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Sleepless in Fulham: Rambling and gambling by David Young
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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Monday, 5 June 2006
He "appears to see public protection as the key task".
Topic: Politics
Interesting insight into the experience of an American policeman who worked for the Essex probation service. It's all written from his point of view of course, but I find it rather alarming that someone wrote of him that he "appears to see public protection as the key task" and intended it as a criticism!,,2087-2209981.html

NB: (from the article) - more than 10,000 crimes a month are committed by offenders on probation.

If James Bond played in Luton Grosvenor....
Topic: Misc.
How Bond films ought to show casino gambling!

_ DY at 3:20 PM BST
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Saturday, 3 June 2006
Back from Canada, just as it hots up.
Topic: Politics
I got back from Canada on Thursday morning and have been too jet-lagged to write until now. It looks like I left before the fun started too. Canadian police have made 12 arrests (perhaps more by the time you read this) in connection with a planned Al Qaeda attack in Southern Ontario, just the part where I was staying!

This must have come as a shock to the head of the Toronto Transit System who told Canadians last year that they were safe because "we have no troops to pull out of Iraq" and "the terrorists would have to find Toronto first."

Monday, 22 May 2006
An Iraqi writes. (long)
Topic: Politics
After the incident in which a British helicopter crashed onto a residential block in Basra, I decided to write to an Iraqi poker player whom I have known for about a decade.

My e-mail to him:

I've been wondering about something today. On the news I saw that a British helicopter had come down in Basra. There was a small crowd of mostly young men. Many were throwing stones at it and waving their fists in the air. An observer would feel that they wanted coalition troops out of the country. They are entitled to want this, of course.

But I'm puzzled because Iraq's had three elections and I believe that they were fair ones. So if there was a widespread feeling that the coaltion should leave, why didn't people vote for parties that promised to demand a coalition withdrawal?

Or do the young men I saw on TV represent only a minority of opinion?

His reply:

Sadly, like most people, you are under the misapprehension that the elections in Iraq represent victory for democracy. In reality they represent a defeat for all the democrats in Iraq for the following reasons. During Saddam's regime there were no organised secular political parties in Iraq because he killed/suppressed all politicians who did not declare their allegiances to him. In fact most of the Iraqi democrats were living in Europe. The only organised resistance to Saddam's regime were the religious Mullahs in the south and of course the Kurds in the North.

After the occupation, the true Iraqi democrats had no popular bases in the country. They needed at least three years to organise themselves into effective political parties with branches in all the major cities through which they can present their secular political programs. Holding three elections in three years was one of the biggest mistakes committed by the Americans because they forced failure upon the people who want democracy and handed power to the mainly religious parties who believe that the Islamic Al-Shariah is the only way forward.

At the moment Iraq is dominated by more than four militias - two Kurdish forces known as the "Besh-murgah", two Iranian backed forces("Al-Badr Core" and "Al-Mehdi Army") and a few more groups consisting of former Baathist and religious Sunni parties(like Hamas in Palestine or the Moslem Brothers in Egypt). Iraq will be stable IF and ONLY IF one of these militia forces dominates the political scene. Sadly this will never happen since none of the Arab militias can defeat the Kurdish forces and vice versa. The elected Iraqi politicians STILL have not formed a government AFTER MORE THAN FOUR MONTHS of this year's election. I'm afraid the only way out is a civil war which will lead to a partitioning of the country.

The British forces in the south of Iraq have effectively handed the power to Iran via the Badr Core and Al-Mehdi Army .These two Shia militias are imposing their interpretation of the Shariah on the people in that region; for example they killed six girls in Basra because the girls were wearing blue jeans!! They also killed owners of off-license shops in Basra,Omara...etc.

The coalition forces are delaying the inevitable.The longer the Brits stay the more likely things will turn very sour for them. Most Arabs don't like to see British or American soldiers in their country. The sooner they leave the better.

I hope the above answers your question. Let me know if you disagree

I replied:

thanks for your reply. I agree that it would have been better for there to have been a delay before holding elections in order for secular parties to develop. But that was never possible. Instead Iraqis will have sectarian politics, until they get disillusioned with it. Life under sharia is only appealing to those who haven't had it. Those who've seen it up front in Iran, Afghanistan and Algeria are glad to see the back of it.

I have a website in which I discuss my political opinions. Would you object if I posted what you wrote? An opinion from a real Iraqi would be of interest to the readers. I don't have to name you if you don't want that.

As far as partition is concerned, if it's what people want, they why not? When the British left India it got partitioned into Pakistan and India. Later Bangladesh broke away too. Would you wish to stick them all back together again?

He replied:

My father was Kurdish and my mother was the daughter of an Arabic father and a Turkish mother. The wife of my brother Ali belongs to the Shia sect. Ayad Alawi, the prime minister of Iraq during last year, was my very close childhood friend. He is a Shia Arab, but his first wife is a Christian. His brother is married to a lovely Kurdish woman. I can spend hours listing intermarriages between the various Iraqi sects. The truth is Iraq is a melting pot of Arabs, Kurds, Turks and Iranians

You seem to think that sectarian politics have always dominated the Iraqi political scene. This couldn't be further from the truth until the onset of the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s. Then Saddam introduced ethnic division by deporting over half a million Iraqis, belonging to the Shia sect, to Iran under the pretext that they were of Iranian origin/nationality. I can assure you these evictions met the quiet disapproval of most Iraqis.

Sectarian/ethnic divisions become nearly irrelevant in countries blessed with strong and growing economies. Strong economies in the developing countries, can only be built by determined leaders, who enjoy the support of regional as well as international powers.

Sadly, all the Arab countries lack the correct leadership, not because their culture forbids it but because the regional and international political environment/scene does not allow it. Instead, corrupt kings and emirs or dictators supported by corrupt and brainless army officers and religious leaders plague us. Most intelligent high school graduates in Iraq go to medical or engineering colleges; the military and religious colleges receive the dim wits with the lowest grades; I think this happens in all of the Arab countries and may be part of the problem.

Many people, including many Arabs, believe that the Arabs are shackled by their outdated Islamic cultures…etc. I cannot see how culture, which is basically transmitted behavioural patterns, can influence the way a doctor, engineer or a road sweeper perform his/her job. In my opinion this is a myth propagated by ignorance or racism. Consider this fact. There are over 200,000 Iraqi professionals in the UK-most of them live in London. All of them have established very successful careers, and yet, none of them have changed their culture or religion. The same applies to the millions of Arabs living in the UK and Europe. They survived and flourished, despite the cultural and language difficulties they encountered, because the strong economies of the European countries offered them a multitude of opportunities to excel.

You suggest that people will turn against the religious parties after they realise the unpalatable nature of Al-Shariah. The Mullahs in Iran are still in power after over 25 years of the Islamic "revolution". They may, and I hope will, eventually lose power. But, they have delayed the creation of stable democracies in the region for many years.

The same is happening in Iraq with the inadvertent help of the Americans. If you look carefully at what is happening there, you will realise that the Mullahs are in fact outwitting Bush and Blaire. The so-called coalition forces are fighting the Mullahs' opponents in the central region of Iraq while the Iranian backed Al-Badr and Al-Mehdi militias are tightening their grip over the southern regions of Iraq.

You can post my opinions if you wish to do so.

My thoughts:

There is usually a difference in life between the best possible solution and the best solution possible. Delaying elections for years to give secular politics a chance falls in the former category, not the latter. His point about the Iranian mullahs not being ousted despite their growing unpopularity is true, but they were never voted into power in the first place either. We have to start somewhere with reforming the middle-east or it will still be a backwater of "corrupt kings and emirs", 'brainless army officers and "religious leaders" for decades to come. That's not something we can tolerate any more, as it's the part of the world with the highest proportion of young people and the mixture of a rising youth population and the lack of economic opportunity due to nepotism and corruption is as dangerous as any WMD programme. It's worse in the part of the world where people are taught by their religion that they have the most recent word of God, yet see themselves behind the West and Asia economically and diplomatically. The result of this combination is rage. To deflect this rage, the dictators have redirected hatred towards the West and Israel by permitting the media and mosques the freedom to speak out against external 'enemies', in exchange for the dictators being kept out of the crosshairs.

He is right when he says: "Sectarian/ethnic divisions become nearly irrelevant in countries blessed with strong and growing economies." It's notable that the most stable Arab countries are those with strong oil revenues and small populations. Places like the UAE, Bahrain and Qatar are oases of calm by comparison, but it's a quirk of geology and demographics that has made it possible.

As for Iraq now, since this e-mail exchange, the Iraqi politicians have at last formed a government. From now on they will have to insist that they have a monopoly on the use of force, since they alone reflect the voice of the Iraqi people who bravely voted in three elections.

_ DY at 12:32 PM BST
Updated: Monday, 22 May 2006 12:39 PM BST
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Sunday, 21 May 2006
More background, less news.
Topic: Misc.
Here's a great piece of writing from the first blog I ever read:

essentially arguing that it's more important to read about the background to world events than to follow the news day by day.

"See the news not as your primary source of information, but as suggestions for further reading."

Very good advice.

_ DY at 9:59 AM BST
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Saturday, 20 May 2006
Flight, Speed and Sound.
Topic: Misc.
I live under the flightpath to Heathrow. It's a mixed blessing. Sometimes I sit on the balcony and gaze up in wonder at the planes overhead. Later, when back inside, I curse the noise they make. This week saw the first visit to the UK of the Airbus 380. It's designed to be bigger, more fuel efficient and best of all from my perspective, quieter than its predecessors.

Notice that I don't say faster. I was checking out its details on the BBC website and was reminded of something that Roger Kirkham wrote last year over at Roger's Rants:


"[H]ere's a hard-to-believe dirty little secret about civil aviation known only to anoracks and insiders:

Over the past 40 years or so, civil aircraft have become slower. Yes, slower. Not just a fraction slower either - we're taking about 15% slower as compared to the faster models in service from the mid 1960s to the late 1970s. And that 15% isn't trivial over the distances jets cover - add that amount to the ratbastard tedium of a ten hour flight back in 1965 and you get an extra hour and a half of bored-to-tears-misery in 2005. 90 minutes of time - the one commodity you can never buy back.

To make this regression even more painful, new slower aircraft are designed to have less space per person inside, and the inside itself is colder and less airconditioned than ever before (leg room, cabin heating, and a/c all cost money). There's no magic wand to solve all this overnight, but the A380 may be a step in the right direction. It's claimed to cruise at the very fast speed of 630mph, a useful 25mph faster than its rival Boeing 747, although incredibly, still slower than the legendary Convair 900 series from the 1960s, with hindsight the biggest lost opportunity in civil aviation history."

I'm therefore saddened to see that according to a comparison on the BBC's website, the Airbus 380 (Mach 0.85) is actually slower than the Boeing 747(Mach 0.855):

Can anyone comment on this?

Friday, 19 May 2006
Some random poker thoughts.
Topic: Poker
Bunching in Online play.

I've been playing online solidly for about three months now and am starting to miss playing live (played cash at the Vic once since the start of February). One thing I can't understand about online players is why they all bunch together when games start. What I mean is that if someone starts a new game by sitting down in seat four, there's a very strong chance that the next person joins in seat five or three. If he comes into seat three, there's a great chance that the next person comes in at two or five. And so on.

"So what?" you might ask. Well the reason I think it's silly is that you can get situations where a nine handed table has 5 players seated at seats three through to seven. If someone is scanning through the lobby looking for a game to join and sees this, they might be put off joining if they are going to have to wait for the big blind for several hands because there is no gap. They might go to a game where they can get a seat sooner. That's why if I join a new game I will sit such that there are gaps on both sides of me. I want to leave a seat open for the action junkies. There may not be many people who are so desperate to get straight into action that it will affect their choice of table. But they're the ones I want to play against!

Money Mugged.

I've been thinking some more about 'Deal or No Deal'. Having read the excellent 'Fooled by Randomness', I continue to be impressed by Noel Edmonds' ability to make comments about the process of the game when it's pure chance. Things like 'We're on a knife edge here' and 'This could be the turning point' stand out. But neither is as good as 'If you get money greedy, you could get money mugged'. The latter could make an excellent theme for one of those T-Shirts you see for sale in the back pages of Private Eye or Viz: a picture of Noel Edmonds and the message 'Don't get money mugged'. Can't do any worse than the ones of Jim Bowen and Andrew Marr.

On the subject of T-Shirts, I would love to know whether anyone's got the guts to wear one of Andy Ward's more defeatist poker T-shirts in a big event. I mean the ones with one-line messages like 'Bokked', 'Felted', and 'Rivered'. I reckon that wearing one of them while playing a $10k event is the ultimate sign of confidence. It's telling the world that you're not supersticious and fear nothing. Good on you, if you're brave enough.

Coming back to 'Deal or No Deal' though, why can't people see that there is only one skill in this game of random choices? It's manipulating the banker. If you are prepared to take a deal that's below the value of the average remaining box, then you want that offer to be as high as possible. The banker is watching the player and will take any weakness as a sign that he can get away with a low offer. Players should fight back by dismissing his offers without an apparent consideration in the early rounds. It could make a difference of twenty grand or so later on. Nail-biting could cost you a lot of money here. So why do so many people display weakness?

Thursday, 18 May 2006
Does anyone remember Amy?
Topic: Misc.
I was reading the greatest blog ever the other day when I was reminded of a 1980s advertising campaign that caught the imagination of the boys at my school when I was a teenager.

It appeared on bus shelters and showed a small girl with the message 'My name is Amy and I like slugs and snails' written in a child's handwriting. All very cute, but what was unusual was that there was no product. Nothing.

Someone stole one of these posters from a bus shelter and stuck it on the back wall of class 4EP and it stayed there for a week or more. Looking back I'm surprised that the teachers didn't rip it down, but perhaps they were as perplexed as we were.

One morning on the bus ride in to school, I noticed that the Amy poster on the shelter in front of my school had been replaced with an advert for eggs. When I got into class 4EP for morning registration, the egg poster was on the back wall instead of Amy! If whoever did that is somehow reading this blog, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. That made my day.

Meanwhile I vaguely recall reading about the Amy campaign about a year later in one of the Sunday supplement magazines. Apparently it was some sort of advertising industry exercise to test the effectiveness of bus shelter advertising, or something like that.

I've tried finding reference to this Amy campaign through Google but haven't found anything. Am I the only person who remembers it?

Wednesday, 17 May 2006
Topic: Politics
Caught an interesting interview with American crime fiction writer Robert Ferrigno yesterday. I have read one of his books, a serial killer detective story called 'Flinch' and thought it was good. But his most recent book, "Prayers for the Assassin", is a departure from that genre. In it he describes an Islamified USA in 2025, with a broken-off Christian South and Nevada and Utah as independent states. He spent a year researching material for the novel so I was interested in his views on the situation in Iran. At the end of the interview he advises listeners to do a Google search on the word 'Hojjatieh'. That's the name of the sect to which Iran's president is said to belong. A search for it on Wikipedia reveals:

They believe that chaos must be created to hasten the return of the Mahdi, the 12th Shi'ite Imam. Only then, they argue, can a genuine Islamic republic be established.

Quite shocking stuff - a deliberate desire to create chaos in order to bring about the return of the 'hidden' 12th iman! If you're one of those people who thinks that George Bush wishes to bring about armageddon because of a prophesy in the book of Daniel, this ought to worry you a hundred times more!

_ DY at 9:10 PM BST
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Tuesday, 16 May 2006
Debunking a couple of poker myths.
Topic: Poker
Here are two myths concerning the British poker scene that I would like to debunk:

'You'll be all right!'

It's sad to see the otherwise brilliantly well informed Joe Beevers attributing the phrase 'You'll be all right' to Neil Channing. Although the latter uses it quite a lot, the phrase belongs firmly to Francis Rohan. I thought Miros had alluded to this somewhere on his blog, but I can't find it anywhere. Perhaps it was a comment on someone else's. Whatever the case, the next time you rubbish like this:

In the immortal words of the unknown Gutshot member 'You'll be alright'.

You'll know better.

The demise of UKPOKER

Another common myth is that Mark Strahan's poker website fell into decline after he made it pay-per-view. While it's probably true that this led to a fall in traffic, the more significant decline in its popularity and influence happened long before that. It was when he switched forum providers away from Bravenet towards some other system that readers found less user-friendly. Traffic nosedived immediately. Several people wrote in to request that he revert to Bravenet*, but Mark was adamant.

I recall seeing Jon Shoreman (who has rival site Poker In Europe) and hearing him say about it - 'It's great! The more people tell him he's made a mistake, the more stubbornly he sticks to it'. Mark did eventually revert to Bravenet about a year later, but the damage was irreversible. One reason for this was that not longer after the forum change, the Hendon Mob website started. Within a few weeks someone posted a piece about the failure of an attempted online poker site that had sought out investors from the British poker community. The post was taken down after a few days because it was considered defamatory. (I printed it because I could see this would happen). While it was on display, traffic to the Hendon Mob forum exploded and it grew from there. That was where Strahan blew it.

* The reason for the switch was that he wanted to save the $99 per annum fee to keep Bravenet free of pop-ups. I think this proved to be a false economy in the long run.

_ DY at 5:55 PM BST
Updated: Tuesday, 16 May 2006 6:00 PM BST
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