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The World Cup Jun. 13th, 2010 @ 11:18 am
So, I was having some vague ambivalence issues about which teams I wanted to do well this World Cup. I mean, the UK is in for a rough few years ahead, it looks like, and soccer matters so much to them, and England doing well would make the English people happy... but my British allegiances lie pretty strongly with Scotland, and, well. You know. Scotland likes Diego Maradona. Yes, he's a cheating little bastard, but he cheated against England, so.

Then there's South Africa - also a country going through a hard time for quite some time now, and a country of which I am, technically speaking, a citizen. But my dissatisfaction with the South African government has long robbed me of allegiance to South Africa except when represented by the Springboks. The amaSoccerBokke Bafana Bafana may be, but they aren't the Bokke.

Which brings us to Australia, a nation of which my citizenship is less a technicality. Last World Cup the Socceroos made it as far as the semifinals before being robbed by those cheating diving bastard Italians, but I just don't have a sense of real national allegiance in soccer, as opposed to, say, cricket.

However, I have, in fact, found a new favourite national soccer team.

And it's the USA.

Not just for hanging on for a plucky draw against England - I'm watching the game, and the USA team are remarkable, demonstrating a total lack of the things that irritate the hell out of me about professional soccer.

I've seen several US players receive some viciously dangerous tackles. They cry less about it than Italian players do when they haven't actually been touched. They pretty much go down, clearly in pain, then... get up again.

I haven't seen them dive at all, themselves.

US keeper Howard just watched Rooney fall over trying to make a header for a goal, and he gave him a sort of friendly pat on the shoulder as he went to retrieve the ball. That's nice.

I just... it's like the US soccer team are demonstrating all the best characteristics of American-ness and none of the bad ones, right now. John Oliver spent a couple of days with the team for the Daily Show, and on the Bugle he was talking about how - to his horror, as an England fan - he really liked them, because they were genuinely nice guys with no ego. It comes across on the field.

... A US player just got a yellow card, but his bad challenge was a little reckless, but not *nasty* - it was slightly careless, is all. And he didn't immediately bounce to his feet and try to pretend he totally didn't do that.

So basically, go Team America, you are the nicest soccer players I've ever seen.

Basketball, commercials, health, health care systems, surgeons... my mind, it wanders a lot May. 27th, 2009 @ 10:15 am

I'm watching a basketball game. Cleveland Cavaliers vs Orlando Magic. I am developing a preference for the Magic in this series, because:

1) Orlando Magic wear consistent uniforms that look fine. Cleveland Cavaliers... I've watched three games between these teams. First game, Cavaliers wore a really nice blue. I rooted for them that game, and that may be why. Second game, they wore a dark red I disliked, I found myself preferring the Magic. This game, they're wearing navy blue with red stripes. PICK A COLOUR.

2) Orlando Magic do not have Lebron James, who a) seems like kind of a jerk b) keeps getting bad decisions in his favour because he's a STAR c) okay, this one isn't his fault, but seriously, one of the commentators is totally doodling MR LEBRON JAMES in the margins of his notebook, because he can not shut up with the OMG Lebron James is so awesome he's the dreamiest OMG OMG.

3) The Orlando Magic's coach is kind of adorable. He's so wee! He's short even compared to normal people, let alone the basketball players, so standing amid the basketball players he looks like a moustached, shouty munchkin. So tiny! So shouty!

Watching American sports, I have very little personal stake in what's going on, but I like having a side I vaguely want to win. So I pick a side on an incredibly arbitrary basis.


There's a commercial for Maltesers that comes up periodically. My brother-out-law Chas observed yesterday: "That ad always makes you smile." I hadn't realised, but it's true, I do really like it. It's 'Rollers', for Maltesers, which the YouTube blurb claims was so successful Mars had to build a whole new factory to cope with the demand. (The version we see has been dubbed with voices in Australian accents, but the dialogue is all the same.)

The thing is, it's a genuinely good ad. It doesn't treat eating chocolate as a "guilty pleasure", or some kind of overwhelming experience that's just stupidly unrealistic, or anything like that... it's, hey, chocolate is nice. And the friend's reaction of "I can see what you're doing!" and the fact that this is a cause for laughter, not any kind of why-would-people-do-that argument based on getting overly invested in a bag of chocolates, that's... nice. And the way the song on the radio gets to a cool bit and they both join in singing.

It's the kind of thing that, for me, is just... hey, this is friendship. I've had those moments. You're driving with a friend, you're laughing, being a little silly, including being silly about something like a pack of snacks, where the point isn't exactly eating the snacks (although they're tasty), it's also the game of sneaking them and getting caught and both of you finding it funny. A good song comes on, you both interrupt the conversation to sing along. These are the little, mundane moments of love and laughter that, in a very literal sense, I live for.

So yeah, that commercial makes me smile. Because it's a commercial that speaks to everyday joy - not pretending Maltesers are anything other than, you know, chocolate snacks.

Honestly, if Maltesers were gluten-free, I would probably have been buying them more since I saw this ad, because I like the taste, and it would make me think of happy, random moments with my friends.

Advertising: Just for a change, you're doing it right.

Something that's come up in my head recently:

I've been reading a lot of blogging (from the science-based, pro-vaccination side) about anti-vaccination activism.

I've also been reminded by various events that my own immunisations are either coming up to due for boosters, or possibly way overdue.

When I see my new doctor next week, I'm going to mention this, in the expectation that she will send me on to the clinic nurse to shoot me up with something, and give relevant instructions on how slowly I need to get everything done.

The site of the tetanus shot I got on Saturday is still red and puffy, but I showed it to Dr Paula on Monday, and she said it was a normal localised reaction, and the inflammation was a small enough area not to be concerned (and demonstrated what WOULD be cause for concern). I have reasonable faith in Dr Paula, so I'm not worried.

Faith because: Seriously, she's awesome. She listens, she doesn't tell me all my problems would be solved if I lost weight, when I went in near-fainting from fear about getting a pap smear she listened and she was sympathetic and very, very gentle. I had this localised skin problem. Doctor before her, Doctor D, when I said, look, I've got this, and my previous doctor told me it was a fungal thing, so I've been using anti-fungal cream for nearly a month now and it's just not getting better, glanced at it, said, "That's a fungal infection." like I didn't have any idea that was a possibility and told me to get a different anti-fungal cream.

Doctor Paula's reaction, to my telling her that that one hadn't worked either? "Well, it's probably not fungal, then." *writes prescription for steroid cream* "Try that." Visible improvement by the following morning.

Doctor Paula is awesome because when I tell her something, she listens, and integrates that into her plans for my treatment. I tell her, look, this is really scary for me, because X, she's gentle and reassuring and sympathetic and promises me that if it's too hard, we can stop, and we'll work out another way to do this.

Also, Doctor Paula is at the uni medical centre, which bulk-bills students, so it doesn't cost me money to see her, which seeing Doctor Peter, who's been my family doctor since I was about three, does. He recently moved to a new practice that's actually bothersomely expensive.

Explanation for non-Australians: Medicare pays a set fee for doctor's visits. Doctors are not required to charge that amount for their services, and most charge more. Usual practice is that the doctor will charge the fee for their services to the patient, who can claim a rebate from Medicare. However, if the doctor only charges the Medicare-refunded fee, what they will usually do is skip charging the patient altogether. Instead, the patient signs a form, and the practice bills Medicare directly. This is known as bulk-billing, because they bill Medicare in bulk. The university medical centre charges a fee for university staff and local community members who use their services, but bulk-bills students.

I keep meaning to learn more about proposed systems for American health care reform. Cut for lengthy digression. )
So we have multiple payers, and the system is far from perfect, but... for the most part, it copes.
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