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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One Small Step, or a Giant Leap Motion?

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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Steve Kelley’s Race Results at Athlinks.com

Steve Kelley’s Race Results at Athlinks.com.

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Sticking a bikefork into the CabinMan

Following my grueling Marine Corps Marathon outing, I was physically exhausted and took a two week hiatus from almost all physical activity.  For someone who can burn 3,000 calories in 3 hours, this was a problem, so I gradually began to re-engage my exercise regimen.  I avoided running due to lingering pain in my right foot and ankle, but managed to get in a few bike rides commuting to work, and with Veteran’s Day approaching and the promise of excellent fall weather, I set my sights on cycling Mt. Weather in northwestern Virginia.  This is a pretty tough climb – 3448’ total elevation gain over 28 miles.  But this route also took me back through some interesting personal and national history.  An interesting ride.

For those unfamiliar with Mt. Weather, some background.

The Appalachian Trail skirts the ridge along the eastern edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains of northwestern Virginia.  Mt. Weather sits astride Loudoun and Clarke Counties in the area between Rtes 50 and 7.  The northwest edge of the mountain descends toward Bluemont, VA at Snickers Gap. 

I parked in the Post Office lot on Snickersville Turnpike.  Turning left out of the lot, you will begin climbing- gradually at first - but persistently.  A road sign indicating Rt 7 will take you there to the right, but you can also head straight toward the hairpin along old Snickersville Tpk. 

Rt 7 is a major east-west corridor.  Eastbound traffic comes barreling down from Snickers Gap, so exercise caution as you cross the median to the westbound lane.  You will keep climbing up Rt 7 heading West (left).  The shoulder is adequate on this stretch which help take the edge off the relentless climb and the traffic.  Taking it one crank at a time, I kept it in a low gear on my small 39-tooth chainring.

When you reach Mt. Weather Rd, take a good look ahead: if you can survive the first 15~20 minutes of this route, you will be okay.  In other words, it can't get any worse than that.  Here, I felt no shame going with my granniest gear. 

Despite its hellish vertical challenge, the road surface on Mt. Weather is outstanding.  This may have something to do with the high security  Emergency Operations Center at the summit.  The Center is a standby Disaster Recovery Site for the US Government - in other words - it's a doomsday bunker

In fact, my father tells of one of his early job duties as a junior civil servant.  In case the unthinkable ever were to happen, his job was to drop everything - including yours truly - head for the hills, and stack sandbags around Secretary of State Dean Rusk.  The Cuban Missile Crisis kept the sandbags full and my dad on edge, though he shrugged when I pressed him on whether he would actually take leave of his family and complete his mission. 

Some people believe a tunnel connects it to Washington, DC via Langley.  It’s probably full of haz-mat suited figures out of an Austin Powers/Godzilla movie set.  If Metro has anything to do with it, I'm sure most of the escalators are out of service.  But the road itself is in pristine condition just in case.  During 9/11, it was reported that members of the U.S. Government were helicoptered to the site. 

In 1974, a TWA flight from Columbus, OH crashed into the mountain, likely triggering a DEFCON-4 response from the bunker's keepers, while bringing unwanted attention to the facility.  I remember the crash because my grandfather's home was in the flight path on that tragic night.  The crash site is not far from where his house once stood near Horseshoe Curve in Pine Grove on old Rt 7.

The initial push toward the summit takes you past the Bear's Den Youth Hostel.  This is a very well-appointed hostel by Appalachian Trail standards, and from the rock outcropping on the west-facing ridge you can enjoy a majestic view of the Shenandoah Valley below.

The descent from the summit comes in fits and starts, but building speed on the downhill generally sustains your climb over the subsequent rise.  But the final mile is a steep downhill that will grab and hold your attention.

Making a careful right onto Rt 50, you continue to descend - very fast - and there is no shoulder on 50.  Thankfully, the right lane is generously wide, but you will rocket downhill with cars on your left at a high rate of speed.  Be sure not to miss the right turn onto Mt. Carmel Rd - it is well marked. 

The road to Frogtown and Rt 7 is rougher than Mt Weather, but still in decent shape.  The entire road is paved, save for one 50' section with hard packed gravel outside of a quarry.  Ebenezer Road intersects Frogtown Rd.  It goes by my grandfather’s gravesite at Ebenezer Baptist Church.  Sections of the road are prone to dip and curve, but then open up to gentle vistas of farms with the mountains rising in the distance beyond the autumn spangled treeline.

The road will eventually rejoin Rt 606 and take you down to the Shenandoah River.  The River is not very wide, but it is picturesque.  There is a rough hobo / river rat campsite you can stop at - maybe drink a couple Busch Lights with the locals and trade gossip.  The road will hug the River all the way back to the bridge carrying Rt 7 west toward Berryville.

You will have to climb up Rt 7- the shoulder is wide, but rough for road tires.  Sharing the narrow strip of smooth road surface is dicey with trucks roaring inches past you doing 75mph, but gather yourself at the turn off for Pine Grove (left turn - Be Careful!). You are only on the road for a mile, at most. This is an alternate to staying on Rt 7, and you will thank me later. 

Pine Grove is on Old Route 7.  Before the 4-lane highway was built in the late 1970s, it used to climb up from Round Hill past Bluemont, then up over Snickers Gap and down idyllic Pine Grove.  This community is nestled between the Blue Ridge and Shenandoah River, and it has always felt like a place apart from both Loudoun and Clarke Counties. There is a general store and a couple restaurants back there, including the Horseshoe Curve Restaurant.  

You will re-join Rt 7 near the Mt. Weather intersection.  Again, not a great shoulder (for road tires, that is), and a butt-cheek clenching downhill to the Snickersville Turnpike and into Bluemont.  The ride is only a little over 28 miles, but it has a bit of everything including Cold War lore, a challenging climb, and a nice cruising stretch to loosen you up for the final push back up the mountain.

Mt Weather

Near the summit of Mt. Weather

Mt. Carmel Rd.

The view along Mt. Carmel Road

Shenandoah River

Near the top of Snickersville Turnpike, Bluemont, VA

Near the site wear my grandfather's home once stood, Pine Grove, VA

The Duke Homestead, Pine Grove, VA

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The CabinMan Goes The Distance

Webster’s defines persevere as: to persist in a state, enterprise, or undertaking in spite of counterinfluences, opposition, or discouragement.

 I will use it in a sentence: You do not run over the 14th Street Bridge so much as you persevere over the 14th Street Bridge.

 It was that kind of a day…

 My goal coming into this race was to qualify for Boston with a 3:30:59 – about a 7:59/mile pace.  This was my first race at this distance, but I have a solid base of 10Ks, 10 milers, and a half marathon (NYC 2010) beneath me.  Having just missed qualifying for the New York City Marathon with a half marathon time of 1:31:08 (needing 1:30:00), Boston Qualifier, or BQ, was attainable.  An “NYCMQ,” however, was a ridiculously fast (for me) 3:10.  No “grace” time of :59 like for Boston.  The thought of missing out by 68 seconds for a marathon distance qualifying attempt was too much.  If I ever do qualify for NYCM before I’m 50, I’ll have to do it over 13.1 miles for mental health reasons alone.

 Training and Logistics

 The other thing – and I can’t stress this enough – is that I came to the marathon race ready with almost 450 miles logged since August 1.   I also was coming off my first season of triathlon, and had just completed the Nation’s Triathlon in September which included a 10K run for the Olympic distance event. 

 I followed a training plan that I had used for other races.  The Hal Higdon page provides a pretty basic template.  Most training plans provide a basic punchlist that includes building base mileage, speedwork (track intervals), maybe some hills, cross training, and long runs.  I followed the plan closely, even to the point of doing treadmill workouts, which I hate.  That just underscores the CabinMan’s dedication.  Kind of sad.

 The other on-line tool (again: free) that I used was the McMillan Running Calculator (warning: turn your volume DOWN before clicking this link; it has an obnoxious video clip that loops continuously when the page is open – thankfully, you can mute it, but you have been warned).  By inputting a goal time, or previous race result, you can get target speed zones for your track workouts.  This takes away the guesswork on the question of “how fast should I be running?”

 The other facet to my training was that I trained as often as possible with a group.  My “core” group is the Marriott Lunchbaggers – more rabble than group.  In this group you will get a cross section of every kind of runner you do and don’t want to become: the over-achiever, the under-achiever, the bait-and-switcher.  I fit right in.  The critical part of the group dynamic is that their idea of a “rest” weeks might call for 15-20 miles.  With triathletes and ultra-marathoners to contend with, picking up a marathon-level training pace is “run of the mill.”

 I also did track workout with a DC tri group, the Renegade Striders.  This group is more into tweaking your VO2 Max and pushing cruise intervals and ladder workouts.  Throw in some core and plyometrics, and it rounds out the bike commuting and swim workouts that comprises my cross training.

 The Marathon

 I found my spot in the starting corral by the 3:30 pace group.  After a slow mile 1 (8:14!) I ditched the group and caught the 3:20 pacers through Mile 6 (Palisades). 

The first section of the race course has the most varied terrain.  Arlington features long sweeping hills going up Lee Highway from Rosslyn and then down Spout Run to Key Bridge.  These hills, which appear more challenging on paper, actuallydistribute more of the work around your leg muscles as you ascend and descend.  This is not appreciated at first, but as the course flattened after hitting Georgetown in Mile 8, the quads began to take on the brunt of the work all the way to the finish.

 I ran ahead of the 3:20 pacers and felt pretty good heading onto Hains Point and back to the Mall.  But they finally ran me down at Mile 20, the start of the accursed 14th St. Bridge, when my 7:30-ish splits became 8:00 slogfests as I entered Crystal City.

Crystal City is more accurately described as a “concrete wind tunnel” than an actual “city.”  The buildings are arranged in a fashion to direct maximum wind velocity into your face from whichever direction you happen to be facing; it was unreal.  My feet hurt and my quads ached as I leaned into the wind.  The runners were spread thinly over the course at this point, so drafting opportunities were scarce.

As I reached Mile 24, John Whitridge – a running buddy from Marriott – came up on my left as we entered the Pentagon parking.  He said he was pacing with his brother, Tim,  who did not slow down for pleasantries; in fact, he ran ahead like he was late for the early bird buffet special at his local Stuckey’s.  Well, John had enough in reserve to leave me in his wake by the time we got through the parking lot and off he went. 

 The crowd began to build as I approached the finish: people were yelling encouragement for a guy named Scott, so I mentally changed my name to “Scott” for the last mile.  For parts of the course I was also “Delaware” and “Jack’s Dad.”  Any port in a storm, I say.

 I managed to keep things respectable, but just had enough left to sort of “kick” at the finish.  The Iwo Jima hill was steeper – but mercifully shorter -than expected.  Knowing I could stop running at the top of that hill was a major selling point after 26 miles. 

 I always wondered how it would feel to run a marathon. I was happy to make it to the end, but I couldn’t decide if it represented running, or just plain perseverence?  I know I persevered faster than “Dan Balkey,” but as Scott Hall noted: 5+ hours is A LOT of persevering.  But did I actually “run?” And if so, how come the winner finished an hour ahead of me?  As much as I was buoyed by the congratulations, in the back of my mind I didn’t know if this measured me as a runner, or someone who merely went out his way to climb over an uncomfortable obstacle that might have been avoided entirely had I politely declined the offer?

 But I took on the challenge and – as fate would have it – I succeeded in prolonging my misery another day (or year) by qualifying for Boston.  So that is my reward: an utterly avoidable date with destiny.  I have only myself to blame, but sharing this with people who have thrown themselves under a busload of pain and second guessing in order to make it to the starting line somehow makes it tolerable, and in our circle – sort of cool.  We are the few, the proud, the Marriott Lunchbaggers.  God help us.

 I made it to the finish in 3:22:29.

My splits: 

Mile 1 – 10: 8:14 / 7:55 / 7:31 / 7:26 / 7:34 / 7:28 / 7:52 / 7:13 / 7:21 / 7:24 

Mile 11-20: 7:32 / 7:29 / 7:42 / 7:20 / 7:41 / 7:29 / 7:30 / 7:38 / 7:47 / 7:33

Mile 21-26.2:   8:02 / 8:03 / 8:04 / 8:13 / 8:00 / 8:21 / 1:52

 Marathon Man 20X

MCM Bib #13493

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