Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
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MarkR on Feynman Diagrams on the Feynman van
Most recent entries
- Pictures from Georgia and Warsaw
- Cats without tails are not scary
- Big Things blocked by the trees of Southwark Park
- Wedding photography (4): Preparations
- Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
- Reflections on a strange coincidence involving an Android app and a malfunctioning bus stop sign
- Feynman Diagrams on the Feynman van
- Rothko Toast
- Wedding photography (3): Technology as sculpture
- And another posting from my smartphone
- Posted from my new smartphone
- Google Nexus 4 photos
- Wedding photography (2): Signs
- Wedding photography (1): The superbness of the weather
- A Fleet Street lunch
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
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Category archive: Television
I greatly enjoyed the documentary about Richard Feynman shown on BBC2 TV last night, having already greatly enjoyed the docu-drama about the Feynman Challenger investigation.
Last night’s documentary contained the following particularly choice piece of dialogue:
“Why is your van covered in Feynman Diagrams?”
“Because we’re the Feynmans.”
There is a picture of the Feynmans, next to their van, which I found here, where the picture is slightly bigger.
Does this van still exist, with all the Feynman Diagrams on it? I hope so.
Next last Thursday photo I want to show you:
Clock on the left to get the same photo bigger. Click all you want on the right, but that price is as big as it’s going to get, which I am sure you will agree is just as well.
Perry de Havilland collects hippos, likes hippos, etc., and I am always on the lookout for cheap hippos for him. If you do a Samizdata posting, and forget to specify any categories, the posting is categorised as being about “hippos”. Arf, arf.
But hippos are hard to come by, as already noted in this earlier posting. For less than something like £980 I mean. This frustrates me, because Perry is a hard man to buy presents for. It also surprises me. Hippos are fun animals, surely.
The BBC thinks so. It features hippos in one of its intro-videos, the one where a bunch of hippos swim around in a circle. Even though they never swim, so QI says. They just skip along the bottom, which looks like swimming only if the water is the right depth.
I should have photoed the shop name, but forgot to. Sorry shop.
After checking out the bottom of the Shard, my next date last Thursday was at the Rose and Crown in Southwark, which meant that I had time to kill. I decided to go back along the Jubilee Line to Southwark, and then walk on towards Lower Marsh, one of my favourite places.
On my way there, I saw this sign, which flags up one of the many reasons I was in such a good mood that day:
This time of year is one of my favourites partly because the days are getting longer again, which lifts the spirits of any photographer of my sort, who relies so much on daylight. But lengthening is not nearly as good as actually lengthy, and February and March are still pretty grim. Except that they are not grim at all, because of the Six Nations. This is the northern hemisphere rugby tournament that takes place around now, annually, between England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, France, and also, for quite a few years now: Italy.
The commentators were all drooling after Weekend One, which was a try fest. All three games this weekend were consequently very enticing. Could Italy go 2 for 2? Could England do likewise? Who would be 0 for 2, France or Wales? But those games happened this weekend, not last Thursday, so more about them Real Soon Now, maybe (for I promise nothing), but not now.
One thing I will say is that the Six Nations has a lot to do with the fact that it is now nearly Monday, and I am still telling you about last Thursday.
Indeed. My own happy new year was delayed by illness. During New Year’s Eve and for a lot of today, I was ill (which meant that I had to pass on all this). But then, late this afternoon, quite suddenly, I switched from being definitely ill, to recovering. I am not fully recovered, still having the remains of a head ache. But I am nevertheless in that state of post-illness contentment that comes from knowing that I definitely am recovering.
So, I am now having a happy new year, and I hope that my small band of regular readers having been having a happy new year also.
I am now listening to this (that’s YouTube sound only) over the top version of the Blue Danube on the piano, played by the wonderful Ben Grosvenor, on the radio. Lovely, albeit mad. (Lovely because mad.) Later I will record the Vienna New Year’s Day concert from off of the telly, with its superb music and its vomit-inducingly kitsch-ridden ballet dancing. The visuals being because I like to watch conductors and orchestras at work. I can just not watch the balletic ghastliness.
In particular, the pollsters do not have to know. I think the polls have, all along, been wrong about this election, wronger than ever before. The polls are not being told what people have been, are, and will be thinking. The polls were wrong when they said Obama was walking it. They are wrong now that they are saying it’s close. They will be wrong when they say Romney will just about win, as they soon will. But on the day, in the real poll, Obama is going to be slaughtered. Romney will win all the “battleground” states and several which are not now even thought to be in contention.
What polls tell you is not what the result will be. They tell you what the pollsters think the result will be. How do they know what they know? Same way I do. They guess. (In this respect, poll results remind me of economic models.) Okay that isn’t entirely true. I myself factor in what the polls say when I make my guesses. But the polls are sufficiently wrong to be very wrong indeed, for an event that can be bent into a completely different shape by single figure percentage point errors.
[LATER: Actually, I think I got the first two sentences of the paragraph above wrong. It should read: “What polls tell you is not what voters are thinking. They tell you what the pollsters think the voters are thinking”. What I actually put is indeed “not entirely true”. This explains, I think, and as my original version does not, why pollsters don’t get the result right, but do get right the direction in which opinion is heading at any particular moment, which, as I introspect, I have been letting them tell me about. Because they do get that right. The misleading samples of people that the pollsters each talk to include a few who change their minds, and the pollsters do pick up on this. So, now, the pollsters are getting right that opinion is flowing steadily away from Obama and towards Romney. But at no stage in this process did, or do, or will they register how bad things were, and are, and will be, for Obama. End of LATER.]
We shall see, etc.
Romney’s final burst of adverts will have further impact. Obama’s adverts have accomplished little. They said Romney isn’t likable, is a right wing nutjob, etc. Debate One negated this message. They said something about “Big Bird”. Ridiculous. But that doesn’t prove that adverts accomplish nothing, by their nature. Just as in the debates, and unlike Obama, Romney (and Ryan) have plenty of persuasive things that they want to say.
In a comment on this, I noted that the TV Umpire lady in the Vice President debate did Biden no favours by allowing him to behave so very badly. Had she told him early on to stop his giggling and interrupting, Biden might well have won that debate. But give TV Umpire lady her due, she did at least interrupt Ryan, whenever his speeches were starting to sound too eloquent.
But Romney’s adverts can correct that, by saying everything Team Romney now wants to say, and which the mainstream media have until now stopped them saying by less expensive means. And, they can use the exact words which will work best.
Plus, Team Romney will have, I believe, another two debates worth of Obama waffle to use, like they have already used Biden’s laughing.
Like Jim Bennett said:
John, let me suggest that the criteria for victory are changing. The debate no longer ends when the debaters walk off stage. And now it no longer ends when the TV spinners have, like cuckoos, laid their eggs and flown away. There is now the long, long reverberation in social media, where the basic debate footage serves as raw material for mash-ups and parodies and treatments for the rest of the election cycle and beyond. And Biden’s performance, which won him some tactical advantage in the debate, has set him up as the target for rich satire and a way that Ryan’s conventional performance didn’t and cannot do. His performance is comic gold, and although within hard-core Dem/left circles he will be celebrated as the warrior, everywhere else, and especially for basically apolitical young YouTube viewers, he will be the jackass supreme. I suspect that by Election Day, the various parodic videos will have had a larger viewership than the debate itself. By this criterion, the tactic was a massive miscalculation.
If the same thing happens to Obama, between now and the election (I believe it will), he really will be slaughtered.
But … we shall see.
LATER: Mitt Romney in a landslide.
I stayed up, not so much to watch the Vice Presidential Debate, as to see what would be made of it by others, most especially the BBC.
The BBC’s lady with big blond hair said (a) that it was too close to call, but then (b) called if for Ryan. Two reasons for making Ryan the winner. One, Biden had to win, to get some momentum back for Obama. A draw was enough for Ryan. So Biden actually lost. Two, Biden actually did lose, because of all his smirking and interrupting and condescending. Biden did all that wrong. Ryan did nothing wrong. So, Ryan won.
The BBC agreed, in other words, with PJTV drunk blogger Steven Green, who also had Ryan winning. It’s not a knockout, but it is a win.
My personal take?
At first I was rather impressed by Biden, but then I started to find his air of forced merriment unsuitable for the grim things he was arguing about. I was glad to see that others thought that too and that it wasn’t just me.
Biden was the more obvious “performer”. Which is not good. He was the one trying to create an atmosphere, like an old school stage actor. Ryan seemed more himself. Which could just mean that Ryan is a better performer.
Because Ryan was defending while Biden attacked, it looked like Ryan was the actual Vice President, defending four defendable years of him being Vice President and Romney being President, rather than Romney and him being the challengers. But that may have been because I had the sound switched off for quite a lot of it, while I read other stuff.
If you had seen those two faces in a thirties or fifties political movie, you’d have said Ryan was the young brainy lefty Democrat, while Biden was the old country club Republican President. But old Republican President is not the persona you want for an attack.
As it was, Young Ryan was under pressure from both Old Biden and the big blond American TV lady. Ryan kept his cool. He proved himself a better guy than lots of those watching may have realised. The general American opinion of Ryan will surely go up, even if only a bit. He was under big pressure. He did not buckle. He was the one who proved he had the Right Stuff.
Well, I near enough hit the nail on the head with my previous prophecy about the Obama v Romney debates, certainly as far as Debate One was concerned. Deep thanks, again, to Natalie for telling the world. (We’ve yet to see if I am right that Romney will win the whole thing, which is what my posting is really about - the debates were only part of it, but I am more than ever optimistic about that.)
I said Romney would surprise many with his debating excellence, and that Obama would have no answers. Debate one went exactly like that.
At first, everyone said: Who saw that coming? I did!
Then they said: That was actually very predictable! So, why didn’t they predict it? I did!
Let me now throw all my winnings back on the table and hazard some more predictions on the same subject. Romney has a 1-0 debate lead. I now expect the final result to be 3-0.
In response to the claim that Obama is arrogant, lazy, uninvolved, and behaved in Debate One as if he had only to show up to win - in other words to the accusation that he did not show up - Obama will not so much lose his cool as set it to one side. He will argue “passionately” that he must be allowed to finish the job he has started, in other words he will turn up the frenzy nob. He won’t say that what he wants to do is finish off America as most Americans know it and love it, but by the time Romney has explained it back at him, that’s how it will sound. That will be the story of Debate Two.
Debate Three, one way another will be an even greater catastrophe for Obama. He will either go completely berserk, i.e. dial the frenzy nob up even higher, perhaps even to the point of melt-down or just give up, or maybe a bit of both. By the end of Debate Three, he will not just be (pardon the racism) toast. He will be obvious toast. And then he will really be in trouble.
The Mainstream Media are already turning against Obama, as I predicted in that Samizdata meltdown piece already linked to above. This will not improve his mood one little bit.
But it’s not a stampede yet, nothing like. As of now, their story is mostly that Obama failed to present Obama-ism properly, and most are already saying that next time, he’ll be back, and will present it brilliantly in Debates Two and Three.
Apparently Reagan got a bit of a pasting in his first re-election debate with whoever it was. And he then stormed back in the later debates. Obama will do the same, say those still backing him.
But Obama-ism is a crock, see the graphic, which Instapundit found here. I hasn’t worked, it won’t work and it can’t work. Obama’s problem is that while he can perform all he likes, he has now, just as in Debate One, nothing persuasive to say. (As many are now pointing out, the only thing Obama has done for the last two years has been to perform.)
As the above few links illustrate, I am not the only one saying this kind of thing, to put it mildly. But, for what it may be worth, I am now saying it.
It really doesn’t help Obama that his foreign policy has now blown up in his face. This was an area of strength for Obama, because he at least wants to reduce American assertiveness in foreign parts. So he says, anyway. America wants this too, so far as I can tell. (So, I rather think, do I.) The Repubs don’t even pretend to believe this. But now, foreign policy isn’t a story that Obama will find it easy to talk about either.
Oh, and whereas the Rise of Obama was paid for by Arabs, the re-election of Obama is being financed by the Chinese. As the US Mainstream Media desert the Sinking Ship Obama and start trying to suck up to About-To-Be-President Romney, these sorts of stories may get a bit of serious notice, and sink SS Obama some more. That will only add to the impression that Obama’s foreign policy is for foreigners, rather than for Americans.
I have been trying to ignore the Olympics, and I actually did (I now realise) pretty much completely ignore the Beijing Olympics. But if you live in London and the Olympics are in London, remaining indifferent to the Olympics is hard, especially in a place containing lots of Jamaicans, or at any rate Jamaicans for the night.
I took some photos of the screen, featuring Usain Bolt taking some photos of his own.
My photos were wonky and taken from way off to the side, like this:
But, stretched out and rotated a bit, that one looks quite good:
Here is a more photographically professional treatment of the same story, and they have some of the photos that Bolt himself took.
My favourite Bolt snap is this one:
How many photographers do you see there?
The man in the red circle is the owner of the camera Bolt borrowed. He was obviously not in any doubt that his camera would be returned to him by Bolt (rather than it going walkies in all the excitement), and he was a very happy man.
I’m trying to write a big old piece about how hard cricket is to organise these days.
Meanwhile this evening at the IPL, this just happened, to Dale Steyn!!!:
6 2 4 6 4 1
The batsman doing this was AB de Villiers, which explains it.
An earlier over by Steyn was a maiden. Against Chris Gayle. Maiden overs are rare in the IPL.
Now Simon Hughes is calling AB de Villiers a genius. Like he says, Steyn is now the best bowler in the world. What’s more, AB kept the bowling for the final over, thus making sure his team won.
The second 6 in that Steyn over was particularly amazing. It was a yorker on middle and leg that would have splattered most batsmen’s stumps. AB smoked it over extra cover into row … about Z. Shot of the tournament for me, that I’ve seen. Steyn just smiled.
In the previous game West Indian Dwayne Smith, playing in his first ever IPL game, had to hit 14 off the last 3 balls to win it. He did exactly that. 6 4 4. Off Hilfenhaus, who is also no mug at bowling. The first three balls of that last over had gone dot wicket dot.
Best day of the IPL yet.
I here at BrianMicklethwaitDotCom do love a good bridge, and here is a bridge with a difference:
It’s the Rainbow Bridge next to Lake Powell in Utah, USA. The difference from regular bridges being that nobody built it. It just happened. It is very big. Bigger, I suspect than it looks in the many, many photos that have been taken of it, on account of the clear air making everything in those parts look nearer and hence smaller than it really is.
I learned of it because Stephen Fry went to visit it, in the course of making his TV series about America.
Than it was a short while ago.
But, you still still can’t tell exactly how high it will finally be. Will the converging glass cladding insist on entirely joining up into a point at the top, like … a shard of glass? Or will the various converging shards of glass be content to get quite near to each other, and then just have a little extra roof in there?
Note also the excellent fifth finger of the left hand of the digital photographer, on the right. This reminds me somewhat of the Star Trek salute that Trekkies do, which was featured on an episode of The Big Bang Theory last night. But it is of course more sensible, being rooted in the necessity for the fifth finger not to feature in any photographs.
Although, I suppose the Star Trek salute might also be rooted in something “sensible”.
Sport is fascinating not only because of the fascinating games on offer, but because of all the politics.
The R(ugby) F(ootball) U(nion), i.e. the bunch of guys who run the English game, is in a state of great confusion just now. From what I can tell, the essence of the problem is that nobody has sufficient authority to gather everyone else around in a big pow-wow, to sort everything out. Instead, power struggle reigns, to establish who, if anyone, has, or might in the near future have, such authority.
While England’s players were preparing for their flights, the battle for control of the RFU was intensifying, with a growing number of clubs demanding major changes, and the Government demanding an explanation over what steps the governing body will take to restore faith in its handling of the sport.
The Government. Please no, not the Government. Don’t they have enough to fret about already?
Rob Andrew (a former England fly half), who is currently the Director of Something Or Other for the RFU, has said that he is going to conduct a review. But he conducted an earlier review in 2007, and in any case, half of English rugby seems to be saying: Who the hell are you to conduct a review? You’re one of the things that ought to be reviewed? You are going to get together with Johnson to decide if Johnson should pack it in. How about you packing it in, you pillock. Or words to that effect.
I don’t mean to pick on poor old Rob Andrew. Everyone else with any pretensions to authority in English rugby seems now to be in the same position, and enduring similar abuse.
It all rather reminds me of what Kumar Sangakarra said about Sri Lankan cricket, after they’d won the cricket world cup, and after all that TV money and “professionalism” squirted into their game, turning a bunch of amiable amateurs, both players and admin guys, into a shark tank of politico-financial frenzy.
I recently read a biography of Clive Woodward, and what came over very strongly was that whereas Woodward professionalised the running of the England team, the people running English rugby as a whole remained in a state of confusion. Woodward hoped they’d sort themselves out after England had won the World Cup, but they just wanted to relax and enjoy it. Woodward didn’t resign the England job immediately after winning the World Cup. He resigned somewhat later than that, because he didn’t like the continuing muddled state of the RFU. He thought the confusion might be temporary, and that maybe he’d provoked a cure for it. When he realised it was endemic, he then gave up.
I agree with (regular commenter here) Antoine Clarke that Martin Johnson had insufficient experience as a coach to be the coach of England. My understanding being: none, when he got the job. In contrast, when Clive Woodward was appointed, he not only, like Johnson, had experience as a England player, but had already coached Henley, and then London Irish, both with considerable success. And did he not also do some coaching for Leicester? Plus, he had studied at Loughborough, which gave him an insight into all kinds of coaching philosophies and techniques. He also had quite a bit of business experience under his belt, having started his own company, again with considerable success. Basically, Woodward was ready for the job. When he had a disappointing World Cup in 1999, it was rightly decided that he was on the right lines and deserved another go. Johnson, on the other hand, having had a comparably disappointing World Cup in 2011, is not now believed capable of doing any better, and I am inclined to agree.
If I was Johnson, I’d jack in the England job, decide if I really wanted to be a rugby coach at all, and if I decided I did, go and coach the Twiddleborough Academicals for a few years, and get them promoted from Division 7 to Division 4 (or whatever they have down there), while making a living on the rugby public speaking circuit. Then become coach of Reading or Coventry or some such place. Then Harlequins or Leicester. If that doesn’t appeal, get a normal job and have a normal life. Plus the public speaking engagements, on the basis of him at least having captained a successful World Cup team.
Trouble is, Johnson has the same problem Woodward now has whenever he tries to do anything not totally boring, which is keeping himself out of the newspapers.
As for the larger problems of the RFU, of who should run the thing, and how, I have no idea, but am very interested. So if you think you know about that and feel inclined to tell me what I should think about it, feel free.
Well, I’m watching England go out of the World Cup to France. At present it’s 16-0 to France, and who saw that coming? Not me. The French team seem to have decided that it’s time they started playing, and they have.
Earlier, Wales beat Ireland. Who saw that coming? Again, not me.
Earlier in the week, Michael Jennings recorded a conversation between him, me, Patrick Crozier and Antoine Clarke. Antoine, like everyone, was pretty unimpressed by France, and in particular by Marc Lievremont. But if France win this, as they look like doing, and if they then beat Wales (as they are also entirely capable of doing) and if they then upset the All Blacks in the final (ditto), will the Lievremont method be enthroned in rugby fan esteem? Coaches everywhere will play totally different teams from one match to the next, and make a point of playing non-fly-halfs at fly-half, trying it first in a World Cup game against the All Blacks.
England have just scored a try. I was just about to put that England are attacking, but look laboured. This conversion has to go over. It does. In the first half, France scored two tries, but only kicked two kicks out of quite a few more than that. Will this return to bite them? Probably not.
In that recorded conversation, the most eloquent points were made by Antoine, not about the actual games in this tournament, but concerning the process of qualification. He said something like: “The Christmas Islands had to play about thirty games over four years to qualify. Wales had to play no games at all. This is obscene.” He didn’t use the word “cartel”, but he easily might have. Good that the most important thing that got said will outlast any silly guesses we made about who would win the actual World Cup. I guessed Ireland to win it all, and said Wales would be the most surprising winners other than Argentina. We all agreed that NZ were looking unbeatable, but would find a way to be beaten.
France, stung by that England try, are looking to finish this off. Less than twenty minutes to go.
Tuilagi - is that how he’s spelt? (it certainly isn’t how he’s pronounced) - has looked good all tournament.
France scrum looks well on top. Shots of insanely dressed French fans celebrating. Well, they deserve to be happy, after all the misery Lievremont has put them through. France attacking again, with just ten minutes to go. If England can’t scamper to the other end and score this will soon be over. Oh. France seem to have scored another three points, some way or another, and now lead 19-7. A drop goal by Frenchman number 20. That means England have to get two tries. No chance. England bashing away but it’s too much. Or is it? Have England scored? I think yes. Video refs confer. Try. This also has to go over. No. 19-12. “What a come back it would be”, says a commentator. Indeed.
I’ve spent most of the game resigned to England losing, and still am resigned, so am not now suffering that much. I still think it’s all done. Seconds left. But, I fancy Wales to beat France. England retreating. 80 minutes up. Penalty France, and they win. Final twist of the dagger. It hit the post and bounced out, but might have bounced into an England hand, at which point England would have tried to score a converted try at the other end. Only a bounce off the post could have had that outcome.
Well here I am watching England v Scotland in the Rugby World Cup, and so far it’s been almost all Scotland, maybe because it’s raining and they love that. Only after about half an hour have England started to do anything. Parks has landed two tricky penalties into the wind, with the second one being adjudicated with the help of television. A first, apparently. And until just now, Wilkinson was on 0 and 3. 0 and 3. Wilkinson. It’s now 1 and 4, with Scotland leading 6-3, but if England can’t rely on Wilkinson, then as all their enemies (i.e. the rest of the world) say, what do they have?
The scrum seems to be a perpetual bore, with all this “touch” pause “pause” pause “engage” nonsense from the ref, which (a) seems to go on for ever, and which (b) still falls to pieces. However, this time, it is only the England scrum that is falling to pieces.
Drop goal from Dan Parks, and at half time it’s England 3 Scotland 9. Where was Parks and his drop goaling when Scotland were playing Argentina? Can England pull themselves together and win this? My understanding is that if they don’t win, they’ll be in the strong, otherwise Northern Hemisphere half of the draw, and after losing to Scotland won’t frighten anyone there, except themselves.
If Scotland win, but without the bonus point from winning by eight points (or whatever it is) or more, they won’t go through at all. So at least England might take Scotland with them into nowhere land.
They’re showing the England scrum giving away penalties. Not pretty. It’s all looking very much like Rugby is Only A Game.
There’s just been a great tackle by Tui … langi? Followed by some England attacking down the left. Better. But Scotland are doing well at the line-out. England back on the attack. If they can keep hold of the ball they look a threat.
Another scrum, more grief for England.
When the weather is wet, rugby is more of a lottery. Here in England we are having a first burst of truly hot (as well as cloudless) weather of the entire year so far. Hot weather is left wing. Have you noticed that?
England have just won a Scotland scrum! England attack. England knock-on. Too many England errors. But, another England turn over at the scrum. Better. Wilkinson misses a drop goal. He’s the weak link. I’ll say it again. Wilkinson is the weak link. Is this his last England game? Nevertheless, England as a whole look stronger. If they could just score a try. Not this time, England give it away and Scotland attack. Scotland nearly score! Scotland penalty, it’s good. Scotland need to win by “8 points or more” and now lead by 9.
Until today I was happy with England’s progress, and may yet be, if they can win this. Hey, Wilkinson puts over a drop goal! Scotland back needing more points. As I was saying, I was happy with England. Everyone moaned about their early wins, but at least they were wins. Argentina are hellishly difficult to beat, and England beat them.
Lots of displacement activity from me, rearranging CDs in CD shelves. Another penalty success from Wilkinson! England look threatening now. England 9 Scotland 12. If England can just scramble a win here, I’ll be back defending them.
What happens if it ends in a draw?
Another Wilkinson penalty attempt. Just short.
The England scrum seems to be working better now. The reason I’m unclear about the details of this game is that another of my displacement activities just now is listening to CD Review, where they’re comparing all the Bruckner 8s.
Penalty to England. If this goes over, it becomes 12 all, with minutes left. If it stays like that, then, according to my calculations, England will win the group. But, England go to the corner.
Ashton scores on the right! England ahead! “You can only feel sympathy for Scotland!” Well, I can think of a few other feelings I can feel. Hah!!! Toby Flood gave the scoring pass, a big miss-out looper. He seems to have made a difference.
No swallow diving by Ashton this time. Flood nails the conversion. Flood is looking very good. 16-12. That conversion means Scotland have to score a try, and, well, until now, Scotland haven’t done tries. We’re past the 80 minutes mark, the next stoppage does it. England win!
I have lots of recordings of Bruckner 8, but none of three the BBC has just recommended. Bugger.
So, it’s official. England are now the Germany of the rugby World Cup. They look rubbish in early games. But then the prettier teams knock each other out, and hey presto, a month later England are still in it. That’s what happened last time. I hope that happens again.
Apparently Tonga beat France. Hah!! (All the pool results so far are to be found here.) Looks like if Tonga could only have beaten Canada also, that would have meant France being out of it. I think. Antoine Clarke (pronounced Claire for the duration) won’t be happy.
The cricket County Championship ended on Thursday, and I am now suffering severe withdrawal symptoms, having this year got completely sucked into it. Surrey, my preferred county (on account of me having been born and raised in it and it having won the County Championship every year from when I was four to when I was ten) got into a promotion battle. To win promotion to Division One they had (a) to win their last four games, and (b) to get enough bonus points (which you get for batting and bowling well in the first inningses) to get them ahead of the opposition. Winning one County Championship game is hard. Winning four is a considerable achievement. They did win four, which at first looked totally impossible. They did get just enough bonus points. And they got promoted. I tracked all this, with growing fascination and growing admiration, because I wanted to, and because, thanks to the www and local radio, I could.
It was a three horse race, from which two horses would be promoted, between Middlesex, Northants and Surrey, the three of them in that order when the final round of games began, last Monday morning. If all three won their final games (which they all did) then Middlesex, way out in front, would be Division Two champs, which they were. The interesting action concerned Northants and Surrey, the former being ahead of the latter by one point when the final round of games began. Surrey had one more win than Northants, so if Surrey got one more bonus point than Northants in the final games, with both winning, they’d have equal points totals and Surrey would would be promoted.
The other thing you need to know about Division Two of the County Championship is that this year they have been using a kind of cricket ball which has two important properties. It is very hard to bat against when it is new. And it is very easy to bat against when it is old. What this means is that batsmen who can merely survive when the ball is new are at least as valuable as batsmen who can flog it around to all parts when the ball is old.
On Monday morning, Surrey, batting first against Derbyshire, lost two very early wickets, captain Hamilton-Brown, and Ramprakash. (Ramps has finally, it would seem, run out of puff. He has had a bad season, for the first time in well over a decade. But part of his problem is that he bats at number three and frequently goes into bat when that ball they are now using is new.) Things looked very bad. But Steve Davies (badly dropped early on) and Zander de Bruyn (pronounced de Brain) then batted until lunch, taking the score past 100, in other words they not only survived, they actually flourished. They both got out soon after lunch, and Tom Maynard then made a century, others also chipping in with important support. But that very early batting by Davies and de Bruyn was crucial. Thanks to Surrey batting aggressively, they were 400 for 8 by the end of day one, which got them maximum batting bonus points. But if it hadn’t been for Davies and de Bruyn on that first morning, they wouldn’t have got anywhere near to 400 (the exact number of runs you have to get to get maximum batting points), because by the time the ball had got old and easy to hit everywhere, the way Maynard did hit it everywhere, Surrey would have been more like 200 all out. Even if they had then contrived to win the game, their bonus points would not have been sufficient.
Northants, meanwhile, also batted well enough to go on and win their game, but they were all out in their first innings, on the Tuesday morning, for 343. They also needed to get to 400, given that Surrey already had. But they didn’t. Ergo, they lost out on promotion by two points out of 227.
I love that I knew all this (scroll down here for all the rules about how many points you get for what) at the time, and consequently knew exactly what was going on, and why the batting of Davies and de Bruyn was so crucial, even as it was happening. Cricinfo and BBC Radio London (aka Mark Church) were my two main sources, but in truth Mark Church, busy describing a cricket match, doesn’t always get all the subtleties of things like bonus points exactly right. For that, you really need to be able to read something.
Mark Church is an amiably rambling old codger on the radio, but an intensely scripted, driven, humourless young professional on Surrey TV. Odd. Something to do with doing radio for six hours on end each time, but telly for more like six minutes each time. Surrey TV’s picture and camera coverage is now appalling, but give it a few years ...
Davies and de Bruyn weren’t the only ones doing vital stuff for Surrey. I pick them out merely because what they did was not quite as obvious as other other stuff that Surrey also did (or even as obvious as other things that Davies and de Bruyn did), like win four games in a row, which was, as I say, an amazing achievement. Much more obvious was the contribution of Pragyan Ojha, the Indian spinner that Surrey signed for their last few games. The thing about him was that he was not only able to bowl well. He was able to bowl well when the ball was old and when nobody else could bowl well. So he kept opposing sides down to much lower totals.
In general, Surrey’s bowling just gets better and better, which tells me that their new coach, Adams, is very good at coaching indeed. Surrey not only triumphed themselves this year. They also supplied England with two of their best new regular bowlers, Tremlett and Dernbach, supplying England with regular bowlers meaning, basically, saying goodbye to them. Linley and Meaker, the next two Surrey quick bowlers in the queue, have done very well. Hence, along with Ojha, all those wins. You can’t win proper games of cricket without getting people out.
As for Surrey’s batting, I even suspect that Ramps may have done them a favour by not scoring centuries two games out of every three. That meant the other batters couldn’t say, oh well, Ramps will bat properly, we don’t have to. They had to. They did.
Talking of proper cricket, two days after getting promoted, Surrey also won themselves an improper cricket title, the forty overs each way slog final against Somerset having been at Lord’s on Saturday. Ojha didn’t play, but Surrey did play numerous other spinners, who tied Somerset into all kinds of knots. In slogfests, the slower it comes at you, the less it just bounces off your bat to the boundary. You have to really hit slow deliveries, and that can get you out. Surrey made a bit of a meal of slogging off the runs, and rain complicated things, but they never really looked like not winning.
So, Surrey promoted. Surrey win a cup competition. The other London county also promoted.
Plus, England beat India 8-0. 4-0 in the tests, once in the twenty over slog, and 3-0 in the fifty over slog series. Surrey have a bowling line-up India could only dream of. (Why Odja didn’t do any bowling for India this summer is very mysterious to a Surrey fan like me, although I presume English 2nd Div batters are far worse at playing spin than sub-continentals in test matches, so they didn’t realise how good he’d be until he proved it for Surrey, too late.)
Cricket lovely cricket.
Actually, the funniest single thing in the entire cricket season was the extraordinary public attack launched by the Chairman of Yorkshire CC on his own players, Yorkshire having this year been relegated to Division Two. (So Surrey won’t play Yorkshire next season either.) In the same season that Lancashire won the Championship, which won’t have improved his mood any. (No more Roses matches in the Championship.) Usually when sportsmen do badly these days, those in charge of them are impeccably polite about them in public, taking “full responsibility” for their own errors, blah blah, and keeping any complaints about their underlings strictly private. Look at Indian captain Dhoni’s relentless public politeness, every time he was interviewed after yet another Indian debacle. But t’ Yorkshire Chairman went ballistic.