Thursday, 24 May 2007


Even if they are introduced pests, grey squirrels are great fun to watch, whether they are running around trees or scampering across the grass. They usually seem to be quite shy, climbing around to the other side of the tree trunk if they feel you are moving towards them.

However, in the garden in the centre of the park, it appears that people have been feeding the squirrels. After walking in, they crowded around expectantly. While eating lunch, the gathered round and beg. Some even try climbing up on benches, although they gave up on the bike after one couldn't get a grip on the metal and went sliding down. And then, suddenly they all dashed into the bushes, not to be seen again until the dog had gone.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Bad examples

What completes this set of bad examples: Idolatry, sexual immorality, testing God, and ...?

Thursday, 17 May 2007

World Cup of Flops

Last week I suggested that the administrators and the umpires didn't deserve the World Cup of flops title, even if they will be remembered that way. If it were fair to lump them together as one team, which it isn't, I'd probably give them third place. The poor scheduling intended to suit tv companies, together with the high ticket prices and associated loss of atmosphere, really could have been avoided. But some others flopped pretty well too...

The Flop Champions would have to be Pakistan. A disappointing performance on the field and two players missing after the drug test debacle were completely overshadowed by the death of their coach, which now apparently may not have been murder. Either way, there are a lot of problems in Pakistani cricket, and the repeated stupid comments from Pakistani spokesmen back up my suspicions that the problems are at a much deeper level than the national team. Having an administration run by the military government may or may not be relevant.

Second are India. While they were probably not helped by being drawn in the most
competitive of the groups, their failure to progress to the Super Eights was well below their standards and, together with Pakistan's early exit, a large part of the problem with the Super Eights stage. This can only be blamed on India and Pakistan - there is no way the tournament should have been arranged to ensure it took more than one bad performance to knock a favourite out in the first round, no matter how good that would be for television. A tournament is all
about having to perform at the right time, and each team getting their chance.

If it really isn't fair to drop out so easily, then why not make the World Cup a huge round-robin. That might take a long time, so instead of holding it in one place at one time, let it run throughout the year, and add up the points at the end. Is it starting to sound like the ICC ODI Championship yet? The World Cup is meant to be a tournament, not simply a world ranking, and allowing teams like Bangladesh and even Ireland a chance to make it further than they
might just emphasises this.

West Indies come in fourth. On home soil, and after their recent results in the Champions Trophy, their performance was definitely not the way to farewell Brian Lara. Actually, considering that as hosts they had a hand in the organisation, I'm tempted to give
them equal third place. England weren't far behind, with very disappointing batting and all-rounders falling off pedalos in the middle of the night.

South Africa and New Zealand are next on the list. Both teams showed promise, but just didn't perform as they could or should have. That concludes the list of real flops. Scotland, the Netherlands and Kenya can't have expected much more or less than what they achieved, although the Scots would be disappointed and the Dutch quite pleased with the result of their match. Zimbabwe also could not realistically expect more, but
in any case I have disqualified them on the grounds that their cricket is in even more of a mess than Pakistan's, just like the country as a whole.

That leaves five nations with good reason to be pleased with their World Cup performance. Bangladesh once again showed they are capable of defeating giants on occasion, and Ireland performed remarkably well, particularly in the bowling department. Although results for these two since the World Cup have been quite different, their future is looking positive. Bermuda were ecstatic at simply reaching the World Cup, and rightly so. Sri Lanka outplayed the non-finalists by far and of course Australia can't be upset
with going through the tournament undefeated.

Hopefully a few of the flops will turn around their performances, and the rest of the year's cricket will not be such a disappointment. The Test at Lords, starting tomorrow, shows a bit of promise, with both England and the West Indies having a chance to show a new face.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007


noun 1. the returning of a part of the output of any system, especially a mechanical, electronic, or biological one, as input, especially for correction or control purposes, to alter the characteristic sound of conventional musical instruments, etc.
2. an indication of the reaction of the recipient, as of an audience.
3. Electronics the return of part of the energy of the output circuit of an amplifier to the input, either to oppose the input signal (negative feedback) or to reinforce it (positive feedback).
4. the input of a signal into a microphone from the output of the same system, usually causing a high-pitched screech.
The Macquarie Dictionary Online © 2007 Macquarie University, Published by Macquarie Dictionary Publishers Pty Ltd.

1 is the most general, including the deliberate special case 3 and the unintentional 4. 2 can also be a case of 1, but are its effects sometimes more like 4?

Friday, 11 May 2007

Cricket in the rain

Last Wednesday was a brilliant day for cricket. Despite starting after 12:30, the long days of this time of year, combined with a lack of interruptions meant we played a full 100 overs. Well, we could have if we hadn't been bowled out over 100 runs short with 17 overs to spare. The sunny, not too hot weather topped with the usual tea between innings made for a great day's cricket (apart from the result).

Yesterday, however, was another matter altogether. Even before we realised that our opponents had decided to forfeit and not even appear, we feared that the day might be marred by that age-old enemy of cricket - rain. In the end, the rain was not strong enough to stop our slightly silly six-a-side practice match, but it did make it even sillier, although not as silly as they game we played on a mud pitch last year when boths teams needed the points for a win.

When rain hit the World Cup Final between Australian and Sri Lanka at the end of April, some commentators said it was a fitting end to a disastrous tournament. Ironically, it was the one negative aspect of the tournament that probably couldn't have been handled much better, at least at first. Noone wants to a reduced length match, but noone can stop the rain, or successfully schedule matches to avoid it. It would only be wise to follow the suggestion of completely postponing the match to the reserve day if you could be sure there would less trouble from rain then, even before considering the effects of such a move on spectators and players.

The idea of making use of the reserve day before reducing the number of overs at all is more attractive, but weakening the emphasis on finishing the game in one day does strike at the very heart of the philosophy of the one-day game. Of course, in the final, play was stopped even before the reduced number of overs had been bowled, due to poor light, which could have been combatted if light towers had been installed.

If the ICC were to insist that venues for games as important as the WC final be equipped with lights, there would have been several more hours available for the game, and the rain interruption may not have mattered. But if it's reasonable to extend day games into the night, surely that would suggest that games like this should be scheduled to start in the morning in the first place, even in places where day-night games traditionally draw in the crowds. I wonder whether the ACB and co. would agree to that!

As it was, even after the day was spoilt by natural causes, we saw the bizarre spectacle of players going back out onto the ground and playing in darkness because they had been told that otherwise they would have to come back the next day. I'm not sure how the umpires reached this conclusion. After all, if that were the case, there was no point in originally reducing the number overs. Simon Taufel, recently ranked the world's best umpire, does not seem to have been involved as he was Australian, but the calibre of the five relevant umpires leaves them no excuse for officiously applying the playing conditions so blatantly incorrectly. This is especially true considering the fact that the second ranked umpire, Darrell Hair, was not at the tournament after the debacle at the Oval which ended in the first forfeited Test match. While there are many issues involved, his part in declaring the match ended, labelled over officious by some, was at least a correct application of the Laws.

This farce really was a fitting finale to a flop of a World Cup, and while I don't think the ICC and umpires deserve most of the blame, by ending it this way they will be remembered as the winners of the World Cup of flops. If only we could leave behind the weed killer, forfeits and rain and keep playing with sunny days and tea in the pavilion.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Look right, look left, and look for a right

From today's SMH:
A particular bugbear is the pedestrian push button at traffic lights. Professor Gehl argues walkers should not have to "apply" to cross the road. In a study of London traffic, he found most pedestrians crossed against the lights. "Crossing the road is a human right," he argues.

A spokesman for the Roads and Traffic Authority retorted that "not getting hit by a car" was "beneficial to human rights".

I like to observe the many contortions that the (somewhat questionable) notion of human rights is put through in various contexts, but this exchange is simply hilarious!