The Snow In The Summer or So-So

Knowledge is liberation


BCAppelbaum: 70 year olds are taking over the government. The underappreciated dynamic of this election - and Brexit - is that boomers won't let go.

5 December 2016
BBC Sports Review of the Year awards

Nominations for the BBC Sports Review of the Year Sports Personality of the Year Award are out. Who have the BBC's panel of the great* and good* selected. In alphabetical order:

(More: Looking at all the nominations, and why they might win) And a quick look at RTÉ's awards.


Clearly the best in their fields: Nicola Adams, Mo Farah, Andy Murray, Adam Peaty. With a bit of squinting, we can include Sarah Storey, Max Whitlock.

In the words of the citation, which is the sportsperson "whose actions have most captured the public's imagination"? We will confine discussion to those six.

Murray is the man to beat. His two biggest wins - Wmbldn and the season-ending championships - were on the BBC, and it's clear that he's producing superlative athletic performances, week in week out. He's held back because he won this title in 2013, and again in 2015.

Farah and Adams are also unbeaten in their seasons, and neither has won the award before. Both have public profiles, and evidence to say they've inspired others to take up their sport.

Crucially, all three have the media on side. BBC coverage of tennis and athletics, the dead-tree press has an obsession with boxing that Adams can use. Peaty, Storey, Whitlock all suffer from how the media ignore their sports for most of the year.

We expect Bale, one of the Kennys, and Skelton to be promoted by their interest groups. Sports Personality is easy to rig, and the BBC doesn't ensure that it's a representative vote.

Must we declare for one of the candidates? Nicola Adams. But we expect it'll be Murray-Farah-Bale.

Other awards

Team (domestic) likely to go to the Wales men's football side, over Leicester men's football.

Team (international) is resurrected for the Fiji men's rugby sevens, the best in the world and a cracking story.

Personality (international) lacks standout candidates. Katie Ledecky has a strong claim, so do Usain Bolt, Jordan Speith, Novak Djokovic. We want it to be Serena Williams - she has never won the award, has done enough, and this could well be her last chance.

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22 November 2016
One Hour With... 102.9 Hot Tomato

First in a series of brief engagements with stations up and down the Gold Coast radio dial. We're not planning any of these, just filing them as and when.

Hot Tomato bills itself as "the best music from the 80s to NOW!" 4HTB came on air in 2003, and appears to make all its weekday shows itself. It's top of the local radio ratings. In earlier years, Hot Tomato never played more than two adverts in a row; in this hour, it seems to play three but no more.

We caught the web stream in the 7am hour on Thursday 17 November (9pm on Wednesday evening here). Here's what we heard:

(More: The full aircheck details)

We've a couple of problems with this sample. The second half-hour was rambling: they've got a big name who wants to promote something, three big egos "interviewing" him, and the whole segment came across as a disjointed and quite painful mess.

The anecdote about "children" / "references" was a waste of a talky bit: they could have used it to spill some more of the facts about Kurt, prep the listener and help to make the later interview better. In retrospect, we wonder if the interview was being taped at 7.45 for broadcast at 7.55. That would explain the non-sequitur anecdote.

Doesn't excuse it: they'd been ramping up the big announcement, made the big announcement, and in the next link they forget about it. Signal to the listener - that's done, we've moved on, nothing more to hear here. If they wanted to keep momentum going, recap the news, throw in some of the stats they've prepared, and then throw forward to the interview in ten minutes.

But, on the positive side. The station sounds like it does a lot of things right, and the vibe is difficult to get right: informal without being laidback. The competition was for money without ever being bone-crushingly tense. The adverts fitted well into the station sound.

We can see why this station is big: it's inoffensive, it feels good, it's something mothers and daughters can hear together. This wasn't their finest hour.

Breakfast isn't a good time to test music selection, so we looked at music logs from their overnight hours. Kate Bush and Madonna from 1985 seem to be the oldest, mid-90s songs from Live and Matchbox 20, recent hits from Taylor Swift and Lady Antebellum, and a selection of hot tunes that won't scare the adults - Justin Timberlake, Calum Scott, Dua Lipa.

The music side appeals greatly: these six records were a bit more modern than overnights, still explore the station's depth. The news was enough for a pop station, we felt sufficiently set up for the day. But the presentation wasn't actually much good. We can't grade this above C+.

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2 November 2016

We are our choices, writes Jake Wilde.

We have problems with the thrust here. On the one hand, yes, there comes a point when re-litigating the past becomes an exercise in onanism. If it didn't, we'd still be fighting battles about enclosure and the Spinning Jenny.

But we don't agree that all decisions are final. The snivelling wretches who want to cut ties to Europe don't believe all decisions are final, otherwise they'd have respected the decisions taken every few years from 1971 to 2009.

Jake Wilde is flat-out wrong to claim,

In the case of Brexit the debate needs to quickly shift to how we mitigate the economic impact of ceasing to be a member of the EU, rather than in finding ways to pretend itís not going to happen.

Nope. The mandate given on 23 June was to permit the government to investigate and explore exit from the EU, and to consider options. The mandate expires with the current parliament, in May 2020.

We must remember that parliament was elected on a very different manifesto. We must remember the very close result. We must remember the demographics of the vote. We must remember that the largest single segment of the population was not allowed to express an opinion.

Acting beyond an initial investigation without clear approval - from parliament or a fresh election - would be anti-democratic. Claims that exit is inevitable are politically correct bullshit.

Other aspects for discussion include how lies get halfway around the world before the truth comes out. How brexnecks live in their own echo chamber. Selling the benefits of European integration. And telling the people who backed exit to burn in the hell of their own making.

There is no "brexit" to please remainers. We'd sooner leave this failed state than Europe.

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22 October 2016

Some brief words on the LSE's "what the hell do we do now?" conference on 8 October.

Organised with the level of competence we'd come to expect: it's in a different building from the one advertised, and starts a mere 15 minutes late.

Opening statement from Mary Kaldor was a thinly-coded call to back Jeremy Corbyn. He can't be with us today, Corbyn would rather share platforms with rape apologists.

The event was a panel format, four people on the top table giving fifteen-minute mini lectures. The inability to start on time meant no time for questions.

"Making sense of Britainís EU referendum" was the first panel. Owen Jones spoke with his usual passion, his usual eloquence, and his usual complete lack of substance. Owen Jones sees everything in terms of his pet Momentum project, and he could have delivered this speech at any gathering.

Ash Sarkar from Novara Media talked about immigration. How it had been mishandled by Blair's government, and particularly by the odious David Plunkett. Full disclosure: we give as generously as we can to Novara, they've got a voice and they use it well.

Zoe Gardner works with refugees (not asylum seekers, refugees). She delivered a long and detailed case about how human migration is inevitable, and that maintaining and defending borders is a futile waste of money. Ash Sarkar and Zoe Gardner provided a one-two speech that was worth the price of admission.

Yanis Varoufakis advocated that Foxface serves notice to quit at once, gets the closest possible union, and buys five years for a longer debate. This is a pie-in-the-sky idea: it relies on the EU accommodating Foxface's half-out position, prolongs the uncertainty for all involved. Worse, it assumes that parliament represents the opinions of the public.

No time for questions, straight to lunch.

"Brexit and the future of Europe" came after lunch.

Ella Vine, a Labour Friend of Poland, spoke first. Frankly, she's not a good speaker, and we lost the thread of her argument early on.

Marina Prentoulis from Syriza was lively and animated and angry.

Antonio Rovira of Podemos and Srecko Horvat gave their speeches, neither gave any concrete ideas.

And then small group discussions. This blog offered two practical suggestions.

One, a badge saying "My doctor / nurse / teacher is a foreigner". Statement of fact, shows membership of the international tribe, gently gets out a message to raise awareness and solidarity. And remembering something someone once said: a badge is something you can put on and forget. Offered here for a temperature check.

Two, that we work with anyone who wants to oppose this foolish idea. Including the Lib Dems. To lose Witney would have been a symbolic knife through the heart: Foxface has lost her own district already. Is the point to oppose this foolish withdrawal, or to plot for a socialist nirvana?

It became clear that the meeting was to plot for a socialist nirvana. This blog would rather take tactical steps towards a broad consensus goal, and shift that goal by small and imperceptible increments. The sort of strategy that worked well for the isolationists.

In the short break afterwards, we considered our position. Uncomfortable on the lecture theatre's seats. Falling asleep. Fractious, and thinking that we can do better elsewhere.

At this point, we left the meeting. It is difficult to see us returning to the project. There is a huge gap between the warm published values and the tribalist internal workings.

We do not wish to waste our own energy by fighting to move the immovable. We do not wish to waste Another Europe's energy by having it resist our force.

Consider this a polite breakup, with all the grace we can muster. We wish Another Europe well. We cannot proceed down the path they've identified, for we don't believe in it.

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5 October 2016
Puzzled Pint for September 2016

The theme for September was rats.

Mark scheme: we give a base mark of 6, deduct 0-2 points for unclear answers, deduct 0-2 for cultural specificity, and add or remove marks for style (usually -2 to +2). Average these together - meta counts double - and award an Oxford degree. We mark harshly.

Star Rats - seven famous rats. Rufus! (the Naked Mole Rat from Kim Possible.) Find them in the wordsearch - straightforward, too straightforward. Ah, good one. Plus one-and-a-bit for style, minus a bit for slight cultural biases (the Brits who watched Kim Possible and do Puzzled Pint may be this blog and this blog only.) 7.

Lab Rats - geography puzzle? No, branching puzzle. Nifty swerve, though the number of possible solutions and their arrangement renders the puzzle open to a brute-force attack. Plus one for style. 7.

Rat genetics - a fairly simple letter-pair puzzle, with a lovely twist. Plus two for style, minus a snidge for the Yankee spelling (but it's acknowledged). 8.

Missing rats - sixteen parts of a grid, we expect to find something missing in the middle. But - ack, another word puzzle, and look-a-bit-like combinations to form letters. We're slightly generous elsewhere, so will dock a mark for style. 5.

Rat king - straightforward indexing makes no sense, but there's a movement to use. That gives an instruction, to determine another message hidden. Refreshingly simple. 7.

Sewer rats - yet another Braille decode, this time with blocks on the pipework. Reminds us a bit took much of a bad puzzle from DASH6. Well executed, we'll give it 6.

Overall, that's a solid Second Class set of puzzles, and we found them all enjoyable. No particular weak spots, and a few highlights.

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22 September 2016
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Cursed Child. What's it like for people who don't know much about the Harry Potter canon? We'll answer that question. We'll also give some sizable spoilers, so if you don't want to know anything about the production, look away now.

Cursed Child is a "short" story by Jack Thorne. Like any number of fan fictions, it draws on the characters created by JK Rowling. Unlike any other fan fiction, it has been written with input from Rowling.

The story claims to be short. This is not true. It is, in fact, very long. You might think it's a long way to the end of the universe, but that's naught compared to the length of Cursed Child. Across its various parts, the play runs for over five hours.

More: We consider the production from all angles: effects, plot, stagecraft, acting, all the business of show. (2000 words)

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2 September 2016
Puzzled Pint for August 2016

A Star Trek theme.

To recall, we give a base mark of 6, deduct 0-2 points for unclear answers, deduct 0-2 for cultural specificity, and add or remove marks for style (usually -2 to +2). Average these together - meta counts double - and award an Oxford degree. We mark harshly.

Location Clues are clearly in two parts: a straightforward clue and a Star Trek character. The character answers mix first and last names, characters and real world, which doesn't help. The answer doesn't feel like an answer unless you speak fairly fluent Trekish. -1 for a combination of that cultural note, and for mixing names. 5.

Trouble with Tribbles Anagrams plus animals, straightforward letter decoding before the point, then a nifty final twist. Plus 1 for style and novelty. 7.

Make It So Ooh, block capitals in a hideous font. Again, a decent puzzle - find the key code, replace it, work with what you've replaced a couple of times. We're leaning towards plus 1 for puzzle style, but take it away for presentation. 6.

Wormhole Alien Vision Nasty. A letter sudoku is fine, if all nine letters are different. But "dEEPsPacE" only uses six symbols, so this is a beast to fill out. Then there's a tedious Braille section before the final segment. We gave up on this after 40 frustrating minutes, and we don't think we're alone. -3 for lack of style - the reveal isn't worth it. 3.

Number Theory Two-digit numbers on a 7x5 grid. Not Braille, probably not semaphore. The actual encoding isn't something we'd expect, but it is on the code sheet, and yields a sensible answer. Plus 1 for style, -1 for an answer that only make sense to speakers of Trekish. 6.

Final Frontier Fairly clear that there's a path to trace, and that marks out four letters on the chart. It took a bit of blank staring to work out the expansion, apparently it's a cliché in Trekish. Spelling out on a grid is less common than it was 18 months ago, so no style deduction, but -1 for direct cultural references. 5.

Which leaves this as a Third-Class set. Even without the deductions for Trekish, this would still be Third-Class, and killed by the sudoku.

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19 August 2016
Popular in late 2001

As it's been a long time, a reminder of the rules. This is Not Quite as Popular, a wander through the CIN top 5 singles at the same rate as Tom E Wing's Popular project. We bundle up discussions into six month blocks, and wander off point.

We didn't get a TEN POINTS! record of brilliance in the first half of 2001. That changed at the start of July, with Roger Sanchez's sublime Another chance. To say it's "based on a Toto sample" is true, and completely misses the point. Here, Sanchez takes a familiar riff, adds a typical beat, and a downcast lyric: broadly, "if I had another chance, I'd do better". The song is made by its video, a bizarre tale of a woman carrying her heart around.

(In this half-year: we remember the So Solid Crew, pass judgement on Bob the Builder versus DJ Ötzi, and describe someone as "wants to be Donna Summer, but is more Done Autumn". But who?) With number ones for Atomic Kitten, So Solid Crew, Five, Blue, Bob the Builder, DJ Ötzi, Kylie Minogue, Afroman, Westlife, S Club 7, Daniel Bedingfield.

The Christmas number one went to Robbie Williams and Nicole Kidman, with a cover of Something stupid. Robbie has a love of big-band music, enough to make a whole album of it. And he was a big enough star that his fans would buy any old tat that he pushed out, even a very moderate album of big band numbers. This version wasn't as good as Frank and Nancy Sinatra, and we couldn't believe that Nicole would sing a love duet with a parochial star like Robbie. Three weeks at number one, including the Christmas week, but deservedly forgotten within months.

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