Science & Industry

Last week we took in the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, which turned out to be the highlight of an otherwise low-key Spring Break for the family.  What a place – especially for curious young minds.

museum-S-I-2A lot has changed since the last time I visited this museum (way back in high school).  The volume of interactive exhibits and activities is impressive.  Seems like everywhere we turned we found another place to do stuff as we learned about it.

I remember being excited about going to museums as a kid – I loved to see and read, see and read about the displays.  At the Museum of Science and Industry, though, they’re not content with only reaching the readers.  As a result, the whole experience seemed more immersive, more kinetic (and certainly a little more chaotic).

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Hey, Nike – We are Fighting Illini!

A big fuss in Champaign-Urbana this week:  the much anticipated Nike uniform brand update happened at the Krannert Center, with Illini athletes from the various sports teams modeling the new look.  It’s a pretty big deal for the University of Illinois in this era of brand identity, intensive marketing, and team gear residual sales.  We get a new look, a unified new font, an updated shade of orange that’s easier to mass reproduce, and 1LL1NO1S.  We get two logos, one new and one very familiar:

We have Nike marketing guys talking about how they studied the history and tradition of the University of Illinois athletics, how they incorporated the Galloping Ghost, etc.  Our type face that “leans forward ready to take on the competition”, with “sleek and powerful serifs”.  It looks good – don’t get me wrong.  The design elements are slick; I really like the look of the football uniforms; the orange really pops, and the Victory Badge look fantastic on the volleyball shirts.  Check the official gallery.

But they seem to have forgotten one very important detail:  We are FIGHTING ILLINI.  If you look at the new unis, you see a lot of 1LL1NO1S, but you don’t see much Fighting Illini.  The question for most of us:  was this a Nike call or a University call?

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23 for Brazil – April

The Mexico friendly is behind us.  A tale of two halves, with some impressive midfield play and alarming defending,  and surprise!  Jurgen unveils a diamond midfield.  Mostly, guys who’ve already booked tickets to the World Cup confirmed why they’re going, and a couple of guys made strong cases for inclusion.  Among those not staking claims were the injured (Brad Evans), the not-allowed-to-participate-because-Mexico (Beasley, Herculez, Joe Corona) and the very wet behind the ears (Julian Green).  While we wouldn’t be surprised to see Green brought along for seasoning, it’s getting might late for debutantes.

So it’s time for another Beemsville 23:  our picks (not who we think Jurgen Klinsmann will take) for the World Cup.  It’s t-minus two months until the USA kicks off against Ghana in Brazil, and only a couple of weeks before the coaching staff names its preliminary 30-man roster for training camp.

Check out the cool graphical setup for the 23 at American Soccer Now. Continue reading

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

…written by Christopher Marcus and Stephen McFeely, based on an Ed Brubaker story; directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo; starring Chris Evans, Scarlet Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, and Robert Redford.

These Marvel movies just keep hitting the target.  Thor – The Dark World was excellent, X-Men – Days of Futures Past looks fantastic based on the trailers, and we’re optimistic for the next Spider-man movie this summer as well.  The only one we’ve panned of late was Iron Man 3 (because, gah.)  So with the the great early buzz, we were anticipating Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and we weren’t disappointed.  This is another great super hero movie.

It’s a different kind of super hero movie, though.  Based on comics by Ed Brubaker, the story involves serpentine conspiracies and secrets and healthy mistrust of those in power.  Pretty much par for the course with Hollywood’s take on the espionage game.  This movie features Cap and Black Widow as Shield’s two prime field agents, chasing down bad guys and running ops for Nick Fury.  When one of these ops goes sideways, Cap gets suspicious of Fury’s motives and goals.  He becomes even more concerned when Fury shows him the strategic plan to launch three additional heli-carriers capable of linking up with surveillance satellites and securing Shield’s military dominance in the world.

But Fury has concerns as well.  He’s noticed something anomalous, a security breach, and confides in the Chief of Allied Defense, Alexander Pierce (Redford).  About this time, the Winter Soldier shows up and takes a crack at Fury.  Black Widow tells Cap about the Winter Soldier: a legendary KGB assassin rumored to have conducted the most dangerous and sensitive assignments for over 50 years.

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Pentagram – USA v. Mex in the Desert

The General celebrates new shirts and a goal

Say this for the new away kit:  It looked a lot better in action than it does on the promo material…  And along with the new bomb-pop shirt, Jurgen trotted out a diamond midfield – something the EA Sports FIFA Soccer series tells us is always a good idea (offensively, at least).  Recently heralded German-American, Julian Green – all of 18 years old – debuted and showed some flashes.  And as good as the American midfield looked in the first half, the Mexicans adjusted and controlled the first portion of the second half.

So even though a brutally bad offisides call robbed Eddie Johnson of a clinical goal in the final ten minutes of the game, which would have given the U.S. the win, we’ll take a 2-2 tie.  We’ll also take note of who’s ready and who’s not, because the naming of the World Cup preliminary roster is only a month away.

Five points in this USA-Mexico pentagram from Arizona…

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The Brick Coda

Coach Groce applauds an assist

Illinois finished the basketball season with a one point loss at Clemson on Sunday.  It was a painful gain to watch:  open shots, plenty of chances, but the ball just would not go in.  14% from three and 37.5% from the field doesn’t get you many wins.  It was the type of offensive performance we’ve grown accustomed to this year.

If you look at the gross stats on ESPN, you’ll see the Illini ranked in the bottom quarter of all Division I schools for points per game (64.6 points, ranked 311).  There are a few good teams that score that little, a very few, but the remaining teams in the NCAA Tourney all score more.  Illinois shot 40.9% from the field (320th) and 31.9% from three (293rd), still in the bottom quarter to bottom third of all teams.  In assists, we were 10.1 per game, good for 330th, which is bottom 10%.  There are lots of other statistics that measure tempo, offensive efficiency per possession, etc., but bottom line, this was a bad offensive team.  Hopefully we won’t see worse offense in many years to come.

The real question:  how did this team actually manage to win 20 games and make it to the post-season?  Defense, obviously, and grit and toughness.  When Nike unveils their rebrand concept soon, they damned well better place ‘FIGHTING’ above the ‘ILLINI’ on the basketball jerseys.  And yes, this toughness and sound defense can keep you in a lot of games, even allow you to steal a few.  You can build an identity around ‘Fighting’.  This last game against Clemson, for example:  Clemson shot close to 50% and out-rebounded Illinois, and yet we were one better possession the final minute away from stealing that game at the end.

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No tourney picks; Coaching…

Maybe it’s not having my team in the tournament – although, I’m usually more objective and make better picks when the Illini are out.  Hey, can this please be the last year in many without the Illini in the tournament?  Coach Groce, looking in your direction…  Maybe it’s because I actually won the pool last year and am feeling the pressure to repeat.  Maybe it’s because the wife’s been monopolizing the laptop…

At any rate, no March Madness picks this year.  Just couldn’t carve out the time to do it.  At least five or six people are disappointed.

The real reason:  the joys of coaching.  Yes, Youth Soccer  Spring Season is nearly upon us, and there’s stuff to do…  Getting all the drills and mini-games organized, having the kids vote on shirt colors and team nickname, contacting the team sponsor for this year’s donation, pricing and ordering the team shirts, securing a field for practices, writing the welcome email for team parents…  Yeah.  Not to mention the weather’s been nice enough a few days to actually get the kids outside and kick it around a bit.

So that’s the reason.  Focused on the kids’ season.  Yeah, I’ll be tuning to watch the tournament (and the NIT as long as the Orange and Blue are alive) and hoping  for upsets and Wichita State to shut people the hell up.  But no official picks.  Maybe next year.