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Ron Obvious

Profile Information

Gender: Male
Current location: Seattle
Member since: Tue Dec 13, 2011, 10:37 PM
Number of posts: 2,417

About Me

I got the nickname Ron Obvious because -- in addition to being a huge Python fan -- my name really is Ron and I used to start sentences with \"Obviously\" a lot. Obviously, that\'s no longer a problem.

Journal Archives

Grandpa was always proud to show his large erections to anyone.

Like this one, for example:



That's the water tower in the town of Eibergen in the Netherlands, right on the border with Germany. During the early 1930's, my grandfather was an itinerant bricklayer who left his family and travelled the continent on his motorcycle looking for work. This water tower was one of his jobs, and I just passed it today. It seems to be in excellent condition, which is more than you can say for my grandfather who's been dead for decades.

It was nice to see and touch a link with the past like that.

So the doc prescribed these fancy 'suppository' pills...

So the doc gave me these fancy 'suppository pills' for my complaint. I don't know what 'suppository' means, but they tasted terrible and for all the good they did me I might as well have shoved them up my arse.

Modern medicine, pfffft!

Memories of Napster...

While backing up some files from an old hard drive recently, I came across some mp3 files I had downloaded off Napster back in the day. Since they were all timestamped, it was amusing to look at them in chronological order.

I embarked on my life of crime by downloading music I already owned on 45's or LP's, and which I couldn't find on CD anywhere. I justified these act of profound villainy to my then unhardened conscience by reminding it that I had already paid for the rights to listen to that music, and weren't the record companies telling us it was all about rights and not physical property?

I still recall the thrill of finding these, often poorly transcoded, songs through my 56Kb dial-up connection to the internet. It's almost as much fun to see these filenames and timestamps now as finding them itself was back then. It's like looking at diary entries.

On August 6, 2000, I must have risen early because at 6:20 AM, I downloaded the Sparks' "This Town Aint Big Enough for the Both of US":



Later that day, I picked up "I'd Rather Go Blind" by Chicken Shack.



And then Slade's "Look wot you dun":



At the end of the day (10:37 PM), by now thoroughly steeped in sin and bound for perdition, I finally picked up Queen's "Killer Queen", which I easily could have bought legitimately, but I told myself that I already owned it on a scratchy LP after all, so why did I have to? Ah, the road to Hell and all that:



All music from the early seventies, which must have been where my head was that day in August, 2000. Those were good times -- both of them.


Why computers and AI will probably never be able to fully understand human communications

I have a friend who is a bit of a Yoga Berra in that he says things in an odd way sometimes, but you usually know exactly what he means.

Yesterday he told me: "I'm really upset with my girlfriend because she deceived me. Last week she told me she'd cheated on me. <pause> Now I find out that that wasn't true".

OK, you know what he means, right? But how would a computer parse that sentence? What's he upset about exactly? Understanding human communications requires up-to-date cultural knowledge, and not just an understanding of grammar and vocabulary because it's so ambiguous.

Compare these two sentences:

Yesterday I saw a movie with my neighbour Fred.
Yesterday I saw a movie with Bruce Willis.

Grammatically, these sentences are the same but they probably mean different things, right? Now, it is just possible that Bruce Willis is a pal of mine I go to the pictures with, and it is also just possible that my neighbour Fred is a movie star. If I were a celeb myself, you might consider either of those statements as likely, but as I'm Joe Ordinary, they're highly unlikely.

Think of how much a computer or robot would have to know to parse those two ordinary sentences correctly. Now what if I'd said:

Yesterday I saw a movie with Marilyn Monroe. This time there's only one way to parse that sentence because Marilyn Monroe is dead. But what if the statement had been made in 1960? Or in 1944 before she was famous? Each such factor that influences the interpretation of the sentence is easy for humans to interpret, but very difficult for computers who don't even know what questions to ask.

For some reason this was something I was thinking about while I lay awake last night.

My Favourite Newspaper Correction of all time.

"In one edition of today's Food Section, an inaccurate number of jalapeño peppers was given for Jeanette Crowley's Southwestern Chicken Salad recipe. The recipe should call for two, not 21, jalapeño peppers."

As quoted in Richard Lederer's 'More Anguished English', one of the funniest books of all time. I once gave the books to a friend dying in hospice care. He laughed so hard, he tore the stitches from his most recent operation.

So Weird: I had a dream within a dream last night

I thought this sort of thing only happened on TV or in the movies.

I was experiencing a terrifying, intense nightmare. I won't satisfy the now salivating Freudians by describing it, but Steven King could have written the script.

Then I woke up, startled, and relieved to find it was just a dream. I looked at the alarm clock. It was 2:30. I sighed and said to my wife: "I was having a nightmare". "I know", she replied, "I heard you screaming." There was a strange woman wearing a bathrobe in the corner of the room, but that fact didn't strike me as odd at the time. Suddenly, I smelled cigarette smoke. "There's someone in this room", I said, and then the same horrors from my nightmare starting happening for real.

Then I woke up, startled, and relieved to find it was just a dream. I looked at the alarm clock. It was 3:40. I sighed and said to my wife: "I was having a nightmare". "I know", she replied, "I heard you screaming."

As far as I know I'm operating in the outer layer of reality still.

I can't begin to describe how absolutely weird that was. All the details of our bedroom and furniture were absolutely correct in the middle dream.

Anyone ever experience anything similar?

EC 2012 predictions: Group D

This sport makes idiots of all prognosticators, but encouraged by the exactly-equal-to-chance nature of my earlier predictions, I'm going to add group D for completeness sake. I was also working with outdated squad information from uefa's website and therefore missed that Puyol was going to be missing for Spain and that Czeszny was Poland's number 1 keeper. As before, all corrections, etc, etc...

Group D contains the other host nation, Ukraine as well as Sweden, and will start off with the always interesting England - France.

Sweden

Sweden finished second to Holland in their qualifying campaign and managed a creditable victory over them. It should probably be mentioned that that match was a dead rubber for the Dutch at that stage. As best 2nd-place finisher (I really hate these mathematically ugly and - above all - unfair inter-group comparisons, btw), they qualified without having to play a play-off match. Managed by Erik Hamrén, Sweden are usually competent but rarely threaten to reach to final stages of the tournament. Of course, at the Euro's anything could happen. Keeper Andreas Isaksson has had an indifferent season at his club PSV, who threatened to replace him with Polish penalty-stopping hero Tyton, and he could be a weak spot. Up front, loveable nut and Karate-kicking psychopath Ibrahimovich is their one true world-class player. He's also a bit of a flat-track bully who tends to disappear in big matches, so you never quite know what to expect of him. Isaksson's PSV team mate, Toivonen is also a competent goal scorer.

Ukraine

As co-host, Ukraine did not have to qualify, and I find it difficult to assess their prospects. Home advantage will presumably help, but I don't even know how much the country will be behind them. Ukraine is really two countries: a Russian-speaking East and a Ukrainian-speaking west, who don't seem to particularly like each other. One likes to think a good cup run might help with that. Being a recently independent country, their international pedigree is understandably short, consisting only of a quarter final appearance at the 2006 WC, arrived at after a series of eyeball-bleedingly boring performances. As the team are managed again by the same man in charge then, Oleg Blokhin, this does not offer a lot of hope for scintillating football this time around. Oleg Blokhin stresses fitness and discipline over individual skill, which is odd, because it's completely opposite from his demeanor as a player. He was a tremendously gifted footballer from the great Dynamo Kiev sides of the 70's, who disguised his essential laziness by relying on his exceptional skills. Maybe it's the Lobonovsky influence. I know little about their current players, but I do have to wonder about their goal-scoring threat considering that Voronin and 78 year old Shevchenko are likely to feature up front.

England

England arrive at a major tournament with probably the lowest expectations ever. Frankly, that can only be a good thing. When expectations are high, a rabid tabloid press back home will do anything in their power to whip up frenzy at the slightest sign of weakness. Low Point: picture of Steve McLaren's children bearing the caption: 'These are the Children of a Loser'. It's no secret that the press corps wanted their mate Harry Redknapp to be the England manager and they are already restless after the appointment of Roy Hodgson. In fact, one can easily imagine the headlines if things come unstuck against France and Sweden: "Tewwible!", "Not Good Enough, Woy!", "Turnips vs Swedes... Again!", "Welease Woy! (from his contract)". Ahh, the joys of being an England manager, eh?

The squad is ravaged by injuries and suspensions. Lampard and Cahill are out with recent injuries, and Rooney is suspended for the first two matches (Stupid Boy!). Joe Hart is the undisputed number 1 keeper, which is refreshing after Capello's mishandling of the keeper position in South Africa, and John Terry is preferred in the back to Rio Ferdinand for 'purely footballing reasons'. Steven Gerrard, who has never quite replicated club form for country, is captain but the inclusion in midfield of his Liverpool team mate Stewart Downing is frankly puzzling. Up front, Andy Carroll is preferred to Peter Crouch, should a switch to 'hoof it to the big man' tactics be needed. Young Oxlade-Chamberlain might come off the bench, while it is hoped that Theo Walcott will up his usual '1 great game in 4' ratio.

France

Like Italy, France alternate between ignominious first round exits and threatening for the title. The rightly-disliked Domenech is gone, replaced by Laurent Blanc for the manager position. He's got a squad of big names at his disposal: Lloris in goal, Evra, Mexes, Debuchy in back, Perpetually-scowling Ribery, Nasri and Malouda in the middle and Benzema up front. With players like that, it seems France ought to be a shoe-in to win the group, but then you never do know with France, do you?

Predictions:

June 11

England - France 0-0. An oddly-subdued game which will leave neither side terribly disappointed. England fans singing the theme from 'The Great Escape' give it up as a bad job late in the game, and opt for jeering instead.
Ukraine - Sweden 1-1. A sea of yellow and blue in the stands, but which are the Swedes and which are the Ukrainians? Not too exciting, but hey, 2 goals.

June 15

Sweden - England 0-0. Oh, dear me. In the second half, England switch to 'hoof-it-to-the-big-man' tactics, but Swedes grew up watching English football, and have seen that one before. Hodgson is seen vigorously rubbing his face, and the sound of the English press corps sharpening their skewering knives can be heard shortly after kick-off.
Ukraine - France 1-1. Doesn't anybody want to win this group? Jungle noises can distinctly be heard among Ukrainian fans, but EUFA officials pretend not to notice.

June 19

Ukraine - England 1-3. Do or die time for England, but Rooney is back from his ban and, like an over-eager racehorse, he comes running out of the gate full of vim & vigour and farting sparks. He'll either be sent off or score a hattrick. Fortunately for Roy Hodgson and England, it's the latter and England finally break their scoring duck. While English journo's try to think of variations on the headline 'Roontastic!', Ukrainian fans decide a good riot might be fun.
France - Sweden 1-0. An 82d minute goal by Ribery breaks Swedish hearts and sends France through.

Standings

England 3 1 2 0 5 3-1
France 3 1 2 0 5 2-1
Sweden 3 0 2 1 2 1-2
Ukraine 3 0 2 1 2 1-3

England and France qualify

I grew up in a town so small, we had single digit phone numbers

I grew up in a town that was so small, we had single digit phone numbers.

The MacDougals had the number 1
We had the number 2
The Davies had the number 3
The O'Learies had the number 4
The Fergussons had the number 5
The MacLeods had the number 6
The Siggurdsons had the number 7
The Smiths had an unlisted number
and the MacDonalds had the number 9.

EC 2012 predictions: Group C

I'd hoped to get all group stage predictions in before Saturday's round of friendlies, but I'll have to hurry to do so. As before, all additions and corrections by more knowledgeable fans are most welcome.

Group C is another interesting group, featuring a not-to-be-missed Italy - Spain clash, as well as the return to international football of Ireland and the always dangerous Croatia.

Ireland

Ireland are back after 10 years. Apparently this has lead to veritable Euro Fever at home, and they're expecting to bring a bigger contingent of fans even than England are. This can only be good for tournament atmosphere and general feelings of bonhomie between rival sets of fans. Their squad is decent, but thin. Keeper Shay Given is apparently an injury worry and would be a massive blow if he weren't fit in time. Same for Richard Dunne and Damien Duff. Shane Long and Robbie Keane will presumably be the major goal threats, as grandmother-burying Stephen Ireland has vowed never to play for the Republic again after his teammates made fun of his hair implants once. Managed by the 73 years old, but still very spry Giovanni Trapattoni, do Ireland stand a realistic chance of finishing ahead of Spain or Italy? My heart says yes, my head says no and besides it's time to clean the gutters, and my bowels say I've had too much to drink again last night. Ireland would have stood a much better chance had they faced notoriously slow-starting Italy first rather than last.

Croatia

Croatia are managed by Slaven Bilić, who has fortunately made a complete recovery from a mysterious eye injury after being hit in the chest by Laurent Blanc some years back. Ignorance on my part finds it difficult to gauge their prospects in this group, but there's nothing wrong with some of the likely names on the teamsheet: Ćorluka, Modrić, Vukojević, Pranjić, Olić and Eduardo. This seems a fairly balanced squad, well-placed to compete for second place behind Spain in this group.

Italy

In international tournaments, Italy roughly alternate between ignominious first round exits and peaking at the right time to threaten for the title. The former option results in being pelted with rotten fruit by adoring fans upon return, so - especially in light of WC 2010 disaster - they may prefer the latter option this time. Italy have also never won an EC to date and so will be motivated. It can't help their cause that they open against Spain, though, who now know that it's possible to beat them, and may as well do so to get them out of the way early. I suspect Italy will compete with Croatia and Ireland for second place. Italy are managed by Cesare Prandelli who would, in my opinion, be making a serious mistake if he took Balotelli with him. A talented player, but a disaster for team morale. It wouldn't be long before he'd start throwing darts at his teammates, set fire to the bog, or crash his Ferrari into a van filled with Polish nuns. There's something wrong with his head and he's just not worth it. One of the more striking visuals from Man City's season this year occurred when Balotelli went down with an injury or cramp at the stroke of half-time, and his team mates walked off the pitch right past and over him without the slightest care, concern, or interest in his welfare. I don't know if a final squad has been announced yet, but Buffon will surely be in goal and have lots of his Juventus teammates on the squad with him.

Spain

Spain are, of course, the reigning World and European champions after decades of failing to live up to expectations. They're often mentioned in the same breath as Barcelona and the total footballing teams, Ajax and the Dutch side of the 70's. So why is it that the results of their matches in their World Cup-winning campaign two years ago could have been expressed in single-digit binary notation? 0-1, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0. It might be fair to point out that it's because of their opponents choice of tactics, figuring it was their only way to contain them. If that assumption still holds true, we're not exactly going to be in for a treat with Spain matches. But I don't want to be fair, I liked them better when they didn't live up to expectations: I also don't like dynasties! Boo! Down with dynasties! Let's have a fresh winner! It's hard to argue the quality of their squad though. Managed by Rene Artois' older brother, Vincent del Bosque, Spain will have Casillas in goal again, leaving Pepe Reyna once again on the bench to pick splinters out of his backside and nurse resentments. Puyol will captain the defence, Iniesta and David Silva will be the providers in the middle, and we might possibly even see Torres up front. Villa is sadly unavailable because of a broken leg.

Predictions

June 10

Spain - Italy: 2-0. Spanish joy as Italy's negative tactics fail to deliver.
Ireland - Croatia: 0-0. What a letdown for everyone concerned. Both teams want to win but cancel each other out.

June 14

Italy - Croatia: 0-0. Super Buffon keeps a clean sheet despite numerical possession advantage for Croatia.
Spain - Ireland: 3-1. Ireland surprisingly take the lead but sadly it only makes Spain mad.

June 18

Italy - Ireland: 1-0. Italy think they've done enough. Ireland are incapable of breaking them down.
Spain - Croatia: 1-2. After the final whistle goes in the Italy game, Croatia score in a surprising 94th minute winner against Spain to go through. Bedlam! Italian press and fans are screaming the fix was in, and that Spain didn't do their professional duty. It makes no difference.

Standings

Spain 3 2 0 1 6 5-1
Croatia 3 1 2 0 5 2-1
Italy 3 1 1 1 4 1-2
Ireland 3 0 1 2 1 1-3

Spain and Croatia qualify.

EC 2012 predictions: Group B

As I said in my previous post on Group A, all corrections and additions are welcome.

Group B - "The Group of Death"

It's not really too controversial to say that the 3 favourites for the title are, in order, Germany, Spain, and Holland (or The Netherlands, if you prefer) and two of them are in one group. Add former winners Denmark and former finalists Portugal and you have probably the most interesting group of the 4.

Denmark

It might be tempting to dismiss Denmark as the whipping boys of this group, but it should be remembered that they finished above Portugal in their qualifying campaign. The team is better than the sum of its parts as is usual for Denmark, but even though there are no Laudrups or Smeichels in this generation, it would be a mistake to take them lightly. Managed by Morten Olsen.

Holland

Poor Holland -- they always seem to get the group of death. On the other hand, they always survive them only to then implode in the elimination rounds because of infighting or other failure to live up to their potential. The last WC was a notable exception, of course, but who really enjoyed watching that team compared to previous editions? Up front is an embarrassment of riches with the top scorer in the Bundesliga, Huntelaar, and the top scorer in the Premiership, van Persie in the form of their lives. What a shame they can't seem to play together. In the middle there are still the dirty bastard van Bommel, and continual red card risk and enforcer de Jong. Schneijder has been out of form at his club this year, but should be vital nevertheless. The fullbacks are not in the same league, quality-wise, as the forwards and that will likely undo their title hopes. managed by Bert van Marwijk.

Germany

My personal pick for the title. In the late 1990's and early 2000's, Germany went through a poor patch but still managed to reach the 2002 final. That success couldn't disguise the moribund nature of their football at that time, however. Hosting the 2006 WC, Germany re-emerged as a world power with a younger generation of players and fresh ideas in management. They became a much more attacking, more enjoyable team to watch without entirely losing their cohesion and mental strength that had gotten them success in the past. "You haven't defeated Germany until their bus leaves the stadium." "Football is a sport played by 22 men for 90 minutes, and in the end, the Germans win." We've all heard those lines before. Are the Bayern players going to be hungry for a title? My is guess is that they are. Podolski, Klose, and Müller are reliable goal scorers. Gomez is more mercurial but is also quite capable of finishing as the tournament's top scorer. Schweinsteiger must recover form to play a vital role in midfield. Still managed by the world's oldest boy band singer, Jogi Löw

Portugal

If Denmark are better than the sum of their parts, Portugal may be less than the sum of their parts. Loads of talent here, including Europe's best player, Christiano Ronaldo, but they had a difficult qualifying campaign and have underperformed in the past. Main attacking threat? You don't need me to tell you, do you? C. Ronaldo's curse is that he's playing in the same generation as Messi. Nutter Pepe in defence might be red card risk. Managed by Paulo Bento.

Predictions:

June 9

Holland - Denmark: 2-0. I think Holland will see this as a must-win game.
Germany - Portugal: 2-1. Harder one to call. I expect an interesting game.

June 13

Denmark - Portugal: 1-1. Denmark will fancy their chances, but in the end both sides end up disappointed.
Holland - Germany: 1-1. Always a cracker, though much less ill-tempered than in the past, both sides will want to keep their powder dry and be content with a draw.

June 17

Portugal - Holland 2-2. Portugal are Holland's bogey team and we all remember the spectacular disaster that was their 2006 encounter. Holland will come from 2-0 down to break Portuguese hearts and get a monkey off their backs.
Germany - Denmark 4-0. Class will tell in the end.

Standings

Germany 3 2 1 0 7 7-2
Holland 3 1 2 0 5 5-3
Portugal 3 0 2 1 2 4-5
Denmark 3 0 1 2 1 1-7

Germany and Holland qualify
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