gambitch - now available in blue Our constant efforts to reinvent ourselves reveal how much we fear our own images.
Saturday, July 24, 2004
A few disorganized (not necessarily random) general statements that have come to my head after watching schoolboys and schoolgirls try to out-argue each other. These are more my own thoughts, in slightly encrypted form.
"Most brilliant ideas are like knives - they have the potential to be good as well as bad. Use a knife for good and it will cut meat smoothly. Use a knife badly and it will be a murder weapon. The problem is not the knife, but who wields it and what for."
"The issue is not what could happen, but what would happen. Hypothetical possibilities are just that - hypothesis. Whether real life plays out to validate the hypothesis, or whether the conditions influence the outcome some other way; now that is the real story."
"Just because you decide to open the door and welcome a guest, it does not mean that he will be a good guest and not desecrate your home. Whatever you do, think about the possible responses, and not just the response you are hoping for."
"Argument by example is not clever, especially when it is a contest of who knows the largest number of relevant but otherwise useless facts and statistics. On the other hand, argument without examples to illustrate the mechanics of it all is nothing more than impractical theory."
"The purpose of debate between persons is, ultimately, not about battles of ego, nor about trying to prove who is the smarter, or more cynical, or more slick and persuasive. No, we already have lawyer training to achieve those purposes. The ultimate goal of having people and ideas engage each other is to further the human enterprise that is building a world that works better, and solving the problems of yesterday, today, and if we are lucky, the tomorrows that may come." gambitch [
Friday, July 23, 2004
It's fun to watch the newly-installed visitor counter tick past the half-century mark, until, that is, I realized that more than half the visits are my own work, to make sure that the blog published okay. I could have filtered out my own IP addresses, but I guess the work is a little more complicated than just checking a certain box in the SiteMeter configuration pages.
Meanwhile, I've gone shopping for pasta and ingredients. At least I know that for a few more weeks I will get to experiment with cooking pasta and sauces.
Let me begin by registering my lack of surprise at the fact that Jim and Marsha were eliminated from the Race last night.
The funny thing about that is, they were not felled by Jim's knee injury. In fact Jim looked perfectly fine in this leg, never mind that he didn't have to do anything that was particularly physically strenuous. No, they were brought down by a massive confusion at the airport early on, when they botched up the ticketing at the counter. Jim realized it soon enough, but he really ought to have pushed for some correction or clarification. He didn't, which explains why they ended up standing around and dropping their jaws when the twins got the last pair of tickets to the 10.30 flight. Which leaves the army man and his girl with a late scramble for the 11.30, which they got, but the lag was already set.
They did have their chances, though, and primarily because Marshall and Lance, the fat brothers, had such bad luck at the choccy factory. Having to eat through a million pieces of chocolate to find one of 20 with the cream core is bad enough. But watching three or four teams zip past you at the Roadblock while doing that must be a real downer. As it happened from the way the TV cut-scenes played, they ended up only one gondola ahead of Jim and Marsha, which was enough to secure them second last spot. They've got a lot of chasing to do in the next leg. It is possible, though, and I'll explain why later.
It's interesting that the clue-holder at the chocolate factory was incidentally a midget as well. I'm surprised they didn't play that up a little bit, particularly since Charla did the Roadblock (two midgets sharing a screen, now that's something) but perhaps the CBS people didn't think it politically appropriate to do so. Charla sure was funny though, jumping off the chair when she found her cream core chocolate.
Other funnies? The biggest of the lot must be the twins going through the trouble of taking off much of their clothes to swim to the Pit Stop, when Phil later remarked that everyone else just walked across a shallower stretch. The look on the twins' faces that instant was priceless! I sometimes wonder why the twins keep doing some of these really dumb things, but I don't really mind, since it makes great side entertainment to go with the main event.
The field is beginning to sort itself out now after three legs. The Bowling Moms are dropping to sixth, while Colin and Christie, who I would now tip as the likeliest winners, are now top of the field. Charla and Mirna are proving to be stiff competitors, having stayed in second place. What is interesting so far is the performance of the old couple, Bob and Joyce. They're holding out very well, entrenched in the middle of the pack. I'd like to see how they progress.
Having said that, as this leg of the race has already proven, the airport can prove to be another great equalizer. It's becoming a pattern now that teams would arrive at the Pit Stop during daytime, which usually means they set off for the next leg twelve hours later, late into the night. If that leg involves an airport, teams are going to have the luxury of at least three to four hours before arriving at the airport and securing the tickets. The converse of that is that teams have to wait for so long before they get onto the plane - plenty of time for the other teams to catch up.
After three legs in South America, I'm quite sure they are going to cross the pond in the next leg. If I caught the commercial preview right, the teams will be flying out to Moscow. I might be wrong, but Russia certainly offers plenty of opportunities, and with the teams having gone through most of Europe already, I'd like to see where else they can go. Checking out places like Prague and Athens would be nice.
It's strange, though, that after three legs, nobody has played the Fast Forward, nor have we seen the Yield come into play. In fact, the only introduction of the Yield was in the first leg; we have never seen it since. Will we start seeing the real bitching later on as the teams cross the Atlantic? It's worth a look. gambitch [
For those who don't know, John Motson is a TV football commentator, a fixture with BBC Sport's programme Match of the Day. He is also featured in the recent instalments of the FIFA Football game series by Electronic Arts.
I don't understand what all that noise about Wayne Rooney moving to United is about. The papers are going on and on about him potentially breaking a club transfer record, currently set by Rio Ferdinand at something close to 30 million pounds. With an initial valuation of something close to 50 million, you'd be dead sure Rooney would break it if he did indeed move.
The thing is, knowing Manchester United, we have no need to add Rooney to our roster. Shocking as it sounds (to the non-United follower), that is very much the situation we are in now. We really only need four top strikers in our squad. Just look at the Treble-winning season for reference. Cole and Yorke (the calypso twins) scored the goals that got us on the way to Barcelona, and Sheringham and Solskjaer nicked the two that won the final. That's as many as we need.
Already we have on our payroll Ruud, who's absolutely superb, and Louis Saha, who in spite of my personal dislike for the man is proving to be a qualified success. There's still Solskjaer, mind you, and he's still good at 31. Not to mention the recent capture of Alan Smith, who Sir Alex no doubt regards as a good old-fashioned centre forward. Even with the number of cards Smithy is likely to pick up, we do have some kind of cover in the form of David Bellion (who is still settling down in Manchester, and who Sir Alex bothered to wait to be available on a free from Sunderland), and Diego Forlan. Yes, I know, the Uruguayan is much-maligned for not being able to score while in the red shirt, but with no takers on the transfer market it's hard to think he will end up getting sold. Plus, he is actually delivering somewhat at the on-going Copa America.
You look at a strike-force like that, and you can only ask this: Given the lineup at Sir Alex's disposal, why would he even think of buying Rooney? To replace Ruud? That's if the big Dutchman moves, and the only club wanting to chase him now is Real Madrid. But Real also want to chase Rooney. They're such dumb prats.
Rooney may be good, but there's no way he is joining United unless we start selling our top strikers in order to make way for him. I just don't see that happening. And if you think we are into collecting six or seven strikers for no good reason, I'm sorry, but we are not like the Italians. Come to think of it, even the Italians have stopped amassing incredibly large squads with 40 or 50 top players nowadays.
Any chance that Rooney may be heading for Chelsea, then? I doubt it. Mourinho hasn't moved for him, and with today being his self-imposed transfer deadline, that looks unlikely to change as well. Add to that the fact that Mourinho already has four good strikers as well (Gudjohnsen, Mutu, Kezman and Drogba), and the case for Rooney playing for the London club just sinks flat.
Where does this leave Everton? Frankly I think they are in a really messed up position. Rooney's agent probably believes he is hot stock at the moment, and should push for a transfer (aren't so many agents like that nowadays?). The only problem is none of the English clubs who might have a use for him would want him. Arsenal is mired in debt for now thanks to Ashburton Grove. Rooney switching to Liverpool is untenable since the Evertonians will hate him to bits for that. Newcastle? Don't make me laugh.
Everton are mortgaging nearly everything they have in order to try to keep the young wunderkid happy, at least long enough for them to persuade him to sign a new contract, so that he can't let the current one just run out. The club is desperate to keep the lad's valuation up on the scale of 30 or 40 million pounds. With the next major international championship two years away (and I think Rooney is not involved in the Olympics, that is if the British Isles has any representatives in football for that) maintaining that valuation will be quite some challenge.
My suspicion, however, is this. Either Rooney moves abroad (where to I don't know, since Real Madrid are currently focusing on prising away Patrick Vieira), or he refuses the new contract offer and patiently waits for his current contract to run for another year. This time next year, no matter what happens, his price will fall enough for the big clubs to start wanting him, and that's when he will supposedly strike and move away from Merseyside.
Fantasy stuff, that. But is it all going to be so easy? Will everything just flow according to plan? I have my doubts. gambitch [
Tuesday, July 20, 2004
Some of the other names gambitch almost went by, and some of the other potential identities I might assume elsewhere:
This list is, of course, incomplete. gambitch [
This hasn't exactly been the best of evenings for me.
My mum's been having a bit of a complaint about my latest attempt at trying to grow a bit of beard. It was always intended to be temporary - mostly a little trick to scare a few kids - and I would have quietly shaved it off on the Sunday anyway. But no, my mother was having none of that. She insisted that I look terrible with any hint of facial hair on, and I bet if I carried on long enough, she would have disowned me for disobeying her.
Anyway, I was supposed to go out to visit a television filming set for a talkshow on local issues. She refused to let me out of the house until I got rid of all the hair on my chin. What's a son to do? I had to be obedient; any other option and who knows whether I'll end up spending the night on a park bench. At the very least I would have had to put up with some nagging for days on end. So what's a son to do? Off went the stubbly stuff, and just before I stepped out again, my mother made it a point to inspect me.
"There's a good boy now. You look more handsome." Yeah, right. I'm still hopelessly ugly and single, and it'll stay that way till the end of time, beard or no beard. You want a grandson, you can forget about getting one off me. Of course, I said none of that, because I was in a rush; even if I was lucky and caught the first bus, I would probably have been late. Plus in the process of hurriedly obeying my mum, I shaved off half my chin and lost a bit of blood. Maybe I should have just been a bit more decisive and shaved my entire head off.
As it happened, the bus arrived well too late, and by the time I reached the local train station a train had just buzzed off after dropping its commuters. The next one I boarded, I didn't realize its endpoint was well before where I wanted to go. Okay, I thought, that's it. Things had come to a point where desperate measures were required. In commuting terms, that desperate option would have to be a taxi. I couldn't afford another wait for the next train. Time did not quite allow for it.
I got on board a taxi mighty quick, and could only hope that I got to the place quickly. No such luck. Because I was reading something along the way, I hadn't quite realized the route the cabbie had been taking. It wasn't until I was done with my reading (and the sky had gone a bit too dark to continue) that I realized the driver probably took the long route past a whole bunch of woods, rather than jump onto the highway network. I was getting fleeced, and I pretty much knew it. Which was when I decided I would take out my wallet and just check that I had enough money.
There are times when everything doesn't work out, and that was about when I realized that tonight was going to be one such. My wallet carried less than a tenner, and a quick glance at the cab meter (thank goodness for meters) showed I was already past the budget with no sign of approaching my desired venue soon. I'm stuck in this cab, and I politely hinted to the driver that I'm going to be a bit short on cash, plus the ride was getting rather unexpectedly long. Old, white-haired man that he was, I figured it wouldn't be right to argue my way out of this, but I never expected him to be so disinterested in bantering that he only replied with a short hum.
That's it, I thought, I'm getting fleeced big-time tonight. It was only about to get worse, though, because neither the cabbie nor myself knew the exact route to where I wanted to go, and it didn't help that I was visiting this filming location for the first time in my life. After going around in circles (I'm sure the cabbie missed a few road signs) we finally arrived at where we wanted to go, by which time the meter was already at 16 bucks and running. To put matters in perspective, the starting fare for cabs in this country was less than 3 bucks. A rush ride had turned into an hour-long nightmare.
This was when I had to tell him I really didn't have the cash on hand. My only recourse would be to find the nearest cash teller to withdraw some money, and that meant yet another detour. By the time all of this was done, the fare had come to a solid $20.20. I asked the driver how much he'd charge (after all he had taken me for quite a ride); the old man decided to be nice and round the fare down to $20. I was dead sure that under normal circumstances, that ride would have cost me nothing more than $14. Nevertheless, one hour too late for the filming and way too tired to argue, I paid up. Call me an idiot.
And then that's when I found out that filming wasn't at this location after all. There was no equipment, no crowds, nothing. Touring the building inside out was no help. I've been had. Well, not exactly. It was my mistake for not taking very careful note of where filming was going to be; I settled for the vague address, overly confident that I could find the location nearby if it wasn't inside this building. It just never worked out that way today.
You could call this a mighty night of frustration. Knowing for sure that luck was never going to be on my side this evening, I decided to walk to the bus stop and take a long ride home. Except I was having a minor craving for ice-cream (don't ask why), so I picked one up before the bus was going to go off. I made a wrong pick - the ice-cream wasn't even ice-cold; it felt more like tepid, about-to-melt stuff. Not the sweetest ice-cream I'd be having in a while, that's for sure.
Maybe tomorrow morning I should shave off my eyebrows. gambitch [
Monday, July 19, 2004
I have never visited the local library, but only because I usually didn't have any reason to. The library network here is such that sometimes the book you are looking for isn't at the local library, but somewhere further away. And while I have had pretty good luck finding the books I wanted at those further libraries, the local library seems never to stock the books I have been looking for.
That's not to say I don't like casual reads, like a Dilbert book. You throw a book like that my way and the odds are I'll slowly read and laugh along. That said, I won't leave the house and make my way to the library just to grab a copy of Dilbert. It's not exactly research text that you have to physically take away and keep near you while you do your work. On the other hand, when you are already in the library and you have not very much else to do, picking up a book to read looks like the most natural option. Getting a video to watch is just too much hassle in comparison, but reading? Hey, it takes up little space and no additional resources!
Just take yesterday for instance. My friends and I met up for the usual Sunday morning game of football - I played terribly as is often the case - before adjourning for lunch at the local food centre. Once we were done with the food we somehow decided to move on to the library - it was someone else's idea, I had no say in it, I didn't reject the idea though as the alternative was a quick dispersal.
The local library was nice and bright thanks in part to natural lighting, and there were the usual kids who were just awed by the place. It was also mighty spacious, and the five or six of us proceeded to mark out our spot in a big space near a glass panel. I joked about us forming a circle and pretending to meditate (a friend then mentioned Falungong) but we eventually decided to just go and grab a book.
Now, this is a library, and naturally books are everywhere. We could just go and grab any random book and start reading, but I think most people would never do that. We usually try to search for something we might be interested in, and that's where the online catalogue is supposed to be helpful. On the day, though, it just didn't work out too well. For a spell I had a problem just trying to access the search page; it's either my fault or it's something to do with a poor setup of the computer system, but either way the system timed out a lot. Apart from that, finding the right shelf was sometimes a bit of a nightmare if you don't know the place well.
Which explains why I was a little frustrated in my attempts to find a Dilbert book that day. When I eventually stumbled onto the comics shelves, where I was assured at least one Dilbert book would be there, I didn't find any. Oh well, maybe someone else was reading Dilbert there. But that means I had no Dilbert to read, and there weren't really that many other comics available for reading. Most of the stuff there was really books about comic art. I had to find something else.
Somehow I stumbled to a nearby shelf and there in front of me was a whole bunch of sports books, and being a sports fan I thought, okay, maybe I'll just see if there's a nice book here. Many of the books weren't, at that moment, nice. They were instruction books on sports, and while they had their purposes, they weren't something I was wanting to read. There were various other books, too, but lots of them got the quick pass-over because, well, I wasn't interested in them.
Then I came across a book on Manchester United. It just seemed to grab my attention, and I took it out of the shelf for a read. Eventually I borrowed the book home because I couldn't finish it on the spot, and the guys were wanting to get out for a coffee. When one of them saw what I was going to borrow, he jokingly chided me for not taking a look at another book that was available, which was about Liverpool. Well, maybe I should mention that he's a Liverpool fan! It's okay, though, because we all know each other's club allegiances and that hasn't gotten in the way of our friendship.
One incident on the way out deserves a brief mention. Entering and exiting the library would necessarily involve passing through detectors which would ensure we didn't take an unborrowed book out of the library. When one of us, the abovementioned Liverpool-supporting fan, walked through the detectors, the thing went off with a sharp beep. My friend duly went to the counter to check with the security guard, who dismissed him quickly as he realized it was a machine error. Apparently it has something to do with the fact that he borrowed a rather big book (on the Tour de France, since you ask) and the detector couldn't verify it quickly enough.
This led us to joke that if a terrorist ever wanted to plant a bomb in the library, he could place it in a bag and camouflage it with a big library book! gambitch [