Friday, May 23, 2014

My proposal for more inclusive FIFA World Cup

It's way too late to make any changes to the FIFA World Cup format for this year.  Teams are set in stone, the venues are picked and the proverbial stage is set.  I, for one, am super excited to see what comes of the tournament this year.  I've already secured my traditional "less the mainstream" jersey ( and look forward to a spirited competition in my debatably favorite sport.

My problem, and it's not an uncommon one, is that my country, Canada, will not be there.


Well, quite frankly, Canada is a pretty mediocre soccer nation on the world stage and never really makes it much above 100 in the FIFA world soccer rankings, but the rankings themselves are not the direct determination factor of whether or not your country goes to the World Cup. Entry to the World Cup is a complex series of continental zone matches determine whether or not your team is one of the few from your zone that gets to go. Canada belongs to the continental zone called, "North and Central America and Caribbean" within there are 41 countries all vying for one of 3.5 entries.  That's less than a 10% chance assuming all things are created equal which they never are.  Contrast that to any of the 53 European countries who vie for 13 spots (24.5% chance). If you are lucky enough to be chosen as the host, well, good news, you get an automatic entry, maybe that's Canada's best chance.  :-)

Once in the World Cup, your Canada is placed into one of eight groups of four countries, based upon a ranked draw, and there is a round robin within the group.  The  top two teams from each group, based on the results of the round robin, advance to single elimination matches, where if you win 4 times in a row, you are the champion.  All in all the winner (and second place team) will have to play 7 matches over the course of the tournament. (elapsed time 1 month and 1 day)

So what's my proposal...

Wouldn't it be great if more teams participated in the actual event, not just the lead up to, which gets far less international coverage, exposure or glamour?

In order to make it work, we have to not change things too dramatically.  For sake of the scientific method, well keep a few constants, the number of games played by the winner and the duration of the tournament as a whole, the only main variables we will change is the number of teams and format of the tournament. 

There are currently, at time of writing, 209 countries in the world officially ranked by FIFA, and only 32 of them (ranking not utilized) make the World Cup (15.3%).   I propose to have the top 128 teams make the World Cup (61.2%).

Why 128?

Well, that's a derivative of my other proposed change to the format, to make the World Cup a single elimination tournament.  With 128 teams in a single elimination tournament, the winner (and second place) play 7 games. (same amount as today)

These changes are very easy to introduce and have a number of economic spin-offs that would occur as a direct result generated by a broader and deeper interest around the world, including increased media, tourism and merchandising revenues.

Worried your stellar country would be eliminated too early?  Well, so is everyone else.  But reality, is that if the bracket is seeded based upon the FIFA rankings, the vast majority of the teams already qualifying as part of the current 32, would play three games anyways, unless of course a "Cinderella" country were to upset them in the first or second round. Imagine the cultural impact to the world, if a country like Afghanistan (currently ranked 128 by FIFA) were to win it's way to even the "Sweet 16".

Skeptics, doubters, racists, xenophobes, and purists will dismiss this proposal quickly for many quasi valid reasons but as a fan of sport in general and the ideals of inclusive and socially responsible play, I believe that these proposals align with the words of one of humanities's best, Nelson Mandela:

“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.”

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

613 Ballers post-draft forecast

For those of you who haven't caught the wave of fantasy sports I highly recommend it. The basic concept is that you pick a sport you like (there are fantasy leagues for almost every sport), and then you pick a format that sounds most appealing, (head-to-head, rotisserie, salary cap, etal.) and then you pick your team and go up against your friends or a random bunch of people that also presumably enjoy the same sport.

Hence, the third season of the 613 Ballers kicked off on Sunday night with the annual live entry draft to much fan fare and excitement. Anticipation was high as we had the largest amount of spectators for are draft ever, (ok three spectators is better than none).

In the first season, I finished dead last in the league. Partially due to the fact that I didn't dedicate myself at all to my team, and partially because I had no less than 6 fantasy teams across 3 sports and couldn't find the time to properly balance and pick my roster for this "permanent" team. In addition, I wasn't fully aware of the importance of knowing the scoring algorithm, and hence picked players that while good at their position, did little to boost my week to week score, thus tanking my chances at any sort of success. In the second season, I scaled back, only participated in 5 fantasy teams across 3 sports, of which the basketball and hockey teams I put on cruise control, didn't think about, didn't tweak their line up or anything. The results were astounding, I won one of the football leagues, came third in another, and improve my result in this league, the subject of sed article to 6th out of 8.

Every year in June, we protect our core rosters, the remaining players go back into the general pool to be picked up at draft time. This year we had two new teams join the league, so we protected 10 of 20 players on our team, and they were given first chance at populating their rosters from the remainder. I had two of my players taken, which left me with 13, of which I had to fill the remaining seven spots, with left overs and rookies. Since this is a "keeper" league, your core team carries over from season to season, so drafting a rookie can mean many years of success, while drafting a veteran might only be good for this year.

Each week you have an active team, they are the players that are actually getting you points. If you have someone on your team who's on "reserve" they're dead to you that week. You actually kind of hope that if they are playing, they have a crappy week because if they do better than one of your active players, may a bad decision.

Here's what I was going off of in regards to active slots every week and who I had remaining on my team after the expansion draft:

QB Phillip Rivers, SD
QB Ben Rothlisberger PIT
RB Maurice Jones-Drew JAC
RB Jonathan Stewart CAR
RB Pierre Thomas NO
WR Bernard Berrian MIN
WR Jericho Cotchery NYJ
WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh SEA
WR Kevin Walter HOU
TE Bo Scaife TEN
K (none)

WR Micheal Jenkins ATL
DST Arizona Cardinals

And so the draft begins...draft order is determined by reverse order of last years standings, so with two new teams joining I ended up with 5th pick in each round.

Right off the bat, you can see some obvious holes in my team, I have no reserve QB, RB, TE, and no starting K. The latter two are not the biggest deal, because in fantasy football, it's the QB, RB and WR who typically make or break you. The others positions are the gravy on the fries, the icing on the cake, the tie-breakers in case it was close that week.

My first pick is a numbers game, I must play three running backs each week, I have no reserves at that position and currently all my actives are listed as "probable" for start of season...all of that is leaving a bad taste in my mouth, so I decide to fill the gap with a promising rookie, RB Donald Brown IND. He has the double benefit of being on a team where he will split the carries with their resident "star" running back, and that star has been injured in the past, giving my guy opportunity to shine on his own.

My second pick, is also a numbers game, I must play two quarter backs each week, and one of mine is a concussion prone alleged rapist, so he might not be available at times while he is either testifying against himself or sucking lunch out of a tube, so I pick the best of the worst that's still remaining and it kills me to do so, QB Shaun Hill SF.

My third pick, is to add more weight to my running core, figuratively not literally, and I pick up RB Rashard Mendenhall PIT, he's the latest addition to Pittsburgh ground assault. They have two other strong backs, but seeing that Willie Parker breaks down for 40% of the season and Mewelde Moore is less of an elegant and more of a power rusher, I'm banking on RM getting enough reps to at least be worthy of an active spot on someone else's bye-week.

My fourth pick, is more of a diversification than anything else. I need another wide receiver, even though I have bench at that position, let's just say I'm less than satisfied with Walter and Jenkins. So, sticking with my new favourite team, oh yay, I take WR Josh Morgan SF.

My fifth pick, is K Stephen Gostkowski NE, filling an obvious hole in my team with some solid veteran talent. FYI, kickers are generally the fluffers of fantasy teams. It is extremely rare that they do enough to be indistinguishable from each other. But as I "must" have one might as well pick up a veteran, seeing that kickers are the most protected position in the entire game, if you even touch them you get a 15 yard penalty and this guy has kicked some important kicks in his career. Not that that fact will stop him from missing any this year, it's just a norm, that if your kicker is under 35, he's a kid.

The air up there getting thin, I spend my sixth pick dreaming of prison rehabilitation programs and the rags to riches to rags to riches story (no I didn't stutter) that is QB Michael Vick PHI. Sure, he's tainted, but maybe he's got something to prove, maybe the tradition of the Philadelphia starter being injured for 6 weeks continues and he gets his redemption. Whatever it is, he used to be good, and we are DEEP into the available pool, just maybe.

My seventh and final pick is WR Chris Henry CIN, another guy who seems to have trouble staying on the right side of the law, but is known for his large catch and run game changers. He's not the first to go should I need to drop a player, but he's defintely going to have to fight for an active position.

So there you have it, I'm optimistic about this year and moving up another couple of spots in the league rankings, but I'm not holding out the hope that I'll be top of the table. You never know, the three teams that have dominated the top three spots since our leagues inception could be stricken by malaria or mysterious bout of gout. :-)

2nd & 20

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Word up!

I must give credit to my man JZ, for reminding me of a long time passion that I have recent payed no attention to: hip hop.

The conversation occurred on Canada Day while entertaining our young children and enjoying the traditional celebration that we have enjoyed for the last 16 years. JZ and I are old friends, and even grew up in the same neighborhood, while at least through our teen years. We have always shared an affinity for some of the same diversions and devices. Hence our kinship and mutual well being have always high priorities. SO, we he told me that I'll always be the resident expert in the hip hop of our generation, I took it as a call to action.

Consequently, I've been scouring the belly of the Internet and iTunes for some of the classical tracks that helped to shape my world vision and challenge me to man up to life. Anyways, in case you've never had the opportunity to explore the origins of what is now one of the biggest divisions of the music industry, I highly recommend these artists to you for your listening pleasure and your social enlightment of the struggle that started it all: [In no particular order]

A Tribe Called Quest (anything before "The Love Movement")
Ultramagnetic MC's (Critical Beatdown was my favorite)
Pete Rock (good flow and beats)
C.L. Smooth (his name lets you know what to expect)
KRS One (considered be one of the original people who actually had a message worth listening too.)
Craig Mack (the midwest was kind of quiet before he came on the scene)
Kool Moe Dee (on the verge of the dance / club scene type, "I go to work" is sick)
Notorious B.I.G. (dead - shot)
EPMD (these guys were tight)
Jay Z (has gone on to literally own half the industry)
NAS (before he got popular)
WuTang Clan (36 chambers, introduce the world to an NYC massive who would take over hip hop for several years to come)
Ice Cube (the original bad a$$, showed the world you could be educated and still have beef)

There are plenty more and this is by no means an exhaustive list...but if you want to learn about "the struggle" for hip hop to come out of the alley ways and be accepted by main stream culture and turn into a multi-billion dollar annual business, I sincerely suggest you sample some of the amazing artistry that paved the way for today's lyrical expeditions.

Important note: In our crew, there's definitely competition from at least one other for the title of hip hop afficionado, much love and mad respect to LD, who on a sunny Friday afternoon in June 1994, beat me in a game of HORSE with a rim rocking left handed wrap-around dunk after 3.5 hours of battling.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Renovation Checklist

In an effort to simplify the undertaking of having our bathrooms renovated, my wife and I developed this checklist. The list itself has many purposes, but most importantly it allows us to weed out the good contractors and quotes from the bad, as well as give us a general idea of the work that must be undertaken to complete a renovation of this type. I've decided to post it as my second blog post in the hope that it will assist someone else who is trying to do not only a bathroom renovation but any remodeling or renovation type work:

Step 1 - Demolition

Assumption: You are retrofitting an existing space, if you are simply building from scratch than this step is kind of unnecessary, although, you could substitute it for a general clearing of the space that is going to be transformed.

This step is very important and needs to be done with caution and thoroughness. Our house is an older home and there are many quirks and quarks lurking behind the walls floors and ceilings. In order to properly perform the next step, you have to know exactly what you are dealing with, the only way to achieve that goal is to remove everything.

Demolition can be one of the more rewarding parts of a projects, as it lets you release some of your pent up frustration on something that you normally wouldn't touch. For our older home, we are tearing out everything, the toilet, the shower, the sink, the counter top and cupboards, the walls, the ceiling and even the floor. When all is said and done there is a completely raw and empty space. I like to think of this as the blank canvas upon which our creative forces will be unleashed.

If you are engaging a contractor to perform the renovation for you, get someone to perform the demolition first, before the contractor tries to sell you on your new bathroom, (this might entail getting quotes for the demolition first) this way they can see what the electrical and plumbing situations are and can quote appropriately. I hate it when contractors have to go over quote / skimp on quality because of an unknown that was hiding until they could actually see it.

Step 2 - Design

Wait a second, why did we not perform the design before ripping everything out? Well, we did, sort of. We had a very general idea of what we wanted done, but having lived through a number of these remodeling efforts before we know that even the best laid plans before hand can be derailed by something structural that was unknown at the original design time.

OK - Anything can be overcome for the right amount of money, but I don't have endless sums to waste, so I prefer to see what I'm dealing with before hand and design accordingly. I used my latest demolition to see that what a contractor told me was "impossible" when the wall was still a wall, was actually quite a simple fix with the right drill bit and some basic plumbing.

Design it all, the definition of the room, the location of plumbing and electrical fixtures, the type of floor, the cabinets and vanities, the location of mirrors and paintings, the paint colour, the tiles and patterns, everything. You should create two views, one that mimics an architecture plan, basically a to-scale overhead view, and second some "artist" renderings, basically what you envision it looking like, especially if you want any fancy patterns or designs in the paint or tile work. (this can be difficult if you are like me and can't draw worth a lick, but after 3 or 4 attempts, I was at least relatively satisfied that the drawing looked something like what I want to convey to the person actually doing the work)

One of the biggest benefits of this step is at the end you have the exact measurements for everything in the room, so that you can execute the next step with much more expedience and accuracy.

Step 3 - Shopping

This step is actually persistent throughout the rest of the project. However, there is definitely an order of operations that must be accomplished here. Basically, whatever is a key detail or integral part of a particular step, needs to be purchased and delivered before that step can occur.

You can sometimes get anyway with not having the exact item at your house to proceed with Step 4, but you'll have to be slightly lucky. For example, if you don't have your bathtub delivered yet and you can use the detailed specs and measurements of the one you purchased to rough in the drains and pipes, however, if the one that is delivered isn't exactly to spec you are going to have a slight issue. Not a big one, it can be resolved but will need some manipulation from whomever is doing the install.

Step 4 - Plumbing and Electrical

Any new lighting fixtures, fans and switches, pipes and drains all should to be installed while the walls are off. This maximizes the accessibility for the person performing the work and allows for unimpeded access to the bowels of your house, which will be sealed off once the walls go up.

Step 5 - Sub-floor

Screw it, literally. No one likes a squeeky floor, and there is very little you can do about it once the finishing touches have been applied. Your sub floor should be screwed down, not nailed, and to make sure it never bothers you again you should serious consider putting in a screw at a minimum of every 4 inches.

Our kitchen floor used to make all sorts of noises and when we had it redone, the installer used an automatic screw driver (looked like a machine gun, only for screws) and put in ~4200 screws into 600sq feet. (That's about 7 screws per square foot) Needless to say, it hasn't made a peep since.

Step 6 - Tub / Shower base

Pretty straight forward, put them where they are supposed to be and hook up the plumbing to them. Could even be done before step 5 depending on your install, in our case this is the correct timing. Some tubs, don't have a floor under them, instead the rest directly on the joists, where as others, like a claw foot, should be performed even later, after step 9.

Step 7 - Walls

There are many choices for what to use as the walls in your bathroom, for the simplicity of our job we are using bathroom friendly wallboard. It is relatively cheap and mostly water / mold resistant. For this material you will need to tape and plaster the seams, sand and touch up accordingly. This is truly a art that takes practice if you are going to do it yourself. The best advice that I ever heard regarding this activity if you are going to do it yourself is to first practice in a closet. No matter how much you screw up, not many people will see it, and it is normally shielded by whatever is in the closet. Personally, this is one area that I like to hire people to do.

Step 8 - Paint

In previous jobs, I have left this step till the end, but I think it is a better fit here. The majority of the room should be painted before anything fancy goes in. That means one or two coats of primer, and then your desired colours. Don't waste your time painting areas that are going to be covered up by tiles, but make sure that everywhere that will be exposed to the world is covered with at least two coats of paints.

Step 9 - Tiles, tiles, everywhere

The floors, the backsplashes, inside the shower or tub enclosures, or even that "mop rail", like a chair rail, only 4 to 6 inches off the floor to contain water / allow for easy mopping. This step is also not difficult, but requires patience and diligence to ensure a professional look. Also, if you are installing any fancy patterns or cuts, someone who does it for a living is definitely better suited to easily perform the work.

Step 10 - Toilet, sink / vanity / faucets , and bath / shower doors or curtains.

A fancy game of connect the dots. Some basically plumbing is required to install the toilet and sink / vanity / faucets based upon the rough ins you had done earlier, and if you've tiled all around your shower / bath, you'll need a special drill bit to install any shower doors or curtain rods.

Step 11 - Finishing work

Caulk around anything where you don't want water to get into. Use a small bead and smooth it out with your finger. You can use an sharp edge to clean up any mess you make, just be careful not to scratch anything. Install your lights fixtures and put on the covers to all the sockets and switches that are in the room, clean the floor thoroughly and make sure you seal the grout (helps prevent dirt and mold form gathering). Touch up the paint as necessary (there shouldn't be much assuming you were careful in the final steps) Install any shelves, racks or mirrors that match your design layout.

Step 12 - Decorate and accessorize

Art, towels, face cloths, plants, soap dishes, furniture, hampers, whatever suits your fancy.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Here we go...

After many years of intending to set up a public blog for the consumption of the massses, I've finally gotten off my proverbial derriere and done something about it. To my surprise, I was able to get a decent address for my blog, and it only took a few seconds to set up. The longest part of the process was trying to decide on a title [temporary or otherwise] that was not at all asinine and relayed some part of the inner me through witty word smithing. As in most writing classes and seminars, I'll be writing from the hip, no lengthy dwelling on what it is I'm trying to write, instead, I'll let it be more free form, and revise a little after completion of thought. Hopefully, that process will not have to occur very often, as I find the power of the natural instinction and raw delivery of the soul much more enjoyable to read than some inane dribble that has been filtered by cold light of afterthought.

Unfortunately [or fortunately as perspective will be the judge], it's very difficult to write a full complete thought without being interrupted by my kid. It's not her fault by any means, being barely old enough to perform any activities on her own, but it has definitely been a readjustment in the way that I've had to perform and execute my life at home. Even if I'm not directly required to be paying attention at this given moment, I find it very hard not to be fascinated by the grunts, groans and laughs that permeate the background of the room. Apparently the she is going to be speaker of the house, or at least as vocal as her father when she grows up.

This morning has been near comedic, my wife had errands to run, and waited as long as she could before leaving the house (as long as she could meaning, to avoid line-ups, rush-hour and the mid-day heat, none of which is pleasant on a summer day in Ottawa). Literally 5 seconds after the door closed and she got in the car to drive away, our daughter woke up. Don't get me wrong this isn't a complaint or anything, nearly a temporal curiousity and a challenge for me. You see, I don't get to spend a lot of alone time with my daughter, as I work very hard and have numerous social, atheletic and community engagements. (I can hear the rumblings already about why not scale back on some) So when I do have the chance to be the sole provider of nourishment, cleanliness, education and entertainment I find it extremely challenging.

Speaking of which, time to try a feed.