Universally Challenged

It’s been a funny old week for the old lady of student quizzing.

Probably the most press and PR successes for any winning team; we had a bucket load in our year in comparison to most recent winners, but our page in the Evening Standard and interview in Times 2 can’t compete with the shed-load that Trimble et al. have received since overcoming Manchester in a great final.

But all of that is forgotten because one of the ‘winning’ team forgot to read the rules and has been disqualified.

University Challenge is generally recorded in two blocks. The first (and these days the high scoring losers’ repechage and second) round in June and then the remaining knockout rounds in a long weekend in October and November. These two blocks are in different academic years and thus they required that any competitor in the first block was intending to still be at the institution at the time of the second block and subsequent broadcasts.

And, let’s be absolutely clear on this point because the rules were absolutely clear – and they’ve been that way for the entire run of the show under Jeremy Paxman – if you were in your team you had signed a form expressing your intentions.

When we competed in 95/96 we knew that we had to ensure that we’d still be students until the Final was broadcast (in May ’96 in our case). If the circumstances changed in between the two dates, you had to tell Granada.

The Corpus team claim not have realised they’d broken the rules, but then it would have been their fault for not reading them closely enough. Sam Kay should have thought to at least mention it – it beggars belief that four obviously intelligent people wouldn’t have given it any thought.

It is unfortunate for Manchester to “win” in such circumstances but it’s only a quiz show – as they told us when we discussed topics like unfair draws and dubiously phrased questions, “we’re not running the British University Quiz Championshship; it’s a TV show, it’s entertainment.”

It’s not really headline news, it’s not really important, but if you’ve just been plastered on the news pages of half the press in Britain as being intelligent and Google in human form, it is just a little embarrassing to be proven as being unable to read an application form for a TV show.

Not for the kids

If you’re not already aware of the delights of the podcasts of either Collings and Herrin or Phil(l)s Jupitus and Wilding then you’re really missing out (and if you’re not a 30-something Brit then that’s probably also a reason); what better way to acquaint yourself then with their Festive 12 (or for the DVD extra).

Warning: while not being safe for work (unless you’ve got headphones, of course) it’s also not safe for when you’re around people as while many people write LOL for things that are merely whimsical or drily amusing, there are genuine outright chuckle grin worthy moments which will make you look like a loon if you’re on the tube.

Like I was this morning. Thanks.

Reasons to be cheerful

So when I said that when we moved we wouldn’t be keeping Virgin, I was right: when we moved, we didn’t.

This just proves the point.

Phorm is just censorship by another name: delivering content to a user that they didn’t ask for, obscuring what they did request, while not telling them that changes were made. It might start with advertising but could be trivially re-tooled to mask ‘unapproved’ content.

While the IWF and Wikipedia have had some press recently at least they were relatively upfront about the blockages, the reasons for them and the thinking behind it. There is some discussion over what the viewer should be shown if cleanfeed complains (e.g. 404 is lying, but 403 is that the server is refusing which isn’t strictly true either), but at least it’s reasonably public (although there is an argument for hiding the links because by informing someone of the block, you’re confirming that dubious material might really exist there).

But any company (or country) blocking unilaterally a legal protocol are going to find themselves suffering very quickly, as Comcast found out.

Not before time

Martin Cross has a great pedigree, unimpeachable credentials but this great news is nothing like Manchester United not being allowed into the FA Cup. It’s like Arsenal’s Wunderkinden not being allowed in the London 2nd XI cup.

Leander are head and shoulders the most powerful club in British Rowing. They can afford to support their athletes in ways other clubs can only dream about.

While this news might mean that Leander can’t win it’s not going to open the door to all and sundry. The Thames cup in ’09 will still come from Molesey, Agecroft, London, Scullers or a similar setup with BIRO assistance and internationals on the roll.

I blame the government

If they’d provided us with an education system worthy of the name in the first place we would not have this sort of story about banning Latin phrases in otherwise English communication:

A Campaign spokesman said the ban might stop people confusing the Latin abbreviation e.g. with the word “egg”.

If we had a literate society able to both speak the language and with knowledge of things that we’ve imported from without, able to understand from context if not from being able to read the difference between e.g. and egg, able to not pander to the stupid – who really won’t be worried anyway.

And these are the organisations able to snoop on us for the merest hint of a perceived infraction.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

What the Olympics really mean?

With the population content to cheer and line the streets, but when it really matters?

And what other sport has to deal with the attitude we get as cyclists on the road? I certainly haven’t noticed any sudden courtesy to cyclists in the wake of us being the most successful British team in the Olympics. I cycle to the velodrome most days and I have one narrow escape for every hour on the road. I just think, ‘Holy shit, I could die on my bike out here.’

To a cyclist, these bloody motorists might as well be running around with a loaded gun. When you have that sort of attitude towards cyclists how are we going to move our sport into the mainstream?

– Victoria Pendleton, Olympic Gold Medallist, quoted in an interview with the Guardian.

Money and Sport

So I was recently asked to complete, using my own skill and judgement, in more-or-less 30 words, the following phrase: "The problem with all this money in football is …"

… that it gives [the] sport an over-inflated view of its own importance with the money-making becoming the end in itself, rather than the means to make the sport better, leveraging the sport’s assets, both physical and emotional, exploiting fans’ natural affinity and goodwill for gain that belongs without the sport, e.g. debt reconstruction and the badge-kissing, club-hopping mercenaries.