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Tuesday June 23 2009

I have been on a summer break from blogging, but the appointment of John Bercow as Speaker interests me.

I said here earlier why I don’t like Bercow.  He’s a flipper, not of houses (although maybe that too – I haven’t been following his expenses details) but of opinions.  He adopts the opinions of whatever political tendency he thinks will get him his next leg-up.  If he continues to do that, and there is no reason to think he won’t, then the Labour Party could soon find itself cursing the day it ever knew him.  Because, Cameronism is now on the up-and-up.  Having grovelled all over the Labour Party to get the job, Bercow may now turn on their government, for instance by bollocking it for making policy announcements outside the House of Commons instead of in it or for not answering questions properly when in the House.  He could, in other words, now do another flip and turn himself into something worth another dozen seats to the Conservatives.  He could be another fistful of nails in the Labour coffin.  Bercow is nothing if not ambitious.  Having done what he thought he had to do to get the job, his next project will be to go down in (on) History, by actually doing the job rather well, by which I mean doing it in a manner which impresses those of his contemporaries who, he calculates, will write the history books.

If the story unfolds as I am now guessing (all this is only a guess), then Bercow could turn into the Great Man of Parliament.  Is this what Great Men are often really like?  Yes.  I recall that movie in which Simon Ward, playing the Young Winston of the title, said, after an only mildly meritorious and grossly exhibitionist military escapade: “Will I get a medal?” From shameless, party-switching, opportunist, greasy-pole-climbing shit to Great Man.  It’s been done before.

Watch the looks on Labour faces very carefully, when they talk about Bercow during the dying months of their vile and plundering government, as he turns into yet another torment for them.  If he does.  And if he does, I’ll definitely be doing one of those I told you so postings, linking back smugly to this one.

Sunday June 14 2009


I know I’ve been banging on about Twitter, and I’ve told some of you there will soon be a revolution or a coup d’état launched using Twitter, but it’s happening now.

“The western world’s most feared government is shaking with insurrection in the streets after a contested election and the leading name in news, CNN, is shockingly absent from the story. Twitter, meanwhile, is how Iranians are communicating with the outside world.  It’s the best place to follow events going on in that country and CNN’s failure to engage with the story is one of the hottest topics of conversation there.”


In my view, twitter is as revolutionary as email. Most of you would personally and professionally benefit from using this technology. All of you will find it useful to know a bit more.

As I’m currently looking for work, if anyone wants me to set up a Twitter account and show how to use it, I have time (and a good
computer at home) to do this.

Best wishes,

Antoine Clarke

Thanks for that, Antoine.  Well worth interrupting a blog break for.  The title of this blog posting was the title of Antoine’s email, by the way.  Don’t be surprised if you see this email quoted on other blogs Antoine may also have sent it to.  Fine by me.

I’ve said it many times before, but it will bear constant repetition.  When some new technique of communication is invented or stumbled upon, you should not judge its impact by picking ten uses of it at random, averaging them all out, and saying: Well that’s a load of trivial crap, isn’t it?!?  How will “I am just about to make another slice of toast” change the world?  The question to ask is: Of all the thousands of uses already being made of this thing, which one is the most significant?  And then: Well, is that very significant?  If yes, at all, then forget about the toast nonsense.

And the other thing to point out is that, even if you don’t care about some stranger being about to make some toast, there may well be some other strangers out there who do.  For them, such twitterings may be very significant.  What if the person about to toast suffers from suicidal depression, and his mere willingness to attempt any household task however trivial is a source of rejoicing to all his friends?

Monday June 08 2009

Well, England have survived.  Had I put “England has survived”, you’d know that this was about something important, like the recent elections we’ve been having, but “have” means it can only be sport, and indeed it is.

Having lost in the Twenty20 cricket to The Netherlands, England had to beat Pakistan to stay in the tournament that England itself is hosting, and ... they did.

There was, however, one very odd feature about the BBC radio commentary, which concerned the rules about who gets through, and who goes out.  If England didn’t win, they were out.  That much was made very clear.  And all the commentary was from that, English, point of view.

But what of Pakistan?  England, Pakistan and The Netherlands are in a group of three, of whom two will go through to the next round.  My understanding now is that Pakistan must beat The Netherlands by a greater margin than England beat Pakistan, or Pakistan go out on worse run rate.  But the commentators were talking as if all Pakistan had to do was beat The Netherlands.  Only much later did they mention the thing of Pakistan having to thrash The Netherlands.

This was a serious omission, because it resulted in them not describing the state of mind of the Pakistanis as the Pakistan England game drew towards its close, with the England victory that eventually happened becoming ever more likely as the required scoring rate for a Pakistan victory got higher and higher.  During those closing overs, the commentators were all asking: Why aren’t the Pakistanis even trying to hit sixes?  They were asking rhetorically, but there was a real answer.  Pakistan were no longer even trying to win.  They were trying to maximise their losing score, to minimise the margin of victory they now need to achieve against The Netherlands.  Had they had a final thrash against England and lost by sixty, that would have made it much harder to get through, because then they’d have to beat The Netherlands by sixty one.  As it is, they have to beat The Netherlands by a mere forty nine, or whatever it is.

This Cricinfo piece says I am right:

Pakistan ... maybe suffered from knowing they have a second chance against Netherlands on Wednesday, but this defeat was so heavy that even a win in that game might not be enough.

If I have this all wrong, and Pakistan merely have to beat The Netherlands, by anything, well, this too should have been spelled out by the commentators during the England game, because it would have meant that the losing margin didn’t matter, and Pakistan would have been behaving illogically to bat as they actually did.  And if I have it right, as I obviously think I have, then this too should have been explained, because it made sense of the Pakistan batting.

By the way, the basic reason I think I do have it right (besides Cricinfo agreeing with me I mean) is that even if the regular way they decide who goes through is to ask: of the two teams contending for the second place, which one beat the other in the game they played against each other? ... well, in this case, that wouldn’t settle it, because, The Netherlands having beaten England and England having beaten Pakistan, this problem will only now arise if Pakistan then beat The Netherlands.  Which will mean that all three teams will have one win each, and you get a never ending tail-chasing loop instead of an answer to the above question.  So, it has to be done on scoring rates.

Which means that there is a further twist to all this.  There is now every chance that The Netherlands will beat Pakistan.  This is because Pakistan may find themselves having to score a lot of runs not in twenty overs but in, I don’t know, sixteen overs, and will lose wickets trying to do that, will fail, and will then be beaten, not least because of having nothing to gain then from winning by an insufficient margin.  Which will put The Netherlands not just through to the next round, but through as the group winners!  How about that for a freak result?

Fun, fun, fun.

That last point is one I have still not come across in any of the commentary I have since read, anywhere.  You almost certainly read this here first, in the unlikely event that any of you are reading this at all.

All of which I have merely deduced from reading around this subject.  Had the BBC people been doing their jobs properly, the above intricacies are what they would have been talking about towards the end of the England Pakistan game.  As it was, as I say, we heard nothing of this, until long after the game was over.

It’s rare for me to have any serious complaints about BBC cricket commentaries, but this was a definite error.  And note too that it was an error based on seeing things entirely from an English-supporting point of view.  A Pakistani listening to this commentary would have felt seriously left out.  Biased BBC, but biased in favour of the English, and biased against Pakistan supporting people in England.

Later this afternoon, it’s Australia v Sri Lanka.  If the Aussies lose, they’re out.  But if the Aussies win, then the Sri Lanka West Indies game will be the same hyper-complicated handicap that the Netherlands Pakistan game will be.  The Aussies could win this afternoon, narrowly, but if the Sri Lankans then beat the Windies, the Aussies could still be out, because of the thrashing they got from the Windies. 

Sri Lanka’s first match of the tournament is the most crucial one for Australia, who must win to stay alive in an event which has barely started. Even then a victory might not be enough after their heavy seven-wicket loss to West Indies, which puts them well behind on net run-rate.

The Windies really like to beat the Aussies, and would also have a good chortle if they ejected the Aussies from the tournament by letting the Sri Lankans beat them, by a bit.  More fun.

It is only now dawning on me what a pickle the Aussie are now in, far worse than the pickle England were in after losing very narrowly to The Netherlands.  The Aussies may well be faced with the dilemma of wondering whether to go for a big win against Sri Lanka, and thereby risking losing and definitely going out, or settling for a small win, which will then mean that if Sri Lanka beat the Windies by, according to my calculations, anything, the Aussies still go out.  Or something.

What a way to run a tournament.  But, as I recall saying apropos of similar complexities concerning the first round of a soccer tournament a while back, you try to do better.

It’s a bit like trying to organise elections, you might say.  There’s no perfect way.

UPDATE evening: Ireland through.  Australia out.

Saturday June 06 2009

imageMichael J told me last week that Internet Explorer and Firefox have both now become big and clunky and crash prone, just like Netscape once did, apparently, and that the new search engine on the block is now Google Chrome.  My recent experience with IE and Ff has been very bad, which is how this came up in conversation.  I managed to get Chrome going for myself, and it does indeed seem more solid and less inclined to collapse, although odd things now happen in my blog editing programme, so I will probably go back to IE for that.

I am sure there are good geek explanations for the failures of IE and Ff, and easy geek things I could do to stop them, but I am not a geek, or not enough of one for these purposes.

What’s happened to Idiot Toys?  For the last week or more, all I’ve been getting is this:


Is this just an Idiot Toys type holiday?  Or something more sinister and serious?

Friday June 05 2009

imageWell, this international Twenty20 cricket fest has sure started with an upset.  I listened to the radio version of the England innings, which began great but then sagged dreadfully.  But then I went out for a meal, and only got the news of the winning Dutch batting effort in one amazing gob when I got home.  The edited TV version will shortly record itself on my TV hard disc.  As an England fan I ought to be upset myself, but the bigger deal here is that this will hugely increase the attention paid to cricket in Holland, whose team was victorious at Lords earlier this evening, in the opening game between the Host Nation and the Minnow.

Actually I find that I am quite upset.  I can’t now force myself to watch those highlights.  Later maybe.  This result is good for cricket.  Real fans hate it when that happens, to their team.

Time was (before cricket on the www) when, had I abandoned a cricket game on the radio half way through, I would have had to wait until tomorrow morning’s newspaper for the result.

UPDATE Saturday midday: This looks like it explains it very well.  Nearly another upset this morning, in a 20/20 game turned by England’s crappy weather into a 7/7, if Scotland had only bowled a bit better against NZ.

Friday is the day for cats and kittens here, the point being to celebrate the sheer pleasure that we bloggers give to ourselves and our readers, when we do.  Why be angry about badness all the time?  (Because it gives pleasure to people who like being angry all the time.  Ignore that please.)

So anyway, sticking with the principle, but broadening it beyond mere felines, how about this?!?!?:


I found it here, in a blog about Why Evolution Is True.  I’m guessing he found it here.

If you demand only cats, the same guy has some here.  And David Thompson links today to some roadside architecture, which includes some giant animals, among which are some big cats.

Thursday June 04 2009

London Bites is the name of a show happening tonight at Sway, which is near Holborn Tube.

Bite-sized pieces of drama that you can enjoy with a drink.  At London Bites, experience some of our best British talent from new and established actors.

So there you go.  And there I will go tonight, because a friend of mine has written and is performing a solo piece in it.  Last night, the first night, it apparently went well and she got lots of laughs.