Friday, July 21, 2006

21 July 2006: Materazzi

FIFA deliver their verdict.

And yes, Marco Materazzi has been banned for two games and fined £2,710 for being headbutted by Zinedine Zidane. Officially the reason is for 'provoking' Zidane: the fact remains, without the head-butt, Materazzi would not have been punished. Zidane has a three-match ban, academic as he has retired from football. So Materazzi is the only one who gets punished for this action.

Reminds me a little of the 1990 World Cup second-round game between Germany and Holland, where Frank Rijkaard spat on Rudi Voller, and both players got sent off, the referee deciding it is obviously against the laws of the game to be spat upon.

Ah well. Back in the real world, it occurs to me that H-Index scores are higher in those people producing fewer papers. Even my modified H-Index still seems to end up favouring those who've published just a small number of papers. Which, arguably, is the point (why flood the scientific world with pointless papers just to get publishing numbers up?) but, as it's 'arguable', it's hard to prove one way or the other. Which is a shame, because the more I look at it, the more I like the modified H-Index as a means of measuring scientific influence.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

13 July 2006: Investigation

FIFA have announced they're going to launch disciplinary proceedings and a full investigation against Marco Materazzi, after he was head-butted by Zinedine Zidane in the World Cup final on Sunday.

Thing is, if Zidane hadn't physically assaulted Materazzi, no action would have been taken and nobody would have known about it.

In other words, FIFA are making it clear that not only is such physical violence excusable (as in: 'yeah, he did it, but there was a reason for it') but that if you want to bring verbal abuse to their attention, the way to do so is to head-butt the person who insulted you.

So why aren't they investigating Christiano Ronaldo on Wayne Rooney's behalf then?

Monday, July 10, 2006

10 July 2006: News

Gotta love Google News, especially their glorious impartiality regarding which newspaper report comes top of their search list. Just did a search for 'Zidane' to see what impact the head-butt is having (aside from the substantial impact it made on Materazzi's chest, of course) and it was somehow pleasing to see the top result was from The Hindustan Times from India, not my normal source for football info.

Of course, in the time it took me to write this blog, the results have changed: ABC Online from Australia are now the top story, a transcript of a radio interview with reporter Steve Marshall who begins all his sentences with either "well, look" or "yeah, look".

No, wait, it's changed again: it's now SuperSoccer from South Africa at the top, their story making very clear that Zidane got 'player of the tournament' because the votes were cast (1) by the media and (2) before he was sent off.

No, hang on, now the Hindustan Times is at the top again. No, now it's Bloomberg. No, it's the South Africans again. No, now it's The Times Of India. No...

Hm, I wonder how Google News decide which story comes top?

Postscript: Update from the legendary Blogger spell-check suggester: SuperSoccer should be replaced with SuperEgo, it suggests. Maybe it's smarter than we first thought...

Saturday, July 08, 2006

8 July 2006: Doomsday

Ah well.

So the Genesis Ark was a Dalek prison created by the Time Lords, the Daleks were indeed hiders from this universe, the Cybermen presented no threat at all (in fact, they did little in the entire episode apart from some semi-humorous dialogue), it's all solved by closing the dimensional rift and hey, that's that. On the upside, the ending at least isn't much of a cliff-hanger.

Now, back to Text Twist...

Friday, July 07, 2006

7 July 2006: Exterminate

Just one day to go before the season finale of Doctor Who...

So what is in the Genesis Ark? What's going to happen between the Daleks and the Cybermen? How will Rose die? Will Captain Jack make a pre-Torchwood appearance? And why has series creator Russell T. Davies already told us there will be a cliffhanger ending, given that we're not going to have any more Doctor Who before Christmas?! (How frustrating is that going to be?)

Lots of websites with lots of theories, as usual floating around the idea of 'which old character will they bring back' (Davros, Cassandra, The Master, take your pick). Personally I don't know, but I know what I would like to happen...

Firstly, while the Cybermen and the Daleks are both clearly nasty, deadly enemies of The Doctor, it is equally clear that the Cybermen are no match for the Daleks. The Cybermen are upgraded humans who want to upgrade the rest of humanity (and, from the trailers we've seen this week, they'd also like to upgrade the rest of the universe); the Daleks are extremely fascist ethnic-cleansers whose mission originally was to rid Skaro of their enemies, the Thals: in doing so, they were programmed to exterminate all non-Daleks, which has been their mission ever since. So, in essence, the Cybermen have no beef with the Daleks and are really more interested in humanity, while the Daleks are going to be wanting to destroy the Cybermen because they're not Daleks. So, I don't see an alliance forming like the Cybermen propose in the trailer.

Then there's the question of technology: the Cybermen, stated The Doctor last week, don't have the technology to create anything like a void-travelling sphere. The Daleks do. The Daleks also mastered rudimentary time-travel (time corridors rather than the full 'Eye Of Harmony' Omega stuff that the Time Lords have/had), teleportation, collective consciousness and a bunch of other stuff. They're way beyond the Cybermen. Flat-out no contest who would win in a special Doctor Who edition of Celebrity Death Match.

But then, and this is my favourite idea, is the question of where these Daleks came from. It seems to me that the phrase 'Genesis Ark' will refer in some form or other to Davros (whether or not he personally appears) since 'Genesis of the Daleks' was the story that introduced us to Davros and told us the history of how the Daleks came about. Has to be linked. But: are these Daleks a bunch from 'our' universe that hid in the sphere in the void to avoid destruction in the Time War (and by Rose at the end of the Bad Wolf stuff last year)? Or, given the 'cannonball' analogy from last week's episode, are these Daleks from the 'other' universe (the universe of Cybermen, Rickey, living Pete Tyler etc) who blasted through to this one? If that is the case, then that would mean Daleks exist in that universe. Meaning no Time War. Meaning the Time Lords still exist there too. And that's where I'd like the story to go.

I doubt it will. I expect the Daleks are void-hiders and the Doctor will have to sacrifice Rose to destroy them, same as he had to sacrifice the Time Lords to destroy them in the Time War. Wouldn't surprise me to see Captain Jack come along to help out, and also be the companion in the Christmas episode. We shall see, tomorrow evening.

And to give this blog entry some PhD relevance: had an idea last night about using modified h-factors as a more effective means of measuring influence. Also, the latest SPARQL web service I made responds to the standard question 'search names: All' by returning one paper, "Using Robotic Tele-Embodiment to Bring Insects Face-to-Face with Humans", authored by someone named Stacy All.

A little reprogramming required, methinks.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

5 July 2006: Post-charismatic

Unusual for me to put up two posts in one day, but I read Billy Kennedy's blog and a link from it to an article called 'Post-charismatic' by Rob McAlpine and felt the need to both link to it and offer some kind of response.

At the very least, it filled my lunchtime quite comfortably. Makes numerous excellent points although I wondered if there was too much emphasis on the 'authority' movements/problems (all valid points though). One of the most balanced articles I've read though, apart from that bit.

Reminded me of two things: firstly, when in Toronto we asked Steve Long and the TACF team what mistakes they made along the way: the answer, given very quickly, was that they'd sacrificed small groups in favour of revival meetings almost without realising it (1994), and before they knew it (1997), huge swathes of the original church had left AND there was no place to disciple the new folks, hence they went with Jethro and then G12. (Interesting G12 doesn't come into the 'what is a leader' discussion.)

Secondly, 'post-charismatic' is a definition not of what you are, or what you aren't, but simply what you used to be. So.. I find I identify with some of what he says, in the same way as I identified with some of Tomlinson's 'Post-evangelical', but I didn't feel the name-tag meant anything much if I did apply it to myself. Which is probably good (pigeon-holing isn't a good thing I think?) but it meant that Rob's article (some might say thesis) to me was more about history and disaffection with certain practices within the charismatic movement rather than being something I could identify with to the point of saying, 'hey, that's me he's talking about'. (Which a lot of people did with the Post-Evangelical thing). And that's the thing, I didn't want it to be about an alternative paradigm...

Which was why I struggled towards the end when he went into scripture-quoting mode: people do this when they're proposing an alternative view and want some back-up to it. I felt one of the best comments in the article was when he said that if you took a person who'd never read scripture before and put them in a room and told them to read and understand the Bible, they would not come out a cessationist, nor would they come out a rampantly name-and-claim prosperity gospellist. So I didn't feel there was a need for a 'reconstructing the praxis' section as much as just saying "look, here's a few problems people have had, let's see what God has to say about it" (and leaving that up to us, rather then telling us what he thinks God is saying about it!)

And the biggest issue is just that: I just mentioned the word 'God' for the first time in this blog entry. Amazing how much we can discuss theology, history, movements, problems, heresy, self-identification with groups and all that stuff without actually mentioning God. Makes me wonder, whether you're an atheist, theist, pantheist, whatever, how many 'church' things would be exactly the same whether or not God existed. It's so often just a show, or it's in our own strength, or it's on our own initiative. Where's God in all this? Because frankly if God's not in a thing, I want nothing to do with it, whether or not it has minor doctrinal points correct.

Finally, there's (of course) the usual delineation between the touchables and untouchables of Christian writing: funny how nowadays nobody is allowed to ever question the theological views of the likes of CS Lewis, John Stott, AW Tozer and increasingly, Richard Foster (it's like their stuff is Bible Canon) while the usual suspects of John Wimber, Peter Wagner, John Paul Jackson and even David Watson are always up for attack, ranked right alongside the likes of Jimmy Swaggart. I have no point to make here, I'm just saying it's an interesting observation.

Sheesh. Now how do I get SPARQL AJAX services and semiometrics into that kind of discussion?

5 July 2005: Brief

Naturally, Graham Hiley's article has been pulled from the Official Site.

The freedom of the press was brief, interesting and brief: the relevant SaintsForever thread covers the event as much as can be expected from a bunch of people who have no real idea why it was pulled. Best guess seems to be it broke a non-disclosure agreement between Rupert Lowe and the new board concerning raking over the old coals, so it had to come down. But in all honesty, nobody knows. The real question is: will we see another Hiley Controversial article? (Answer: yes, when the season starts and he's allowed to question things like goalkeeper selection).

In other developments, 4th July was great fun - we spent Independence Day in London (the one place in the world where you'd expect there to be no celebrations on such a day, apart possibly from Pyongyang), the highlight of which was the Duck Tour. I don't care if you don't like military vehicles and stupid tour commentaries: next time you're in London, do this!

Finally, a note from McDougal pointing out that this blog ends up in the strangest of places: 'Google Finance' has a page on Southampton Leisure Holdings plc and guess who's there as one of the top three blog sites related to it? Sheesh, when I started this it was supposed to be a diary about doing a PhD and now it's turned into a financial services heavyweight. Maybe I need to start talking about semiometrics a little more...

Postscript: Yet again Blogger's spellcheck astounds. Not sufficient that it continues to not recognise the word 'blog', it now refuses to recognise the name of its parent company, Google: apparently I should be using the word 'joggle' instead. Like that's a real word.

Monday, July 03, 2006

3 July 2006: Controversial

One consequence of the change of regime at St Mary's is the freeing-up of the Official Site, which in recent weeks had become the home of propaganda that would make Goebbels proud and maybe a little jealous.

Webmaster and editor Graham Hiley, formerly of the (usually critical) Daily Echo, used to write a column on the official website called 'Hiley Controversial' when he'd have a rant about the team, the tactics and even the management. That vanished some time ago, along with balanced reporting, any sense of independence and, in the nearest thing to 'protest' that Hiley could manage, the withdrawal of his 'By Graham Hiley' line at the top of most articles. On Friday, the by-line re-appeared in the first post-Lowe article, and today the reappearance of 'Hiley Controversial' has allowed Hiley the opportunity to speak reasonably openly about the censorship he'd had forced upon him during the previous few weeks and months. As usual with Hiley, there's a lot to read and even more to read between the lines, but it's fairly clear: he, for one, is happy with the change, and that's a good sign as far as I can tell.

The whole thing reminded me of a strange event that occurred in late August of 1991. This was before the final break-up of the Soviet Union and Gorbachev was still in power. At the time, I'd bought a short-wave radio which brought the joys of dull international stations to my quiet teenage Devon life, and of these stations, the most dull (and most easily receivable) was Radio Moscow. Filled with news and documentary programmes about the history of Tatarstan farming and Siberian peat-burning, Radio Moscow seemed to serve one purpose: a sleep-aid, guaranteed addiction-free.

Then one day, sometime after I returned from a visit to Atlanta and sometime before the final Test Match of the summer against Sri Lanka, it was reported that President Gorbachev had been placed under house arrest by a communist-based group who had seized control of the Kremlin and therefore the former USSR in a swift coup. Immediately I turned on Radio Moscow to hear, to my surprise, classical music. A lot of it, without interruption. I kept listening as the BBC teletext service and UK-based radio stations continued to report details of the coup, and of Gorbachev's imprisonment, and eventually we reached the top of the hour. Station ident, stating of time in Moscow and UTC, and the news.

"And now, a news flash. According to the article 1277 of the USSR constitution, Vice-President of the USSR Gennadii Yanaev took office from Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev because Gorbachev is unable to perform his Presidential duties for health reasons. At this time, Radio Moscow continues to bring you highlights from Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto Number One in B-Flat minor..."

Over the following days the tension grew. We saw on television Boris Yeltsin rallying the crowds of Russians gathering outside the Russian (as opposed to Soviet) government buildings.

"The official Moscow news agency reports that President Gorbachev has been taken slightly ill while on holiday in Crimea, and will be delaying his return to Moscow. However, he is quite safe and well. A state of emergency has been declared in certain parts of the USSR according to article 1273 of the USSR constitution..."

We hear reports of Yeltsin wooing and commandeering the military to join the Russian side rather than the coup-leaders.

"There have been no defections," reported Radio Moscow, a defence ministry spokesman being interviewed. "These rumours have been spread to sow discord among the ranks."

President Yeltsin, with the support of regional CIS leaders, presents final demands to Yanaev and the coup leadership demanding their withdrawal from the Supreme Soviet, the removal of troops from Moscow and Leningrad and an immediate, personal visit with President Gorbachev. And, interestingly, the removal of restrictions on the Russian media. He stands on a tank in front of the Russian White House, publicly in defiance of the coup-plotters and their military stance. Thousands of Russians flock to his side, yielding support that never left him during his later years as President.

"We continue with Tchaikovsky's 'Nutcracker', Opus seventy-one."

The coup collapsed. The leaders fled. Gorbachev returned to Moscow, and Radio Moscow was suddenly free to report his words: "This is a great victory for perestroika." And before you knew it, we were back to the regular diet of farming reports, balalaika recitals and dubious ethnic conflicts on Radio Moscow, and I switched over to listen to RTL instead.

Of course, the problem was that within days, Yeltsin forced Gorbachev to dissolve the USSR and suddenly it was the Russian government who had taken over the Kremlin instead. Not that I'm suggesting that that's what will happen to Michael Wilde and co, just that they should watch it out for strange Russian men with white hair and rather-too-rosy cheeks.

Meantime Graham Wiley is back at the official Saints site, and don't you forget it.