Saturday, October 25, 2008

Let us cross the river and sit under the trees

We've hit a Stonewall

And then there were three.

Someone once said to lose one parent is careless to lose two is downright unlucky, or words to that effect. Clearly they were thinking of the Chiefs who have carelessly lost three quarterbacks without too much difficulty.

First, Brodie Croyle (the great white hope) departed with a knee that will require extensive surgery and may well put paid to a not very promising NFL career. To be blunt, when he did play he did not win. Ever. He did not even move the offence regularly. Ever. He may return. Whatever.

So, it was back to Damon Huard. He didn't last long either. He “thumbed” his way onto the injured list and was promptly replaced by Tyler Thigpen – the rookie who had one disastrous outing earlier in the season. Damon is gone for the season as well. Scratch one journeyman QB who never figured to be the Chiefs starter in anything but an emergency but who was, at least, an experienced player.

Tyler is still with us and will start on Sunday against the Jets.

Who is number three? Trent Green.

I'm counting him in this equation, because someone, somewhere is surely wishing they hadn't got rid of him quite so soon. Keeping Trent on contract would have allowed Croyle to start, Huard to back-up and Green as emergency cover. Perhaps, of course, this did not suit Green and so he went to Miami. Still, to have as backups Gray Quinn – a few games of NFL experience – and Ingle Martin (who?) is beyond careless and leaves King Carl and Herm (the Squirm) Edwards lurching into the realms of complete incompetence.

What we know is that without a decent QB in the NFL you are going to get creamed week after week. The defence is going to load up on the run ( not too much of a problem at the moment since that bad boy Larry Johnson is in trouble with the league and will not play this week) and dare you to pass. If you don't have a QB that can beat them, you are stuffed. That's just about where the Chiefs are now.: looking like a Christmas turkey.

What makes this all so more annoying is that the Chiefs passed up on drafting a QB early to get Branden Albert and Glenn Dorsey. They could have got Joe Flacco who is starting for the Ravens and doing more that Ok or Matt Ryan – Atlanta Falcons - currently the NFL rookie of the week. Albert and Dorsey are getting no mentions other than negative ones.

Bottom line? Chiefs may do well to win three games this season.

They will get top draft choices in 2009.

They will take a QB in round one.

You heard it hear first.

Oh, yes. My title for this blog entry is the last words of Stonewall Jackson. Seems appropriate.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Terrific Tendulkar

[The Little Master]

News that Sachin has become the highest scoring test batsman ever should not be a surprise;for, he has long been the best batman in the world. And, yes, I'm including Brian Lara in this as well.

As good as Lara is, he can not really challenge the Little Master.

What Lara is is a great entertainer - in the West Indian tradition.

What Tendulkar is is technically the best batsman for many a moon - perhaps since Bradman.

The stats don't lie. Long may he reign. Many congratulations!

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Modest Proposal Concerning Percentages

Cherry-Pie Maths

First a confession: my mathematical ability is legendarily non-existent. An example: since I distinctly remember being taught that addition and multiplication are similar processes and subtraction is akin to division: it has never made sense to me that (according to one set of mathematical principles) one half divided by one half equals one quarter.

This is an example of what I fondly refer to as Cherry Pie Maths. If, in the above, you think of a half of something real, like a cherry pie, and multiply that by another half of something real, say another cherry pie, it is obvious that some of the pie has disappeared – with complete disregard for the Law of Conservation of Mass and Energy.

In my mathematical model one half times one half equals one. The cherry pie remains intact. Simple.

Mathematicians rant on about how, in this case, it is really one half of one half which equals one quarter. Interesting point – but I remain unconvinced. Perhaps this is why my conventional mathematical understanding is so legendarily suspect.

Which bring s me neatly to percentages. In the moment when the stock market is plunging like a herd of hippopotamuses , the credit crisis is biting like a cloud of ravenous mosquitoes and the inflation rate has assumed the stance of an early Chinese firework, each of the above being expressed as a percentage has become both misleading and in many cases downright unhelpful.


Consider this hypothetical situation: the rate of inflation in Zimbabwe suddenly comes under control. The price of a Zimbabwean loaf of bread at that moment is 1 million zimbabs (or whatever the currency in Harare is called). The new rate of inflation as measured as a percentage drops from 1000% to just one percent. Hooray!! Except that one percent of one million is 10 thousand. So the loaf of bread now costs one million ten thousand zimbabs. Sound like a bargain to you?

This fairly farcical example shows why percentages can be so misleading. So it is in the real work – discounting imaginary Zimbabwean currencies.

When you read that inflation has risen to 5% but is expected to fall back to 3% you may rejoice. You are being mislead. 5% of a large number is still a large number. That's my simple mathematical knowledge in action. When you read that the police have accepted a 2.5% pay rise it sounds small, but if the police are making 50,000 pounds a year, that 2.5% equals 1250 pounds or more than 100 pounds a month. If the dustmen, by contrast, manage to negotiate a 5% rise but only make 25,000 a year their actual cash benefit is exactly the same. The media would present the above as: Police Accept Moderate Pay-Rise and Bonanza on the Dustcarts – respectfully.

My first modest proposal. All pay rises are to be expressed in real terms, i.e. how much actual money is being earned.

My second modest proposal. Percentages will be banned from inflation figures. Inflation is only allowed to be expressed in real terms, I.e. last year the price of petrol was X and this year it is Y – the percentage increase is both misleading and irrelevant, so just leave it out.

My third modest proposal. Having achieved the above, we work diligently to eliminate percentages from the rest of society. No more 50% Off sales. If your TV used to be 1000 pounds (allegedly) and is now 500 just rejoice you bought it and ask yourself, “Should I pity the oick who actually paid 1000 for it?”

No more Reduced by 30% signs – 30% of what?

The possibilities are almost endless and actually rather satisfying!

Think about it. You know it makes sense. I'm sure Del Boy would approve.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Diss, Diss, Diss - lexia


I compulsively sort out my papers. I find it relaxing. I take a pile of papers on my desk and go through them methodically and, maybe, find one or two I can throw away. Lest I be accused of some un-natural vice, I confess that this urge only happens occasionally.

Somehow I had mis-placed a very interesting article, “Dyslexia: a label to get you off the hook?” for about 18 months. Shame really. It's quite an interesting article and theory. Shuffling my papers reunited us.

I thought I would try to remember when I first heard the term, dyslexic. I think it might be in the 80's – maybe late 80's. I tried looking this up on Google but got nowhere. I did find that there are a lot of good folks trying to sell you aids guaranteed to help you overcome this affliction. There's clearly money to be made in dyslexia.

Not only money but also a lot of kudos. This is the main thesis of the article in question: dyslexia has become the educational lexicon replacement term for lazy, bone-idle, inattentive, gormless little nerk chiefly because it allows parents to medicalise Little Jimmy or Joanie's lack of academic progress and, therefore, gain extra advantages in the exam system.

I know this doesn't sound exactly earth-shattering and probably doesn't rival nuclear proliferation or climate change (another perhaps equally spurious label) as a threat to Western democratic society, but it does highlight an important sociological trend I have long identified and often regretted.

A few academics, St John-like, assert that dyslexia as a medical or psychological condition just doesn't exist. The insist that some children just don't read very well and for a variety of reasons, many of which are their own fault. The difficulty here is that parents believe that reading is an inherent pointer of native intelligence and, ergo, if their child is having difficulty reading they cannot be unintelligent, so they must have some medical problem.

Wrong on both counts.

Reading is not really allied to intelligence. Understanding and being able to make out what is read needs a lot of intelligence, just reading the words does not. Likewise, unless there is a problem with eyesight or some other physiological difficulty, there is no reason any child cannot learn to read adequately.

But, reading requires concentration and application. In my experience, these are what are lacking in “poor readers”. Children who have never been exposed to reading rather dislike it. Children who would rather watch television than read a book are in the majority. Children who clutch at the dyslexic straw are really quite clever.

At a stroke, they have satisfied Mum and Dad that it isn't really their fault that they are not doing very well in school, gained a life-long advantage over the rest of the population and ensured that they will be looked on with pity and sympathy for the remainder of their days. Good call.

I spent some time working for a Social Worker who was dyslexic. Most of what she wrote was gibberish, but her reading was really very good.

You figure.

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