Archive for the ‘Milestones’ Category

England the best (nearly)

August 2, 2011

There is a tendency among English (and to a certain extent British) sports commentators and supporters to consider national teams either complete rubbish or world class. I’ve written an analysis of the England soccer team at the 2010 World Cup, compared with major rivals which goes into this in some detail. Some time (Real Soon Now, hopefully) I’ll publish it as a page here.

But for now, I want to take issue with Derek Pringle, a former Test player for England, and presently a commentator for the Daily Telegraph. He writes about yesterday’s England win over world number one India:

It was a pounding, delivered with the swaggering elan of the two finest sides of the last 30 years: the West Indies under Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards; and Australia under Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh.
They are not yet as consistently ruthless as those teams but successive wins against India appears to have given them an appetite for world domination judging from the one-sided nature of the cricket here.

Now I would bet that any English reader of the quote is going to assume that I want to criticise the comparison with the great West Indian or Australian sides. But that isn’t my complaint. It’s that Andrew Strauss, the South African-born England captain has already matched or surpassed the standards set by the four great captains listed above.

Here’s the record:

Andrew Strauss (England): Captained 37 times, won 19 (51.4%), lost 5 (13.5%), drawn 13 (35.1%).

Clive Lloyd (West Indies): Captained 74 times, won 36 (48.6%), lost 12 (16.2%), drawn 26 (35.1%).
Viv Richards (West Indies): Captained 50 times, won 27 (54.0%), lost 8 (16.0%), drawn 15 (30.0%).
Mark Taylor (Australia): Captained 50 times, won 26 (52.0%), lost 13 (26.0%), drawn 11 (22.0%).
Steve Waugh (Australia): Captained 57 times, won 41 (71.9%), lost 9 (15.8%), drawn 7 (12.3%).

Now it is clear that Strauss can claim to be more successful than Lloyd, in a near dead heat with Richards and Taylor and behind Waugh. But consider the starting point. The West Indies under Lloyd and England under Strauss did not start from a position of undisputed world’s top test cricket teams. And Steve Waugh’s loss rate is worse than Strauss’ even though he started with the top team in the world.

The simple truth is this. A team coming up against Andrew Strauss’ England does not expect to win (his loss rate is the lowest of the five). Which is precisely what it was like to face those other great captains. I think it’s time to recognise this fact and enjoy it while it lasts.

As a result of the 319-runs win in the second test, taking a 2-0 lead in the four match series, England are on course to take over from India as the top test playing team in the International Cricket Council rankings. Already, Strauss’ team is guaranteed at least second place, leap-frogging South Africa.

No more landline

October 31, 2010

I no longer have a landline. If you have my mobile (cell) phone, you are welcome to call me or SMS. Otherwise email. I will be using Skype more.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

The problem was that I was spending too much on landline fees and also had a pay as you go mobile which cost barely more for roaming as for local calls.

Smallville, China

January 3, 2010

A spectacular, if botched demolition in Liuzhou, caught my attention on several grounds. First the awesome image here of what was briefly a leaning tower to make that of Pisa look stable.

But two other thoughts occurred. First, this is no clearing of slums, or destruction of an ancient residential quarter. I’d guess the building being demolished was no more than 20-25 years old. I find this a telling incident in the development of China as a leading industrial country.

Destroying a recent structure to put up something more useful is not something one does when money is tight, or investment prospects are uncertain. It may be a case of Parkinson’s Law concerning new buildings, but I suspect not.

The second is that this story is a reminder that outside the tourist destinations and familiar names of Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, perhaps Nanjing and Guangzhou, there is a huge country. Here’s a list of Chinese cities with a population estimated at over 2.5 million inhabitants:

[taken from Wing Chan “Misconceptions and Complexities in the Study of China‚Äôs Cities: Definitions, Statistics, and Implications,” July/August 2007 issue of Eurasian Geography and Economics, which was cited here.

Shanghai 13.46 million
Beijing 9.88 million
Guangzhou 7.55 million
Wuhan 6.79 million
Tianjin 6.76 million
Shenzhen 6.48 million
Chongqing 6.17 million
Shenyang 4.6 million
Chengdu 3.96 million
Dongguan 3.87 million
Xi’an 3.76 million
Nanjing 3.51 million
Harbin 3.46 million
Dalian 2.87 million
Changchun 2.75 million
Qingdao 2.72 million
Kunming 2.64 million
Jinan 2.64 million
Taiyuan 2.54 million
Zhengzhou 2.5 million

To put this in context, here’s the equivalent table for the European Union [adapted from national data here].

London 7.56 million
Berlin 3.43 million
Madrid 3.21 million
Rome 2.73 million
Paris 2.20 million

Anyone wondering how long China will pretend to pay lip service to Western political correctness may do well to ponder where current demographic and economic trends are taking us.

Lest we forget…September 12

September 12, 2009

Today the continental breakfast was invented. It’s the only day of the year that I have a croissant and coffee (with milk) at home.

September 12th 1683 is the date of the raising of the Siege of Vienna by the Ottoman Empire, which represented the turning point for Turkish expansion in Central and Eastern Europe.

It is said that the armies of Poles, Germans and Austrians that drove the Turks and allies (notably some Hungarians) from the siege camp found curious crescent-shaped pastries and coffee. A Capucin monk is supposed to have added cream to soften the bitter taste of the unfamiliar dark hot drink to create capuccino.

I’m sure the more literate Turks celebrate the Battles of Manzikaert (1071), Myriocephalum (1176) and Hattin (1187)*. I don’t suppose, however, that they found anything from their defeated opponents of such lasting gastronomic influence as the capuccino and croissant breakfast.

* I apologise to Turkish readers wishing to celebrate the exact dates. I don’t have them to hand.

We can all be Iranians now

June 16, 2009

Fascinating how the mobilizing power of social media is being used to confront the Iranian government.

Meanwhile, in a sort of digital twist on that famous scene in The Thomas Crowne Affair, a new viral campaign is going around Twitter: Users from around the world are resetting the location data in their profiles to Tehran, the capital of Iran, in order to confuse Iranian authorities who may be attempting to use the microblogging tool to track down opposition activity.

The peacock HAS landed

November 15, 2008

Not premature anymore.

The Chandrayaan moon orbiter, launched from India just over three weeks ago, has dropped off a moon impact probe. It landed at 3:01pm GMT (8:31 India Standard Time) on Friday November 14 2008.

India still receives overseas aid for supposedly being a backward, poor country. I’ve no doubt that there are people living in poverty, but the evidence is pretty strong that the world’s largest democracy is doing more than OK.

Am I surprised that Indian scientists and engineers have delivered the Chandrayaan? Not one bit. I remember in about 1983, when I was still at school near the Science Museum, in London, there was the casing of an Indian rocket displayed on the outside of the building. I think it was actually a long-range ballistic missile.

I remember thinking that India must be capable of building space rockets and wondering when we’d see lots of countries with space programs.

I am surprised the Indian government has become sufficiently unsclerotic to allow a project of this kind to succeed. Unkind people have suggested the vulture, not the peacock, would be a more apt national bird for India. Today, such cynicism can be binned.

France certainly has the technology and will (if needed) to match India’s space program. The Ariane is essentially a French rocket with other people chipping in cash, as far as I can tell. I may be knocking the U.K., but I can’t imagine this country getting a vehicle to the Moon without U.S. or European money and know-how.

Meanwhile, the private sector is finally having a go too.

The Peacock Has Landed*

October 22, 2008

Anyone who remembers the Six Million Rupee Man sketch from Goodness Gracious Me, will understand why I wondered if this was a joke. In my defence, I hoped it was for real. It is.

India is now ahead of the U.K. in the space race. Ahead of Germany and France. Could be level with Japan.

*The peacock is the national bird of India. Alright, I’m premature. Sue me.

Junk mail to space

February 29, 2008

The most awesome junk email

10,000 not out

January 25, 2007

Last week I hit 10,000 hits on Antoine Clarke’s Election Watch.

It’s a milestone. And I’m happy about it. I once set up a newspaper with a circulation of less than 100, so a trickle of readers does not bother me.

I realize that the key to better visibility is more writing, more often. It took from 13 July 2004 to 17 January 2007 to hit the 10k mark (visitor #6,969). We shall see how long it takes to hit 25k.