Saturday, December 21, 2013

Super Bowl for the Chiefs?

Chiefs Take to the Play-off Road

The KC Chiefs will have their work cut out for them if they are to make significant progress in the AFC post season play-offs.

With the number 5 seed just about clinched, it looks like the boys in red will take on Indianapolis in the first round at Indy. Significantly the Colts are banged up for the match-up at Arrowhead on Sunday – and may well play it safe by not showing too much. If so, look for the Chiefs to win fairly comfortably and put a marker down for the rematch.

If Indy is dispatched it's likely the Bronco wait at Mile High in the next round. So far this season the Broncos and Peyton Manning have owned the Chiefs. Looks like “one and done” all over again.

Things, as usual, are never quite that simple. Football isn't played on paper. The Colts may well parley the home field advantage and dispatch the visitors in the first round. They have some good players and play well at home.

Then we get to Mile High - in late December. The weather may have a great effect. If so it's the quick release, short passing game of the ponies which might prove effective. And, the Chiefs will have to do what they have been unable (as has almost everyone else!) to do – stop, of at least, slow down Manning. The prospects are not good. This is probably the Chiefs season in a nutshell.

If they can handle Denver away then they can win the Super Bowl. Nobody in the NFC looks anywhere near as good as Denver. But, it's a funny old game!

I predict: Chiefs to win in Indy and lose to Denver. Denver to play Seattle in the Super Bowl and the Seahawks will win.

Take it or leave it – but stay away from the bookies – this should be one of the most interesting play-off seasons for a long time.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Obama Rescued?

Can he survive the healthcare onslaught?

A follow-up to my recent in depth look at the problems besetting Obamacare finds me indebted to the Sunday Times again this week.

In a editorial by Andrew Sullivan, the difficulties facing the President are analysed and prognostications proposed.

He starts out by reminding us that second-term crises are not new. Reagan, Nixon, Clinton and Dubbya all suffered from malaise in their second term. What seems to be different is the fact that Obama has painted himself into a corner with his own mouth (pardon the chillingly daft mixed metaphor) by promising that people can keep their healthcare plans if they like them. They cannot and if your plan does not meet minimum standards then you have to get a new one.

Question is – can Obama recover?

Nixon, of course, could not. His crime? He lied to the people. Is Obama any different? Categorically? Possibly? Inadvertently? The answer rather depends on you political persuasion.

Sunday Times: “The first issue is indeed healthcare. He is attempting something transformative and immensely difficult in the American context, even though every other developed country has long since passed the threshold of universal care.
Americans, after all, are a conservative bunch – and no-one likes to feel as if their health, of all things, is being jeopardised by a law that Obama need never have passed. Many will see their premiums rise. If the federal website isn't fixed, more and more people are going to go nuts as the “computer says no”.
If confidence collapses, the critical cohorts of young people may not join the system, tipping it into an insurance death spiral, in which there are too many sick people enrolled and not enough healthy people to balance them out. . . . .
If he succeeds, then, it will be by the skin of his teeth, and the odds of him clawing back to more than 50% approval are low. But it's worth remembering that the healthcare law has been declared dead several times. It was never expected to pass the Congress in 2009, which was already grappling with stimulus for the Great Recession. It survived – just – but then nearly collapsed again as the Republicans seized the late Ted Kennedy's Senate seat and the votes were suddenly in question. After that the Supreme Court, in a surprise decision, upheld it. The law is close to being zombie – dead but still alive, and staggering ominously forward.”

Can the Republicans kill it? Hard to do up against the Presidential veto.

Moreover the Republicans have yet to propose any kind of alternative except a return to the status quo – which has very little support. Even now in the law's darkest hour there does not seem to be anywhere near a majority for repeal – according to the Sunday Times.

Back to the Sunday Times: “For all those currently without adequate healthcare provision it will be a godsend. For those whose plans are randomly cancelled or changed just when they need them most it will offer peace of mind.”

Second-term Presidents are always looking to their legacy. Obamacare is going to be this President's legacy like it or not. He has no fall-back position – he must make it work.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Follow the Money

Money talks and bulls*** walks - Larry Stoner.

I have been racking my brain trying to remember the origin of the phrase, “Follow the Money”. Finally, I succumbed and looked it up on the ubiquitous Google. Very fittingly, in view of the real topic of this post, the quote is from the film All the President's Men – a doc-u-drama about Watergate. And the moral of the Watergate saga? When a President starts telling lies then he's in real trouble.

So, the Sunday Times this week has an article,Healthcare “lie” leaves Obama under siege, which says quite precisely that the President has lied and he's in real trouble!

President Obama -  either through carelessness, malice, incompetence or downright deceit has been forced to backtrack quickly on the Affordable Care Act (Obama-Care).

Instead of a spirited defence of his policy the President admitted he had “fumbled the ball” by unveiling a healthcare reform website beset with technical glitches.

“Yet he failed to address a more fundamental problem: millions of people had been told their existing health plans were being cancelled – despite having been promised 29 times during the battle to introduce the Affordable Care Act that ''if you like your insurance plan you can keep it''. - Sunday Times.

55% of Americans believe that he flat-out lied. Evidence that White House officials knew that millions of self-employed people would lose their existing plans, but hid this fact so that “Obamacare” could pass.

Given a chance before the media to “man-up” and admit the untruths the President resorted to a tangle of legalese instead. He ain't fooling anyone really. Hiding behind an inept administration is not going to placate those who don't like Obamacare at all and are now as happy as pigs in poop!

Without having to do anything, the President has handed them a bonus – an own goal of monumental proportions.

Under real pressure from Democrats who face mid-term elections next year, the President caved in. He announced that health insurers could extend by a year policies due to be cancelled because they did not comply with the new law.

Golly, thanks Mr President!

Just weeks after the Republican's were taking most of the flak for the government shut-down Obama throws them a life-line.

The Sunday Times thinks, “Obama's biggest challenge is that as problems mount there will be a clamour to modify the law in Congress. If they open this up for any congressional revision whatsoever, it'll be pretty much gutted. There is a good chance of it being overturned now.”

A respected polling organization believes given that Obama has more or less admitted lying getting back the trust of the people is going to be extraordinarily difficult – if not impossible.

“Joe Trippi, a veteran Democratic strategist, said he believed Republicans were afraid of Obamacare being successfully implemented because it would then become part of the fabric of the state, like the 1960's welfare programs Medicare and Medicaid, for the elderly and poor respectively.” - Sunday Times.

Another commentator said that he did not believe that the President had lied but that he had been “blissfully ignorant of the truth because it suited his political purpose.”

If that's the most charitable explanation then it really is pretty lame indeed.

So, where does this leave us and where do we go from here?

Back to the top, I'm afraid, “Follow the Money”.

Ask yourself – why were millions of people being told that their existing health plans were being cancelled?

Research required. I tried. I really tried. I managed to get to the .gov website which has simply oodles and oodles of information. So many oodles that it gave me a headache. I tried to research with Google searches outside the .gov network. Not entirely successful.

Forbes Thought Of The Day

“ Every time we have an election, we get in worse men and the country keeps right on going. Times have proven only one thing and that is you can’t ruin this country even with politics. ”
— Will Rogers

Aside from the brilliant Will Rogers quotation the best explanation which ordinary folk might be able to understand is in the Forbes article above.

I especially like this bit I have extracted from the Forbes article:

“Of course, let us not forget that candidate Obama campaigned for years promising that Obamacare would reduce the cost of family health insurance by an average of $2,500 a year. But instead of going down, the cost of health insurance has shot up. More Calculated Deception? How could anyone think that mandating slews of additional benefits that health insurance would have to provide, in addition to requiring insurers to issue new coverage to everyone at standard rates no matter how sick and costly when they first applied, would do anything but raise the cost of health insurance sharply?”

Follow the Money! I repeat, Follow the Money.

Even a little common sense should have made the voters realise that extending quality healthcare to millions of folks who previously didn't have it was going to cost big bucks.

(You can make a very good case for the voters being very stupid, but politicians are not in the business of pointing this out to their electors – for very good reasons.)

Nevertheless, that's the system.

How about, just for a change we follow the cash. Data from the WHO (World Health Organisation) - BTW if you think the WHO is a communist plot please stop reading now and go and resume digging your bunker.

In the more than 10%-ers of spending as a percentage of GDP we have Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Burundi, Canada, Costa Rica, Cuba, Denmark, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Kiribati, Lesotho, Liberia, Micronesia, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Moldova, Rwanda, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Switzerland, Tuvalu and USA.

Interesting? If we exclude the “minnows” whose large spending can be due to some very odd factors, we have Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland and the USA.

Is this some kind of exclusive club we should all aspire to join?

I'm not so sure.

Looking at a countries health spending as a proportion of all spending the USA (22.4%) is eclipsed by the Solomon Islands (23.1%) and Samoa (23.4%). Colombia is on the list at (20.1%) and Andorra comes is at a whopping 21.3%.

The USA spends 17.9 % of it's GDP on healthcare – the UK spends 9.6%.

What can we learn from these raw statistics – if anything?

Do you think the healthcare in the Solomons is about as good as the US?
Do you think the healthcare in Samoa is a bit better?
Do you think that Columbian healthcare is actually quite good?
Are the Andorrans among the most blessed folk on earth for healthcare?
Is the healthcare in the US twice as good as the UK?

I've got a “no” on all of the above. I may be wrong, but I'm from Missouri and you are going to have to show me.

I get very annoyed with folks using percentages to “prove a point”. Stop letting the stats blind you and answer a simple question – 10% of not a lot = ?? (if you said “not a lot” you are correct!)

You cannot use stats or mathematics to realistically analyse the cost of healthcare.

Why? Because the cost of healthcare is a bottomless pit. Putting it another way – the cost of healthcare in any society is going to increase as people live longer, new drugs and treatments become available (as drug companies try to recoup their costs by charging massive amounts for drugs which may (for example) provide an extra year of poor quality life for cancer sufferers), more and more people expect more and more from the system and the working (tax-paying) population decreases for simple demographic reasons.

In the Eastern Daily Press we have a senior Conservative politician saying much the same as I.

Anne Widdicombe is not a left-wing loonie. She has impeccable conservative credentials (for a British politician that is).

In the article, The NHS cannot do it all warns ex-minister, her main point is, “The NHS is not going to survive until the end of the century in the form that we know it. We've got to be grown up and recognise that.”

She goes on, “I wish people would stop thinking the NHS can deliver all it – it can't. It has never been able to provide everything and never will. The NHS is limited. It is limited in time and money. People have just got to accept that. It is no good looking for perfection in everything.”

She goes on, “We can only do what we have the resources to be able to do.

She pointed out (as I have already pointed out) hospitals never used to provide cancer care services like chemotherapy and radiotherapy as they do now. Every time they deliver one thing, another demand is put upon them. The demands are soaring towards infinity, so you will get pockets of extremely bad practice.”

She says, politicians are “frightened” of acting (Obama take note!!) because of the huge emotional attachment between the public and the NHS. (US readers do not switch off here – the kind of emotional attachment she is talking about is exactly the same as the attachment folks have for their healthcare plans – no matter how misguided. The President is rightly being pilloried for trying to break that attachment.

From a safe distance, it looks like human nature is at the root of Obama's problems. The folks who are attached to their plans are the self-employed, I believe. The Affordable Health Care Act sees some of these plans as not very good. Why? Well if you are self-employed and cost is your raison d’etre you are unlikely to have opted for a (perceived) expensive plan when you have the choice of a cheaper one. Can't really blame them.

Unless your view is that it is just irresponsible for some folks to effectively opt-out of Affordable Care – knowing full well that if the stinky-stuff hits their fan they will want someone else to pick up the pieces.

In the Western industrial societies, healthcare may be too important to let individuals irresponsibly opt-out. How we square the circle with individual freedom will tax the brains of the best of us.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Chiefs Flying High

Chiefs Sitting Pretty

As the first half of the season finishes, the Chiefs find themselves with the only unbeaten record in the NFL and with a winnable game at Buffalo next week and then the bye week things could not really be better for a team that could not beat anyone just twelve months ago.

The glory of the NFL remains intact. A very poor team from a year ago – but perhaps not quite as bad as the 2-14 record would indicate – can turn it around and sit proudly atop the rankings. How can this be, and what is even more important, can they keep it up?

Firstly the Tribe have been very lucky. It must be said. Every week we seem to run into a banged-up defence and a QB who is either a rookie or a cast-off. Meanwhile the Chiefs have had few injuries. The defence is playing out of their skins (hope they haven't peaked too soon) and the offence is adequate. The turn-over stats tell it all. Last season we gave the ball and the game away with reckless abandon.

The turn around has been as welcome as it is staggering. We keep the ball and grab turn-overs from the other guys. QB Alex Smith looks after the football, runs when he has to and completes enough passes to keep opposing defences honest. The run game is productive and new ways to get Jamal Charles involved have been found.

Result: Chiefs look a balanced team with a terrific chance to get to 9-0 with the bye week in the offing. Happy Days! Super Bowl here we come!

Not quite.

Lest we forget and get carried away, because of last year's disaster we have a very easy schedule this year. In fact the real season is the Western Division of the AFL. The six games against Denver, Oakland and San Diego will decided just how much progress has been made. We are one up on the Raiders. We have Denver in week 11 at Mile High. We have the two games against San Diego to come.

Only after we have played most of these games will a real evaluation be possible.

I did see most of the Broncos – Washington Redskins game yesterday and was quite encouraged with what I saw. The Redskins stayed with the home team for a long time – even leading at half-time. They ran the ball very effectively against the Denver defence.

True – they faded in the fourth quarter, but it does look like Denver is beatable by a team that looks after the football and can run it. We can beat the Raiders again, but it will be much closer out on the West Coast. San Diego remains an enigma. They could be good – or they could be atrocious.

Whatever happens, the combination of a new coach, Andy Reid, new management, a new proven QB and progress throughout the team means the future is looking rosy.

Whether a 2014 Super Bowl is achievable whilst questionable, but not out of the question.

US Politics

For your enjoyment my letter to the editor of the EDP (published on Monday, 28 October)


Mark Nichols, EDP Thursday, 24 October, “US Shutdown illustrates the strength of the UK system” exhibits a fundamental misunderstanding of the American system of government.

The American republic was created as a reaction to the tyranny of the UK Parliament. As such, the system was designed to make the three parts of the government equal and separate.

The Founding Fathers were determined that the rights of the states and of individuals were to be protected from arbitrary and tyrannical governments in a Parliament with no constraints on its powers – the system we still have today in the UK – except for the encroachments of European legislation.

The US shutdown simply illustrates that the system is working well; for when one part of the government puts its collective foot down, as the Congress did, then the true genius of the American political experience comes to the fore – compromise.

The system is designed to force Congress, the President and the Supreme Court to work together within an agreed framework – the Constitution.

The shutdown, whilst inconvenient for some and potentially embarrassing for many, is a far superior position than the mindless attempts to pander to the perceived public wisdom Parliamentarians are forced into by the shortcomings of the system they work under.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

A 11 Mystery

Now you see it – now you don't

Congratulations to the EDP of 22 August for providing the impressive 
overhead views of the A11 dual carriageway work between Thetford and 
Barton Mills. According to the report, the Secretary of State for 
Transport, Patrick McLoughlin was impressed with the work that had been 
carried out.

The Secretary of State is very easily impressed.

Thearticle did contain one glaring error. Preliminary work started in 
June 2012 -- not in Jan 2013 as the EDP stated. The scheduled finish 
date is Winter 2014.

I know this because for a long time I was convinced the completion date 
was December 2013 and not as it is still more than a year away.

Anyway you care to slice it, they are taking two and a half years to 
build a 9.1 mile road with one small stream to cross and one village to 
be by-passed. That's about 3 and a half months per mile! Oh, yes did I 
mention it's as flat as a pancake?

One wonders which geniuses planned this work. Surely the Elveden by-pass 
section should have been done first. It would have been opened by now - 
greatly easing the congestion and inconvenience.

I seldom travel this road, but recently went to London and back twice in 
a week. I counted the number of men working to complete this project. 
There were 4.2 men per mile. With a workforce numbering that high the 
Great Wall of China would just about be half finished!

Never mind the cost – now estimated at £102 million.  Don't forget this is for only half a carriageway – except for the Elveden by-pass section only one new carriageway will be built – the rest will utilise the existing A 11.
Today they are falling all over themselves and breaking their arms trying to pat themselves on the back because they think they might be “ahead of schedule”. What a laugh!  (Note they are still predicting a winter 2014 opening date.)  The momentous news today is they might open one section of the carriageway whilst they do some work on the other. I may be sick!
Sorry the idiots who plan the work should be shot.  The idiots who do the work are just in cahoots with the others.  “Let's drag the work out for as long as possible – we can employ far fewer workers and have lots of tea breaks.”
it's a disgrace.! 

Thursday Morning Coming Down

Lost somewhere, sometime along the way?

I woke up this morning and I was feeling bad. (Don't worry, I'm not going to grab the guitar and sing The Blues, at least not yet).

It felt as if I was living a great Blues lyric, Sunday Morning Coming Down - “Then I washed my face and combed my hair, And stumbled down the stairs to meet the day.” It was a Thursday.

I passed the central heating controls and flipped the heating on. It was May 30th. Had there been a climate change professor, a climate change Nazi, a climate change guru or a climate change capitalist with bulging pockets handy I would have gleefully chopped them up and put them on the bonfire. I could have masked the smell with sodden leaves from the garden.

Got breakfast. Heat still on. Braced myself to walk the dog. Put on my two fleeces, my scarf and my K.C. Chiefs hat and headed down the path. Dog may have preferred to go via the football club, but far too cold. Football club walk is exposed to the north wind.

Got home. Picked up the paper and turned to the weather section. The EDP is getting clever these days – burying the weather deep on page 14. It used to be on page two. Forecast for today – cloudy with high of 11 degrees. Yes, that's 52 degrees F. Wind off the North Sea at 10-20 mph. EDP page 12 headline – Grey skies fail to dampen spirits as thousands flock to Suffolk Show. (The capacity of English people to delude themselves never ceases to amaze me – this explains the “stiff upper lip” - it's frozen in that position!)

Meanwhile on page 11 comes the startling revelation that the “UK cut the most emissions across the EU in 2011”. France and Germany also cut theirs. Leader of the pack was Finland which cut emissions by 10%. Wooden spoon goes to Bulgaria whose levels rose by 9.6% in the same period. Anyone spotting a correlation here?

Back at the ranch, the EU is still in the grip of recession with millions of poor people suffering unemployment and cuts to their living standards. Any correlation here?

On page 14 we have an exciting development at the Wymondham Medical Practice. They have obtained planning permission to install a “biomass woodchip boiler to improve its green credentials”. I got confused. I stupidly thought that by burning wood (a carbon based organic material) Wymondham Medical would be adding to the greenhouse gasses. Apparently not. According to my research, burning wood does not count, because it is carbon extracted from the atmosphere in the first place to make the tree. Fossil fuels, on the other hand, are carbon based organic material extracted from the atmosphere millions of years ago. Clear? It's just a question of time – apparently.

Time to draw breath.

Only a few brave scientists and public figures question the premise that global warming (if it exists) is caused by burning fossil fuels. Their concerns are seldom, if ever, given much publicity. Humans would much rather believe that danger is imminent and we are, Dad's Army-like, “doomed”.

Recent evidence has thwarted the climate change brigade. The rise in global temperature has either stopped or slowed to a trickle in the last five years. Lot's of carbon is being burned but little seems to be causing any global warming.

So, in the midst of the coldest spring in living memory here in the UK what conclusions can we draw?

It's always been super obvious to me that putting more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is going to cause global warming. But, folks who ought to know better seem to discount the ability of Gaia to cope with fluctuations in atmospheric carbon. More carbon in the atmosphere enables more plant growth. More carbon in the atmosphere enables the oceans to absorb more and oceanic creatures to use it to build shells and coral reefs. (Not sure? Check out the White Cliffs of Dover!)

Ah, say the nutters – it's not the change that's important it's the pace of change.

Let's see, how about some historical evidence. In general the climate has been getting warmer for about the last 12 000 years. Long before any fossil fuels were being used – or even discovered. What triggered this warming? You could spend all day and give yourself a serious Excedrin Headache Number 426 in the process reading about this very question. The theories are manifold. Some might even have elements of sound thinking in them. What is beyond dispute is no-one really knows for sure. But the Ice Age did end and global temperatures began to rise. They are still rising today.

Without real evidence how about a bit of logic? Where does the heat for this planet come from? The sun. Even fervent climate-changers will agree on this. What is then the most likely source of global warming? The sun.

What can we do to obviate the global warming if the primary cause is fluctuations in the sun's radiation? Nothing.

But this does not sell newspapers.

Sine qua non.

Hope Springs - Again

Chiefs Prospects 2013-14

Another year – another chance to be optimistic, or possibly realistic, for the latest incarnation of the 65 Toss Power Trap – and if you don't know what that is then you had better find out quickly or you are no Chiefs fan!

First let's look at the team from the top down. A new General Manager – and long overdue. We shall not mention the previous incumbent except to say that his football career is over. Scott Pioli is currently an NFL informationalist for NBC Sports' Football Night in America and NBC Sports Network's Pro Football Talk. Nuff said?

John Dorsey is now the man. Hid credentials are impressive. He has overseen the draft and free agency. Now he will be judged on results.

New coach – Andy Reid – he was not my choice and I still feel that the Chiefs rushed into hiring him. He has a winning record as an NFL head coach. He has had many months to evaluate the team and oversee the draft and training camp. He must now prove that he is not a stop-gap. Poor old Romeo Crennel. I can't find his current employment on the net. He was a proven NFL coach with experience. He lost 14 games last season. Reid cannot do worse. Or could he? If he does he will be a one-hit wonder and gone before you can say Hank Stram.

On to the team – for it is the players who play, the coaches just coach.

On offense we start with the QB. One thing we did learn last season is that without an NFL QB you are not going to win games of football. To their credit the management took this on board and brought in Alex Smith from the 49ers. He is a proven QB. With the right weapons and the right system he will prosper. We all have high hopes and hopefully he will deliver. But, if not, there are some intriguing subs in the frame. Chase Daniel was brought in to be the back-up and the Chiefs ditched Ricky Stanzl – who never took an NFL snap – to sign and keep as number three QB Tyler Bray. One for the future? Apparently he is making great strides and impressing the coaches. Could be very interesting if Smith gets injured. Bottom line – the Chiefs have rightly concentrated on upgrading the QB position and have, on paper, done a good job. Unfortunately, the game isn't played on paper.

Next to the QB the most important part of the offense is the O-line. Chiefs were dreadful – if even that good – last season as the years and lack of talent caught up with them. So, they quite rightly drafted tackle Eric Fisher as the Number 1 pick in the NFL draft. Then they promptly moved him to right tackle to accommodate the returning Branden Albert. ??

The rest of the personnel are adequate. The Chiefs have to run the ball. The O-line has to be able to run block and also protect Smith. They look better. The guards look ok-ish. The center is ok-ish. The depth is a concern. If they miss out on the injury stakes and Fisher develops they could be a force in the AFL West. Fingers (and toes) are crossed.

Running back – we have a premier NFL running back in Jamaal Charles. The back-ups are beginning to look better and better. The full-back has been strengthened. If Charles stays healthy and does not have to have 25 touches a game then things look rosy in the garden.

Receivers – much has been made of the Andy Reid-type passing game, where, apparently, a nine-yard completion is a long-gainer. We may be in for a surprise. But, apart from the enigmatic Dwayne Bowe the rest of the corps looks unimpressive. Jon Baldwin – a former number one pick – never settled and departed. I can see struggles ahead for this group.

Special teams look good – possibly very good. A new coach and an emphasis on this phase of the game has brought rewards in the pre-season. Colquitt is a class act and Succop is ok – remembering that the life of an NFL kicker is fraught with crises. Look forward to a big improvement in the return game.

On to the defense. Last year they struggled simply because they could not get off the field and the offense was a “three-and-out-machine”. Improved offense will sort that one, so what are the prospects?

The front three now look more like it. Poe in the middle should benefit from a year's experience. The line-backing corps now has some depth and some skill. Look for a big improvement here as well. The Chiefs spent some time and some effort on the secondary which has been revamped. New personnel must get quickly and get better fast. The pass rush was almost non-existent last year. If this season is no different then 8-8 might be a pipe dream!

Bottom line? Chiefs will be better on defense. That's not saying too much since they could hardly be worse.

Prediction time.

NFL pundits have the Broncos as the class act in the AFL West. Some think the Chiefs might make a wild-card spot. Some see 8-8 and some improvement.

Chiefs fans are always optimists. Don't forget by finishing 2-14 we get an “easy” schedule. Manning could be over the hill? Or get injured? We need to get out of the blocks fast and see where that leads us.

Win the first two and go from there.

Hope – again – springs eternal.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Thoughts of Chairman Mal

As the summer winds down, time for some gems to ponder

If pigs could fly, we all really would carry an umbrella

The answer to “how many beans make five?” sometimes isn't five. Sometimes it's a bean, a bean and a half, two beans and a half a bean.

If you hit a golf ball out where the big dogs pee – that means in the trees.

What goes around comes around” means you should not try to pedestrianise the Thickthorn Roundabout.

The cloud that has the silver lining is usually hovering over the next village.

People who live in glass houses should not throw stones – they should buy a bazooka instead.

If someone offers to bury the hatched with you - make sure you are wearing a Kevlar helmet.

Any idiot can be a moron.

Why is there only one Monopolies Commission?

How can a fat chance and a slim chance be the same thing?

Gormlessness is not next to Godliness.

How does a gravy train move along the tracks without slipping and sliding?

Aspire to inspire before you expire.

The irony of life is that, by the time you're old enough to know your way around, you're not going anywhere.
Every morning is the dawn of a new error.

Frustration is trying to find your glasses without your glasses.

Even a dead cat bounces, but bricks don't unless you drop them on a trampoline.

Money talks: bulls**t walks.

Laziness must be next to Godliness – after all, He only ever worked for 7 days in his whole life!

Good advice: the only things ever to volunteer for are 1. Get paid 2. Go Home.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Tornado Alley

Mom Knew Best

Looking grim in Oklahoma. Big, big tornado smashes lots of homes, stores, schools.

This must be a slow news day, for SKY has had wall to wall coverage on all day. Not much else must be happening. Actually, the next day SKY have transported a crew to ?? and are reporting live and long from the scene.

About 25 people have been killed.

Meanwhile “in 2010 there were 358 murders involving rifles. Murders involving the use of handguns in the US that same year totalled 6,009, with another 1,939 murders with the firearm type unreported.” - Wikipedia

“Guns and cars have long been among the leading causes of non-medical deaths in the U.S. By 2015, firearm fatalities will probably exceed traffic fatalities for the first time, based on data compiled by Bloomberg.”

When I checked Fox News this morning they had moved on to other stories. One wonders what prompts SKY and the BBC to devote so much time to what we used to refer to as an Act of God.

Perhaps it's the absence of any real, dramatic weather events in the UK. Perhaps the SKY presenters felt they needed a holiday and even Oklahoma would do?

What can not be doubted is that tornadoes are a part of life on the Great Plains. Remember your Wizard of Oz? People who live on the Plains are used to tornado warnings and how to take shelter. Tornadoes are generally accepted as a hazard – but not a very large one. Storm warnings have greatly improved since the 1950's.

My mother was inordinately afraid of tornadoes. She was born in Massachusetts, an almost tornado -free zone and lived most of her adult life in Chicago. Not many tornadoes there either. Actually, the earliest recorded tornado in the U.S. was in 1671 in Massachusetts. Out on the Great Plains at that time there must have been many tornadoes that the Native Americans didn't chronicle. My Mother was just not cut out for Tornado Alley living.

Long before the early warning sirens went off she would study the sky for any sign of a funnel cloud – actually just the glimpse a thunder head would send her into a panic. She would stand at the door and scream at us kids to get inside and down in the basement. Meanwhile out in the street Reece and Albert would still be playing - as their Mother was, seemingly, oblivious to the imminent danger. Or, did they know something we didn't? I think it might have been the latter. The chances of a tornado killing you or destroying your house is about as great as Elvis being discovered working in a small cafĂ© in Rickmansworth.

Tornadoes are dangerous weather events, but they are quite easy to spot! And, they move relatively slowly. Also, they move in a fairly predictable direction – mostly south-east to north west. With just a little bit of warning, it's relatively easy to avoid being killed by a tornado. You may have seen many of the folks in Moore, OK emerging from their storm cellar of shelter. (Again, remember your Wizard of Oz, poor old Dorothy and Toto were unable to get into the shelter with Auntie Em and the rest of the cast because they couldn't hear her banging on the door!)

Few folks who live in Tornado Alley have no shelter. Years ago, when hundreds were killed this was not always the case. Certainly Reece and Albert didn't have one – perhaps that's what their Mom knew – no use calling them in, they may as well take their chances outside. The majority of deaths caused by tornadoes happen when people are hit by flying debris. (Even a small stone or twig travelling at 200 m.p.h. can cause a lot of damage to the human body!) Therefore we were taught that if you are caught out in the open find a ditch or a small depression and lie flat. Unless the tornado grabs you, ala Dorothy, you have a good chance of surviving.

All the years I lived in Independence, Missouri I only ever saw three tornadoes. Two were in the air and did not reach the ground. No danger there. Only one was on the ground, but it was two or three miles distant and moving away.

I did see what an F5 tornado can do. My Dad and I were delivering milk in Ruskin Heights a few days after one of the worst tornadoes ever.

44 deaths - Tornado began near Williamsburg, and moved NE through several counties. Major damage occurred in rural areas near Ottawa and Spring Hill, where homes were completely levelled and several fatalities occurred. The tornado continued into the southern suburbs of Kansas City, tearing through Martin City, Raytown, Hickman Mills, and Ruskin Heights. Entire blocks of homes were completely levelled, many of which were cleanly swept away. Many businesses including a grocery store, a shopping center, and restaurants were completely destroyed. Vehicles were thrown through the air and destroyed, and Ruskin Heights High School was badly damaged. A cancelled check from Hickman Mills was found 165 miles away in Ottumwa, Iowa.[1]

I love the bit about the check. It's another Wizard of Oz moment. Remember when the cow is seen swirling around in the tornado? The thing is tornadoes do do crazy things like that!

This excellent web page give a blow by blow account of the Ruskin Heights tornado.

The Ruskin Heights tornado was on the ground for a while. Travelling south on Noland Road past US 50 Hi-way towards Lee's Summit you can still see the scar on the land where the twister tore up the trees and bushes. I expect it's still visible after more than 50 years.

You might think that living in Tornado Alley might make people take sensible precautions.

Not necessarily so.

Lots of otherwise sensible folks put storm-cellar provision on the same level as whale manure. It's low, really low when compared to the dollars required to provide shelters. Most people keep the money and take their chances with the twisters.

Money talks. Bulls**t walks.

The loss of life is regrettable, as is the loss of any human life. How much the folks of Moore contributed to their own demise, I shall leave to my favourite web site - to work out.

What is sure – people will continue to live in Tornado Alley. Tornadoes will continueto be spawned from Super Cell storms and they will continue to kill people.

The English fascination with this meteorological phenomenon continues to baffle.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Recreational Cricket 2013

To Play or Not to Play

. . . that is the question:
Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,

Hamlet never played cricket – at least I can find no reference to it in the play and it is Shakespeare's longest drama. Actually there is not a lot of sport in Shakespeare at all which is not surprising as guns were coming into fashion and replacing the ritual archery practice that had served England so well at Crecy and Agincourt.

Although the origins of cricket are lost in the mists of time, what is certain is that it is a very old game indeed. At the recreational level teams have been playing for centuries on local, picturesque grounds where the emphasis was on fellowship, camaraderie and downing a few pints.

Many people don' realise that cricket nearly became the national summer game of the U.S. MCC toured America in the 1840's and there were many clubs founded. What changed the picture was the Civil War. Long periods between intense warfare gave the soldiers plenty of time in camp to amuse themselves. Cricket needed too much equipment and baseball was easier to contain in the time available.

“The Toronto Cricket Club was established in that city by 1827 and the St George's Cricket Club was formed in 1838 in New York City. Teams from the two clubs faced off in the first international cricket game in 1844 which Toronto won by 23 runs.[11]

A number of early folk games in England had characteristics that can be seen in modern baseball (as well as in cricket and rounders). Many of these early games involved a ball that was thrown at a target while an opposing player defended the target by attempting to hit the ball away. If the batter successfully hit the ball, he could attempt to score points by running between bases while fielders would attempt to catch or retrieve the ball and put the runner out in some way.
Since they were folk games, the early games had no official, documented rules, and they tended to change over time. To the extent that there were rules, they were generally simple and were not written down. There were many local variations, and varied names.
Many of the early games were not well documented, first, because they were generally peasant games (and perhaps children's games, as well); and second, because they were often discouraged, and sometimes even prohibited, either by the church or by the state, or both.
In 1828, William Clarke of London published the second edition of The Boy’s Own Book, which included rules of rounders, and contains the first printed description in English of a bat and ball base-running game played on a diamond.[8] The following year, the book was published in Boston, Massachusetts.[9] Similar rules were published in Boston in "The Book of Sports," written by Robin Carver in 1834,[7] except the Boston version called the game "Base" or "Goal ball." The rules were identical to those of poison ball, but also added fair and foul balls and strike-outs.

A unique British sport, known as British Baseball, is still played in parts of Wales and England. Although confined mainly to the cities of Cardiff, Newport and Liverpool, the sport boasts an annual international game between representative teams from the two countries.

That baseball is based on English and Gaelic games such as cat, cricket, and rounders is difficult to dispute. On the other hand, baseball has many elements that are uniquely American. The earliest published author to muse on the origin of baseball, John Montgomery Ward, was suspicious of the often-parroted claim that rounders is the direct ancestor of baseball, as both were formalized in the same time period. He concluded, with some amount of patriotism, that baseball evolved separately from town-ball (i.e. rounders), out of children's "safe haven" ball games.[18]
Certainly baseball is related to cricket and rounders, but exactly how, or how closely, has not been established. The only certain thing is that modern cricket is much older than modern baseball.
Games played with bat-and-ball together may all be distant cousins; the same goes for base-and-ball games. Bat, base, and ball games for two teams that alternate in and out, such as baseball, cricket, and rounders, are likely to be close cousins. They all involve throwing a ball to a batsman who attempts to "bat" it away and run safely to a base, while the opponent tries to put the batter-runner out when liable ("liable to be put out" is the baseball term for unsafe).”
What's interesting is that certainly baseball and cricket are closely related: they both involve a bat and a ball. Batsmen hit the ball and fielders attempt to catch it. There are run-outs in both games. Both games are a goldmine for those who love statistics. Both games abound and, indeed, revel in the collation of endless facts and figures.

Difficulties arise when British people assume that American Football is the national game. It is not. Baseball is. The NFL, for all its star attractions and multi-million pound players, is just the winter sport which occupies the time until the next baseball season starts.

We move on to the recreational game.

No-one likes recreational games more than I. Childhood was a constant struggle, Charlie Brown like, to get a place on the Little League baseball team. Unfortunately, I was small, could not hit the ball very far, was only an average fielder and consequently was never picked to play. We made do with endless games on any vacant lot that we could find. We played in the street with a man-hole cover for second base. We challenged kids from other neighbourhoods to games. Summers passed in a blur of side-lot whiffle ball games - where my left-handed curve ball is still the stuff of legend.

In the fall we switched to football – American Football – and Basketball. Like the David Beckham advert, we played one-on-one basketball until it got too dark to see the ball. We played sand-lot football with and against anyone who would turn up.

Of course, we watched sport on TV as well – but never to interfere with the actual playing. The NBA seemed much better in those days and the AFL/NFL rivalry, then in its infancy made compulsive viewing.

In that gentler time there were far less calls on a person's time. TV was confined to a few channels. A trip to the cinema was a real treat and one not often enjoyed. Family life revolved around the home and your relations - with the addition of, perhaps, a small circle of friends.

Recreational cricket has a long and proud history. In the beginning there was the village and every village had a team. Perhaps the local squire or landowner provided the land for a pitch (and Captained the side as well). The game at recreational level revolved around the changing demands of work on the land. So, we start about two in the afternoon, when the farm workers had finished their chores for the day. Teas were provided, for the workers had to be fed.

Things are not so gentle now.

Villages still have teams, but the link with the land has been broken. Players may come from some distance and the local squire may only survive as the owner of the cricket ground – kindly donated or let for a peppercorn rent. Players have a myriad of distractions and commitments that would baffle the agricultural cricketer.

Facebook is used as a organisational tool. But, can also be used to tempt players to other activities. Demands on family time have shifted dramatically. Whereas our grand-parents might view a day at the cricket ground as reward enough in itself– with Mum making the tea and cakes, children playing with bat and ball around the boundary and grand-parents watching from the comfort of the quaint, old pavilion on a comfy chair; modern family life is far different. Is it progress? What's for sure is - it's a fact.

Our modern recreational cricketer is doing a constant juggling act with work, family commitments and many other leisure activities not dreamed of only a generation ago. Not surprisingly his availability for the summer game is more problematical – and getting more problematical every day.

Football too has had an impact. As recently as 1975 the First Division season featured games on the last two Saturdays in August and none in May. Now the season starts about 1 August and lasts until well into May. Cricketers can sit at home and watch football with the family instead of a day out at the cricket ground. Many are choosing to do so.

Family commitments is the number one reason for not being available for cricket next week.

What's to be done?

Local cricket clubs, the ECB and County Boards need to be aware of the needs of their recreational players. Should the format change? Should Saturday or Sunday League cricket have reduced overs (say 30 a side), start at 11:00 and be consequently be over done and dusted by 5? Would this encourage more players to commit?

I think it would.

Should we be encouraging more 20/20 cricket? Yes. That's where I learned the game. In the Yarmouth Mid-week League we had two divisions and lots of very good cricketers played with their local team – even “works teams”. Now we cannot even get six teams to commit to a Mid-week programme in Yarmouth.

How about 20-20 on a Sunday? I know Colin King of the Mid-Norfolk Sunday League is a proponent of this format. His view is Saturday should be “family day”! with very little league cricket and Sunday take over the League cricket – maybe in 20-20 format.

Doing nothing is probably not an option.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Welcome to Munchkin Land

The Land that Maggie Built

Ding Dong! The Witch is dead. Which old Witch? The Wicked Witch!
Ding Dong! The Wicked Witch is dead.
Wake up - sleepy head, rub your eyes, get out of bed.
Wake up, the Wicked Witch is dead. She's gone where the goblins go,
Below - below - below. Yo-ho, let's open up and sing and ring the bells out.
Ding Dong' the merry-oh, sing it high, sing it low.
Let them know
The Wicked Witch is dead!

I was away in Brazil when Margaret Thatcher died and The Wicked Witch is Dead from The Wizard of Oz went viral.

Sounds like I missed a lot of the fun – or funny stuff if you prefer.

Let's be clear at the outset – I strongly and fervently disagreed with the policies that the Thatcher government pursued. However, she was a human being and despite her doing her best to destroy the country (two countries if you include Argentina – not to mention the EEC) she shared a common humanity with us all and, therefore it is puerile in the extreme to rejoice at her death. I believe it may have been a blessed release as she has not been well for some time.

Those who remember her governments are split into two camps. Some think she was a visionary saint, laying the foundations for the prosperity (relative) we enjoy today. Others think she was the Devil Incarnate – taking real pleasure from destroying those whom she thought either inferior or weak and powerless. For my money she was too much of the latter.

What is without dispute is that she changed the face of the country beyond what anyone thought possible. Her Francis of Assisi speech when she took power gave hope of real change, but change tempered with compassion and justice.

Her Majesty The Queen has asked me to form a new administration and I have accepted. It is, of course, the greatest honour that can come to any citizen in a democracy. I know full well the responsibilities that await me as I enter the door of No. 10 and I'll strive unceasingly to try to fulfil the trust and confidence that the British people have placed in me and the things in which I believe. And I would just like to remember some words of St. Francis of Assisi which I think are really just particularly apt at the moment. ‘Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope’

Never did a politician promise so much and deliver so little of what they promised. Those of us who lived through the Thatcher years bear testimony that she had no interest in either harmony, truth, faith (except in her own vision of how to do solve problems) or hope.

In that respect her speech rivalled the “peace in our time” utterances of Chamberlain.

I saw on the news an analysis of her terms of office and, according to the commentator, she was not responsible for closing the pits – it was Harold Wilson. I can assure you that was not the popular conception in the 80's. Wilson may have closed more pits but Maggie seemed to relish it, and that was what the people thought and many objected to. The fact is she set out to decimate the National Union of Miners, and she was extremely successful in that undertaking.

I was astonished to hear another commentator submit that she was a warm and compassionate PM. She spent vast sums in trying to alleviate the worst of the pit closures. She raised spending on welfare throughout her Premiership. Harold Wilson presided over far more pit closures.

Remember, there are lies, damn lies and then there are statistics.

According to the apologists she was just misunderstood.

She was also, they say, a firm defender of personal liberty. Hang on, I distinctly remember when the Kent miners were on their way to the Yorkshire coalfields to support fellow miners she had the police stop them at the Dartford Tunnel and turned them back. Sounds suspiciously like the Gulag mentality to me.

Not many people realise that but for the Falklands war of 1982 and the complete ineptitude of the Labour leader, Michael Foot, Mrs Thatcher would have almost certainly lost the 1983 general election. Unemployment had soared to over 3 million. The economy had been in recession for a long time.

Her determination to send the task force which eventually re-took the Falklands against almost universal advice from civil servants and her military advisers was, and remains, her finest hour. Not many Falkland islanders will have a sour word to say about Maggie. Whether that qualifies her for a state funeral is debatable.

So why, then, does she still conjure up so many feelings of distaste among so many?

I believe it was her shrill style and demeanour. In the neighbour test (would you like this person for a next-door neighbour) she scores so low as to not be measurable. Her public persona was mean-spirited, crass, uncaring and contemptuous. She seemed to relish demeaning her opponents, the general public and civil servants. Like many strong leaders (including Stalin, Hitler and Mao Tse Tung) she seemed unable to admit that there might be another way, another point of view, and some alternative reality.

In private she may have been al those things that the eulogists say she was. To a large proportion of the public she was the unacceptable face of capitalism. She was Loads-a-money personified. She made the Wicked Witch of the East look almost benign.

As Mark Antony said, “The evil that men do is oft interred with their bones. So let it be with Caesar (read Maggie, Maggie – out, out, out.)

We'll probably never see her like again – but I won't miss that!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Association Football

For those who don't take the EDP on a regular basis and, therefore, may have missed my recent letter to the editor -


If ET lands on Mousehold, I wonder what he would make of the recent EDP
articles about the dearth of football excitement at Carrow Road?

Perhaps he would conclude that these earthlings will be pushovers?

After all, one of the definitions of stupidity is doing the same thing
over and over and expecting different results. So, if the game is
boring and pointless – change the game! It's not rocket science. The
problem is most football supporters believe that the Rules of Football
came down from Sinai with Moses on tablets. Cricket and Rugby have
no such illusions. They adapt the game to meet the modern world.

Stop complaining and do something about it!

So, what could realistically be done? Unfortunately, there is not much that could be done that could be described as realistic. Why?

One word – FIFA.

“FIFA is the international governing body of association football, futsal and beach soccer. Its membership comprises 209 national associations. Its headquarters are in Zurich, Switzerland, and its president is Sepp Blatter. FIFA is responsible for the organisation of football's major international tournaments, notably the World Cup.

The laws that govern football, known officially as the Laws of the Game, are not solely the responsibility of FIFA; they are maintained by a body called the International Football Association Board (IFAB). FIFA has members on its board (four representatives); the other four are provided by the football associations of the United Kingdom: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, who jointly established IFAB in 1882 and are recognised for the creation and history of the game. Changes to the Laws of the Game must be agreed by at least six of the eight delegates.”

I suggest that not many people know this. I didn't until I looked it up. (I'm assuming that Wikipedia are correct here!)

Still my contention holds true.

“The role of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) is to discuss and decide upon proposed alterations to the Laws of the Game. FIFA and the UK-based associations (English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish FAs) can propose matters to be discussed and ratified at the Annual General Meeting (AGM), which usually takes place in February or March.

These meetings take place in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in strict rotation, as well as locations decided by FIFA in years when the FIFA World Cup™ is held. A representative of the 'host' association acts as chairman. The same country also acts as hosts for the Annual Business Meeting (ABM) which takes place in September or October.

Although the ABM can consider general business submitted to the Board by any of the continental confederations or any of FIFA’s 208 Member Associations and provide decisions, it does not have the authority to alter the Laws of the Game.

More about the AGM

Each of the IFAB members can forward in writing suggestions or proposed alterations to the Laws of the Game, requests for experimentation to the Laws of the Game and other items for discussion to the secretary of the association hosting the meeting by 1 December of the preceding year. This is then printed and distributed by 14 December. If any amendments or alterations need to be made to the initial proposal, the deadline to do this is 14 January, as topics for discussion are printed and distributed to the members of IFAB on or before 1 February.

More about the ABM

Each of the IFAB members can forward any proposals, requests for experimentation regarding the Laws of the Game and other items for discussion in writing to the secretary of the host association, at least four weeks before the date of the meeting. Any confederation or other member association of FIFA may forward proposals, requests or items for discussion in writing to FIFA’s Secretary General, in good time to ensure that they can be considered by FIFA and, if acceptable, forwarded to the secretary of the host association at least four weeks before the meeting.

Voting and decision making

FIFA has four votes on behalf of all its affiliated member associations. The other associations of the IFAB each have one vote. For a proposal to succeed, it must receive the support of at least three-quarters of those present and entitled to vote. The decisions of the Annual Business Meeting of the Board shall be effective from the date of the meeting, unless agreed otherwise.

The decisions of the AGM of the IFAB regarding changes to the Laws of the Game shall be binding on confederations and member associations as from 1 July following each AGM. However, confederations or member associations whose current season has not ended by 1 July may delay the introduction of the adopted until the beginning of their next season. No alteration to the Laws of the Game can be made by any confederation or member association unless it has been passed by the Board.

Sorry, is it me? The two highlighted sections seem to be mutally exclusive. Have I missed something? Can someone enlighten me, please.

Before I lose you completely, this seems to be the most important point in any exploration of how to make football a better game. The FIFA and IFAB websites are full of the momentus news that the introduction of goal-line technology is imminent – or sort of, kind of, maybe. I can find no references to anyone exploring ideas to make the game more relevant, exciting and fair. Looks like I'm on my own again.

This brings us neatly back to the “down from Sinai” argument and how other sports deal with the governing laws. In my original letter to the editor I mentioned cricket and rugby. Interestingly both sports are about as old as football – a least in the codifying of the laws.

“The work to draw up the first rules of Rugby football started on 25 August 1845 and ended on 28th August. The work was done by three senior pupils at Rugby School after they received instructions to codify the game of Football.”

There is a very good resource on the web site:

What is clear is that the Rugby laws have been consistently updated and continue to be revised almost every year.

The story in cricket is generally the same - “The basic rules of cricket such as bat and ball, the wicket, pitch dimensions, overs, how out, etc. have existed since time immemorial. In 1728, the Duke of Richmond and Alan Brodick drew up Articles of Agreement to determine the code of practice in a particular game and this became a common feature, especially around payment of stake money and distributing the winnings given the importance of gambling.[7]

In 1744, the Laws of Cricket were codified for the first time and then amended in 1774, when innovations such as lbw, middle stump and maximum bat width were added. These laws stated that the principals shall choose from amongst the gentlemen present two umpires who shall absolutely decide all disputes. The codes were drawn up by the so-called "Star and Garter Club" whose members ultimately founded MCC at Lord's in 1787. MCC immediately became the custodian of the Laws and has made periodic revisions and recodifications subsequently.

In modern times the Body Line series forced a change in the Laws to take account of “leg theory”, thereby consigning Jardine's attempts to nullify Bradman to the scrap heap. The introduction of DRS has further brought the game into the 21st Century. (Interestingly, I can remember moves in the 80's to somehow nullify the West Indies all-pace attacks of that era. They were quite rightly resisted. - aside – I wonder how the Don might have fared faced with Michael “Whispering Death” Holding, Joel “Big Bird” Garner, Andy Roberts and Colin Croft – I suspect he would have scored runs but his average would have truly suffered.)

Summing up: my contention that those (perceived) hide-bound and traditional sports, rugby and cricket, embrace change where it is likely to improve the game – both for players and spectators. So, why should football be different?

I contend that it should not, and there are a few things that could easily be done to improve the game and not critically affect the way it is played.

There have been experiments in football. Tinkering with the off-side rule, messing with the goal-keepers options, etc. do not actually lead to more goals, which is, the point of the game – to score goals.

Here is something simple that would lead to more goals and not affect the fundamentals of the game. Make the goals bigger.

Don't forget the size of the goals and pitch were set when equipment and players were far different. Why not update? Add 30 cms to the height of the goals. Add 60 cms (30 each side) to the width of the goals. Result? Better game with more goals.

Complaints about the different referring decisions in different countries should be investigated. Referees should apply the laws in the penalty area – not just in other area of the pitch. Players should be booked for feigning injury – it's a form of cheating.


Are these fundamental changes? I contend not. Is this changing the nature of the game? I contend not. Are the authorities even considering anything like this? I suspect not. Why?

See all of the above.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Richard III

made glorious summer by this Son of York

Continuing where I left off explaining my love affair with Shakespeare: Richard III is probably the most difficult of Shakespeare's well-know plays for the modern audience to understand fully.

I account for my expertise with Richard purely by chance. I don't remember studying another play between Caesar and Richard. So, I was still quite inexperienced when I first tried to make sense of it. Now, it is a firm favourite.

It is often produced on stage and in film - with the Laurence Olivier film version probably the best known to the general public. The complexity of the play arises chiefly because without an intimate knowledge of The War of the Roses (which, of course, Shakespeare's audience almost certainly had) the action and the relationships between the characters is not very easy to follow.

Sitting down with just the text to guide you is poor fare indeed. Although Richard is very much the focus, characters come and go, or are mentioned, without any textual clues to their background, relationships, families or importance. The Dramatis Personae is not much help either:

King Edward the Fourth

Edward, Prince of Wales, [afterwards King Edward V], son to the King

Richard, Duke of York

George, Duke of Clarence, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, [afterwards King Richard III], brothers to the King

A young son of Clarence

Henry, Earl of Richmond, [afterwards King Henry VII]

Cardinal Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury

Thomas Rotherham, Archbishop of York

John Morton, Archbishop of Ely

Duke of Buckingham

Duke of Norfolk

Earl of Surrey, his son

Earl Rivers, brother to Elizabeth

Marquis of Dorset and Lord Grey, sons to Elizabeth

Earl of Oxford

Lord Hastings

Lord Stanley, called also Earl of Derby

Lord Lovel

Sir Thomas Vaughan

Sir Richard Ratcliff

Sir William Catesby

Sir James Tyrrel

Sir James Blount

Sir Walter Herbert

Sir Robert Brakenbury, Lieutenant of the Tower

Christopher Urswick, a priest

Second Priest

Tressel and Berkeley, gentlemen attending on the Lady Anne

Lord Mayor of London. Sheriff of Wiltshire

Elizabeth, Queen to King Edward IV

Margaret, widow of King Henry VI

Duchess of York, mother to King Edward IV

Lady Anne, widow of Edward Prince of Wales (son to King Henry VI) [afterwards married to Richard]

A young Daughter of Clarence

Ghosts of those murdered by Richard III, Lords and other Attendants; a Pursuivant, Scrivener, Citizens, Murderers, Messengers, Soldiers, &c.


I thought so. What's needed here is a genealogical table coupled with a synopsis of who likes/hates/loves who.

When you get to the “winter of discontent” opening speech you better have some idea of not only the above; but also of 15th century English social mores. Without it you are going to be lost after scene one – if not sooner. As Clarence, his brother, is carted off to the Tower, it's hard to see why Richard is so happy; until you realise that the thoroughly despicable Duke of Gloucester is cheerfully plotting the downfall of his brother the King and his brother Clarence is in the way, “I intend to prove a villain” is quite clear but the reasons are very enigmatic.

The scene where Richard woos Anne (who spends most of the scene spitting at him) seems incomprehensible to modern audiences until you realise Anne really has no choice in the matter. Richard's contention that “I will have her, but I will not keep her long” seems all the more evil Anne being so distraught because she knows she will have to marry him no matter what she thinks.

Another possibility which might have appealed to an Elizabethan audience may be the many pragmatic reasons why Anne would consent to this unwanted marriage - “a woman alone at court needs a protector - there is a sense in which she wants to believe in his passion, wants to think of herself as the salvation of a "bad" man who will be converted by the love of a good woman.” (Garber p. 142) No matter how convincingly we theorise, it is still very obtuse to a modern audience and no matter how I tried to explain it to today's teenagers it just didn't, and doesn't, really make any sense.

One good thing about my study of Richard was the wider reading I was exposed to, particularly The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. Using the novel genre she examined the validity of the Tudor propaganda which destroyed Richard's reputation after his death. All very interesting, but it is wise to remember that even Shakespeare was a prisoner of his time and, in particular, was using contemporary sources for his inspiration.

His drama is not a history and even the Richard III Society would agree that Richard III is an excellent play if a poor history.

It's still one of my all-time favourites.


The confirmation that the body found in a Leicester car park is indeed that of King Richard II give yet more fuel to the campaign to re-establish his reputation.

But, overcoming Shakespeare's characterization will continue to be difficult.