Friday, November 15, 2013

Armies and mobs

My boss had family stuff to deal with this week so she was away for most of it. That made work a bit easier to cope with, but I still don't think I've got a long future there. I'd say it's 50-50 I'll be there in six months.

On Monday we finally played our second instalment of Risk. I didn't enjoy it as much as the first time. As we traded in sets of cards, new contingents of 40 or 50 armies came into play, and we all agreed that things were getting a bit ridiculous. One minute I had control of three continents, the next minute (well, next half-hour) Tracy's rampaging red army left me, um, incontinent. After two hours (that's five hours of total playing time), Tracy knocked Tom out, taking all his cards and gaining several dozen more bits of plastic. I'd forgotten about that rule, which makes eliminating someone quite a big deal. At that point we called it a day. I wouldn't have fancied my chances against Tracy's sheer numbers and, let's face it, her superior gaming skills. We commented on how everything was designed to drag things out, even the way the cylindrical playing pieces rolled off the board. It would be easy to tweak the rules to cap the number of armies at say 15 or 20, instead of incrementing by five every time someone makes a set of cards, and I think that would make for a better game.

Here you can see Tracy's stupidly large red army (her reward for wiping out Tom's green) about to take over the world. Some of the pieces represent ten armies, so it was even scarier than it looked. This is where we packed the game in.

The three of us had a good chat after the game, which I found more engaging than the game itself. We talked about crowd mentality. Someone is teetering on the ledge of a tall building, possibly about to end it all. A crowd gathers, and when it reaches a certain number (Tracy said 350 I think), people start chanting "Jump!" It doesn't matter who or where, when it reaches this critical size, this same terrible thing always happens. Supposedly it's because you stop being individuals at that point, and become a mob instead. The same thing happens when riots break out at football matches - people's ability to think as individuals goes out the window. In the past, people have said that football fans are often poorly educated and come from working-class backgrounds, and that explains their behaviour. But ticket prices have gone through the roof, pricing most working-class people out of the market, and guess what, hardly anything changes. You also see this phenomenon online - people showing extreme anger and hatred over just about any subject, taking sides, and losing all sense of self. I find it all quite scary.

Tracy, who is normally ready for bed shortly after nine, was instead (as she admitted) as high as a kite. I could do with some of whatever she was taking.

They showed the second half of New Zealand's World Cup qualifier with Mexico on TV at work yesterday. Wow, what a gulf in class there was. Without a decent keeper it could easily have been 9-1, never mind 5-1 (no exaggeration). It was nice to see that one trickle in for NZ at the end, even if it'll almost certainly make no difference to them. People have been quick to turn on the All Whites coach and team. There are two points I'd like to make. One, but for a couple of minutes of madness, Mexico would have been out of the running and NZ would have been playing Panama (surely a much easier proposition) instead. Two, the All Whites would be better served by joining the Asian confederation, as Australia did. They would then play more often, against better teams, and surely improve.

I've seen the dreadful pictures coming out of the Philippines following the typhoon. I've only donated $6 - I can't afford much these days. Although the impact on many people has been devastating (and will continue to be), I'd imagine the impact on their mental health has been far smaller. If success is having food, water, shelter and (maybe) medicine, all that other unnecessary stuff no longer matters.

I've been reading Shorty, a book of Barry Crump's short stories about a diminutive novice golfer that I picked up in a second-hand shop. I must give it to Mum when I next see her. It's a good laugh. Golf lends itself very well to story-telling. I found this bit, about a party Shorty was invited to, very funny:
It was a talking party, where you help yourself to drinks from a big table at one end and then go for a walk, talking to one person for a while and then changing partners. The tricky part is that you have to think of something to say to each new partner. Some of them play it in pairs or groups. I gathered from some of the things that were being talked to me, that the ones who were best at this game were considered the most socially desirable. I wasn't going to do very well at this game.
That pretty much describes my limited experience of parties, except mine is real.

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