Thursday, July 3, 2014

Rolf Harris and cracking stats

Rolf Harris. He was on telly all the time when I was a kid. I remember him most from Cartoon Time when he did all those drawings in between clips. In 1993 he did his cover of Stairway to Heaven, complete with wobble board, which was rather good (and at the time I didn't even realise it was a cover!). All in all, I thought he was a jolly good Aussie bloke. Now, at age 84, he's been convicted of indecent assault on girls as young as seven, and he's likely to die in prison. You do that sort of crime, you do the time, even if you're 84. But it's worth remembering that it was a different world in the sixties and seventies. Since the scandal surrounding Jimmy Savile (he was also on TV all the time when I was small, and he seemed like a very dodgy bugger to me even then), several of these celebrity sex abuse cases have come to light, and we need to be a bit careful before imposing today's standards on events that happened decades ago.

Kevin likes to talk about his past. He recently talked about a time his girlfriend was stoned and almost burnt the house down by leaving a pan on the stove in the middle of the night, with two kids under two asleep. They didn't have smoke alarms. Apparently he wasn't stoned on that particular occasion, and he rescued his girlfriend and kids from the smoke and flames. He thinks he's a hero - "no-one gives me credit for saving those kids' lives" - and I tried to play down his hero status. At 22, and mentally a lot less, he was nowhere near ready to bring up a family, and neither was she. Sadly, he hardly sees his son and daughter from one year to the next.

I've started reading Quicksilver, the Neal Stephenson book that I borrowed from Tracy. She might be waiting a while for it. I have a feeling it'll be too clever for me. I finished Angela's Ashes which had the effect of making me realise I'm alive, and living with Kevin isn't all that bad. It really was miserable stuff. It also made me think what an amazing thing (from a food point of view) an egg is. You hear about super foods quite a lot; an egg is pretty much the ultimate super food. So many ways to cook them, and they're good for you (if you happen to ignore the dirty C-word). I ate two eggs a day during my one-month paleo experiment last October, and it hasn't done me any harm yet.

We're down to the last eight in the World Cup, and the classic matches keep coming. All eight group winners made it to the quarter-finals - I guess not many of the fancied teams finished second in their groups: they either went through as group winners or, in the case of Spain, Portugal and Italy, went home altogether. Five of the quarter-finalists required extra time, and two also needed penalties. The last three matches all went to an extra half-hour; those games were all goalless in normal time, but featured a whopping seven goals between them in extra time. All eight teams who played in Manaus, and therefore clocked up the air miles, have been knocked out. One of those was the USA, who were glorious in their extra-time loss to Belgium. Or at least I hope that the concept of a glorious defeat exists in American society.

What I hope the semi-final line-up will be: Colombia v Germany, Holland v Belgium.

Diving - probably my biggest hate in World Cup football - was the hot topic this week as Robben "won" that last-minute penalty against Mexico. A part of me thinks, wow, hats off to him for getting away with it, especially when it's someone that fun to watch, a bit like my admiration for an loose-aggressive poker player pulling off a crazy bluff. But there's one key difference - bluffing is a perfectly legitimate play in poker (indeed it's part of the essence of the game); diving to win a free kick or penalty is cheating.

I've been reading a few articles on It's an American site, most famous for Nate Silver's very accurate US election predictions. But it also covers sport, economics, social policy, whether we'll soon be paying to use the loo on flights... Most impressive is their analysis of footballer Lionel Messi - with all those charts and graphs, you get to see how, um, off-the-charts, this little man is. It's good to see some proper football stats for a change. People have this idea that stats don't "work" in football. Bollocks to that, basically, even if it's harder to quantitatively analyse football than cricket or tennis. Which brings me to Wimbledon. A lot has happened. Nick Kyrgios saved all those match points against Gasquet, then caused a huge shock in beating Nadal. Then Andy Murray got beaten today. Serena Williams hasn't been far from the headlines in the women's. But I haven't watched any of it and have only taken a passing interest really. With the World Cup and having a flatmate, something has to give.

Today was a crisp, sunny, South Island kind of day.

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