Monday, December 21, 2009


With his hilarious take on all things cricket, Andy Zaltzman has ensured a permanent place in the all time hall of fame for cricket satire and statistrivia. Here are some samples at random from his blog:

On umpires checking daylight and ball shape ---

No slower human movement has ever been officially recorded than that of two umpires sludging towards each other to confer over the light, like a pair of amorous teenage tortoises unsure of whether to make the first move, or two unhappy commuters trying to miss the same train.

This is sometimes equalled by the funereal dawdle to co-examine the roundness of an allegedly-misshapen ball, as if this responsibility is a holy, god-given ritual as old as time itself, and the ball is a precious relic whose molecules must not be woken.

On how I too can remember my marriage anniversary ---

Following a brief and tetchy consultation with Mrs Confectionery Stall, I can now confirm that my anniversary is 18th September. I will never forget it again – the figures in the date 18-9 make up the number of Test wickets taken by SF Barnes, Erapalli Prasanna or (for at least another week) Zaheer Khan, or, as an emergency fall-back memory-jogging stat, the highest Test score of Jacques Kallis, Vijay Manjrekar, Bruce Mitchell and four others, or, in extremis, the number of runs conceded by underrated Pakistani tweaker Tauseef Ahmed whilst taking three Indian wickets in the first innings of the first Test at Chennai in 1987.

If I ever move to America, my revised anniversary of 9-18 would be simply recalled by remembering the number of Test runs scored by 1960s England offspinner David Allen, or the number of balls faced by David Gower in the 1983-84 Pakistan v England series.

Alternatively, if I merely wish to avoid confusion and remember the 9 and 18 sections of the anniversary date independently to ensure the great day is not forgotten regardless of geographical location, I need only remind myself of the number of Test centuries scored by Maurice Leyland and the number of five-wicket hauls taken by Lance Gibbs, and then deduce which number refers to the day and which to the month by analysing which one is greater than 12. My marriage is now safe. Thank you Statsguru. I owe you my future happiness.

On Duckwork-Lewis method ---

The Duckworth-Lewis method is rightly regarded as one of humankind’s greatest scientific breakthroughs, fit to set alongside Archimedes hopping into his bath and splashing water all over his new carpet, Fleming not bothering to wash up his petri-dishes, and whoever first discovered the sliceability of bread.

Before Professors D and L intervened, the received wisdom of the ages had been that the intervention of rain or bad light would forever skew the natural axis of limited-over cricketing justice. Previous attempts to solve this ageless conundrum had ranged from incomplete to idiotic. However, after years of secretive testing of their formula on teams of cricket-playing laboratory mice dressed in garish little pyjamas, Duckworth and Lewis unleashed their ingenious system on the cricket world and instantly catapulted themselves onto the Nobel Prize waiting list. Many still do not understand the method, but it is one of those things that the public needs to trust rather than comprehend. Like air travel, the workings of the digestive system...and Tony Blair.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Gifts versus weaknesses

An excerpt from Saul Bellow's book Humboldt's Gift (a roman à clé):
Some people embrace their gifts with gratitude. Others have no use for them and can think only of overcoming their weaknesses. Only their defects interest and challenge them. Thus those who hate people may seek them out. Misanthropes often practice psychiatry. The shy become performers. Natural thieves look for positions of trust. The frightened make bold moves.
Bellow seldom leaves any sermon without giving it a touch of humour, even if a self-deprecating one. So, here's how he finishes the above lines:
Or take myself, a lover of beauty who insisted on living in Chicago.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Hardness of security and safety

Eugene H. Spafford is quoted to have said:
The only truly secure system is one that is powered off, cast in a block of concrete and sealed in a lead-lined room with armed guards - and even then I have my doubts.
I guess the quote could just as well have been about safety:
The only truly safe system is one that is powered off, cast in a block of concrete and sealed in a lead-lined room with armed guards - and even then I have my doubts.