US vs #FakeHolland

Anticipation is at a fever pitch. What is in store for the US side that has played 3 very different matches thus far against Ghana, Portugal, and Germany? How will Jozy Altidore impact today’s match with Belgium, if at all?

It’s all or nothing. If Michael Bradley is going to make an appearance at the Cup, today may be his last chance. But other players have emerged from his shadow: Jermaine Jones, Graham Zusi, and Omar Gonzales. Can they continue their stellar play against Belgium? We shall know soon enough.

My prediction:
US 2 Belgium 1

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Groups of Death – The Yellow Card Edition

As the second week of this mesmerizing World Cup draws to a close, it’s a good time to assess the current standings and issue warnings to those teams that hope to advance to the round of 16. Group G has … Continue reading

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Groups of Death

The debate on which Group is the most deadly will finally to be decided on the pitch. Lead contestant for the so-called “Group of Death” are Group G with the US pitted against Germany, Portugal, and Ghana. Germany owns three titles and was ranked 2nd, Portugal 4th, US 13th, and Ghana 37th. The US has a poor record against Ghana in Cup competition, so their first round match was a real test of where they stood on the world stage and it was a “must-win” if they were to have any chance of advancing out of their group. Germany and Portugal figured to be the top two to advance, but Germany was dominant in their 4-0 victory and Portugal limped off with a damaged psyche and diminished lineup as they prepared to face the US in a crucial match following the US teams gutty 2-1 win over Ghana. Thus, Group G’s standing as the Group of Death took a step back with Portugal’s complete breakdown against Germany, and the US chances improved at their expense. Germany – if Portugal presented any test – appears headed to the semifinals with Thomas Muller at the forefront of their attack.

The US victory was remarkable, but the sloppy play between their two goals was overshadowed by the thin experience of their strikers with the loss of Jozy Altidore to a hamstring injury. Landon Donovan surely received a thousand messages indicating he should have made the squad as insurance, and now the US must face Portugal and Germany with untested forwards alongside the broken-nosed Clint Dempsey. If not for Portugal’s disarray, I would think the US had no chance for even a point. But they must demonstrate better possession in order to truly be considered as a quarter-finalist threat. Michael Bradley’s erratic performance did not impress me, though netminder Tim Howard, MF Jermaine Jones, and F Clint Dempsey were stellar. Newcomer D John Brooks’ golden header off of MF Graham Zusi’s corner give me reason to believe this team has enough depth to overcome their lack of style, but Altidore’s absence places incredible weight on F Aron Johansson to be more than a spectator on the field.

The winner of Group G draws 2H (Likely South Korea or Russia), with the runner-up likely drawing a dangerous Belgian side. More to follow after Brazil – Mexico.

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Brazil’s World Cup Curse: Ordem ou progresso?

The first of The CabinMan’s musings on The 2014 World Cup, or “Through the Eyes of a Futebol Novice”:

A quick note before we proceed: Ordem ou progresso is a play on Brazol’s national motto Ordem e progresso which means “Order and Progress” in Portuguese, while Ordem ou progresso is “Order or Progress.”

Now is as good a time as any for The CabinMan to reflect on week 1 of Copa do Mundo, or The World Cup. The CabinMan loves passion, and much of our planet – outside of the United States – is passionate for football.  Brazil is home to the World Cup, and its status is that of religion. As such, there are growing signs that the religious devotion to futebol is undermining social services. This has been expressed in angry protests aimed against the government spending on hosting the World Cup while ignoring the needs of the poor.

Hosting a global event is a Big Deal to the up-and-coming BRIC nations (India in a deft twist hosted the FIDE World Chess Championships – a gambit with much less downside for rioting and runaway spending), and for Brazil this is a tune-up to hosting the Olympics in 2016.  This is doubling-down on the so-called Host City Curse, which is especially vexing to developing / second-tier nations (Greece ’04 Summer, Montreal ’76 Summer, and with the bloody dissolution of Yugoslavia following the Sarajevo Winter Games ’84).  The current lemmings hope to avoid the curse by attaining the “Barcelona Effect” which endowed the ’92 host city with public infrastructure beyond shiny stadiums and massive debt. Yet even Spain has been buckled with a churlish recession, high unemployment, internal fissures (Catalonian autonomy), and a 5-1 meltdown loss to the Dutch to open group play at this World Cup.

Against this backdrop, Brazil opened the Cup against Croatia by surrendering an own goal in the early stages, but came back to claim a solid – though less than stellar – 3-1 match. The own goal seemed to put the entire host nation on a suicide watch – not everyone was for runaway government spending, but national pride was suddenly at stake. Neymar, Brazil’s brilliant striker – who would make a great Portlandia character for Fred Armisen – put the country back on its axis with his left foot.

Thus, the Copa was underway and all – for at least that moment – seemed right with the Mundo.

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TheCabinMan’s Musical Journey

Many years ago I was a clueless college sophomore. I thought The Alarm was going to be bigger than U2. I was wrong on that projection, but of the many musical pathways I’ve followed before or since, I have been most pleasantly surprised by the one that started during that clueless sophomore year: Big Head Todd and The Monsters.

The band arrived at the University of Colorado in the fall of 1983. Rob Squires was the anchor. He lived in the Arnett Hall “Pit” and played bass guitar with a couple buddies from high school who would jam in his room. Rob was the nicest, most unassuming kid you will ever meet. They eventually played gigs all over Colorado, but the first time I saw them outside of Rob’s room was at our danky toga party we threw at Arnett. Our RA got permission for a keg, and we set it up up in the downstairs lounge. We lived in a ten all-male dorm, so we had to beg girls to come to our party. And that was how I remember it – running over to Smith Hall with a pitcher of beer as bait.

The lounge rocked as they took the “stage” under the name TJ & The Twist. The lineup was Rob on bass, Todd Park Mohr on guitar and saxophone, and Brian Nevin on drums. That has remained unchanged for over 30 years. It remains a vivid memory to this day: Todd wrapped in a bed sheet with a guitar and sax slung around his neck. They ripped through what seemed like six songs played over and over for two or three hours. Seriously, they played Shout every 5th song – and we didn’t care.

The original Big Head Todd and the Monsters played an early gig in the downstairs lounge (lower right) back in 1983.

The original Big Head Todd and the Monsters played an early gig in the downstairs lounge (right background) circa 1983. Bassist Rob Squires lived in the Arnett Pit.

Within 18 months they landed a regular gig at JJ McCabe’s, a local bar near Pearl Street in downtown Boulder (since closed) where I would stop in to check them out as their following grew.  The last time I caught them was with some high school friends during a ski weekend up in Breckenridge around 1985, I think. They were playing a bar – can’t remember the name – and we drove 5 miles through a blizzard to see them. Anyway, we made it to the gig, the three of us: me, Susan, and her brother, Doug. And we were the only ones stupid enough to go out in the blizzard, but we were there with Todd, Rob, and Brian as they jammed and shared pitchers of beer with us while the snow continued to pile up outside.

Fast forward 30 years: Todd is doing a solo tour playing rootical Chicago and delta blues, a homage to The Masters: Hubert Sumlin, David “Honeyboy” Edwards, and of course Robert Johnson. He has dialed back his blistering guitar riffs for a stripped down blues style, but his staccato tempo is still driving the music. He tells a few stories in his Gary Busey-esque twang to introduce his next piece, then drops another chestnut into the fire. I will close with a sample from one of BHTM’s biggest hits, Bittersweet, from May 15, 2014 at The Hamilton Live in Washington, DC:

Click here for the video sample from “Bittersweet”

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Todd Park Mohr

Todd Park Mohr

Live at The Hamilton, Washington, DC, May 15, 2014.

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Gesture control technology has reached the mainstream with the Microsoft Kinect, but can Leap Motion disrupt the technology with their modest price point, or is it just more pointless technology?

Pros and Cons:

Organization Competitive Position

Using Porter’s Five Forces Model, how does the Leap Motion controller stand up against alternatives in terms of its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats relative to those 5 Forces?

Industry Competitors:

Microsoft’s Kinect has resources and name recognition and is also entering the PC space. However, Leap Motion is compatible with Mac and Windows and the $80 price point versus $219 for the Kinect makes it a disruptive force in the gesture control market.

Suppliers / Partners

Asus and HP laptops and devices will feature Leap Motion’s gesture control interface and Airspace app store. This will expand the visibility and penetration of Leap Motion’s ecosystem for so-called “lean back” technology. The ability to interface with larger screens is a differentiator for PC manufacturers who cannot fully realize touch screen technology. Consumer electronic devices will soon have embedded Leap Motion technology, including Samsung televisions and Audi automobiles.

Leap Motion-enabled HP devices will come pre-loaded with Airspace™, Leap Motion’s application store. Inside Airspace, users will discover a wide range of software across gaming, music, education, art, productivity and more.” from HP to bundle Leap Motion on select products, incorporate the tech in future devices

Leap Motion sold via name-brand channels Best Buy and Amazon UK, making their product accessible to a wide market and mitigating the liability of newness.

Substitute Products:

Keyboard, Mouse, Voice Recognition (such as Dragon Software), and Touch Screen interface tools are alternatives to gesture control. However, Leap Motion is compatible with and augments existing interfaces at an attractive price point.

Customers:

PC manufacturers, Medical, gaming, computer aided design (CAD), and defense industry sectors represent commercial customers. Integration with widely used Windows and Mac operating systems strengthens Leap Motion’s consumer usage and acceptance.

New Market Entrants

New gesture control entrants are on the horizon, including Intel’s partnership with Nuance. Expanding integration with consumer electronics and networking Leap Motion apps across multiple distribution channels such as Airspace, iTunes, and Amazon while further enhancing product reliability will enable them to establish their technology as the gesture control standard.

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