Thursday, 17 May 2012

The Dalglish Sacking

As much as there were plenty of signs that it was coming, I was genuinely surprised by the news that Dalglish had been sacked as Liverpool manager. I had a brief rummage through blog posts and looked at what I'd said when he was appointed, and I feel that the fairly mixed stance I had then is pretty much what I have now.

To be honest, I feel I can justify a mixed stance given that it's been a pretty mixed season. In the two cup competitions we've been in this season we've finished as winners and runners-up, and that's a fair amount of success given the dire straights we were in when Dalglish took over. That said, the league position is dire, and there's no real hiding from the fact that we've finished 17 points off 4th place, and it's not even worth counting the points away from the title. Admittedly, in the last few months of the season we've had little chance of 4th place and as a result have probably allowed the cup competitions to distract us, but that still doesn't change the fact that fairly solid spending over the summer hasn't been able to produce the results week-in, week-out.

I use the world results, because having watched a solid majority of the games this season I feel that the performances have largely been there, and the results happen. The issue is that while performing well, creating a ton of chances and just failing to convert them in front of goal can be settled by "we were unlucky" for each individual game, when it's happening long-term it suggests that something bigger is up. There were plenty of games this season where Liverpool played some superb football and didn't come away with a result, and it's only the latter aspect that history is really going to remember. We were only one solid finisher away from a very good season, but that's a problem in the squad that Dalglish should have identified and resolved properly (or maybe Carroll just fucked him over by being so goal-shy).

That said, I don't feel that Dalglish has done a horrific job in his first full season in charge. The performances have been good, even if the results haven't, and two cup finals isn't something to just ignore. And whilst our league performance in the second half of the season has been pretty abysmal, the same could be said of Spurs, who have bombed in a similar fashion from where they were in January, it just so happens that they started high enough up to just about cling onto 4th place. But Spurs will be in the Champions League next season, and in a world where clubs are run as businesses that makes a big difference, because that's £30m a year that Liverpool won't be seeing next season.

My main sort of gripe with the Dalglish sacking is that I don't feel that there's any candidate that really leaps out as being the replacement. Villa-Boas is a possibility, and I feel he was a little hard done at Chelsea given the squad he inherited and the lack of support he seemed to get from the higher-ups there, but I'm not entirely sure he'd be a good fit. Plus he has very little actual track-record as a manager, with really only one successful season at Porto to his name. Roberto Martinez seems to be the media favourite, and I'm not sure that he'd really be a great replacement either. He did a decent job at Swansea and has done so at Wigan so far (well, 15th), but I don't really feel he'd necessarily be an actual step up from Dalglish.

My personal favourite for the job would be to re-hire Benitez in the role, though even with the seemingly generous amount of fans supporting this idea I'm sceptical it could ever actually happen. At the very least the Fenway guys have said they want someone who will manage for the next 5-6 years, which I'll take with a pinch of salt but at the very least would suggest that we're not heading towards the same problem that Chelsea have (and Real Madrid had until recently) of cycling through managers at a rate of knots unless they produce instant results.

I don't feel particularly outraged by Dalglish being removed from his post, and I'd be surprised if many fans will, but I do think that there's definitely a possibly to pick someone who won't actually do any better, and I feel that's where the danger lies in this position. The fact that there are apparently no front-runners for the role is something I take a slight bit of issue with, because I feel that the sacking is a tad unnecessary, or at least premature, if they don't already have someone pretty well lined up for the role.

Still, time will tell, and given I doubt the transfer budget for the summer was going to be particularly big anyway, they've got a reasonable amount of time to find a replacement. I just sort of hope that it's not Martinez.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Eindhoven - The Journey Back

It's been frickin ages since I last made a post on here, and as a result I've sort of put extra effort into this one. Like, it has drawings and everything.

Last weekend I was visiting Muf in Eindhoven. Vincent (aka Amnesia) was there because he had some trance festival evening or some shit, and he suggested that while he's spending the weekend there maybe I should too. And because EasyJet flights from Stansted to Amsterdam Schiphol are pretty cheap and easy, I figured that I would.

On the whole the weekend was pretty fun. Tetris and StarCraft were played, Stefan (aka Steadshot) was also there, Tim showed up for a couple of evenings, and as weekends away go it turned out to be pretty chilled and relatively inexpensive. Coming back, on the other hand, was not so fun. And hence shall become the subject matter for this post.

The first joy was getting a train from Eindhoven to Schiphol. Things were nearly a little bit tight getting to the station because I ended up going with Vincent and he was all laid back and French about getting there on time (so laid back that the only reason he was going with me was because he'd missed the bus he was originally going to get), whilst I was a little more stressed because I had a flight to catch and I specifically remember the last time I tried to get a train to Schiphol I'd gotten horribly fucked over after missing my original train.

What was brilliant is that whilst I had vivid memories of a pretty painful train journey from the last time I visited, I'd apparently completely forgotten what was responsible for me missing my train, because I had the exact same fucking problem the second time.

I arrived at the station about six or seven minutes before the train was due to leave, figuring that I should have easily enough time to buy a ticket. At Eindhoven station there are about six ticket machines. Some of them are card only, whilst others accept cards and cash. That didn't really matter to me, given that the ticket is €18 and I didn't have that much on me in cash anyway. The two cash and card ones had queues, and the four card-only ones didn't. However, the four card-only ones do have a tiny little sticker on the front that shows that whilst they accept Maestro cards, but not Visa or Mastercard. Which is useless for me, because of the two cards I have, one is Mastercard and the other is Visa Debit.

The identical ticket machines in Schipol have no issue with my Mastercard credit card, but apparently in Eindhoven they do, and I can't use it. So in a somewhat retarded move I queued for one of the other two machines, figuring that maybe the ones that would take cash instead would also somehow accept my credit card. The woman in front of me finally finished paying for her €11 ticket in 10 and 20 cent coins, and then I got to the front to discover the same tiny sticker at the bottom of the screen telling me I couldn't use either of my cards. Fuck.

No problem. I'll just go to the ticket office and buy one there. So I do, and I queue for what seems like forever behind some guy trying to buy a ticket to Switzerland or some dumb shit without knowing where he's actually precisely going and with the lady behind the desk being equally useless. After a lot of frantic watch-checking I finally get to the desk.

I was pissed off for two reasons. Firstly that it's fucking stupid that you can't actually buy tickets directly with a credit card at the train station in Eindhoven, and secondly because I suddenly remember that I'd had the exact same problem last time and it was why I missed my train then as well. Once bitten, twice shy my arse. I definitely feel that instead of tiny signs that are only visible at the front of the queue, the people running the station should make things a little more clear:

So I frantically dashed to find a cash machine (thankfully there are two inside the station), drew some cash out, queued again at the ticket office, missed my train, but did at least end up with tickets. This time, at least, the only difference was that I'd get to Schiphol 15 minutes later and I'd have to change trains halfway through rather than a direct one. Though the changeover was also a bit of a bitch because the platform I needed in Utrecht was only accessible from the overhead corridors, and not the underground ones because the stairway is closed for construction stuff. I think this was actually fairly well signed in Dutch but I'm not particularly fluent and I was in a hurry. Some girl made the exact same mistake and we ended up frantically trying to find an alternative route to the platform and barely made it on the connecting train.

As it happened the whole panic over trains was totally irrelevant, because I arrived at Schiphol to find that my flight had actually been delayed by two and a half hours. Fantastic.

The delay itself wasn't actually what bothered me. I mean, it wasn't ideal, but the departure lounges have plenty of seating and, somewhat more crucially, an abundant supply of power sockets, meaning that I could kill time fairly easily watching stuff on my laptop. What actually bothered me was the fact that the last train from Stansted to Cambridge was around 23:00, and my flight leaving at 21:45 CEST meant, by my estimates, that I would land around 21:45 BST. Which would give me plenty of time, but that was on the assumption that I was right about how long the flight would take, and that it wasn't going to be delayed any further. I had little confidence in either. Whatever the scenario was, I was particularly not keen to miss the last train home.

One minor bitch I did have from the airport was that I had exactly €6.50 on me, which I'd previously figured would be about enough for at least some sort of meal at the airport. I was wrong, and apparently almost everything is €7 or more, which was a bit annoying. A Big Mac Extra Value Meal in particular was like €6.85 or something excruciatingly just over what I actually had, so I ended up having to pay by credit card instead of my remaining cash.

I got bored of watching stuff on my laptop and went for a wander to kill time. The departure area in Amsterdam is absolutely bloody massive, and it actually took a solid 40 minutes or so of walking to meander my way to the other side, and to then amble back. As I got back to the seating area, I could just about make something out on the departure board that temporarily caused me to shit myself.

My flight being delayed was fine. My flight being cancelled certainly fucking wasn't. Thankfully things got better when I was close enough to actually read the board properly.

Though only better in a milder way. The flight being delayed another 1h15 meant that I was going to be landing approximately the same time that my train to Cambridge left, and I wasn't particularly confident on getting off the plane and through passport control in approximately zero minutes.

This put me in a pretty shitty mood until around half an hour later, when my flight was upgraded to being "Delayed: 22:40". Still not great, but it at least gave me a fighting chance of getting the last train home.

As it actually happened, my estimates on how long the flight took were slightly too big, and I landed in Stansted with around 35 minutes to get through passport control and to the station and all that jazz. I felt confident. Then I just missed one of the train thingies they have to get you around Stansted, and felt less confident. Then passport control took absolutely fucking ages and suddenly I had around ten minutes to get to the station and onto my train. Stansted is by no means a small airport, and I had very little clue which direction the station was, or how far away it would be. Time to FUCKING RUN.

This is when I encounter the my suitcase being an absolute fucking pain in the ass. Now, I quite like this suitcase, because it's just about big enough to fit my laptop in comfortably, whilst being just about small enough to be under the EasyJet restrictions for hand-baggage size (it's pretty tight though - I hate when they ask me to put it in the basket to prove it, because getting it out again is a bitch). As a major downside though, it does have a ridiculous tendency to flip onto its side at any opportunity.

After about five or six attempts to negotiate any sort of corner or break in the ground without this thing flipping over, and failing every time, I said fuck it to the bag and picked it up and ran. Turns out that not only is my laptop and the rest of my crap extremely heavy, but I'm also fucking horrendously unfit when it comes to dashing for trains. Despite this, I somehow managed to make it, and actually had a solid three or four minutes to spare. And turns out that night buses run, which I didn't know about, so I would have been fine anyway and there wasn't quite so much need to make a tit out of myself. But still, I made the last train, and despite the fact that I was going to get home about three hours later than I'd planned, that at least felt like something of a victory.

In an entirely separate firstworldproblems incident, I tweeted that I thought it was stupid that at the Cambridge station the trains to Stansted run from the platform which is furthest from the entrance and requires the most stairs to get to. This wasn't so much a personal bitch, because I was actually travelling pretty light. More an observation that it's a bit dumb to force the passengers who are likely to be carrying the most crap to have the most awkward journey to get to their trains.

What I wasn't expecting was my tweet would be picked up and replied to by the Stansted Express twitter account. It feels really weird for what seemed a fairly private tweet to be picked up like that. Definitely a bit odd, but also sort of cool that they apparently employ a person to do that sort of thing.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Racism (Guest Post)

I don't have enough time apparently to write blog posts these days, so one by Nicola 'HarmoNicks' Hastings instead. I take zero credit for the content or opinions here - I didn't even edit this one

I don't really follow football, but a handful of my friends do, so by proxy I sort of have to tolerate all their talking about it in my presence. One thing that did sort of catch my eye recently was the fact that you can apparently get an eight match ban and a fine for calling a black person "negro", yet when you're charged with deliberately stamping on someone's face that only merits four matches.

Now maybe football boots are a lot softer and less covered in studs than I think they are, but personally I don't really see the consistency in that sort of system. 'Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words (and boots in my face) will never hurt me'?

My dad is English, but my mother is Japanese and I've taken the majority of my appearance from her, meaning I class pretty solidly as "Asian". On top of this, I also have the added bonus of having lived in the UK for basically all of my life, and therefore am totally out of touch with the modern Japanese way of speaking, and every time I go over there to visit relatives or whatever I find myself getting weird looks as people discover I have weird mannerisms and that I'm nowhere near as fluent or normal-sounding as they expected me to be.

Maybe I'm just not particularly bothered by it, or that there's some massive extra issue black people have with racist comments that Asian people don't have, because we didn't have the whole slavery deal, but I don't see why it's viewed by so many people as such a taboo and frightful issue.

I mean come on black people, you're stereotyped as people who are tall, athletic, and have large penises or curvaceous asses, depending on gender. We Asians are stereotyped as people who are small, can't handle alcohol, have small boobs/penises (or both) and eat weird food like dog or nattou (<3). And whilst most of those might be true, I feel that we have just as much right to complain about being tarred with the same brush as you guys. Personally I've always viewed there as being three types of racism: 1) Ignorant racism - people who say dumb shit because they're essentially culturally ignorant. The sort of people who will just assume that I'm Chinese just because I have slanty eyes, or that I can read Chinese, Korean, Thai, Hebrew, Arabic, or whatever other language they deem to be "Asian" on account of it not using the roman alphabet. Fundamentally these people aren't particularly dangerous - they're just stupid. They're just as bad as rich people who assume that anyone who is poor or didn't go to Oxbridge is a filthy moron whose opinion isn't worth the time of day. It's a combination of a loud mouth, insensitivity, and knowledge of the social cultures they're actually talking about.

2) Joking racism - people who say dumb shit because they're trying to be funny. This can be pretty irritating when you're the subject of the joke, especially if it's combined with a shitload of ignorance. Typically I either mind or don't mind depending on how well I know the person. If I don't know them, then it's over the line and isn't on, but at the same time whilst it really annoys me, I don't feel it's outright awful. It's just socially not cool. And if they do know me (i.e. Rosti and Daz ALL THE FUCKING TIME), then it's banter, and it only starts to irritate me when it becomes repetitive and/or tired. Either way though, the person doesn't hold the opinions they're claiming to (or it wouldn't be a joke) and really it's not that different to mocking a woman for being out the kitchen, or being shit at parking. It's near identical to joking that someone is going to steal your shit just because they're a Scouser, yet stuff like that is somehow far less antagonistic. It's repetitive at times, but it's rarely malicious.

3) Racist racism - people who genuinely hold negative feelings and prejudice towards people because of their race. The sort of people who vote for the BNP, believe the Daily Mail, or who hold the idea that they have some magical entitlement to have a job in the UK that other people don't have just because they weren't fortunate enough to be born there. By all means these people exist, and by all means they are vile and their intolerance shouldn't be tolerated. Alternatively this also applies to people using someone's race in a purely derogatory way to insult them.

The thing is, I feel that in the UK at least the vast majority of this sort of thing falls into the first two categories, i.e. it's typically not malicious racism, or not deliberately anyway. It can be stupid, and it can be pretty annoying or offensive, but at the same time it's not a lot worse than other things you can say if you want to be offensive.

I think part of the problem is that racism is viewed as being grossly impolite, and it's in the British nature to take an extremely dim view on anything which isn't polite. Which is fair enough, I just think that sometimes it can lead to pretty massive overreactions, or people tip-toeing around being politically correct when really they don't need to go to the effort. [That said, the Japanese are a notoriously polite race, yet also have a national trait of being horrendously xenophobic]

Ultimately a lot of it comes down to context and intent. If someone casually calls me a 'chink', then if I know them I know they're joking and don't care. If I don't know them I'd typically be somewhat surprised by their ignorance, but generally not particularly arsed. If someone I didn't know used the phrase while having a go at me, then there I get offended, and I feel I have the right to be because of the manner it's being used.

It's extremely comparable in my eyes to swearing. There's a massive difference in the phrases "oh fuck...", "that fucking hurt!" and "you fucking idiot!" in the way that the f-word is used, and in how much offence people are likely to associate with it.

Fundamentally I feel that racist terms should only bring the amount of offence that was intended in their usage. If someone is joking or being ignorant, then ignore them and move on, because there's really not much point in getting all irate about it. If they're intending to be offensive or are genuinely racist, then fair enough, that isn't on (though I don't see much difference if someone calls me "a fucking jap" to "a fucking bitch/slut" other than the fact they typically know they're crossing a socially forbidden line in the first instance).

The real way that racism is going to slowly disappear and stop being a problem is if people stop making it a problem. There are swearwords that are no longer particularly offensive when several years ago they were almost unheard of, purely because the stigma has worn off as their usage has become more common. If racism becomes a source of banter and humour then it ceases to be a source of hatred or insult. The fact that nobody is allowed to really say that sort of thing just makes it all the more shocking and stinging when people do.

It can often be quite difficult to distinguish the line between jokes and insults, and racists shouldn't be allowed to use the premise of humour to openly promote bigoted opinion, but fundamentally we should be frowing upon and eradicating the sentiments themselves, and not the language that people attach to them. Because if being called a "negro" is genuinely twice as bad as being kicked in the face, then we should be doing all we can to make it so that it's not.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Internet Streaming

There are quite a few web streams I follow lately, mostly StarCraft related, and I was always fairly curious to know how much money the guys behind these things actually make from streaming. I was particularly interested in the SC2 players because their revenue from streaming is typically their main income besides what they earn through tournaments.

Most of my questions were answered earlier this week when one of the guys from the popular streaming site TwitchTV made a post on SCreddit detailing how their advertising system works. There's a whole ton of crap in there, but the key piece of info I took was that the average rate per ad for the broadcaster is around $5 per ad per 1000 effective viewers (that post says this is their most popular rate).

From this I did a few calculations. A SC2 player streaming their ladder games will probably play three or four games every hour. If they display two ads at the end of each game then this works out to around six ads an hour on the stream.

Typically the more popular streams will have anything from 4000 to 8000 viewers, sometimes more. Taking a base rate of around 5000 viewers, and assuming that only 60% of those see ads, because 40% are living in weird regions or using adblock or something, that gives us 3000 effective viewers for six ads an hour. With the $5 rate this works out to a pretty impressive $90 an hour.

Say players stream for five hours a day, and that they do this five days a week (most of the popular ones do it more like seven days a week, but then there's days off for tournaments and the like), this works out to roughly $120,000 a year, just from streaming ladder games that they'd be doing anyway.

My first thought to this was along the lines of "holy shit that's loads" and my first reaction was that I'd screwed up the calculation somewhere. As far as I can tell the calculation is correct, but I figured maybe some of the assumptions were wrong. I discussed this with a few people, and Emtee provided me with a couple of links, both related to the popular streamer, Destiny.

The first one was a post by him from May last year discussing his income from streaming on TeamLiquid. It shows his earnings from March 2011 being $4000, and this with a whole week where the revenue reporting bugged and didn't give him anything.

This was back in March, when the scene was a fair bit smaller and there weren't quite as many stream viewers around (myself included, because I didn't own SC2 at this point0). Looking a bit more recently, I also found this screenshot from his stream:

The first part of that graph clearly shows him earning around $300 a day on average, which is a $90,000 annual income if he streams 300 days a year. Definitely not bad for just streaming himself practising and dicking around in ladder games for several hours a day. And not particularly far off from what I'd calculated - you can make absolutely tons of money from a decent TwitchTV channel.

As well as TwitchTV, the revenues from YouTube don't seem to be that bad either. I recently got the ability to monetise the videos on my YouTube account, and I did so for the lulz, and it turns out that I actually make non-zero amounts of money through the handful of videos I monetised.

In total my videos get around 1,500 views a month (I have no idea why - most of them are either really niche or shite or both) and that makes me around £1 every month. A tiny amount, sure, but for the amount of views I'm getting it's not particularly terrible. Especially given that I already had the videos before when I wasn't making small amounts of cash from them.

Recently I started watching the Shadow of Israphel minecraft series on the Yogscast's BlueXephos YouTube channel. Not only do these guys have absolutely shittons of videos, but a huge number of them have between one and two million views each, with some having over five million. If I'm getting £1 for every 1500 views, then if things scale these guys are getting £1000 for every video they make, possibly more. I reckon the 81 videos in the Shadow of Israphel series alone have clocked up over £100,000, which is an astonishing amount for something that's recorded entirely within the minecraft game.

The thing with most of these things is that they're not just making large amounts of money, but that they require almost nothing to make besides time and creativity. If you've got a computer enough to stream from and a bit of talent, you can make some considerable money from it if you end up being successful. The latter part being a somewhat important factor, because there are no doubt large numbers of people trying to make this sort of thing and not really getting anywhere in terms of views, but the money is definitely there to be had.

If anyone has a cat that they're cool to have do stupid shit on camera, then I have a monetised YouTube account. I'll totally split the money with you.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

The Holiday Period

I was back home last week for the festive period. It was nice to see family and be home for a little bit, and it's also nice to be back in Cambridge now. I didn't so much enjoy the travelling though.

What I learnt on my way back up North was that the buses in Cambridge are absolutely shite. I've heard rumour and anecdotes from friends about how shit they are but I've never really used them much because I tend to walk/cycle everywhere. I've also never used them for something where it was crucial I arrived at a certain place at a certain time.

I took the bus to the train station because I live on the complete opposite side of the city, and was taking a pretty large 10kg holdall home with some clothes and a laptop and some other crap in it, and wasn't particularly keen trying to cycle with it. I arrived at the bus stop about five minutes early for a bus that should have gotten me to the station with around half an hour to spare. I figure this is reasonable, given the buses run every twenty minutes and the journey itself is only meant to take around 15-20 minutes as well. I thought I was playing it safe. Apparently not, because not only did I have to wait 23 minutes for the next bus to arrive, but it didn't even go the whole way along the route and I had to change in the city centre and wait for a different bus.

So this meant I was late at the station. I missed the train I was intending to get, and more importantly I missed the off-peak time for travelling through London, meaning I either couldn't go through London or I had to pay an extra £100 for the peak ticket. So yeah, the day sort of backed up my existing preconception that buses are completely balls.

Christmas was standard - I got the handful of fairly inexpensive things I'd asked for and a fair bit of dosh, ate lots of food, and most of my extended family had too much wine and there were a lot of dumb arguments around the table. I also won at Pictionary.

And that was Christmas. I got the train home with a now even heavier bag, and felt ill almost the whole way back. Plus the train from Wigan to London was absolutely rammed and I was really lucky to manage to find a seat.

New Year's was pretty good fun, with me and my housemates going out to the pub for a bit, before proceeding to go to a house party where only Nick was really that friendly with the people who lived there, and we didn't really know most of the people there. But it was fun anyway. And I kicked off the new year having to go for a pee in our back garden because the house only has one toilet, which was being hugged fairly hard by a housemate and I figured that moving him was probably not a wise idea.

Typically for the first blog post of the year I make some sort of attempt at posting New Year's Resolutions, but I can't really be bothered with that this year. They're a fairly pointless thing and nobody actually remembers their resolutions past maybe the second week in January. They are essentially a list of things people would like to do but have already sort of resigned themselves to the fact that they're probably not going to do them.

I had to look at the blog post for last year to find out what my resolutions were, and it turns out I actually managed to accomplish a fair number of them, although completely without the recollection that I'd resolved to do them a year ago.
(EDIT: Turns out when I read it properly I didn't make any last year either. Though I did do a decent job of managing to accomplish crap I intended to do in 2010. Only took me two years to get around to it.)

Whilst I can't be bothered with annual resolutions, I do have a few things that I really want to get done before I leave for training camp (10th Jan), namely getting job applications sorted, completing Batman: Arkham Asylum (which is an awesome game), and finishing all the series that I'm currently halfway through watching and haven't gotten around to wrapping up yet. Those being in rough descending order of importance, and also in rough descending order of how likely they actually are to happen.

As much as I've slowed down on the blogging front, I still managed to get 77 written last year, which still averages above one a week (though if I'd not clocked up a load inter-railing that probably wouldn't be the case). I also recently breezed through my 200th blog post without noticing, so I guess that's something of a milestone too.

Anyway, to people reading this I hope you all have a good 2012 and all the best et cetera.