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Sleepless in Fulham: Rambling and gambling by David Young
Friday, 30 June 2006
Essential Reading - Islam can vote, if we let it.
Topic: Politics
Here's another piece for the essential reading section. It's shorter than the others.

Islam Can Vote, if We Let It

_ DY at 7:28 PM BST
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Thursday, 29 June 2006
What puts Americans off football?
Topic: Misc.
Why doesn't football interest Americans? Many reasons have been suggested, chiefly that it's low scoring, has a lot of draws and doesn't allow for commerical TV interruptions. But could there be something more? The Weekly Standard, a conservative US publication, has an article suggesting that it's the sight of players pretending to be injured in order to manipulate the referee that will ensure that the game never takes off in the the US:

"Turn on a World Cup game, and within 15 minutes you'll see a grown man fall to the ground, clutch his leg and writhe in agony after being tapped on the shoulder by an opposing player. Soccer players do this routinely in an attempt to get the referees to call foul. If the ref doesn't immediately bite, the player gets up and moves along. Making a show of your physical vulnerability runs counter to every impulse in American sports. And pretending to be hurt simply compounds the outrage."


I wasn't convinced by this thesis when I read it several days ago and I'm still not totally sold on it today. But the sight of Thierry Henry clutching his face as he dropped to the ground, despite not being touched anywhere near it, did sicken me and made me wonder whether the writer has a point. I can imagine US viewers shaking their head in disbelief that this goes on in a professional game's World Championship.

Is there not a mechanism by which players who've clearly dived and faked injury can be penalised after the game when the video evidence clearly indicates what they've done?

_ DY at 6:01 PM BST
Updated: Thursday, 29 June 2006 6:58 PM BST
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Tuesday, 27 June 2006
Contradictions in liberal causes.
Topic: Misc.
I found an interesting science story on the BBC news site today.

Womb environment 'makes men gay'

A professor at Brock University in Ontario is claiming that being gay may be genetically predetermined. I can't comment on the accuracy of the findings. What interests me is the consequence of this. Suppose for a moment that a simple test could be devised to determine whether a male foetus is 'gay'? Should it be allowed? Would parents have a right to know? And if yes, then should they be allowed to demand an abortion if they don't want a gay son?

I don't know the answer to these questions. But I'm sure that some parents would abort a son on those grounds. The dilemma is interesting because abortion is often considered a 'liberal' cause, along with gay rights. But if such a test were to exist, then this natural alliance would cease to make sense, because abortion could then be used to make 'gayness' a thing of the past.

This isn't the only contradiction among liberal causes. While I quite admire Peter Tatchell for his attacks on Robert Mugabe's homophobia, I was rather surprised by his naivety in complaining about homophobic remarks made by Sir Iqbal Sacranie, head of the Muslim Council of Britain. Tatchell said that it was "tragic for one minority to attack another minority ... both the Muslim and gay communities suffer prejudice and discrimination" and "we should stand together to fight Islamophobia and homophobia."

That's not going to happen ever. Perhaps this is the high point of 'gay culture'?

_ DY at 5:12 PM BST
Updated: Tuesday, 27 June 2006 5:22 PM BST
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Sunday, 25 June 2006
Groups and nerds.
Topic: Misc.
Peter Birks wrote an interesting piece last weekend about Reinforcement. Writing from the point of view of someone who used to be an alcoholic, he explains:

"When drinking you avoid social circles including non-drinking people. Indeed, to you, the drinker, it is these people who seem weird. Instead you either seek out other drinkers or, more seriously, you avoid everyone. If you are outside in a major conurbation one sunny afternoon and you see half a dozen "dossers" sitting on a couple of park benches, drinking Diamond White, just consider the fact that they might see us as the weird ones. They reinforce their own view of the world."

and goes on to explain the phenomenon in more general terms:

"Which would you prefer, a feeling of "being normal" amongst others of a similar ilk, or a feeling of horrific alienation? The former, obviously. However, the downside of this comes when you see a group of, say, computer geek male adolescent student types in a pub (or any other group of which you aren't a member) and you look at them.

Women on 'intelligent' radio shows, for reasons which somehow escape me, often mock these little self-contained groups of the socially asymetric, without (or so it appears to me) asking themselves the rather simple question of why things get that way."

It dawned on me a few days later that Peter and others who find this topic interesting should check out this excellent essay by Paul Graham:

Why Nerds are Unpopular.

It's long but very rewarding. I wish I'd read it 20 years ago.

Friday, 23 June 2006
Glasgow club raid.
Topic: Poker
I saw David Colclough at the Victoria last night and asked him about the stories that the Cincinatti Club had been raided by police. He informed me that:

The police had entered the club and taken cards and chips as evidence. No money was taken.

The police said that they think the operation is illegal.

The police did NOT press charges, nor did they tell the club to cease operations.

Business is continuing.

Thursday, 22 June 2006
Why does anyone buy the Daily Express?
Topic: Misc.
I can understand why people buy the broadsheet papers. I can understand why people buy the Sun and the Mirror. The former contain news and analysis. The latter contain humour and gossip. But I've always struggled to understand why people buy the Mail and the Express. Their news content is poor and they don't titillate. What's the point?

In particular, I'm really struggling to understand why anyone still takes the Express after it's spent months and months trying to expose some great cover-up about the death of Diana in 1997. Do the readers actually believe that the paper has found anything? Does it not strike them as odd that none of the other papers have commented on it at all?


Here is a small sample of Daily Express front covers concerning Diana's death. There are several pages of them!

_ DY at 2:46 PM BST
Updated: Thursday, 22 June 2006 6:50 PM BST
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Tuesday, 20 June 2006
My world is now theirs.
Topic: Poker
When I first started playing poker in the mid 90s, I couldn't understand why the game wasn't more popular than it was. I explained my new found love to friends and family and was amazed to see their eyes glaze over in boredom.

I can't say my family has changed its opinion much, but the wider British public certainly has. What's more amusing is the influx of celebrities. Last night I went to the Sportsman for its £250 freezeout and found myself playing Teddy Sheringham on the final table.

After picking up some money for finishing third, I headed over to the Vic to see who was in town for the festival week and found Vicky Coren playing an Irish boy-band singer. There are few clearer signs of how much things have changed than seeing someone who's been in the gossip columns and supermarket celeb magazines for years wailing 'How can he call me with eight-five'?

Welcome to my world!

_ DY at 10:41 AM BST
Updated: Tuesday, 20 June 2006 10:45 AM BST
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Saturday, 17 June 2006
Extraordinary scenes from poker and chess.
Topic: Poker
There's been a lot of rubbish written about online poker on the Gutshot forum recently. I don't know who these people are who think that you get more freak outdraws online than live. I've never seen any evidence for it myself. I can sit and play online for hours and hours and never see much that's out of the ordinary.

Just for the sake of it, here's a hand I saw live in an omaha game at the Western yesterday night. On a flop of:

Jc 9d 8c

two players got all their money in.

A had Qs Ac Qd Td

B had Ad 5d Qc Tc

so they both had the nut straight, while B was freerolling on the clubs. In the event though, the next two cards came Jd, 8d to give A the backdoor straight-flush! What was particularly annoying for B was that he had the nut diamond draw, so he couldn't lose to a backdoor diamond flush. Ouch!

Changing the subject for no reason ...

I look at every day for their daily puzzles. The problems start off easy on a Monday and get progressively more difficult until Sunday when there is no point in trying to work it out, you just go straight to the answer and find out what 14 move combination Spassky inflicted on so-and-so at the Leningrad interzonal in 1963 etc.

I used to spend ages studying chess. Eventually it annoyed me that I didn't seem to get any better at it. I've wasted a lot of time looking at games played by people much better than me. Much of it goes over my head. But it's worth it every now and then when you find a gem like this one:

Petrosian v Pachman, 1961

Petrosian's final combination is a thing of beauty. Just once in my life I would like to find a killer move like 21.Bg7

_ DY at 12:35 PM BST
Updated: Saturday, 17 June 2006 2:15 PM BST
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Friday, 16 June 2006
It's the demography, stupid!
Topic: Politics
Another piece to add to my essential reading collection.

Much of what we loosely call the Western world will not survive this century, and much of it will effectively disappear within our lifetimes, including many if not most Western European countries.

Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, 14 June 2006
About online poker.
Topic: Poker
I get a lot of requests for my view on the alleged fixing of hands in online poker. Here is what I had to say about it two years ago:

I haven't changed my mind since.

But there is another point I want to make while I'm here. And that's that No Limit cash poker is different when played online rather than live, though not for the reasons that most people give. I'm not referring to the fact that people might be less embarrassed to make bad calls when they can't be seen or that there are no tells.

It's the stack sizes.

If I play at the Vic, I will typically start with about £400. Given that the big blind is £3, that's approx 133 big blinds. Others are sitting down with a grand or more. That's 333 big blinds.

Contrast this with the situation on Victor Chandler for instance where you can only sit down with 75 big blinds, or most other sites where the limit is 100 and many people sit down with a lot less. It's a totally different game. The shallowness of the money means that it's 'best-in, best-out' poker. The implied odds aren't there if you want to play unusual cards in raised pots. They do exist however at the Vic.

I have a friend who wins at online SNG. He wins at live cash. But he loses at online NL cash games. And that's because the stack sizes don't suit his style. In live play, he sits with about 500 big bets and plays some wacky cards. In SNG, he plays tight when the blinds are small, but aggresively later on when they are worth winning. But in online NL cash action he's stuck. The money isn't deep enough to reward taking risks with non-premium hands, but the blinds are not worth stealing like they are in an SNG. Add in the fact that winners tend to 'hit and run' in online play because they were only planning to play for short periods anyway and you have a recipe for disaster for those who can't play tight.

He's not alone. There are bound to be plenty of others like him. And many of them bombard forums with the 'I can win live but not online, it must be rigged' blather.

_ DY at 9:47 PM BST
Updated: Tuesday, 20 June 2006 10:47 AM BST
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Tuesday, 13 June 2006
Topic: Misc.
A cousin in Canada has sent me a link to the trailer for a new film called 'Shining'. Seems like some sort of uplifting family/romantic comedy.

Check it out:

_ DY at 4:12 PM BST
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Monday, 12 June 2006
Loose thoughts about the World Cup.
Topic: Misc.
1) Is there a special place in hell for people who fly England flags from French cars? Should there be?

2) The term 'Mexican Wave' has long annoyed me. Many people think that the practice started at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, but you can clearly see a high school basketball crowd doing it in the 1985 Michael J. Fox film 'Teen Wolf'. Wikipedia has earlier citations.

Thursday, 8 June 2006
Something I've always wondered.
Topic: Misc.
You know those flight simulation programmes that you can get on PC, like Microsoft Flight Simulator? If you spent enough time on one, would you actually acquire the skills to fly a commercial airliner?

I'm not suggesting that pilots should be trained on them, but just wondering whether it would help to have used one in the unlikely event of being on a flight where both pilots fall ill or are killed by hijackers.

Can anyone enlighten me?

Wednesday, 7 June 2006
Last night's TV - Britain's biggest spenders.
Topic: Television
Did anyone else catch last night's ITV show 'Britain's Biggest Spenders'? It's not the sort of thing I normally watch. For a start, I hardly ever watch ITV. But having chanced upon it, I was glued to the set. Rarely have I seen anything so cringe-making.

The show revolved around four 'big spenders', three female, one male. The man was had some sort of background in fitness and now speculates in property. Of the women, one had married rich (and divorced), one was a music publisher and one was a lap-dancer living far beyond her means and #80,000 in debt.

If you wanted an exercise in demonstrating the utter vacuity of the lifestyles of the rich (and wannabe rich) in Britain today, this show was hard to beat. The only likable person was the music publisher, who had led an interesting life and worked for her money. She also attends charity auctions and buys things at them. I had no problem with her.

But the others? Yuk!

The rich divorcee was pleasant enough, but seemed to think she was still 20 years old, despite being in her 40s. She spends money on pampering herself in salons, clothes, boats, parties and second/third homes. Everything was about show rather than substance. I actually felt sad for her that she had no interests to invest in.

The lap-dancer was an average looking 31-year old, who was tragically under the impression that she was amazingly attractive. She drives around in a flash car, licence plate S4UCY (or something similar). She gets a 'buzz' out of shopping online and we were shown a scene of her greeting the delivery man one day and getting hyper unwrapping the junk she had bought. As soon as she'd opened everything, the high was gone and she was back to feeling flat again. Hitherto unable to admit to her parents that she was mired in debt, she decided that it was time to confont her mother about it. Obviously the way to do this was by flying herself and her mother to New York and breaking the bad news at the end of a shopping holiday.

The programme made clear that she had gone broke before when she was young. It was obvious that she was planning to declare bankruptcy again. She expressed a tiny amount of remorse for it, but not much. She was only concerned about what her parents would think of her. The fact that she was about to stiff the banks for a second time and that behaviour like hers makes it harder for sensible people to get cheap credit hadn't occurred to her.

But for sheer incredulity, nothing beat the man. For a start, he just looked bizarre. His skin was a permatan orange. His face was swollen and he looked ridiculous with his overdeveloped muscles in the tight suits that he wore. Things didn't get better when he opened his mouth. Despite supposedly having everything that he wanted, he was tragically insecure. At every opportunity he had to show off - showing us the growth hormones he injects every day that he thinks will make him life to 130, the botox injections he takes three times a year to avoid wrinkles, explaining that he only wears underwear two or three times before throwing them away because he wants to feel fresh. Most oddly was his determination to show that he was a 'player', despite it not always being clear what it meant in the context in which he used it.

Not content with buying a big house in southern Spain, he had to get 'No.1' ingraved in marble on the floor in the hall. He bought a village in Bulgaria and planned to rename it after himself. He seemed completely unaware that this might be considered an insult to the poor people who have to live in his town.

All of this makes me uneasy. I'm an odd mixture in some ways, fiercely capitalistic, but not especially materialistic. I recently looked at some pictures of me taken in 1991 and realised that I still wear some of the clothes I had then! I believe strongly in the virtues of private wealth creation and fully accept the inequalities they produce. But I'm often baffled by what people chose to spend their wealth on. None of the people we saw seemed to have any interest in using their wealth to expand their knowledge and understanding of the world. None seemed interested in anything other than what others thought of them. For me, money is desirable because it buys you time and space. You don't have to work at something you don't enjoy. You can live somewhere that's convenient to you.

To spend your whole life trying to get others' attention seems as much of a dreary grind as anything I did when I worked.

Tuesday, 6 June 2006
Palestinian child indoctrination.
Topic: Politics
I had a curious moment several months ago while walking past my local Chinese take-away in Fulham. For no reason I can think of, it suddenly dawned on me that I hadn't thought about the Palestine/Israel conflict for a few weeks. It felt great!

Alas I know it's something that a lot of readers want me to express views on and I will write some thoughts tomorrow. But for now, please check out this video of a Palestinian programme for children. It's heartbreaking. Two girls of 11 years of age talk openly of their desire for a martyr's death.

This is just sad, incredibly sad.

What could be better than going to paradise?

Click on the sideways triangle to activate the clip. A translation is provided. For those who can't access it, I provide the transcript:

Host: You described 'Shahada' as something beautiful. Do you think it is beautiful?

Walla (aged 11): Shahada is a very very beautiful thing. Everyone years for Shahada. What could be better than going to paradise?

Host: What is better, peace and full rights for the Palestinian people or Shahada?

Walla: Shahada. I will achieve my rights after becoming a Shahid. We won't stay children forever.

Host: OK Yussra, would you agree with that?

Yussra (aged 11): Of course Shahada is a good (sweet) thing. We don't want this world, we want the Afterlife. We benefit not from this life, but from the Afterlife. All young Palestinians, not like other youths, are hot tempered. They choose Shahada, since they are Palestinian.

Host: Do you actually love death?

Yussra: Death is not Shahada.

Host: No, I mean that absence after death, the physical absence, do you love death?

Yussra: No child loves death. The children of Palestine adopted the concept that this is Shahada. They believe that Shahada is very good. Every Palestinian child, say someone aged 12, says O Lord, I would like to become a Shahid.

_ DY at 3:37 PM BST
Updated: Tuesday, 6 June 2006 3:44 PM BST
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