28 October 2004

What's this vote pairing business, anyway?

Like many outside the US (and perhaps inside) I admit to being pretty befuddled by many aspects of the American voting system. I follow the policies closely, and understand much of how actual government works. I've even read Parliament of Whores by the hilarious P J O'Rourke. Despite that, and although I passed Primary school, I have yet to graduate from Electoral College, and I always thought Chad was a place in Africa.

In Australia we have an Electoral Commission which ensures that all voting and counting is impartial and run in the same way across the whole country, yet in the US there seem to be different rules and processes in every state (and even different systems in Maine and Nebraska), and the potential for error or corruption seems ever-present.

And just when I thought I might be getting a handle on it, I come across Vote Pairing. Huh? As I understand it, this allows a 'progressive voter' who may support Cobb, Nader or Badnarik in swing states to still support Kerry-Edwards, while a Democrat in a safe state registers a vote for Cobb and Co.

Does it makes sense? Will it make a difference? What do you think?
Go to eebahgum!

26 October 2004

Record scratched but unbroken

Arsenal crestOn Sunday, Arsenal's unbeaten run came to an end at 49 games, and I am in mild mourning. Logically, it couldn't go on forever, and it's the greatest domestic success by an English team since the beginning of English league football in 1863. The previous longest unbeaten run was a mere 42 by Brian Clough's great Notts Forest side of the 1970s. The only other team ever to go through a season unbeaten was Preston North End in 1888/89, when the season was only 22 games, rather than the 38 we have today.

To put this into global perspective, no German Bun­desliga team has ever been unbeaten for a season, nor any team in Holland or France. Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid did it in Spain more than 70 years ago when it was a less formidable challenge. In modern football, only AC Milan have achieved a comparable feat when they went unbeaten in the 1991 season, and you could argue that English football today is much more physical and competitive than Italian football back then.

By anyone's reckoning, this is a remarkable achievement in the history of sport. What a pity, then, that the run ended under such ignominious circumstances. In a characteristically (and mutually, I grant) petulant encounter against arch-rivals Manchester United, in which Arsenal were clearly the better team in the balance, the game was decided by a penalty awarded for a blatant dive by ManU wunderkind Wayne Rooney. A player of his standard shouldn't really have to cheat, and it will almost certainly come back to bite him. Refs will be watching him more closely in the future, and his team-mates in the England dressing room will be unimpressed, especially the highly regarded Sol Campbell whose leg Rooney flew over.

Aside from that the referee should have arguably have sent off ManU defender Ferdinand, and penalised Ruud Van Nistlerooy for a blatant stamp on the knee and shin of Arsenal defender Ashley Cole.

So cheating and bad refereeing decided the match, rather than football. That's increasingly common in the modern game, unfortunately, and the introduction of some degree of video adjudication is way overdue. But that's another conversation. For this one, we may have come to the end of the record, but you can rest assured it won't be broken anytime soon, and we gooners will be playing it over and over!Go to eebahgum!

19 October 2004

Clive's New Black Game

I've had a bit of fun recently playing 'Clive's New Black Game'. That's where you get in a conversation, preferably with someone you don't know all that well, and occasionally punctuate your comments with "[something] is the new black". I recommend that [something] at least be related to the topic under discussion, but it's not mandatory.

The real secret to success in this game is not to overdo it. In any given conversation any less than twice is clearly too little, and more than thrice is probably too much. Space them out—don't get too eager too early. And in a subsequent conversation with the same person, just drop it in once, preferably fairly late in the conversation.

Occasionally, someone will ask you what you mean. Just stay calm and say, "Well, you know..." then change the topic seamlessly. If really pushed for an explanation, just say "
[something] is the new black" again, but with increased exasperation in your voice. Trust me, it'll work.

As a matter of interest, I ran a Google search on the phrase "is the new black". Towards the top of the 20,700 matches were the following:
  • black
  • red, orange, blue, grey, gold, pink, green... (hmmm, I think I sense a pattern here)
  • awkward
  • scar tissue
  • Australia (woo, hoo!)
  • plagiarism
  • flatiron steak
  • chocolate
  • fat
  • java
  • bashing Bush (hard to argue with that)
  • imperialism (now we're talking)
  • poverty
  • war
  • idiocy
  • apathy
and perhaps the ultimate wisdom du jour:"butt crack is the new cleavage".
Go to eebahgum!

13 October 2004

I gotta use words when I talk to you

So said, T.S. Eliot's Sweeney. Somewhat prophetically, he hit on the perpetual dilemma of the web communicator. Whilst this rapid, borderless medium has some of the hallmarks of conversation, you can't see my expression (count yourself lucky), my posture, the way I stick my tongue out a little when thinking, or that strange thing I do with my right hand.

As if I didn't have enough on my plate, I have recently taken to clicking on the button on the top right of a Blogspot blog, optimistically labelled 'Next Blog'. It's fun entering other people's worlds, engaging with their views on life. Or at least it would be if the signal-to-noise ratio weren't so poor.

The first problem is how many blogs have a single entry, half complete, and dated when Adam were a boy. Thought of blogging and changed your mind? Fine, but please pick up your litter on the way out. Problem number two is the blogs which are just lists of links for marketing or traffic purposes. They're the blog equivalent of spamming in my book. Perhaps we should dub them blams or spogs.

But perhaps the biggest problem of all is people who refuse to use words and punctuation when they write. Is it really cool to leave out every clue to meaning and aid to readability? u mt thnk so...bt u no 2 me imnsho it jst sks. So I was amused to read Jennifer Garrett's excellent article Eats, Blogs and Leaves. It's full of pearls of wisdom like:
It's time for a little tough love, people: Anyone who types in all lowercase needs to be taken out back and beaten. You are not e.e. cummings; you are not being "artistic." You're just too lazy to hit the shift key. If you can't be bothered with the extra keystroke, I can't be bothered to read your site.
Go girl! Fellow bloggers, when I read your blog there is a conduit between what I am reading and what you were writing. It's made up of words, grammar, punctuation, page design, and so on. The clearer you can make that conduit; the less congested by bad spelling, abbreviations, and dots, the more I can connect with you, and isn't that your goal?Go to eebahgum!

11 October 2004

What's in a name?

It just occured to me that Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's surname backwards is...Ebagum! Might he really be from Lancashire?

3 October 2004

Moleskine—The PDA goes back to the future

Move over Palm Pilot and Pocket PC——the portable digital assistant for this season has gone retro and it's called the Moleskine (pronounced mol-a-skeen'-a). This little black book is the modern incarnation of the legendary notebook used by Van Gogh, Matisse, Breton, Picasso, Hemingway, Chatwin and now Conway.

Between its elegantly formed, hard black oilcloth covers rest 90 leaves, available blank, ruled or squared. Naturally, I chose the squared——why should order only be horizontal? There's also a neat expanding pocket in the rear, to house, I'm sure, the receipts from your favourite Parisian cafĂ©. In it you'll find the history of the Moleskine, in French, German, Italian and (no doubt with some reluctance) English. There's a quality thread binding with bookmark, and a tasteful elastic closure to maintain discretion.

It's odd that something so quintessentially French should now be made in Italy, and predictably it comes at a premium——expect to pay about $22 Australian, £8 or $11 Stateside. But this is no mere notebook. It's an intimate connection with the creative current of history, a blank novel waiting to be written (just add words), a magnificent mythology. And as an entry ticket into the aspiring literati club, it would be cheap at thrice the price.

Most of all it's a beautiful anachronism, and the more I immerse myself in technology, the more I hanker for such things.

1 October 2004

Cellphones are dangerous!

One from the archives:
Cellphones ARE dangerous, there can be no doubt. Just the other week I got my Nokia belt clip caught on my car's door frame as I got in and hurt my hip badly, dented the car and broke the clip off the back of the phone. A few weeks before, the phone fell out of the car and onto my big toe. Once I was carrying the wretched thing in my breast pocket when I ran into a barrier and bruised my ribs. On another occasion I had my hands-free unit in my ear when I knocked it and ripped it out of my ear cavity. Damned painful, I can tell you.

But it's not just physical damage which you have to watch out for. Frankly, I find it threatening to be rung up by people to whom I owe money.

Then there's driving. Of course it's dangerous using a cellphone in a car, especially if you have no hands-free unit. Even with the hands-free you still find yourself fishing around for it when the phone rings, or being distracted by arguments you may be having with those people mentioned above. And you still don't have enough hands to change gears, control the steering wheel, turn the pages of the newspaper and give the finger to other drivers.

Radiation? Well, that's the least of my worries. But if it worries you then do three things:
  1. Get a hands-free unit. I recommend one from your phone manufacturer, not a cheap clone. Or try the one of the funky Jabra headsets--mine has higher background noise than the Nokia original (which broke) but has great audio quality, is comfortable and looks cool.
  2. Don't panic! Bear in mind that we are surrounded by radiation from all sorts of things--microwaves, TVs, computer screens, lights, the sun, short-wave radios, and so on. Cellphone radiation is just a drop of water in an inescapable ocean. And 3/4 of illness is psychosomatic, so they say, so the worry is probably more dangerous than the radiation.
  3. Don't be too hip. If cellphones are dangerous, then wearing one clipped to your belt whilst in use is the worst thing you can do. At least your brain is protected by fluid and a hard case. Your internal organs have no such protection.
By all means take precautions, but don't be put off by ill-informed hype. And when a friend tells you he's been on the cellphone and has a headache from all the radiation, just suggest he doesn't press the phone so hard against his head the next time.