Thursday, June 26, 2008

Diary Of An AFL SuperCoach Obsessive - Week 14


Was muttering ‘John-cock’ to myself this morning as I was walking to the station (as in my team’s new addition, Graham Johncock). Not sure how audible it was since I had my headphones in, but the girl on the other side of street looked at me peculiarly. Then had to walk faster and overtake her before I crossed over just in case she thought I was a sex maniac. Should probably not mutter the names of my backline in public again.

Papers are making big deal out of Nick Dal Santo being dropped, which makes me feel better in that I now feel like the victim of some extraordinary event. Freakin’ Ross Lyon is being cagey on when Dal Santo will return though. Hopefully the Saints fans will man the Telstra Dome gates tonight with ‘WE WANT NICK!’ and ‘ROSS LYON SUCKS!’ placards. After all, it's in the public interest.


Half-time and no horrific Brent Stanton injury. In fact, judging from the highlights he seems to be getting plenty of the ball. Admittedly, all those highlights are taken from the centre square. Need him to get a lot of the ball as I’m down over the weekend, and my opponent does not have Stanton in his team. In fact, none of my opponents have Stanton in their teams. This always make me a little uneasy – as if they are all collectively laughing at me behind my back. May have to trade Stanton out. Will consider further.


Ended up losing. I’m fine. I’m fine with that. I got done in by a team that happened to have a good week. It happens. Such is the way of chance in this universe. I’m fine.

(Should I have traded out Dal Santo and Bradshaw? No, it was unlikely to have made a difference. But it could’ve. But it probably wouldn’t have. Stay cool, let your opponents burn those trades like there’s no tomorrow…)


Read an article in The Economist about the endowment effect, which is that the value that a person puts on something depends on whether or not a person actually owns it. (For example, a person who owns a coffee mug is reluctant to trade it for a bar of chocolate even if that person did not prefer coffee mugs to chocolate when given a straight choice between the two.) The article went on to conjecture that the explanation lies in evolutionary biology: once upon a time, it made good sense to clutch on to what you already had.

I wonder: am I a victim of this phenomenon? On one hand, a rational coach may have traded out underperformers like Nick Dal Santo, Jason Gram, Brent Stanton and Tom Hawkins weeks ago, yet I’ve sat still and watched their values drop for weeks on end. On the other hand, the rationale I use for keeping them is that their initial values are probably a good reflection of their overall ability and it is not worth trading them out after a few bad performances. Which is true? The latter view has helped me to maintain trades, but how does one measure the value of the trades that should have been made?


Reports are that Carlton captain Chris Judd may miss the match against Richmond this week. This is a prime example of where the best interests of my SuperCoach team and my AFL team collide. Judd is a key player in my midfield and his injury last week arguably cost me the win. However, his absence would enhance my wish to see us totally obliterate Carlton on the weekend. Your team always comes first, doesn’t it, but I have a far better chance of winning my SuperCoach league than Richmond does of winning the premiership. Yet maybe I can still win without Judd. Sometimes I think life would be easier if I didn’t have the faintest idea about probabilities.

Judd has been named, and Dal Santo and Bradshaw have returned, so I won’t be forced to make a trade this week. Did look at trading for some cash, but there were no interesting rookies on offer. Was content to abide by the maxim that sometimes the best move is to do nothing at all. But then I started to think about my midfield. I planned to upgrade the midfielders later on in the season, but maybe I could do it now by trading out Ryan Griffen for an undervalued superstar. After half an hour of consideration, traded Griffen for Brent Harvey. Harvey is in top 10 players in the league, which makes this trade feel right. But did I get twitchy because of one loss? Will burning this trade come back to haunt me? God, should I have traded out Brent Stanton?

(Does this feel right? Yes… but only just.)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Graphic Novels That You Would Like If You Weren't Too Chicken To Read Them - 'High Society'

The term ‘graphic novel’ was coined before Dave Sim dropped ‘High Society’ on the world, but he was arguably the first to realize the full implications of it. Clocking in at over 500 pages, and fronted by a detailed wrap-around cover, ‘High Society’ is a comic book that is seeking to be taken seriously. It has been said of Sim that he is more dedicated to art than life, and he seemingly poured every ounce of himself into creating this story, from devising an entire electoral system to providing the rules of the card games his characters play.

‘Cerebus the Aardvark’ started out as a funny-animal parody of the Conan the Barbarian series, but soon evolved into Sim’s comment on almost everything. In an industry dominated by the twin behemoths of Marvel and DC, Sim managed to self-publish ‘Cerebus’ for around 30 years by being smarter and more dedicated than his rivals. Some of his views (most infamously those on women) were not entirely palatable, but many admire his achievement at least, particularly in such a marginal field.[1]

‘High Society’ was Cerebus’ first ongoing storyline, and revolves around Cerebus’ quest to become the Prime Minister of the city-state of Iest. It is essentially divided into three acts. The first act consists of a set of comic episodes, in which Cerebus, in his role as a diplomatic representative, has to deal with a stream of fawning businessmen and government officials. It is the second act though where the story (and arguably the series) hits its peak, as Cerebus hits the campaign trail. It includes an emotional meeting with his lady love Jaka (yes, he’s an aardvark, she’s a beautiful dancer, you just have to deal with it), an incisive parody of comic book and sci-fi conventions, and the rousing battle cry for the mortgage belt era: ‘lower interest rates or death!’ This all leads up to the excellent election night chapter, in which Cerebus and his supporters (and their opponents) alternately teeter on the edge of victory and defeat, with armed rebellion being a feasible option. Without giving the result away, the last act centers on Cerebus’ efforts to expand his influence, all the while desperately clinging on to whatever power he has. (This entire part is printed sideways, which doesn’t change the story that much, but does make it more akin to reading a comic strip.) During this part, Cerebus becomes even more greedy and overbearing, but it is to Sim’s credit that we are still able to retain a measure of sympathy for him.

More than any other ‘Cerebus’ storyline, Sim keeps things moving in ‘High Society’ through his eccentric cast of characters. The template for Cerebus seems to be a furry, beer-swilling, sword-wielding version of Daffy Duck, yet at times he does display an intelligence and a sensitivity that elevates him beyond a mere caricature. His campaign manager is Astoria, an imposing, statuesque young woman that doesn’t lack for ambition, both of the social and the personal kind. She’s not all that likable, but she fills the role of the straight woman well, and her reticence in revealing her background and motives adds an air of mystery to the tale. With Astoria’s consort, the ‘merely magnificent’ Moon Roach, Sim effectively skewers the superhero genre, and any attempts it has made to be considered as serious fiction. Character traits such as shifting identities that would be thought to add complexity to superhero comics are shown by Sim to border on the psychotic. Sim though retains enough affection for the books of his youth to have fun with the concept (as shown, for example, by the Roach’s catchphrase of ‘unorthodox economic revenge!’) Other characters include the Regency Hotel Elf, a short-skirted mischief maker who takes a shine to our hero, the dim-witted ruffians-turned-bodyguards Dirty Fleagle and Drew McGrew, the pathetic swordsman Elrod the Albino, and Sim’s homage to Groucho Marx, the ridiculous Lord Julius.[2] This being a political satire, other interest groups flitter through the halls of power, one of the more memorable being the Anarcho-Romantics, a movement of aesthetes whose bid for influence comes to an end when Cerebus proposes to put them on the front line of invasion troops.

As Sim says in his introduction, he started ‘High Society’ just before his twenty-fifth birthday and finished it shortly after his twenty-seventh birthday. To my mind, ‘High Society’ contains an exuberance that Sim was never able to fully recapture, which may have been partly due to the exhaustion of sticking to a monthly release schedule and partly because he started to become lost in his own importance. ‘Cerebus’’ visual inventiveness and razor-sharp dialogue would soon make way for sequences of full-page panels and vague religious musings.[3] But like the Regency Hotel on the cover, ‘High Society’ retains a magnificence and an elegance that still shines bright.

[1] I met Dave Sim at a convention over ten years ago. Passers-by were commenting on what a nice man he was, but he was very quiet and didn’t seem all that interested to be there. Still, he was nice enough to not only draw a Cerebus sketch for me (despite my not having read a single bit of his work at that point) but also to draw another sketch for a friend of mine, which is probably a infuriating request for a convention guest to get. Then, after he had finished the second drawing, he got up out of his chair, and left without a word.
[2] Other Sim homages in the ‘Cerebus’ series include Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Oscar Wilde, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Margaret Thatcher (hint: Sim isn’t a fan).
[3] Having said that, Sim is still literary enough to make these later installments worthwhile.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Top Five Digs At Economists In Nassim Nicholas Taleb's 'The Black Swan'

5. Economists naively make the mistake of producing a lot of forecasts... which enables us to see whether some economists are better than others (there is no consequential difference) or if there are certain variables for which they are competent (alas, none that are meaningful). - p. 148.

4. Before the proliferation of empirically blind idiot savants, interesting work had been begun by true thinkers... all of whom were displaced because they moved economics away from the precision of second-rate physics. - p.185.

3. Economics is the most insular of fields; it is the one that quotes least from outside itself! Economics is perhaps the subject that currently has the highest number of philistine scholars... - p. 156.

2. Economists often invoke a strange argument by Milton Friedman that states that models do not have to have realistic assumptions to be acceptable - giving them licence to produce severely defective mathematical representations of reality. - p. 280.

1. The Nobel medal in Economics has not been good for society or knowledge... - p. 228

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Diary Of An AFL SuperCoach Obsessive - Week 13


Finally, I am at the top of the ladder for my league, although only on percentage. My main rival at this stage just traded out Brendan Fevola prior to his eight-goal performance against Collingwood, so feeling good about my chances. Also, don’t think they are my main rival anymore.

The guy who trash-talked me after his lucky win against me in the first match is now twelfth, having lost five of his past six games. For reference, the conversation went like this:

Me: It's easy to talk tough in April.

Guy who is now dwelling in twelfth position: You should know, you sat on top for the first three weeks and when the real stuff kicks in you go down round one. You must be a carlton or collingwood supporter? A sore loser

Did not reply to that, figuring I would wait until I got a few games ahead of him and then rub his face in it. Should I do it this week? No, I think I will wait until he has been totally decimated.

Currently, I have ten trades left (one for each week of the season), and over $300,000 in the bank. My current plan for this week is to boost my forward line by trading in the highest-scoring forward, Ryan O’Keefe. With Brett Burton returning from suspension my forward line would look like this:

F: Franklin (*), Pavlich (*), Deledio (*), J. Brown (*), Riewoldt (*), Burton (*), O’Keefe (*).

* - denotes star player.

Could look for some extra cash by trading some value off my bench, but reluctant to stray from the one-for-one trade-to-weeks-left ratio. Will consider further.


According to the injury list I have no major concerns – Daniel Bradshaw will be tested to see if he’s fit, but I should be able to cover him.


Dreamt last night that one of my midfielders, Brent Stanton, got injured in the first few minutes this week. This is the worst-case scenario for a Supercoach, because the player scores nothing, you can’t use an emergency to replace him (which you can if he doesn’t play at all), and you may have to trade the injured player out the next week. I guess that qualifies as a nightmare then. It made me feel a little unsettled.

(Why should I be concerned about a loss at this stage? After all, it would just be one week’s bad luck, my team would still be strong overall. Why should one loss put me in so much fear of future losses?)

WTF?! One of my * midfielders, Nick Dal Santo, is not playing! Has he been dropped? Yes, he has. It appears the St. Kilda coach is looking for a scapegoat. Why not freakin' Lenny Hayes then?! Surely Dal Santo should be back though (he’s played 114 consecutive games before this week’s dumping). I can cover him with Trent Cotchin for now - I’ll put him on the bench and see what happens next week.

Of more concern is that Daniel Bradshaw isn’t playing. Should be able to cover him with the Kangaroos’ Scott Thompson. Wait, no North Melbourne team yet….

Damn! Thompson has been dropped. I’ll be one defender short if I don’t trade for a new one. (Have to get O’Keefe in another week.) Could trade Bradshaw, but he’s a * player, and I’m reluctant to trade them out unless I have to. Should trade Thompson then – he’s probably reached his peak in value, and he’s in and out of the team. I'll upgrade Thompson for a * - will eat up cash, but I can trade for some cash next week.

Graham Johncock is the second-highest rated defender and looks to be at a bit below his fair value. The SuperCoach Form Guide highlights some star defenders who have dropped in value – Chad Cornes, Peter Burgoyne, Darren Milburn, Lindsay Gilbee. But they have all been so inconsistent this year that I don’t trust any of them. (Would go for the Chadster but too many injury concerns – broken finger, crook knee.) In contrast, Johncock has got plenty of three-figure scores and his price has dropped because of one bad week. Scott Thompson for Graham Johncock then.

(Does that feel right? Yes, it does.)