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Sleepless in Fulham: Rambling and gambling by David Young
Sunday, 16 July 2006
Five reasons why we're fatter.
Topic: Misc.

I found an interesting article on Slate yesterday on a subject close to my heart or perhaps I should say "close to my stomach" -

Why we're fatter.

_ DY at 5:31 PM BST
Updated: Sunday, 16 July 2006 5:33 PM BST
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Saturday, 15 July 2006
Where's the value?
Topic: Poker

I've had a lot of people ask me whether I'm going to Las Vegas for the WSOP. I'm not. There are a few reasons for this, including the fact that some American friends of mine are coming to Britain to see me at the same time as the championship event. But even without that, I don't think I would go. The rake in many of the events is quite high. The structures for the cheaper events are poor. I'm stunned to read about the problems that some British players are having with back-taxes. From the sounds of things Harrah's is just plain incompetent. Andy Bloch got a time penalty for pointing out a marked card and destroying it!

Andy Ward appears to have the right idea - just chugging along in the one-table competitions. Lather, rinse, repeat. 

Meanwhile I'm playing in a $200 competition on Paradise that has a $250,000 guarantee. It only got 1,078 runners. That's a shortfall of $34,400.


I added up the prize pool and noticed that it only came to $227,500. I wrote to ask Paradise where the other $22,500 was and was sent this reply:

thanks for your email. In the event that one of our guaranteed tourneys does not meet the guarantee amount through buyins, we will add money to the pool to top it up to meet the guarantee. Please note that the guaranteed prize pool will be raked at 9% as per our T+C's Good luck at the tables and thanks for choosing ParadisePoker! Please let us know if we can be of any further assistance.  

So it's not quite as good as I thought, but they have still lost $11,900. Alas I won't be getting any of it after my KK got busted by AQo all-in preflop. Amazingly over 300 people were knocked out before the first hour was up. I don't they can all have been as unlucky as I was.

_ DY at 11:01 PM BST
Updated: Sunday, 16 July 2006 12:17 AM BST
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Tuesday, 11 July 2006
Who armed Saddam?
Topic: Politics
I went to a comedy gig on Friday last week with Jo Haslam, Steve Bartley, Steve Bennett, Dom Sutton and Peter Birks. I had no idea you could pay a mere tenner to see decent acts (Jeff Green and Rich Hall) test run their Edinburgh material. It's weird paying money to be a guinea pig but it was entertaining and that's all that counts. The club was packed - a clear sign that the comedy market is a healthy one. And coming in the same week that Jim Davidson declared banktuptcy, it's matured too.

Pete wrote about the gig the next day on his site and in the course of his 'review' mentioned something I'd said about the political tone of most comedy being slanted to the left. Using an example of something that Rich Hall had said I wrote back:

I did enjoy Hall's act very much. His delivery is excellent. But when for instance he says things like 'The rest of the world is looking at America in Iraq and thinking "what the fuck are you doing?", is it too much to hope for that he could mention that one reason for this is that much of the outside world was selling Saddam weapons and that they were furious at America for deposing a major creditor? Of course it is. No comedian ever approaches it from that angle. But it would make a refreshing change for me.

Someone named 'geoffchall' replied the rest of the world is 'looking at America in Iraq and thinking "what the fuck are you doing?"'and one of the reasons is that America spent so many years selling weapons to Saddam only to then have them fired back at themselves.'

It reminded me of something I'd forgotten. That many people think that the US was a major arms supplier to Iraq. It's not true. Scott Burgess of the Daily Ablution shows the real figures:

Who Armed Saddam?

For a breakdown of what the US did sell him, see the list at the bottom of this page:

_ DY at 9:16 PM BST
Updated: Tuesday, 11 July 2006 9:33 PM BST
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Monday, 10 July 2006
Topic: Politics
Over at Iraq the Model, there's an interesting piece about the different attitudes towards Islamic extremism, the Palestinians, Hamas and Israel held by Iraqis and non-Iraqi Arabs:

Singing out of the flock.

It's based on comments made on the BBC arabic forum. The difference between the attitudes of Iraqis and non-Iraqis is striking. Omar, one of the brothers who runs the site, says:

What was written in that thread stands as one example of the change in the Iraqi way of thinking since the day we got rid of the dictator and shows that logic and facts are gaining more ground at the expense of emotions and conspiracy theories.

Many of the Iraqi contributors to the thread are openly sympathetic to Israel and critical of the Palestinans, while the non-Iraqi readers are horrifed by this. It's genuinely fascinating reading.


As promised in comments today, I've located an article that Robert Fisk wrote in the Independent on June 6th. In an interview with the cousin of a Palestinian who blew himself up in Iraq on a 'martyrdom operation', Fisk says

"As for Saddam's oppression of Iraq's Shia Muslims, Maher Oweydah has little sympathy. 'The truth is that Saddam was a Sunni and his struggle was with the Shia. Then after the invasion of Iraq, the Shia clerics and intellectuals and politicians entered the country on the American tanks'.

Fisk continues: "Extended members of the Oweydah family - those who are waiting for further 'calls' to Iraq - nodded at this narrative".

Later on Fisk tells us that the mother of the dead boy says to him 'I will meet him in heaven - in the higher heaven. I am happy he will be married in the spring of heaven'.

Now I ask skeptics like Roger Kirkham, who don't think that the postings on the BBC arabic forum are genuinely from Iraqis, whether they still think it unimaginable that by now there are Iraqis who are hostile to Palestinians. Well?

Full article here

_ DY at 3:42 AM BST
Updated: Tuesday, 11 July 2006 12:58 AM BST
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Friday, 7 July 2006
"So basically I met one nice French person."
Topic: Politics

Interesting story from France:

From the article: 

"A new body will try to boost financial literacy and communicate the benefits of wealth creation more effectively. ..

[Ministers] are worried about what they see as an over-reliance on the state and a lack of entrepreneurial dynamism.

The Council for the Diffusion of Economic Culture will operate under the auspices of the finance ministry when it launches later this year."

So the French are to get a government body to explain to them how to understand free market economics and thus reduce their reliance on ... government bodies! I love it.

Separately, Tripod, the blogging service I use, has made some upgrades to its software. I think it's having some teething problems though. Comments don't seem to appear until I write new posts. I'll have to dig around and see whether my settings have been altered or just hope that things clear up.

Thursday, 6 July 2006
Tales from the Vic.
Topic: Poker
About six months ago a regular recreational player at the Vic told me that he was trying to get the management to change the structure of the £100 game from two blinds of £2 to two blinds of £3. He insisted this was necessary to make the games better and that it would get rid of the 'rocks'. I tried to explain that it would merely make him lose money 50 per cent faster. He wouldn't listen.

Soon after that converasation, the Vic did just what he wanted. Yesterday I met him again. Noting that there was no omaha game running at 8pm and that the omaha action had been pretty weak for some time, he asked me 'David, where are the omaha players? What's happened to the game?'

This isn't the only costly change that the club has made. Back in February, the decision was made to move the cash games to the upstairs floor. It was done on the same day that the card room manager went on holiday. At the time I had minor reservations about whether it would affect the liveliness of the action, as the games would be less accessible. But what really annoyed me was that players were subjected to the piped music from the overhead speakers and that we were also made to hear the music from the restaurant.

After six days in which I lost four times, I decided that I could no longer accept the chance that these irritations were affecting my game. So I told Jeff that I wouldn't be back for a while and settled down to playing online. That was in February. It went OK, but with the arrival of summer I don't want to be sat indoors, as my flat gets very hot and I crave air-conditioning. So I went back to playing at the Vic a couple of weeks ago and found that it was much quieter than it had been in January. The festival week was very poorly attended, apart from the Monday and the cash action on other days was far below the level of a normal festival.

It seems that the Vic has finally noticed the problem and from Monday next week, cash games are moving downstairs. Rejoice! Rejoice! I'm not saying that the downstairs room is a paradise. The air-conditioning is erratic and the room is small for its needs, but it will be a joy not to have to listen to the karaoke waiter who sings in the restaurant every night and the dreary ballad music from the overhead feed.

Sunday, 2 July 2006
We have to change the way we think about property and education.
Topic: Politics

Here's an irony - I've been buying the Daily Express this week! No, I haven't changed my mind about Diana conspiracy theories. I still think it's a rubbish paper, but when I found out it was giving away copies of the Michel Thomas teach yourself Spanish course over eight days, I couldn't resist. I love collecting that stuff.

Most days I've barely glanced at the paper itself. Today's copy is still unread. But on Friday I read the cover story about property prices and was stunned to read this piece of logic from Peter Bolton King of the National Association of Estate Agents, following the release of figures from the Bank of England showing that the UK's total mortgage debt has topped £1 trillion and that prices were still rising:

"Many owners are relying on property as a source of income for the future, whether it be as a general investment or a nest egg for retirement, so with property forming the foundation of many people's future financial security this latest news is very heartening. Also it's worth pointing out that a positive housing market relates directly to the high street economy so it's essential the current improved picture continues, and that means continued low interest rates."

If this is typical of how middle England actually thinks then this country is in deep trouble. High house prices are good for only one thing - encouraging the development of new housing. And thanks to the anti-development bias in the planning permission system, they don't even achieve that. To see why Bolton King's argument is so ridiculous, try reading it out loud, but substituting 'Microsoft shares' instead of 'property' and 'monopoly of the market for operating systems' instead of 'low interest rates'.

We have to change the way we think about property in this country if we are to be as economically dynamic as the US. From the same newspaper, here's Fionnuala Earley, group economist of Nationwide:

"Someone on average earnings would now need to spend 42 per cent of their take-home pay on mortgage repayments, compared with just 32 per cent three years ago".

It's hard to see how a society can flourish when people are spending two pounds out of every five they earn on the roof above their heads. Something has to give and that something is Britain's future. The UK's low fertility and birth rate isn't solely a function of high property prices, but it's one of the first places I'd look if I wanted to solve the problem. This article from the Telegraph states the facts:

Price boom, baby bust.

"In the late 1980s, the average age of a first-time buyer was 23: it is now 33. People are now living with parents for longer, or are sharing rented accommodation. Often they must pay off student debt before they can even start to save for a deposit on a house."

How to destroy a society in two easy moves - saddle the brightest and most talented with debt during their period of greatest fertility and then move them to cities where house prices are so high that they can't afford a home large enough to have a family. With any luck they'll die childless and never pass on their genes or life experience to anyone else.

What else could be done to cripple your society? Come on, you can't expect the housing market and student loans to do everything! What about sending your cleverest children to single-sex schools, so that they delay encountering the opposite sex until much later in life? That's bound to cut the number of children with high IQs in the next generation. No doubt you've been told the line that it's all worth it, because single-sex schools achieve better results for girls. Well it turns about that this is bogus.

Single-sex schools 'no benefit for girls'

'The reason people think single-sex schools are better is because they do well in league tables,' said Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research. 'But they are generally independent, grammar or former grammar schools and they do well because of the ability and social background of the pupils.' Their success should not be used to argue it is better to separate girls and boys in other settings, he added.

So for decades now, the bright ambitious middle class people have delayed the emotional development and sexual experience of their offspring ... and it's all been for nothing.

All of these things anger me. The Middle Classes matter and it should concern us when they are unwilling or unable to raise the next generation. I'm not just saying this because I'm generally considered 'middle class' myself. I sincerely believe that societies with extremes of rich and poor with little in between are dysfunctional. Of course the key challenge is to facilitate the upward mobility of the people at the bottom, but bolstering the numbers in the middle helps too.

The Telegraph spells out the problem:

The middle classes are letting us down: they must breed more.

Fat chance of that happening when we put every possible obstacle in their path.

_ DY at 3:02 AM BST
Updated: Sunday, 2 July 2006 3:03 AM BST
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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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