A few pics from my new, accidental purchase from the astoundingly awesome website ThinkGeek. I bought a bunch of stuff from them online, but then mistakenly clicked “Add to checkout” (and forgot about it) when looking at their new shirt range – including this whale-shirt detailing a phenomenally obscure reference to the Douglas Adams classic The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
A good accident
The up side is that my surprise at receiving the Fail Whale shirt as part of the geeky package inspired me to go back and read one of my favourite passages from one of my all-time favourite books. In short, the protagonists are saved when two ballistic missiles that are hurtling towards them are inadvertedly transformed – by way of a sort-of parallel-universe creator – into a whale and a bunch of petunias. The book continues:
“Another thing that got forgotten was the fact that against all probability a sperm whale had suddenly been called into existence several miles above the surface of an alien planet.
And since this is not a naturally tenable position for a whale, this poor innocent creature had very little time to come to terms with its identity as a whale before it then had to come to terms with not being a whale any more.
This is a complete record of its thoughts from the moment it began its life till the moment it ended it.
Ah … ! What’s happening? it thought.
Er, excuse me, who am I?
Why am I here? What’s my purpose in life?
What do I mean by who am I?
Calm down, get a grip now … oh! this is an interesting sensation, what is it? It’s a sort of … yawning, tingling sensation in my … my … well I suppose I’d better start finding names for things if I want to make any headway in what for the sake of what I shall call an argument I shall call the world, so let’s call it my stomach.
Good. Ooooh, it’s getting quite strong. And hey, what’s about this whistling roaring sound going past what I’m suddenly going to call my head? Perhaps I can call that … wind! Is that a good name? It’ll do … perhaps I can find a better name for it later when I’ve found out what it’s for. It must be something very important because there certainly seems to be a hell of a lot of it. Hey! What’s this thing? This … let’s call it a tail – yeah, tail. Hey! I can can really thrash it about pretty good can’t I? Wow! Wow! That feels great! Doesn’t seem to achieve very much but I’ll probably find out what it’s for later on.
Now – have I built up any coherent picture of things yet?
Never mind, hey, this is really exciting, so much to find out about, so much to look forward to, I’m quite dizzy with anticipation …
Or is it the wind?
There really is a lot of that now isn’t it?
And wow! Hey! What’s this thing suddenly coming towards me very fast? Very very fast. So big and flat and round, it needs a big wide sounding name like … ow … ound … round … ground! That’s it! That’s a good name – ground!
I wonder if it will be friends with me?
And the rest, after a sudden wet thud, was silence.
Curiously enough, the only thing that went through the mind of the bowl of petunias as it fell was Oh no, not again. Many people have speculated that if we knew exactly why the bowl of petunias had thought that we would know a lot more about the nature of the universe than we do now.”
― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Comedy gold. If, in a different parallel universe, I ever became a writer, I’d probably try to model myself on Adams. Abstract humour at its best.
Having said that, so far not a single person has gotten the shirt reference. Probably for the best, really.
I have an addiction. A destructive, nasty addiction that is unhealthy, unsightly and, apparently, incurable.
It’s a little unusual. It’s not a food, or drink, or any other substance. It’s not, contrary to what some of my snotty-nosed friends might claim, a debilitating dependence on fruit smoothies, or the Twilight series, or even internet chess – these are nothing but intrinsic desires to which, to be fair, I acquiesce quite regularly.
(Incidentally, a chess friend’s wife recently lamented to me that, while she’d never had any fears about her husband casting his eyes towards other women, she genuinely felt cheated on due to his internet chess addiction. “Every other night I’ll wake up at some point to find the spot next to me empty,” she complained. “Sure enough, he’ll be in the study playing that damn chess on the internet. He sneaks out!”
Some people would call an internet chess craving immature, but I contend that such an addiction is rather the mark of sophistication and culture. On an unrelated note, can you imagine how irritatingly difficult it is to find a grown up companion in a PhD program willing to watch the last Twilight movie?)
No, my addiction is something quite different, and a little internet research even allows me to give it its proper name – apparently I’m not alone.
I’m a Dermatillomaniac.
Since as long as I can remember (at least from the age of four), I’ve been addicted to destroying my fingernails. I used to be a compulsive biter (a victim of onychophagia, apparently), but my Dad quickly disciplined me out of that condition. However, with the benefit of hindsight, I wish he’d gone a step further and banned me from touching my nails at all, because I’ve definitely substituted the biting craving with ripping, picking, and in every way compulsively destroying my cuticled clapperclaws.
It really is an addiction, by the way, even though I probably only realised it as such last year. I guess for a little kid forced to sit still playing six-hour chess games, it’s not too surprising that my fingers faced the brunt of my restlessness. And even as an (albeit Twilight-loving) adult, the talons definitely don’t look their best at the end of a tournament. So, at the start of this year, I included “Grow good nails” as perhaps the weirdest ever addition to my list of New Year resolutions (and regular readers will know how seriously I take the whole resolution thing).
But honestly, I’m at a bit of a loss with this one. We’re into the final month of 2012 and the tips of my digits still look like I’ve attempted to hand-feed a pack of starved Tasmanian Devils. I’ve tried everything – I think I’ve got nail files in every bag I own – but my inner dermo-demon always finds a way to thwart my plans. I’ll try my best to consciously leave my hands alone, and then I’ll be in class, listening intently to the lecturer prattle on about evolutionary game theory or some such topic, and before you know it I’ll feel a little warm trickle roll down the side of my fingers. And I’ll look down, and sure enough, while my mind has been intently focused on economics and math, my sneaky little tentacle terrorists will have ripped the cuticles to the point of pain, leaving a bloody, raw mess in their wake.
It’s amazing: I can play high level chess for weeks at a time and study complex mathematics 12 hours a day, seven days a week, but I don’t have the self dedication to stop playing with my hands. And I really have tried everything I can think of. Most recently, I’ve tried distracting myself in class by putting pens in each hand and forcing myself to practice pen-flipping tricks. So concentrated was I in my last microeconometrics class to keep my focus on the pens and off the nails, that I accidentally flicked the pen onto the lecturer’s shoe. I take these things seriously.
Fortunately, it turns out I’m not alone (although, with the advent of the internet, it’s hard to believe anyone really has a truly unique idiosyncrasy anymore). There are even CSP support groups – that’s Compulsive Skin Picking, in case you were wondering, but I’m not sure if I want to be lumped together with the whole assortment of chest, arm and eyebrow pickers. Those guys are crazy.
But apparently dermatillomania is a real, well, something, and from the internet reports I can find, “..often results in shame, guilt and remorse”, “…suggests the patient has a form of obsessive compulsive or impulse control disorder”, “…results from a psychological need for an individual to anchor themselves in the present”, and “…in the case of men, is often linked to eating disorders.” Yikes. Although, given how bad my nails taste, I’m not sure FingerFreak.com has got this exactly right.
(Note: Stay away from googling medical conditions online. It brings nothing but trouble.)
Not surprisingly, nothing online seems to offer any sensible remedies. (Note: Stay away from Yahoo Answers as well, unless you really need to be entertained. Some of the more precious questions from users discussed there include, “Why doesn’t the earth fall down?”, “How can I make 2+2 equal 5?” and “HOW DO I TURN OFF CAPSLOCK?”.)
In fact, probably the most useful piece of advice I’ve found to date is a blog post from some random dermatillomaniac (I just like using that word, really), stating that she finally cured her addiction when she bought a smart phone. In short, my fellow anonymous sufferer sums up her inspiring story with:
“Anyway the upshot is because my fingers are always tap tap tapping and swipe swipe swiping, I now have unchewed normal looking nails.”
Somehow, this seems like an unnecessarily abstract (not to mention expensive) solution. And yet, with 30 days to go until my resolutions are to be held to account, desperate measures are required to meet my day of reckoning. It’s going to be – oh yes – a nail-biting finish.
After a less than ordinary performance in the English chess league last season, my captain had subtly hinted that I was playing for my spot in the team in the first weekend of rounds for the new season. But, despite my slip from the 2500s, I felt that the recent Stonewall break-up and the end of the Tinbergen study ‘year of death’, I was ready to step back up to the plate.
And, indeed, I notched a solid but unremarkable win in the first round against Donald Mason, a respectable twenty-two-hundred, about an hour ago. After a thoroughly entertaining analysis session, I’d just returned to my room, feeling pretty smug at my performance and happy to be back on the winning side of the chess board, when I made the horrible error of checking the game with my computer analysis engine….
Just one move before Donald resigned, it turns out he had a chance to win on the spot with one of the more beautiful moves I’ve seen in a very long time. As asthetic as it would have been, though, it would have been just as equally devastating for me. Finally a bit of chess Karma?!
See if you can spot it: (answer below). Playing black, I’d just moved 28…Be2, after which the game continued 29.Nh6+ Bxh6 and Donald resigned. But instead…
29.Qh6!! wins on the spot. The most beautiful variation runs 29…Bxf1 30.Qh8+! Bxh8 32.Nh6#. Exquisite!
A lot of my friends often ask me what I do in my studies. Unfortunately, for the most part, it’s difficult to make what I study sound interesting to a non-economist. Economics as a field is fascinating and incredibly useful, but the core skills and courses required of a PhD in economics are themselves largely based around complex mathematical models that could send even the more erudite of dinner guests to sleep.
Recently, however, I got the opportunity to tailor one of my assessment pieces to a chessy theme, for a change. The subject was called “Social and Economic Networks”, a course focussed on a new and emerging branch of mathematics based around network theory. I decided to write my final research proposal on how the field might be used to develop a new tie-break system for Swiss and round-robin chess events.
I should stress that I’m not really suggesting it as a serious alternative for tournament chess, but it’s definitely true that the current systems each have their flaws – which I discuss in the paper. My system is based on tallying up a network of direct and indirect wins over all participants in the competition, and has an added perk in that it encourages players to fight for decisive results rather than settle for quick draws. Mind you, it has its own flaws, but at least it made for a more interesting project than what I’m used to.
You can check it out on the link below, if you’re interested, though I should add some sort of warning for the mathematical derivations and prosaic language. As an example, consider the end of the introduction:
This proposal seeks to address both the inadequacies of current tie-break systems and the issue of ever- increasing draws in chess by introducing a new tie-break system for large tournaments. The system uses a measure based on both direct and indirect wins, and is a generalisation of standard centrality values stemming from the directed network of wins throughout an event.
Still, it was kind of a fun application of some complex math, and I managed to wrangle a bit of text on recent tie-break controversies at the European Championships and also the Commonwealth Championships. Just try not to be too scared by all the Greek symbols.
It’s hard even to pen these words to you, though I’m sure that the pain will pass in time. But this has to be done; I’m breaking up with you, once and for all. Please don’t try to convince me otherwise – you know the effect you have on me. If you love me the way you claim to, you’ll let me go, for both of our sakes.
I know we said we’d be together forever, but sometimes things just have to end. You see, I just can’t put up with the hurt any more. Time and time again you burn me, only to suck me in once more with promises of improvement. “It’ll be better next time”, you’d say, staring at me with those soft f5-d5 eyes, pointing straight at the outpost of my heart. “Things just kind of happened, but it was only this one time”, you’d plead after yet another heartbreaking loss. “My love for you is rock solid”, you’d lie, as I’d watch yet another line of my defenses crumble under a white assault.
Like the lovestruck fool I was, I’d keep coming back, only to be burned yet again. It’s taken time, but I’ve finally summoned the strength to confront the brutal truth: you’re not to be trusted. And so, it’s over.
Sure, we had some times. Oh, how we had some times! The scent of the quick kingside mating attack, the beautiful positional grind, the flamboyant endgame finish. You sucked me in with your promises of a partnership full of joy and success, and there were times when I could really believe it. But, in the cold, harsh light of hindsight, I realise that those blissful moments stand sparse against the dense foliage of demoralising suffocation. When it was good, it was really good. But, dear Stonewall, those fleeting minatures just aren’t enough. I’ve had enough of your games.
Now that the decision to break up is final in my heart, I’ve allowed myself the small luxury of reminiscing about our relationship. I even remember the first time we met. I remember laying eyes on your gloriously symmetric pawn structure and being simply awed by the simplicity of your character. A few simple moves against any opposition and your true personality rang out loud and clear: a gloriously solid physique, beautifully elegant plans and such powerful domination of the e4 square. I recall your humble yet confident dismissal of the e5 weakness, the graceful movement and flow of the pieces under the strength of your command, and the inevitable magic that fills a room when you announce the triumphant reemergence of your c8 bishop. How could anyone not be attracted to such an aura? How could anyone not want to be a part of such exuberance forever? How could I not fall for your charm?
I remember the first time we were together. It wasn’t your typical romance – I wielded the white pieces for our first outing – but you’ve never been one for soppy conventions. I expected we’d take things slow, get a feel for each other and gradually explore the position we’d created – but you had other ideas. You had me well in your clutches, and before I could stop myself, I was falling, head over heels, doing things I never thought I would with an opening I’d just met. I’d expected a calm, restrained positional grind from our first outing, but as early as move eleven I found myself sacrificing a piece for a tantalising central attack. Mate followed moments later, and after such exhilaration I knew there could be no turning back. You had me at “f4″.
I was young, naive, and overwhelmed with how you made me feel. But after our second date, I really should have known better. It was the very next day, and despite promising me all the satisfactions of our first time in the match against Nick Pert, you burned me right at the last minute. At first, I simply couldn’t believe you could be so cruel. But you were quick to defend your actions, claiming we were simply a “victim of circumstances”, that you’d never foreseen that things would go sour, and that your deserting me for Nick was “a one-off, never to be repeated.”
Like a fool, I believed you, to my peril.
As the games wore on, I found myself less and less enthused by the positions you placed me in. That centre of strength I so admired in those early days begun to appear weak, barely supported on a haphazard foundation of your lies. The e4 sparkle when you smiled began to lose its lustre, quickly dissolved by a brash f3 push. Suddenly, everyone seemed to want to play 1.d4 against me, as if they knew something about you that I did not. Time and again you promised me it wasn’t so, but the twinkle in the eyes of my opponents when I pushed my f-pawn seemed to suggest that something was going on. I kept on lying to myself, convinced that it was all coincidence, that their victories were due to chance and not because you’d allowed them into your intimate secrets. Of course, now I know it was all a ruse. Deep down, I guess I always knew that there were others, that your love for me was never as strong and commited as the pawn centre you made it out to be. I fooled myself into believing otherwise, but for months, the writing had been on the Wall.
But Stonewall, the last Olympiad really was the final straw. Two draws from four games was more than my fragile heart could bear. The final match against Lubomir Ftachnik told me once and for all that you were not to be trusted. My captain, my friends and even strangers I’d never met before have been telling me for months you’re nothing but trouble, but it took until this game for the facade of your charm to finally give way to my own realisation. Even afterwards, you had the nerve to claim that we still had an equal endgame, that it wasn’t your fault my position immediately fell into cruel passivity at the hands of a seasoned expert. Yes, Stonewall, I know now just why he seemed so at ease in handling your structure. A little bird told me that you and him had flirted in no less than twenty games, that you’d given him all of your secrets, ignorant or more likely unaffected by the hurt it would cause me. I never stood a chance.
Oh Stonewall, you do have a way with the Grandmasters, don’t you? I don’t know how many others there were, and, now that we are finally over, I don’t care. I’ve moved on, at least emotionally. There isn’t anyone else, in case you were wondering – at least not yet. You’ve left a gaping hole in my repertoire, and it needs time to mend before I can think about you replacing me with someone else. But I know in myself that I’m a good guy who deserves a decent opening, one that treats me right, sees me through the rough patches, cares for me, and doesn’t leave me high and dry when I’m most in need. Already I’ve had a call from the Grunfeld, asking me out for a few blitz games at our local cafe. I had to decline – I’m not quite ready for that level of theory – but perhaps, some day, I’ll consider giving a kingside fianchetto another go. And the f-pawn will definitely be kept very much at home.
Now that it’s over, Stonewall, I want you to know that I’m not angry at you. I wouldn’t give you the satisfaction. But I do feel sorry for you, and even more so for those to come who fall victim to your appeal. Despite your outward allure, I know now that, deep down, you’re simply unsound. It hurts to know you kept it hidden from me for so long, but I’ll not lower myself to petty insults or immersing myself in any more of your childish games. I’m above that. You may have broken my heart and stripped bare my ELO points, but you’ll never take my dignity.
I’d wish you good luck and success in your future, but knowing now what I do about the permanent weaknesses of your structure and your complete disregard for your c8 bishop, I feel it would be wasted breath. So instead, let me finish by saying that I choose to remember the good times – the swashbuckling kingside mates, the dainty positional crushes, the enduring endgame pleasures – than the pain you caused me. It’s over, and if you care about me at all, you’ll be happy for me.
Take care of yourself, Stonewall, as best you can. Perhaps you’ll never be able to patch up your issues, but I’m sure you’ll find some poor young thing to fall victim to your charms in no time. Perhaps I’ll even come across the two of you in the future – of course, with me safely on the other side of the board this time. I won’t be jealous, nor will I be upset. In fact, if anything, I’ll be happy.
It’s tough to write an update right now – my captain even advised me to stay away from the blog for a while – but I should at least give a brief piece about the state of play after the final round. It’s been a very tough few days for me after the somewhat tragic round 9, and nothing’s gotten better from a personal note, but I shouldn’t detract from what has been an outstanding Australian team performance.
After today’s 2-2 draw with Slovakia, thanks to another amazing win by Stephen, we’ll finish somewhere in the top twenty. Given our seeding of 61 and that we were missing four of our regular top five players, it’s quite simply a phenomenal performance. In fact, a win in the last match would have seen us in the top ten, which would have been the best ever Olympiad performance by an Australian team. And it really could have happened – had I not blundered in my game. Yes, unfortunately, I’m to blame.
My slide started a few days ago, and simply put, my psychological stamina has been broken ever since. Round nine saw me blow a chance to secure a team victory against the higher rated Mongolia, in the most heartbreaking fashion imaginable. Having outplayed my 2600+ opponent with the black pieces in a perfect French defence, I found myself in a completely winning rook endgame two pawns ahead and about to pick up some more, just as my opponent, who had been in hideous time trouble for most of the game, made his 40th move with seconds to spare. Presented with several different ways to finish things off, I bizarrely sunk into some sort of trace and simply forgot to move. My captain recounts that he almost screamed at me as he watched my clock run down to zero, while I sat there oblivious. My opponent was so shocked by the dramatic turn of events that he started laughing incredulously. I couldn’t leave the board for ten minutes after the game, and stayed sitting with my head in my hands, waiting for the ringing in my ears to stop. It didn’t.
The next day I played a really horrible game against the ex-Chinese grandmaster Zhang Zhong, but fortunately the team again carried me through, and we recorded a win. I did my best to forget about chess during the subsequent rest day, got a good night’s sleep, and was confident of holding the fort on board one in the final game against the legendary Slovakian grandmaster Lubomir Ftacnik (who once coached me back when I was 13). I reached an equal endgame where I had a whole-of-board blockade, but just when the draw was in sight, inexplicably I chose to open things up around my king. The loss saw us finish the match tied, saw me finish with three straight losses and go from four out of seven to four out of ten, and will see my rating fall below 2500 for the first time since becoming a grandmaster.
No loss is fun, and losing three on the trot is always a horrible experience. But in a team event and particularly an Olympiad, when there’s teammates and Australians back home counting on you, the disappointment is amplified. It’s because of this, and it may just be the moment talking, that personally, I cannot recall feeling more crushed from a chess performance than this one. But at least Australians can be proud of their team as a whole, and especially the performance of the newcomers Moulthun and Max. The state of Australian chess has probably never been stronger, and – while not right now! – I’m sure it won’t be long before I start looking forward to the Norway 2014 championships.
Postscript: The final results see the Australian men’s team tied for 19th place. A win in the final match would have seen us finish tied 9th. Armenia edges out Russia on tiebreak to take gold, with Ukraine finishing third. The Australian women finished =40th.
The Australian men’s team. From left: Aleks Wohl, Moulthun Ly, Max Illingworth, Manuel Weeks (c), David Smerdon and Stephen Solomon.
Australia’s had a topsy turvy tournament to date, with a couple of matches going either for or against us with the dreaded 2.5-1.5 scoreline. We’ve also had some favourable pairings, and to be honest, with four rounds to go, our score is a little flattering considering the company we keep on the boards around us.
Aleks is having a rough time of things at the moment, but he’s in good spirits and to be fair has probably been the unluckiest in terms of the games. Max has impressed on board five and Stephen’s had a routine performance, but Moulthun has been the real standout. Two more good results and he can even pick up a GM norm, which hasn’t happened for an Aussie at an Olympiad in a long, long time. Not bad for a diminutive debutant!
My performance has been slightly better than average, but nothing special. I’m finding it a tough job on board one, and I’m feeling a lot more pressure than I expected. I guess being out of form doesn’t help the nerves, either. Today has its own complications, as we face Ireland and I’m pitted against my good friend Sam Collins. Playing a mate is always tough, but especially in a team event when more is at stake and a cheeky short draw isn’t really on the cards. Almost every conceivable outcome comes with its own little bittersweet chaser, though after ten years, Sam and I know each other well enough to understand how things work. Still, I wouldn’t have minded a different pairing.
In other news, quickly before I get back to my preparation, the Bermuda party was a real riot. Far better than expected, I have to say. I brought along an inflatable kangaroo, “Roo”, who I shamelessly admit was the star of the show. Unfortunately, she was brutally kidnapped late in the night, thus ending my vicarious party popularity. RIP, Roo.
The internet has finally returned to the hotel and playing venue, much to the relief of a thousand frustrated chessites. So much to report, so little time…
The men’s team drew 2-2 with an understrength Norwegian outfit. There were two decisive games: Max eskewed a draw and eventually lost, while in a somewhat ironic twist, I managed a win using analysis Max had kindly gifted me in my preparation. Round three was a bit disappointing for us, losing 2.5-1.5 to Mongolia, a team of similar strength. My Stonewall wasn’t half bad, but eventually cracked when I got a little ambitious. Fortunately (but much to my captain’s dismay) I had another chance to whirl out the Stonewall today against Pakistan, but it was the same story: The beautiful wall, the easy equality, the overly optimistic Smerdonesque winning gamble that backfires spectacularly… and wash, rinse, repeat. Somehow, though, I managed to swindle a draw in the endgame, and after draws by Solo and Aleks and a third win for the tournament for Max “Energizer Bunny” Illingworth, we scored our second match win.
Our team continues to be plagued by illness, and in fact my throat feels like it’s got a mini Persian rug jammed down it most of the time. Moulthun had a bad bout of insomnia but fortunately managed a 15 hour sleep yesterday. Sherab’s spider situation escalated, but the docs have got it under control now, apparently, so long as he gets jabbed with penicillin twice a day. Alek’s bronchitis has settled a little, so much so that he’s passed on the medication to me. Other teams have their own dramas, too: Nigel Short did something to his leg; top Dutch player Anish Giri is still struggling to get a visa to get here; New Zealand WIM and wife of Gawain Jones, Sue Maroroa, is having similar visa issues from London.
In a show of patriotism and transtasman solidarity, one of the New Zealanders and I put up our respective flags at the end of each corridor on the second floor (which is essentially just our teams). However, the cleaners decided that, despite the plethora of Turkish flags adorning the hotel and surrounds, they had to go. We weren’t informed; we just came back one day to find them gone, and our inquiries and protestations to the hotel reception did no good. Fortunately they’re back now, just in time to feature in part of my costume for the Bermuda party.
…If I make it, that is. Of course, the famous Bermuda party, sponsored by the Bermuda team and always held the night before the first rest day, is the major non-chess highlight of the Olympiad. But I’m still coughing, and I’m not sure if – gulp – I’ll be right to go. This despite the fact that it’s being held literally right next door to my hotel, and is the best opportunity to catch up with chess friends from around the world that we only get to see for this one tournament every two years. Better keep up the strepsils.
Other than that, nothing drastic to report, although I’m sure at least part of the Bermuda gossip will be blogworthy after tomorrow. Here’s a couple of snaps in the meantime.
PS Pairings just out; Australia plays Zambia tomorrow, and I face an old friend…
PPS I just realised I never explained the rug reference. Some of our more naive Australians headed out into the centre of Istanbul today and apparently got led down a dark alley by some burly local Turkish merchants. The story gets a little hazy after this (at least I assume the details have been dramatically exaggerated), but the end result was that one Australian chess tourist ended up buying a rug more out of his own safety than anything else. Go figure.)
The opening ceremony featured a lot - really a LOT - of Turkish dancing
The English team, sans their top player, Mickey Adams
Azeri superstars Shak Mamedyarov and Rauf Mamedov
The Chinese women's team are favourites, and my pick for the gold medal
It’s day one of the World Chess Olympiad, and the Aussie team is just about to head to the playing hall for round one. I’m being rested today against Namibia, so hopefully I’ll have time to write something a little more substantial as I watch the opening exchanges from the safety of the spectator stands.
So far, everything’s been pretty smooth. Australia got placed in the best hotel complex, which is quite fortunate given some of the horror stories from the most remote accommodations. The team’s in good shape, despite a few minor medical scares: Moulthun has a bit of insomnia, Max drank/ate something a bit funny, and Sherab’s spider bite has swelled his leg to hideously abnormal shapes. On the other hand, Manuel found a Starbucks. So, by Olympiad standards, we’re doing splendidly.
The hotel’s pretty good and the food more than acceptable, though the queues at meal times have become a little ridiculous. The opening ceremony was less than exceptional, but more on that later. Our women are also in good spiritis and face Malta today in what should be a pretty comfortable encounter – Arianne’s resting. I’ve strung up a huge Australia flag outside my door, so now anyone popping by the second floor can be in no doubt what team resides there. The Kiwis are also scattered on our level, and I’ve agreed to let them chuck a Kiwi sticker on the seven pointed flag in a show of antipodean solidarity.
Time to go. Hopefully I can report back two Aussie team victories to start us off. Onya Straya!