking her in, and I doubt she'll let herself be taken in. So here's hoping she's okay and that she comes home before the storm hits.