Tuesday, May 23, 2017

TENNIS TUESDAY: ATP Top 5 Is 30+; Zverev,Svitolina Win Rome; Nadal Clay Win Streak Over; Agassi Rumored To Be Next Supercoach



ROME TITLES WON BY UNDERDOGS: SVITOLINA BEATS HALEP, ZVEREV WINS DJOKOVIC
Sascha Zverev of Germany became the first player born in the 1990s to win a ATP Masters Series title by defeating Novak Djokovic in straight sets 6-4 6-3. On the women's side, Simona Halep lost a tough 3-set match to Elena Svitolina in the Rome final after rolling her ankle in the second set.

THE ENTIRE ATP TOP 5 IS NOW OVER 30: MURRAY, DJOKOVIC, WAWRINKA, NADAL and FEDERER.
The entire ATP Top 5 is now over 30 years old for the first time, with #2 Novak Djokovic turning 30 on May 22. World #1 Andy Murray turned 30 on May 15th, Stan Wawrinka is 32, Rafael Nadal will turn 31 on June 3 and Roger Federer is 35.

NADAL LOSES ON CLAY FOR FIRST TIME IN 2017 (TO DOMINC THIEM)
The third time was the charm! For the 3rd time in 2017, Dominc Thiem faced King of Clay Rafael Nadal on his best surface and this time he came out the winner, blasting winners from both wings and dismissing Nadal in straight sets, 6-4 6-3 in the quarterfinals of Rome. Ominously, Thiem followed up this career-best performance with a merciless drubbing 6-1 6-0 at the hands of Djokovic in the semifinals. Nadal's win streak on clay in 2017 was stopped at 17.

ANDRE AGASSI RUMORED TO BECOME DJOKOVIC'S NEW "SUPERCOACH"
The tennis world was stunned by Djokovic's decision to fire his entire coaching staff a few weeks ago. Now the current World #2 is close to announcing his new coach will be 8-time major champion Andre Agassi as his coach. Agassi will join Djokovic for the 21017 French Open at least and perhaps longer. Previously Djokovic was coached by another all-time great, in Boris Becker for over 2 years.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

POLL: Support For Marriage Equality Nearly 2:1 (64%-34%)


As someone who was in the trenches fighting for marriage equality for close to twenty years, it is exciting to report that public opinion has now swung dramatically in favor of supporting same-sex marriages.

According to Gallup, 64% of Americans support marriage equality, with opposition at 34%. Even Republicans have plurality support for the position that the law should support marriages between same-sex couples.

To put it succinctly, Gallup says:
Though the Supreme Court has settled the legality of same-sex marriage, a third of Americans are opposed to it. 
But support for gay marriage has gradually increased over the past two decades, reaching majority support with new groups, as it did with senior citizens in 2016 and Protestants this year. Republicans' support for gay marriage is also at a new high and could trend toward majority support in the near future.
It is worth noting that nearly two years after Obergefell legalize same-sex marriage that a full third of respondents think it should be illegal.

However it is pretty awesome to see the trend; hopefully it will remain monotonically increasing from now on!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch


The synopsis of Dark Matter is:
From the author of the bestselling Wayward Pines trilogy, Dark Matter is a brilliantly plotted tale that is at once sweeping and intimate, mind-bendingly strange and profoundly human—a relentlessly surprising science-fiction thriller about choices, paths not taken, and how far we’ll go to claim the lives we dream of.
I found this description quite accurate because the book really is about "the paths not taken" and it really is a thought-provoking, action-packed sci-fi thriller.

The premise of Dark Matter is preposterous: somehow a guy named Jason Dessen has created a device which allows access to the multiverse, i.e. the collection of all possible realities which are spawned by the various choices made and alternate events that occur every second.

The Jason Dessen we (the reader) meet is a physics professor at a small-time college in Chicago who lives with his loving wife Daniela and their 14-year-old son Charlie. At one point Jason had researched the possibility of building a device that could access the multiverse but when budding artist Dani announced she was pregnant they got married, Charlie was born and Jason abandoned his project to access the multiverse.

It's that point in time 15 years ago which two competing universes are generated by the two choices that Jason made that is the key moment which animates Dark Matter

Jason2 (the one who invented the multiverse device) regrets his decision so he goes back and kidnaps Jason1 (Charlie's dad) and swaps places with him.

It takes an annoyingly long time for Jason1 to realize that he's in an alternate universe. (It's never a good sign when the reader/audience understands more about the character's predicament than the character does.)

However the book is quite engaging despite the bizarre nature of the situation. It poses key questions: what makes a person unique? How should one deal with regret and decisions made that changed the trajectory of one's life? And (this is very central) if you lost access to the life you knew how far would you go to get that life back?

It's clear that Dark Matter will be a modern motion picture soon (I could see Chris Pratt or Matt Damon as Jason, or hey why not switch it up and try Michael Pena, Riz Ahmed or Steven Yeun for colorblind casting?!) but I honestly don't have high hopes for a film adaptation. The book is compelling but also not without its flaws and it would be a rare movie indeed that exceeds its source material.

Title: Dark Matter.
Author: 
Blake Crouch.
Paperback: 354 pages.
Publisher:
 Crown.
Date Published: July 26, 2016.
Date Read: January 17, 2017.

GOODREADS RATING: 
 (3.5/5.0).

OVERALL GRADE: A- (3.67/4.0).

PLOT: A-.
IMAGERY: A-.
IMPACT: B+.
WRITING: A.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

TENNIS TUESDAY: Nadal 15-0 On 2017 Clay; Federer Withdraws From Roland Garros; Halep Defends Madrid Title


NADAL WINS MADRID FINAL; 30TH ATP MASTERS SHIELD; NOW 15-0 ON 2017 CLAY
Rafael Nadal, the King of Clay, is having another extraordinary clay court season this year. He won his 52nd career clay court title and 30th ATP Masters shield by extending his undefeated streak on clay by beating Dominic Thiem of Austria 7-6(8) 6-4 to win the Madrid Mutua Open. Nadal has now won his 5th title in Madrid and his 10th(!) title in Barcelona and Monte Carlo. Interestingly, Nadal notched up a win against Novak Djokovic on his way to the final, stopping a losing streak against the former World #1 and setting their head to head at 24W-26L.

NO CHANCE OF #FEDAL AT #RG17 AS ROGER PULLS OUT OF FRENCH OPEN
2017 Australian Open champion Roger Federer has finally confirmed what many of us suspected awhile ago after he won the Sunshine Double in March: The 18-time major champion would skip the entire clay court season to focus on the summer grass and hard court seasons. In a statement released on his website on Monday May 15th, he said "I need to recognize that scheduling will be the key to my longevity moving forward. Thus, my team and I concluded today that playing just one event on clay was not in the best interest of my tennis and physical preparation for the remainder of the season."

HALEP DEFENDS MADRID TITLE BY OUTLASTING KIKI MLADENOVIC
The hottest player on tour in 2017 is Kristina "Kiki" Mladenovic, who has reached 4 tournament finals this year (winning only 1). Simona Halep was pushed to a 3rd set against Kiki in final of the Madrid Open, eventually winning the deciding set 6-2, which was the Romanian's first defense of an important title. Halep's win means that she returns to the Top 5 in the rankings, while Mladenovic will rise to World #14.

KERBER REGAINS #1 RANKING, SERENA UNLIKELY TO BE #1 AGAIN IN 2017
Angelique Kerber has regained the #1 ranking by earning enough points in Madrid to surpass the total by Serena Williams. Since Serena is not playing any tournaments for the rest of the year it seems unlikely that she will be #1 ranked again in 2017, although it is possible that if Kerber does not defend the ranking points she earned in 2016 (US Open title and Wimbledon final) that the German's total may fall below Kerber's. However, it's possible that other players such as Karolina Pliskova (who currently leads the Race to Singapore), Halep or Dominika Cibulkova could reach #1 this year.

Monday, May 15, 2017

EYE CANDY: Aldis Hodge




Aldis Hodge is a 30-year-old Black actor of West Indian descent who plays Noah, one of the key roles on the WGN cable television drama, Underground, a dramatization of the Underground Railroad which also stars Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Christopher Meloni.

I just recently started watching Season 1 and thought that y'all would be interested in seeing one of the main reasons to watch the show! (That last shot is taken from the show.)

Saturday, May 13, 2017

SATURDAY POLITICS: Party Affiliation Influences Perceptions of Bias


The topic of how different groups of people view the prevalence and salience of discrimination against various groups is a subject that I have often blogged about here. Five Thirty Eight looks at the polling data from PRRI that I had previously discussed and makes an argument about how in the Trump era notions of "civil rights" and "discrimination" and what the government should do about these issues is going to be very different than what it was in the Obama and Bush administrations.
What we can say already, however, is that in its first 100 days, Trump’s administration has in some ways redefined who the U.S. government views as facing discrimination or marginalization. 
The administration is not proposing less intervention from the federal government, which is the typical Republican approach, but rather it is seeking to wield federal power, just as Obama did. But whereas Obama’s policies focused on protecting African-AmericansLatinos, Muslims, people who are gay or transgender, and other groups that most Americans view as marginalized, Trump and his team are focusing on defending different groups: Christians, police officers, victims of crimes by undocumented immigrants, and people who fear Latino immigrants are taking their jobs or redefining U.S. culture, among others. 
This approach is akin to civil rights for the Trump coalition, a shift in focus away from groups that Democrats (and the data) view as facing more discrimination and toward groups Republicans believe are more often marginalized.
This idea is part of today's discussion of Saturday Politics.

2017 MADRID: Djokovic-Nadal L in Semifinals, To Face Thiem-Cuevas Winner


For a record fiftieth time, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will face off against each other in an ATP tour tennis match. This time it is in the semifinals of the Mutua Madrid Ope, the Madrid Masters. Although this tournament is in the capital of Nadal's home country, he has under performed here, with only 4 titles here (compared to 10 on the clay courts of Barcelona and Monte Carlo) and an insane 9 titles at the clay-court major, Roland Garros in Paris.

Interestingly, Nadal now leads the tour in 2017 with match wins (32) and although Djokovic is higher ranked (World #2) and the defending champion here in Madrid, he has been having a very rough year, and recently fired his longtime coaching staff.

As a result of winning their last 7 meetings, Djokovic now leads his head to head with Nadal 26-23, one  of the very few people on tour who can say that. If Djokovic were to beat Nadal on clay, it will probably resuscitate his entire year. It is a widely anticipated match, but I give the edge to the Spanish King of Clay right now. But it will be a very tough battle.

MadProfessah's pick: Nadal in 3 sets.

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