Crawl Across the Ocean

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Pot Pourri

Just thought I'd write a post so I don't lose the habit altogether. Circumstances (world cup, busy at work, iffy health-nothing serious-feel fine now) haven't really allowed much beyond sticking to the basics (eat, sleep, work, watch world cup) for the last week or two so here is a braindump on various topics.

On the subject of the 'brown menace' that the media seems to be trying to fabricate for some reason, this post by Chris Selley on multi-culturalism is worthwhile reading. Also, Rick Salutin had a long and interesting article making the case that terrorism is primarily political, not religious in motivation.

Speaking of the Globe, their article on the overheated housing market starts as follows: "The average national price of an existing home in Canada surged above $300,000 for the first time ever in May, with actual sales activity smashing through all previous records as buyers rushed to buy a house while they can still afford to do so."

I don't trust the Globe enough to really believe they have any justification for their assertion about what is driving the market higher, but on the off-chance hey are right, it doesn't sound too good. People buying an asset because the price is going up is pretty much the definition of a bubble.

Going back a few days, I thought this NY Times Op-Ed was right on the money, if outsourcing makes sense for lower level employees it makes that much more sense for the CEO. And it's not just that when the average CEO makes 170 times what the average worker makes you get 170 times the savings from outsourcing the CEO position, the article has lots of other arguments too:
"Current chief executive compensation creates what economists term a perverse incentive. An American chief executive, who is paid an average of $11.3 million annually, gets rewarded enough in one year to exceed the lifetime standard of living of 99.99 percent of the world's population. Even if he's booted from his job because of poor performance, he's set for life.

It is far better for shareholders to have chief executives whose compensation packages are based on the long-term performance of the company. Or in plain language, it is better to have a "hungry" executive instead of one who stays fat and happy even when the corporate ship capsizes into the troubled waters of bankruptcy.

In addition to perverse incentives, the current level of chief executive compensation creates opportunity costs. The money saved by hiring a cheaper executive can be invested in even more offshoring initiatives. A virtuous circle of shareholder profitability can be established."

Back on the topic of the world cup, I don't have much insight. Best game so far that I've seen was Argentina - Cote D'Ivoire, both teams looked really impressive. Overall I've been disappointed with the African sides. There was a period where they seemed to be making up ground on the top European teams but they seem to have stalled in the last decade. Asia still seems to be making slow progress although notwithstanding this I'd rank them as the weakest continent (excluding Oceania and Antarctica of course).

Speaking of Oceania, credit to the Aussies for showing their fitness to outlast Japan and battle back from an early Japan goal which should have been called back for goaltender interference.

In my opinion, Philip Lahm was Germany's best player (excluding the 'keeper Kahn) last World Cup and things seem to be the same so far this time around.

Mentioning the Globe one last time, it has a world cup blog, although it hasn't had much insight either. I haven't been following their discussion of who the hottest player is very closely and their outbreak of mass conventional wisdom regarding Spain was pretty lame:

Says John Doyle, "the Spain team is loaded with exceptionally talented players and, come the World Cup, they seem to automatically drop several gears."

Says Neil Campbell, "Part of the reason that Spain has underperformed so dramatically at World Cups is poor starts."

Says Peter Mallett, "Spain seems to go into every World Cup as a heavy favourite and have one of the top lineups (on paper), but it seems to find nothing but difficulty in advancing. Wonder if today's game will truly be the test for them?"

Of course, in the last World Cup in 2002, Spain went 3-0 at the group stage, advancing as easily as anyone. Then they beat Ireland in the round of 16 but were 'defeated' by South Korea in the quarters, with 'defeated' in quotation marks because the result only occurred due to the referees calling off 2 valid goals by the Spaniards. I'd say there are few teams that could advance against the host country when they need to win by 3 to do so.

Campbell, who has probably offerred the most useful commentary of any of the Globe's World Cup bloggers, does note that Spain won their first game last World Cup 3-1, but still.

Of course, the people sending out the update for my World Cup pool don't give Spain any respect either, saying, "The Ukrainians qualified for the tournament with ease, while the favoured Spaniards stumbled, and I'll be curious to see whether either team's form carries over into the tournament."

I'd have been more worried about Spain's form if they weren't undefeated in their last 22 games (including all their qualifiers) coming into the tournament!

Now it's true, I took Spain on my pool team for this world cup, and it's also true that I take them every World Cup, and it's also true that they've never come through for me (yet!) but I think it's worth noting that the 'Spain always collapses in the world cup' meme doesn't really fit too well with the facts of the last World Cup, and once we go back 8+ years we're talking about an entirely different group of players, so unless we are talking about some kind of national hex, or some world cup deficiency in the Spanish national character or national soccer style, I'm not sure how relevant that history is.

One final World Cup comment/question: is 'clinical' the most overused word in football (soccer) commentary? Or is it 'sublime'? Other candidates?


  • You can blame Co-Commissioner Jeff for the "Spain stumbled" comment in our pool update. That write-up was all him, with no peer review from me!

    By Blogger Simon, at 10:26 AM  

  • On the other hand, Spain did have their share of troubles in qualifying. Ties against Lithuania, Bosnia (twice), needing a playoff against Slovakia to qualify - "stumbled" may be a tad harsh, but it's not as if (on paper) Spain was looking very sharp last summer during qualifying.

    By Blogger Simon, at 11:27 AM  

  • Actually one theory is that national character does enter into it! Not a deficiency mind you, but the fact that a number of players consider themselves Catalan or perhaps Basque before Spanish. This theoretically affects team cohesion, and is used to explain how in past tournaments they have seemed less than the sum of their parts.

    By Blogger Spearin, at 12:03 PM  

  • Well you can bet the overrated Spaniards are getting a bad writeup in tonight's update!

    By Blogger The Elitist, at 1:00 PM  

  • Being someone who hasn't watched a lot of soccer, I can't speak to a term being overused, but my favourite phrase(s) I've heard announcers use to describe things as (being): "class"; or, for extra special plays: "sheer class"

    By Blogger DK, at 10:22 PM  

  • I like it when someone is described as having a 'cultured left foot' although I haven't heard it yet this tournament.

    By Blogger Spearin, at 6:22 AM  

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