Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Odds and ends

On Saturday I spent a really nice evening at my cousin's place. I hadn't been there for nearly two months - among other things, my cousin had been in America on business. My aunt and uncle were staying, so there were eight of us for dinner. I did some baking - it was nice to produce something that doesn't feature on Mohs hardness scale. I saw the photos from my uncle's funeral - it was a DIY funeral with no undertaker, and the grey (but thankfully dry) day somehow added to the atmosphere.

I played two board games at Tracy's place last night. The first game was based on the popular French story Le Petit Prince. Four of us played: Tracy's mum joined in. It was simple to play but there was more going on than initially met the eye. You had to build a planet and make sure it didn't have too many volcanoes or baobab trees. It was a high-volatility game, or that's my excuse for coming last anyway. We then played 7 Wonders, again. That game has less volatility, making it more likely that Tracy, who must have something close to an eidetic memory, will win. She did, with an enormous score. My second place, and reasonable score, almost felt like a win.

Rolf Harris got nearly six years. Had he been younger, and had his terrible acts taken place more recently, he probably would have got (and deserved) longer. Actuarially, the chances that he'll die in prison are very close to 50:50. That's assuming he'll serve his full sentence, and I'm not sure that actuarial "rules" fully apply in prison.

The Wimbledon finals almost passed me by this year. Kvitova’s win over Bouchard, to claim her second Wimbledon final, clearly wasn’t much of a contest, but I would have been worth watching just to see someone play that well. The men’s final, which took four times as long, was a completely different story. They’re two absolute giants of the game; it’s hard not to be a bit envious of them. Look how many languages they can speak. Federer has two sets of twins, dammit. Djokovic's first child is on the way. It's easy to say so now, but when my aunt asked me to give a prediction, I picked Djokovic's five-set win, and even correctly predicted which sets he'd win. Of course it very nearly didn't turn out that way.

As I watched the Netherlands–Costa Rica quarter-final go to penalties, I was in two minds over who I wanted to win. On balance I probably wanted the Dutch to go through. Costa Rica looked like they were playing for penalties from the start, judging by all that fist-pumping from their bench after a goalless 120 minutes. Holland, on the other hand, were desperate to avoid that outcome, but when it eventuated they didn’t just think “oh shit”, they actually made something happen by changing their goalkeeper. In the end it was good to see Holland – possibly the stand-out team of the tournament so far – make the last four, but this World Cup would have been far less enjoyable without the plucky Costa Ricans, and it’s sad to see them go.

The group stage provided one goal for every 32 minutes of play. In the first knockout round, we saw one goal every 48 minutes. In the quarter-finals, it took an average of 78 minutes per goal. Goals aren’t everything of course, but those figures are some indication that this World Cup, which began with a hiss and a roar, is in danger of petering out. Another factor is the (disappointing?) lack of upsets in the knockout stages – on several occasions the favourite was in jeopardy, but each time they just about squeaked through. That of course means we’ve got a heavyweight semi-final line-up, even without Neymar, and the legacy of this tournament will largely depend on what sort of show the remaining four teams put on. More 0-0 draws and penalty shoot-outs won’t help. Even if Holland win it, which I hope they do.

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