I’m thrilled to see that Viswanathan Anand managed to finally win a game against World Champion Magnus Carlsen. For those of you who don’t know the world chess championship is currently underway between Anand (former world champion and current challenger) and Carlsen (current world champion). The two fought it out last year with Carlsen winning quite comfortably 3-0 (ignoring draws - the actual score was 6.5 - 3.5). It’s quite rare for a world chess match to end with one person not winning a single game but Carlsen was in top form and Anand… wasn’t.
In an heroic display Anand fought through a difficult candidates tournament to earn the right to a rematch. I was nervous though - Carlsen seemed to have the psychological edge in the previous match (Anand made a lot of mistakes) and I wasn’t sure that it wouldn’t end up being another curb stomp. And indeed Carlsen took the lead in the second game which meant that Anand hadn’t managed to win in 12 straight games against the world champ.
Playing Carlsen must be unnerving. It’s like sitting across the table from a master assassin who is quietly putting together his pistol. He takes his time slotting the pieces together, loading the magazine, oiling whatever needs to be oiled and then, when the gun is complete, he calmly shoots you in the head. There’s no general strategy to beat him - he’s an all round player that can …Read more...
Having given the above from my memoirs I propose to do my bit and write a pool survival guide. This would be invaluable to proponents of the game as it can reduce the risk of injury by as much as ninety four point five percent. Just follow these simple rules and you should be safe.
|1.||Resist the temptation to say “But if you’d just put a bit of left backspin I’m sure you would have got it in…”|
|2.||Resist the temptation to talk to the balls. Comments like “Go, go you bastard go!!” can sometimes be misinterpreted by those with sensitive feelings.|
|3.||Never smile smugly after you’ve just put away 6 balls in a row and your opponent fouls. Some people can take this the wrong way.|
|4.||Whenever you break sending the cue ball into an innocent bystander thus knocking him forward onto a table where two professional players are having a tense game that involves money …|
People fear worst-case scenarios. Or, more accurately, people fear the worst-case scenarios for the things that they fear. If you’re afraid of public speaking you’ll imagine being laughed at by your audience as you stumble haphazardly through a poorly written speech. If you’re afraid of sharks you’ll imagine being torn to pieces the instant you fall off a boat. These fears are strong enough to change our behaviour - we’ll decline to give that speech or we’ll refuse to get on the boat. This is because our brains, sadly, are really bad at calculating risk. As school children we’ve given terrible speeches in front of the cruelest audience possible (our peers) and the result was never as bad as we imagined it to be. Scuba divers regularly swim with sharks, in fact some go looking for sharks, and they don’t get eaten.
A worst-case scenario always depends on a lot of things going wrong at once. Consider that you first have to get on a boat and then fall off in the vicinity of a shark and that shark has to bite you and that bite would need to be fatal - you can see how many variables are at play in just one scenario. (In the case of a speech consider that out of all the mistakes you could make you’d need to find a really funny one to be laughed at and then consider how difficult it is to intentionally make …Read more...
I rediscovered Bruce Springsteen almost by accident. I knew him as the guy who sang Born in the USA and, while that’s a fantastic song, I didn’t bother with any of his other stuff. Maybe I wasn’t in the right place. The incident that set met me right was a concert a few years ago where a local punk band played a surprisingly good cover of Dancing in the Dark. I always liked that song and I realised that anyone who could write both Born in the USA and Dancing in the Dark was an artist I should check out.
I bought the 3 CD Essential Bruce Springsteen compilation and never looked back. The first CD was pre-Born in the USA and had some old favourites like Thunder Road and Born to Run. And Atlantic City.
A bit of background. Atlantic City is one of the tracks from his sixth album: Nebraska. Springsteen had recorded a demo tape of the tracks he wanted to do for the album. They were supposed to be adapted for the E-Street band but, as they recorded, Springsteen realised that the raw intensity of the original demo fitted the bleak atmosphere better than the band recordings. So he did something incredible - he released the demo tape as the final album.
The album didn’t sell well - his fans didn’t expect a collection of dark stripped down acoustic numbers. That said it’s regarded as one of his best albums if …Read more...
My first exposure to Dave Brubeck was one of my Dad’s old records - a compilation of Brubeck’s greatest hits. It was a great introduction to jazz - smooth melodies that were instantly accessible. I especially loved his playfulness when it came to time signatures - he could make a 7/8 sound completely natural (and everyone will immediately recognise the 5/4 from Take Five arguably the best known jazz song on the planet).
He was always experimenting - he composed jazz, orchestral works, choral works and sound tracks. A devout Catholic many of his later works were choral arrangements of biblical themes.
I’ll never forget listening to that record and his music will live on as a gift to humanity to pass on to later generations.
Today would have been his 92nd birthday. Take Five, sir - you’ve earned it.
(Warning: This post is long and kind’ve depressing. If you came here looking for something funny then go here immediately - do not pass go and do not collect anything).
The road to the cafe was straight, save for a bend just before you arrived. Looking out over the road you could see the street lights making something of a corridor bordered by green lawns and fences. We walked slowly as there was no reason to hurry and the night air made a refreshing change from the summer heat. Shaun, for that was my companions name, talked mostly of trivial things. Comic book characters, games and his exploits regarding computers. The first two were common topics and he had always been interested in computers. At one point he may have known more about them than I but after a year of taking programming classes I knew more than he did. I kept that to myself though.
It didn’t take us long to make the journey to the cafe and I, not having expected the journey and not having too much money, bought a can of coca cola and waited for Shaun to complete his purchases. At the time I was surprised, slightly, by his choice - a cheap bottle of wine. It wasn’t that it was out of character for him - it was just unusual for him to buy something like that in front of me.
We had met when my Mom had volunteered to provide a lift for …Read more...
Someone in management has, I believe, made a bet for a goodly sum that he thought was a sure thing. After making this bet said manager returned home and remorse set in. Perhaps the odds weren’t as overwhelmingly in his favour as he thought. Maybe it was all a mistake - maybe he was on the brink of ruin without any way of hedging, his life savings about to be obliterated, his family forced to live on the streets under a bridge charging a toll for billy goats. No, he says to himself, we cannot let this be. So, instead of mending his ways and cutting down on the excessive gambling, he sneakily decided to change the odds in his favour.
I believe this is the most likely reason for the current situation at work. Someone has decided that, in order to prevent hell freezing over and thus losing a sure thing, the air conditioners in the office must on no account actually allow the temperature to drop. To do so would be to invite disaster - who knows what the current climate is in Hades? Best to be careful. Best not to let any of that heat escape.
To call the office a furnace would be to insult good furnaces everywhere. Good furnaces know when to quit. They’re efficient. They don’t need to show off. Once you’re melting steel then you’ve done your job. No need to waste energy vapourising it. Besides steel condensation is a …Read more...
One of the many joys of becoming a parent is the chronic severe sleep deprivation which a new parent can be expected to endure for approximately the rest of their adult lives. Such delights as malaise, hallucinations, nystagmus, periorbital puffiness, increased risk of fibromyalgia, psychosis, stress headaches, hand tremors, aching muscles, diabetes, temporal lobes going on strike, the death of Heath Ledger and Anna Nicole Smith and fathers suddenly starting blogs are all well known symptoms and common among parents everywhere.
Many parents attempt, foolishly, to sell their children into slavery at this point, not considering that this is in no way a sellers market. So, searching for a way to alleviate these common parental symptoms a work colleague of mine suggested that I attempt to reason with the child. I, at the time huddled under my desk making small meeping noises, decided that, perhaps, this was worth a try.
I enlisted several friends and family members to corral the source of our troubles: One Year Old child. I then attempted to reason with her as follows:
Me: We need to talk.
One Year Old: Sure. But first please accept this offer of a fine plastic duck.
Me: Uh, thank you. I suppose you’re wondering why I wanted to talk to you.
One Year Old: Not really. I thought you wanted a duck.
Me: No, ducks are not the issue here.
One Year Old: Then why did you want one? I don’t understand.
Me: Look you offered the …