Sat, Oct 27, 2001

: Open Cup Final: L.A. vs. New England

As a San Jose fan, I had to root against the Galaxy, and for a while it looked like the underdog Revolution were going to succeed. They scored in the first half on a Harris deflected free kick, but then sat back and tried to defend in the second half, scorning some obvious goal chances. Big mistake. L.A. tied it up, N.E.’s Heaps got ejected for throwing an elbow, and in overtime, L.A. won it with a Danny Califf header. Not what I wanted, but justice was served. And I felt good for Danny, who was the one beaten by DeRossario in the Golden Goal in San Jose’s MLS Cup win last weekend. Final: 2-1 Galaxy.

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: Club Quake Year-End Celebration

I went to a wonderful dinner in Santa Clara last night to honor the San Jose Earthquakes for their great season. Almost all the Earthquakes players were there, and I got my picture taken with Landon Donovan. In fact, I got lots of pictures of all the players, so I put up a series of them on my website here. Check out the highlights!

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Fri, Oct 26, 2001

: Bedazzled

Silly, predictable story with Elizabeth Hurley as the devil who trades wishes for souls, but her candidate eventually realizes the wishes don’t work out the way you’d expect and he’d rather remain a dweeb. Not as bad as I expected: in fact, I rather liked it. Harmless.

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Sun, Oct 21, 2001

: MLS Cup 2001: San Jose Earthquakes vs. L.A. Galaxy

Absolutely unbelievable. I was at the Britannia Arms in Almaden again, this time before 9 a.m. There was already a crowd of about 100 waiting for the place to open! At least I got a seat this time (latecomers did have to stand). The game it self was great. For some reason I wasn’t worried. I think part of that was that the real achievement had already been done: for the Quakes just getting to the finals was incredible. If they’d lost I don’t think I’d have been that disappointed (though losing to LA would have been yucky). The Quakes started of great, really pressuring and making L.A. look tenuous as they struggled to defend. But a brilliant long-ball counter-attack gave L.A. an early lead. San Jose had never lost all season when scoring first, but had the opposite record when giving up the first goal: thus it was a bit worrying to see them go down early. But the Quakes fought back and an innocuous ball to the center by Ian Russell fell to Landon Donovan’s feet and with one move he turned and blasted perfectly into the upper corner of the goal! Incredible goal, and it gave the Quakes the momentum in the second half, where they outshot the Galaxy 12-3 (at one point). But though Donovan and several other Quakes came incredibly close in the second half, no one could break the tie. I worried that a fluke goal would ruin the Quake’s party, but San Jose’s defense was absolutely superb, stealing the ball away from the feet of the L.A. offense on numerous occasions. In “golden goal” overtime it was obvious both teams were exhausted: the weeks of intense playoff games and a fast-paced game today had taken their toll. But the fresh legs of Canadian International, Dwayne DeRossario proved the difference-maker. A long feed to him on the left and he went right at the goal. The defense was slow at closing him down, so he took advantage, duked to the right and shot a curling ball that beat the keeper to give San Jose the championship! Incredible! What a fantastic conclusion to a fairy tale season. From worst in the league last year to champions this year! Even better, it was well-deserved: San Jose outplayed all the teams they faced. Awesome. Final: 2-1 San Jose!

Topic: [/soccer]

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Sat, Oct 20, 2001

: Star Wars: the Phantom Menace

Not as bad as I feared. Yes, Jar Jar Binks was annoying and incomprehensible. But once you relaxed and stopped trying to understand him and just ignored him, it wasn’t bad. Digital effects were very impressive, and surprisingly, I actually liked the story. It was modest, certainly not worthy of the hype, but competent. The worst thing was the dialogue: absolutely ridiculous. At times it made me laugh out loud it was so terrible. (Do they really use modern expressions like “brain-dead” in the Star Wars universe?) I suppose I had such low expectations that I actually liked the film when I finally saw it. Funny the way that works.

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Fri, Oct 19, 2001

: Driver

Pointless drivel about race car drivers. Confusing if you’re not a race car fan — I couldn’t even figure out what was going on! The special effects were impressive, though obviously digital. The non-race “character drama” stuff was just lame.

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: The Road to El Dorado

Pretty good animated musical. The songs were so-so (the lyrics sucked big time), but I liked the story, the artwork, and the two main characters (bumbling con artists who find El Dorado and are mistaken for gods). Above average, but not up to the standards of films like Toy Story II.

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Wed, Oct 17, 2001

: MLS Playoff: San Jose at Miami (Game Three)

Absolutely amazing, historic! I sensed history and decided to watch this game at a pub — the Britannia Arms in San Jose — and boy I am glad I did. The atmosphere was incredible: the place was packed to standing-room only. One person joked there were more people there than at a typical Earthquakes game! Once the game got going, there were constant cheers, jeers, and other vocal expressions in support of the Quakes and in mockery of the Fusion. It was great. The longer the game went without either team taking a lead, the higher the tension mounted.

Zero-zero at the half, it continued that way in the second half. San Jose definitely dominated play, controlling the ball and having the most chances, but they couldn’t quite break down Miami’s defense. Miami was bunkered most of the game, defending desperately, but they did manage a few breakaways — and San Jose’s goalkeeper extraordinaire Joe Cannon came up huge, making several game-saving blocks.

Finally, the game went into sudden death overtime. The hundreds gathered at the Brit watched with bated breath and sweaty palms. I dreaded the thought that a fluke goal by the outplayed Fusion would end the Quake’s season. Then the Quakes earned a corner kick (one of nine in the game) and Mulrooney put the ball in play. In the center of the box, Jimmy Conrad headed it high and away from the goal. The Miami keeper had stepped out a bit on the cross, and now he dived frantically back to the goal. But Troy “The Beast” Dayak — winner of the ACE Comeback of the Year award for his best season ever after two years off due to a horrible neck injury — leapt up and headed the ball into the goal! It was a golden goal of fantastic consequences. Suddenly, San Jose, the worst team in Major League Soccer last season, is going to the championship this Sunday!

To get there they beat the best team in MLS, the Miami Fusion, as well as the Columbus Crew. Incredible!

What I REALLY like are these stats from the four semifinalists (cumulative of all the playoffs).
Goals Scored Goals Against
Chicago 7 5
Miami 5 10
Los Angeles 9 9
San Jose 12 2

Note that San Jose did this in five games, while all the other teams played six! They face this L.A. Galaxy this Sunday (9:30 a.m. Pacific on ABC) and it should be an awesome game. Both teams hate each other, have aggressive playing styles, and want to win their first championship.

Topic: [/soccer]

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Tue, Oct 16, 2001

: The Family Man

Predictable but pleasant film about a man presented with the experience of an alternate path of his life. In real life went for career over love and had terrific financial success and no personal life. Once he’s presented with the way his life could have gone had he pursued family over wealth, he realizes what his life is missing. Well done, but certainly not deep. Strongly reminencent of 1950’s films like It’s a Wonderful Life (but not as good).

Topic: [/movie]

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Sun, Oct 14, 2001

: Startup.com

Fascinating documentary following a new dot-com business from founding to floundering. The filmmakers had remarkable access and produced something that is truly profound, dramatic, in depth, and real. However, the editing is astonishingly shoddy. The story jumps around and there’s little explanation for how or why anything happens: no subtitles, definitions, or setups, just raw camera-work that on occasion leaves you scratching your head wondering what happened. For instance, in two cases in the story, the company must terminate founding partners and the lead members go through the agony of having to battle with former friends. But there are no explanations for exactly what instigated the conflict, making our role as the observer an awkward and uncomfortable one (since we don’t know who to root for). Timing is also often strange. For instance, dates are titled on the screen occasionally, such as “March” but there is no year. At one point there was a sequence about the big dot-com crash of Sept. 2000, and the next sequence was dated April, leaving me wondering if it was April 2001 or if we’d gone back in time to April 2000! (It turned out to be the latter.) Bizarre and elementary errors, but I guess the filmmakers can be forgiven as they only had to film 18 hours a day for over a year and ended up with over 400 hours of footage to edit to 90 minutes (yikes!). Despite the obvious and confusing flaws, the story is remarkable, and it is this story that will be remembered generations from now when historians want to understand the whole dot-com phenomena. Fascinating.

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: MLS Playoff: Miami at San Jose

Wow, what a fantastic and what a fantastic atmosphere at Spartan Stadium in San Jose. The place was packed, and I mean packed. The main parking lot was full and we had to park in a lot much further away and the delay meant I missed the first ten minutes of the game. But that was okay, since the Quakes didn’t score until the sixteenth minute, just after I’d found my seat and gotten settled. The chance looked like nothing at all: a loose clearance in Miami box went to Manny Lagos who fed it to superstar Landon Donovan in the box. He was surrounded by four players, so it didn’t look dangerous at all. But he took the ball to the left toward a group of three defenders, then rolled the ball backward with his left foot, did a 180 to retrieve the ball with his right. That gave him space on the right since the defenders were on his left. The fourth Miami guy was on the right but behind Donovan. He spun back around another 180 to face the goal, taking the ball with him, and slid it toward the right post. It went right into the back of the net! Fantastic goal. Then, ten minutes later, a bizarre event. I didn’t see what happened as I was following the ball, but two players collided on the far side of the field. Suddenly the ref was showing the red card… to a San Jose player! The place exploded with boos. Then there was another red card: to Diego Serna of the Fusion. Now the stadium rocked with cheers! When I saw this on the TV replay, it was clear that Zak Ibsen did kick Serna when they collided. I couldn’t quite tell what Serna did, though it was a bit of a tussle. But Ibsen’s “kick” was weak and hardly connected yet Serna rolled over in agony like he’d been shot, so perhaps the card came for being overdramatic. Either way, the cards shouldn’t have been red: yellows would have been more appropriate, though it’s understandable that you don’t want players retaliating. Also, after the first game was so physical, the league wanted the refs to crack down. The bottom line is that both teams were still even, at ten players each, and the game continued. In the second half, Landon was given a yellow for diving in the Miami penalty area. Another bad call: a closeup of the replay clearly shows the defenders elbow catching Landon in the jaw, knocking him down — he wasn’t pretending at all! It didn’t matter, though. Just minutes later, Landon feeds Ian Russell on the left side. He was completely alone and ignored, so he swivels to the right to get some space on his marker and curls perfectly into the top right corner of the goal. Beautiful! San Jose hasn’t lost all year when scoring first, and their confidence showed. After that it was all Quakes. A right scoop pass by Mulrooney (reminiscent of Donovan’s play of the week earlier in the year) and Lagos first-timed it into the net. With 18 minutes left, Donovan was back defending a bit, when McKinley did a ridiculously reckless tackle over the back of Donovan, and he was promptly red-carded. Miami was now down to 9 men and they pretty much gave up. It was like a practice game for San Jose. They passed the ball around and Miami didn’t even try to get it. Finally, San Jose would push the goal and bit and Miami would defend, but they rarely made any kind of a run toward goal themselves. After the McKinley ejection, Coach Yallop intelligently took Landon off (no sense risking him getting a second yellow or getting injured when the Quakes are up by three), and put in DeRosario. I told my cousin that DeRosario would score, and sure enough, with just a few minutes left, he did just that. He darted onto a weak backpass by a Miami defender and took the ball toward goal. The keeper came and dove, DeRosario dribbled around him and calmly put the ball away. The Quakes win it four to nothing! Now the series is tied one win each: San Jose has to go to Miami and win, and then they qualify for the Championship. Wow. What a season. From worst to first. Amazing. Go Quakes! Final: 4-0 San Jose.

Topic: [/soccer]

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Sat, Oct 13, 2001

: God’s Debris

Author: Scott Adams

Fantastic little book! This is a book that has nothing to do with humor: it’s all about philosophy. It purports to answer all the Big Questions of the universe: what is God, is evolution true, is science dependable, etc. All these ideas are put into a loose fictional frame, but it’s really the ideas that move the pages, not any kind of story. This is the kind of I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys thinking about the unthinkable. It’s for people with an open mind who aren’t offended by new ideas and new ways of looking at things. It’s well worth your time. I started it at 11:30 at night, just intending to read a chapter or two, and I read the entire book in one sitting. I couldn’t put it down. It’s that good! Read, then give copies to your friends and sit down and argue over it.

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Fri, Oct 12, 2001

: A Knight’s Tale

Surprisingly good film. Yes, it’s predictable, and yes it’s fun, but it has a few moments of actual decent dialog and an occasional thought. The plot’s simple: a peasant boy takes over for a dead knight and becomes the best jouster in the world. My favorite thing about the film was the technique to include modern rock music and certain aspects of modern speech (like a character saying “Wow”). If that was badly or indiscriminately done, it would be terrible, but it works beautifully in this movie, giving us a medieval setting with a modern tone. It’s a light comedy with some action and romance, and it works. There are so some nice conceits, like having Geoffrey Chaucer as one of the main characters.

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: Along Came a Spider

I wasn’t expecting this to be very good, but it was: I was actually surprised by the trick ending, and the plot and characters kept me interested the whole time. The only real flaw was the dreadfully stupid technology stuff the writers threw it (such as kids exchanging hidden messages in GIFs and a still picture that suddenly becomes part of a live website that tells detectives where the bad guy lives). Overall, a decent thriller.

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Thu, Oct 11, 2001

: The Devil’s Workshop

Author: Stephen J. Cannell

Typical bio-terrorism thriller, this time with a variation of Mad Cow disease. Not bad, with some interesting characters (including a woman as the heroine), but overly long and overly complicated for a simple techno-thriller. I didn’t like that the main bad guys were a crazy military Admiral and a group of religious nuts: aren’t we all tired of such stereotypes?

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Wed, Oct 10, 2001

: MLS Playoff: San Jose at Miami

With two of the best teams in the league, I expected this to be a hard-fought battle, and it was. Unfortunately, Miami showed little of the skill and creativity they displayed during the regular season, instead concentrating on fouls and hard tackles, especially against the heart of San Jose’s attack, 19-year-old superstar Landon Donovan. The first half was the better half, with the Quakes out-playing Miami but failing to score. In the second half San Jose came out rough and hesitant, and Miami took advantage to pressure them. After several terrific saves by keeper Joe Cannon, he was beaten by a nice chip by Preki for the only goal of the game. San Jose fought back fairly well, but Miami simply bunkered down and defended, and in the end San Jose couldn’t get the equalizer (though they came within inches on a least one occasion). Overall, a decent game, though frustrating for a Quakes fan. San Jose played very well for most of the game, looked a little ragged for a bit after the goal, and ended strongly, but they’ve definitely got to work on their finishing, especially toward the end of the game (they tend to hold back a little defensively instead of all going forward for a goal). I’m looking forward to this Sunday’s must-win game 2 at San Jose: I’ve already got my tickets. Final: 1-0 Miami.

Topic: [/soccer]

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Sun, Oct 07, 2001

: World Cup Qualifier: U.S. vs. Jamaica Pre-empted by Talking Heads

A mix of good and bad. ABC had the nerve to completely pre-empt the coverage of the U.S. National Team’s World Cup Qualifier against Jamaica, an absolutely cruicial, must-win game for the States, with talking heads rattling on about the U.S. bombing Afganhistan. I understand them needing to report breaking news, but 1) there was nothing to report (no one knew anything), 2) what’s wrong with occasional news briefs or a running headline underneath the game coverage? and 3) ABC could have moved the game to ESPN or ESPN2. (They did, apparently, air the game tape-delayed on Monday on ESPN, but of course I didn’t know that until after it had aired, too late to record it.) Finally, does anyone really care about this “war?” Is anyone surprised or alarmed? Isn’t this what we’ve been expecting since Sept. 11?

Now for the good news: the U.S. not only won their qualifier, 2-1, but upsets in other qualifiers mean that the U.S. has officially qualified for World Cup 2002! It was a fluke series of events: Mexico and Costa Rica earned a 0-0 draw for one point each and Honduras was stunningly defeated at home by bottom-of-the-group Trinidad and Tobago! Those results leave both Mexico and Honduras with 14 points and only one game remaining, a head-to-head clash in Mexico. Only one of the two will be able to qualify (a tie puts Mexico in, so Honduras must win). The U.S. faces Trinidad and Tobago in November, but that game is of no significance now. (Prior to the other results, the U.S. had to win today’s game and the game in Nov. to qualify.)

Topic: [/soccer]

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Sat, Oct 06, 2001

: Apple Store Grand Opening

This morning I went to Palo Alto to witness the grand opening of the new Apple Store. Over a thousand people were there and it was a terrific celebration of Apple. Steve Jobs was even there (I took his picture). It was great fun and hilarious to receive the funny looks of passerbys who no doubt thought we were crazy to stand in line for hours to get into a mere computer store!

Topic: [/technology]

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: Joyfest at Great America

In the afternoon and evening I went to Joyfest, a Christian concert held at Great America. Bands included Audio Adrenaline, Newsboys, and Jars of Clay. Sounds quality wasn’t great (I’m not a huge concert fan anyway) and Newsboys were the only group I was familiar with, but the atmosphere was fun. Prior to the concerts I got to go on some Great America rides, which were fun. It’s been a long time since I’ve done that. There were lots of families and young people there, and that in itself was interesting and one tended to absorb some of their youthful enthusiasm. (I just had a birthday, so perhaps I’m feeling elderly. ;-) Overall, this was a long day of standing in lines for 30 second thrills. Not something I’d want to do regularly, but fun on occasion.

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Fri, Oct 05, 2001

: Chuck and Buck

An interesting and unusual film. It’s about two former childhood best friends. Buck’s mother has just died after a long illness, and he’s suddenly free. But he hasn’t grown up yet: he tries to restore life to the way it was when he was a child. It’s a fascinating, in-depth look at a dysfunctional man. My only complaint is that I wish I’d known a little of what it was about before I watched it: I didn’t know if this was a comedy, drama, or anything, and that kept me a little on edge and focusing more on guessing where the story was going instead of just appreciating the characters. The film is well-written and acted, and frighteningly realistic. Lots of gray and little black and white. Definitely not Hollywood. It takes an honest look at a complex subject and shows it to us deformities and all. Excellent, though not always pleasant.

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