Saturday, November 10, 2018

TENNIS NEWS: Djokovic Returns To #1, Khachanov Breaks Through, ATP YEC Field Set (Isner, Nishikori IN, Nadal, Delpo OUT)

Because Nadal cut his entire season short (he ended up not playing the rest of the year after retiring with an injury against Del Potro in the US Open semifinals) Djokovic was assured to  return to World #1 last Monday when the Paris Masters points dropped off the calendar. This was a historic changeabout for Djojkovic who started 2018  with 6 losses and 6 wins but then had a 20-match winning streak which resulted in 3 titles (2018 Wimbledon and 2018 US Open).


The highlight of the Paris Masters was the 47th match between Federer and Djokovic, which the Serbian was able to win the 3-hour semifinal showdown 7-6(6) 5-7 7-6(3) despite never breaking Federer's serve.

By Nadal being unable to compete in the ATP World Tour Finals, Djokovic will end up as the year-end #1 since World #3 Roger Federer will be unable to get enough points to surpass the Serb by the end of the year. This is the fifth time Djokovic has ended the year at #1 (2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2018).

Karen Khachanov defeated Djokovic in the final of the ATP Paris Masters in straight sets 7-5 6-4 to win the biggest match of his career. The 6-foot-6 Russian reached a career high of World #11 and seized the ATP World Tour Finals first alternate spot with the win.

The Elite Eight is set with the field consisting of Djokovic, Federer, Sascha Zverev, Kevin Anderson, Dominic Thiem, Marin Cilic, John Isner and Kei Nshikori. The two alternates are Borna Coric and Karen Khachanov. The draw is set, with Djokovic, Zverev, Isner and Cilic in the Guga Kuerten group and Federer, Thiem,  Nishikori and Anderson in the Lleyton Hewitt group.

Friday, November 09, 2018

2018 World Chess Championship: Carlsen versus Caruana (London, November 9-28)

The 2018 World Chess championship is being held in London starting today and should last until November 28th or so. It is between the defending world champion 27-year-old Magnus Carlsen of Norway, and 26-year-old Fabiano Caruana of the United States. Carlsen has been the World #1 ranked chess player since 2010, and first won the World Championship by defeating Viswanathan Anand in 2013 at the age of 22.

However, Caruana is the first American player to challenge for the World Chess champion title since Bobby Fischer in 1972. This is a *big* deal and he is the real deal. I didn't know much about him but this article informed me of his bona fides.

Carlsen-Caruana is the matchup that the chess world was hoping for. It’s world No. 1 versus world No. 2—the first World Championship match between the top two since Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov went at it for the fifth and final time in 1990. Caruana only sits three Elo rating points behind Carlsen at 2832 to 2835, both the highest combined rating and the smallest ratings difference in World Championship history. If Caruana wins the match within the 12 classical games, he’ll not only take the title but also the world No. 1 spot that Carlsen has held continuously since July 2011—about which Magnus has said, “I would like to give you some boring, politically correct answer, but the truth is, yeah, it does bother me!”

This should be awesome!

Monday, November 05, 2018

EYE CANDY: Robert Oliveira (reprise)

Robert Oliveira is another one of my Brazilian crushes. He has appeared as eye candy only once before (July 16, 2018) but  almost certainly will make many more. There's a reason why he has over 200,000 followers on Instagram (@robert.official). Enjoy!

Thursday, November 01, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: Jar City by Arnaldur Indriðason

Jar City is the first book by Arnaldur Indriðason that I have read. I was mostly interested in reading it because it’s set in Reykjavik, and ever since the city was put on the map fro the famous World Chess Championship between Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer in 1972 I have been interested in it. I visited Reykjavik this year for a week to celebrate my birthday in May 2018. Thus it was sorta fun to read place names that were somewhat familiar in Jar City

However it turned out that Jar City the book was not that interesting to me in the end. I have a theory that quality of mystery books depends on a number of factors: the quality of the characterization of the protagonist/detective, the interesting features of the sidekicks, the compelling nature of the setting and the intricacy of the puzzle/mystery. 

Here the strongest aspect of Jar City is the puzzle. The protagonist is Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson, who is somewhat interesting but also a bit of a misanthropic and unattractive character. This is not necessarily a deal breaker for me to enjoy a mystery book, since one could also describe popular mystery characters like Inspector John Rebus by Ian Rankin. The main problem with Jar City is with the sidekicks, who are completely uninteresting to me. One  is a woman named Elinborg and a guy named Sigurður Óli. We don't get very much (if any) of the internal monologue of either of these supporting characters, and it's not even very clear what Erlendur thinks of either of his partners. One would think that the setting (Reykjavik) would be compelling but in the end the homogeneous and exotic nature of the setting is not as interesting as I had originally expected when I discovered the books existed. 

Although Jar City is technically not the first book in the Inspector Erlendur series, it is the first book in the English translation order of the books. It's also often true the first book in a mystery series is often not the author's best work. (This is definitely true of Ian Rankin, Peter Robinson and Patricia Cornwell, just to name a few.)

I have to add that the one aspect of the first book that may get me to read the future entries is Elendur’s relationship with his pregnant, drug-addicted daughter Eva Lind. I’m definitely curious about what happens to her character but there are many other series that I would rather make progress on first (Val McDermid's Tony Hill/Carol Jordan and Stuart MacBride's DS Logan McRae immediately come to mind, for instance).

Title: Jar City (Inspector Erlendur, #3).
Arnaldur Indriðason.
Paperback: 275 pages.
 Minotaur Books.
Date Published: October 1, 2005.
Date Read: July 29, 2018.

★★  (3.0/5.0).

OVERALL GRADE: B (3.0/4.0).



Wednesday, October 31, 2018

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: Ireland Votes To Abolish Blasphemy Laws

This past weekend voters in Ireland decided to abolish laws against blasphemy by approving a  referendum to remove the word "blasphemous" from the following clause in the constitution of the republic of Ireland:
The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law.
There was also a 2009 law on the books (the Defamation Act of 2009) which included blasphemy as an offense and had never been used but came to public notice in 2015 when openly gay actor Stephen Fry was investigated by the Irish police (after a complaint by an unknown  member of the public) for saying on Irish television "The god that created this universe, if it was created by a god, is quite clearly a maniac, utter maniac, totally selfish." Fry's potential legal jeopardy put the issue on the map, which eventually led to the referendum this week in which 64.85%  voted YES (43% turnout) to remove blasphemy from the Irish constitution. The government will follow with legislation to implement the will of the people to abolish the "crime" of blasphemy.

Good news!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

2018 WTA YEC: Svitolina Wins Her Biggest Title, Outlasting Stephens 36 62 62

Elina Svitolina won the biggest title of her career by defeating 2017 US Open champion and 2018 French Open finalist Sloane Stephens 3-6 6-2 6-2 to win the 2018 WTA BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore. Svitolina still has not reached a major final despite being in the Top 10 of the WTA tour for well over a year; her win here leaves her at World #4 for the 2018 season. Both Svitolina and Stephens were undefeated in round robin play to reach the semifinals, with Stephens defeating Karolina Pliskova (despite losing the first set 6-0!) and Svitolina outlasted the surprise semifinalist Kiki Bertens in three sets to reach the most important match of the year.

Monday, October 29, 2018

2018 BASEL: Federer Wins 99th Career ATP Title

Roger Federer won his 99th career ATP title at the Swiss Indoors Championships held in his hometown of Basel, Switzerland. Federer defeated Romanian qualifier Marcus Copil 6-4 7-6(5) in his 14th final in Basel to win his 9th title. The only male player who has won more titles is Jimmy Connors, who won 109 titles. I had previously thought that this total was out of range for Federer, but now I'm not so sure.


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