Tag Archives: Todd Proa

City's Wasted Opportunity by Todd Proa

City’s Wasted Opportunity

Before last night’s semifinal match between Manchester City and Real Madrid even started, the absence of Real Madrid’s Christiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema gave City the upper hand.  City had a chance to more easily contain their opponents’ attack and get forward more freely themselves, hopefully grabbing a major lead against Spain.  Yet that never happened.  Instead of aggressively playing, Manchester City played an uninspired midfield press and a conservative deployment of their defense.  Instead of trying to take advantage of an off-balance Madrid side, City’s attack played an opportunistic, counter-attacking game more focused on not getting buried under their opponents’ quality, a tremendous waste of opportunity.

Madrid reacted poorly to the blows to their attack and played a conservative, mostly unimpressive game.  They played a much more constrained style unlike their typical aggressive selves, perfectly happy to take a draw and let the tie be decided in their home stadium.  The problem for City fans was that Madrid’s defense wasn’t even that impressive yesterday, with City causing a major threat every time they got forward.  It didn’t help that half attacker David Silva left injured in the first half, allowing Madrid’s midfield to key on Kevin De Bruyne and effectively starve Sergio Agüero of quality service.

It’s possible that Manchester City can make something of the tie in the second leg and steal an early away goal to put the pressure on.  However, it’s difficult to look at how the first leg played out and not feel that City had wasted a major opportunity.  Real Madrid weren’t at their best, yet City wasn’t able to take advantage of that.  It wasn’t an opportunity that City can rely on in the second leg, meaning that they need to up their game if they hope to emerge victorious against Madrid.

If you’d like to learn more, you can click here!

Meet the tarascans by Todd Proa

Meet the Tarascans

When the Spanish landed in modern-day Mexico in the early 16th century, there were two major powers already there: the Aztecs and their fierce rivals, the Tarascans.  While the Aztecs are relatively well-known, for the most part the Tarascans have faded into obscurity.  Yet at the height of their power, the Tarascans could easily go to-to-toe with their Aztec rivals, and in many cases did.  I recently came across an interview with history professor James Blake Wiener, an expert on the archaeology and ethnohistory of the Tarascan Empire, about this ancient civilization.

The Tarascan state’s roots began around the year 1200, when a significant movement of people was occurring throughout Mesoamerica, and several large settlements were built in a lava field near present-day Zacapu, Mexico.  Yet by 1450, these settlements had been abandoned.  This corresponds loosely to the legends that the Tarascans have about their own origins: they settled in what is now Michoacán from elsewhere, although were greeted with hostility by the people living there, but were eventually able to conquer their foes in rapid succession.  During the 13th century, Michoacán was most likely invaded by warrior-centric people from the north, bringing about a reorganization of both the old and new populations, producing a complex society formed by independent towns or city-states joined under the rule of one single “king”.

The Tarascan people had a lot in common with their neighbors, with similar types of art, technology and religion with variations in style.  Their empire was made up of various different ethnic groups, some of which were conquered and others that voluntarily asked to become Tarascan subjects.  Ethnic groups maintained their own languages and the right to elect their own local authorities, on condition that they paid tribute to the Tarascan king and fought in his wars.  Their rapid expansion put them at odds with another aggressively expanding empire in the region: the Aztecs.  The two empires fought constantly, yet neither one of them was able to gain the upper hand in their struggle.

When the Spanish came to Mexico, they paid more attention to the Aztec Empire, meaning that there were plenty more records about them than other groups.  Since Mexican archaeology has been focused on tourism, and people are more interested in seeing huge monumental structures, the relatively modest and small-scale Tarascan sites are often overlooked.  After conquering the Aztecs, the Spanish turned their attention to the Tarascans, although their conquest was relatively peaceful.  Their descendants call themselves the “Purépecha” and can still be found around Michoacán, and although they retain a strong ethnic identity, knowledge of their ancestral state is neither widespread nor invoked in their culture.

Open Water Swimming Tips

Open Water Swimming TipsOpen-water swimming can be a daunting prospect for the novice, and those who are less experienced often dread the first leg of their event.  Yet it isn’t always that bad.  I recently came across an article that interviews open water swimming veteran John Flanagan about his own advice for those more rookie peers.  Since open-water swimming includes plenty of variables that drastically differ from pool swimming, so he says the best way to get better is to experience it yourself.  But before you jump into the water, here are some tips from Flanagan for open water swimming to help you avoid some of his past mistakes:

Practice sighting: Flanagan says the best way to sight during a race is to lift your head and look forward while you’re turning your head to breathe.  Limit how high you lift your head because your hips will drop otherwise, so go for just below the goggle line, and then take your breath when you turn your head to the side.

Time when you sight: The more you look, the more tired you get, but the less you look, the less straight you may swim.  That’s why you need to find that comfortable balance.  If you’re in an ocean race, be sure to sight as you’re rising from a swell so you’ll be able to see.

Train in open water: If you have the chance to train in the open water, go for it.  It’s not always the fastest swimmers that win these races, but rather the ones with the smartest race and the most experience.

Stay warm: Your body can shut down due to cold, so try avoiding that with everything you can: wetsuits, two caps and earplugs are some things that help you keep warm.

Goggles are vital: Find a pair of comfortable goggles that will allow you to see well.  Don’t wait until race day to try out your pair of goggles, only to find out that you hate them.

Learn the course: You might not always have somebody with you during the race, so check the buoys before your big race.  Look for landmarks like trees or houses that can help guide you in a straight line.  You won’t always be able to sight off buoys in the water.

Have a fast start: Be warmed up and prepared to get out of the gate roaring.  You want to limit as much contact as possible on the start, so get out fast, and you can settle into your pace afterwards.

Learn to breathe on both sides: When somebody is next to you, the best thing to do is breathe on the opposite side.  If not, you might lose your goggles or get hit in the face, which is much worse than a hit to the back of the head.

Draft when you can: Drafting is a part of open water swimming that can both help and hurt you.  You may be able to hang on to a faster group of swimmers, but you could also get stuck behind some and not know how slow you’re actually going.  Be careful how you use it.  It’s better for triathletes that are saving their legs for running or biking.

Eat and hydrate well: Take care of your body.  Ironic as it is, it’s very easy to get dehydrated out in the open water, so drink plenty of fluids.

Real Unicorns

Real UnicornsWhen you were a child, did you ever wonder if unicorns were real?  Maybe you did, but chances are your parents shut that down pretty fast.  But it turns out they might have been wrong, for in prehistoric Siberia, there were indeed unicorns.  However, the huge shaggy Siberian Unicorn looked more like a rhino than the creatures from “My Little Pony”.  According to early descriptions, this unicorn was over six feet tall and weighed about 4 tonnes, closer in size to a woolly mammoth than what you saw in that poster on your sister’s wall.

For decades, scientists have estimated that the Siberian Unicorn had died out some 350,000 years ago.  However, a skull was recently found in the Pavlodar region of Kazakhstan that researchers from Tomsk State University have dated to around 29,000 years ago, completely changing the game on this.  The size and condition of the skull hints that this was most likely a very old male, although its cause of death remains unknown.

This discovery has led to researchers wondering how the unicorn lasted so much longer than those many who died hundreds of thousands of years earlier.  One member of the research team has suggested that southwestern Siberia was a refugium where the Siberian Unicorn and other animals soldiered on.  There’s also a possibility that it could migrate and dwell in more southern areas.  The team has hoped that the find will lead to a better insight on how environmental factors played a role in the creature’s extinction, since understanding what allowed this species to last so long will help make more informed choices about the future of current species.

Numerous prehistoric mammals were able to last an incredibly long time in the remote and sparsely-populated Siberia.  Woolly mammoths, for instance, existed on Wrangel Island as recently as 2,000 BC, a full 6,000 years longer than anywhere else.  It would be interesting to see what other prehistoric creatures lasted in Siberia, since I’m sure mammoths and unicorns weren’t the only ones.

If you’d like to learn more, you can click here, or listen to this song that theorizes why unicorns aren’t around today:

Signs You’re On the Path To Success

In the long journey towards entrepreneurship, it can sometimes be hard to figure out whether or not your idea and how you execute it is going to be successful.  Yet there are some signs you can look for.  Here are some, based off of an article I found on entrepreneur.com:

You’re excited about your business: Those who start a business for the money or to please friends will most likely burn out or fall flat.  The concept behind your business should be exciting from the start to the finish.  When you talk about it Path towards successobsessively with your friends, can’t wait to get to work in the morning or even feel particularly excited about accomplishing a minor business-related task, you know you’re excited about your company.

People are talking: If you have a good core idea that’s marketed well, then people will talk about it.  Check out the conversations circulating social media – you’re doing pretty well if it doesn’t take hundreds of social media posts per week to get people talking.

Your net income makes overhead costs look reasonable: When you first start out, shelling out the money for things like web domains, logo design and other startup costs can get painful.  It often takes 12 to 36 months for businesses to be qutie profitable, but you’re on the right track if you’re drawing in disposable income before or at that stage.

You’re willing and able to adapt: Successful entrepreneurs understand that the business world is fluid, just like the fields in which their products are services are encapsulated.  Any business, regardless of its size, will have to change along with the times.

You welcome criticism: No entrepreneur can grow and enhance their business without learning how to learn from it.  Feedback often comes in unpleasant forms, but many times it reveals areas for improvement.  If you can receive criticism and turn it into positive change, it will give you a natural edge.  Develop a thick skin and learn from those opinions that offer valuable tips on polishing your business.

You learn from your mistakes: Making mistakes doesn’t mean you won’t be successful, but you won’t be if you can’t learn from them.  A good entrepreneur will view mistakes as lessons in disguise.  You might not have time to make every mistake, so also be sure to learn from the mistakes of those around you.

You’re grateful for what you have but still want to get more: If you can’t be grateful for what you already have, then you’ll never be satisfied with your progress.  During the startup process, make sure that you differentiate resources you already have from those you need to acquire.  Perform brief check-ins with yourself or your team every six months or so, so you can pay close attention to your successes.

You have no regrets: Entrepreneurs should know that this is a business with its ups and downs.  You’ll be more inclined to reap benefits if you can recognize that even through the hardships from starting a business, you don’t regret stepping foot into this field of business.  Those who are meant to be entrepreneurs love the hard work they put into their business regardless of the results.

10 Words Coined By Presidents

Over the years, each one of America’s Presidents have left their mark on America, whether that was political decisions or even coining new terms.  I recently came across an article that shares ten everyday words and phrases that were brought into usage by America’s Presidents over the years.  Here are some of them, from Paul Dickson’s book “Words From the White House: Words and Phrases Coined or Popularized by America’s Presidents”:

George Washington

Administration (George Washington): As the first President, George Washington defined the role of chief executive.  He was also the first person to refer to a President’s chief period of time in office as an “administration”.  He introduced the word in his Farewell Address in 1796.  The Oxford English Dictionary also credits Washington with the first evidence of 32 different words, including “average” and “indoors”.  However, that doesn’t necessarily mean he coined the terms, only that he contained the earliest-recorded instances of them.

Zachary Taylor

First Lady (Zachary Taylor): In the earlier decades of the US, the President’s wife was referred to by the mouthful “presidentress”.  That changed in 1849, when Zachary Taylor eulogized Dolley Madison, the widow of James Madison, referring to her as the “First Lady”.  While Zachary Taylor’s Presidency was cut short, the term stayed on.

Warren G Harding

Founding Fathers (Warren G Harding): While the term “founding fathers” sounds old as the Declaration of Independence, it actually came about from a speech given by Ohio Senator (later President) Warren G Harding to the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution.  He later used the term during his 1920 presidential campaign, and it supplanted the usage of the previous term “framers”.

Franklin D Roosevelt

Iffy (FDR): Even though FDR had a high-class way of speaking, he nonetheless used slang at times, such as using the word “iffy” to describe some uncertainties or Supreme Court decisions with which he disagreed.  He also used the phrase when swatting away hypothetical questions from reporters at press conferences.

Teddy Roosevelt

Lunatic fringe (Theodore Roosevelt): Teddy Roosevelt brought plenty of great phrases into popular lexicon, including “bully pulpit”, “muckracker”, “loose cannon” and “pack rat”.  “Lunatic fringe”, however, comes from after he left office, when he reviewed the avant-garde Armory Show in 1913.  It soon crossed over from the art world into the political arena to characterize those whose beliefs weren’t held by the mainstream.

Dwight D Eisenhower

Mulligan (Dwight D Eisenhower): A noted golf enthusiast, Eisenhower popularized one term that was previously only heard on the golf course.  “Mulligan” was a term used for do-overs in gold, and when he entered the White House, similar do-overs were referred to as “mulligans”.

Thomas Jefferson

Pedicure (Thomas Jefferson): No President coined more words than the jack-of-all-trades Thomas Jefferson.  He introduced some 110 new words into the English language, including “mammoth”, “belittle” and :neologize”.  As a “founding father”, Jefferson and his peers felt it was their duty to create a new American language.  A committed francophile, Jefferson imported a number of French phrases into American vocabulary, including “pedicure”.

John Adams

Quixotic (John Adams): In 1815 John Adams described one Venezuelan revolutionary who hoped to unite all of Spanish America as a “Quixotic adventurer”, in reference to the title character of the classic Spanish novel “Don Quixote”.  While there had been earlier uses of the word, Adams’ reference helped popularize it.

James Madison

Squatter (James Madison): When writing to Washington in 1788, Madison referred to a group of settlers in Maine who occupied land to which they had no legal title as “squatters upon other people’s land”.

Abraham Lincoln

Sugarcoat (Abraham Lincoln): Lincoln had the ability to incorporate both soaring oratory and plain-spoken language when it was necessary to do so.  In a message to Congress in the aftermath of the secession of the Confederacy, Lincoln condemned those who were trying to “sugar-coat” the rebellion by calling it constitutional.

Older Than You Think

Snow White

While most of the better-known fairy tales in popular culture, such as Snow White, were collected by the Brothers Grimm in the early 19th century, many of them could actually be much older.

Fairy tales are a timeless part of our pop culture: for generations now, we’ve grown up with stories like “Jack and the Beanstalk”, “Beauty and the Beast” and “Rumplestiltskin”.  Yet for all their timelessness, these fairy tales might be even older than we think; new research has opened up the possibility that popular folk tales have influenced writings in Greek and Roman mythology, the Bible and other religious works, negating the traditional view that most traditional fairy tales originated in the modern era.

The researchers have stated that versions of classic fairy tales have been around since before the advent of modern languages, and in some cases could be between 4,000 and 6,000 years old!  The researchers investigated whether 275 fairy tales from Indo-European mythology were more likely to be shared by closely-related populations than more distantly-related ones, testing whether the sharing of tales could be predicted by how close populations were geographically or by how related their languages are.  This process allowed researchers to separate the effects of tales traveling between neighboring groups from tales that had been inherited from common ancestral groups, which narrowed the number of tales down to 76 whose distributions could be primarily explained by common heritage.

After narrowing down these 76 tales, the researchers mapped the 76 tales on a “family tree” of Indo-European languages to see how far they could be traced back, using the same techniques that biologists use to reconstruct the evolution of genetically inherited traits.  One of the oldest tales was determined to be “the smith and the devil”, in which a blacksmith sells his soul to an evil spirit in return for exceptional skill in smithing, and was traced back to the Bronze Age.  The age of this tale and its subject help to resolve a long-standing issue among historians; it was previously believed that Indo-European languages originated before metallurgy, but the researchers now think that this is highly unlikely.

The researchers have credited the lasting appeal of these stories on the focus on magic and miracles, which has always fascinated humans from around the world; take, for instance, the interest in jedi, wizards and time machines that endures to this day.  The tensions in these stories also reflect such universal conflicts as love and good versus evil.

If you’re interested in learning more, feel free to click here!

Pool Care Tips For Winter

Taking care of your pool during the off-season doesn’t end when you put on the cover.  Caring for your pool during the off-season is essential for ensuring a successful and clean opening.  I recently came across an article where the author asked a  variety of pool care professionals from around the country for their best tips for off-season pool care.  Listed below are some of the things they had to say.

Pool in the winterAdd mid-winter algaecide: On the last day of your pool’s operation, add algaecide to the water and run the pump for 24 hours so it can fully circulate, then shut down the circulation system for the winter.  If you live in an area where there are heavy rains, add chemicals to make sure that what you already put in doesn’t get diluted.

Check your system to prevent freezing: Remember to check your pipes and motorized parts; drain the water from the pump, pool heater and filter.  As the temperature starts to freeze, any excess water in these parts can freeze; if this happens, they can crack, which could cost serious money in the long term.  You’ll also want to drain the water 4-6 inches below the pool skimmer.

Keep your pool cover clean: Backyard pool owners absolutely should have a loop-lock type cover for their pool.  A cover can simply be hosed off to get at any debris; if possible, keep the water level where it’s supposed to be and the pumps running.

Add chlorine to your pool to ensure a clean opening: If you’re in a colder part of the country, make sure that you add liquid chlorine to the pool after the water thaws.  Once your pool is opened, vac on waste to help remove any debris from the bottom of the pool.

Make sure your safety cover is always properly fitted: Having clean, clear water in the Spring makes the life of a pool owner much easier.  One key to making this happen is having a properly-fitted safety cover.  Follow your typical winter chemical program and about a month before you plan to open use a couple gallons of liquid shock and a gallon of algaecide one week before opening.

Pay attention to the weather: If you’ve had a more mild fall, then it’s a good idea to check the pool and add more chlorine and algaecide just ahead of the colder season.  Checking the deep freeze areas just before the first big freeze hits and charging up the chemicals can help to ensure that water makes it through to spring start up without a boom in algae.

Use enzyme chemicals to break down non-living organic contamination: Using an enzyme product during the off-season will help to break down non-living organic contamination that will inevitably make its way into your pool over the winter.  Some of this contamination includes bird poop, pollen or even contaminants left over from pool season.  Such an enzyme will help to prevent the watertime ring that can occur through the winter, which would normally require a lot of scrubbing in the spring.  Using an off-season enzyme will also allow for a faster turnaround time when you go to open your pool.

Keep your above ground winter cover free of debris: To make your life easier when you re-open your pool in the spring, keep your pool cover reasonably free of debris.  Using an air pillow connected to the cover in the center of the pool will both protect your pool from snow and ice damage while also dispersing water and debris to the sides of the pool to make cleanup easy.  Yet you’ll want to keep some water on the cover of the pool to help stabilize the cover in the wind, although you don’t want any debris.

Pensacola’s Forgotten Spanish Colony

Although it’s known that the first permanent European settlement in the United States was in St. Augustine, Florida, it wasn’t the first attempt.  In August of 1559, six years before St. Augustine was settled, Don Tristán de Luna y Arellano founded the colony Santa Maria de Ochuse near what is now Pensacola Bay.  Despite a devastating hurricane just five weeks after their arrival, the colony was able to survive for two more years, far outlasting earlier attempts at colonization in the US, none of which had lasted more than a few weeks.  Ye now, after a local historian turned up a shard of 16th-century Spanish pottery on the site of a bulldozed house, archaeologists have confirmed the location of this ill-fated settlement in downtown Pensacola.

Conquistadors in Florida

In 1539, some 20 years before this settlement was established, Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto led an expedition into Florida, shown here, although it was ultimately ill-fated.

Early in October, local historian Tom Garner passed by a construction site in downtown Pensacola.  Having read the translated version of Luna’s papers and identified the neighborhood as a potential site for Santa Maria de Ochuse.  After Garner walked over to site, he found a shard of pottery that he identified as the rim of an olive jar from the mid-16th century.  He then contacted archaeologists at UWF about the discovery, and they were able to get permission from the property owner to investigate further.  Garner’s collections turned up plenty of pottery fragments, stunning archaeologists who examined these findings.

According to one of the archaeologists, the findings were extremely specific to mid-16th century Spanish colonial period artifacts.  Property owners granted a five-day window in early November so that the university team could excavate about half an acre of land before construction began on their new home, during which time archaeologists turned up many more fragments of Spanish, Aztec and Indian pottery at the site, such as nails and glass trade beads.

Santa Maria de Ochuse had a population of about 1,500, believed to have been stretched over many blocks of what is now downtown Pensacola.  The university isn’t revealing the exact location of these artifacts, to protect the neighborhood, although they did say it was in an urban downtown area within view of two shipwreck sites in Pensacola Bay.  The colony was founded by a group of 550 Spanish soldiers, 200 Aztecs and an unknown number of African slaves, and was tasked with forming a settlement on the coast before moving inland.  Just five weeks after landing, they were struck with a hurricane that destroyed half of the fleet, but the colony endured.  There’s evidence that some of the settlers moved inland to Alabama for about 6 months before returning to the coast due to lack of food.  The entire colony was abandoned in 1561, although the reasons for this remain unclear.

If you’d like to learn more, you can click here!

Turkish Tension on the Soccer Field

soccer turkey

There was a noted contrast on a night of European soccer matches between national teams in London and Istanbul.  While the British and French fans at London’s Wembley Stadium sang the French National anthem in solidarity in the aftermath of the attacks, hundreds of Turkish fans in Istanbul booed the Greek national anthem and disrupted a moment of silence for those killed in Paris.  This reveals the highly ambivalent Turkish reaction to the recent attacks in France.

Soccer fans are hardly representative of society as a whole, although these scenes show that the Paris attacks didn’t draw the same sentiment of solidarity as elsewhere in Turkey, which is majority Muslim and where a recent study revealed that 8 percent of the country were sympathetic to Daesh.  Turkey has accused Europe of insensitivity towards attacks by Kurdish rebels and other groups.  During the outburst at Istanbul’s Basaksehir Fatih Terim Stadium on Tuesday night, team captain and Barcelona midfielder Arda tried in vain to silence the crowd.  Turkey’s national team manager was furious that the fans couldn’t show patience or respect the dead.

This incident unfolded as the prime ministers of Turkey and Greece watched together from the stands as part of efforts to overcome a relationship between the countries that has been historically difficult.  Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the incident “unacceptable”, although that was only in regards to the disruption of the national anthem, and he said nothing on the moment of silence being interrupted.  Due to the embarrassing incident, officials have scrambled to avoid such an incident at future games.

During the moment of silence, the loudest call came from a nationalist chant: “Martyrs don’t die.  The homeland will never be divided”.  This is a slogan chanted to denounce the rebels of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which waged a 30-year war for Kurdish independence that led to tens of thousands of deaths.  Considered a terrorist organization by the Turkish, fighting with the PKK flared up again this past July.  Many Turks believe that European countries, France included, have supported the PFF out of sympathy for Kurds.

Last month, another moment of silence for the 102 victims of a bomb attack in Ankara was disrupted by fans during an international game against Iceland.  The attack, which targeted Kurdish and leftist activists protesting the government, who are believed by some conservative Turks to have been PKK supporters.  If you’d like to learn more, feel free to click here!