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Sleepless in Fulham: Rambling and gambling by David Young
Thursday, 25 January 2007
Lost for words.
Topic: Politics

Has this every happened to you? You're having dinner or at a party and the subject of George W. Bush comes up and you decide to stand up for him and ... huh ... oh did I lose you there? Oh well, maybe it's just me then. Well anyway, I announce that I think Bush is a good president and that I'm happy to defend his overall record and before ten seconds has elapsed someone says it. Someone always says it. I've heard this at least three times in the last year, probably more and believe me, I don't get into this conversation all that often so it might be 100 per cent reliable. But I know someone will always say:

"How can you respect a man who says 'The problem with the French is that they don't have a word for entrepreneur'?"

I wait a couple of seconds to see whether there's an ironic smirk coming. But it never does. They sit there stony faced and I realise that they really believe it. They really, really think that this happened. I'm not suggesting that the only criticism of Bush one can make is that he doesn't know French (though he can speak Spanish - can you?) but this is often the first line of argument that his oh-so-smart detractors chose to make. I tell them that it's a joke - possibly one that he made, but more likely one that was made about him. It almost certainly never ever happened. They won't accept it.

I finally decided to refer to Snopes last week and check out its authenticity. Snopes is a great site for debunking or verifying urban legends. In the section on quotes I find this: 

which informs us that the story started in Britain in 2002 and the original source was Shirley Williams. Snopes says it's false, but unfortunately the source for the denial is one Alastair Campbell. The people behind Snopes probably don't know about Campbell's reputation in the UK, so it's a shame they don't supply a second source for the denial. Nevertheless, now that he's no longer working for the prime minister, it would be interesting to hear him deny it again. His son plays poker at the Vic so if he ever comes in to see how junior is getting on in the £100 hold'em game, maybe I'll get my chance.

Talking of the Vic, I know that some readers are put off playing there because it's so full of Greeks. They fear that the Greeks are unfriendly to non-Greeks. I can honestly say that it's totally untrue. In fact I have it on good authority that they don't even have a word for Xenophobia.

Monday, 22 January 2007
Poker as a platform game.
Topic: Poker

And so we say farewell to Bluescouse over at 88% Concentration. I’m very much a late arrival to the party here, having only caught on to his blog in the last month. I wish I’d jumped on for the ride sooner. For those who don’t know his story, the gist is that he’s a teenager in Wales who plays online and has in the past managed to win huge sums having started small and continually parlayed up to bigger and bigger games. At one stage he had his bankroll up to about £170k, but inevitably perhaps, when his lucky streak ended and he experienced the normal run of bad luck that all of us get at some point, he wiped out the lot.


Undeterred, he cashed in his ISA and proceeded to give that a spin. That got him a fair amount of negative feedback. Yesterday he saw the light and decided to quit. He blames the pressure of impressing his father and his loyal readership for some of the mistakes he’s made, but as he's got no understanding of money management, I don’t think he would have lasted even without that pressure.


He’s not alone. I’ve heard of others who done something similar. One south of England player springs to mind. He has run his net worth up to over £200k a couple of times, and up to lesser levels of £50k and £100k several times too – always going completely broke within months. Given that I can think of many ways that my life would be improved by having more money, I struggle to understand people like this. Both the people I’ve mentioned so far live with their parents! Couldn't they at least rent an apartment for themselves? That’s got to be the dream of any person under 30, surely?


I don’t think of them as compulsive gamblers. Although I’ve met several compulsive types in casinos, I really don’t think that poker lends itself to compulsive behaviour. It’s just too slow. The casino games of roulette and craps are far faster. You don’t have to wait as long for the resolution of any given bet. So what is going on with these people? One possible answer was suggested to me by Matt Arnott. We were discussing these guys at the Western when he suddenly said:


It’s like they’re playing Super Mario Brothers!


Of course; that’s how they see it. The challenge isn’t to raise your standard of living. It’s not to increase your income. It’s not to achieve financial and personal independence. Their aim is simply to get to the next level or die trying. That led to a discussion of who must be the final ‘boss’ to beat at the end before they could quit. Matt suggests Gus Hansen, but I’d make it Ben Roberts.

Calling all boks!
Topic: Misc.

A few days ago it occured to me that Shilpa Shetty might be odds-on to win Celebrity Big Brother after all the publicity that her fate has generated. I saw a price of 2.6 on Betfair and decided to contact the usual suspects in the Special Bets market. None of them replied so I did nothing about it and promptly watched her price collapse to 1.67 now. Bah.

Should I now be hoping that more people see this? 

_ DY at 1:44 AM GMT
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Thursday, 18 January 2007
Jade Goody / Colin and Justin
Topic: Television

I said recently 'I wish all these reality shows and elimination contests would go away. I can't believe that people aren't already sick of them.' They won't go away soon, but I'm hoping that the bust-up on Big Brother could mean that I will soon no longer have to see any more of Jade Goody. I'm sick and tired of seeing her face on magazine covers every time I pay for something at the supermarket. Please, please, let this be the end of her so-called career.

Until now she's served a useful role in informing the educated public of just how ignorant many people are in this country. Jade can't plead poverty. She's been rich for several years. She could have used her money to educate herself and become a more rounded individual. She doesn't do this, because she doesn't care. She has no way of understanding someone like Shilpa Shetty, but also has no understanding of her own country's culture either. To do so would require her to make an effort to think about someone other than herself. Jade is a product of a leisure society, where only short-term gratification matters.

Separately, I'm recommending that you all watch tonight's 'Colin and Justin on the Estate', Channel 5 at 8pm. I don't watch property renovation programmes as a rule and generally hold them in the same contempt as 'reality TV', but last week I caught this while staying at my sister's house and was quickly grabbed by the theme. I've no interest in shows about how someone with a budget of £250,000 is going to buy a place in the South of France and spend another £20,000 turning in into their own palace. I don't care. But this show is something different altogether.

Instead of decorating the homes of the rich, Colin and Justin have taken on the task of improving the quality of life on an estate in Glasgow. Perhaps I'm taken by this because I was born there. I won't pretend I was raised in the Gorbals, but I do recall seeing the less pleasant estates as a child because my mother was a GP and did house calls to the homebound sick. People in the south-east of England today can't imagine what it was like in some of those places in the 70s. You would see houses that had been sheared in half mid way through demolition, sometimes with furniture left in. It looked like a doll's house opened up. The word "bleak" hardly begins to apply.

What makes Colin and Justin's task hard isn't just that the Arden Estate is so desolate, nor that they have very little money to improve it with. The real problem is that there is a reason why the place is so wrecked. In last week's episode it didn't look as though they were going to tackle it, but in the final minutes we saw highlights of the next week's show (tonight's) where at last they tackle the 'elephant in the room' that nobody was talking about before - that it's the young kids on the estate who are destoying it. We saw C&J confronting the young vandals and even giving them a taste of their own medicine by vandalising their property in return. I can't wait to see how it pans out. At last a 'property porn' show is tackling a social issue. I hope they make the most of it.

Wednesday, 17 January 2007
The rakeback kid.
Topic: Poker

Here's an interesting feature about Mark Goodwin:

The money quote:

"His figures show that he’s made $180,000 from tournament winnings this year – but his entry fees and expenses total $182,000! Without the sponsorship deal paying his entry into events he would be breaking even – and he’s currently sixth in the European rankings!"

I have to say that this 'business model' reminds me of those online players who break even in the games and only make money because they have a rakeback deal.

However the lifestyle side of it is a lot better!

_ DY at 6:38 PM GMT
Updated: Wednesday, 17 January 2007 6:40 PM GMT
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Tuesday, 16 January 2007
Sad day for poker.
Topic: Poker

I'm sad to see that Derek Kelly has been found guilty in the case against him regarding the Gutshot Club. I think it sets poker in Britain several years back, unless overturned on appeal. I haven't read the Gaming Act of 68 but I sense it's intended to protect people who play games of chance against the house. I'm told it has nothing to say about poker. The fact that it talks about games of both skill and chance being games of chance suggests to me that it's concerned with games like Blackjack and Casino Stud Poker where some decisions made by a player can reduce his expected loss, but not give him a positive expectation. But I'm not a lawyer.

In any case, the current situation is absurd. This morning I read in Metro that a late night ITV phone-in show was found to have held a game where players were invited to suggest items that a woman might have in her handbag. Two of the 'correct' answers were a balaklava and a rawl plug.

I. Am. Not. Making. This. Up.

Nearly every television channel is running these ridiculous phone-in games with there being no transparency whatsoever. And what have the authorities decided to prosecute? - A member's club where the game is dealt fairly and transparently. Incredible.

Who is the victim in Kelly's crime? By my personal moral code, a thing is illegal because it's wrong, not wrong because it's illegal. In every other crime I can think of, the 'victim' wishes that the crime had not occured. Yet Gutshot's players, the people who have paid the disputed 'service charge' are the people most keen to keep the place open! The only losers have been the established casinos who cannot stand the thought of losing customers. Actually this isn't really the case. If a private members club were to take away 100 potential players from a casino on a given night, the casino would only care about the loss of the five who also punt heavily on the dice and roulette. The other 95 are of next to no concern.

I really don't want to go back to where we were in this country a few years ago, where with the exception of the Vic, poker was treated as a 9pm loss-leader to drag in a few punters to keep the pit games busy. The game could be so much more than that. Condemning Gutshot isn't going to protect anyone. The people who play in it can easily play online (where a rake is charged) or go to casinos (where they must be subjected to the temptation to play negative EV games).

Who wins today? Nobody except perhaps the established casinos operators. And in my opinion, most of them don't really care about poker enough to invest in doing it properly and have no idea how much more profitable it could be if they cared.

_ DY at 4:55 PM GMT
Updated: Tuesday, 16 January 2007 4:58 PM GMT
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Monday, 15 January 2007
A thought experiment
Topic: Misc.

Sorry blogging's been light lately. I'm in the middle of exams for my course and I've caught a cold again, which makes it hard to concentrate. I do however have a hypothetical question to consider. I wonder what readers think.

Imagine that one day, all of the white people in Britain left and only non-white UK citizens remained. Would there be more racism or less? Ignore any economic effects and assume that net income per capita remains the same.

Monday, 8 January 2007
Come friendly bombs ...
Topic: Television

Recently Peter Birks mentioned a game called 'humiliation' on his blog. The idea is that a group of people tell each other what films they haven't seen. You get a point for every person who's seen a film that you haven't. So if you've never seen 'The Godfather' or 'The Great Escape' you should score well. I wouldn't do well at the game, as I've seen most of the classics. I might pick up some points for not having seen 'The Lion King' or 'Shrek', but that's about it.

I might do better if there were a television version. I'm proud to say that last year I didn't watch a full minute of 'The X Factor', 'Strictly Come Dancing' or 'I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here'. The latter did interest me as a betting medium a few years ago, but I can't be bothered to put the hours in any more. I wish all these reality shows and elimination contests would go away. I can't believe that people aren't already sick of them. I did watch the new intake of so-called celebrities into the Big Brother household last week, but that was by chance. Having caught it while scanning the channels, I stayed on to see whether there were any figures I would find interesting from the world of politics or current affairs. I was stunned when they got George Galloway last year and part of me hoped that Tony Benn might have walked down the red carpet this year, but it was not to be. The selection they've got this time is dismal in the extreme. The subsequent arrival of Jade Goody suggests that the format has been stretched to the absolute limit. Thank heavens for ABC1. I don't think I could have survived last year without regular viewings of 'Scrubs' and 'Less than Perfect'. I seen most of them now but I would still rather watch an episode I've seen before than any of the current 'reality' shows.

The emptiness of so much contemporary TV does bring me down. I don't mind it being explicit or suggestive. I'm not Mary Whitehouse. It's the 'look at me' narcissism of people who do absolutely nothing and haven't a thought in their head that bothers me. I often used to wonder what some of Britain's religious minority communities thought of the culture of the majority population when they see Big Brother contestants, most of whom are barely even cretins, unable to hold conversations about anything other than themselves. I got the chance to find out last year while talking to some young veiled and headscarved muslim women I met at the university where I'm taking night classes (a subject for another time). Contrary to what you might think, they were very articulate. They clearly found being muslim very exciting and so I tried to see things from their point of view and asked a leading question:

'I guess then when you look at things like Big Brother, you must think that western society is pretty empty'.

I've never seen someone nod so hard. So with that in mind, what would they make of this programme description? It's something I copied down from the info page on Freeview:

 'The Ashlee Simpson Show'

Jessica Simpson's younger sister Ashlee sets out to become a pop star. Ashlee's friends surprise her with a cake on her 20th birthday. She also decides on a haircut.

Betjeman's take on Slough springs to mind. I don't want you to think that these ladies support violence. They don't. But others from religious backgrounds do and it's not always foreign policy that motivates them. The human soul does from time to time feel the need for something to inspire it. The emptiness of much of modern culture instead leaves a void for extremists to fill.

_ DY at 1:04 AM GMT
Updated: Monday, 8 January 2007 1:11 AM GMT
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Thursday, 4 January 2007
Asking Iraq
Topic: Politics
I've been meaning to write a long piece about Iraq for a few weeks now, but a nasty cold and the Christmas holiday have put this on the back burner. At the end of it I was going to link to an opinion poll taken in Iraq back in September, which I really should have brought up at the time. It now occurs to me that it's worth a posting in its own right. I'm surprised how much gets written about Iraq without any reference to the polls taken there. I'm sure many people aren't even aware that polls are taken there at all. Here is one -

There are many findings. Of note is that when asked the question:

'Thinking about any hardships you might have suffered since the US-Britain invasion, do you personally think that ousting Saddam Hussein was worth it or not?'

Sixty-one per cent said 'Yes', that it was worth it. Obviously very few of these people have read the Guardian and thus have not had the benefit of Polly Toynbee's wisdom on the matter. They may have been forced to rely on their own first hand experience instead.

The poll shows that Iraqis want US forces to withdraw within a year to two years, but only a minority (37 per cent) want the withdrawal to take place within six months. There is support for attacks on US troops, but the main reason for this is not because of what the US army has done in the war, but because of a widespread view that the US is building permanent bases in the country (77 per cent believe this) and that it would not remove its forces if asked to by the Iraqi government (78 per cent believe this). Support for attacks on US troops drops by half when those who support them are asked whether they would still support them if the US made a firm commitment to go when requested to by the Iraqi government.

There is growing confidence in the ability of the Iraqi security forces. There is majority support for US forces training Iraqi security forces, though most feel that they aren't doing well enough at it. The poll shows strong disapproval of Al Qaeda and bin Laden, which rather dismisses the idea that the occupation is creating new Al Qaeda terrorists.

There's plenty to read. Check it out.

_ DY at 3:32 PM GMT
Updated: Thursday, 4 January 2007 3:56 PM GMT
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Monday, 18 December 2006
Short stack play in online omaha.
Topic: Poker

There's been an interesting thread on 2+2 recently. No, not that one. I'm talking about the growing dissatisfaction with the fact that so many online pot limit omaha players are playing with short stacks. I recently spent a couple of weeks multi-tabling PLO at Pokerstars, so it's a subject that's fresh in my mind. It was while playing there a few weeks ago that I suddenly thought of a winning strategy for playing omaha with a small stack on several tables at once. I didn't follow through on it because I was already winning by playing a deep stack game, but I did wonder whether any friends of mine had thought of it too.

When I asked around, a couple of people mentioned that Rolf Slotboom had written something similar to it in a book. I decided to see whether anyone on Stars was playing the way I was thinking of, but concluded that the small stacks weren't doing what I would have expected them to. Basically if you're going to go all in before the flop with a small stack then you either want to have two aces in your hand or none. Yet I kept seeing people doing it with one, which makes no sense to me.

A glance at the PLO forum on 2+2 shows a great deal of irritation with Slotboom for encouraging short stacked play. Technically he's not the first writer to have floated the idea. One of the Sklansky/Malmuth books explains why the ideal buy-in for limit 7-card stud is the running ante only, which isn't allowed. However Slotboom has gone much further and outlined a practical 'system'.

When his critics aren't complaining about his book, they are petitioning for an increase in the minimum buy-in. They say that too many short stacks are killing the game. I think they have a point. In my opinion, the fact that the stack sizes are so much lower in relation to the blinds, compared to typical live games, is a far more significant difference between live and online play than the presence or absence of physical tells. To see whether the complaint is valid, I decided to check out the state of affairs on four full ring (nine-handed) $1/2 games on Pokerstars.

This is what I saw:

Neva -$282, $342, $210, $279, $386, $145, $200, $27, $150

Leo Minor - $255, $96, $194, $200, $219, $179, $170, $207, $42

Jiangi - $177, $558, $120, $112, $209, $178, $177, $189, $196

Chalonge - $140, $175, $191, $220, $124, $14, $38, $198, $133

Compared to the Victoria's omaha games, this is very shallow stuff. On table Jiangi, there are only two players with more than the max buy-in. One of them only exceeds this by $9! Has only one person doubled up? Perhaps; but if not, where's the rest of the money? The answer to that is one of the reasons I tend to get fed up with online poker after a few weeks of it and return to live play - the incredible, by live standards, preponderance of the hit-and-run. Seriously, does anyone apart from me stay longer than three minutes after a double-up? I've lost count of the times I've gone a couple of buy-ins behind, only to see after a quarter of an hour that none of the people who won my money are still there. The flip side is that when I double through and stick around, after an hour or so, I start to wonder what the point is, when nobody else is close to matching me dollar for dollar.

Perhaps having an hourly charge discourages nursing a small stack. The Vic's £10 per hour in the hundred game is just over three big blinds (five, when the big blind was £2 not so long ago). That might deter people from clinging on for dear life with only seven or nineteen BBs, as two players on table Chalonge were doing. Whatever the case, I'll be interested to see what happens. Will 'stars take notice and raise the minimum buy-in? I would like to think so. But in order for that to happen, there would have to be some senior decision-makers working in the company who understand the game from a player's point of view rather than a marketing exective's. I've told Lee Jones, Rich Korbin, Conrad Brunner and Dan Goldman that the Sit'n'Go lobby is far too cluttered and splits the liquidity providers (people who sit down first) several times. But instead of being simplified it gets more and more complicated, with the end result that you get a large number of lists, with only a few names each on them. Surely the reverse would be more profitable?

Meanwhile the omaha games are still profitable for now because, as Big Dave D reports, many people are not correctly applying Slotboom's strategy. But in the long term there is a danger that the short stack approach will kill the game. Will 'stars react in time before the game dries up or drifts elsewhere? The race is on!

Thursday, 14 December 2006
Borat, the view from Lebanon.
Topic: Misc.

I've still not seen Borat and don't plan to either. However a friend in Beirut has seen it and has this to say:

I've just seen the complete pile of crap that is the film 'Borat'. I only went because my brother wanted to see it. It's shit. It's really annoying to see that prick running around taking advantage of honest, well meaning American folk. Actually, they come across very well. He comes across as a complete prick. The 'create-strawmen-in-order-to-ridicule-and-lampoon-anti-semitists' is wearng thin. I bet that cunt spent a lot of time trying to trick and induce innocent people into making any kind of anti-semitic remarks. It's just not funny.

The second point is that Kazakhstan has the second biggest Energy reserves of any of the former soviet block. The country is progressing. Unlike the UK. No doubt in 10 years time, the average Kazakhstani won't be handing over 1/3 of his salary to subsidise immigrants claiming benefit. Nor will he be paying 50% of his post-tax pay to a landlord, in order to rent some shitty 200 yr old hovel.

When I asked if I could post this on my site he said:

You can add that my sole wish is to see 'Borat II The Out-takes'. This film would be constructed of the film shot that contained the come-backs from the Americans. The comments made by people who cut short the interviews. Perhaps some 'talking-head' commentary from Pamela Anderson's lawyer relating to how his behaviour is going to induce some lunatic into trying to abduct her in future.

The thing that offends me is the deliberate and insiduous way that he attempts to cajole them into saying something which he can then craftily edit, in a way, to 'expose' and ridicule them. It is the lowest form of television. This is particularly cheap when he does it with a group of frat guys who are clearly pissed. It's a bit like the seedy guy who hangs around at a party waiting to hit on the drunk girl sitting in the corner without her friends. The scene of sending up the dirt-poor prostitute is particularly sickening.

The humour of Borat is blatantly racist. We are supposed to laugh along with our atavistic prejudices against the 'other' foreign culture that he represents, and how we (the west) are unable to culturally communicate with it. It is the one (tedious) joke in the film.

In fact, the result is the opposite. The people he meets are polite, and display no outward bound prejudices against him whatsoever. This is despite the USA being a relatively isolated country. For many in Middle America, the sole cognisance of 'people like Borat' is of September 11. Yet they are unfailingly positive and courteous with him.

I suggest viewing 'Team America:World Police' instead. It is much funnier, and infinitely more culturally incisive.

_ DY at 10:58 AM GMT
Updated: Thursday, 14 December 2006 11:01 AM GMT
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Sunday, 10 December 2006
Accounting for books
Topic: Misc.

Can anyone explain to me how the book business works? I love reading and have hundreds of books at home. But I’m baffled by the industry that publishes and sells them.


Is it really necessary for books to appear only in hardback form for six months before being released in paperback? I’ve lost count of the times I’ve seen an interesting book in a shop but refused to buy it because it was only available in hardback. I don’t see why I should pay an extra £6 for a harder cover. I find it hard to believe that this strategy is profitable. It means that the book is at its most expensive at the point it gets the most publicity. By the time it’s made into paperback, something else is being discussed in the media and potential buyers who were put off paying the higher price may have forgotten about it.

Biographies of Non Entities

I’m bewildered at the plethora of biographies of people who’ve done little or nothing with their lives – winners (and losers) of reality shows being the obvious example. Is there really the demand for these books? They seem to be heavily marked down everywhere I shop.

Lack of Choice for the buyer

How was it possible for Waterstones to acquire Dillons and Ottakar's? Likewise, how was it possible for Borders to take Books etc?The latter doesn’t have very many branches outside London, so in many towns, Waterstones is the only large chain retailer around. (I’m not counting WH Smith here, as its offering tends to be rather narrowly focused on bestseller writers like Patricia Cornwell, Michael Crichton and Ian Rankin.) The situation is slightly better if you live in a University town, as there is usually a Blackwell’s too.

The online buyer doesn’t have that much choice either. If you look at the Borders website, you’ll see that its online sales operation is merged with Amazon. Booksonline ( is exclusively catering to the Dutch market now.

Merging Science Fiction and Fantasy

Why on earth are these two quite different genres put in the same section of so many stores? It’s ridiculous that novels by Isaac Asimov and Philip K Dick are placed next to stories about wizards and dragons.


On the plus side, it's nice so see that Foyle's has caught up with the rest of the world and abandoned its stalinist payment policies. Does anyone else remember having to run around the shop with receipts? If you told the young people today .....

_ DY at 3:26 AM GMT
Updated: Sunday, 10 December 2006 3:36 AM GMT
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Tuesday, 5 December 2006
Sponsored by 3M?
Topic: Misc.

If you were promoting this book, would you put the following in the synopsis?

"A mysterious Mongolian mogul harbors a dream of restoring the conquests of ancient Mongolia."

I love the mysterious Mongolian mogul, but why stop there? Why not have a myriad of mythological midget minstrels mining a mound of medieval metal in Moldova? The trouble with some writers is that they just don't go far enough.

_ DY at 12:40 PM GMT
Updated: Tuesday, 5 December 2006 12:44 PM GMT
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Friday, 1 December 2006
A new poker blogger.
Topic: Poker

I've added a new poker blogger to my sidebar (see left column). It's the new blog from Hugo Martin, also known as "The Sweep"*. Hugo works for something called, about which I know nothing. His blog is 


*This is because Allan Engel said Hugo looked like he was auditioning for the part of a chimney sweep in Oliver Twist. When I read that I laughed for about 24 hours.

I guess you had to be there.

Wednesday, 29 November 2006
No more procrastination.
Topic: Misc.

Sorry I've not posted much lately. A writer on the Hendon Mob forum seems to know why -

Quote: "Ah yeah, the good old days when David Young used to procrastinate on every subject from A to Z."

And I'll get around to procrastinating again some time. Tomorrow definitely.

Meanwhile, here's my award for the category of 'You'll be all right'. It's from the Skills Exchange board on the Gum Tree:

Quote: "I am a photographer looking for a female life model for a nudist video and photo shoot to carry out at weekends. In exchange I can offer English lessons or my culinary skills."

Or loosely translated: "You take your clothes off while I take pictures and in return, I'll cook you a meal or explain the subjunctive."

_ DY at 3:00 AM GMT
Updated: Wednesday, 29 November 2006 3:03 AM GMT
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