The Snow In The Summer or So-So

11/20/2006 - 11/26/2006

Wed 22 Nov 2006

Jouez et Gagnez! (1)

Hello ... hello. Ah, hello, Mystic Mug here, with news of the continued decline of British tennis.

We asked you to pick the end-of-year ranking of the seond-best British male player. With the young Mr. Murray at 17, Mr. Henman is the man we seek, and he's 39. He's also ranked 39 in the world.

Now, a lot of people went for answers in the mid-20s, and a lot of people went for answers around 60. No-one went in the middle, and in the middle is exactly where Mr. Henman's late run of form has left him. All our players are stranded in mid-court, and none scores anything.

There's better news on the singles front, though. Mr. Cheekbones predicted that «Take That will have a top ten single». And, indeed, Take That does have a top ten single; it's a bit rubbish, but no-one ever lost out by underestimating the taste of the Grate British Public. Three and a third points to Mr. Cheekbones, halves to Messrs. Quirks, O'Mel, Weaver, and Pokery.

For the full details, and opportunities to score, the Prediction Page is yours.

permanent link
posted 22 Nov 2006, 16.04 +0000

Jouez et Gagnez! (2)

Last week saw the first Rolldown in any UK national lottery. This event happens if there are no winners of the top jackpot in an inordinately long period of time, and results in the jackpot pool being distributed amongst winners of the next tier down. For the main UK-only draw, this happens after four failures to win the jackpot (commentator Alan Dudleycoat calls this a «triple roll-over»); there have been just three such draws in the twelve years and roughly 1000 competitions.

For the European lottery, there needs to be twelve consecutive failures to win the jackpot - after less than three years of weekly play, this «eleventh roll-over» took place last week. We note that the odds of winning the European jackpot are approximately 1 in 76 million; the odds of winning the domestic jackpot are roughly 1 in 14 million. M'learned friend Mr. Pokery worked out the mathematics of optimal play, but performed the calculations in pounds sterling (£), rather than in the lottery's native euro (€). Allow us to re-create his work in euro, using rollover (EUROBOTE) and sales (RECAUDACION) information from the Spanish website, draw date 10/11/2006. Mr. Pokery's formulation is as follows:

Let us assume that t tickets are sold this week. The total entry fee taken in is E, where E = €2 * t .

By paragraphs (F)(2) and (F)(5) of the rules, 42% of the entry fees taken, plus any rollover funds, will be paid out as prize money in that draw. Accordingly, the total prize fund paid this time is P, where P = (0.42 * €2 * t) + €153,564,445.92 .

For the total prize paid to exceed the total entry fees taken we need P > E or (0.42 * €2 * t) + €153,564,445.92 > €2 * t which, subtracting (0.42 * €2 * t) from each side, means that €153,564,445.92 > €2 * t - (0.42 * €2 * t) which, rearranging, means that €153,564,445.92 > 0.58 * €2 * t and so, dividing both sides by 0.58 * €2, means that €153,564,445.92 / (0.58 * €2) > t or €153,564,445.92 / (€1.16) > t , which requires that, as t must be a whole number, t is no higher than 132,383,143

However, there's a further complication. For various historic and political reasons, the UK retains its own currency, and does not use the euro. The UK operator has priced the tickets, not at the closest penny to €2 (this week, £1.37), nor even at the closest tenpence (£1.40), but £1.50. The excess - in this case, 15.4 pence per UK ticket, is added to the UK prize pool for non-jackpot amounts. This money is recycled each week - The Lottery Corp. doesn't skim any of it off (well, apart from the interest...) We must therefore increase t to compensate, in the ratio tUK = t * (1 + (15.4/150)) . This results in a revised figure, tUK = 145,974,479 .

(Switzerland performs a similar exercise, though with smaller changes.)

In the event, t = 134,293,684 (since t is defined to be equal to the Pan-European Prize Pool). It is quite remarkable that the pan-European total is within two million sales - 1.5% - of the point where it becomes foolish for a European to play. It is entirely possible that UK and Swiss players were behaving rationally by purchasing tickets beyond this point, even though it made the last tickets in the Euro-zone irrational purchases, albeit based on woefully incomplete information (minute-by-minute sales figures would be required to determine rationality, and it's difficult enough to find the pan-European sales figures.)

What does this tell us for future reference? That it is probably worth purchasing a ticket if your happen to be in the UK at the time of the next «eleventh roll-over». It is not worth making a special journey, as the expected value of each ticket was approximately 6 new pence. Indeed, the cost from time spent filling out a payslip is probably larger than the expected value.

permanent link
posted 22 Nov 2006, 16.18 +0000

The Legend of Pieter van der Snej (1)

A general election took place in the Netherlands to-day. Exit polls just released suggest that the ruling CDA (Christian Democrats) will take 38 seats in the new parliament, the opposition PvdA (Labour) will have about 34. If confirmed, these results will represent a six-seat swing away from the CDA since the 2003 election. The PvdA looks set to lose equally, they had 42 seats in the last election.

The CDA's coalition partners in the last parliament, the VVD (Liberal party) look set to go from 28 to 21 seats. The main story, though, is the breakthrough of the SP (Socialists), leaping up from 9 seats in the last parliament to 30 to-night, from third place in the popular ballot. Of the major minor parties, the GL (Greens) appear to have 6 seats (down 2), D66 (Progressive Democrats) slip from 6 to 4, apparently as a punishment for collapsing the last coalition, and the CU (Christian party) increase from 3 to 7.

New parties will appear in the Dutch parliament; the PvV (Freedom party, very conservative) moves up from 1 to 8 seats, the PvdD (Party for the Animals) enters with 3 representatives, the SGP (Reform Party, perpetually in opposition) retains its traditional 2 seats, and Eén NL (One Netherlands; suspiciously like racist right) picks up one seat. Eén NL's predecessor party, the List Pim Fortuyn, will fail to retain any of their 7 seats; their vote seems to have mostly moved to the slightly more moderate PvV.

What seems to be happening is that the PvdA vote is fragmenting - they're down seven seats, and much of it has gone to the SP (up 15) - they've also picked up most of the seats vacated by the Pim Fortuyn list. It appears that the voters of the Netherlands wish to see a broad left coalition, consisting of the PvdA, SP, and GL. If the exit polls are correct, this coalition would command 70 seats, still short of the 76 required for an overall majority. A new CDA+VVD coalition looks set to have just 57; even if PvV signs up, 65 is short of the left-wing coalition.

The other possibility, of course, is a Grand Coalition, uniting the CDA and PvdA; if we're to believe the RTL polls, it's possible that even this will fail to provide an overall majority. Either way, Jan Peter Balkenende of the CDA looks set to remain in power for some little time.

More to-morrow...

permanent link
posted 22 Nov 2006, 20.36 +0000


Thu 23 Nov 2006

The Legend of Pieter van der Snej (2)

Hello! The provisional results from yesterday's election in the Netherlands have arrived, and here they are, in order from left-to-right:

PvdD  2 (+ 2) - Animals party
D66   3 (- 3) - Liberal (left)
GL    7 (- 1) - Green-left
SP   26 (+17) - Socialists
PvdA 32 (-10) - Centre-left
CU    6 (+ 3) - Christians
CDA  41 (- 3) - Centre-right
VVD  22 (- 6) - Liberal (right)
SGP   2 (n/c) - Permanent opposition
PvdV  9 (+ 9) - Suspiciously like racists
LPF   0 (- 8) - Racist right

The transfer here is mostly from other left-wing parties to the Socialists, and from the racist List Pim Fortuyn to the suspiciously-like-racist Party for Freedom. The Christian Union has also grown, at the expense of the other centre-right parties.

It's clear that even a grand coalition, between the right-wing CDA and centre-left PvdA won't secure an overall majority. Any three of the four largest parties could form a majority, though the Grand Left coalition would require the support of the CU to take office. Traditionally, the largest party will try to form a coalition, and the CU has already said that it won't serve with the VVD, limiting the options for a broadly right-wing coalition. Our correspondent on the ground suggests that the centre coalition - CDA, PvdA, CU - may be the one to win through, giving the Dutch some stability after a turbulent few years.

Turbulence was the order of the day a couple of weeks ago, in the Canada (South) elections. We've finally got confirmed vote tallies in most of the counts, and the final swing appears to be (drum roll) +9.5%. Nine and a half per cent, not - as we said at the time - seven and a half. It is, of course, the biggest swing since the war, and twice the size of the largest swing that anyone really expected.

permanent link
posted 23 Nov 2006, 17.17 +0000


Fri 24 Nov 2006

Two Songs a Week 46 - Think of you

Sometimes, the obvious one is the right one. Step forward the recent Dutch numbereen single for Marco Borsato. Readers of a certain age may remember him as that bloke who came to fame on the Soundmix show in the early 90s, and persisted in recording entirely in Italian, even though the expat community in the Netherlands is only slightly larger than zero. Borsato switched to Dutch in the mid-90s, and has won TMF's award for Best Male Dutch Singer each and every year since 1996. He's had twelve (count 'em!) number one singles in the Netherlands, and is currently on an eight-song chart-topping streak, stretching back to 2001.

This year, Borsato has been in duets mode. He worked with Andrea Bocelli on When we believe, a six-week topper in the spring. Then came his masterwork, Rood, a song that is as long and complex as F. R. David's classic Music. On his current single, Borsato joins with rising British star Lucie Silvas on Everytime I think of you, which leaves its simple beginnings to become a boistrous, up-tempo little number, combining grunge's quiet-verse-loud-chorus construction with the melody structure of proper pop.

permanent link
posted 24 Nov 2006, 18.48 +0000

Two Songs a Week

Sat 25 Nov 2006

Telegrams from this week

MEXICO: Mexico will two presidents, following the swearing-in of both candidates from July's disputed election. Felipe Calderon, the conservative candidate, was certified the winner of the popular vote by less than 1% over the socialist candidate, Lopez Obrador. Sr. Calderon's ceremony will take place on 1 December. (AJ)

BRUXELLES: Volkswagen will cease production of its Golf car at the Forest plant. Up to 4000 people will lose their jobs. (RTBF)

NEPAL: A peace agreement has been signed between Maoist freedom fighters and the national government.

KIGALI: Rwanda has recalled her ambassador from France, and ordered the French representation to leave the country. A French court had earlier requested that Paul Kagame, the Rwandan president, stand trial over the death in 1994 of Rwanda's ancien-president Habyarimana. (AJ)

LUXEMBOURG: The European Court has ruled in favour of different taxation schemes in different countries, by insisting that people must travel to another country if they wish to purchase goods there and not pay duties at home. This is a rare victory for the nation-state over the Greater Europe project, not that the vitriolic contributors to the BBC would believe a word of it. (BBC)

LONDON: The death has been announced of Nick Clarke, the broadcaster. He tried to bring light, not heat, to difficult topics.

LONDON: A former Russian spy has died from Polonium-210 poisoning. The radioactive substance is believed to have been administered when Alexander Litvinenko met other exiled Russians in central London on 1 November. Mr. Litvinenko came to the UK in 2000, alleging that the FSB (ancien-KGB) had bombed citizens in Moscow the previous year, in order to force ancien-president Yelstgin to resume the civil war in Chechnya. (CBC)

BURNLEY: Two Liberal Democrat councillors have been jailed for vote-rigging. (UDR)

PARIS: A Paris St. Germain fan was killed by a policeman in disturbances on Thursday night. The policeman was rescuing a fan of Hapoel Tel-Aviv, who was being attacked by «the Boulogne Boys», a group of racists attatched to the Parisian club. After CS spray failed to clear the aggressors, the policeman opened fire, killing one and seriously wounding another. The procurator says that this was «legitimate defence». (F2)

MELBOURNE: At the Australian Masters, a player has been removed for being completely rubbish. Jon Abbot had scored a 24-over-par 96 in the opening round, and dropped a further 14 shots in the first five holes of his second lap. It is not clear if news of this rule has reached Brisbane. (DT)

BOROVETS: Oliver Burkeman attends the World Puzzle Championships. (HG)

LONDON: Diamond Geezer on those new Oyster rules in full. Before they start charging people the return fare from Antwerp to Brussels for a simple journey from Charing Cross to Waterloo, they might at least make sure that their barriers actually open...

permanent link
posted 25 Nov 2006, 11.59 +0000

State of the Parties

The occasional review of swings and transfers resulting from council by-elections in the UK. These results cover by-elections since 21 September.

             Now      Last
Lab to Con  + 7.04% (+ 6.94%)

Lib to Con  + 0.52% (+ 0.42%)

Lib to Lab  - 6.52% (- 6.52%)

As you can see, very little change in the transfers at all; do not read anything into changes of less than a full percent. Translate this into Commons seats, using the shiny new boundaries, and we see no change at all:

Con 292-308
Lab 233-250
LD   77- 81

C largest party in
 hung parliament

permanent link
posted 25 Nov 2006, 12.02 +0000


Sun 26 Nov 2006

Charts in week 47

In Europe this week, new work heads the way in France: Faudel has the best-seller with the trad-chanson Mon pays, just ahead of the frog-rap Fous ta cagoule, performed by Fatal Bazooka. Xavier Naidoo has a large hit in his native Germany.

North Europe's Top Twenty

 20 18 Pestside - The rose
*19 NE Nadiya - Amies ennemies
 18  9 My Chemical Romance   - Welcome to the black parade
 17 15 Fedde le Grand - Put your hands up for Detroit
*16 NE Bert Bills - Lovelight
 15 16 Killers - When you were young
 14 14 Silbermond - Das beste
 13  5 Nelly Furtado - Promiscuous
 12 13 Snow Patrol - Chasing cars
*11 NE Akon - Smack that
 10 12 Cascada - Everytime we touch
* 9 NE Clitring Aguilera - Hurt
  8  8 Bob Sinclar - Rock this party
* 7 NE Justin Numberwang - My love
  6  4 Muse - Starlight
* 5  7 Pink - You and your hand
  4  6 Seizure Sisters - I don't feel like dancing
* 3  3 Depeche Mode - Martyr
* 2  2 Razorlight - America
* 1  1 U2 / Green Dull - The saints are coming

Nadiya, the soul-rock package, has a jittery number that's big in francophone areas. Bert Bills is sizable in his native UK, but also in the Baltics. Akon, Clitring, and Numberwang are all doing the business across northern Europe.

Ten and a half years after their last chart-topper, Take That are back at number one, and with the same line-up as their previous single. I'll be going into the solo career in greater depth to-morrow. Akon moves down to 2, with Emma Bunton's unnecessary cover of Downtown rising to 3. Huge falls for U2 and Snow Patrol mean that many old records in the teens move back up, and that Nelly Furtado debuts at 13 on downloads. The Red Hot Chili Peppers climb to 16 on full release, and the Feeling are up to single three, and even though they all sound exactly the same, it's a top 20 hit on downloads alone. Pink (27) releases the fourth single from her album, it's the obligatory ballad. Bootie Love (19**), Faithless (26), Chamillionaire (35) also have new hits.

Lower down, dance act Lo-rider, rock act Wolfmother, shite act Jet, and act I've never heard of the Noisettes all have full-release entries; there are download successes for Fish Go Deep, the Killers, Fratellis, and Damien Rice. And (cover your ears!) Katherine Jenkins perfomring The green green grass of home. Someone, make her stop!

New entries in positions 1 to 4 on the albums front: Pestside's Love album, then singles collections for Oasis, the Beatles, and Oasis. The Fron Male Voice Choir enter at 13, almost a fifth of their average age. Akon and singles of the Foo Fighters enter the 40; Jools Holland, Tom Waits, Michael Bolton (singing Sinatra), Killswitch Engage, and singles collections from the Carpenters and Gloria Estefan enter between 40 and 75. Flop of the week goes to former Busted man Matt Willis - throwing himself into Antan Dec's jungle torture is a bad move, as Don't Let it Go to Waste enters at 66 with an anvil. Good climbs for the Kooks, Pink, and the Feeling.

Here's the good stuff on the singles listing:

10 14 Razorlight - America
13 NE Nelly Furtado - All good things **
14 13 My Chemical Romance
  - Welcome to the black parade
18 NE Feeling - Love it when you call **
21 59 Lemar - Someone should tell you ^^
27 NE Pink - Nobody knows
28 30 Shakira - Hips don't lie
30 16 Sugababes - Easy
34 32 High School Musical OCR - Breaking free
41 39 Nelly Furtado - Promiscuous
42 27 McFly - Stargirl
43 37 Panic At The Disco
  - I write sins not tragedies
46 29 Kasabian - Shoot the runner
49 re Fratellis - Chelsea dagger
50 NE Killers - Bones **
52 NE Fratellis - Whistle for the choir **
54 46 Kooks - Ooh la
55 NE Damien Rice - 9 crimes **
58 38 Meat Loaf and Marion Raven
  - It's all coming back to me now
59 53 Pink - You and your hand
63 47 Little Chris - Checking it out
64 NE Wolfmother - Joker and the thief ^^
65 57 Goo Goo Dolls - Iris / Stay with you
68 61 Muse - Starlight
72 69 Pink - Who knew
75 re Lily Allen - LDN

permanent link
posted 26 Nov 2006, 19.55 +0000

Weather in week 47

It's been a week of weather systems passing through from the Atlantic. One on Monday brought some wind, but little rain; the wetness came from the Wednesday system. Friday night looked set to provide damaging winds, but the small margins of error ensured that this system passed without much wind, though with a lot of rain. Details are, as ever, for the twenty-four hours to 6pm local time.

20 Mo rain o/n, sun        8/10, 2.0
21 Tu sun to cloud         4/ 7, 0.5
22 We cloud, rain pm       5/ 8, 3.0
23 Th sun, showers        11/11,10.5
24 Fr cloud, showers       4/12, 2.0
25 Sa rain o/n, sunny     10/10,19.5
26 Su sun to cloud         4/11, 0.5

We've now had 63mm of rain, just over the 62.5mm average for November. 13½ degree heating days this week, the winter's total now 69, compared with 94½/808, and 72½/677½ in the past two winters. After a cold snap at the beginning of November, this has turned out to be a milder month than last year.

South-westerly winds, and a continuation of the unsettled weather, is the order of next week, though detail is particularly sketchy. The dominant feature will be a stable area of high pressure over continental Europe, and a succession of depressions rolling in from the Atlantic. One particularly deep low will bounce off the anticyclone and will stall over the Atlantic off Iceland, but not before it's brought strong winds from the SW to-morrow. It's possible that the high pressure will advance towards the UK around the middle of the week; this will bring a return of strong winds in the west while introducing much calmer weather to the south-east. Another depression may merge into the one off Iceland around Thursday, and this will bring fresh impetus to the winds: it's possible that there will be some particularly damaging winds in the north and west around Thursday next week. The pressure will equalise quite quickly, and Friday may well be much quieter. Much can change in such volatile situations, so do check against professional forecasters, and do wrap up.

permanent link
posted 26 Nov 2006, 20.03 +0000


older writing... write to