As one season draws down, another begins (and then there is the World Cup!)

Photo © J’s GOAL

The Fuji Xerox Super Cup just finished, ringing in a new year for J-League football. Kashima Antlers won in a penalty shootout (5 – 3). It was a pretty crazy game with tons of turnovers and sacrifice plays. A rusty start to the season, but entertaining nonetheless.

2010 will be a good season for the J-League. Many Japanese internationals have returned to their home league in preparation for the World Cup. Hopefully that will raise the level of play here. I will be following Nagoya Grampus of course, with an eye to my old local side Kyoto Sanga and my other favourite Yokohama F. Marinos. This might be a good year for Grampus who Matsu predicts to finish in the top four.

My football story

Everybody likes to talk about how they got into football. I am no different, even if I had a strange coming. I am Canadian and grew up in a hockey family. North American sport consists of the trifecta of hockey, basketball and handegg. It is not exactly a hotbed of soccer fanaticism, as evidenced by the dismal FIFA ranking of my country.

I first started following football during the 1998 World Cup. A couple of years later I became interested in the Premier League. At the time I was living in Japan and became good friends with an expat Londoner who convinced me to support his local side, Chelsea. (I already admired Gianfranco Zola, so it seemed a good fit). I also began to support my local J-League side Kyoto Sanga. Though constantly bottom-of-the-table, their fans are excellent, real gluttons for punishment. Kyoto Sanga matches were the first professional football matches I ever attended. In the following years I travelled to see Cerezo Osaka and Yokohama F. Marinos. I started to follow Yokohama closely after reading a biography on Carlos Ghosn.

All this time I tracked Chelsea’s progress back in England, which was skyrocketing due to the influx of cash from Roman Abramovich. It was not a good time to be a new Chelsea fan, even though I was there before him. Nobody is interested in that technicality. Anyways, it was at this time that I met up with another Englishman — a Tottenham Hotspur supporter. I began to watch them as well, and grew to be a supporter myself. A few years later, when Zola moved onto managing West Ham, I started keeping an eye on his progress. This year, as a fan who has experienced years at the bottom of the table (Kyoto Sanga), and with my naval history interest, I felt a connection for Pompey. I know, very depressing.

As you can see, not having grown up footie I have a wide spread of teams of interest. Admittedly, I have not closely followed every team mentioned above with equal fervour year in and year out. But this year though has been good. I have been on paternity leave which gives me a lot more time to keep up, and even discover new ways of enjoying Premiership football like listening to The Football Ramble and Chappers’ podcast.

And that, spotty as it is, is my footie pedigree. I have yet to make it to England (only having gone as far west as Iran) to see a match, but I plan on doing so someday. Ideally, I would like to live in London for a few years. Not just because of my interest football, but for a whole host of cultural and historical reasons. My friends know me as somewhat of an Anglophile.

In the meantime, I will try and get in as much J-League as I can. If you are interested in Japanese football check out J’s Goal. If you would rather keep up in English, The Rising Sun News is the place to start. There are also many English-language blogs following specific sides: for example see Grampalogue. The foreign football community in Japan is small, but well-connected. A quick search around the web and you are sure to get your fill.

Notes on Windows Phone 7 Series

DISCLAIMER: The following are simply impressions and questions I have. Think of them as notes for the future, when the WP7S actually launches. I was prompted to post my thoughts by the following tweet:

@Mutantfroginc asked:

Impressions of WM7 demo? I’m still undecided, but it may be closer to Raskin’s transparent design than any phone OS so far.

No, this is not a humane interface. Full screen applications that are bounded to the edges of the device are humane. True, this is a windowless interface (at least, the Hub screens are), which Raskin liked, but the navigation is high concept, and not based on convention. Furthermore, the lack of chrome can cause usability problems. For example, how do we know what it clickable?

Other impressions

  • first, typical Microsoft style: showing a prototype months and months before release. Yes, the iPhone didn’t ship for a few months, but there were no rough edges. The iPhone was completed before it was demoed.

  • I do like the “chromeless” user interface concept, even though I think it may be confusing for consumers. The screen is a keyhole to a much wider application space. It reminds me of my favourite mug, but on purpose. Presumably phones with higher pixel density will show more of the app space. But I wonder how loading such a big app space will affect the CPU? Seems that will put lots of strain on a mobile CPU. Plus, all those motion transitions are not going to make things any snappier.

  • Hubs are confusing. The iPhone and Android have basically two modes: launcher and application. The Hub introduces a third, in-between mode, that pulls information from multiple sources on both the device and the cloud.

  • grid-based layout is awesome. Leads to more flexibility in customizing layouts.

  • geeks will love this, especially if they offer skinning capabilities.

  • Microsoft is bringing this phone late to the game, and they haven’t shown any “gamechangers”. What are they contributing to a space that has been rapidly maturing for the past three years? There are only a couple of things I can think of that may give WP7S an edge:

  1. Heavy integration with Windows 7. Where the iPhone uses MobileMe and iTunes to provide tight integration with Macs, and Android integrates with the web, MS could make its phone a vertical link in its desktop and cloud-based services.

  2. Leverage the Xbox brand. Even though the iPhone is years ahead in mobile gaming (and Android nowhere to be seen), MS has a big advantage in its successful Xbox brand.

To close, not much can be said about a demo like this, except I have a million more questions. We are still far from launch date, and since WP7 is a “Series” we can assume that there will be many different flavours when it actually hits the market. It is hard to write anything of substance when the product isn’t fully baked yet.