Friday, 28 September 2007

Bertie on the Rugby World Cup

There hasn't been much good news coming from the Ireland camp lately but I stumbled across this and it made me smile.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Going Out With A Whimper, Not A Scream

So Ireland lost to France on Friday night and what a depressing spectacle it was. The hoped for "backs to the wall" (miracle) performance never materialised as a nervous France brushed Ireland aside to reach the quarter finals. Now Ireland must beat Argentina by 4 tries and by more than 7 points to reach the next stage. Finally my heart has caught up with my brain, it will never happen. And to be honest I think it would be a travesty for Ireland to knock Argentina out of the competition. They've played well, we haven't. They deserve it, we don't. At times on Friday night I felt that I was watching an Irish team from the 90's, complete with bad kicking, no passing & no plan, but that would be unfair, at least in the 90's the lads had some pride.

I'm off to Cardiff on October 5th, likely to watch New Zealand vs France. I know its not Frances fault we've done badly, I don't care, I'll be shouting for the All Blacks.

Friday, 21 September 2007

Just a cool video

Well worth watching

The End of America

I've been saying for some time now that I believe the USA is no longer a democracy, well Naomi Wolf has a new book called The End of America: A Letter of Warning To A Young Patriot saying the end is neigh for the Unites States. Here she is on The Colbert Report

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Seigneurie Arse 2004

A friend brought me back a present of this delightfully named wine from Brittany France.

Still, not wanting to judge a book by its cover I hope it will taste ok. I'll keep you informed.

In any case, I think I'll keep the bottle.

XBox 360 + Bioshock

Well I brought an XBox 360.

Its a pretty cool (if noisy) piece of hardware and I especially like the wireless controller, its very handy, but I find myself automatically reaching for the non-existent wire when I'm finished playing. I'm not yet connected to XBox live but I'll hopefully get that sorted out in the coming months.

I've got two games, "Gears of War" & "Bioshock", but its Bioshock that really stands out. Its very atmospheric and one of the best games I've ever played even though I haven't even finished playing it yet.

As a player you get to shoot things (of course) but also genetically enhance yourself (my favourite being 'Incinerate'- "when it absolutely positively has to erupt in flames, don't wait INCINERATE! "), hack the local machines and sneak past security cameras. If that wasn't enough theres a brilliant story, a mystery to solve and a moral dimension to the game with hints that your actions will have consequences.

Its a very additive game where a couple of hours play fly past, I can't wait to see how it ends.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

The Spartans

I love history, especially the classical Greek & Roman variety.

Well today the London Independent has a great article entitled "The history of the world: Without the boring bits" which contains lots of fascinating tidbits and facts from history.

My favorite one is, of course, to do with the Spartans.


Having conquered much of the rest of Greece, Philip II of Macedon sent a message to the Spartans: "You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city." They sent a one-word reply: " If." Their boldness paid off: Philip left them alone.

Monday, 17 September 2007

Can a Burst Bubble Pop?

I wrote earlier of my disappointment at Irelands opening performance at the Rugby World Cup, but that feeling was nothing compared to how I felt after watching the travesty that is Irish rugby on Saturday night. The golden edifice I had built in my minds eye of world cup glory and joy came crashing down as Ireland squeaked past Georgia in a 14-10 "victory". As the rest of the rugby world surely willed Georgia on every Irish person could only watch in dread as the supposedly "best team we've ever had" turned our dreams to ashes. I actually caught myself gnawing my knuckles towards the end.

I suppose with the benefit of hindsight I was wrong to have such high hopes. Looking back at Irelands performances this year the writing was on the wall. I can see that Ireland have put in only two performances of note - England & Italy.

The France game can be deemed average as 'A' we lost and 'B' we didn't start playing until the game was 20 minutes old.

Against Wales, Scotland, Argentina, Argentina, Scotland, Italy we where poor and very lucky in those games that we managed to win.

Where Irish Rugby goes from here I don't know?
My bubble burst against Namibia, it evaporated after Georgia.

Friday, 14 September 2007

Cutting Your Loses

Via OneGoodMove I found an interesting article called 'Lessons on the Surge from Economics'. Its an interesting read, dealing with why the Bush administration continues to remain in Iraq.

What struck me about it though was how easy it is for people to get sucked into negative reinforcement spirals. Its the first part of the article that contains what I'm talking about;

Economics professors have a standard game they use to demonstrate how apparently rational decisions can create a disastrous result. They call it a "dollar auction." The rules are simple. The professor offers a dollar for sale to the highest bidder, with only one wrinkle: the second-highest bidder has to pay up on their losing bid as well. Several students almost always get sucked in. The first bids a penny, looking to make 99 cents. The second bids 2 cents, the third 3 cents, and so on, each feeling they have a chance at something good on the cheap. The early stages are fun, and the bidders wonder what possessed the professor to be willing to lose some money.

The problem surfaces when the bidders get up close to a dollar. After 99 cents the last vestige of profitability disappears, but the bidding continues between the two highest players. They now realize that they stand to lose no matter what, but that they can still buffer their losses by winning the dollar. They just have to outlast the other player. Following this strategy, the two hapless students usually run the bid up several dollars, turning the apparent shot at easy money into a ghastly battle of spiraling disaster.

Theoretically, there is no stable outcome once the dynamic gets going. The only clear limit is the exhaustion of one of the player's total funds. In the classroom, the auction generally ends with the grudging decision of one player to "irrationally" accept the larger loss and get out of the terrible spiral.
I've played poker a few times and this instinct to "outlast the other" has often led me to make poor decisions. Indeed some years ago when I played in a few small time tournaments I had to battle to suppress it. *

This instinct however hasn't gone away. To give a simple example, on my way home from work I can opt to choose one of two bus stops. Stop No. 1 will bring me nearly to my door but is less frequent than Stop No. 2. Stop No. 2 is more frequent but i have to get off further from my house. There is a little distance between the two bus tops.
  • One day I waited at Stop No. 1.
  • After 10 minutes the bus had not appeared but I felt confident one would be along "any minute now."
  • After 20 minutes I began to get irritated. Also a bus from Stop No. 2 passed me.
  • After 30 minutes I was mentally writing official letters of complaint to Dublin Bus. Another bus from Stop No. 2 passed me.
  • After 40 minutes the strongly worded letter of complaint had been replaced by an AK-47. Yet another bus from Stop No. 2 passed me.
  • Finally after almost 55 minutes the bus arrived.
My point is that the longer I waited the less I wanted to leave, even though 3 buses from my second option passed me. I irrationally kept at it. I had already invested time waiting so to give up would have felt like losing. The sensible thing to do would have been to walk to the second bus stop as soon as I began to feel annoyed.

But there is something very difficult about cutting your loses and walking away. Good poker players can do this but I have to work at it, and anyway, I don't wait at that bus stop anymore.

* I still lost.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Buring Water

A remarkable story in todays Washington Post about a scientist in Erie , PA who has (apparently) discovered a way to burn water.

The skeptic in me thinks this is too good to be true. Is it another cold fusion type story? Time will tell...

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

I'm logical

You Are Incredibly Logical

Move over Spock - you're the new master of logic
You think rationally, clearly, and quickly.
A seasoned problem solver, your mind is like a computer!

Are we the baddies?

Naomi Klein has a short video on her website to coincide with her new book 'The Shock Doctrine', its only about 6 minutes long but I found it quite disturbing.

When I watch or read things like this I can't help but think that we, i.e "The West", are the baddies?

The double think required to believe we are bastions of free thought and liberty while at the same time crushing everyone who wants a little piece of the pie for themselves is staggering.

Swings & Roundabouts

There is some good and bad news on the religious front today.

In the Netherlands some very brave ex-muslims are coming out demanding that their right to reject or change the religion of their birth be respected. The Times of London has the details 'Young Muslims begin dangerous fight for the right to abandon faith'

The initiative doesn't quiet have the '95 Thesis' feel to it, but its a start.

On the bad side the Labour government in Britain continues to support "faith based" schools. A.C. Grayling of the Guardian gives an excellent assessment of the absurdity of the situation including this brilliant opening line;

So the schools secretary, Ed Balls, and faith group leaders have formed a partnership endorsing faith schools as a force to improve social cohesion in England. This gasp-inducing statement is on a par with "let us build and run more nuclear power stations Chernobyl fashion - oh, and let's put them in city centres".

Go read...

Monday, 10 September 2007

The Rugby World Cup

So the Rugby World Cup has started, man, I was so hyped up for this.
I mean really, really looking forward to it.
I'm talking kid in December kind of anticipation here.
And then, Friday night, it started.

What an opening game!?
The tension, the physicality, the passion, the result!
I even send a mate of mine a text message confidently predicting we could beat both France & Argentina.

And then I saw Ireland play.
what a disappointment!
What a bubble burst!
I'm talking kid on December 26 whose birthday is on December 24.

Why Oh Why can't the Irish lads get physced up for this world cup?
they look like they couldn't care less.

Feeling Dumb

I decided to read a little more about Quantum Physics after watching the excellent 'Atom' series on BBC4 recently. So I picked up "Quantum, A Guide for the Perplexed" by Jim Al-Khalili (who, not coincidently, presented 'Atom') and am currently about 2/3 of the way through it.

Now, I consider myself fairly intelligent but perhaps I'll have to revise down that assessment. I found myself struggling to understand some of the concepts far to often for my liking, in fact several times I had to go back and reread a paragraph or an entire section before I grasped the point. Bearing in mind that this book is intended for the lay reader and that Mr Al-Khalili makes every effort to explain the (often bizarre) concepts of Quantum Theory in plain English this book was a real kick in the pride.

I should point out that the fault here is mine and not Mr Al-Khalilis. The book is well laid out, written in a friendly conversational tone and contains many helpful illustrations & diagrams. Thats why I'm so surprised! I honestly expected to find the book fascinating instead of mind-boggling, unbelievable and fascinating. I mean, what has Mr Al-Khalili got to do? Use sock puppets?

I realise of course I'm no Einstein but when I consider just what these guys figured out and here I am struggling to understand just the basic concepts, well, its just no good for my self esteem. Maybe I'll read a history book next so I can feel clever again. Or 'Calvin & Hobbes', they always take the pain away ...

So, would I recommend the book?
It really is a fascinating introduction to the very small, what the current theories are and how it all got started.

My First Post

Wow, my first post.
I wonder will anyone read it?