This blog is a way for me to collect interesting stuff into one place. I'm not planning on making this a confession booth of any sort, just post random interesting web sites if I feel the need to comment on them (otherwise I just add them to my page) and comment on other stuff that is worth it (books, TV programs, games, CD's etc).

Knowing myself I doubt I will be updating this too often but we'll see...

War in Iraq: The Scam

Rest of the WebPosted by Marko Poutiainen Sunday, October 28 2007 20:36:55

You thought the US war in Iraq was going badly? It is actually going far, far worse than that. I knew money was being stolen and everything but I never thought it quite as bad as what this article by the Rolling Stone magazine describes. The worst part is that the Bush administration knows about most of this and they refuse to do anything - in fact they actively try to stop people from exposing it.

I bet Fox News is in no hurry to tell about this...

On a lighter note, I just finished Half-Life 2: Episode 2 and I think this fellow is pretty much bang about his appraisal.

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The Paradox of Moving Houses

Deep Thoughts and Shallow RamblingsPosted by Marko Poutiainen Sunday, August 19 2007 22:44:18

Looks like another Everton-related post...

There is an old Greek paradox about a ship that goes on a long journey. During that journey, every piece of the ship is one by one replaced by new parts.

When the ship returns back home, is it still the same ship?

The paradox lies in the fact that if those parts were used to construct a new ship, it wouldn't obviously be the same as the existing one. So how could the rebuilt ship be the same as the old? In essence, we would have two ships that are the same which is obviously a crazy idea.

Everton is in a similar situation. What exactly defines Everton Football Club? How many parts can we change and still be able to say it's still the same club? Some people think that moving outside Liverpool is a step too far for them to perceive the club as still being the same entity they have grown to support.

One problem is this wouldn't be the first bad idea to come from this board. A lot of fans who have been with the club through thick and thin are completely fed up with the way the board treats the fans. Some have realised there are far more important things in life than a football club that treats them with contempt. Some are on the edge.

I personally think the most defining thing about Everton Football Club is the strive to live up to the motto. It's not always possible to be the best, but once the club gives up on that, it can't be considered in the same context as the club's illustrious past (Dean, holy trinity, mid-80's team etc). Kirkby is very much against that motto. It is not an attempt to be something special, something unique, Nil Satis Nisi Optimum. It's just like any other identikit retail park stadium built in the last decade or so. Reebok, Madjeski, Ricoh etc. How can anyone say that accepting to be the tenants to Tesco lives up to that motto?

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DVD collection

Other content in sofistes.netPosted by Marko Poutiainen Sunday, July 29 2007 00:17:16

Yay, I managed to get phpDVDProfiler to work. So naturally I had to upload my DVD collection to the site. Looks ok, although the skin could do with some improving. It didn't actually take that long to get it to work, including the nice graphics package (jpgraph). Check out "Site statistics" for what that does.

The review system is a bit weird. DVDProfiler only has two options, one is for the review of the movie and the other is for the entire package (extras etc). phpDVDProfiler on the other hand has four categories: movie, video, audio, extras. Hmm. Where am I supposed to review the other two, and why would I want to? I personally would be satisfied with two: score for the actual movie and the overall score for the DVD as some DVD's might have a great movie, but the actual DVD is crap (poor quality video&audio, no extras, like with the Cracker TV series).

So the "video" review in some movies refers to the the latter, because that's how the information was imported to the database.

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Location, location, location

Deep Thoughts and Shallow RamblingsPosted by Marko Poutiainen Monday, July 23 2007 17:33:59

This article was published in Toffeeweb on 23/7/2007.

Any business-owner knows location is the key. You want to have your business in a place where people want to come to. Of course this has to be offset by the costs of buying or renting the space but location is still a critical factor.

It is said that that's why the McDonald's restaurants didn't use to go bust. They are always located in prime locations. Of course these days the company is in a different kind of trouble with people being made aware of the poor quality of their offerings but they managed to go for decades without a single restaurant going bankrupt. The first one, allegedly, in Germany was closed because the council built a new major road in a location that drew the customers away from the restaurant.

After this prologue I'd like to ask if Kirkby really is such a great place for a football club? I can see several problems:

1. Logistical issues

There will only be 1000 parking spaces for match-goers.

There is only one rail going to Kirkby, it will not be nearly enough.

People leaving the area by car will mostly use only one road, which will certainly be congested. The number of roads is much less than around Goodison Park and there's isn't a big shopping centre next to it.

2. Business issues

Will Kirkby really be a location that will draw the business-people? Would you take your clients to a stadium in the outskirts of the city located in a giant shopping centre?

How will it affect the match-goers? The whole area is totally different from Walton that you won't be going to the pub before the match and walking in just before the kick-off. I know many find these "non-match" issues important.

3. Image/Brand issues

This is the difficult one: how will it affect the club in the long run that it is not located in the City of Liverpool any more? You can say all you want about Kirkby being the Merseyside, but this is an issue our dear neighbours will ram down our throats from the point a decision to build the stadium to Kirkby is made. And they will make sure everyone knows Everton is not in Liverpool any more, with great glee. Will you enjoy reading articles starting like “Everton Football Club has severed it's ties with Liverpool where they played for over 120 years by moving to the small town of Kirkby...”? That's what every Reds supporting reporter will write, even some that now are writing pro-move articles in the local papers.

That's the business side of things. Then comes the really scary part.

Our Board.

I know a lot of people think they are doing a great job. I don't. These are just some of the things I wouldn't expect from a competent board:

- Quadrupling the debt while selling every saleable asset the club had and getting 20+ million for Rooney, 8 million for Jeffers, 6 million for Michael Ball and so on. In fact the club has spent something like 10 million net in players over the past five years. And to blame it all on Goodison Park is ridiculous. GP is hardly the worst stadium in the country.

- The NTL fiasco.

- The FSF fiasco.

- The failure to deliver the King's Dock stadium.

Managing to make a loss on merchandising and not being able to fix it by themselves, but rather outsourcing the whole thing to JJB. I find it completely incomprehensible when you think a shirt cost £5 and they sell them for £50 and should have a good idea on how many shirts they sell every year – they have the data from past years.

Without the miracles David Moyes has produced I fear where the club would be.

And now the information we hear about the new stadium is vague at best. The stadium has cost £50 million, £75 million, £100 million and £150 million. It will have 55,000 or 50,000 seats. There will be 4000 or 1000 parking spaces. It will create maybe up to 10 million extra revenue while the fittings might cost as little as 10 million and the club needs to take maybe only 10-15 million more debt.

The last point is a major sticking point. The cost to the club depends on how much the sale of Goodison Park will generate and how much the club can gather from naming rights. Wyness has stated that the sale of GP will create 15 million pounds. To me it sounds an awfully lot in Walton. Naming rights should generate 35 million, which also sounds quite a lot considering Arsenal got about 50 million from Emirates.

If the club can't make that much money from those two sources it means it will have to take on more debt on top of the existing one, which is somewhere around 50 million. I think Wyness is deliberately playing down the numbers. Also, I can't see how revenue would increase by ten million in the new stadium, and neither does Wyness, or so it seems. The club finds it hard to sell all it's 11 corporate boxes currently, how will it sell 40 in Kirkby? And considering a number of fans will stop going to Kirkby, it will require an awful lot of new fans to increase the capacity by any meaningful numbers. And will this increase be long-lasting? And what makes the club think they will be more attractive to out-of-towners after the club moves to Kirkby? No doubt revenue would increase some, but is it really worth moving for, say a 4-5 million increase?

But it wouldn't sound so good if extra revenue was only 5 million while the club had to increase it's debt by 25 or 30 million and that's why we get these vague numbers.

I also have an issue with the land value. The value of the land now is pretty much nothing. That's because its not in a good location. Just because it might be surrounded by shops won't make it worth 50 million to a football stadium. It could make it worth that to some other business that benefits from those shops but I can't see how a football club could. So adding the 50 million to the total costs to make the deal look bigger is quite dishonest in my opinion. The actual cost of the stadium is quite low and that's why Wyness wants to use tricks like these. £75 million is not a lot of money on a new stadium and that's why our "world-class stadium" is now merely a "high-class stadium". And what will it actually look? The Ricoh Arena looks nothing like the original sketches, for instance.

There are a number of questions I'd like to have answers to:

1. What is the REAL cost of the stadium to Everton Football Club?

2. What is the business case for the move? Where and how much will extra income come? I want more detail than just "up to 10 million extra".

3. Is it really apt for a club of Everton's pedigree that a construction company designs the new stadium instead of an architect? Archibald Leitch and all that.

4. What is the role of Robert Earl, who was recently promoted to the Board, in all this? How much will he and the other Board members benefit personally from the move? As far as we know, his only input to the club so far has been to bring Sylvester Stallone over for a match. Now, on the eve of the biggest decision this club has done for over a hundred years he is suddenly elected to the Board.

5. How on Earth can Tesco get Barr to give a 25 million discount on the building costs? It would be hard for a construction company to get that sort of money back because in effect it would mean taking a loss on the project.

Don't believe the hype. There are always alternatives. The Board blew the first one (King's Dock). Others will come.

And don't believe the spin. Just today there was an article in Liverpool Daily Post by Mark Thomas which ended with the sentence “Would you rather watch a Riquelme in Kirkby, or a Brett Angel in Speke?”. That is an absolutely ridiculous statement. Almost parody-like. The new stadium isn't a magic wand that suddenly allows the club to sign the best players in the world.

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Other content in sofistes.netPosted by Marko Poutiainen Monday, July 16 2007 01:07:11

I visited Helsinki last week to see The Who in their last concert during their 06/07 tour. It was a great gig, unfortunately people weren't allowed to take pictures, but I later took some when walking around downtown Helsinki.

I also wrote a short review of the gig to RYM.

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The Clash: Give 'Em Enough Rope

MusicPosted by Marko Poutiainen Sunday, June 10 2007 17:35:27

I wrote a short review of the rather mediocre Give 'Em Enough Rope by The Clash to RYM.

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Silly Season

Deep Thoughts and Shallow RamblingsPosted by Marko Poutiainen Tuesday, June 05 2007 22:53:42

(This article was published in Toffeeweb 05/06/2007)

It's the silly season again in football as the transfer window opened 1st June. This time I was bored to death about it even before it opened. It's completely ridiculous that newspaper and other places basically just invent transfer rumours to fill up pages. Even more ridiculous is the way some people believe them.

Take Everton. Some hack hears that David Moyes might be interested in a player (or, more likely, just invents the whole thing). He then comes up with a figure, say "4 million pounds" which is a nice number as far as transfers go because it's a hefty sum, but not quite massive yet. Evertonians read this and jump and rush to fill the forums about messages on how Moyes is crazy to pay 4 million for a shitty player like that. You can get literally hundreds of messages of this kind about one invented transfer link. It also works the other way, if some journalist decides to add "Everton" to a list of teams that might be interested in a certain decent player there will again be hundreds of messages speculating what position that player might play, if he worth the price mentioned, and should we sign X instead. In any other situation people would laugh stuff like that off but not when it comes to transfer rumours. The most ridiculous part of this all, however, is the way fans invent prices for players. "I would only pay X million for him" is a very common comment. I'd like to see the catalog that lists prices for players.

This summer is particularily problematic because of two factors. Firstly the Premier League has signed a new TV deal with Sky which increases TV revenue and prize money considerably, teams can expect to increase this money by 10 million or more. Secondly several teams are desperate to strenghten their teams and have the money to do so. So values and wages will be hugely inflated this summer. It has already started with reports that West Ham United will pay Scott Parker 72,000 pounds per week. Parker is a good player, but that money is completely ridiculous. Even the 60k he was getting from Newcastle was a lot. Tottenham Hotspur paid ten million for an 18-year old fullback with no experience at the top level (although I guess quite a lot of that sum is made up of incentives only paid if the player plays enough matches for Spurs etc). West Ham, Spurs, Portsmouth, Newcastle, Aston Villa, Sunderland, Wigan all have money to spend and WHU in particular is desperate to spend heavy after a season that very nearly ended in disaster. Sunderland are recently promoted so they want Premier League quality players to stay up and Wigan also had a poor season but money to spend thanks to the owner of JJB Sports backing them up. On top of that all the top clubs seem to have nice warchests to work with with Arsenal reportedly "only" having 20 million. So money will be splashed this summer and wage demands will be high. I wouldn't be surprised if some players hold their decisions on where to move until quite late. I bet their agents are telling them that teams will get more and more anxious as the transfer window draws to a close. I wouldn't be surprised to see a few ridiculous signings (as per fee and wages) come August.

It has been reported David Moyes has some 15 million to spend on players. Problem is the squad is thin on numbers so he needs to buy several players just to cope with next seasons fixture list. Even without the UEFA cup and with poor domestic cup runs the team was strained to it's limits this season. Next season should see quite a few matches more. I counted only 1 senior goalkeeper, six defenders, five midfielders and five forwards that played any significant part. And two of the forwards (James Beattie and James McFadden) hardly had an impact, except for James McFadden's last minute winner against Charlton Athletic. And two of the strikers are 19. The team should have 2 keepers, 8 defenders, 8 midfielders and 4 decent forwards. Possible 15 million in the pocket, inflated prices and need to get at least 5 or 6 players is not an easy formula.

So how will Moyes cope with this? I think I can see a pattern emerging. Moyes is first of all after players who can play in several positions such as Sheffield United's Phil Jagielka. He is young (25), athletic, strong and extremely quick and can play across the defence or midfield. And he wants to move to Everton. Not the most exciting player and a lot of fans are against this but that's mostly because he's not the flavour of the month. But it's easy to see the appeal. With a thin squad you'd like to have a few players who can fill in at several positions in case of injuries.

He will obviously also be in the look for good value players but so is everyone else. That's probably the biggest reason behind his interest on Joey Barton. Thankfully that didn't go through. Barton is obviously bad for team spirit, something that has been one of Everton's biggest strenghts in the last few seasons. Barton is a useful player but hardly good enough to offset possible bad blood in the team.

Fans demand top-class signings as if getting into the UEFA cup suddenly gives the club a big pot to spend. That is not true, any serious money requires the team to get at least into the semis. Rather than chasing pipe-dreams I would rather see Moyes make solid signings. The core of the team is already good. Howard, Yobo, Lescott, Arteta, Cahill, Johnson are already good players are Stubbs, Hibbert, Neville, Carsley, Vaughan and Anichebe are all useful players with the last two, Vaughan in particular, offering promise of better things to come. So the core is good. Hopefully Moyes can find one quality player to remove some of the burden from Arteta's shoulders as his role as the creative spark is too big. If he struggles so does the team. Moyes is trying to sign Manuel Fernandes on a further year's loan. I wouldn't mind that. He is not the Messiah some fans are making him but he definitely has class. He showed flashess of brilliance but also does have the habit of drifting in and out of matches.

One of the interesting things is that even though Moyes has deployed the 4-5-1 system quite succesfully in the past years he will need to deploy 4-4-2 more. Some teams will simply try to stiffle our game and playing the same game will make it hard to win matches. This season the number of losses was good, ten, only three teams (Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal) lost less games. It's the draws that stopped us from pushing to fourth. The problem with 4-4-2 is it opens up the midfield if the central players don't have the required pace and positioning. If they don't the opposition will simply run through. That's why the defensive midfielder is so important in todays game. Every top team has a very good player in this position. Alex Ferguson just spent a massive amount in Owen Hargreaves and a lot in Michael Carrick last year. Chelsea has spent heavily to find the right guy in recent years and so on. Arsenal has struggled ever since Patrik Vieira left them for Juventus. The magic is that this player allows the creative players more freedom to their stuff and can also support in attack if needed. Vieira wasn't a great scorer but he did score many important goals.

Everton can't unfortunately afford a player of this calibre. And as it's a very tough position to play many players who look promising fail to live up to the expectations after moving to England. The pace is still much more relentless in England than in the continent, Spain and France in particular and this makes the position even harder. Concentration has to be 100% all through the match. Jagielka, however, has many of the qualities that make a good defensive mid. He is very quick and strong and apparently has a good range of passes. He has also been selected player of the season for Sheffield United for the past three seasons. Whether he can grow in stature to be a backbone of a team like the top players are remains to be seen.

Pace will also be important in Europe. That's what cost us the last time, in autumn 2005. Our players struggled to keep up with their continental opposition. This time the team is better prepared, however with the acquisitions of Joleon Lescott and Andrew Johnson. Couple more players with pace would be valuable, however. The three most important abilities any player can have are footballing brain, pace and technique. The first one is the most important because without it most of his other abilities are not realised to their fullest. A player with a good footballing brain can offset lack in other areas. I personally try to look at this when evaluating players. The method is simple: how often does the player do or at least try to do the correct action versus how often he takes the wrong option? Whether a certain pass is succesful is not so important than whether it was the right one to make. Some players can offset a lack in footballing brain by being brilliant in other respects and by relying on these abilities. A very quick player who is a good dribbler can just use those skills rather than try to be a play-maker, but an average player trying the same would just keep loosing the ball. But if the otherwise average player has a good footballing brain he knows when to try to dribble and when not to. The average player might not be so flashy but he can be just as valuable to the team. The trouble is that in order to evaluate this you need to watch the player quite a few times. The flashy player you can just check in the weekly highlights programme.

So what do I think Moyes is planning? I reckon he will want most of the signings to be ones with good brain rather than flashy simply because the latter tend to be more expensive. He will also want to maintain the team spirit. Pace would be nice. And because of the limited funds he will need to try to find a few loans or cheap signings. Hopefully he can pull a rabbit out of the hat like he did with Cahill and Arteta who both cost just over 2 million. In todays prices that's not much. Unfortunately I believe the 2 million players of a few years back are now 3 million. It's hard to find decent Championship players for 2 million, let alone anything better. Hopefully he is as succesful in the transfer front as he was a year ago. If he can find three players of that caliber plus two or three decent ones we should cope ok no matter what the others do. Some of the other teams have a lot more team building to do, Moyes will be able to build on a solid foundation. The teams that generally do well in the Premier are settled sides and it takes a team a season or even two to settle. That's one of the reasons why clubs who keep changing the manager often rarely do well. Each new manager starts the building process over again. Everton doesn't need to do this which is a big bonus. Of course Moyes has had his misses on the market as well, so fingers crossed. At least he doesn't act on a whim and sign anyone who is available.

So I'm bored about the silly season, yet I can't help myself looking for all these useless gossip and rumours. There's just something that tickles the football fan in all this. So it's not just the hacks to blame, they just write what we want to read. C'est la vie.

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Traveller's Dilemma

Deep Thoughts and Shallow RamblingsPosted by Marko Poutiainen Saturday, May 26 2007 19:35:43

Most people who have any interest in economics, game theory or even human psychology have heard of the Prisoner's Dilemma. PD is a big problem for free-market libertarists, because it undermines their claim that left to their own devices, people will always make rational choices and therefore state intervention is Evil. Problem is, when people do make rational decisions in cases involving the PD the result is far from optimal to most, if not all, concerned. There is also a thing called the Free rider problem which is closely related to PD. Things like social security and nature conservation are FRP's. People are unwilling to take part because they know it will take a lot of people to participite to make any difference. So there is the danger that their sacrifices are useless, thus it's better not to participate. And this is where the state is needed - to make everyone pay benefitting everyone in the long run.

I just read an article on the Traveller's Dilemma which is a variation of the Prisoner's Dilemma. What the studies mentioned in the article prove is that people are not rational beasts, required to make free-market society function better than one that is controlled to some degree by the state or other bodies. I don't believe in too much control either, but there needs to be something to control the worst outcomes that free-market libertarism could come up with.

Funny thing is, these dilemma's are more or less intuitive in nature, yet many refute them. This, in my opinion, proves that for some economics isn't a science but a religion. If reality clashes with theory, reality is wrong. This is actually one of the main separating factors between science and religion. The former is preparead to change it's theories, latter is not. Of course the other major difference is is that science requires that results must be repeatable.

That's why it's usually so hard to have a rational discussion with libertarians. It's just like trying to argue a believer that his belief system is wrong which is completely impossible. Well, ok, you can try to argue but it will never lead anywhere.

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