Hear Ye! Since 1998.

Archived Posts for July 2006

Please note: The posts on this page are at least 3 years old. Links may be broken, information may be out of date, and the views expressed in the posts may no longer be held.
31
Jul 06
Mon
30
Jul 06
Sun

Final Blogathon Post 54

Okay, it’s done. Raised a touch under $100. Not much, but better than nothing, and more than I usually do on a Sunday! Thank you to the donors (all two of them…)

Blogathon Post 53

Just one more to go then I can sleep.

Blogathon Post 52

Link of the half hour: World’s most photorealistic vector art.

Blogathon Post 51

Not long to go now…

Blogathon Post 50

Link of the half hour: Israeli air strike kills 51 civilians. It’s horrifying.

Blogathon Post 49

What a peculiar filler episode for Atlantis. SG-1 was better this week.

Blogathon Post 48

Ok quite tired, going to chill out to Atlantis now. I think I’m giving up the idea of writing any posts with content now.

Blogathon Post 47

Time for a shower and then Atlantis. I’ve hit a plateau with rock climbing I think – I can do most of the yellow routes (18-20 difficulty), but the oranges are too tough (21-22).

Link of the half hour: Rock climbing forearm exercises.

Blogathon Post 46

Whoops waylaid on the way back.

Blogathon Post 45

Coming back

29
Jul 06
Sat

Blogathon Post 44

Checking in.

Blogathon Post 43

Checking in.

Blogathon Post 42

Checking in.

Blogathon Post 41

Checking in.

Blogathon Post 40

Going indoor rock climbing. Will be mobile posting to “check in” every 30 mins, depending on the circumstances.

Blogathon Post 39

Going out to buy some bacon to cook with pasta for tonight’s dinner.

Blogathon Post 38

With the new Core 2 Duo CPUs out, soon might be a good time to upgrade…

Blogathon Post 37

Link of the half-hour: Lake Peigneur. How does a 3m deep lake turn into a 400m+ deep lake?

Blogathon Post 36

Link of the half-hour: 715 megapixel photo of the Sydney CBD. It’s a stiched copy of 170 images taken with a Canon 10D fitted with a 100-400mm L lens. Most photos were shot at 400mm, at ISO 200, 6s, f/6.7 (manual mode). The original image is a 1.3Gb Photoshop file.

Blogathon Post 35

Link of the half-hour: A Foreign Affair. It’s an interesting read.

Blogathon Post 34 – The Kingsford Flea Markets

There’s some sort of market that runs every Sunday, only about 100 metres down the road from my place, that I’ve never been to. So I just dropped by and had a bit of a squiz.

It’s a pretty tatty flea market where a motley crew of vendors have thrown together a completely random selection of paraphrenalia. There’s disordered piles of second hand clothing, toiletries by the pallet-load, sort of fresh fruits and vegetables, snack food, books, taps and faucets, fishing equipment, cheap jewellery, golf bags, shoes and packs of 48 rolls of toilet paper going for $8. There’s even a damn tarot card reader in amongst the stalls. However, the prize for most random stall goes to the guy selling motherboards, keyboards and bikinis. The crowd is predominantly composed of elderly mediterraneans and an assortment of Asians, all out hunting for the odd bargain (and there probably are some decent ones floating around, if you’re willing to wade in and get your hands dirty… literally).

Blogathon Post 33

I’m going for a walk outside. It’s too nice a day to be stuck inside. I’m bringing my camera along, not that there’s much to photograph in Kingsford!

Blogathon Post 32

Hmm, it’ll be lunchtime soon. ING raised their Savings Maximiser account interest rates to 5.85% a few days ago (which is actually above the current RBA cash rate, but not for long). BankWest is also offering a 6.4% interest rate for the first 12 months.

Link of the half-hour: How the benefits of internet accounts stack up.

Blogathon Post 31

This is a census year and the first where Australians can fill out the census form online. The census is a statistics gathering exercise where the ABS attempts to get the various details of every single person living in Australia on the census night (which is 8 August). It’s a tremendous task. I remember a series of Full Frontal skits (which must be either 10 or 15 years ago now) where they showed a census collector popping up in the weirdest places (an Aboriginal tribe in the outback, someone lost on a desert island off the coast of northern Queensland, etc).

Filling out a census form is a legal requirement, and it is regulated by the Census and Statistics Act 1905. While it’s not illegal to fail to fill out the form, per se, the “Australian Statistician” (a person in the ABS) can direct a person (in writing) to answer any unanswered census questions (which are not optional to answer). It is a criminal offence to fail to comply with such a direction. The maximum penalty is one penalty unit (or $110)… per day (and not $100 like the census booklet says). Which makes it more expensive than failing to get your name marked off the electoral roll during elections.

In terms of privacy, each member of a household is entitled to a separate form if they want one. Your details are kept confidential, and the Australian Statistician can be whacked with a $13,200 fine and/or 2 years’ imprisonment if they divulge any information given to them (in a manner not authorised by the Act). Furthermore, a “person who is or has been the Statistician or an officer must not, at any time during the period of 99 years beginning on the Census day for a Census: (a) be required to divulge or communicate to an Agency any information that is contained in a form that is given to the Statistician or an authorised officer under section 10 in relation to that Census…”. They same exemption applies against providing such information in courts and tribunals. Therefore it sounds like census details are safe from the prying eyes of the intelligence officers at ASIO. After 99 years, we have the option of having our details released so future generations can study this generation.

There are a few interesting things I’ve noted about this year’s questions. Question 12 asks country of birth, and the options are Australia, England, NZ, Italy, Viet Nam, Scotland, Greece and Other. It’s logical to assume that these countries reflect the most frequently selected options. (Also interesting is that they’ve decided to spell Viet Nam in two words, like it’s done natively. Vietnamese used to be written in Chinese characters before a missionary romanicised their language. Therefore, Vietnam actually is two words, but when it’s Anglicised, it’s normally written as a single word – just as how “China” is the Anglicised version of China, which is written as two Chinese characters which, when translated, have nothing to do with the word “China”.)

Question 19 asks about religion. It’s an optional question, as always. In the examples of ‘Other’ religions, one example specified is “Salvation Army”. I wasn’t aware it was a religion. In the last census, over 70,000 Star Wars fans decided to write “Jedi” as an answer. However, their ploy failed and the ABS refused to recognise “Jedi” as a religion.

Finally, I think question 59 is new: “Can the Internet be accessed at this dwelling?”

Blogathon Post 30

I got my census delivered yesterday. I’ll write a bit about it in the next post.

Blogathon Post 29

Admittedly, Sydney property prices have been ranked as among the most unaffordable in the world (relative to cost of living) in recent years, but you might also like to remember that during the 1980s, the cash rate soared way above 10% for several years.

Blogathon Post 28

With the RBA set to raise interest rates by at least 0.25% next week (if not 0.5%), I really don’t envy people holding mortgages. Not only that, but some believe property prices will drop up to 10% as a result of interest rates making it unattractive for property to be used as an investment. People will therefore get hit with a negative capital return, plus an increased loss due to higher interest payments (so what if it’s tax deductible? A loss caused by higher interest payments is still a loss, even if it’s discounted by your marginal tax rate.)

On the flipside, rental rates will rise as more people decide to rent rather than buy. However, property in Sydney is already quite overpriced. Rental yields only pay for a fraction of the mortgage payments. It’s not a great time for new home owners.

Link of the half-hour: Lifetime mortgages.

Blogathon Post 27

It’s actually a little hard to post anything substantial every half hour, so I’m deferring until the next post.

Blogathon Post 26

That was a good episode.

Blogathon Post 25

No link for this half hour, still watching Stargate.

Blogathon Post 24

Time to watch Stargate. Ooh, a crossover episode with Atlantis!

Link of the half-hour: Midnight in Moscow. An interesting article about how the fall of the Soviet Union has changed Moscovite night life.

Blogathon Post 23

Time for some breakfast.

Link of the half-hour: Top 50 movie endings of all time.

Blogathon Post 22

Always in the mood for a good prank.

Link of the half-hour: Gas pump prank (video).

Blogathon Post 21

My brain is still not working at this hour.

Link of the half-hour: Microsoft’s Photosynth idea.

Blogathon Post 20

They say the hour before dawn is the darkest. I wonder why? I bet you Google will know…

Link of the half-hour: “The darkest hour is before dawn“. Oh, it’s just an idiom. I’m disappointed, I thought there was some fact behind it.

Blogathon Post 19

5.00am.

Link of the half-hour: “I’m her… daddy!” (video). Why don’t Australian companies ever make ads like this?

Blogathon Post 18

It’s still dark outside.

Link of the half-hour: Some pretty cool photos. You might have seen some of them before.

Blogathon Post

*Yawn*. Good morning. It’s dark outside. That’s just wrong. Hmm I see Doz has done a spate of posts on movies.

Link of the half-hour: People get maths tuitioning, science tuitioning, piano lessons… but now, at rates of over US$50, computer gaming lessons.

Damn

I got a little side-tracked while watching and now I’ve reached the end of my tether, fatigue wise. Time to hand it back to Stuart. Gnite!

Yojimbo 3

Hmm- the movie is actually a bit different from a Fistfull of Dollars, at least as I remember it- I guess it only follows it roughly after the beginning.

One funny scene was a fight between the two rival clans that never really got started. They just cowered at each other. Far cry from most battle scenes, and more realistic!

Yojimbo 2

It’s eerie how closely Yojimbo is followed by its famed pretender, Fistfull of Dollars. He makes his grand entrance as a force to be reckoned with in the same way, there’s the same joke with the cooper (coffin-maker) … great movie so far.

It’s in black and white, but don’t let that put you off.

Yojimbo

Nearly everyone should know the Yojimbo story, even if they haven’t seen the original film. It’s about a Samurai who walks into a town that’s being fought over by two rival clans. The Samurai kicks ass, takes names, and makes a lot of cash in the process.

If you haven’t seen Yojimbo (and I haven’t, until now) then you might have seen the Clint Eastwood classic “Fistfull of Dollars”- which is a virtual copy of the Yojimbo story, instead replace Samurai with Cowboy, katana with six shooters.

You might also have seen the not-so-classic (but still, in my opinion, entertaining) “Last Man Standing”- which is the most modern take- with Bruce Willis in the protagonist role in prohibition-era America. Not katanas or six shooters- but a pair of impossibly loud Colt M1911A1s, and the odd Thompson sub-machine gun.

You might also have played “Fallout”- where the scenario is repeated once more in a post-apocalyptic future role playing game in one particular quest line. Replace katanas, six shooters, and Colt M1911A1s with futuristic guns, lots of Mad Max style clothes, and a great damn game. Throw in Richard Dean Anderson (aka MacGuyver, aka Colonel Jack O’Neill from Stargate) doing a voice over.

But I digress. On to the movie!

Lost Boys End

Ok- that was pretty awesome. Good twist at the end, in my opinion. A really off-centre movie, sometimes serious, sometimes funny, sometimes gory, always interesting. Now then … time for Yojimbo.

Lost Boys 7

I have real trouble trying to pin this movie down. A pretty violent, bloody orgy of slaughter by the vampire nest when they attack revelers on the beach (earning the movie’s M 15+ Rating, I think)- followed by the comical antics of the two Coreys (early teens, easily) incompetently trying to save the “lost” brother and his love interest from the vampires. Complete with water pistols shooting holy water + garlic. Bizarre.

Lost Boys 6

This is one of those “kill the head vampire” type stories- or is it? The movie’s quite good at making me speculate- Corey Haim is going from a comic book when he states that if they can kill the head vampire, his brother and the other “half-vampires” will return to normal. Normally, I’d say this was a straightforward case of them somehow killing Kiefer Sutherland and then finding out in a “surprise” twist that he wasn’t the head vampire at all. But the movie keeps you guessing- another funny scene where the two Coreys tried all sorts of antics on a character to tell if he was a vampire- like the implausible “burn them with water” trick (whoever heard of that one before? Isn’t it holy water?). Leaving the possibility open that there’s no head vampire at all. Hmm. Wonder how this pans out.

Lost Boys 5

Oh yeah- definitely a movie with a sense of humor. The kid’s brother gets discovered as a vampire in such a matter of fact way, it’s almost as if he’s been caught smoking weed! “You’re a creature of the night! My own brother a ^%&-sucking vampire! Wait till Mom finds out!” Hilarious stuff.

Doz

Lost Boys 4

As is typical with Vampire movies- it seems the brother of Corey Haim (played by I don’t know Who) is made a vampire by being seduced by a woman- or, more accurately, chasing her along with Kiefer Sutherland and his gang to their lair. Why is that always the way? Is it the latent sexual undertones of the whole vampire mythos? Maybe it’s tied up with the whole “you know, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to be a vampire” thing …

Doz

PS: Ok, now that’s disturbing. Corey Haim’s character has a picture of a half-naked Rob Lowe on his closet door. I’m scared.

Lost Boys 3

Wow- do you remember those Simpsons episodes where Bart is watching some non-descript horror movie and there’s always some scene of the couple sitting in the back seat of the car, the woman thinks she hears something, the guy says its nothing, then boom they get attacked by some monster? I always understood this to be a cliche- but I’d never actually seen the original article in an actual film. Until now- but I get the funny feeling that the scene in the Lost Boys was in much the same vein as the Simpsons take- poking fun. This movie has a sense of humour I think.

I still want to see a movie with a sincere version of that scene.

Lost Boys 2

There’s something very attractive about the old Vampire mythos, I think. This movie reminds me of a PC game I played last year- Vampire: The Masquerade, Bloodlines. You play a Vampire, obviously, and the story revolves around the machinations of the Vampire underworld, played out among the city nights. Normal people are so much … cattle, compared to you. Why is that so attractive? Maybe people like the thought of being a predator. Or maybe it’s just me.

(For those who have no idea about the Lost Boys, yes, it’s a vampire movie)

Doz

The Lost Boys

It’s funny the little things that can make you want to watch a movie. Take “The Lost Boys”, a 1987 film directed by Joel Schumacher (“history’s greatest villain” as far as Batman fans are concerned).

I first heard about it when watching “Resevoir Dogs”. Tim Roth is telling a story and part of that story is how he’s trying to watch the Lost Boys. That’s it. Really. I saw Resevoir Dogs the other day, and my memory was jogged. So I’m at the store and what do I see but a copy of the Lost Boys for $12.98. Yoink, mine, thank you. Kiefer Sutherland of “24” fame is in it- so far (only a few minutes in) he looks like an awesome character- cool, in that un-cool, 1980s sort of way. Woah- even Keanu Reeves’ sidekick from the Bill & Ted movies is in this! And looking at the credits- it’s one of those 80s movies with “the two Coreys”- Corey Haim and Corey Feldman. This is retro night. I think I’m going to enjoy this movie.

Oh, and for the record, Lost Boys doesn’t have that annoying “don’t steal movies” video. I just thought I’d mention it as a gripe. Moving right along.

Doz

DVDs

Hi, Doz here-

Did you ever find it frustrating how some DVDs insist on showing you that patronizing “don’t steal movies” video with the mediocre rock music and the oh so contemporary editing- even though you’ve bought the damnable thing? Just who thought up this brilliant plan? Either the guy bought the DVD and is feeling insulted at being given this groovy rock sermon when he just wants to watch the movie, or the guy pirated the movie and … what? He’s going to be assaulted by waves of guilt and never pirate another film again? Optimistic, aren’t they?

Rant off.

  11:59pm (GMT +10.00)  •  Movies  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

Blogathon Post 3

Okay things should be right to handover now.

  11:45pm (GMT +10.00)  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

Blogathon Post 2

Still waiting for Doz to get back… and I’m having a few problems getting his user ID and timezone settings set up. Never had to add an extra user to this blog before…

  11:31pm (GMT +10.00)  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

Blogathon Post 1

And we’re off. I’m going to hand over the posting to Doz soon when he gets back from his party, so I can grab a little shut-eye before the long haul. I’ll probably cobble together some posts with actual content on the other side of sleep.

  10:58pm (GMT +10.00)  •  Life  •  Tweet This  •  Comments (2)  • 

Blogathon Post Zero

Blogathon’s starting soon… at 11.00pm.

25
Jul 06
Tue
23
Jul 06
Sun

Movies

It’s been a good year for movies. I guess I’m not the most discerning movie-goer, but the blockbusters have generally been positive.

Pirates 2
Loved it. I didn’t know that number 2 was part of a two-parter so I’m a little miffed I’m going to have to wait for whenever the third part comes out to get a full story out of it. And that soundtrack kicks ass.

Superman Returns
Pretty good effort I thought. The plot never really felt like it climaxed for me (which is odd for a superhero movie), but it still managed to keep me interested through its longer-than-usual running time.

  7:11pm (GMT +10.00)  •  Movies  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 
20
Jul 06
Thu
13
Jul 06
Thu
12
Jul 06
Wed
11
Jul 06
Tue

Blogathon 2006

The event
I’m going to participate in the Blogathon this year. It’s a charity fund-raising event where bloggers stay up for a 24 hour period and post once every 30 minutes. The event will start at 6.00am, US Pacific Standard Time on the 29th of July. That’s 11.00pm on the Saturday in Sydney. The timezone’s a pretty awkward, so I’ve recruited a guest blogger (a first for this website) who will fill in during the witching hours so I can get some rest (yes, it’s allowed under the rules). Incidentally, this is also the first time I’ve used this website to request money (and it’s not even for myself!).

The charity
The organisation I will be donating to is World Vision Australia. I was trying to decide between World Vision and donating to a cancer research organisation, but I decided that for the amounts I’m likely to raise, the few dollars will go a lot further in the developing and third world than it will for research or palliative care in the first world. World Vision is well known for their 40 hour famine fundraiser and sponsor-a-child program. The Australian branch administers over a quarter million such sponsorships. In addition to that, they are active in organising appeals and relief projects for both natural and human-made disasters (earthquakes, tsunamis, civilians living in conflict zones) as well as longer term developmental projects (such as helping communities to become self-reliant) throughout Asia and Africa. Importantly, only 7.1% of World Vision Australia’s revenue in 2005 was used in administrative overheads – a creditable amount which provides comfort that most of the money is getting to where it should be going.

Sponsor me
So, please click below to sponsor me! You don’t pay now, you just make a pledge – I have to complete the 24 hours first. (Mark donations in AUD.)


 

9
Jul 06
Sun

Gambling for the Cup


Asia might have no teams in the knockout stage of the World Cup, but they are still very much involved.

WHEN Totti slotted in the cruel penalty goal that sent Italy, Australia and a Chinese commentator by the name of Huang Jianxiang ballistic (all for different reasons), they weren’t alone. In that same instant around the world, millions of dollars changed hands among thousands upon thousands of people who were now either revelling in a sudden influx of pocket money or despairing the loss of several days’ worth of wages.

Backtrack to four years ago and the 2002 World Cup. Being the first Cup to be hosted in Asia, reasonable timezone differences meant that Australia was truly exposed to World Cup football for the first time. Only having a passing interest in football before that, I quickly gained an appreciation for the game watching the best players in the world strut their stuff.

I remember getting caught up in the event and placing a couple small bets on matches at the local TAB, just like people who have no idea about horse-racing do once a year at the Melbourne Cup. I was pretty proud with my winnings until I spoke to my friend Cheng about it, who scoffed at my paltry wagers. Cheng would have been an international student had he not obtained an Australian permanent residency visa through some vague family diplomatic connections. He was a fairly typical international student, his overseas study being funded by money sent from home. Not exactly poor by student standards, but not from an obscenely rich family either – you know the type, those who buy penthouse apartments for their children to live in while they study in a foreign land.

Cheng bet on nearly every match, each wager usually a triple digit number. Often he’d place a bet through his brother-in-law back in his home country, who would forward the bet onto a local bookie of some description using the cryptic quoting system of Asian odds (where giving or “eating” quarter-balls, half-balls and full-balls give a wider variety of betting choices rather than betting on a straight win or loss). When Cheng couldn’t get in contact with him, he’d resort to the TAB instead.

The 2002 World Cup was full of upsets, and a long string of bad bets saw him saddled with a deficit that was almost four digits long by the time Brazil held up the trophy. Nonetheless, I had been briefly exposed to the Asian culture of gambling that, in my naivety, I never knew existed.

Gambling is very much a cultural phenomenon in Asia. Just like going out for a drink at the pub at the end of the day is usual in some parts of the Western world, making a casual visit to the casino is a similar pastime in Asia. Similar to how we view drinking, gambling in Asia doesn’t attract the same sort of social stigma as it does here. Sure, gambling addicts can end up ruining their lives and the lives of those around them, but this is as large a social problem as alcohol addiction. The fact is that most casual gamblers don’t operate in the extreme, and it is just as easy to blow $100 on alcohol during a night as it is on the dai sai tables. (And with gambling there’s the advantage that you probably won’t end up in compromising positions on people’s mailboxes the next morning.)

When I was younger, I would often accompany mum to a relative’s or family friend’s house, and while I would muck around with the other kids, the grown-ups would always be busy at it on the raucous mahjong table. After the clattering of mahjong tiles had stopped, signalling the end of one hand, chips would be tossed across the table to the victor (along with mutters of disbelief or cries of joy). They always played for money. And I always remember responding with shock when people either lost or won a hundred or so dollars during the course of one night (which to a ten year-old was quite a lot of pocket money, especially for one who never got any pocket money!).

Interestingly, there were never any sour faces after those games, even from those who had lost the most. There were a few choice profanities tossed around by the losers, but it was always in good jest. I recall asking mum why they had to play for money and she explained that it was more fun that way, and the winner would always go off and buy everyone lunch the next day anyway, so in reality the money came back to you in the end. So really, even when the money never actually made a difference, they always still played with it.

Of course, in a casino, the money doesn’t always come back to you in the end, but I suspect it’s that culture of willing to take a loss and not see it as a loss but an expense incurred in exchange for a form of entertainment – a valid way of spending your money – that makes gambling so natural to many Asians.

It’s no coincidence that when you visit Star City at any given hour of the day, Asians will easily outnumber people of all other races on the casino floor. I was in Macau casino recently and was amazed to see that at 10.00am on a weekday, all the tables were at capacity, crammed with people two-rows deep, jostling to split their pair of aces, or place another hundred dollars on red.

The Asian gambling market is “officially” valued at about A$30 billion a year. That’s just the legal operations which operate under government license and pay their taxes. Underground betting organisations are estimated to comprise a massive 80% of the market, which means that the turnover of the whole market is well over $100 billion annually.

Clearly it’s a lucrative market. Centrebet, the Australian online bookmaker, is floating this week on the ASX, and in their prospectus they disclosed that they normally make about a 5% profit off their turnover. Who knows what unlicensed bookies make in their undeclared earnings?

Of course, the flow of wagers is not constant throughout the year, and it tends to spike heavily during large sporting events. And as far as large sporting events go, there is no larger one than the World Cup.

News articles abound of police cracking down on gambling for the World Cup. The Sydney Morning Herald recently ran a report of a police sting where a bunch of Hong Kongers and Malaysians were arrested. They had flown into Australia to run their sports betting operation and were nabbed in their hotel rooms with mobiles, computers, fax machines and tens of thousands of dollars in cash.

Illegal bookies often offer better odds (with odds changing in realtime and bets often being taken up until the final whistle), flexible betting systems (with exotic wagers on things such as how many corners there are in a game), and even personalised service, phoning up valued punters to ask if they’d like to place a bet on a match they’d probably be interested in.

Of course, it’s much harder tracking down gambling syndicates these days where electronic funds transfer makes everything so much less obvious. No longer do you have to lug a suitcase around to deliver on your wager. A bet is only a mouse click or phone call away.

I know someone who opened up an account with one of these underground online gambling operations. Unlike legitimate online operations, signing up only required a referral from a friend (since these operations don’t publicise themselves through traditional media channels), and a username. That’s it – no address, no contact details, not even money to fund his account with. The bookies extend all members an automatic line of credit, with normal accounts providing up to several thousand dollars of credit per day.

If an account goes into the red and hits a certain limit, the bookies will come around to collect. Without contact details, you might think that is a little difficult, but as all members come from referrals (with referrers effectively vouching for, and acting as guarantors for referees), a door knock from a debt collector with a penchant for dislodging kneecaps is only a few degrees of separation away. It’s a fairly insidious instant-credit facility which has shadiness written all over it, but nonetheless the odds they offer are quite competitive, and bets are taken and odds are recalculated all the way up to the final whistle. Conversely, I imagine that they would be reliable in paying up your winnings, since reputation is hugely important – and if the operators are shady, then surely some of their clients would be even shadier.

Meanwhile, during the World Cup a different group of punters hit the online bookies. Except that they aren’t really punters, but arbitrageurs. In traditional finance, an arbitrage is a transaction which exploits pricing mismatches in order to obtain a risk-free profit. For example, imagine you have two marketplaces in neighbouring towns that buy and sell widgets. The first town is selling widgets at $1.00, but in the next town, they are willing to buy widgets at $1.05. So you can buy a bunch of widgets in town A, drive over to town B and sell them for a 5% profit, which will be risk-free assuming the prices don’t change while you’re driving, or your car doesn’t break down on the way or something like that.

This principle works in the gambling world as well, since supply and demand is one factor which determines the odds bookies post. For example, in tonight’s Italy vs France World Cup Final, Italy might be odds on favourite to win the World Cup at $1.50, against France’s $2.00 to win (that is, if you give $1 to a bookie to bet on Italy to win, then you’ll get $1.50 back if Italy does win). However, if reports came out an hour before kickoff that Cannavaro and Buffon had eaten something dodgy at lunchtime and were out with diarrhoea, the sizeable influx of people betting on France to win would push France’s odds down and Italy’s odds up.

Because football betting occurs all over the world, this interaction of supply and demand tends to create pricing inefficiencies between different regions of the world. Casual gamblers often bet with their hearts. (Even Warren Buffet, for reasons of loyalty and sentiment, has been known to never bet against his favourite college football team, even if he knew they’d probably lose the game.) So in Italy, a stream of bets on the home side placed with Italian bookies would push France’s odds up. Likewise in France, patriotic French punters would cause the Italian odds to go up for French bookies. When that occurs you may get a situation where you can bet on Italy to win the Cup with a French bookie for $2.05, and then bet on France to win the Cup with an Italian bookie also for $2.05. Do the maths and you’ll see that if you place two $1000 with those two bookies, you’ll end up with a $50 profit no matter what the outcome of the match is. With the internet, you can place bets with bookies all over the world.

Because the World Cup is global, nationalism runs rampant, and the gambling turnover is mind-boggling, arbitrageurs have a bonanza during the whole competition. A friend has anecdotally estimated that the opportunities to place “sports arbs” (as they are known) have risen as much as fivefold during the last month.

In 2006, Cheng’s brother-in-law has since moved to America, but he still contacts him to place bets. He’s doing better this time around, being in the black. Unlike arbitraging – which is a mostly riskless, emotionless proposition when it comes to watching the match afterwards – Cheng said that knowing your money’s on the line makes matches that little bit more adrenaline pumping, that little bit more exciting and that little bit more sweet, when the team you’ve been cheering on thumps in a goal to win the match. That, and everyone else is doing it.

  11:51pm (GMT +10.00)  •  Culture  •  Tweet This  •  Comments (4)  • 

Pello

There are two-hat restaurants and there are two-hat restaurants. Unfortunately for Pello, located on Stanley Street in East Sydney, it falls somewhere towards the bottom end of the two-hat spectrum.

Our group of four arrived at the restaurant at about 7.30pm last night. We inquired whether they had on offer a degustation menu, only to be told that it was on offer every night of the week except for Fridays and Saturdays. We found this somewhat peculiar as a degustation menu is normally meant to showcase a wider range of dishes to customers, and with Friday and Saturday nights being the busiest, it would make more sense to offer it on those days instead. Nonetheless, we made do with a three-course à la carte menu, got a bottle of wine and waited.

About half an hour later, the entrées arrived – I had the Pello tasting plate, a bunch of four delicious canapé-sized morsels. We polished the entrées off and waited. And waited. And waited some more.

When the mains finally arrived, my first reaction was at how small the serving sizes were. They looked like they were degustation menu-sized servings, except of course that we weren’t eating from a degustation menu. In fact, I’ve seen degustation menu dishes that were larger than those. Size aside, the food was very tasty (I had the daily special – a pork dish). And then it was back to waiting.

Finally they brought out the dessert menu, we ordered, and after another interminable period, out our desserts came. I ordered the Mandarin Jelly Pyramid with Mandarin sorbet and plastic. Yes, the sorbet was damn nice, except for a chip of plastic takeaway container that was lodged in it. Tam had to contend with a scrap of paper attached to his chocolate pudding (or it might have been the quince tart, I don’t remember). Those things aside, the desserts were quite unusual, but innovative and definitely worth it.

By this time it was incredibly almost midnight (four and a half hours for a 3 course meal?!), so instead of complaining about the plastic and getting the dish redone, which would surely have taken another hour, we rounded up the final bill to $300 ($75pp). That made a grand tip of $3. Our waitress immediately took notice of this and asked if everything had been okay. She was quite apologetic after we had voiced our concerns to her. (Note that it’s always worthwhile voicing your complaints in restaurants like this, if you have the time.)

I should also mention that they provided two freebie courses – a mini-entrée and a pre-dessert course (there’s that word again).

All in all, it’d be a pretty good restaurant if you have a whole night to kill, and you could order an entrée, skip the mains and grab dessert.

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Tokyo Drift

You know, the third installment in the Fast and the Furious franchise is surprisingly… entertaining. And the cameo at the end is entertainingly surprising.

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