The 2016 Olympic Games: An example of the apotheosis of hysteria

August 31, 2016

Immanuel Kant

The coverage of Team GB’s successes in the 2016 Olympics makes a fascinating case example of a cultural shift from the legendary British stiff upper lip to an embrace of emotional reactions to change. It may also help understand the persistence of charismatic leaders and their unconditional acceptance by cult-like followers

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Hillary duffs up Donald

August 26, 2016


Donald Trump’s recent decline in the polls has been traced to his reactions to the Democrat’s National Conference. Hilary Clinton’s speech was one important and damaging blow before the Kahn family’s interventions


I first heard Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech as she was making it, and late into the night European time.  This gave me benefits of live radio (BBC5) as well as its drawbacks.

I missed the opening few minutes, but then listened to its ebb and flow uninterrupted by commentary.  (Except for one brief period when two American voices assessed the impact of  a pre-announced demonstration and walk-out by  Californian delegates supporting Bernie Saunders).

Rehearsed but not over-cooked

The delivery sounded to me rehearsed but not over-rehearsed.  Hillary does not do warmth, and did not attempt to do so.  The voice was familiar, somewhat detached, slightly strident (yes, I know that’s a judgement open to criticism as gender discriminatory. Men are rarely described as strident)

Hillary does Tough better than Warmth

The would-be POTUS may not do Warmth, but has to do Tough.  Hillary mostly let the words carry the Tough message.

Two portions of the speech struck me and rather surprised me.  There was lot of what our own dear Sun or Daily Mail would have sneered at as loony-Leftie stuff of the sort expected from Jeremy Corbin.  Holding Wall Street to account.  Even I.  Did she say that?  Surely I missed some vital qualifiers there. Leveling out inequalities. (Are you listening Bernie?). Whatever, the reception to her words seemed rapturous, but that was more predictable.

Trump kippered

I had wondered how she would deal with Trump.  On this I am more confident.  She kippered him.  It was as clinical and merciless as the weekly going-over which David Cameron handed out to Jeremy Corbin over the last few months.   She took as her main point the megalomaniac claim thatTrump alone could rescue a weak America. She contrasted it with her belief that no President fixes things alone. America is best when it works collectively, the United bit, right? I remembered how Obama had a rare failure when he once tried out that theme. He was challenged for dissing the entrepreneurial giants of big business, and the spirit of free enterprise.

‘Us not me’

Tonight Hillary got across the ‘Us not me’ point well. But how to deal with the giant shadow cast by Husband Bill?  I couldn’t she how that could be done. Hillary just said she had learned how to deal with a lot of bad stuff, and when knocked down got up fighting.  I think the audience got what she was driving at.

Will she be a great President?  I don’t know.  Will she even become President in the first place? I don’t know. Incidentally, the great futurologist Alvin Toffler died this week, but if he had lived I guess he would have found a way of predicting while maintaining residual doubts.

Her remark about not trusting the Presidency to someone easily riled was seized on and maybe will continue to rile the thin-skinned Trump. I do know that today’s speech [July 28, 2016] has not harmed the chances of a woman becoming the next President of the United States of America.


Since the post was written, the Trump campaign has dropped further behind Clinton’s efforts. A series of misjudgements starting with the attack on the parents of an American fallen hero appear to have added to Mr Trump’s problems. At the same time, the setbacks may have strengthened his core support.

The campaign remains fascinating to students of politics, leadership, and trainwrecks.

Champions in the making

August 22, 2016

Andy Murray [wikipedia]

Last week I dropped by at a junior tennis tournament to see how champions are made. I thought  I glimpsed one of the reasons

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The Latte and Cookie Attack and other unusual Chess Openings

August 18, 2016

Tudor Rickards


The Double Houdini is a book for chess players and would-be players. It contains some previously unknown approaches to starting a game including the Latte and Cookie Attack and The Sardine Gambit

The Double Houdini tells a tale ‘based on real-life’.  Its central theme is a battle for survival in a chess club in a lightly disguised region of Cheshire known as East Cheadle. [See a recent post in LWD about how Cheadle was to become a location for targeted advertising directed at the editor.]

The East Cheadle Chess Club is struggling to avoid humiliation against the more professional forces their players face every week. Their very existence is threatened as their teams slide towards demotion and players are attracted to other clubs.

“It would take Houdini to escape from this” Phil, the first team captain says.

“Make that a Double Houdini” replies Paul, the second team captain.

Based on a true story, the author becomes himself embroiled in a gripping sporting drama. He finds has to confront far more disturbing problems than his club’s relegation to the lower regions of the league.


The Queen’s Sardines Gambit

As Edwin, one of the characters, explains, there is brilliance in the idea behind his invented opening: The pieces are squashed together like sardines in a tin. With skilful manipulation the lid peels of the tin, and the pieces are ready for action.

I put as many pieces as I can into the four by four central squares of the chess board, the key battle territory, and wait for my opponent’s mistakes. This has been working well this season.

The Sniper Botvinnik Variation

Paul reported thus on his top board match:

‘I succumbed to that old chestnut “The Sniper Botvinnik variation”. [TR: Irony. I had never heard of this exotic opening, until my good friend Mr Google filled me in about it. A very unusual move order for white, which with straightforward play gets into more conventional openings. The sniper is the white bishop, sniping along the dark-square diagonal  from behind the white army’s lines].


The Latte and Cookie Attack

This is my favoured opening. I turn up at my favoured chess café (well, a favoured bookshop really), order a Latte and Cookie and start playing over the game of chess provided in a national newspaper. Recently this opening has been put on hold, as the said newspaper has gone electronic, and it’s not as congenial to start the day with a session on my i-Pad, not exactly encouraged by the normally aimiable host.

Maybe a Triple Houdini

What I failed to mention is another Houdini much in demand by serious chess players. If I had throught of it, I would have produced a book title of The Triple Houdini. It is a fiendishly clever electronic chess engine. There is an important idea in a U Tube video in which Houdini plays a game which is claimed to be in the spirit of romantic chess, and thus not just Artificial Intelligence but Artificial Creativity.

Players following games in a tournament can track each game on-line using Houdini, and see what are the predicted best moves. There is no mention of that Houdini in my book, but several mentions of an older chess engine Fritz which is also popular for pre-match preparation and checking the moves played afterwards.

You can read more about The Double Houdini here, on the books page of my website. In its current format there are several blunders to be found in chess terms in The Double Houdini (typos in proof-editing parlance). Don’t let these deter you from purchase. Maybe the rare first print-run of several dozen copies for assorted chess-playing friends will grow in value as subsequent printings occur.

How Cheadle Hulme became an innovation hub

August 16, 2016

The big question

Recently I have received several examples of medical innovations originating in the nearby community of Cheadle Hulme.  A little thought revealed a dubious marketing strategy

First there was Sensational eye surgery stuns Cheadle Hulme.  Then, incredible ways of detecting unpaid PPI compensation rocks Cheadle Hulme. This burst of close-to-home creativity had passed me by, although I regularly visit the pleasant townships of Cheadle and Cheadle Hulme.

Today, after another such notification I realized what was happening.  I had become my very own innovation hub.  The news items were disguised and targeted advertisements.  It may have come about because I had mentioned East Cheadle rather regularly.  It is the fictional locational setting of my recently published book The Double Houdini.

 Targetted messages

The clever folk who are blanket bombing the web on behalf of banks and medical services are only doing their jobs. In was after my recent eye operation that I learned of sensational eye procedures in nearby Manchester.  Another targeted message. Did someone get hold of hospital records for that?

I suppose the ads pop up like Pokaman Go characters close to your identified location.  Not too difficult for a markeing outfit to discover that, in a world of Satellite technology, Google Maps etc.

I may be wrong

Or there may indeed be local versions targeting consumers with ever more precise advertising messages.

A little more research

A little more research showed that the messages were targetted to ‘land’ appearing to come from a specified target location (in my case Cheadle, and sometimes Wigan but I haven’t worked out that one).  They appeared to be part of the BBC website, which also was misleading.

I would wecome any comments that would shed more light on this dubious marketing strategy.

Pogba’s fantasy signing ends

August 11, 2016

Paul Pogba.jpg

One of the most cited stories of the football pre-season is about Paul Pogba’s move from Juventus to Manchester United.  Journalists have been able to fan interest. Or maybe fan interest has been able to encourage journalists

For several months, for football fans, the signing (or non-signing) of Pogba has been the story (or non-story) of the day.

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I took a little Tiger Moth

August 9, 2016
Tiger Moth.jpg
Managing change
The great aircraft manufacturing tradition at Woodford in Cheshire, is coming to an end. The runway is to be replaced with a new housing development.
This prompted the following [Friday 6th August 2016]. Note this tiger moth has a sting in its tail.
I took a little tiger moth
On its last journey, today.
We started out from Woodford,
Where before, great planes were built
In peacetime and in war.
It was sunny.
Blue skies, no wind
All  clear on the smooth unhurried run.
So smooth, I hardly noticed the familiar sights.
We approached Bramhall, where they are building now
To  speed the flow of Cheshire traffic to the airport.
It was only as we arrived, and I stopped the engine
That I noticed my companion,
The beautiful tiger moth
Securely strapped in
And attached to my driving mirror.

Dame Lowell Goddard, Donald Trump, and thoughts on Leadership Selection

August 5, 2016


Nigel Farage

The New Zealand Judge, Dame Lowell Goddard, prompted controversy when she was selected to head the politically sensitive investigation into child abuse over English candidates. That decision, and then her own to withdraw, invite questions about leadership selection

Selection of course, rather than election, although the selection process is made by our elected representatives. This distinction that seemed to have passed by Nigel Farage, in his often-repeated remarks about non-elected officials in the citadels of the Evil Empire in Brussels and Strasbourg.)

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Catch-up Part Two: The campaign to become Prime Minister

August 3, 2016

David Cameron ListeningIn Part One I looked at the developing stories from June 23rd 2016, the date of the European Referendum in the UK. To deal with the next part of the story, I have to go back to February, to the start of the months of national campaigning. 

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