Monthly Archives: December 2017

The Numbers Game by Chris Anderson and David Sally

The Numbers Game, by Chris Anderson and David Sally, explores the change that is coming to soccer by the use of analytics using their own studies and findings, as well as others. But in these findings, a more symbolic theme can be found, one of the central ideas that I will discuss in the blogs.

One of these instances is when the authors question the importance of the use of statistics when they find that only around 50% of games are decided by skill, while the other 50% are decided by chance. Despite this, at the highest level, clubs still attempt to improve their level of play, showing the importance of controlling what can be controlled. Even if the manageable aspect is smaller than what is desired (as it is with the clubs), being able to manage a larger portion increases the chances that one has their desired outcome. While this may seem obvious when thinking reasonably, this concept is easily forgotten in times of difficulty or success (winning or losing for the clubs).

Another message is delivered when the seldom occurrence of goals is described. Over the last 100 years, goals have gradually decreased in quantity and on average, it takes more time for a goal to be scored; a consistent characteristic between different locations, leagues, play styles, and strategies. (Before I go any further, it is crucial to understand that goals make up soccer and they are the ultimate intention. Without goals, soccer could not function.) Despite this common characteristic, one example of many, viewers create different perceptions of players based on where and what they come from. These common characteristics are a defining part of soccer and all of its participants. One must remember that a universal trait that unites people is more significant than a trait that separates and potentially harms others.



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Salt, Sugar, Fat by Michael Moss (1/2)

I came across this book in Health Class, during our Nutrition unit. My teacher, Mrs. Blash, gave all of her students the introduction to this book so we could learn a little bit about “How the Food Giants Hooked Us,” as the novel says on its cover. I have always been interested in food and nutrition, so once I read the first few pages of the book, I was immediately hooked.

The premise of the book is simple: the author, Michael Moss, explores how giant food companies like Kraft, General Foods, and Nestle have used salt, sugar, and fat to get people addicted to their products. He splits the book up into three sections, each corresponding to one of the ingredients in the title.

The first section, “sugar”, takes up about half of the book.  In these chapters, Moss uses a plethora of studies, interviews with leaders of big food companies, and in-depth research to show what a danger this ingredient is to our nation’s health–and how processed food is chock full of it.

Moss talks a lot about the “bliss point” of a food: the optimal amount of an ingredient like sugar in a product to give the consumer the greatest amount of dopamine, or pleasure.  He talks about Howard Moskowitz, who helped Dr. Pepper create one of their most successful drinks: Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper.  Moss explains, “His goal in each case has been to find the bliss point.  Moskowitz searches for just the right amount of certain ingredients to generate the greatest appeal among consumers.  Too little of this or too much of that might not ruin a product’s taste or texture, but the shortcoming will be reflected in sales.” (179 iBook)

This search “for just the right amount of certain ingredients to generate the greatest appeal among consumers” has become the goal of all major food companies.  I was surprised by how mathematical the process of finding the bliss point is.  It seems like it should not be difficult to create a delicious food, and yet as Moss says, if the balance of ingredients is not perfect,”the shortcoming will be reflected in sales.”

One thing that shocked me when reading about these big food companies was how  companies like Dr. Pepper were willing to ignore the health dangers of their “foods”.  The more sugary their products, the worse the health of the public.  And yet, the more sugary their products, the higher their sales.  And in the end, sales are what motivate these companies most.

A part of the book that struck me was a confession from Jeffrey Dunn, a high-ranking Coca-Cola executive who was fired after trying to add some healthy changes to Coke’s products.  He was sent to Brazil to judge it as a “prime target [area]” (512 iBook) for selling Coke.  Dunn walked through an impoverished area of Rio de Janeiro, and as he did so, he came to a terrifying realization.  Moss quotes him: “A voice in my head says, ‘These people need a lot of things, but they don’t need a Coke.’  I almost threw up.  From that moment forward, the fun came out of it for me.” (512 iBook)

So far, this book has been very eye-opening, giving me a glimpse of the greedy ways of processed food manufacturers.  It is empowering to understand what is going on in the food I buy and to know what I can do to avoid supporting the companies that sell sugary products.  Although this novel is at times dry with all of the information crammed into it, the tone was overall humorous and informative, and I found myself truly enjoying the first half of this book.  I look forward to learning about salt and fat next.





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Crooked River 1/2

Crooked River follows two teenage sisters and their eccentric father as they attempt to unravel the full scope of a murder in the rural Oregon town of Terrebonne. Sam and her younger sister Ollie reconcile and move in with their estranged father – whom they call Bear – after their mother’s death. The author, Valerie Geary, has an aptitude for description: “Bees flew lazy around his face and head, tangling in his grizzly-red hair and thick beard, but he didn’t swat at them or try to pick them out” (6). The story begins with a nonchalant description of a dead woman lying face down in Crooked river, exhibiting the experience that Sam and Ollie already have with death. The book is told from the alternating perspectives of the sisters, emphasizing how the revelations about the murder of this woman connect to the sisters’ own lives.
Bear is an introverted beekeeper who left Sam and Ollie with their mom and fled to the countryside for an undisclosed reason when they were young. Many of Sam’s chapters are spent dissecting why Bear left, and what he was hiding, both then and also now in the context of the murder. Ollie was too young to remember when Bear left, but when he is accused of murdering the woman, The Shimmering (ghost-like humans) ascertain that he is not guilty. When evidence begins to build up pointing to Bear’s guilt, he seems unwilling to fight the charges he would soon be facing, attempting to force Sam to turn in the woman’s jacket that he found the morning after her murder. The reader learns of Bear’s innocence through Sam and Ollie’s perspective, but is then left to wonder why Bear almost wants to be found guilty of her murder. Any reader just can’t help but get the feeling that the accepted facts and story of this case are just a facade, and the real story of the case is hidden far below.
As detectives begin to investigate Bear, a new character comes into the story: Travis Roth. His father, a once famous artist named Billy Roth, stopped making sculptures around the time that Bear left his family. Ollie is told by the Shimmering that Travis is not to be trusted, although she isn’t able to stop Sam from being friends with him because she doesn’t talk. She fears that the Shimmering will take her voice and tell their own miseries if she opens her mouth. This adds a layer of frustration to the story, the reader and Ollie both know the truth long before the rest of the characters can catch up. The first half of Crooked River has been littered with many rich descriptions of rural Oregon landscape, and has been enjoyable overall.


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“The Color of Water” by James McBride (Part 1)

In this striking memoir, James McBride brings forth all of the shades of grey between black and white as his own identity is obscured from him. Unwillingly, he is torn between two worlds, the stark white one his mother lives in, and the midnight black his father came from. Finding himself in the middle, at a point that is foggy grey, through his writing does he show his battles to see through the mist and unveil a clear identity. But through the gloom does he not only find himself, but before that, he uncovers the remarkable story of his mother, a white Orthodox Jew who married a black man in a time where this was still vilified.

So far, The Color of Water is an esoteric exploration of the significance of being able to have an identity and what it means to not be able to distinguish yourself. As McBride discovers, if you don’t know who you are, then you don’t know who you fit in with. But asides from the questions raised about himself, McBride brings to life his mother’s own collected knowledge in a way that I notably enjoyed. His perspectives switch from his own childhood events to his mother’s experiences as she told him. How the memoir is written, it is like two stories unfolding at the same time; not in a confusing manner but in a way that leads the reader to contrast the lives of McBride and Rachel, his mother. Reading into the beginning of the book, it is clear that there are a collection of similarities. Rachel, fresh to America with her Jewish family, is outcasted from the rest of the town she grew up in because of her Jewish heritage while James McBride is shut out even in his black community for not being “truly black”. The juxtaposition of the two’s history is just the start of a exquisitely brushed touch on racial isolation.

The middle of the first half begins to focus on what this sense of non-existent identification means for McBride’s family in the time he grew up in. Beginning in the 1920s for his mother’s childhood recollections and making his journey all the way up to 1990s, he emphasizes the 30s, 40s, 50s, and especially the 60s as the years when racial tensions in his life grew most taught. With the rising of The Black Panther group, McBride and many other of his older siblings were forced to choose a side. Having a white mother, he talks about the fear that enabled him from choosing which brings back his struggle with who he is. Would he stand for the injustice against his black community or would he stay passive for his white mother? At the opposite end of the timeline, the struggles for Rachel were rooted from her abusive father. Although she did love her father she did not know how to cope with the violations her father had committed against her.  The pressures of love and loyalty versus duty and what is right also push through McBride’s writing as it makes the reader reflect on what choices they have made in their own life that have taken a tremendous amount of will to execute.

One attribute that I also found to heavily influence the lives of McBride and his mother were the considerable amount of loss they had individually endured as even their shared losses became an individual struggle. McBride never really knew his biological father although he grew up with a stepfather as glorious as a real dad but unfortunately, another life was taken from him and his mother. But as he recollects, “Just like Mommy did years before me, I began my own process of running, emotionally disconnecting myself from her, as if by doing so I could keep her suffering from touching me” (138). This separation seemed to not only work as a way to avoid his mother’s sorrow, but any sorrow at all. The effect this had was not so much the pain but the loss of any figure who he idolized. Many of the people in his life James McBride looked up to passed too soon leaving him without anyone’s footsteps to follow. Before they could teach him his place in the world they would be gone and he would be left still unknowing of who he was.

This vital search to find oneself brings to light what makes up all of us individually, and it reaches the point of us where we are asked who are we? The moving start to James McBride’s memoir only wants me to dive deeper into the story of how he found himself, if he does, and it wants me to find the heart of his mother’s own history. Up to now, I have been moved, questioned, and answered and I am even more thrilled to seek out the meaningful messages buried between the pages.


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A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman 1/2

A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman follows the life of Ove, who has often been labeled as the typical grumpy old man by almost everyone he meets. This book gives an insight into Ove’s thoughts as he encounters everyday obstacles as well as life changing events.

In the book, Ove is portrayed as a cantankerous old man. The majority of people have come across a man like Ove at some point in their lives, and at the time it was most likely difficult to understand how someone could become so grouchy or irritable. To explain Ove’s somewhat mean nature, the author often alternates between scenes of Ove’s current day life and his younger years. By doing this, the reader learns about Ove’s past, including his father, who’s no-nonsense attitude has greatly influenced Ove’s outlook on life. The cause of his hardworking and blunt personality is also revealed when the reader learns that Ove had lived on his own since late childhood when his dad died, causing him to mature much faster than those around him. By going over scenes from Ove’s past, the author provides much more depth to his character.

Throughout the first half of the book, a main focus is the large impact that the death of Ove’s wife has had on him. “But if anyone had asked, he would have told them that he never lived before he met her. And not after either” (136). In his early years, Ove lived a simple life that was devoid of excitement or joy. This all changed when he first met Sonja. Sonja provided him with a sense of worth and happiness, so when she died, Ove felt as if he had no purpose left in the world. Because of this, six months after Sonja’s death, Ove made the decision to kill himself. In the first half of the book, his thoughts of suicide are often discussed in a casual manner, even though it is a serious subject. This may be to portray Ove’s feelings about the topic, as he believes it to be a logical decision rather than one made out of the sadness he feels from losing Sonja.

Ove has made the decision to end his life because he feels that he has nothing left to live for, but the arrival of new neighbors next-door might change that. On two occasions, Ove has attempted to take his life but has been interrupted by the new neighbors, Parvaneh and Patrick. This may be foreshadowing the new relationships that will form later on in the book. Parvaneh and Patrick often ask for help from Ove which he usually responds to with insulting comment, clearly annoyed by the many disturbances they have caused. Although Ove currently thinks of his new neighbors as bothersome, they may later serve as the people that add purpose back to Ove’s life while stopping him from feeling that he needs to commit suicide.

Even though I have found the first half to be somewhat slow-paced, I have been enjoying A Man Called Ove.  I am also interested to learn how Ove continues to deal with the death of his wife and how his relationship with Parvaneh and Patrick will develop in the second half of the book.



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The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie

The ABC Murders  is one of the Hercule Poirot stories, I got this book, along with a few others during Christmas, and immediately treading it. I have watched the Murder on the Orient Express movie, which was based off of the book written by Agatha Christie, that’s also a Hercule Poirot book, and this book has not disappointed me so far. The jump in between numerous settings puts the spotlight on the characters and their interactions, This fluid nature of settings allows the reader to really assume and speculate about the culprit of the crime. It’s narrated by an acquaintance of the main character Hercule Poirot, Dr.Sheppard, which-in my opinion-was a better choice than if it had been narrated by Hercule himself, because it leaves a lot of possibility, and a lot of variables to be considered when reading this. The plot is similar to your classic murder mystery; however, it feels different. Hercule doesn’t get obscure, extremely specific details from the tiniest clue like Sherlock Holmes, but instead, he accepts the fact that he is indeed, a human being, with limitations, and faults, and proceeds to solve the case in a way that is still astounding, but not too unrealistic that we lose interest in the characters, and simply use it to figure it out ourselves, skipping about like it is nothing but a game, not to be taken seriously. Agatha Christie is an amazing writer, and I am on the edge of my seat, desperate for more.


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Ready Player One: By Ernest Cline

Ready Player One is a story that revolves around Wade Watts, a young adult who lives in the apocalyptic world of 2045 Oklahoma City. As an ongoing Energy Crisis continues throughout the world, everyone turns to one method to escape: The OASIS. Essentially, the OASIS is a virtual-reality game that is fully immersive, allowing a person to  experience a virtual universe as if it was reality. The game is so appealing because of it’s incredibly cheap price (of one cent), as well as the ability to go anywhere anyone would want. However, perhaps the most appealing aspect of the game is the ability to turn into anyone you wanted. Wade views himself as an overweight, ugly teenager. However, in the OASIS, he is Parzival, a handsome, fit young man. In the novel, the creator of the OASIS, James Donovan Halliday, dies, leaving a massive fortune left for a successor. However, Halliday never had relatives, meaning that no one would inherit his amassed wealth of over half a trillion dollars. However, Halliday secretly created a contest, where whoever could find an “easter egg”  through a series of clues would inherit his entire fortune as well as the ability to control the OASIS. Of course, everyone in the world scrambles to find this egg, and soon, the world is devoting all of it’s time and energy to this cause. However, after many years of failure to find the first clue, excitement dies down and everyone returns to the regular pains of daily life. Everyone except Parzival. Using clues found in a poem, Parzival “plays” Dungeons of Daggorath, a relatively unknown videogame, as well as role-playing out a character’s part in the movie Wargames, allowing him to acquire a key that  eventually will assist him in acquiring the egg. Being the only person to ever accomplish this feat, the world quickly takes notice, and the mad scramble to find clues begins again. However, this eventually goes south as a power hungry corporation known as IOI begins to take interest Parzival, and begins to take steps to exploit the contest for their own benefit. However, Parzival is not alone. With his online friends, Aech and Art3mis (who eventually complete the first challenge), he attempts to find the second clue. However, it seemingly is impossible. After months of worthless scrutiny, Wade forgets about the contest, and instead, focuses his attention on socialization. Instead after chasing after his lifelong goal, Wade descends into the depths of advertising and corporate business, all bent on the prospect of using him as a marketing tool.

This book was a gripping story and in many ways, a page turner. It always kept the reader engaged and immersed in the book. Perhaps the book’s best foot is the room that it leaves a reader to explore. Instead of providing incredibly rich description, the book takes a different approach by creating just enough description to allow a reader to imagine a scene in their own light. This made the novel very dynamic and interesting, as I was almost creating my own world in my head from what I was reading.

However, the most frustrating and weak point of the book is the amount of references to pop culture. “At first, I thought the neglected dwelling might be a reference to Revenge of the Nerds, one of Halliday’s favorite films. In that movie, the nerds of the title rent a dilapidated house and fix it up (during a classic ’80s music montage). I visited a re-creation of the Revenge of the Nerds house on the planet Skolnick and spent a day searching it, but it proved to be a dead end.” (321) Excerpt From: Ernest Cline. “Ready Player One.” The problem with the book was the amount and variety of references that existed, much of it to movies, books, and video games I have never heard of. It was hard to grasp at times what point Cline was trying to make when tying his book to another media, enough so that I had to do research on my own to decipher what part of each media was being referred to. This grew very tiring and lengthy, as I always had to search for a specific cutscene, sentence, or obscure fact. At least to me, this felt a bit excessive, especially since the majority of the population reading this novel most likely does not know such a variety of pop culture.

Overall, I would give this book a 8.5/10, at least so far. It certainly is a different book, enough so that I would classify it as a breath of fresh air compared to other books that we have read. I recommend it to anyone who is excited at the prospect of a good mystery and a thrilling story, but otherwise, it may be too much trouble to research about random movies on Reddit in you’re free time.


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