Monthly Archives: February 2004

Right Enough

He sits alone. Not that there aren’t people there. He just can’t connect to them. They are other. Different.

A young lad turns to him after hours of looking in the opposite direction.

“Are you having a good evening?”
“Yes it’s good. Right enough.”

Satisfied the boy turns back to the others.

And he wonders whether saying the truth would have helped.

Ah magic number seven. Seven is the most likely number you will roll.

Today as it is February and a Thursday it’s time for a monopoly column. This week we look at the number seven.

Ah magic number seven. Seven is the most important number to consider when you are playing monopoly. Seven is the most likely number you will roll. And while I’ve seen lots and lots of complicated ways of explaining why this is true in the end it’s quite simple.

6 + 1 = 7

The highest roll of one die and the lowest of the other will produce a 7. Reduce one die by 1 and add 1 to the other side and you’ll get seven up until:

1 + 6 = 7

No other combination of dice numbers has as many in between iterations.

This simple fact is the reason that, so called, “death rows” are so effective.

I encourage you to build a “death row” as soon as possible.

A black waterproof

There is a man. He’s asleep. Out there.

A black waterproof.

A dark birthmark where an enlightenment spot might go.

From the distance I am from him I can’t see him breathe.

To me he is dead.

How would I tell the difference?

His arms folded on the yellow table. His head rests in the corner of one arm.

I bet he has a mark on that arm when he wakes up.

If he wakes up.

I hope he wakes up.

On-licence a licence to sell alcohol to people to consume alcohol on the premises

I saw somebody getting arrested. And if you will allow me the pun it was an arresting image.

Two police officers in luminous yellow jackets were leading this guy away from a shop. The arrestee, or I suppose the suspected criminal, held his hands flat against his body as though the handcuffs were weighing him down which, I suppose, they probably were.

Bizarrely enough just as I finished that last paragraph a young lady asked me to watch her bag for me. An odd moment and one that is lees usual these days. I often have to leave items out in public but I am generally of the opinion that drawing attention to your items as being worth watching is simply asking for trouble. I’m not exactly sure where this opinion came from and why I would not trust people to successfully watch my items on the one hand but also trust enough to leave my personal items out. It seems a little odd. The only answer I can give is that I really wonder how much the person watching is really going to do. Not too long ago I was in a off-licence* and I asked the assistant a question that required her to go into the back. While in the back another “customer” took three bottles of champagne and walked out of the shop. I thought about saying something to him but the risk associated with such an action seemed too great. Pure cowardice on my part. The moment he was out of there I called for the assistant. She came back and told me that a) it happened all the time, b) they weren’t supposed to do anything about it and c) she would have to make a note for the record.

My mind suddenly jumped to the popular John Woo movie “Broken Arrow”. A movie about the possibility that the people we trust with Nuclear capability might have different ideas for its use than our own. In the film, a character is told that “Broken Arrow” is a term they have for when Nuclear weapons go missing. The response goes “I don’t know what to be more disturbed about, the fact that a Nuclear missile has gone missing or the fact that you have a term for it.” This was the same thing on a smaller scale. I didn’t know whether to be more disturbed by the fact that I had just witnessed a theft or the fact that the staff were so used to it that they didn’t even raise an eyebrow. That they had a book with which to log such incidents.

I’ve seen some odd things in my time but there are certain things that strike a different sort of chord. It’s probably something to do with their formal nature, the fact that they all end up happening in the same way whether you are a millionaire or a pauper but in the end all arrest are the same. Maybe that’s what fascinates us? It’s hard to tell.

* There are three types of licence in the UK. And by licence I mean a licence to sell intoxicating beverages. But as it’s all defined in the “licensing act” if you see the word licence non-specifically talking about something it’s normally safe to assume it’s talking about alcohol. The three types are “off-licence” only licences to sell alcohol to people to consume off of the premises. “On-licence” a licence to sell alcohol to people to consume alcohol on the premises. And finally an “on and off licence” which incorporates both.

For some reason buying cartages for a pen you already own is less exciting than buying a whole new exciting pen.

A new pen is a very wonderful thing for me. I tend, these days, to use pens a lot. And I tend to get quite particular about them.

I used to, about eight years ago, do all of my writing on the computer but in complete opposition to everyone else I have moved towards paper and en. I still edit on the computer but for some reason I just started to find that I preferred my writing when I wrote it on paper. So it decided to switch and now it seems to be a bit fixed. I almost never write anything directly on the computer except e-mail. And even then if it was a really long e-mail that I wanted to get right then I think I would, and in fact do, write it first and then type it.

So the new pen, as with the new notebook or pad, are fabulous moments. I tend to feel like their very necessity is a sign of progress. I have used up their predecessor and now it’s time to start again.

Usually I write in Black ink and edit in blue. I favour the Pilot Hi-Tecpoint V5 Extra Fine. My father introduced them to me*. But currently I am experiencing something different. I am using the Pilot V. I think that’s all it’s called. But this is a disposable fountain pen. Bizarrely I’m writing in blue. I have a rather nice Parker fountain pen too but I never remember to buy the cartridges when I’m in the shop. For some reason buying cartages for a pen you already own is less exciting than buying a whole new exciting pen.

And so I tend to get distracted by the fancy packaging and son on. This isn’t really true either of course because I tend to just buy a Pilot Hi-Tecpoint V5. But this pen, I’m pleased to say wasn’t purchased at all. It came from a firm’s stationary cupboard.**

* I’m afraid I must shatter any illusions you might have about this fabled introduction. We did not shake hands exactly but I used him. He felt used, and how can I deal with that kind of pressure?

** Yes, this is my equivalent of drawing a squiggle*** or signing my name. I am, in reality, exposing you to the testing of my pen.

*** I do not believe that there are real squiggles out there which people draw when they manage to get them to sit still. The squiggle has actually been extinct since 1724 when the last known specimen was tragically slaughtered for it’s supposed aphrodisiac qualities. It was often conjectured by Freud that the length of a persons squiggle was in direct proportion to the length of their…****

**** This is a lie.

Did you serve my friend earlier?

Another two halves of a conversation here.

“Did you serve my friend earlier?”
“Pardon?”
“I can’t remember what my friend ordered earlier. Do you?”
“I don’t remember what your friend looked like. Were you standing next to her?”
“No, I was at the table. She just came up to order.”
“Well then how could I know what she looked like?”
“Oh I don’t know? Maybe I should ask her?”
“Yes, maybe you should.”

Hi Monopoly fans. The purchasing of property.

As it’s Thursday and February, we present to you our “regular” Monopoly column.

Hi Monopoly fans. Today I’d like to talk to you about one of the prime basics of the game. The purchasing of property. There are three schools of thought on this issue. One suggest that it is best to wait and only buy property you like the sound of. The second suggests that you should just buy everything that is for sale and that you land on. And the third suggests that you should try and find some balance between the two. Perhaps the best thing to do here is try and take each different method and examine them one by one.

First up, waiting for the right property. This is almost never a winning strategy. You can win at Monopoly from owning any set. All that is important is how good it is and how early you get it (and who else has anything). The only difference is how easy it is to win from each set. Naturally people remember winning instances and try and emulate them.

This is a foolhardy premise though. If you stick to it you may very well be made bankrupt before you even land on the properties you want let alone own them.

The second proposition buying everything you land on, is more successful than the first, however it still has its weaknesses. The advantage is obvious to the seasoned player. Property of any kind is much more valuable than money. You could be dealt all of the remaining money in the bank and you still won’t win if you don’t have any property. The only problem can be if your property spread is too wide. This is especially likely if you are playing with many people.

The reason this beats waiting for the right property even if you have no sets is because of the wide variety of perceived “good” property that you consider useless but somebody else may require desperately. This is what makes the trade aspect of the game so perfect. The actual value of the property is so personal (based on pasted experience) that people will happily make the most unlikely of “on-paper” trades because of emotive value.

So the balanced view seems to win out. Buy as much property as you can at the beginning, but be willing to let some property slip through the net later if you are really running out of cash. However if you are playing by the proper rules of monopoly concerning auctioning off property if unsold then be very wary of letting go of anything, especially if another player might need it. In fact the best strategy under these rules is to assume that everybody needs everything.

I’m fascinated by board games

I’m fascinated by board games. The rules, the plain unashamed fun that can be had. Actually not just board games but games in general.

John Nash who was the subject of the popular Ron Howard movie “Beautiful Mind” staring Russell Crowe won his Nobel prize for Economics due to his work on game theory. The idea that most deals made involve very similar rules to games. There are outcomes where one party thinks they have won and the other party has lost. And other situations where a deal can be stuck because both people think they are winning. In the same way as, say, players will swap properties in Monopoly.

Nash believed that if you could understand the way that people played games then you could understand the way that people made deals. And in fact his theories were used by the British government in the auctions of the mobile phone licences some years ago.

Along the way Nash developed a few games of his own. One very similar to a game invented simultaneously and independently which you may know as Othello. The other, which to my knowledge has never been commercially produced was called “Fuck your friend”. The premise was that during the course of the game you would have to team up with another player. In fact it was impossible to win unless you did so. However whoever you picked to be your partner would, if you won, come last in the game. The potential for long friendships being irrevocably destroyed seems quite strong.

Another aspect of these games that fascinates me is the related column. The chess column, the bridge column, I suppose although I haven’t seen one that there must be a poker column. But how did these games get picked? This month I intend to write a weekly column on the subject of Monopoly. Please check back every Thursday.

I ask Harry why he supports Italy

Here is a diary entry of mine from the year 2000. One day from august each day this week.

Sunday – Nothing

So I’m attempting to have a good time and generally succeeding. Looking around at the female presence I’m surprised to notice that I’m not particularly attracted to any of them. Ah well I think, lots of other perfectly good things to be doing with my evening. So I drink more beer, have more random conversations with Matt. I ask Harry why he supports Italy. He said it’s from a purely aesthetic point of view. He just likes their strip, one things for certain though he says, he wouldn’t support England.

When it’s all over we traipse off. I’m staying at Kris’ house and it turns out that Harry too lives in Croydon. Kris falls asleep the moment we get in the taxi and although we get quite close to the house, for some reason we are deposited near the train station. This is something to do with how Harry is going to get home. So we walk back to Kris’ house, the whole way back Kris’ is saying “I thought the whole point of paying for a taxi was that we didn’t have to do any more walking.” And Joe is saying “But you didn’t pay for the taxi.”

Several hours later I wake up. I’m actually feeling quite good because I slept for 7 hours which is more than usual for these kinds of things. I have to leave a note, because Kris and Joe are obviously going to be sleeping more hours than I am. And I amble home, do a little shopping and get to bed early.

I was just looking back at this and thinking where this left me really. I don’t know exactly, I’m still here just writing overly long e-mails about why I’m still here doing that same thing, and there are some people out there with real problems. How I’d hate to be one of them.

Weeeeellllll… Anyhoo.

Today a question from a reader. See they do get answered.

“Why is Friday fish-day? It’s something biblical, but I don’t know what.”

Weeeeellllll…

The answer is really simple. Jewish people used to fast on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Christians did the same but on Wednesdays and Fridays. Judus betrayed Jesus on Wednesday, and Jesus was crucified on a Friday are the supposed reasons behind it. But mainly they wanted to be, a bit different but not too different.

Anyhoo. There’s two schools of thought on why it’s fish. Some people will tell you it’s because of what Jesus said to some of his disciples when he converted them. They were fishermen and he said that he would teach them to be “fishers of men”. Aha a cunning play on words.

But actually the real reason is that meat was expensive and fish was cheap. Fish was even cheaper than lots of vegetables. So it was considered a “good thing” to show you were giving up stuff so people would eat fish.

Later on the Catholic church played down the Wednesday fast and said you only had to do it if you were a priest. Which means that most non-Catholics tend to fast only on Fridays not on Wednesdays. Except the orthodox who still do both. It was around the time of the spilt that the Catholics decided to concentrate on Friday.

To be fair not many people do know about the Wednesday fast. It’s one of those weird things that pretty much only the orthodox Christians and Catholic priests know about. It’s not in the bible for example. It was just a tradition like Christmas (also not in the bible).

And if you thought fasting was not eating then you’ve got another thing coming (or have had another thing coming depending on how you look at these things).

Basically fasting means abstinence in any form. So when people say they are giving up things for lent that should really be considered fasting. So you might give up everything at a certain time of day. Or you might give up certain things for a whole day, or a whole month.