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Sleepless in Fulham: Rambling and gambling by David Young
Sunday, 23 December 2007
Women and the Times.
Topic: Misc.

A cousin of mine (female) sent me a link to an article in the Times about a month ago. It was about the need for commitment in relationships. She strongly agreed with the sentiment expressed, as did most of the respondents, and asked my opinion. I can't recall what I said at the time, except that I mentioned financial factors behind men's unwillingness to commit to marriage. Looking at the comments again, I see that Liz from Plymouth says it best:

Many men don't want to marry for fear of being stripped of their economic status should it go wrong. Who can blame them?

When I put this to my cousin she wasn't impressed that I'd brought money into the calculation, but I pointed out that a link on the same page she'd sent me argued that mothers mostly need male partners for financial support.

Although I've read the Times on and off for years, I had never really noticed that it has a strand of comment pieces concerning women and their relations with men (written by women of course). Now that I've found it I'm hooked. Today I read someone called India Knight writing about girls who have sex with footballers without asking for payment in return! Apparently a 19-year girl who had sex with some famous footballers is a victim. Can that be right? If the 19-year old David Young had slept with his favorite Hollywood actresses of the late 1980s, I don't think anyone would have called him a victim. Ho hum.

So if sex with attractive famous people isn't what women really want or should want, what is? Well according to another Times Women's writer, that answer is 'attention'. I have to say that I found this last article to be one of the most insulting pieces about women I've ever read. I don't think the woman who wrote it meant it that way, it's just that if you read it and mentally substitute 'six-year olds' for 'women', it makes just as much sense. Try it yourself - here are examples:

You can also guarantee that any woman [6 year old] – with the possible exception of the hedge-fund huntress – will resent being given what she wants if she has had to ask for it or prompt the giver in any way. This is because what a woman [6 year old] really wants, above all things, is for someone (a man) [(a parent)] to be so focused on her desires, so attentive to her every whim, that he will know what she needs....

... We want attention and we want attentive presents. Indulgent presents. Spoiling, decadent, surplus-to-requirement presents that flatter the most superficial aspects of our nature. Maybe even presents designed to get us more attention, like a little gold jacket, some big gold shoes or one of those cashmere scarves that looks as if it was knitted for a giant in a fairy tale.

Deeply depressing reading. It makes you understand why men who can't play football turn to guys like this for his gems of dating advice, such as why you should never take a woman to dinner until after you've slept with her.

_ DY at 3:53 PM GMT
Updated: Sunday, 23 December 2007 3:55 PM GMT
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Monday, 17 December 2007
Winter of Content.
Topic: Politics

Here's some grounds for Yuletide celebration. It looks as though sanity is returning to the UK housing market. It's long overdue.

Let me explain why. I share a flat with a Pole. He's been here nearly three years. I sometimes have to correct his English. In particular he struggles with the inversion of auxiliary verbs. So he'll say 'How they can do this?' rather than 'How can they do this?'. I must have heard him get this wrong a thousand times over the time he's been here. On 5th November this year, while the fireworks were going off I thought it would be amusing to tell him that Britons were celebrating the failure of a Catholic terrorist plot. He's a Catholic of course - takes his religion fairly seriously.

He had no idea what I was talking about. When I explained, he asked me whether that was why people were wearing 'badges'. I explained that they weren't badges, they were poppies and they symbolised British losses in World War One. Nothing to do with Guy Fawkes.

His job? He's a teacher ... and sometimes he teaches English to 11-year olds! Mostly he does RE and PE for which he is qualified, but I can't help thinking that someone who teaches our country's children should know a little bit more about British culture. I know I do go on and on about the ridiculous price of property in Britain and the south-east in particular. But here's one reason that has nothing to do with me. The price of accommodation in my part of Britain is so high that people on teachers' salaries can't afford to live here unless they want to live like 'The Young Ones', as I do. Most educated British people don't want to live like that. The result is that the vacancies must be filled by foreigners. Our children's education is suffering because of a shortage of accommodation.

_ DY at 2:38 PM GMT
Updated: Sunday, 23 December 2007 5:50 PM GMT
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Wednesday, 12 December 2007
Not all violence is equal.
Topic: Politics

There was a revealing exchange concerning Iraq in Prime Minister's Question Time today, between Vince Cable and Gordon Brown.

Cable: "When he [Brown] was in Basra this week was he told that 40 women, at least, have been executed for personal immorality ... [I]s this why 173 British troops have died? Transferring power from the fascist regime of Saddam Hussein to the terror of the fascist militia who run the streets of Basra."

My first thought was to wonder what Cable thought of World War Two. Did Britain win? That war began when Chamberlain demanded that German troops leave Poland. When it ended, Poland had transferred from the totalitarian regime of Adolf Hitler to the totalitarian regime of Joseph Stalin. Is that why thousands of British troops died? It's a shame that in 1945 Cable was too young to denounce the government of the day.

However, there is a deeper point I want to make and it concerns two different kinds of violence. To illustrate them, I shall use examples from American history.

Situation One - You are a black slave in the early 19th century. You own nothing. Your master beats you.

Situation Two - You are a gold prospector (of any race) in the late 19th century. You work in a remote region where the forces of law and order are weak. You find gold but it is stolen from you, along with everything else you have. You are also beaten. If you go back to prospecting there is a significant chance that this will happen again.

Is one worse than the other? Vince Cable might say there is no difference, as in both cases you are beaten and have nothing. But I think that there is a significant moral difference. In the first situation, the person who beats you and lets you own nothing is acting entirely within the law. In the second situation, the people who robbed and beat you are outlaws. They may escape justice, but there is always the possibility that it will catch up with them. Although both situations are appalling. I find the first situation more morally repugnant than the second.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007
Money well spent.
Topic: Misc.

This news just in:

"The average age of teenagers murdered on the streets of London is just 16, an Evening Standard study has revealed."

Is it heartless of me to point out that the average age of ALL teenagers is 16?

_ DY at 1:47 AM GMT
Updated: Tuesday, 11 December 2007 1:48 AM GMT
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Friday, 9 November 2007
A hand from live play.
Topic: Poker

There used to be a time when it was considered an insult to describe someone as an 'online player'. Now I think it's more of a compliment. You still see a lot of terrible play in slow-clock tournaments from online qualifiers, but in terms of cash play, I think it's a lot tougher to make money online than live.

Here's a hand that I won at the Victoria a few months ago. I wrote down the detail immediately after it happened because I think it so perfectly illustrated the difference.

The game was £100 Pot limit hold'em, with two equal blinds of £3. In this hand nobody posted an optional straddle.

I was in the big blind with JJ.

Two people limped from middle position and the 'small' blind raised £12. I re-raised another £30 and the two limpers folded. The small blind called.

The flop was 442.

The small blind bet £75. I raised another £125 to £200. The small blind called.

The turn was a 4.

The small blind checked and I bet £240 all-in.

He called and announced 'There's no way I'm passing this hand!'.

I showed JJ, he showed TT. I won a pot of £976.

If you've played online cash no-limit hold'em lately you'll know that it's almost impossible to win a pot of 325 big blinds with my hand on that board. If your online opponent were in this spot he would either have a lot less money or he'd only call you on the flop and turn if JJ was losing.

You don't win $1,300 pots with JJ over TT in $2/4 NL hold'em online. Period.

Friday, 26 October 2007
Idiot culture.
Topic: Misc.

A few months ago a contestant at the Miss Teen USA contest was mocked for an answer she gave in the Q&A section. Told that twenty per cent of Americans could not find the USA on a world map and asked why this was, she rambled incoherently:

Some TV executives felt sorry for her and invited her on to a breakfast show to give a better answer (after showing her in her bikini). The second time around she said that she doubted the accuracy of the survey but, if true, it showed the need for a greater emphasis on Geography in school. She was wrong. The real reason that so many Americans don't know the answer to the question is that they just don't care. There is no great penalty for being ignorant if you live in an idiot culture.

Before any British readers start pointing the finger though, I think they should read this next story. A Polish schoolboy who came to Britain two years ago, hoping to improve his education, has gone back to Poland, complaining that he was 'treading water' in the British school system.

I find this story interesting, because he doesn't just blame the system. His chief problem was the the apathy of the other students -

"The boys were childish, they didn't read papers and weren't interested in anything ... And the girls only talked about shopping and what they were going to do on Friday night... In Poland you have to know the names of all countries, even the rivers. But in England hardly anyone could place Kenya or Poland on the map. The teachers didn't test knowledge, only effort."

It's the idiot culture again. You can walk into a newsagent store here and find half a dozen magazines full of fluff about Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie. How can people buy this garbage without embarrassment? Is it just an Anglo-Saxon thing or is it a feature of all prosperous countries - that general knowledge and current affairs are seen as irrelevant to people who have enough to live on?

To fix this, what's needed isn't more money thrown at education. It's the return of ridicule. We need to make fun of people who don't take an interest in the world around them. It would cost nothing.

I doubt any of this will interest Miss Teen South Carolina though. She's now living in a luxury appartment in Manhattan with a modelling contract that according to reports 'could earn her $30,000 per day'.,23663,22450632-10229,00.html

_ DY at 7:24 PM BST
Updated: Friday, 26 October 2007 7:35 PM BST
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Wednesday, 17 October 2007
A fool and his house.
Topic: Poker

So the International Monetary Fund has 'warned' that Britain may be facing a fall in house prices similar to that currently being endured in the US. I always wonder why the media pre-supposes that this is a bad thing for everyone. About time too, say I and a lot of my friends.

I'm glad I haven't put any predictions of a housing market crash down in writing, because I've been expecting a fall for several years now, in which time prices have been bid ever higher. One person who has done so is Roger Bootle. Despite this, he's done it again in this Monday's Telegraph. Bootle's article prompted an interesting discussion on the Motley Fool Property Market and Trends forum.

I find myself in strong agreement with one poster who explains why his (and my) expectations of a correction have been wrong:

"I would just like to applaud many of the resident uber Bulls on this board for seeing what was coming post 2005 in the property market, I (and Roger Bootle and many others) failed to see...

1. That lenders would loan a nurse for example, on £25,000 wages a year, £500,000

2. That 55 year olds who have no wages coming in and who are on welfare and also handicapped given huge mortgages

3. That you could apply for a mortgage with some of the British sub-prime lenders and using self-cert create your own pay slip (15 x not uncommon).

4. Estate Agents actively and in large numbers guiding buyers into how to get a mortgage in the 2000s, from getting fake passports (the first Panorama mortgage scandal) to downloading fake pay slips.

5. FSA releasing mis-leading information (I won't risk posting what I really want to say), ie repossession figures higher than what they release, their excuse being they do not submit the sub prime.

6. A substained and constant barage of property porn on TV and the media that even Adolf Hitlers propaganda machime would have been proud of.

7. And a Labour (LABOUR) Government whose active policy was to NOT build houses and NOT release land

8. 750,000 official (some would argue far more) Eastern Europeans allowed to swamp an already over-populated country without a backlash from the more deprived areas of the UK who have to take most of the pain.

No Guys, I would never of guessed that any of this would be allowed to stand in the UK, but you got it right, I take my hat off to you."

Add in the favourable tax treatment of non-domiciled foreign millionaires and that pretty much says it all.

_ DY at 11:47 PM BST
Updated: Wednesday, 17 October 2007 11:58 PM BST
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Friday, 5 October 2007
So how do you want to help Burma?
Topic: Politics

I've seen a few people indicating support for the Burmese people in their struggle against an oppressive regime. If you're one of them I want to know what level of military action you'd support.

Who should be killed?

Saturday, 29 September 2007
I had a recurring dream, once.
Topic: Misc.

There's a dream I get from time to time in which I am looking at a map or a globe and I notice a country that I've never seen before. It's usually landlocked in Canada or Russia. Nothing much happens. I just stare at it.

I had a similar experience this week while reading a comment on Pete Birks' blog. Birks had written about the various 'stans' of Central Asia, some of which are nation states, others merely regions of Russia and that prompted someone else to post a map of the regions of Russia and the remark: 'I'm intrigued by the autonomous oblast in the lower right-hand corner, labelled "Jewish"...'

I assumed it was some sort of joke but, lo and behold, there it was:


It's the blue one in the far east. It turns out that in the 1920s Stalin had some idea of promoting a dedicated Jewish region. It's a fascinating story and I recommend you read about it - 

Check out the flag and the coat of arms too. The former is a bit like the 'gay rainbow' flag, while the latter has a tiger on it!

Intriguingly, Russia also has a republic that is officially Buddhist. It's Kalmykia, the green-coloured one in the west, marked with an 8, just above Dagestan. It amuses me that the jewish region is in the Asian part of Russia, just above China, while the Buddhist one is in Europe!

_ DY at 4:35 AM BST
Updated: Saturday, 29 September 2007 4:40 AM BST
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Tuesday, 11 September 2007
A sad story.
Topic: Misc.

Is it a contradiction to be a staunch believer in capitalism and the right of individuals to spend their money as they please and yet still be disgusted by nonsense like this? 

The basic story - a rich kid goes with an even richer friend and some assorted hangers-on to an expensive nightclub. They notice a famous basketball player. They order the most expensive champagne in the house, at $1,500 a bottle, and it is brought to them with some fanfare. The basketball player orders three bottles. The rich kids order six, the basketball player orders ten and the rich kids order the remaining stock of twenty-six bottles.

Rich kid says: "I cannot even begin to explain the energy going off at our table at this moment in time. Most of us were standing on top of the cushions, jumping out of control, and screaming at the top of our lungs."

Really? Did nobody point out how sad and empty this all was?

Conspicuous consumption has long struck me as the hallmark of the truly pitiful. Am I the only person who looks at footballers wives blowing quarter of a million on clothes and feel sorry for them that their lives are so empty that they have to waste money in order to be happy?

Saturday, 8 September 2007
Some people need a double-life.
Topic: Misc.

I saw a very interesting film earlier this week. "Breach" is the true story of the FBI agent and Soviet spy Robert Hanssen, who was arrested in 2001. His treachery is described as "possibly the worst intelligence disaster in US history". I recommend you see it while it's still in cinemas. It stars the excellent Chris Cooper.

Hanssen wasn't what you'd expect a spy to be. He was nothing like Burgess, Philby or Maclean. He had no ideological affinity to communism or socialism. In fact he was ferventy anti-communist. He also was extremely religious, devoutly Catholic; a member of Opus Dei, who went to church every day. He criticised the Soviet Union for its godlessness and believed that it was a lack of religion that caused its collapse. But notwithstanding the above, he supplied it with classified information and thereby caused the deaths of dozens of people. And despite his conservative views on sex, he secretly videotaped himself in bed with his wife and posted copies to friends. He even wrote about his sex life on fetish websites, using his own name!

He wasn't motivated by money. Although he took $1.4m over many years, he told his Soviet handlers on one occasion that he did not want more than $100k as he had no need for it and couldn't spend it without drawing attention to himself.

Something else, something much darker lay behind Hanssen's betrayal. An abusive father can't have helped, but what appears to be the underlying motivation was a desire to lead a double-life. As a youth he was inspired by hearing of Kim Philby's espionage. He later told the Soviets that he decided on his course of action at the age of 14.

Meanwhile in the present day, another high-ranking American has been brought down by the exposure of a double-life. Senator Larry Craig has pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in a men's lavatory in Minneapolis airport. He insists that he's not gay, but as Christopher Hitchens points out, many men who seek out such activity do not believe themselves to be gay. This was demonstrated nearly 40 years ago in a doctoral thesis by Laud Humphries (see the Hitchens link). In public life, they will profess conservative opinions on such matters. Craig for instance voted to prohibit homosexual marriage. 

What might seem more shocking than the thought of a hypocritical politician is the fact that in this day and age, police are being paid to entrap homosexuals in this way. It seems a bit excessive to me, but as a straight man who wants to be able to use public lavatories without being approached for same-sex activity, perhaps I should be grateful for it. Now that homosexuality is legal, gays can meet in their own homes and leave the men's room alone.

I shudder to think what it must have been like for a normal man to need to use a public convenience for its intended purpose back in the old days. As one, unnamed source told Hitchens, the men's facilities at Clapham Common were so popular with those seeking sex that "If someone comes in there for a good honest shit, it's like a breath of fresh air."

_ DY at 7:08 PM BST
Updated: Saturday, 8 September 2007 7:19 PM BST
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Friday, 31 August 2007
Casino changes.
Topic: Poker

The first serious changes to the laws concerning casinos in four decades come into effect tomorrow, 1st September. As you can imagine, I'm mainly interested in how poker is affected, especially at the Victoria.

1) Casinos will be able to open from 12pm every day instead of 2pm. They will no longer have to close at 4am on Saturday night/Sunday morning. The Victoria card room will be open from noon to 5am every day.

2) Cash games will be able to charge per half-hour instead of every hour. This ought to save a lot of time, as it eliminates the arguments about who's on the half and who's on the hour.

3) Dealers will be able to play at other casinos not in the same group as the ones in which they work. Several Vic dealers have told us to expect to see them in action in other places. This could be good for players in general if it leads to a 'best practice exchange'.

4) A rake may be taken instead of an hourly charge. We are assured that the Vic won't do this.

5) Tournaments will be allowed to admit 'alternates'.

6) Tournament players will no longer be disqualified if they are not at the table for the first hand. Instead their chips will be in play until they arrive. If you know you can't make it to the tournament you will have to contact the card room in advance to ensure a refund. You will get your entry fee returned, but if you register and de-register a second time for the same tournament you'll forfeit the fee.

Sunday, 26 August 2007
How religion poisons everything.
Topic: Religion

Christopher Hitchens joins Richard Dawkins in writing a book defending the atheist position. It’s called ‘God is not great’. In this interview with The Atlantic he fires off some wonderful zingers:

On finding out that he was Jewish:

You found out a few years ago that you’re technically Jewish.

As is Carol. We do a rather vestigial Passover seder so our daughter knows what the tradition is.

What value do you find in that?

The value in celebrating the murder of Egyptian children? I don’t think very much. But it is a tradition.

on Catholicism:

My favorite time in the cycles of public life is the time when the Pope is dead and they haven’t elected a new one. There's no one in the world who is infallible for those weeks. And you know, I don’t miss it.

On the Second Coming:

There’s a film—I’ve never seen it—about a village atheist in America. At one point, there’s some incredible thunderstorm or some other apocalyptic event that makes it seem as though the Second Coming really is about to happen. Everyone’s incredibly impressed. And even he thinks it seems to be true. But he keeps muttering as these events unfold, “But where did Cain get his wife?” All the old questions have to occur to you when you read the Bible. Maybe you can’t read, but you hear the story—wait a minute, there are only two guys in the world, and their parents, and then one of them finds a wife. Where did she come from? Once you’ve thought it, you can’t unthink it.

The subtitle of the book is ‘How Religion Poisons Everything’. If you don’t want to read 307 pages of Hitch’s screed to get to that conclusion, just watch 4 minutes and 43 seconds of Brian Sewell building up to the same point while relating the story of the Last of the Medici. Glorious stuff. The man deserves a knighthood for this alone.

_ DY at 7:35 PM BST
Updated: Monday, 27 August 2007 6:03 AM BST
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Monday, 13 August 2007
The American sex divide
Topic: Misc.

I found an interesting map recently. It shows the US with its cities coded by colour and size to show whether single men outnumber single women or vice versa. The results are quite interesting. Rather than showing a random distribution, there is instead a very clear East v West split. It's as though at some point in their lives, men go west and women go east.

I wasn't surprised that the San Francisco/Silicon Valley area is male dominated and I've always had the feeling that Las Vegas is male dominated too. But I didn't expect LA to be the place with the biggest surplus of single men. The North East by contrast seems very short of single men. That's been the premise of a lot of American films and TV shows (single woman struggling to find a man in New York). I didn't realise how true it was until now!

Plan your next holiday accordingly!


_ DY at 10:52 AM BST
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Friday, 10 August 2007
Not ready for sub-prime time.
Topic: Politics

Well I eventually figured out what the youtube link I posted below was about. If you listen long enough to Jim Cramer's rant, he says that 14 million people took out mortgages in the USA in the last three years. Half of them took advantage of so-called 'teaser' rates - introductory low interest periods for the first two or three years. Many of these borrowers were poor credit risks and many didn't understand that the low mortgage payments offered were only temporary. They could be forced to sell their homes when the bills go up.

I can understand his horror at the thought of seven million people being made homeless, but in a lot of cases the only way to have prevented this would be for them never to have had the house in the first place. I can't share his horror at the thought of investment bankers losing their jobs. As far as I'm concerned, the problems at the US investment banks are entirely of their own making. And it would be wrong for prudent people who didn't overstretch themselves to be made to bail out those who were reckless.

The fascinating thing for me is that while the US has had the same credit splurge that the UK has had, house prices have started falling, particularly in Florida. That's because, as one eminent UK economist* put it: 'In Britain we buy and sell houses, but in the US they also build them.' A friend of mine likes to send me spreadsheets showing me the average 'inventory' of US housebuilding firms. 'Inventory' in this case means the number of unsold houses on their books, divided by the average monthly sales rate. The last time he showed me the numbers, the inventory period was over eight months! Typical UK builders have no 'inventory' at all in the part of the UK where I live! He keeps asking me why I don't try to live in the US. Young Americans who have lived within their means and have saved responsibly will soon be rewarded by having a large amount of housing options to chose from. This contrast with the UK could hardly be more stark. One reader of this site recently wrote to tell me:

I thank God that I was not born three or four years later and shudder to think what it must be like to leave college today with £30,000 of debts and no prospect of ever affording a bedsit in Hackney for your trouble.  

All of this brings me back to my last piece about land use in Britain. I've had some sensible replies like the one above and some idiotic ones too, like this:

I guess you didn't hear about the flooding in the news? Spare land has important uses other than housing and farming. Flood plains

This is a pure red herring put up by people who have their own homes and who don't want more housing competing with theirs in the market. Of course I'm aware of the flooding. But if you offer someone with no home the choice of continuing to have no home or to have a home that floods for a month once every twenty years, I know what he'll take. In any case, it is not hard to get around the issue. You put a garage on the ground floor and the living quarters one storey higher. Next!

Yes, the UK can import all the food it needs. That assumes that it has the money to afford to do so in the future. It also assumes the cost of transporting globalised food doesn't go through the roof with the record oil prices. Every country in the world wants to be western. That also means importing food so that they can develop their farmland. What happens when every country wishes to import rather than grow food?

The tragedy of the underdeveloped countries is that there are barriers to them selling their food in Europe and the US. As a result they can't earn enough by farming and many of their people chose to flee to Europe as economic migrants.  The protection of the European farmer is one reason for the huge movement of people into Europe. If we bought food from overseas then we could release our land for new homes and the poorer countries wouldn't be so poor. The revenues they earn from their food exports would be used to buy our manufactured goods. It's win-win, except for European farmers who fear change. For everyone else it would be a massive gain.

This same person then described me as 'still as selfish as ever'. Incredible! Apparently it's selfish of me to want there to be more homes and more trade with the developing-world with which they could drag themselves out of poverty and give our high-tech export industries a new market! Written no doubt by someone who's got their own piece of middle England (or I suspect southern Ireland) who doesn't want anything changing now that he's on his feet.  Who's really selfish?

* Probably Roger Bootle, but it might have been Tim Congdon or Patrick Minford.

_ DY at 2:50 PM BST
Updated: Friday, 10 August 2007 3:00 PM BST
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