What I Learned – Playing Putt-Putt with Chad Marshall

(This post is part of the continuing series called, “What I Learned.” In this series, I keep track of things that sparked my brain during different events and experiences.)

I’ve long said that the Seattle Sounders do more smart things for their fans and supporters than any team I’ve ever run across. Last week, they held a small event, hosting a pub night at a local bar near the stadium. The bar features a 9 hole indoor putt-pitt course, and as luck would have it, I got to play mini-golf with Sounders CB Chad Marshall and LM Aaron Kovar.

Both guys were great. Marshall was drinking a beer, and talking about golf and his 2 year old kid. Kovar is a friendly kid who looks like a guy you’d sit next to on a bus, going to his job at Amazon.
Of course, I didn’t think of anything really good to ask them until I was already home, but I did learn one thing. We talked a little about language barriers and how the team deals with that in training. Marshall admitted it’s a real problem for teams. Each team has interpreters on staff to translate what the coaches are saying in terms of strategy and game plans. But on the field for example, some players only speak Spanish, one only speaks French, and some – including the Goalkeeper – only speak English. So when a team is defending free kicks, basically the only words they can say to each other are “left, right, and back.”
My takeaway – whenever you see a goal scored from a free kick, especially if someone lost their mark, there was probably some sort of miscommunication between guys who speak different languages. I can only imagine what it must be like in Eurpoean leagues.

My Facebook Feed’s Predictions for 2017 (Part 1)

It’s the time of year when I get to reflect and think about the years immediately behind and ahead of me. I like to try to make some predictions to myself; not for clickbait or blog views, but so I can try to avoid being in a state of surprise and reaction as the year unfolds.

This year, I don’t have to do that. Thanks to the election of Donald Trump, I can simply look at my Facebook feed and see what everyone believes will happen. Between my friends and the media, 2017 has already been decided. So according to Facebook, here are some things the consensus has agreed upon will absolutely happen.

  1. We’re all going to become Russians: Apparently we already are Russian, we just didn’t know it. Russia controls our elections and our President. The policies that will be implemented in 2017 will be strictly designed to benefit Vladimir Putin.
  2. The KKK will reign supreme: According to my Facebook feed, a Trump Presidency means that it will be gosh darn near socially unacceptable for me to associate with members of different races. It stinks that I suddenly won’t be allowed to hang out with my friends who aren’t white.
  3. The Supreme Court will have 3 new members who believe Hitler was too liberal: It seems to be widely agreed upon that a Trump Presidency will surely lead to a new Supreme Court makeup in which 2 older Democrats and an empty seat will be filled by people who hate freedom and promote persecuting personal freedoms. That is certainly disappointing.
  4. No one who makes less than $120,000 a year will have Health Care: From what I’ve read on Facebook, with the repeal of ObamaCare almost everyone will lose their Health Insurance, even people who have other types of Health Insurance.
  5. Nuclear war with China is imminent: Now this scares me a lot, but makes the rest of the list pretty irrelevant. I live on the west coast near a Navy base. We must be high on the early target list. So, I guess the other things won’t matter since I’ll be part of a giant mushroom cloud.

This all nets out to a pretty depressing look into 2017. But I like to be more optimistic than this. So I think my resolution in 2017 is to ignore Facebook and watch channels like Bloomberg instead.

What We Are Going to Do in 5 Years With All Those Non-Driverless Cars?

I’m not really a car guy. I like when other people have really nice cars, and I could certainly afford to have a nice car, but for some reason I’m wired to be perfectly happy driving the same Acura for the last 16 years. But 16 years is a long time and the reality is that my car will die someday. So I have started looking around for my next automobile.

However, my research hit a snag almost the moment I started. You see, everything I read is that driverless cars are somewhere between 5 and 10 years away. Which begs the question? Why on earth would I buy a regular car today, if no one will want to buy it when the driverless versions start coming out?

And the bigger meta-question is, what the heck will happen to the millions and millions of regular automobiles out there? Here are some options.

  1. Some really smart people are going to figure out how to transform regular cars into driverless ones. Or, I suspect the GM, Ford, Acura, Toyota, etc… will all figure out a way to do it.
  2.  In 3 to 5 years, leasing becomes such an attractive option that there’s just no reason to buy a new car. You’ll have one last regular car for 3-5 years and in your next lease you’ll get a driverless one.
  3. There will be an amazing glut of really nice 5 year old cars on the market.  In 2022, the supply of 2019 BMW’s will so outpace the demand that people who don’t choose a driverless option will be able to get a car that’s nicer than anything they ever thought they could afford.

But the crux of the issue is this. What do I do? Do I just wait until my car dies? Or do I hope it lasts 5 more years and be the first kid on the block with a driverless car? Thoughts?

A Few Thoughts About Sigi Schmid

It’s the end of an era. Quite literally.

The Seattle Sounders have only known one head coach in all their days. Through 250 MLS matches, a host of playoff games and some lengthy runs through the U.S. Open Cup and Champions League, Sigi Schmid has been the only man driving the bus. And now that ride has ended.

While Sigi was alone in compiling 115 wins, 69 losses and 66 draws from 2009-1016, the Seattle Mariners are now on a 5th manager to pull them out of their 573-660 streak.

Sigi will get criticism for not winning the MLS Cup, a compliant that seemed to heat up after the Seahawks got their ring three Super Bowls ago. And the cry of, “Well we’re still an expansion team” fell on deaf ears as soon as the hatred Portland Timbers raised the cup ahead of the Sounders. At that point, the knives were out.

But Is 2016 Sigi’s Fault?

The Sounders had a run of bad luck last year that stretched them thin, so they stocked up on some guys who were supposed to plug the holes and then provide depth in 2016. At this time this year, here is what the Sounders lineup was “supposed” to look like:

Forwards: Starters: Obafemi Martins, Dempsey, Valdez. Bench: Jordan Morris.
Mids: Alonso, Evans, Ivanschitz. Bench: Kovar, Roldan, Friberg.
Def: Mears, Torres, Marshall, Jones. Bench: Scott, Remick.

Instead, Torres is hurt and Martins is sitting on a bench in China. Dempsey missed a month on National team duty. The Sounders were trotting out a lineup of role players and hoping Jordan Morris could dramatically exceed any reasonable expectation of a rookie. Evans got shoved back to defense and couldn’t contribute on offense. When Dempsey was here, he had no one to pass to. The team was so slow that defenses could push high up the field and pressure guys like Scott into turning it over in front of goal.

A lot of things went wrong this year, and I’m not sure if any coach could make that lineup work. The Sigi detractors have a fair point – that with the players we ended up with, he stubbornly stuck to a formation that didn’t seem to fit them. It’s really a double edged sword. If he was switching formations every few games (the way we all would playing FIFA on XBox) and it didn’t work, we’d be yelling about that.

And so that leaves Sounderland in a little bit of a quandary. Sigi was “our guy” from the get go. Adrian is “our guy.” GM Garth Lagerway is a Real Salt Lake guy. “Our guy” took a fall because the coaching staff and management team couldn’t get results in 2016 with the product they put together. Now we have to trust in Lagerway to find the right players and the right coach.

I’ll miss Sigi. I’ll miss wondering how a guy who spends every day on a soccer field and eating meals specially prepared by a scientific driven training team could possibly weigh in at 3 bills. I’ll miss standing behind the bench trying to figure out what crazy substitution is coming next.

But this is a reminder that nothing lasts forever. The storybook start to the Sounders franchise, with Sigi leading us to a 3-1 win over New York, still hasn’t had the magical payoff moment we’ve been waiting for. I hope it comes soon enough that Schmid’s fingerprints are still on the team. I hope we get to see Brad Evans and Ozzie Alonso lift a cup and we can remember Sigi’s original influence.

So long sir. I feel lucky that we had you take the reins at the beginning and lead us to where we are today. Best of luck in whatever challenge you take on next.

Explaining Why the Sounders are Playing Tonight, in 30 Seconds or Less

The Sounders play their 1st game of the MLS season on March 6. But today is February 23 and they have a home game that matters against a Mexican team called Club America. For you non-soccer fans, I will attempt to explain in the fewest words possible.

1) In 2014, while the regular season was being played, the Sounders won a different tournament called the U.S. Open Cup. That made them one of 4 American teams to qualify for yet another DIFFERENT 24 team tournament in 2015 called the Concacaf Champions League (Concacaf = Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football.)

2) In 2015, they played the “Group Stage,” where the 24 teams were split into 8 groups of 3, with the winner of each advancing to the next round. So the Sounders played 2 games against a team from Canada and 2 games against a team from Honduras. They won their Group, thus advancing to the final round of 8.

3) HOWEVER, due to the weird schedules of U.S. and Mexican leagues, you can’t actually play the quarterfinals, semi-finals and finals of the 2015 tournament in 2015. So these rounds are being played in February, March and April of 2016. In each round, the teams will play two games against their opponent, one at home, one on the road a week later. Most goals after two games wins.

4) Out of the 24 teams that qualified for the tournament originally, 4 were from the Mexican League and 4 were from the U.S. The other 16 came from all over Central America; Honduras, Trinidad, Guatemala, etc… All 4 teams from Mexico and all 4 teams from the U.S. advanced to the final round of 8. So if you are a math wizard, you are able to quickly see than ZERO of the 16 teams from the other countries made it past the U.S. and Mexican teams. In fact, when you look at the overall records in the Group Stage, U.S. teams were 10-5-1 and Mexican teams 10-4-2. Yes, in 32 games, U.S. and Mexican teams lost a total of 3 times.

Now, you might ask the question, “Well if the U.S. and Mexican teams are the only ones to make it through the Group Stage anyway, why do they play meaningless games in 2015 and delay the Knockout rounds until a full 2 seasons after the teams qualified? Why not skip the Group Stage and just have an 8 team Knockout in the right year?”

That’s a question I don’t really have a better answer for than, “Well, it’s soccer.”

Adding to the lunacy of the whole thing, because each group has 3 teams, by mathematical definition all the teams in the groups can’t play in the same 24 hours, like every other tournament in the world would schedule games. So in a quirk of fate, last year the Sounders won their group BEFORE the other two teams in their group had played their final game. Thus, Vancouver had to fly to Honduras in the middle of the week to play a game that didn’t matter, wasn’t on TV and no one wanted to go to. I think they sent like 13 of their youngsters and were in and out in 24 hours.

So that’s why the Sounders are playing tonight.

What I’m Looking Forward to in 2016, List 1

I don’t do predictions. But I like to read other people’s predictions. And based on what I accomplished in 2015 and what other people are saying is coming, here’s what I’m looking forward to in the year ahead.
1) Travel: In 2015, I made it to Spain, France and Italy. I also enjoyed a fantastic 2 week road trip through Southern California and the Central Coast, and an annual trip to Arizona. In 2016, I’d love to get to France for a Euro 2016 match, Cuba, and Orlando to see the Sounders play.
2) More medical technology: This isn’t really my field, but I’m fascinated how devices are becoming available that can help people with preventative medicine. From heart trackers, to cholesterol monitors to simple devices that measure stress, I’v never been more interested in health products.
3) 3D Printing: It’s still years away from being practical in every home. But there was also a day when mobile phones were useless devices that weighed 8 pounds and had to be plugged into a cigarette lighter. Keep you eye on this and notice the baby steps the industry makes.
4) Really bad political drama: Oh lord, this year’s Presidential election is going to be a disaster. If you were a company that needed to fly under the radar, this campaign is going to give you plenty of air cover.
5) The Mariners: Last year I was skeptical. I believe in Mariners 2017, and that Mariners 2016 will at least be interesting to watch as it’s being built.

That’s today’s top 5. More later in the week.

A Visit to MakerBot

Everyone has different ways to enjoy time visiting a foreign city. Some people love trying restaurants. Some like museums and sightseeing. I like going to cool companies I have heard about and talking with the people who work there.

I think 3D Printing is one of the next big things and will eventually have a huge effect on the global supply chain and how we produce and purchase everyday materials. Sure, it’s still in its infancy today, but the potential opportunities are limitless.

Makerbot Screenshot

So when I was in New York and found out an old colleague of mine worked at Makerbot, a leader in 3D printing, it was like someone else hearing they could get a private tour of the Louvre.

Makerbot Prototype

I was under NDA when I was there, but I think I’m allowed to say that there are now more than 600 Makerbot employees (and they’re hiring a ton more.)

Makerbot 3D Printer

I think I’m also allowed to say that people are doing more than just printing little toys. People are designing and printing their own iPhone cases at home, theatre companies are printing custom masks, architects are printing full scale models and industries across the board are coming up with their own ideas.

Makerbot Spool

So if you are a doubter in the technology, I’d ask you think about 3D printing the way people looked at cell phones in 1980. Back then it may have been big, slow and only apply to a few people. But look at how the world has changed now that everyone in the world can have a mobile broadcasting and computing device in their pocket.

Makerbot Large Machine

Thanks for the tour of the office. Lots of cool stuff is coming from them soon.

World Cup Round 1 – Continent vs Continent

Only 32 teams are invited to the World Cup finals that you are watching now. How did the 190 or so teams get whittled down to these? Well, there are 3 years of intra-continent tournaments that deliver a few finalists. Here’s how the allocations break out:
1 Host Country
13 European Countries
5 South American Countries
5 African Countries
4 North American / Central American Countries
4 Asian Countries

So, is Europe deserving of 13 spots? Is Africa worthy of 5? Let’s look at the first round of games. (For this comparison, we’re putting the host Brazil with the other 5 South American teams)

North/Central America (4): 3 wins, 1 loss. Vs Africa 2-0-0. Vs South America 1-0-0. Vs Europe 0-1-0.
South America (6): 4 wins, 2 losses, 0 ties. Vs Europe: 3-1-0. Vs Asia 1-0-0. Vs North America 0-1-0.
Europe (13): Total record: 6-6-1. Record vs non-European teams 3-3-1: Vs South America: 1-3-0. Vs NA: 1-0-0. Vs Africa 1-0-0. Vs Asia: 0-0-1
Africa (5): 1 win, 3 losses and 1 tie. Vs North America: 0-2-0. Vs Europe: 0-1-0. Vs Asia 1-0-1.
Asia (4): 0 wins, 2 losses, 2 ties. Vs Africa 0-1-1. Vs Europe 0-0-1. Vs South America 0-1-0.

So what does this tell us?
– The only African or Asian team to get a point against a non Asian or African team is South Korea, with a tie against Russia.
– South America has been as good as advertised, other than Uruguay.
– North America has been pleasantly surprising.
– Europe could not be more neutral.

Clearly the African and Asian teams are struggling, while Sweden and Ukraine are sitting at home. Maybe we should be allocating some of their spots to Europe.

Opposing the Arena Cost Richard Conlin His Job

This is pretty much purely my speculation…

Fact: Out of 16 people on the Seattle City and King County Councils, Richard Conlin was one of 2 people to oppose the proposed arena. From Wikipedia:

On October 15, 2012, both the King County Council and Seattle City Council approved a financing plan for a $490 million sports arena in the Seattle’s Sodo neighborhood, backed by venture capitalist Chris Hansen. The King County Council vote was 9-0, while the City Council vote was 7-2, with Conlin and Nick Licata as the only opposition.[16] The new arena was intended to host the NBASeattle SuperSonics professional basketball team as well as a potential NHL ice hockey team.

Opinion: I voted against Conlin solely because of this.  Didn’t even look to see who the opposition was. (Of course, the joke’s on me – the opposition is a Socialist and I’m stuck with THAT for 4 years, but anyway.)

Conlin’s only colleague in his failed anti-arena effort was Nick Licata, who keeps getting elected under the same Seattle-specific psuedo-common sense that says people should wear socks with birkenstocks, refuse to use umbrellas in the rain and improve traffic by getting rid of car lanes for bike lanes. It appears Licata was at least lucky enough to be able to wait for the election to be over before having to launch his failed initiative to derail $151,000 from funding a more formalized Seattle Startup Initiative. I breathe a little thanks that Licata has lost enough pull that he can’t completely derail common sense in the Council anymore. Still, I can’t help think that as a city, we get what we deserve as long as we continue to elect that crackpot. But it’s worth noting that he waited until his paycheck for the next 4 years was secure before trying his latest effort to hold Seattle back.

But back to the point of the story. Richard Conlin is forced out of his job of guiding a city, and headed back to a job of writing policy for non-profits, thanks in part to his refusing to help bring a privately-funded arena to life.  He could have used common sense and kept his job. But he didn’t. And by refusing, he forced voters to go against common sense and elect a Socialist. All in all a wash for the voters, and a loss for him.