Archive for January, 2014

Francesco’s autograph


The pennant

This Wednesday was a holiday in Perugia for the patron saint San Costanzo.  I was looking forward to having a day off from school and sleeping in, but my soccer coach organized a trip to Rome for the day with my team and his other team, the 2004s.  We were supposed to go to see one of the practices of AS Roma and then we would have a private conference with the Pope in the afternoon.

So I somehow managed to wake up at 4:45 in the morning and crawl onto the bus with my sack lunch. It took us forever to get there because we had to stop  for kids to get snacks and have bathroom breaks. We got to Trigoria at about 11:00 but the practice didn’t start until 11:30.

Once the practice started, I was surprised at how simple it was. They did running drills for the first 20 minutes and then they just did scrimmages for the rest of the time.  After the practice they gave each of us a pennant and a hat. Then as the players were walking off we could get their signatures.  We left soon after that and we went to one of Don Bosco’s churches for lunch.  Like I said, we were supposed to go see the Pope in the afternoon but for whatever reason we didn’t. Instead, we went to the center of Rome and saw the Colosseum where we had a team picture. Soon after that we got back on the bus to go home.

I was disappointed that we didn’t get to see Papa Francesco, but I did get Francesco Totti‘s autograph, so I guess that’s just as good.

The Excursion (in Italiano)

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The entrance to the Palazzo dei Priori. In the lunette, sculpted by an unknown artist ca. 1315, are three of the patron saints of Perugia: San Lorenzo, San Ercolano, and San Constanzo. San Lodovico was canonized in 1319 and is not represented in the lunette.

Today, 29 January, is the festa of Perugia’s patron saint, San Constanzo. There is no school (and no soccer practice!), but the rest of the city is open, especially the bakeries, which spent the night making “Il Torcolo” – a special pastry made only once a year. San Constanzo, who lived during the II century CE, was the first bishop of Perugia. On 29 January 175 CE, during the prosecution of Christians under Marcus Aurelius, Constanzo became a martyr when he was beheaded by Roman soldiers near Foligno. The Romans took his head to the Emperor, while his followers carried his body back to Perugia. They had to travel through the woods and across fields. Along the way, many (unspecified) miracles occurred. They buried his body by the small  hut in which he lived, outside the gates of city, not far from the site of the first Christian church in Perugia, San Pietro. In the 13th century, a church was built on the site.

Although there are four patron saints of Perugia, today San Constanzo is the only one to have his own holiday.

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Family farming gone

Small farms abandoned

Travelling through the landscape of Apulia a month ago, we wound down the scrub-green slopes of the Gargano Promontory, a massive rock projecting into the Adriatic, and largely a national park for its highest and darkest forests.

It was once a sacred mountain too, and still is a place of pilgrimage and healing, and a center for the controversial cult of Padre Pio, as he is buried at San Giovanni Rotondo, where we stayed for a night on our journey south.

To the South  and West lies perhaps the flattest land in Italy, the Tavoliere, a wedge of silt dumped by rivers threading to the coast past Foggia and Cerignola. Everywhere were massive fields, and everywhere were abandoned farms. Along the 25 km. between Lido di Rivoli and the on-ramp to the A14 to the south, we saw perhaps two or three occupied houses. And several walled compounds of massive agribusiness concerns.

View south from the Gargano to the river plains

View south from the Gargano to the river plains

What happened?

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Castel Rigone, Week 21: What Comes Around

Two long shots stretch the netting inside the goal. One skids almost 30 yards along the ground, denting the tips of weary grass and divots of mud. The keeper Zucconi, just entered as a substitute, positions himself on the right side, but — his view shielded — he dives too late, eyes shoving his head back as he twists to watch the ball skid past. The other steams nearly 40 yards into the upper right corner as Zucconi flies helplessly past. Both come off the feet of a 22-yr. old Portuguese no. 10, Pedro Miguel Costa Ferreira, who was shooting at nearly every opportunity, and whose persistence (or selfishness) paid off in the second half for A.C.R. Messina in their 2-0 defeat of Castel Rigone. The YouTube highlights of the game (below) have now had more views than the 1000 who watched the match in a stadium that holds nearly 38,000.

It was a victory over Messina last September that first brought my attention to Castel Rigone. David and Goliath story. Plucky mountain club over troubled city team.

The score of that first match was 2-0 to the Rigonesi at home.

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Stress Chess

The initial 6 x 7 board

The initial 6 x 7 board

Like I said in my last post we have a chess table with new pieces.  We have actually used it quite a bit since we got it and a few days ago my Dad came up with a variation of chess which he called ‘soccer chess’.

Later on we changed the name to ‘stress chess’ because ‘soccer chess‘ already exists.  ‘Stress chess’ is played on a 6 x 7 board and is set up the same way except that there is only one knight who starts in front of the queen. The only rule that is different from regular chess is that the pawns can only move one space forward on their first move.

What makes this game stressful, you ask? You only have 10 seconds to make a move or your other timer, which has 90 seconds, starts ticking. If your 90-second timer reaches zero you forfeit the game. You also lose the game if you have no legal moves, so there is no stalemate. I’ll give you a few tips which you can choose to follow (I haven’t managed to beat my Dad yet).

  1. Pawns are quite valuable; since the board is so short, they reach the other side often and are promoted.
  2. Don’t be afraid to let your 90 second clock tick a little bit because otherwise you might rush into making a rash move that could mess up the whole game for you.
  3. I would also suggest that you be very careful with your knight, especially since there is only one.
  4. Watch out for the two-move checkmate.

If you have any questions please leave them in the comments and I will try to answer them.

Castel Rigone, Weeks 19-20: Bumps

Chieti before the game

Bubble Football“: one way to cushion the impact of ‘bumps’.

Since Shakespeare‘s day, ‘bump‘ has meant a protuberance, something raised above the normal level. In a road, a bump forces one to slow down. During an election, a bump is more like a bounce. In the late 20th century, as data visualization became more common, words were commandeered to describe meaningful patterns or events. For instance, a significant change in a graphic trend-line (since at least 1980) became a ‘bump’ in the polls. Soccer has good and bad bumps too.

Received wisdom says that when a team fires its manager, almost always because of poor results, the team revives, plays better, and often wins its next game, or several games. In other words, the team will enjoy a positive ‘bump’. The general reasoning is that players, wishing to impress the new manager, will try harder to keep their place on the squad, or earn the favor of the new boss. Or that the sheer psychological force of a significant change will spark a team back to life. So we see that teams in the Premiership have changed managers 278 times since 1992 (one estimate says that 195 of these were involuntary). At this time, Arsene Wenger of Arsenal has been at the helm of his club for longer than all other 19 current Premier League managers have served in their current posts combined.

Can a team engineer the ‘bump’ it wants to avoid the ones it doesn’t?

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