De omnibus dubitandum
20 Sep 2010
I love snooker. It’s a game that combines great skill with tactical insights & planning. Dutch TV rarely shows any snooker, but fortunately the BBC’s coverage of it is extensive.
One of the game’s giants is Ronnie O’Sullivan. A temperamental, unpredictable player, he is nonetheless one of the all-time greats. Today he found himself a permanent spot in the snooker history books when he scored his tenth televised 147 maximum break in typical O’Sullivan style.
In what can only be described as a typical demonstration of his antics, he pots one red and one black and then asks the referee if the tournament grants a special prize for a 147 maximum break. The answer is no, the tournament only gives a £4000 prize to the highest break of the tournament, not a special 147-prize.
Ronnie then goes on to clear the table, closing in on that insanely difficult 147 break, but stops after he pots the pink. He figures that, since there’s no special prize for a 147, there’s no need for him to make one.
But the referee urges him on, and Ronnie finally does pot the last black and scores his tenth televised 147 – the highest amount of any professional snooker player ever.
Love him or hate him, Ronnie O’Sullivan brings a certain flair and unpredictability to the game that you can’t help but admire.
24 Jun 2010
Since I moved to Northern Ireland I’ve tried to make this wee country my new home. I’ve gotten to know many new people, I’ve read up on local politics and culture, and have tried to understand the country’s national identity.
The latter, however, is something I’ve failed horribly at. Not only that, I’ve become increasingly frustrated with what seems to be an utterly schizophrenic sense of nationality that reigns not only within Northern Ireland, but the UK as a whole.
First some basic background on which is which, as many people outside of the UK get confused (actually, a lot of people inside the UK get confused too):
The UK refers to the “Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”. Great Britain, in turn, is divided in to three countries: England, Wales, and Scotland. You can read a great illustrated explanation of the whole structure here: the difference between the UK and Great Britain.
Adding to this, different names are applied to different collections of the 4 countries that make up the UK. There’s a superb diagram on Wikipedia that tries to explain the whole complicated nomenclature in one glance: British Isles terminology.
Then, when it comes to sports, things start to get ugly. In football, all four countries of the UK have a separate national team: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. In rugby, however, there is no Northern Irish team – instead they play as part of the Ireland national rugby team.
In the Olympics, there is a ‘Team GB’, which if the name was accurate would mean it includes only athletes from England, Scotland, and Wales. But, wait a minute, there are Northern Irish athletes in Team GB as well, so it should actually be called Team UK.
It gets worse when you look at national anthems. When Wales and Scotland compete in a sport, their own national anthems are played. When England competes, however, it’s not the English national anthem that gets played but the anthem for the whole of the UK (“God Save The Queen”). Apparently England has no anthem of its own, so it opts to use the UK’s anthem. But this doesn’t always sit well with the Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish, as England doesn’t represent the whole of the UK so it shouldn’t necessarily be allowed to use the UK anthem.
The Northern Irish situation regarding national anthems isn’t straightforward either. In rugby for example, depending on where the match is being played you’re likely to hear at least two different national anthems for the Ireland team. And in football Northern Ireland often uses the UK’s national anthem, except in the Commonwealth Games, where Northern Ireland uses a different anthem (“Londonderry Air”).
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales each have different bones to pick with the English when it comes to the appropriation of the UK’s national identity – each country, to varying extents, wishing to be seen as separate but also as part of a greater whole. Referring to the UK as ‘England’, that consistent error foreigners make (myself included before I moved), doesn’t help.
The somewhat nauseating focus of British politics and media on England tends to make matters worse. It often seems as if the English have forgotten that the UK is more than just England, something which is an endless source of ire for the Scottish, Welsh, and (Northern) Irish.
So I’ve decided to give up on the whole national identity thing. There are limits to what I’m willing to endure for the sake of integration. I’ve come to realise that it’s much easier for all involved if I’ll just stay totally and irrevocably Dutch. I may even enhance my Dutch accent.
Zo dere joo haf it. Ai em a dutsjman in nortern airlant.
20 Aug 2008
Did Michael Phelps win the 100m butterfly race and his 7th gold medal of the Beijing Olympics? Yes, says the FINA, by 1/100th of a second. No, says an anonymous conspiracy theorist, who’s devoted a website to this alleged deception.
The evidence presented on the site is compelling. One cannot deny the large corporate interests involved in the Phelps-brand, which benefits from him winning all 8 medals and turning into an athletic icon. The obvious conflict of interest in Omega sponsoring Phelps and also providing the time measurement systems for the Olympic swimming races is something that does need to be discussed in relevant circles.
But did Cavic really beat Phelps? This image on the Sports Illustrated website seems to provide the definitive answer.
Then again, we’re all aware of the power of Photoshop.
3 May 2008
One of the best commercials ever made.
23 Sep 2005
Linkdumping for your entertainment and education:
Even the UK is turning into a police state:
-> Suspicious Behaviour on the Tube (Guardian)
Doping bans are hypocritical:
-> Nix the Ban on Sport Drugs (Wired)
WoW is hit by a viral disease:
-> A Plague on Warcraft (Guardian)
Firefox may not be so safe:
-> Mozilla Browsers more vulnerable than IE (ZDNet)
Firefox may be safe afterall:
-> Mozilla Hits Back at Browser Security Claim (ZDNet)
How to blog and stay anonymous:
-> Tips for the Crusading Blogger (Wired)
25 Aug 2005
Many people don’t understand why I firmly believe Lance Armstrong used doping. They refer to the countless doping tests the man has undergone during his supreme reign in the Tour de France, all of which came up negative.
But those people don’t understand what a doping test is. A doping test is simply a series of chemical tests to confirm the presence of known illegal substances. I repeat, known illegal substances. A doping test does not reveal if the athlete in question is using anything that’s not currently marked as illegal. It simply doesn’t test for anything else than what the authorities deem necessary to test for.
It seems few remember the EPO scandal of several years ago. In the late 1990′s EPO was added to the list of illegal doping substances, and suddenly dozens of cyclists were found guilty of using this drug. Investigation turned out that EPO had been used in cycling and many other sports for years before it became included in doping tests.
I’m quite sure Lance Armstrong has access to performance-enhancing drugs that are currently not marked as illegal, and as such are not tested for. In due time these drugs will be officially recognized as doping, and I’m sure more than a few cyclists will have to publicly admit their cheating ways.
Armstrong won’t be among them, of course. He’s already retired. Smart man.