Thursday, 2 December 2010

Landslide

Saw a book at City Books in Hove today. Well, I saw many books. It was a bookshop after all. But while I was perusing the politics section I came across a title called "were you still up for Portillo?". I was extremely excited by this title. It refered to the 1997 election night in which Michael Portillo, then Defence Secretary, lost his seat on a huge swing, considered by many to be the greatest shock of the night and a key signifier to the scale of the Tory defeat. The loss of Portillo's seat was declared at about 3AM, and so "were you still up for Portillo?" became a leading question for people talking to eachother about the election night.

I take a great interest in general elections (more so than for politics itself) and so naturally I was keen to look into this book. I was disappointed, however, that rather than being a general assessment of the campaign, election itself, it was literally just a blow by blow account of the election night itself. Which is fair enough, because the title does imply that. I didn't buy a copy there, as I didn't want to pay £6 for a facsimile of the televised coverage, which I am able to watch on youtube for myself thanks to ajs41. However, there was enough insight and context in the book (from the excerpts I read in the store) and enough references to other networks' election night coverage to make it something I should like to read. So that's ordered from Amazon second hand for £1.28, a price so low it's almost reminiscent of the Tory seats won in 1997. And the scale of the snow outside is reminiscent of the Labour result - unprecedented, beyond the wildest forecast. In my garden I suspect there to be eight inches - it's slightly less significant elsewhere in town as much of it has been shovelled or salted. But in the park you can see it drifting somewhat, snowdunes.

Hopefully this weather does not affect my travel tomorrow - I am trying to get to Bristol. Contrary to my initial impressions, my investigations have revealed that the journey from Paddington to Bristol might be easier than my journey from Brighton to Victoria.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Reading

When I got back from Peru in late October last year I started taking a written record of the books I read - a book log. Admittedly I have never been an avid reader although the medium of books has grown on me ever since leaving university.

The list is now just over one year old. Below are only the books I have finished - there are a few entries which have a 'started' date but no 'finished' date which will not be appearing here. This is either because I am currently reading them (and hence have not finished them) or because I started them a while ago but abandoned them after a few pages/chapters. Well, abandoned is perhaps the wrong word - I intend to return to all of them, in time.

The List (in order of start date)

Stanislaw Lem - The Star Diaries (1971)
Morris Kline - Mathematics in Western Culture (1953)
Jonathan Swift - Gulliver's Travels (1726)
Alistair Cooke - American Journey (1945)
Robin Shelton - Two hundred poems from the Greek Anthology (1971)
Robert Harris - Imperium (2006)
Anthony Seldon - Major: A Political Life (1997)*
Jo Swinnerton - The London Pocket Companion (2008)
Robert Beckman - Crashes (1988)
Alistair Cooke - Letter from America (2004)
Giles MacDonogh - Frederick the Great (1999)
Liz Fisher, John Couruts - The Bluffer's Guide to Accountancy (2006)
Christopher Hibbert - George III (1988)
Robert Eastaway, Jeremy Wyndham - Why do Buses Come in Threes? (1999)
Stanislaw Lem - Memoirs Found in a Bathtub (1971)
G. Ward Price - I Know These Dictators (1937)
Henrik Ibsen - Hedda Gabler (1890)
Richard Sheridan - The Rivals (1775)
Stanislaw Lem - The Futorological Congress (1974)
Jorge Luis Borges - The Book of Sand (1975)

*Did not read in full. 744 pages on one man's career would have been rather a lot - I was primarily interested in the elections (both as a prospective parliamentary candidate and as Prime Minister) rather than the workings of policy units.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Am going to Rome for a week in mid-December so have resumed my Italian studies, having jetissoned the language nearly a year ago when it was revealed that I would not be going to Rome last December. Have been enjoying studying it and testing myself on it a lot. It reminds me of maths (which along with history was my favourite subject as far back as I remember) - learning the building blocks and then using these to build and solve more complicated linguistic equations. It's going to be tough to learn the whole book before mid-December but I have the enthusiasm and patience for it now. That and a cause. I want to be able to spend as much of my time in Rome by myself so I can explore at my own pace (which would probalby involve walking around from dawn till dusk free from the contstraints of other peoples' tendency to fatigue) and attempt a serious piece of journalistic tourism, which would match the Peru Report in richness of detail but would contain no discussion of family politics - I have no family in Rome. Naturally, if I am to spend a lot of time by myself exploring a good knowledge of Italian would be helpful. And this book will give me a good knowledge, provided I test myself regularly and do not slack on learning vocabulary or practicing oral.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Yeah

Haven't posted for a while, but anything which makes me laugh out loud for several minutes on end is worth posting.

And this is one such thing

Friday, 24 September 2010

Hand History - Part 14

Of all the fun months of Third Year, March was probably among the most serene. The weather was just beginning to warm up a little yet exams and long-essays were still a while off. Half way through the month I repeated the previous year's ritual of banning myself from online poker for the duration of the exam revision period. To be honest, what this really meant was banning myself on Full Tilt for 2 months and from Stars for 3 months - I could still play on other sites and I did, including a brief return to Party and a slightly longer period at Betfred. But the main reason for banning myself was to make sure I wasn't lured in by the SCOOP, and I still credit banning myself from the most desirable sites as helping to increase my grades by around 2 or 3 points.

After the end of term things began to get a little more regimented. I had opted to stay at University for the holidays (as most of my friends and housemates were doing too) and try to stick to a revision/long-essays schedule, something I was more or less succesful at.

However, there was one afternoon, the last Sunday of the month, in which I was becoming restless and lazy. I browsed Warwick Poker to find out one of the Warwick pro's had made the final table of the London GUKPT £3K buy in main event. Very quickly a wicked idea popped into my head. Why not go down and WATCH, I can play some £1/£1 NLHE if I get bored too! And I can make my buy-in last the whole night and go home on a dawn train with my return ticket. What could possibly go wrong! I didn't really know the guy who was playing. In fact, I can't even remember his name. Jambon or something? It was just a premise for action, in the same way that supposed 'border disturbances' in September 1939 was the German 'justificaiton' for the invasion of Poland.

I told the Goblin what I was going to do and urged him not to stop me (not that I suspect he would have). My sense of freedom was willing me down southwards, I had to follow it! So off to the Kenpas Highway cashpoint where I took out £250, this being roughly enough for my journey, meals and £200 worth of chips as a bankroll for the night.

As I strolled down the park I felt very happy. It was warm and the people at the park were clearly having fun in that unique start-of-Spring way. I felt very civilized too - a gentleman taking a day off from work to go and play some cards in London. I had even brought a book with me Fernand Braudel's A History of Civilizations.

The train journey was surprisingly quick - I often have to remind myself that Coventry and London really aren't that far from eachother.

It was still mid-afternoon when I arrived at Euston and so I resolved to walk down towards Edgware Road, whose location I only knew roughly. On the way I stopped off at the Poker, Bridge and Chess store. As I got near Marble Arch I still had trouble finding my location. I ended up doing the decadent thing and hailing a cab. He was confused by my request for the 'Grosvenor Casino', but when I started calling it 'The Vic' he knew exactly where I meant. 10 minutes and £10 after getting into the cab, I was there.

It was my first time here. I made my case. I was here to watch a friend, and I was interested in playing in the side too. Do I need to sign up or anything? I showed them my driving license and they gave me a card. The two secretaries were young and pretty friendly, though I remained serious for all their jokes. I was a man on a mission, after all.

I had always been fond of the 'dull English poker scene'. This didn't stem from my own experiences of them. In fact at my first few times at the casino I was pretty anxious. You know, what if one of the regular, fat, bald-headed gamblers starts to make inquisitive glares at you. What if you bad beat the large Polish guy. What if one of the punter's wives gets very lucky in a hand against you.

My fondness for the dull English poker scene came about largely from watching a few televised events. The GUKPT 2007 coverage (which I saw on Pokertube long after it happened) was part of this. I liked the idea of 9 men (and occasionally 1 woman) sitting around after a few days of play, safe in the knowledge that they each have a few thousand pounds behind their belt along with the prospect of a few thousand more by the end of the night. I.e. Final table poker. Yet all rather casual and unglamarous. "I call." I pass." "Pass." "Pass." "How much do you have behind you?" "About 120k" "Right, erm. I raise all in" "Oooh, the online pro from Denmark has a tough decision here. What do you think Roland" "Yeah Ace Queen. Good hand but difficult to play against an all in." "Of course if he did call it would be a race." etc etc

And it was a GUKPT final table I was here to see tonight. Nominally anyway. It had only just started by the time I arrived, though it was very busy. There was no easy place to view from, certainly nowhere to sit down. With this in mind I went to the cash games desk and signed up for three tables, a 1/1, a 1/2 and a 1/3. After around an hour or so there was a space at 1/1 (I have not had to wait so long since then!). I went over to the cashier, bought £200 in chips and took a seat.

Around me was a mixed group. There was one old man who looked a bit like Doyle Brunson, a few studenty types who looked reluctant to gamble. One or two Asian gamblers who bought in for over the £200 maximum.

My plan was to shortstack - buy in for the minimum and replenlish my stack if I lost. The minimum was £40, so I bought in for that. Lost a few chips early on. Was down to about £25. Doyle limps in early position. I raise it fairly large (around £7) with AQ to squeeze out the limpers. Doyle comes over the top. I call. He rolls over QQ and takes the pot along with my first buy in. Nil desperandum, I chuck another £40 onto the table.

One man wanted to buy some more chips from the cashier, but it was closed. So I sold him £40 of mine. After a while I got impatient of sitting on just £40 and so whacked on the other £80 or so which had so far been left unused.

I proceed to lose a few small pots, mainly through playing scared aggressive. This essentially means trying to enter more pots than I really needed to, but entering aggressively as a justification. I.e. to collect the 'dead money' in the middle. I was playing badly, and was not sticking to my original strategy. We already see that I had abandoned my 'five £40 buy-ins' idea! Though such a strategy had its limitations, at least it would have served my intented purpose - playing the whole night, as I may have been able to survive a lot longer on 5 buy ins, even if this meant minimizing my potential profits.

But I was in no state of mind to make a profit. I began to realise how ridiculous this whole adventure had been, and even at one stage thought I might just go and play Roulette because my edge there was probably better (although still unfavourable obviously) than it was at this table. Not that any of my opponents were playing particularly well themselves, but at least they weren't playing scared.

My final hand came at a time when my stack was at around £80. I raised 99 in middle position to £3. The button made it £6. I called. The flop was 865 with two-flush. I bet a small amount,a round £5. He raised to around £10 or £15 (big difference, I know). I paused for a but a few seconds. "All in?" I announced, pushing forward my remaining chips. He called pretty quickly. The turn came a 7. I flipped over my 99 triumphantly as if I had sucked out on his set or something. River was a flush card. He then flipped over his A7 suited to reveal the flush. I was too confused to even feel let down at this defeat. I sorta shrugged my shoulders, picked up my book and scarf and left.

A lot of time had passed, somehow, and it was dark when I took the grim cab journey from the casino to Euston. I decided that cab journey was the last extravegant expense I would indulge in for the time being. I felt guilty and a little stupid, although already a little wiser. I was lucky that I had sold £40 worth of chips - otherwise it would well have been squandered with the rest of it. I got home at about midnight and didn't get to sleep till 3.

Subsequent visits to the Vic have been more successful (and you shall hear about some of them in later installments) but this particular one had been a textbook failure - I had gone down on a whim, I wasn't really prepared and I only got what I deserved. How did I keep my flagging spirits up on the train journey home? I started reading A History of Civlizations.

I wrote a little rhyme about the whole incident the next morning.

It's fun to gamble and buy in deep
£1 blinds, it's fairly cheap
though the rake is fairly steep

But hours later, like a sheep
I had no pile of chips to heap
I didn't fuss, or wail or weep
So out the cardroom I did creep
To poker dreams we must not leap
Those gamblers; do not as idols keep
Their eyes heavy from lack of sleep
and sowing all that they must reap

Hand History - Part 13

I should tell you a few more facts about the sheer excess and pomposity that went into that $800 bankroll project.

I actually kept a folder (purple, it was) in which I would keep a written record of each and every single game I played. That's right. Not even a computerised record - a written record, with a neat little 'bankroll update'. This may not seem bad in itself, but symbolically the idea of keeping these things in a folder essentially evoked a sort of permanancy. Bear in mind that my academic work was also kept in folders (seperated by module) and so I had essentially put my poker activities on par with my academic activities, implying that it was almost a module in itself- certainly something that would be carried on through till the end of the year.

I don't have this particular document any more. I believe I threw it out in disgust as part of my end-of-Third Year cleanout. I believe the purple folder, however, is behind my bed somewhere, along with a few other empty folders.

But apart from that little episode, the rest of the term was fairly successful pokerwise. I don't recall any big wins or major losses. I do recall enjoying PokerSoc. DKSOP home games were fairly infrequent. Although all three of my housemates played poker (to varying degrees of intensity but to a similar degree of skill). One November weekend was particularly memorable. Saturday night me and the others went up to Leicester to visit our old housemate who, having dropped out of Warwick, was now in halls at the University of Leicester. Essentially though it was a DKSOP reconvention, and we played tonnes of turbo tournaments, just like old times. On the Sunday evening we returned. I had a 2,000 essay to write for the next day. Goblin had a FTOPS Event - I believe it was a $129 bounty event and that I had 30% of the action. I completed the essay (by 10am the next morning), though Goblin did not make it very far in the tournament - the bell curve was not very kind to him that night (though he had had FTOPS successes in the past).

I did manage to get a free copy of Poker Tracker 3 through some deal they had running on Titan Poker. Not that I am a grinder - I didn't have much use for the software although it's nice to know that it's there if I ever do.

Early on in the term I played a £20 heads up with Goblin. Though this figure isn't particularly extravegant the structure was: 10k, 1 hour blinds. I ended up losing in the 250-500 level. He trapped me with this Queens - I shoved K7o from the big blind. Funny how I emphasise that it was offsuit. Queens, of course, are offsuit by definition, unless you have a faulty deck!

Either way, he dominated the game and it was only a matter of time before he got all my chips.


Going off to the end of term: I had a rather lonely weekend in early December. I almost wrote reams about it but have chosen not to. Let it suffice to say that I came out of it much spiritually tougher than before, and after a brief re-examination of my life priorities (the most important choice you make in life is what you choose to make important) I had about as much fun in Term 2 as I could have hoped to.

And poker went extremely well in Term 2 as well. One weekend our former housemate from Leicester came down. Naturally, we took the opportunity to go down to Stanleys casino, our friend being a former regular and (rightly) considered one of the very best players there. It was a Friday night. It was a Pot Limit Omaha tournament. I think it was a low buy-in rebuy with a fairly fast structure. All tournaments at Stanleys had fast structures, which is a shame because otherwise it's a lovely place to play.

Me and The Conjurer (one of my housemates) ended up getting to the final 3. We made a deal with the remaining guy and split the beans three-way. Conjurer was first in chips, I was third in chips. DKSOPers being a great fraternity (robbing from the ignorant, giving to the needy - us) we split our winnings with the others. It was a pretty nice tourney, although I had gotten a bit tired of looking down at four cards at a time!

Thus you can understand my relief when, two days later, we all went down for a NLHE tournament. It was myself, The Conjurer, Goblin and our Leicester friend The Dragon, the Lion opting to stay at home. He rued that! Out of the fifteen people who turned up to play that day, we came 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th. Yes, that was pretty much the best possible result. Literally. Yet it didn't seem that odd. I, and I believe the rest of us, felt the same way I always do when I succeed at something - a sort of calm elation, a plateau of success. A sort of magnanimity. Naturally though, like the young gangsters we were, we took photoes of ourselves with all the cash afterwards (although it wasn't that much! fifteen players, £5 rebuy. Or was it a £10 rebuy? It's strange how some details just go unremembered!)

The event which finished off this rather fun little term was the Warwick Series of Poker. Or, the WaSOP for short. I had known about the WaSOP in previous years. In 1st year I had gone to see it while it was going on, and admired the casual disregard the old timers had for the £50 buy in, although I was surpirsed to see a few fellow 1st years in the fray. In 2nd year I had missed the event - it was a bare few weeks after the incidents which led to my temporary withdrawal from the poker scene (how I now hate hate hate letting that happen! I was 19 years old! Why on earth was I domesticating myself so young?!).

Third year however was different. I had the money, talent and freedom to enter the WaSOP.

First came the preliminary event, the WaSOP Pot Limit Omaha. It started off with 10K stacks at 25-50 blinds, intervals every 20 minutes. But as often happened at PokerSoc events, the blind intervals had to be shortened as the usual we've got to be out of this room by midnight! rush ensued. The Conjurer managed to come third, for which I think he got £80. A good start to the WaSOP.

The next day came the grand event, the one so prestigious we had all bought in for it weeks in advance via Paradise Poker, whom were adding value to the prizepool. The WaSOP Main Event, £57 buy in (transposed from Euros, the currency Paradise deals in) 10k starting stacks, 45 minute blinds.

To get myself in the mood for epic tournament poker (although I was already very much in the mood) I watched the documentary of the 1973 WSOP Main Event. This video represented (and still does represent) to me a sort of classic old-school convention of gamblers, which in a way reminds me of what PokerSoc can be like at the best of times, and how DKSOP is all the time. People who are quite happy to get together in their little group, stake some money, play some cards and see who's the best, while happily ignoring what ever trivialities are going on outside the card room.

And theWaSOP main event lived up to expectations. Held in The Isle casino (now part of the Grosvenorchain) it was a large and fairly glamarous location. The tournament started off well for me - I never strayed too far below my starting stack and found myself playing good, patient poker. I was treating it like a marathon, not a sprint. I was playing my hands for value - I wasn't getting into any disadvantageous spots. Goblin (who was on my table), on the other hand, had nothing but bad luck, and the frustration just oozed out of him.

Conjurer was out later, having been placed at the table of death to start with but essentially succumbing to below-average luck as the afternoon went on.

Jonny, who had joined us, also went bust fairly early on.

The Dragon and the Lion were not playing.

I managed to make it through to Day 2! I was the benificiary of some nutty play of one of the Warwick pros. He didn't want to get through to Day 2 as it would mean he'd have to miss the 'Sunday Majors'. Accordingly he was shoving every hand. With this in mind, my KQ looked pretty good. He had a lower king. And my kicker was good for 35,000 chips or so, and I took this figure with me to the next day.

I turned up again the next day (obviously). Around fifteen remained and the top 8 got paid. My stack dwindled a little to start with but I was making good reads and avoiding calling my chips off behind. Then suddenly we were down to ten. Alas, I was down to about seven or eight big blinds after all that. Two hands into the final table I shove J5o from the button - it had been folded around to me. Am ambitious play, but I had already noticed the small-blind was motioning a muck. Sure enough he did. But then the big blind, after thinking for about 10 seconds, called, rolling over two nines. To suck out I failed, and I was out.

I decided to walk back home, which took ages and took me through some pretty dire parts of Coventry, some of which honestly seemed more like South London than the West Midlands. I felt fairly small on the way back, as one usually does after missing out on a big score (top prize around £1,000 plus lots of PRESTIGE).

And so a fairly eventful term of poker.

Just writing this has made me realise how intensely I miss university life. Ah well, there's a world out there!

But for all these little gems, the most defining of my poker experiences had yet to come. Yea, it was waiting round the corner for now, but soon it would pop out LIKEA BAT. Or should I say, I fell into its decadent nest. Or web. Or whatever. You shalll see!

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Waking Thoughts

Between bed and the table
I don't mean to be rude
But to decide I'm unable
Between sleeping and food

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Habemus Papam!

I went to London on Saturday. In truth I had gone up simply for a break from the routines of home life and had planned the journey some time earlier. However, it happened to coincide with the Pope's visit. With this in mind I'd decided that I'd go to Hyde Park in the evening so that I might witness the spectacle and commotion.

The first time I saw any papal activity was at around 10.15am on my walk from Victoria Station to Westminster. As I strolled along Victoria Street I noticed a large mass of people blocking the way ahead. They were facing not towards me, nor away, but to the side, towards the sight of Westminster Cathedral. The only way to pass them was through a narrow sliver of pavement, about one or two persons wide at most, which the police ensured was kept free so that people might walk from one side to the other.

The crowd itself was probably around 500 people. And soon it was around 501, for I joined near the back. I heard the voice of His Holiness, as loud and clear as a thunderclap. However, this was simply due to the wonders of technology. The Pope was inside the Cathedral, whose doors were closed to us. There was however a video and audio link, the screen so large that I could capture his every gesture. Not that there were many gestures to be seen. And the words, though spoken clearly, were the same platitudes you get in any sermon,

More interesting than the Pope (in my opinion) was the crowd itself. They were from all around the world (though there were, as may be expected, a lot of Irish voices) and given the density of Vatican flaglets and the intangible sort of devout intensity that pervaded, it was clear that, as a non-believer, I was in the minority.

The crowd were friendly too each other - one taller man happily letting a shorter man go in front of him to get a better view. It was nice to see a friendly crowd, not in a mawkish heartwarming way, but because every other time I see a crowd they tend to be loud, vocal protesters with all the unpleasantness, emotional baggage, pigheadedness, insecurity and dogma that the average protester brings with them.

One man loudly asked one of the policemen when the Pope was due to come out. "About ten minutes" said the copper. "Pardon!" shouted a man. "About ten minutes!". The questioner then admitted to having a hearing problem, and thanked the policeman.

I stayed for about fifteen minutes but based on my limited knowledge of liturgy, I deduced that the ceremony was nowhere near the end. Also, there was no guarantee that the Pope would leave through that entrance, although there were a square-formation of young people waiting not far from the door, dressed in blue/yellow robes as if they were part of a choir or a youth organisation.

About seven and a half hours later on my return walk (from Oxford Street towards St. James Park) I noticed a temporary barrier had been erected across the length of The Mall. The famous lines of Union Jacks were interspersed with the flag of the Vatican City. Crowds a few persons thick were hugging either side of the barriers. The Pope, it was said, would be coming down this route on the way to Hyde Park

The police were not letting people go from one side to the other. Fortunately one American woman was pushy enough (verbally, not physically) to allow a small section of us to cross to the other side. She had a friendly rapport going with the police officer, and joked how British policeman were soft, and that in New York or Boston the policemen would not have allowed any sort of negotiation at all. "STEP BACK LADY" etc.

Now in St James Park I took a spectator-point on the steps of some statue. A few other people had had the same idea, but it was worth sacrificing 5 metres or so of proximity for a better view. The police were on full pestering power, and two people standing near me were questioned. I did not hear what the conversation with the first person was about, but the second one was apparently in trouble for crossing the barriers without permission. The two argued for about 10 minutes and, I believe, the man was eventually given only an informal caution.

It wasn't for around forty minutes that the pope's entourage arrived, although we were able to tap in to the audio clues around as he approached. The hovering news helicopter was slowly beginning to hover nearer to us. People who could see around the corner of St James Park (to which I was fairly close) were starting to take photographs down their particular vista. Preceded by several security vehicles and police motorbikes there came... The Popemobile! From his familiar dome turret he waved, along with two other ever-presents who always seem to be in the Popemobile with him. I reckoned the speed of the Popemobile to be extremely leisurely, around 5mph (you will excuse my constant flicking between metric and imperial).

What happened next was madness. Having caught a good glance of the Pope I thought I might try to keep up with the vehicle. 5mph is only a light jog or a long-stride walk, so it wasn't too much of an effort and I didn't have anything to carry. Naturally, as I looked ahead I assumed I was the only person doing this. It wasn't till I looked behind that I found that dozens if not hundreds of people (as they came around the corner of St. James Park) were doing the same as me. It was the craziest thing I have ever seen. Imagine a Disaster Movie - hundreds of people running away from the space-monster whom is rapidly consuming downtown. It was that sort of feeling. It was madness, no other word for it.

This bizarre spectacle continued for about four minutes, until the park stopped and the security barriers curved around to stop us from travelling any further along the Papal route. Along the journey I saw many crazy, some stupid things. There were a number of professional photographers who, armed with stepladders, mounted themselves somewhere in front of the pope in order to get a good shot of him once he crossed the path of their lens. Then they would get off the step-ladder, take another sprint slightly further up, and repeat the ritual.

Though my own running was that of a sneering, rational spectator, it was clear that there was a strong sense of excitement in the running crowd. It was all rather haphazard, and a few people (including a young girl) fell over during the scramble, although as far as I am aware nobody ran over each other - it was not quite crowded enough to be a stampede. Mind you, there might have been some trouble as some people, in their rush, were ignorant enough to run behind some of the police horses. For those not aware, you must run in front of a horse, not behind it. And certainly not through it.

Amidst the crowd and the running I saw two people, a man and a woman (or a boy and a girl, I suspect they were about my age or slightly younger) stop to embrace each other. Though I couldn't help but shudder at the melodramaticism of it all (it's not bloody VE Day) at the same time I found it very sweet, and from their smiles afterwards it looked to me as if it was the first time those two had kissed, and they seemed very excited.

It was only afterwards that I realised just how despicable and weird the whole ceremony I had just seen was. This man, The Pope, a mere mortal, seemed to have the following of a God or a popstar. I could never imagine Gordon Brown (or for that matter any other Prime Minister, including Winston Churchill) being able to attract such lunacy.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Self-fulfilling, self-denying mediocrity

Actually there's a song which is like "If you got to know me I think you would like me very much" (a guy singing). Which is kinda sad cause part of being likable is the ability to offer an initial if brief avenue in the early stages of a human interaction in which people CAN get to know you, or at least provide glimpses of what you are and see whether they wish to pursue things further from there or rather confine you to the pile of acquaintances (I talk of all interactions, not just romantic relationships).

So the question is, why would someone WANT to like somebody who does not provide this said avenue of time in which a proper first-impression might be formed?

It's a bit like saying "if I'd worked harder at my degree, I wouldda got a first" - well, erm, yeah, except that's what part of a FIRST actually measures - the ability to work hard!?

So both in the human relationships example I have given and the degree example, we see people subtly if rather nasally boasting how great they are yet moaning at the fact that their refusal to 'play the game' in either case leads to their wishes and desires ultimately being unfulfilled.

O' course I don't claim to be completely innocent of this myself. In fact, I'm not, and it is the realization of this fact that causes me to write about it.

Anyway off to London now

Friday, 17 September 2010

Dream from last night

Joshua Smith added 'gettin' paid and gettin' laid!' to his interests

"mate, do you even have a job?"

"well no"

"and do you even have a girlfriend?"

...

Joshua Smith removed 'gettin' paid and gettin' laid!' from his interests 

----------

Just a little joke to get y'all attentive. Not that I have an awful lot to say today. Had one of the most mundane dreams I could possibly have ever had, ever. Was given a series of tests to do - one was maths based, one was an essay-quiz about popular culture, and another was some sort of text which seemed to integrate pictures of art with paragraphs of words (like in John Berger's Ways of Seeing). I had 7 hours to complete the test (I believe it was about 9am dream time). From my initial glances at the tests I was puzzled and annoyed - how was I going to get seven hours worth of brain-material on to these obscure examination papers? Yet at the same time I bargained for time. I was thinking about phoning my driving instructor to cancel my lesson, and asking my family whether I could skip the ritual Friday lunch.

I believed the tests were for a job interview, and so I was wondering how much effort I should put into it - the tests were so obscure and difficult it was hard to know whether it was even worth trying or whether I should just take the day off and find something better to do.

I woke up at around 6.30am. Not being due up for another hour (and being pretty exhausted anyway) I slept again. But even then there was no escape. Though my dream subject was no longer the said tests, I had basically the same sort of feeling. Basically I dreamt I was back at school again where I was in trouble for not doing a piece of work. My argument (as I persisted angrily to my friends, who were sympathetic to my plight) was that the work  was non-assessed, and as I had more important work to do (for the same teacher) that should take priority. Mr Crichton (and for some reason, Mr Anderson) were in the dream, and they did not agree with my argument, and we were scheduling another meeting in which I could make my case. I felt like Galileo facing the Roman Inquisition.

So a tedious, awful, dull set of dreams. Banal. Pathetic. I'm not pleased with my subconscious at all. Perhaps it shall make things up to me tonight.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

So, where was I

The master didn't have any work for me today (barring a journey to the Post Office) so spent most of the afternoon reading. Managed to finish Alistair Cooke's Letter from America. Had been dipping into that since May. And I mean dipping in literally - as the chapters are short (around 5 pages per broadcast) the negation with the bathtub is easy - you don't have to leave the bath mid-chapter or anything like that. Not that I dipped the book itself into the bathtub. Nor did I try to read it in the shower.

It's a funny sort of book, Letter from America. For a start it isn't really a book - it's a selection (of about one hundred) of British-born journalist Alistair Cooke's weekly radio broadcasts he produced for the BBC from, as you may have gleaned, America. Usually from the New York studio, the city where he was based. He broadcast every week from 1946 until his retirement in 2004 (he died the same year, aged 95). It was my memories of these later broadcasts which led to to buy the book in the first place.

Though his style always seems to be that of the consummate moderate (as he seems to be in his American Journey and his documentary America (spot a common theme?)) it is funny how Cooke becomes mildly more whimsical and subtly irreverent as the years go on, becoming in my eyes (and ears) something of a Roald Dahl figure.

There are a few recordings of his letters here to give you a taste.

Having spent the afternoon in bed reading (although unlike Alistair himself, I had two, not three pillows) I had to stretch my legs and went for a quick run around the park to ventilate my brain, which had just spent the last three hours in turn-of-the-millennium America (needless to say, the letters are presented in chronological order).

The odd and interesting thing is what happened when I got back. Though the run was not long, it was conducted at a decent pace, and so on my return to house I was moving quite slowly, worn out as I was. As I entered the first thing I saw was the strong if rather weird yellow light coming through the landing window, which made everything a little hazy. From the kitchen I heard the song  Blue Moon by The Marcels, except that this was a slowed down version from the film Grease. So my walk up the stairs was rather surreal - the music was in slow motion, my footsteps were in slow motion, and everything was in a weird, yellow haze.

Last time I went running I saw a discarded apple core outside the Coptic Church in Davigdor Road. This made me laugh pretty hard. But in case you haven't made the link (God knows I have to explain many of my jokes these days, as the last post attests to) the reason for my mirth was the fact that 'twas the eating of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden that proved the origin of all mankind's sin. And so to see one eaten lying outside the church (unintentionally I am sure) proved the origin of my laughter.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Shoulder Arms? Shoulder Responsibility!

No, this isn't some tirade against gun crime or some sort of critique of the military (a critique I would have absolutely no right to make). I'm just a bit fed up of seeing cadets walking around Brighton in their uniform. I was only in the CCF for one year (and even then it was little more than weekly parading and rifle-training) but we were always told never to wear our uniforms in the street. And even if we had been allowed, it just seems like bad manners. A policeman wears his uniform that he might be identified as such, and be approached as one and act in that capacity, whatever that might entail. The uniform is not just for style (stylish though many of them are), it's a practical signifier. However, when a cadet is walking around the street in his uniform, he is not expected to act as a soldier. There are no officers to obey, there are no instructions to receive, and there are no tasks that the cadet can take out in his capacity as a cadet - he has no authority whatsoever.  So why wear the uniform?

I understand that when there are cadets walking in groups (for, say, a field day or other team exercise) then they have to be in uniform. But this does not apply for individuals out-of-hours.

In other words, just because I'm a Tory doesn't mean I like the idea of people walking around the streets in military uniform.

That said I do slightly miss my own uniform (which I had to hand back at the end of the year). Of course I could have trained as an NCO, but I didn't want to at the time, lazy, diffident 15 year old as I was. It'd be fun barking orders at people and getting them to march up and down the squuaaaare?!! (I can attest that, from my own experiences some 20 years after this Monty Phython film, Sergeant-Majors have not changed a bit)

Instead I joined the Creative Writing group. To be honest, considering we were all 15-16 year olds the work we produced was fairly fun and not at all pretentious or hormonal (there were a few exceptions).

Mentioned the Creative Writing group (and the 'creative' field trip) back in my old blog. Here's the link.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Joke

yerr, I just have a complex about making myself entirely clear so as not to be misunderstood, or for the joke not to be got

Joke 1
then again it's been said (I think by Mark Twain) that a joke is like a frog. You can dissect it to see how it works, but it will lose its life in the process.

...Joke 2
This is because when you unravel a joke into its components and essentialisms, the shared human experience and understanding when enable us to 'get' the joke are brought the the forefront and are therefore rendered awkward, factual, and unfunny. Which is like a frog, because it's green.

Joke 3
In that joke I made it look like I was making a ridiculously illucidatory explanation in which I, ironically, dissected Joke 1 to death. And then proceeded to make a ludicrous comparison by suggesting the greeness of a frog is the most important feature of a frog in the context of this joke. Which is ridiculous of course, cause we all know that frogs are brown.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Decadence

Next to our first-floor fruit bowl, on which there are fresh clementines, pink lady apples and large bananas, I saw something which just looked so decadent I found it hard to stop myself laughing: an empty bottle of red wine (Merlot) with a dirty fork and even-dirtier spoon stuffed into the bottle neck, handle first, the grubby heads sticking out as if to say "yep, this time yesterday we were still alive!"

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Hand History - Part 12

The final night of the Brighton Rack fell on a Monday and, tournament schedules being tournament schedules, the best thing available on a Monday night was a £10 rebuy at the Grosvenor. There may have been a more ambitious tournament at the Rendezvous, but having already experienced once the invincibility of victory followed by the humbling shot-in-the-stomach of defeat, we were not tempted to risk our previous night's winnings on another stab at glory.

The £10 rebuy went fairly badly. I was out first and Goblin fairly soon afterwards. Though I remember what part of the room we were sitting at, I remember very little besides. And so the Brighton Rack ended. We were each up around £50 or so. A lot of playing was done online, although there were no particular highlights or deep runs, I believe much of our profit came from online play. We had been essentially successful in our initial aim - earning enough to cover meals and transport. And it was a lot of fun indeed.

As there is not much to write here I may as well sail on towards September, and the start of Third Year, a year so remarkably different to the previous two.

I kept playing a little during the summer, online mainly. I did have one $200+ tournament win (was an $12 bounty 90 seater, Full Tilt) and by mid September I was around $300 up from where I had started in July.

But it was around that time that, once again, I became greedy. I read an article on 2+2 Forums discussing whether it was possible to make a living at 25NL. Four tables, running at 10 big bets an hour on each... $20 an hour! This was enough to spark the flame of greed, ever present inside me. Oh, if my gluttony were limited to food, it would be alright! But like anyone else, the prospect of a quick buck holds an appeal beyond the merely rational.

Not that my decision was entirely and self-indulgently irrational. The last time I had 4-tabled 25NL (which had been for a few hours back in June) I had done very well, and was alarmed at how easy it was.

This was not to be the case this time. I lost about $150 fairly quickly. Worse still, the aim to my project was rather distorted. Even though my general aim was to 'make money', there was the somewhat conflicting aim of 'achieving SilverStar', SilverStar being the second tier on the PokerStars awards programme.

I couldn't really understand why I was losing, and I stopped playing for a bit.

I did get frustrated with poker sometimes during this period, and occasionally felt an extreme sort of guilt for not doing something better with my time.

At the end of September, just before the beginning of term, I found myself single again, almost a year to the day since the previous time this had happened. The difference being that by now I was quite happy to be so. I won't labour on that, only to say that I had a lot of spare time on my hands. I returned to how things had been eight months earlier - a gentleman of poker, turning up to Poker Society, playing a bit online although increasingly less so due to the demands of Third Year work. However, as I was doing more or less completely what I wanted to do with my time and free from self-conferred restraints, I was happy.

This did not mean I was cured, by any means, of some of my bad habits, pokerwise. On the contrary, I did something which, if read in a history book by people in the future, would look as ridiculous as, say, the Tulipmania does to us now. Essentially, I fell into the perennial trap of the poker player and blamed my earlier failings at 25NL on 'bad luck' along with the fact that I had not been 'sufficiently bankrolled'. I had only had about $250 in my account at the time of my experiment.

Is it any surprise, therefore, that my proposed solution to this problem was to... start with a larger bankroll? An artificially large one at that, so as to provide me as great a pillow as possible.

So it was that at the end of September I sidelined $800 (heaven knows how I had so much money in the first place!) as my 'bankroll'. My aim, simply, would be to increase it over the course of the year. Nothing irrational about this aim, naturally. And it was a very comfortable amount to start on too - 32 buyins for 25NL, a good bankroll for $11 45 seaters, and a good opportunity for me to experiment with fixed-limit games. Just thinking of it now gives me that strange sensation or warmth in my lower limbs. I do not mean it arouses me - heaven forbid! But the idea that $800 could become $900 a month later, $1050 the month after that... it seemed possible. Not only possible but beautiful. Not only possible and beautiful but strangely inevitable.

It wasn't. Within three days of it I was down to $526, at which point I learnt. I was reminded of Cornwallis Burgoyned, for those who know the song. Typical that I should enjoy having failed at something - for at least I failed in an exciting way.

There is so much to say about Third Year and poker that I shall leave things here for now and continue another time.

Friday, 27 August 2010

?

This morning at the co-op I bought some bananas, along with some other morning items. The man at the till was taking charge of the bagging. He had difficulty opening one of the plastic bags, so I helped him. Odd, thought I, as in all my history of buying things and putting them in plastic bags, never has it been I who have helped them. Perhaps I am growing up?

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Observations

One of the fun things about being a historian (there are many) is noticing when people resemble certain historical figures. Sometimes in their persona, but more commonly (and more noticably) in their appearance.

For instance, at a recent interview (of whose outcome am still waiting fourteen days on) my inquisitor looked just like JFK, though without a hint of either the accent or the charm of the said President.

When I went to see Absurd Person Singular a few months ago the long suffering middle-class wife (during the second scene) looked just like Charles I. Whether I was the only person in the audience who noticed this, I do not know. But I was almost certainly the only one who could not contain his laughter upon noticing it.f

Also my driving instructor (and I hope it won't be to long before I will no longer require one) looks just like Frederick the Great. I have shared this comparison with many of my close friends who have had the same instructor. To be frank the description did not resonate with them, partly because many of them haven't seen the said instructor for four years (having approached the matter of driving with a little more urgency than ever I did) and partly because many of them aren't entirely sure what Frederick the Great is meant to look like. Well for the latter I can provide this portrait. See the resemblence!

It's also funny when certain musical instruments remind me of certain people's voices. Brass for the most part.

Or when people resemble certain objects, animals or body parts. Comparing Liberal Democrat leaders, my mother reckoned Paddy Ashdown a 'lion' whereas Charles Kennedy looked rather like a thumb.

Apologies for lack of posts recently, has been a busy three weeks. Granted, I apologise for not having posted. I am not apologising for having been busy!

I have Hand History Part 12 perched in the rafters, which covers the period from the end of the Brighton Rack to the start of Third Year.

But apart from the tournament I played at Nottingham in July I have not played a bit of poker this summer.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Mental!

There's something very confusing about using menthol shampoo. Every time I open it my first instict is to ply it over my teeth and brush with it.

In other news I won't be posting much over the next few days, essentially because I'm not going to be here. Have an interview tomorrow and then am off to Kent for the weekend, followed by another interview on Wednesday.

That's the last you'll hear from me about applications btw. I'll let you know if I get a job, I'll jet you know if all my applications come to nothing - but nothing more inbetween shall be said.

All to play for, Chris!

Saturday, 31 July 2010

July 2010 List

Here's my July 2010 list. Again, it's not the actual end of the month yet but it's physically impossible for me to go for another run and mentally impossibly for me to finish another book. As for drives, I'm no longer going to be recording them as I am now on a course of lessons, hopefully for the last time.

01/06/10 - 5km, 31 minutes (9.7km/hr)
08/06/10 - 6km, 38 minutes (9.5km/hr)
12/06/10 - 6km, 37 minutes (9.7km/hr)
08/07/10 - N/A, ABORTED AFTER 2km, nausea
13/07/10 - N/A, ABORTED AFTER 1.7km, pain
16/07/10 - 6km, 35 minutes (10.3km/hr)
20/07/10 - 6km, 39 minutes (9.2km/hr)
23/07/10 - 6km, 34 minutes (10.6km/hr)
26/07/10 - 6km, 35 minutes (10.3km/hr)
28/07/10 - 6km, 34 minutes (10.6km/hr)
31/07/10 - 6km, 36 minutes (10.0km/hr)
So it started off fairly badly - lesson being that it is difficult to run a good distance after a long break. However, once I had got over that initial (and metaphorical) hurdle, I have had a great string of successes. Not only have I succeeded in my objective of getting a good list of 6km times, I have also managed to run more frequently without getting injured. Very pleased. The success was simply down to pacing myself - ensuring I didn't rush the first leg of the run and that I had sufficient energy to stay on my feet the whole time. The 39 minute time was the instance in which I rushed the first leg and was worn out for the return journey.

My objective for next month will be to mix in a few longer runs (8/9km) while continuing to mainly run 6kmers. I haven't ran 9km since February, and that took 64 minutes. If I can finish the month with a 10km run done in under an hour, I'll be very happy indeed.

Don't worry, I haven't let these successes get to my head. Lots of words have been getting to my head too.

Reading
Dan Harrington - Harrington on Cash Games Volume I (2008)
Anthony Seldon - Major: A Political Life (1997)
Robert Beckman - Crashes (1988)
Alistair Cooke - Letter from America (2004)
Matt Mattross - Making of a Poker Player (2005)
Paul Ellis (ed.) - Hardy Heating Co. Ltd (1968)
Christopher Hibbert - George III (1998)

Read
Giles MacDonogh - Frederick the Great (1999)
Liz Fisher, John Courts - The Bluffer's Guide to Accountancy (2006)

Literally didn't touch Harrington, Seldon or Mattross at all. In future I shall prevent myself from half-finishing books.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

A Rhyming Play

As uploaded and posted on Three Men on a Blog

It's a eleven-minute play (I had intented it for more like thirteen minutes but the voice actors spoke very fast!) which was broadcast on Radio Warwick during their Best Playwright competition in early 2009.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Text from a while ago

Hi, I'd like some ORGANIC tomato & basil soup for starters, some DOLPHIN-FRIENDLY tuna and SUSTAINABLE cod for my main, some chocolate cake made with FREE-RANGE eggs and FAIR TRADE cocoa beans, and a pint of endangered albino swamp hippopotamus blood packaged in a Malaysian sweatshop and flown over using high-carbon fuel.

Another dream

Some people say real life is stranger than dreams, or that fact is stranger than fiction.

Those people are wrong.

And to prove it here's a dream I just had - I don't think Mother Nature has anything on this.

I was dressed only in my towels as I was driving down the road in a large, navy-blue car, which may have been a Citroen Picasso. When I got out of the car I realised the numberplate was French. I also realised that most of the cars around me had German number plates. The people around me too were speaking mainly in German, some in Spanish.

The area itself reminded me a bit of South Kensington, though I had the feeling that I was in Berlin. I went into a large, formal building. It had the feel of a Victorian mansion.

As I ascended the broad, circular stair-case I arrived in an office. Behind the desk was my father, with my mother to his right. I did not see them as my parents but as my potential employers - they had offered me an interview and I was here to thank them for paying attention while trying to make a good opening impression. It felt slightly odd being there on a Sunday (as it was in dream-time) but I thanked them for my time.

I walked downstairs, still in my towels, and peeped into a ground-floor ball/function room. I laughed that this may not only be my office soon but also my home. On my way out I registered how odd it was that my parents and my potential employers were the same people. I was happy with this arrangement though.

However, as I went back out into the strasse (street) looking for my car I couldn't find it. I consoled myself a little on the basis that I couldn't remember exactly where I'd parked it so it could have been anywhere in that area. But I was dead worried about it having been stolen, not simply because it was valuable (in my dream I estimated it at $10,000 - yes, dollars) but also because it would likely have been my fault: I might have left a window open or the door unlocked.

My panic subdued a little as the scene changed. Gone were the Germans waiting at the bus stop - along came a bunch of school people. English school people. My old school friends, as if from nowhere. None of us talked to each other - it was all 'cordial nods' and light embraces, or just bumping into each other awkwardly. For it was very crowded. I was trying to go forward, presumably still looking for the car, many of them were trying to go in the opposite direction.

But the entire scenery had changed, and the building in which I had been earlier had disappeared, replaced by a stage on which some musical performance was going on. There was some sort of theme to the music (it might have been 18th century) so I was surprised when they suddenly started playing Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony 2nd Movement. It was playing only very quietly, yet foreground noises could no longer be heard and the music took over - it was a very strange sort of bliss.

Then I was woken up by my phone.

I do wonder if the last few seconds of the dream (being as they were so different from the rest) somehow managed to anticipate the text message - perhaps the telltale signals, which can be picked up so effectively by speaker devices, can be picked up by the brain too.

I'd pay good money for a good study into dreams. Not dream-money either. Real money.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

25th July 2010

Had a fairly nasty dream - dreamt I was at a Chinese buffet with my friends. It was 10am so the selection of foods was rather limited. Worse still, there were all sorts of unpleasant table-dyanmics going on - there were two tables and people were moving between them like idiots according to crass favouritism. I decided to stay in my own initial seat and dismiss the trivialities around me.

However, the worst was to come - after I'd piled my plate fairly substantially at the buffet section the food literally disappeared off it even before I was able to sit down. Then just as I was going to get some more (this time with my hands, having learnt not to trust my plate) my alarm went off.

Had some good meetings yesterday - one with a barrister friend of the family who had come down from London, and another with my ex-tutor. I say ex-tutor, it was literally fifteen years ago.

Anyway I actually wrote this at around 9ambut Blogger is (not unusually) having problems. I'm literally trying to sign into it as a write. Had to type this in using NOTEPAD.

Off to a breakfast engagement now (not coincidentally, a 10am one), though by the time this is up and posted I will already be busy digesting it.



S

Friday, 23 July 2010

From the large mouth of George III

Six hours sleep is enough for a man.

Seven for a woman.

And eight for a fool.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Review: A History of Britain

Review: A History of Britain

There comes along, every now and then, a documentary series which stands out as the best in its field. For Art History there is Kenneth Clark's Civilization. For anthropology there is Jacob Bronowski's Ascent of Man. For astronomy there is Carl Sagan's Cosmos. Others such as Alistair Cooke's America and James Burke's Connections also stand out - experts in their fields taking us down beautiful, well-paved paths. All leave us feeling better informed and sometimes slightly humbled. They are the great documentaries.

Simon Schama's History of Britain is not one of them.

Though Simon Schama's academic credentials are beyond dispute (as is the case with most television historians, they are all distinguished professors) there is something missing in this series.

Let me put it like this - a lot of the charm of the 'great documentaries' I have listed above is as much to do with the host as it has to do with the subject matter. In a way that's part of the idea - you need an expert who is able to spark an interest in the subject and inspire the viewers to study further. Or at least to think about things they hadn't really thought of before. The ideal aim is to educate and inform as broad a group as possible without having to resort to over-simplification and patronisation.

But this is precisely what Simon Schama does. The personality required to tell a story as great as the entire history of a nation ends up giving way to underwhelming, topical subjects. This is less true in the earlier episodes, in which Simon seems quite happy discussing the Kings and Queens. But when we get to what might be called the age of parliamentary democracy, the world he is describing is suddenly much more real - much closer to our own. Unfortunately, he uses this to make rather irresponsible cultural inferences, as I shall explain presently.

(It is worth noting that the series was made in three parts, from 2000 to 2002)

One need only look at some of the episode titles to see that there is a clear agenda. This does not mean to say there is anything wrong with the presenter having an opinion. James Burke's Connections was an "alternative view of change".  Kenneth Clark's Civilisation was "A Personal View". These views run through the programme.

But Schama's views seem to jump around from episode to episode, so much so that it is hard to really know whether they are his own. Take some episode titles. "The wrong empire.", "Victoria and her sisters." The latter of these two episodes is the worst of the series, not because simply because it apes to a particular theme but because the narrative is sacrificed a little in the process. The reign of Victoria was presented almost entirely through the eyes and lives of 'her sisters'. Not biological sisters, but her female contemporaries. The Victorian narrative was not ignored, but there was no real effort to show any sort of change and continuity - Victoria's 64 year reign is presented in an almost static manner. If you are making a programme about gender identity in late-nineteenth century England, fair enough. But if you're making a series about the history of Britain, it seems a little self-indulgent (or perhaps, indulging someone else) to structure an episode in this way.

Though this is one way of looking at history, I feel there is something rather lame and short-termist about it. Anyone politically aware at the turn of the millennium will remember that these were still the golden age of 'political correctness' - it was fashionable to be open-minded about other cultures, races, and alternative lifestyles generally. Whether this was a genuine fascination or not or just an institutionalised form of overbearing politeness, it is hard to be certain of. What is perhaps more certain is that it has gone out of fashion in the last year and a bit, Marcus du Sautoy's Story of Maths (which I reviewed here) being one of the later examples.

My complaint isn't that they are coming from a viewpoint I disagree with, but rather they are giving too much credence to any current viewpoint. Whatever your own opinions of how history should be presented and what aspects should be emphasised, I think we might agree that for a subject as long and weighty as A History of Britain we must try and tell as much of the story as we can without pandering too much to modern sensibilities, or trying to draw excessive parallels with the present, as Schama does rather glibly in a few of the later episodes. How can the viewer get lost in a sense of timelessness when the burden of the present is continually lumped on their backs? Hearkenings to the present day should be subtle - they should certainly not govern the content of episodes.

There were some good points too. Between cringeworthy platitudes there was quite a lot of material covered, particularly in the earlier episodes. But the greatest danger in giving various episodes 'themes' is that you omit some of the key processes which underpinned the nation's development. For instance, Industrialisation is only mentioned in the context of the squalor it produced and the romantics who opposed it. The growth of the middle class and the birth of a consumer society isn't really tapped upon. We hear hardly anything about the spectacular Georgians. Though the last episode, which covers the lives of Winston Churchill and George Orwell, is one of the best, it does not go past their lives, and so the one chance Schama has to make a real commentary about the present age he ignores: 1948-2002 is not documented.



So in the end what we get is little croutons of interest pulled out from the great historical soup. However, both with soup and with documentaries, I would rather have the whole bowlful. This, would of course, means that the texture and flavour of these croutons becomes drowned out in the rest of the dish. But at least you are left satisfied.


VERDICT: Ambitious, but ultimately patchy and uncompelling.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

ACA III

Filling forms on computer
That's the thing I do
So I'll be a commuter
Aged twenty-two

Life Tips - No. 2

When talking to people who are clearly brighter, faster talkers than you, don't worry about sounding uninformed or dull - they'll be too busy enjoying the sound of their own voice to notice.

ACA II

Having done most of the donkey work of form-filling I am now on to the more creative side of things, and there are some pretty tough questions. They are mainly short ones (i.e. 200 words) but there are many of them and they ask things which I would not be able to answer off the top of my head.

However, I have realised that if I use the same rigour and methodology I used for equally-tough exam questions and long essays during my time at University, then I can pretty much answer any question thrown at me. On paper anyway - interviews are another matter.

And that's my life right now. Forms. Well, punctuated with sleeping, eating, meeting friends, drinking, reading, thinking, running, walking, driving, corresponding, writing, washing, dreaming, tidying, cleansing, standing, sitting, watching, listening and talking.

But mainly forms.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

ACA

Some of these application forms ask some pretty tough questions. Fair enough though - I wouldn't want a dimwit taking care of my finances.

Also for those who didn't know already (or did know but have forgotten, or hadn't forgotten but were too lazy to save the link) I post on this tripartite blog every Thursday at 3pm.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Stupid

Once again I saw a group of children (presumably from a nearby school) dressed in flourescent waistcoats. I don't recall ever going missing as a child, or being hit by a bike/car because my clothes weren't bright enough. Perhaps it is easier to count the children this way, and see if anyone has run away from the group. But to be honest, if I lived in a society where I was forced to wear a flourescent waistcoat, I think I'd want to run away.

Excerpt from a dream

It was a Friday. I was in Slough with Sago and Bott. We were planning to stay with a host family as of Monday. On going to the address, the host was rudely surprised at how early we were. On telling him that we were only there to drop our luggage off, he claimed that was not possible, and that we would have to use alternate facilities.

He was helpful enough to show us the direction to these facilities, though. We had to walk along a river bank. Higher up on the embankment there was another path where various groups were walking. They were all young and threatening, and one of the gangs threw something at the gang in front. This did not spark any altercation, presumably because hurling stones was just part of the routine banter between gangs in that part of the world.

We eventually found the building where we were to deposit our luggage. But we were unable to find a specific room, as the entire building seemed to be one labyrinth of corridors as if it were the London Underground. There were a few passages that had stairs, but even they led to dead ends.

I do not remember any more from the dream.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Life Tips - No. 1

i) Think of the most pathetic thing you've ever done.
ii) Think how much more pathetic it could have been.
iii) Remember that no matter how pathetic it could have been, there are millions of people who have already actually done things far more pathetic than that.

WOT I DID DIS WEEKEND

An example of all the exciting things you can do in a weekend if you ignore the constraints of finance and time and physical health.

Saturday/Sunday

1200 - out, meal, purchase of drinks
1330 - bath
1530 - arrival at BBQ ; beefburgers, ribs, chicken, pizza, ale
1815 - arrival at beach lawns ; football, frisbee, catch, conversation
2045 - collective viewing of remainder of Germany vs Uruguay match
2115 - another round of pizza
2230 - walk to pub
2330 - bus to town
0000 - bar, garaussing of j├Ągerbomben, dancing
0100 - club, more of the same but with better music
0230 - exeunt
0300 - kebab in Hove
0330 - cab to friend's
0400 - sleep
0500 - woken up by emergency call
0545 - back to sleep
0630 - back up
0655 - walk home
0745 - shower
0830 - leave house
0845 - arrive at station
0900 - leave Brighton
0936 - arrive at Balcombe, walk to Ardingly
1036 - arrive at Ardingly vehicle festival on foot (irony)
1200 - lunch of sausage and chips washed down with coke
1210 - parade of old motor vehicles
1230 - resting under the sun
1300 - beer tent
1400 - morris dancers
1425 - ice cream
1440 - spitfire demonstration
1445 - walk back to Balcombe
1530 - drink at The Half Moon Inn
1550 - walk to station
1600 - arrive at station
1615 - catch train
1650 - arrive in Brighton
1710 - dinner
1800 - home
1930 - world cup final
2315 - sleep


Plan for this week:

Monday to Friday
0000-2359 - work

Friday, 9 July 2010

Story of my Life

I did some things. That was it.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

But then he asked himself

...was writing about his life the main hindrance to actually living it?

Friday, 2 July 2010

Rinse your words

"It's not just a bath. It's a ceremony. It's a visual-sensory experience. It's a surrender to temptation and the warm bask of the water, yet at the same time an expression of defiance against modernity. It's not work, but it's rewarding. It's not play, but it's fun. It's not sex, but it's sensual. It does not seek to conform, nor to justify itself. It can not be pigeonholed. It is a world unto itself. It's unique, just like you. The world of the bathtub. And the world is yours alone, a world of your own creation. For sixty minutes nothing external matters. You are a castle. The bathwater is your moat. You are an island of blissful tranquility, the tropical waters lapping against your sands, politely drawing away the sediment, bowing majestically, washing away your worries. -- And in the end when the sullen withdrawal comes the water drains away like some sort of metaphor for the transient nature of existence. As if a confirmation of the brutality of reality, it slips into the void never to be seen again, like so many childhood toys. -- But it doesn't worry you. It can not. For you know all too well that, in time, the ritual shall be repeated - hot water shall be drawn afresh like some life-giving ethereal substance, to be let go once its power has been harnessed. The cyclical harmony is confirmed, after all. It's not just a bath. It's a ceremony."

"Mate, what are you talking about, it's not a fucking ceremony it's a fucking BATH. Get in. Drain. Get out. Simple as that. Simple as fucking that."

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Monthly List

Here is a list of running/driving/reading activities in the month of June, cause I know you've all been waiting desperately for it.

Running

27/01/10 - 5km, 37 minutes (8.1km/hr)
29/01/10 - 6km, 42 minutes (8.6km/hr)
01/02/10 - 6km, 43 minutes (8.4km/hr)
04/02/10 - 7km, 48 minutes (8.8km/hr)
07/02/10 - 9km, 64 minutes (8.4km/hr)
09/02/10 - 4km, 25 minutes (9.6km/hr)
27/04/10 - 1½km, 10 minutes (9km/hr)
10/05/10 - 3km, 19 minutes (9.5km/hr)
29/05/10 - 4½km, 30 minutes (9km/hr)
01/06/10 - 5km, 31 minutes (9.7km/hr)
08/06/10 - 6km, 38 minutes (9.5km/hr)
12/06/10 - 6km, 37 minutes (9.7km/hr)


So three new runs. Been playing a bit of football recently which meant more exercise but fewer runs. But the key thing is comparing my June scores to my January/February scores. My 5km 6km 6km times have gone from 37 42 43 to 31 38 37 - that's a pretty decisive improvement. My aim for the upcoming month is to build up a solid base of 6km runs. Might end up hitting the magic 10km/hr mark soon, but that's not a goal in itself.

Driving
23/05/10 - 50 minutes, through Hove
26/05/10 - 40 minutes, to Poynings
27/05/10 - 25 minutes, to supermarket
03/06/10 - 20 minutes, to Hove
06/06/10 - 35 minutes, to Joan's
07/06/10 - 30 minutes, to Kemptown
14/06/10 - 30 minutes, to Kemptown

Again, notable lack of activity during second half of month. This was due to the combined pressures of having a holiday, a houseguest and a World Cup!

Reading
Dan Harrington - Harrington on Cash Games Volume I (2008)
Anthony Seldon - Major: A Political Life (1997)
Robert Beckman - Crashes (1988)
Alistair Cooke - Letter from America (2004)
Matt Mattross - Making of a Poker Player (2005)
Paul Ellis (ed.) - Hardy Heating Co. Ltd (1968)

Didn't finish any books this month. Again, haven't really had time.

How then, do I have time to keep a blog?

How then, do you have time to read it?

Monday, 21 June 2010

Society

"GOD. Society is so full of fucking rules and regulations these days. If I wanna get a new car I have to fill in a form. If I wanna go on holiday I have to get insurance. If I wanna build into my own garden I have to get bloody permission! I bet the cavemen did not have to go through these ridiculous processes every time they wanted to do something. Take me back 10,000 years when a spade was a spade, life was fast and simple and the rulebook had yet to be invented."

"Well actually, there were rules in the olden days too. Granted, they were not codified in documents in the way that our own laws are, but they existed nonetheless. The fact that they were not written down did not make them any less real. You knew which animals you could hunt and which you should stay away from. You knew that fire could keep you warm, cook your meat and help scare animals away. They were laws found in nature. They were still laws.
Over time written systems of law came to exist. The growth of agriculture and the need to store grain helped give birth to an early system of bookkeeping to determine what grain belonged to who. Already we see the emergence of proprietorial rights - you may use your grain, not the grain of someone else. The cult of ownership has been established.
As the the classical era rolled on, states became larger and more powerful. Centralised government and uniform law became a key component in uniting otherwise disparate territories. The rule of law, beyond ethnicity, race, language, culture... the rule of law became the defining feature of government. Once you were outside the law, you were outside the protection of the King. If you broke the law, you were no longer entitled to the same protection as other citizens. Already we see a classic penal system emerging.
Nor did law simply focus on matters of state. When Moses read out his Ten Commandments, alongside the more 'obvious' instructions not to kill or steal, there were also more conspicuously moralistic orders, such as respecting your parents and not committing adultery. Thus even then we see law impinging on the affairs of its citizens, as if law had the right and responsibility to assume such a role.
In the Early Modern period with the rise of national bureaucracies across Europe, regulation became a matter of routine. Official standards were set for, for instance, the quality of produce sold in pubs and tavern. Sanctions existed so that vendors would lose their licence if found to offend. The intensity with which such laws were enforced varied from generation to generation, but the apparatus was there. And this notion of the state being a regulating body survives to this day.
But all these laws ultimately deal with real-life things, as do today's laws. What may seem like an artificial and officious law to you probably makes sense once you gain a more in-depth understanding of how systems work. You stop thinking of what is 'fair' and start focusing on what is 'practical'. You view life and the law for what it is: an organic system of interactions in which the supremacy of any idea or individual comes not from any ingrained right or privilege, but simply as the sum of their actions and reactions. And another thing - your suggestion that we live in highly regulated times. In reality, humans are more free now then they have ever been. Perhaps the past may appear more 'free', but bear in mind that there is a difference between mental freedom and material freedom. You wouldn't feel so free, I imagine, if you constantly had to worry about the next harvest or the band of mercenaries coming over the hill. The government may keep an eye on your life activities but it does not direct them. Success still comes to those who work hardest and, perhaps, to those who have some good luck along the way. But the government is only interested in the aggregate of these successes, not on the individual. Not on you. The government doesn't tell you how to worship, what to think, where you live, who you marry. You are, in fact, an extremely free man. But you have chosen to think of the freedoms you do not have rather than the many that you do, as this better suits your gripe."

"Ok Ok fine, you've made your point. I'll build my conservatory on the other side of the house."

Friday, 18 June 2010

Hand History - Part 11

Brighton Rack - Part 4

Getting a little bored of the metropolis, we decided to head out to Lewes, a picturesque town in the South Downs, only around 12 minutes away from Brighton on train. After a modest pub lunch we walked around for a bit, eventually reaching the end of the high street. We followed the river walk waiting for the next turning.

But the turning never came. To cut a long journey short, we ended up on the dual carriageway. We kept walking and walking till we could find some way of returning into the town. Eventually we settled for a sharp grassen slope, probably around 30 degrees in angle (but of course it seemed a lot sharper at the time). Though I have wrote about the incident in a fairly offhand manner, at the time it was both exhilarating and frightening. There was no pavement, there was no rough area for us to walk on - we were using the same road as the cars. Of course we stayed as close to the side as possible - we didn't walk down the middle - we're not idiots.

Once we had climbed that slope and passed the over-bridge, we were suddenly in less hostile surroundings. The roads had pavements, and we soon re-entered the town. We were pretty relieved, as you can imagine. "Boy, after that, how can we not win tonight's tournament!" quipped I. My theory was, of course, that having survived what was a genuinely dangerous experience we were still alive and in once piece and our enthusiasm for comfortable, normal things (like sitting down, eating and playing poker tournaments) would be trebled - and we'd just do all of them well with a strange sense of invincible ease.

And soon we did sit down - on the return train to Brighton. After going to an Arcade near the seafront, we had a nice fat meal at WokMania, a Chinese buffet which has since been renamed and their range of food extended. It was all washed down with rather a lot of Coca Cola.

We waddled over to what would be the third and final casino of the Brighton Rack - the Brighton Mint. I had actually been in there in February just to have a browse. It was part of the same group as the Stanleys casino I mentioned a few Parts ago.

It had (and I can only assume, still has) a casino area on the ground floor and an underground card room with four tables and a mahjong set. And I mean underground lit-er-al-ly not figuratively - it wasn't shady or dodgy, it was below the level of the entrance.

We had turned up here on Thursday night hoping to play the £10 Rebuy, but only four people showed up (ourselves included) so we went home, a little disappointed.

There was almost a repeat of this unpleasantness tonight, but we managed to get to eight persons, the minimum required being six.

Thus we started on the final table, dealer dealt, an eight-man sit and go. And it was all men, by the way. The few times we saw women playing at the table they were always the wives or girlfriends of some of the other players present. The only other women present were dealing the cards or bringing the drinks.

One of the men we encountered was one I was pretty sure we had seen both at the Grosvenor and at the Rendezvous - a Cypriot by the name of Michael. He didn't make it very far.

The rebuy tournament lasted 90 minutes, and Goblin and I spent the minimum. He built up a fairly substantial stack. Though I don't remember much of the action, he has since admitted that he got into some fairly lucky situations. For my own part, I was playing alright and made some decent laydowns. I was enjoying the match a lot though. As I had been hoping, I was still in strong spirits from our near-death experience and every moment at the table was a pleasure.

During the break we chatted with some old guy. They were all old guys - I believe this man had been in one of the professions, accountancy or something. The same guy had, during the rebuy stage, boasted about his playing system. "If I have a top pair, I'm raising. If I have second pair, I'm betting and calling. Simple". He was out fairly quickly after the freezeout stage.

One guy had spent £60 in total. He managed to get to the final three and just fell short of making his money back (three paid). Fortunately Goblin and I were both still in too, and so all that was left for us was to play a token heads-up match. Goblin had the chip advantage. I got Jacks on the button - stack probably around 9 big blinds or so. I limped, Mike shoved. I insta-called, flipping over my trap. He had Ace-King and converted his hand to a pair. He won 1st place I won 2nd. It was literally the best result we could have hoped for.

We probably made around £60 each from this triumph, so not quite as big as the first night, but certainly better than LOSING.

Part 12, the final segment of the Brighton Rack, will follow shortly

World Cup - breakdown by languages

I was pretty amused that Group H has 3 Spanish-speaking countries, Spain and two of its former possessions: Honduras and Chile.

But what about the World Cup as a whole. Well. here's a breakdown. N.B. where there is a clash between the 'official' language and the majority language, I have gone with the majority language (but put the official language in brackets).

Arabic

Algeria

Danish
Denmark

Dutch
Netherlands

English

Nigeria
England
United States
Australia
Ghana
Cameroon*
New Zealand

French
France
Cameroon*
Ivory Coast

German
Germany
Switzerland

Greek
Greece

Italian
Italy

Japanese
Japan

Korean
South Korea
North Korea

Portuguese
Brazil
Portugal

Serbian
Serbia

Slovak
Slovakia

Slovene
Slovenia

Spanish

Mexico
Uruguay
Argentina
Paraguay
Spain
Honduras
Chile

Zulu
South Africa (most widely spoken, but there are eleven official languages)


Cameroon speaks both English and French. Switzerland has a tonne of languages but German is the most widely spoken.

So here are the totals

Spanish 7
English
French 2½
German 2
Portuguese 2
Korean 2
Arabic 1
Danish 1
Dutch 1
Greek 1
Italian 1
Japanese 1
Serbian 1
Slovak 1
Slovene 1
Zulu 1

So Spanish just edging ahead there, thanks to my frustrating decision to give Cameroon a 'half' point split over two countries. Don't blame me, blame Cameroon.

My recent blog post on Three Men on a Blog was also about the World Cup.

Read it, if you haven't already.

Also, I decided to do a scheduled publishing of this post at 4am 18th June, at which point I'm pretty likely to be asleep. Is just so I can leave an arbitrary gap between one post and another.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Latest Opinion Poll

On being asked whether they had an opinion, 52% of the public claimed that they did, 37% claimed that they did not, and the remaining 11% admitted that they did not know whether they had an opinion or not.

Of the 52% who claimed to have an opinion, 70% claimed nothing would change their opinion. 82% claimed to having similar opinions to their parents and 93% said their opinion was in line with the opinions of their friends. When pressed, only 2% were able to maintain that their opinion was formed as a result of an in-depth study into the issues surrounding the relevant topic area. But the other 98% claimed that this wasn't really important.

The study showed that there was a greater tendency amongst the 18-25 age group to move from one opinion to another, usually showing an exaggerated preference to the current prevailing opinion. Analysis indicated that students in particular were likely to hold more than one opinion at the same time, even when these opinions contradicted each other.

No correlation was found between education and the propensity to have an opinion.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Hand History - Part 10

Brighton Rack Part 3

We left you off with tales of a much deserved defeat at the hands of the smarmy grinders of the Brighton Grosvenor.

(Incidentally I now remember how Goblin went out - he shoved two live-connectors from the cutoff and was called by a high ace, if I remember correctly? He lost of course (otherwise I wouldn't be mentioning it), although the guy who won conceded that Mike's cards were the sort of ones it was best to go all in with on account of their likely liveness.)

If I recall correctly, we didn't play for the next two nights. However, by Saturday our appetite was back, and we were ready to sit down to some fish and chips. The only thing on the menu was a £10 Rebuy, but it was better than nothing.

The diner in question was the famous Brighton Rendezvous. Famous amongst poker players anyway. And just to clarify, it was a casino, not a restaurant. That was just me using confusing metaphors, battering my 'fish and chips' joke until it is no longer edible.

The Rendezvous was rather different to the Grosvenor. It was much bigger for a start, although the card room area itself was rather cramped. The poker tables, rather than being the default 9/10 seaters, were infact designed to sit 7. Out of a starting field of around 90 (again, bigger than the Grosvenor fields which had typically been around 40) Goblin and I were sat at the same table. I played few pots and made few challenging decisions. Goblin never got a stack early on and spent the last 10 minutes or so going all in very liberally just for the chance to get a stack. This is probably a good strategy, but it's just that much more annoying when it doesn't work because it's expensive. Our average buyin for the night was £60 (after splitting), which was depressingly high, as usually when I go into a rebuy tournament I expect to spend my initial buy in and a top up, and only make a rebuy or two if I get unlucky.

The people around my table were a mixed bunch, though none of them seemed particularly talented. To Goblin's left there was an East-Asian guy who was always happy to show his cards. To my left there was a retired man, probably in his mid/late 60s. In one pot against him he bet out on an A35 board - I didn't have anything so I folded.

"Deuce-four?" I asked him, smirking.

"What?" he asked?

"Deuce-four?" I asked again.

He looked at me as if I was mad! Perhaps I should have said "did you see those three cards on the board - the Ace, three and the five. Well, if you had a two and a four in your hand, they would made a straight, as you'd have a run of cards going from Ace-to-Five (and Aces are low, remember). If you did have that hand, then it was better than my hand and it deserved to win the pot. Because it was the best possible hand on that board, although quite why you'd be playing deuce-four, sorry, a two and a four in that position is beyond me, hence the sardonic smirk in my initial asking of the question."

Goblin went bust shortly after the break, so now it was up to me. Not that my being the only one left would have affected my play in the slightest - it was an arbitrary consideration. There was no reason to hurry - I had waited long enough on the first night and it had been worth it. Now it was his turn to wait.

However, if human pressures weren't hurrying me, the blinds schedule was. At the Grosvenor blinds had gone up every 25 minutes during the £5 Rebuy. Here they were going up every 20 minutes, so it was that much more crapshooty. Even winning an all in provided only a little relief, as it would only be another round of blinds before the blinds went up again, and suddenly your M of 6 becomes an M of 4.

However, every cloud has a silver lining. The cloud in this case was the fast structure, the silver lining was the fact that the tourney was progressing rapidly, and it wasn't too long before we were at the final three tables, each playing seven-max. It was here that things got exciting. I made a classic survival shove with King Eight on the button versus Ace King on the small blind. Obviously I won, and sneered apologetically at the small-blind guy.

Two to my left was a small guy who looked a bit like Joe Hachem. It was clear from his general demeanour that he was from London, and he kept talking and saying things. Once I shoved pocket tens from UTG. Hachem pipes up ' ah yeah, got to respect the under-the-gun all in, he must be strong'.

We were getting close to the prize money. Top prize had originally been processed as being £1,490, but they had chopped some money off 9th place so that 1st was now the more aesthetically pleasing figure of £1,500. I was fairly relaxed at the prospect of winning all this money. It was the most I'd ever had the chance of winning (save a few online tournaments) but at the same time it wasn't silly money - it was a lot, but it sort of made sense in the scheme of things. We had put forward a combined £120 in this tournament, and so £1,500 seemed like a just rewards.

Unfortunately I came nowhere near it. I busted in 15th place as my A9 ran into AK.

Mike had decided to play a 1/1 cash game in the meantime. I joined him later on.

It was only 20 minutes after sitting down that I was identified as the tight player of the table. "I'd love to have what he's waiting for!" laughed the old man to some younger older man (probably in his 50s) to his left. I later entered a pot with ATo and was heads up against the old man. I bet out £8, to which his response was "take it! take it! [it's yours!]" - I waited for him to muck before flipping over my Ace-high. I had intended it as a bluff. "I bet he thinks that's really clever" he said to the guy to his left "I had the same hand". He was indignant, but I had only flipped my 'bluff' to show off that even if I was playing tight I was still going to take pots away with nothing.

Meanwhile Goblin got involved in some huge pots with a student. I believe the said student ended up folding two pair on a three-flush board. I think, after the flop all-in four bet from Goblin, the student may have been correct in folding, but he sure took a long time about it.

Goblin finished up in the cash game, myself marginally down. On average we were £15 up each, softening the blow of the tournament loss.

The bus journey home was fairly relaxed. The old man himself was on the same bus, and we had a good conservation about poker, although he did seem to want to talk rather more about what his son and daughter are up to, and the respectable professions they were following.

So all in all a strange night at the Rendezvous.

Two more nights came to follow - I shall talk about them both in Part 11.