The proposed new European soccer league

UPDATE: Facing a massive backlash, all six UK clubs that had been part of the new ESL have withdrawn, pretty much torpedoing the whole project.. I am amazed that they did not anticipate the fierce reaction.

The world of soccer was thrown into turmoil by the announcement of the creation of a new European Super League of the richest twelve teams in Europe. Three other teams are expected to join them. The new league insists that they will continue to be part of the existing national leagues as well.

According to the ESL, the new format will involve midweek fixtures, with all participating clubs continuing to compete in their respective national leagues, “preserving the traditional domestic match calendar which remains at the heart of the club game”.

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Follow-up on the Mrs Sri Lanka fiasco

I know readers of this blog have been anxious to know the fallout from the dustup that occurred in the Mrs Sri Lanka competition when the previous year’s winner Caroline Jurie abruptly declared that Pushpika De Silva, the person whom she had just crowned the winner, was ineligible because she was divorced, yanked the crown off her head, and placed it on the head of the first runner up, all before a national TV audience. It has caused a sensation, with even the international media covering it.

Here again is the video of what happened.


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When to know to stop arguing

As the host of this blog, I am also the de facto moderator. I try to do so with an extremely light touch but there are occasions when I feel tempted to step in and lay down the law by banning people or shutting down comments. I have done so very rarely. One such situation is when a thread continues for much longer than I feel is necessary. As is almost always the case in the online world, all useful information and arguments have been presented within the first few exchanges. It should be obvious to everyone at that point that there are only two possibilities: either you are are terrible at making a persuasive argument and have to come back and try making the same point over and over again in different ways or, as is much more likely, the other person is determined not to have their mind changed and is simply deflecting your argument. Once that point is reached, we enter salami-slicing territory in which finer and finer distinctions are made which serve no purpose except that some people feel that they must have the last word or they have lost the argument, which is a fallacy but one that they cling to.
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The Mrs Sri Lanka competition turns into chaos

I had not been aware of this before but apparently there is a parallel competition to the Miss World competition called Mrs World, with corresponding competitions at the national level to select those who will take part. I would normally not have known about it but my sister in Sri Lanka asked me if I had heard about the sensational events at the recent Mrs Sri Lanka contest so I looked it up and, boy, it was a disaster of epic proportions, far outstripping the Steve Harvey debacle from 2015 when he declared the wrong winner in the 2015 Miss Universe pageant.

Here’s the story.

Caroline Jurie won the Mrs Sri Lanka competition in 2020 and went on to win Mrs World. The 2021 Mrs Sri Lanka competition was held two days ago and the winner was declared to be Pushpika De Silva. At that point, Jurie created a sensation when, soon after she had done the traditional act of crowning her successor, she returned and forcibly took the crown off De Silva’s head and placed it on the head of the first runner up, declaring that the winner was divorced and thus not eligible.
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Self-kibbitzing and other forms of cheating in bridge

I wrote recently about cheating in online chess tournaments. I no longer play chess but do play bridge quite a lot and with the pandemic have done so online, playing in tournaments frequently. Bridge has many more opportunities for cheating than chess, even when playing in physical space with all four players around the same table. This is because chess is played alone and the board is visible to everyone so that the only way to cheat is for a player to secretly get information from a superior player or a chess engine.

But bridge is a game involving partners where the cards held by each are hidden from the others during the bidding process and just one player’s cards are exposed on the table once play has started. So knowing what cards other players have is very helpful. The bidding process consists of conveying information about one’s cards using bidding conventions that have to be shared with opponents using a ‘convention card’ so that opponents know what your bids mean. If one uses a bidding convention that is not standard, you are expected to alert the opponents and, if asked, explicitly tell them what the bid means.
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The ship stuck in the Suez Canal

A container ship that got stuck in the Suez Canal has created a huge backlog of shipping traffic.

The ship is 1312 feet long and the portion of the canal it was going through was only about 1000 feet wide so it was essential that it go really straight. But it appears that due to high winds and poor visibility due to a sand storm, it did not and got wedged. Now it requires over 700,000 cu. ft of sand to be removed from the bank to free the ship.

I have sailed through the Suez Canal on an ocean liner twice when I was a young boy, going from England to Sri Lanka. I still remember the weird feeling it generated because in certain sections, the canal was so very narrow that when you looked at the two sides of the ship from somewhere in the interior, you would see just the desert on either side moving past, so you had the illusion that the ship was traveling on land. You had to go to the railing and look over to see water below.

‘Milkshake Duck’ and the perils of internet fame

I had not heard of the term ‘milkshake duck’ until yesterday. This is not surprising since I am always way behind the trends in the fast-moving world of social media. If I blog about some social media phenomenon, you can be pretty sure that it is already a few years old and may even have passed into oblivion, replaced by something that I have not heard about as yet.

The term ‘milkshake duck’ apparently originated in 2016 with this tweet.


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The problem of cheating in online tournaments

During the pandemic, there has been an explosion of people playing games online. While that has been enjoyable for friendly games, problems can arise when it comes to serious tournaments that can influence the rankings that players have.

In the case of chess, the website chess.com is widely used. The main problem with cheating in chess arises because there are now very powerful chess engines that can rapidly analyze situations and suggest the best move. These engines are used by players to practice their game and by analysts at tournaments who report on games. In face-to-face contests, the use of such engines is not allowed while play is going on but when people are online, it becomes hard to monitor whether someone is having an engine running simultaneously to guide them. The only way to detect such cheating is statistical, to see if the quality of the moves made by a player lie outside the range that one might expect of someone with their ranking.
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