Agony of Defeat

Not a good week for spectator sports. Yesterday morning, the United States national team was crushed by Brazil 0-4 in the semifinal of the Women’s World Cup. Quite an upset in some senses, but Marta is an amazing player and Brazil really deserved their win. One of the things I’ve like about women’s soccer is that the top teams have come from countries with little or no success in men’s soccer such as the USA, China, and Norway. Now the WWC final has a couple of teams very familiar to the men’s World Cup finals, Germany and Brazil. Should be a good game, and I suppose the USA will be able to take third place as a consolation prize.

Meanwhile, at Shea Stadium…


Image from the MetsGrrl blog, although I learned about it from my friend Sharon.

The Mets have continued losing in new and depressing ways that defy explanation. Now the Mets are in a tie for first place with the Phillies. The good news is that the magic number is still 4. The bad news is that the Phillies magic number to eliminate the Mets is also four. There are also wild card implications and the possibility of a 5 way tie (and the Imp of the Perverse makes me want to see that). The optimist in me cannot believe that the team has become this bad, and the law of probability suggests that the Mets just cannot keep losing like this. I mean they can turn things around, win the last three games and then storm into the playoffs? The 2000 Yankees, the 2005 White Sox, the 2006 Cardinals (and 2006 Tigers) all had lousy Septembers and did quite well in October. A boy can dream can’t he?

In the meantime, we Mets fans can take small solace in the fact that Moises Alou has the longest hitting streak of the season.

I heard this song today that will carry me through the weekend, until the Mets are in the playoffs or the season is over.

When the skies are brighter canary yellow
I forget ev’ry cloud I’ve ever seen,
So they called me a cockeyed optimist
Immature and incurably green.

I have heard people rant and rave and bellow
That we’re done and we might as well be dead,
But I’m only a cockeyed optimist
And I can’t get it into my head.

I hear the human race
Is fallin’ on its face
And hasn’t very far to go,
But ev’ry whippoorwill
Is sellin’ me a bill,
And tellin’ me it just ain’t so.

I could say life is just a bowl of Jello
And appear more intelligent and smart,
But I’m stuck like a dope
With a thing called hope,
And I can’t get it out of my heart!
Not this heart…

Beer is good for memory…and other science news

As someone who is far too forgetful and loves to drink beer, the news from Scientific American that beer consumption is good for recall is a wonderful two-fer. Of course the whole story is not as good as it sounds, but it’s worth reading:

I don’t have much to add, but here are some other science stories of note from the past few weeks:



Like a lot of saints, I know Wenceslaus from just scraps of information in popular culture. In this case, a Christmas carol that was one of my favorites growing up. It tells a good story of a man of wealth and privilege providing a feast for a poor peasant. It’s a good story and a lesson worth sharing the complete lyrics:

Good King Wenceslas looked out on the feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even;
Brightly shone the moon that night, tho’ the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight gath’ring winter fuel.


“Hither, page, and stand by me, if thou know’st it, telling,
Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?”
“Sire, he lives a good league hence, underneath the mountain;
Right against the forest fence, by Saint Agnes’ fountain.”


“Bring me flesh, and bring me wine, bring me pine logs hither:
Thou and I will see him dine, when we bear them thither.”
Page and monarch, forth they went, forth they went together;
Through the rude wind’s wild lament and the bitter weather.


“Sire, the night is darker now, and the wind blows stronger;
Fails my heart, I know not how, I can go no longer.”
“Mark my footsteps, my good page. Tread thou in them boldly:
Thou shalt find the winter’s rage freeze thy blood less coldly.”


In his master’s steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod which the saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure, wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing.

I also know that Wenceslaus is the patron saint of Prague, a place I’d much like to visit. But who was the real Wenceslaus? Apparently, the carol is not factually accurate and the song writer Neale used the name as much for meter as for tribue the real man. But Wenceslaus was good, a Prince of Bohemia who ruled with principles at the time of political unrest. For his troubles he was murdered on the way to church by a rival younger brother.

More information: