Month: August 2014

Liverpool vs. Tottenham 31/08/14

First Half

That was quite a fast-paced game, completely expected from two sides managed by managers who emphasize on pressing. Balotelli had a great chance right at the start, but his header was smashed right at Lloris. But not long after, Sturridge and Henderson combined with great skill down the right to set up Sterling for an easy finish.

After that, it was a game very much in the balance, as we traded blows to and fro. Spurs had plenty of chances, although most of them came from defensive errors from our defenders. Gerrard gave away the ball plenty of times, and his long raking diagonals were not their usual pinpoint passes. Sakho, despite his quality in passing, also gave away the ball in dangerous places, earning Allen a booking for a professional foul.

Lovren also made a mistake, but made up for it with a great recovery tackle. Overall, the defence looked really shaky, and Mignolet was called on for a good save when both Sakho and Lovren went for the same ball. But our full-backs look great; Manquillo is brave both in possession and in defence, and Moreno is pacey as hell, adding a lot to our attack.

Sterling is bright and lively, and Allen brings so much balance to the side as does Henderson. Sturridge looks freer to play now with Balotelli occupying other defenders, as he did when Lambert came on against Southampton. Finally, Balotelli has a decent debut, with a few good chances, working hard to help out in defence and holding up the ball superbly. Once this team gels (especially the defence), I can see us really dominating some teams.

Second Half

Right from the off we had some good interplay, and Allen won a (soft) penalty against them. Despite Balotelli on the pitch, Gerrard got the honours, and promptly tucked it into the corner. 2-0.

Spurs continued to probe, but their passing was mostly in front of our defence, and we coped decently well. Sakho grew into the game as it went on, while Lovren got a bit too into the front-foot defending, missing a couple of tackles and having to have his other teammates cover his botched attempts. But given that 3 of the 4 are new defenders, and Sakho’s only been in Liverpool for a season, I’ll definitely give them time to improve.

Manquillo continues to impress by dealing with everything that went down his flank, while Moreno…oh gosh, what a player we’ve got. He might well end up being a flop, but on the back of this performance, he’ll be impossible to dislodge. As Spurs held on to the ball fruitlessly, Moreno went to press Townsend, who had just come on. Moreno managed to then win the the ball deep in our half, but the guy didn’t falter, charging all the way into the Spurs box and smashing it into the far corner. 3-0.

Again, our 3rd goal against Spurs came from our left-back, but this time it was a remarkable piece of individual skill, akin to what Riise did before, and what Bale did recently.

Other than our functioning (for once!) defence, Gerrard was quite decent defensively, although he practically gave up passing properly for some reason. Being 3-0 up, Rodgers pulled off Balotelli and Allen for Markovic and Can, and we continued to impress, with Can going on a great run through the middle, handing the ball over to Sterling. Sterling then danced through the entire Spurs backline a lá Messi, and promptly shot weakly at Lloris. It was a bit embarrassing, but it was epic play.

Sterling then continued to torture the Spurs defence, and although they had their passages of passing play (and a few slightly threatening moments), the game eventually got passed to death.

Standout players? Moreno, for sure. Sterling stood out once more, looking far more mature than his real age. Henderson and Allen were tireless, while Manquillo and Moreno are definitely looking good. Lovren could do with some calming down, while Sakho grew into the game and didn’t put a foot wrong in the 2nd half, making a brilliant last-ditch tackle to deny Adebayor (who was offside anyway).

Gerrard needs to get back to his playmaking form, while Sturridge and Balotelli both excelled without scoring. Markovic could have run at Spurs more, but mostly I saw him just passing and pressing. Beating Spurs at White Hart Lane 3-0, with talents like Markovic and Can to bring on? Suarez who?

Napping Around: Colleges Provide Campus Snooze Rooms

WE NEED THIS PRONTO!!!

TIME

In college, the best grades are usually considered to be the product of sleepless nights. Now, universities nationwide are setting up designated rooms for napping or expanding existing spaces to show students that they don’t have to sacrifice sleep to do top work.

The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor is the latest school to make headlines for piloting a napping station through fall 2014. In the walk-up to finals on April 23, 2014, six vinyl cots and disposable pillowcases were placed on the first floor of the University of Michigan’s Shapiro Undergraduate Library, which is open 24/7. First-come, first-serve, with a 30-minute time limit on snoozing, the area was the brainchild of rising senior Adrian Bazbaz, 23, an aerospace engineering major who came up with the idea as a member of U-M Central Student Government after watching countless students fall asleep in front of the library computers. “They’ll just…

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Belgian Grand Prix 2014

Qualifying

Well, it wasn’t anywhere near as exciting as some other qualifying sessions we’ve had so far this season. The rain poured down heavily before the session, and even during the session there was light rain. But even in those treacherous conditions, and drivers having problems controlling their cars and going off track, no one crashed despite the high speed nature of the track. Hats off!

The only retirement from the session was Gutierrez, who stalled on track in Q1. Bianchi made it into Q2 again, continuing to prove his talent, while Lotterer, the man who replaced Kobayashi for this race, out-qualified Ericsson. Hulkenberg was the big casualty from Q1.

Q2 was business as usual for the bigger teams, as Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull, Williams and McLaren made it into Q3, with Kvyat out-qualifying Vergne. That doesn’t help Vergne’s search for a new team now that he’s going to be kicked out of Toro Rosso. Finally, into Q3 and Hamilton made a mistake on his first lap, and he was trying to catch up to Rosberg all the way through the session, eventually getting only P2.

Vettel made a huge effort with the skinny rear wing RB10 to get P3, ahead of Alonso and Ricciardo. Williams must think it’s a wasted opportunity as they were likely the biggest contenders to Mercedes if the rain hadn’t come down. But with their speed, they could still be in a shout for podiums.

With a Merc front-row, we could be in for a massive battle tomorrow.

Race

Well, the massive battle between Hamilton and Rosberg did materialise, but only lasted for all of 2 laps.

Hamilton had been optimistic about his chances from 2nd on the grid, and he was clearly on to something as he made a brilliant start to snatch first place. Vettel took advantage of Rosberg’s poor start, slotting into 2nd and went after Hamilton, only to go off track and lose the place to Rosberg.

Then came the incident.

Rosberg tried to take Hamilton on the outside, but even as he was getting squeezed out, he turned in on Hamilton instead of backing out. With Lewis rightly on the racing line, Rosberg’s clumsy move took out his front-wing endplate, but crucially caused a puncture in Hamilton’s left rear. So yet another mistake from Rosberg benefited him, as Hamilton suffered massive floor damage from his disintegrating wheel, and cajoled his team to retire him until they made up some excuse about cooling the car in order to pull it back into the garage.

With Rosberg’s front wing damaged, he was under pressure from Vettel all the way, while behind them, Ricciardo started to snipe drivers off, even overtaking his teammate for 2nd. Eventually, Rosberg had to pit and did a front wing change, which left Ricciardo inheriting the lead of the race. He never really let go of the race from that point on, and managed to come through for his 3rd race victory in F1, at a track where no one expected Red Bull to be doing that well.

Rosberg took the 7s penalty with his wing change, had to make up plenty of ground, which he did so with his superior car. During this period, he also had bits of tire carcass (likely from Hamilton) hooking onto his radio antenna, and flapping about in front of his helmet. When he eventually reached P3, the Mercedes team told him to keep pushing as Bottas ahead still had to pit, and they wanted to ‘try something different’ and ‘force Ricciardo to pit’. It was all over TV however, and sounded like it could be a bluff.

As Rosberg inherited 2nd from Bottas after the Finn pitted, it was clear that with older tires, he wasn’t going to catch Ricciardo that easily. So he did his 3rd pit stop and smashed the 20s gap from the pit stop, but it was just not enough to catch the Australian in the end.

Behind them, Bottas managed to get 3rd with a very credible race, overtaking Alonso early on for 4th place, clinging on to 2nd as everyone else pitted, and eventually overtook Raikkonen (who had stopped earlier) for the last podium slot. Speaking of Raikkonen, he had his best race for Ferrari this season as he managed to stay in 4th, at a track where he has won 4 times.

Vettel seemed to be a little off the pace after he had been overtaken by Ricciardo, losing quite a bit of time to his teammate. But he drove a feisty race, managing to finally get ahead of the huge 4 car scrap between him, Magnussen, Button and Alonso (who finished in that order). Magnussen had a very good race, and although he did push Alonso onto the grass, he otherwise drove a brilliant defensive race to just about hold his teammate behind. Button had a quiet middle stint, but managed to come alive at the end, and take Alonso who lost his front wing in a collision with Vettel as he tried to get into the Red Bull’s fight with Magnussen.

Alonso was probably one of the unluckier drivers of the day, with his car needing a jump-start due to some problems. This led to mechanics being on track after they were supposed to clear it, and the unsafe nature of that work meant he had a 5s stop-go penalty. But he fought quite well, and it was just the nature of racing that he ended up 8th this time around.

The action behind wasn’t as intense as that at the front, and so I never really saw the action that brought Perez 9th place, and Kvyat in the points again in 10th. Hulkenberg recovered from his bad qualifying to net 11th, with Vergne behind in 12th, perhaps showing why Red Bull were willing to let him go. Massa limped home in 13th after getting something stuck in his car and affecting downforce.

Sutil, Gutierrez, Chilton and Ericsson made up the final finishing spots, with a double retirement for Lotus (early on with engine problems for Maldonado and later for Grosjean), and Bianchi/Lotterer both retiring with car issues as well.

At the end of the race, the fans decided to boo Rosberg as he came on the podium, and reactions from Mercedes team bosses is that it’s Rosberg’s fault. Yet, he has defended his position and has not apologised, which is a little understandable from his position where he might feel a little boxed in. But it’s clearly his fault, and tensions have surely risen even more after this.

As a Hamilton fan, I don’t think I can be objective about this, but Rosberg’s definitely had the better luck both in terms of driving and in reliability. Even his mistakes seem to benefit him and cost Hamilton, which has happened 3-4 times this season already. Frankly, that 29 point gap wouldn’t be around if all was equal. But nothing in life is ever fair, and it’s Hamilton who has to make up ground again.

But beyond the incident that will dominate headlines for a while yet, spare some thought for Ricciardo. He drove a brilliant race to capitalise on yet more Mercedes problems, and is beating his 4-time world champion teammate handily. Future world champion himself? With the right car, definitely. And that’s a winner I don’t think anyone will boo.

Sengoku Basara

Holy crap.

I’ve read reviews about how Sengoku Basara was a manly show, and it certainly didn’t disappoint! It was a testosterone-fuelled rampage that was almost at the level of Gurren Lagann, and it was just a thrill from start to finish.

The events and people are clearly dramatised from their historical counterparts, and I think some of the events weren’t very historically accurate either. But what the hell, the characters are all fun to watch, and the fights are pretty epic, albeit ridiculous and overboard when put in the context of actual Japanese generals in the Sengoku Era.

The ridiculousness is embodied in pretty much every single character and fight. All of them seem to have über-auras that can blow cannon fodder away. Takeda, the Tiger of Kai, stands on two friggin’ horses and can conjure up a tornado. Sanada Yukimura can do Fire Punch and also do a fire tornado, along with wielding two spears that must be completely impossible to do in real life. Date Masasune wields THREE katanas in EACH hand. Tadakatsu is a bloody flying robot, Japanese-steampunk style. Even Oichi, Oda Nobunaga’s sister, has a black tentacle aura that kills off Nōhime.

The only major protagonists vaguely normal is probably Kōjūrō, the Right Eye of the Dragon. But even he has an electric field about him when he fights. Akechi Mitsuhide is probably nowhere near as freaky as his character suggests, and wielding two scythes is just…unwieldy. Ranmaru encounters the same problem that Hawkeye of The Avengers has; infinite ammo.

But while nitpicking at the impossibly shōnen depiction of revered generals, it’s hard not to feel guilty, because it was a really entertaining anime. The Takeda/Yukimura’s dynamic of master and learner reminds me of Lee and Gai from Naruto, although I’m not sure if it’s a copy or a long-running Japanese cultural joke. The over-the-top reaction from Kasuga whenever Kenshin praises her is hilarious and draws laughter from me every time I see it. Masamune’s biker style, English phrases and devil-may-care attitude endeared him to me as much as Yukimura’s naivety.

It’s a bit weird to jump from Oda Nobuna no Yabō to Sengoku Basara, especially given how different the portrayals of Oda Nobunaga appear. Given that Yoshiharu tried to keep Nobuna from turning heartless like Nobunaga does in the game he plays, it’s likely that the main impression of Oda Nobunaga is that he’s a cold, heartless man; that the portrayal of Nobunaga in Sengoku Basara is the more accurate, if exaggerated image of the man.

From a factual perspective, it’s important to disregard the exaggerations and one-sidedness of anime in order to judge Oda Nobunaga and his achievements. After all, the protagonists of Sengoku Basara are his opponents. I doubt Japan would have remembered him as one of three great unifiers of the country if he were the monster the anime painted him as.

In a way, Sengoku Basara IS accurate. Enemies of Oda Nobunaga no doubt believed him to be a monster, and there was likely propaganda that propagated that idea. But it could well have been what was shown in Oda Nobuna no Yabō, where his goal was to unite Japan and end the Sengoku Era. Only the man himself will truly know his motivations, his ideas, his dreams, his goals.

But before I get all gooey-eyed in respect for a man who had a grand ambition and dared to try and realise it, culminating in Toyotomi Hideyoshi actually unifying Japan, I shall let the manly, testosterone-raging Sengoku Basara series blow me away!

Liverpool vs. Southampton 17/08/14

First Half

That was a decent half of football, with a slow-ish tempo to the game. It started off with our attacking players all deep behind the midfield line of Southampton, and Gerrard not utilising his passing range to bypass their lines. Lucas was tasked with connecting the midfield with the attack, but when he’s surrounded by 2 forwards and 3 midfielders, it’s a bit difficult to do any real passing.

Johnson continues to frustrate with poor passing, crossing and just giving the ball away in general. Manquillo was under-utilised as an outlet, although Lovren did switch play over to the right flank with long balls to good effect. Coutinho was being choked by the Southampton players, Koeman clearly learning from the Dortmund game and knowing how dangerous he is. Henderson was too far up, and should have dropped back a little.

But then, we did some intense pressing, and Henderson managed to steal the ball. One look up, and he fired a fantastic through-ball worthy of any world class player to Sterling, who didn’t even need to take a touch to control it before stroking it into the corner of the goal.

The game then slowed even more after that, and Southampton got a bit more of the ball and some set-pieces (along with a Ward-Prowse free kick that went too far and nearly went into goal). Schneiderlin also had a dipping shot near the end of the game which Mignolet dealt with magnificently, though he could have done better at a corner earlier.

Manquillo had a solid debut and unluckily got a yellow card (when Bertrand upended him twice and got nothing), while Lovren continues to impress as he passed well, defended well, and on the whole, our defence seems a lot more solid than last season.

Second Half

What a scary half this was. Southampton had been growing into the game since the end of the first half, and they continued in the second, with great passing moves that ripped our defences to shreds. Even Lovren’s presence did nothing to help stem the tide of Soton attacks as they passed through us at will. Then, Tadic did a backheel in the box and Lucas let Clyne go to score and level things up.

Lucas was clearly tiring, losing the ball more often and failing to press as well. Before he was taken off, Southampton had a clear cut chance right in the middle of the box which they fluffed, saving us from being 2-1 down. Allen then came on for Lucas, which brought us more energy. Coutinho going off for Lambert meant us going into the diamond, and that immediately brought dividends, as we equalised when Sterling met a Henderson cross which Sturridge tapped home.

Southampton weren’t about to give up though, and kept coming at us, keeping up the pressure until Schneiderlin had another shot. Mignolet brilliantly tipped it against the underside of the bar, and Shane Long messed up an open header sending it wide. After that, it was just keeping Southampton out, without any real attacking thrust from us as we kept getting our passes intercepted.

In the end though, we managed to keep the ball a little, and got the win and 3 points. Southampton didn’t seem like they were stripped bare, playing well and our nerves seemed to be jangling all the way. Now with a win against a bogey team out of the way, maybe we can calm down and tear teams apart with the same flair we did last season.

Big mentions to Manquillo, who had a very good debut, and Lovren as well. Sterling was a bright spark all the way, and Sturridge came to life when we went into the diamond. Coutinho and Gerrard were both very quiet, and Lucas was good until he tired and had to be replaced. As for Skrtel…well, he made some manly blocks and clearances, but I still feel a sliver of worry whenever he’s up for a challenge, so I’m still in support of a Lovren/Sakho partnership. And the less said about Johnson, the better.

Gay Men Read 50 Shades of Grey

HAHAHA!

Oh god, those lines are really in the book? I’m SO glad I haven’t tried to satiate my curiosity about what made it so popular. As for the guy that said that some fanfiction is better…well, this did spawn FROM fanfiction, from Twilight no less.

Seriously, if that’s the average writing quality of all three books, then I guess I should start writing some smut and get published too.