Monday 17 October 2016

Kevin Ngo

Happy birthday for tomorrow Kevin.

Here's a small token of appreciation for you below, the truthfulness and accuracy of which I know you will probably deny and/or dispute.


Kevin is something of a legend in these parts..

I met Kevin in one of my first ever uni tutorials for a subject by the name of "Foundies" as everyone (except for me) used to call it.

Little did I know it at that time, but I had just made friends with one of the most intelligent^ students in the grade. It is funny sometimes how paths can just randomly cross like that.

And here's the thing: Don't take this the wrong way but, I would never have guessed that he was that smart. There certainly were no flashy icons hovering above his head or other indicia warning me of the same --- but what I DID realise over time, and what became extremely obvious to me and everyone else, was that Kevin was friendly, jovial and full of laughter. And that was what counted.

So what am I trying to say? Well..based on the little life experience I do possess, it seems to me that there is often a tradeoff between intelligence, on the one hand, and social skills, friendliness & humility on the other. Quite remarkably, there is no such thing with Kevin. He is balanced. Often you will get incredibly smart but arrogant people. Or you might get bright but reclusive individuals. Not with Kevin. The tradeoff doesn't apply to him. I think people in our group of friends can attest to this without blinking their eyes.

On this note, there's another thing about Kevin that I want to talk about.

The fact of the matter is, and I can say this without hesitation: I certainly would not have survived uni without Kevin's help.

During 4th and 5th year, when the going got tough, I relied extensively on Kevin's 'counsel' and notes to get through the horrors of uni exams and assignments. We'd share notes together and discuss difficulties with our studies.

I do not know why Kevin chose me to be privy to this note-taking regime, but I'm grateful for it. In a very strict academic sense I can tell you quite honestly, without feeling guilty about any notions of false humility, that I had very little to offer Kevin in return.  On this point, before I get accused of being too humble or that I'm not really telling the truth about how capable I am etcetra etcetra, I just want to say that I'm not being humble at all. I see it as the objective truth.

The objective truth of the matter is that Kevin was at least a few levels higher in class than me. Kevin was an A; and if Kevin was an A, then any fair and objective assessment would determine that I was probably a C+ or a B- at best.

Of course, as I have already foreshadowed in an earlier tribute, Jason Wong was another invaluable ally that I could not have survived uni without but that is an entirely different story.

So, if there was one attribute I learnt about Kevin over those years, it was that he was loyal to the cause. I helped where I could in a limited capacity, but he helped me more than I helped him.

Even today, when I face some kind of issue, Kevin is always quick to jump to the rescue. A quick message about a particular hypothetical scenario (often without much context!!) to Kevin results in a very quick and detailed response. His second opinion is invaluable to me.

Of course, moving aside from all that, no write-up on Kevin would be complete without mentioning the fact that Kevin is also a sports fanatic like most of our friends. Unfortunately he falls into that special (but not uncommon) category of people who support the Sydney Swans* and Manchester United* LOL

My prejudices aside*, don't look at Kevin like that though, he is very knowledgeable with most sports. You can start a conversation with him about many sports and he will usually have a fair amount of background knowledge of it even if he doesn't actively follow it. I think this reflects on him well overall, as his general knowledge is also up there.

Kevin also always seems to me to be quite respectful to elders, and to his friends in general. But that doesn't mean he doesn't know how to have fun. He knows where the boundaries are and how to act in different situations.

I'll close now for fear of this becoming too long and disjointed. I take the opportunity now Kevin, to wish you all the best and many happy returns. Thank you for the comradery you have shown to all of us.

Andre Lim

^ How intelligent? I made a promise not to disclose this so I'm not at liberty to say. What I can tell you though is that I once saw his WAM and nearly fainted.

* They aren't that bad really, I'm just fooling around.

Tuesday 11 October 2016

Australia v Japan

Man, we got out of gaol there.

We totally didn't deserve that.

Andre Lim

Saturday 8 October 2016

AFC World Cup Qualification - 12 point chaos

So two critical '6-point' matches will unfold this Tuesday, 11 October 2016.

This is what the table currently looks like, thanks to Wikipedia.

Japan take on Australia in Melbourne while the UAE travel to Jeddah to give the Saudis 2 consecutive home matches.

A lot of chaos could enfold here. I take a look at all the bad things that could happen if Australia is not careful...

Scenario 1 - Two leaders ahead of the pack

One bad scenario for Australia could look something like this:

Scenario 2 - Closely bunched but Australia in 4th

Arguably one worst case scenario would be if the Saudis drew with the UAE and the Blue Samurai gave Australia a hammering. That would create a situation like this:

Scenario 3 - "Worst case scenario"?

But probably the worst case scenario would be if UAE and Japan won, in a manner that would leave Australia trailing in 4th.

Why is Scenario 3 the worst case scenario? It depends on your view of things.

Having 3 rivals in the mix for the top 3, while you are 4th, is arguably the worst scenario because it increases the possibility that you could miss out totally for any qualification, including missing out on the third place playoff (which of course acts as a "second chance" and leads to a play-off against the 4th placed team in CONCACAF).

On the other hand, if Japan and Saudi Arabia get a big headstart for the race in the top 2 as depicted in the Scenario 1, at least there is a minor lead for the Socceroos over the UAE in the race for third.

Of course, champion teams don't talk about this nonsense and they just go out to try to win every match ---- unless of course a special mathematical situation requires a cool head and a specific set of results.

Either way, it should be interesting.

I'd predict a victory for Australia and Saudi Arabia, but imagine if I was wrong for both matches!!

Andre Lim

Friday 7 October 2016

Most participated sports in Australia - 2014

So I came across this very interesting survey from Roy Morgan on the most participated sports in Australia.

Of course I have only taken these below tables at face value, and have not bothered with looking into the specifics of how they are derived and the assumptions made etc etc but the table is pretty surprising to me!!!

I always had this distinct impression that Rugby League and AFL would be a lot higher up the list, and I would never have guessed some of these sports in the top 10 (sports that surprised me emphasised below in bold and red):

1. Swimming
2. Cycling
3. Soccer
4. Dancing
5. Basketball
6. Hiking/Bushwalking
7. Tennis
8. Cricket
9. Athletics/Track & Field
10. Netball

Basketball, really?!

Also I am unsure how "sport" has been defined here...

Also there is a table that shows sport participation rates based on Ages 6-13 and Age 14+.

It seems to me that the future of football ("soccer") in Australia is looking up given that 1,194,000 children aged 6-13 play the game, the second highest of any sport for that age group.

There always is this prevailing concept that AFL, NRL and the vast horde of other sports in Australia have "stolen", "drowned out" or "snatched away" all the talent available that will eventually be available to the Socceroos.

Perhaps these statistics suggest otherwise?!

Andre Lim

Saturday 1 October 2016

Bud Greenspan's Salt Lake 2002: Stories of Olympic Gold

Sometimes in life, there is a bit of trial and error involved.

As many of us know, many of these ventures eventuate into disappointing 'misses', and the 'hits' we seek out are so rare. Ever so occasionally though, just when things get boring, you stumble upon something new that makes you excited and inspired. And that's when it is all worth it.

That life concept can be applied to anything, but in this case I am applying it to something rather unimportant and unworthy in the grand scheme of things....

I purchased Bud Greenspan's Salt Lake 2002: Stories of Olympic Gold from Amazon with some degree of expectation. This was after I had read a comment on Amazon which said words to the following effect:
"Check out Bud Greenspan sports documentaries - they are simply the best in the genre.
I have been collecting DVDs on the Olympics so I thought I would just go for Mr Greenspan's coverage of the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Price: About $45 AUD, including shipping
Length: About 2 hours
Over the years I have learned to take such comments with a grain of salt, but this DVD blew my mind away. The storytelling involved is great and Mr Greenspan goes above and beyond the call of duty - beyond mere Olympic highlights - to tell the stories, blood, sweat and tears of all athletes covered.

This DVD is easily one of my favourite sports DVDs.

In addition to brief glimpses of the opening and closing ceremonies, six stories are covered:

Jim Shea Jr (Skeleton); 
Janic Kostelic (Alphine Skiing); 
Canada v USA (Men's Ice Hockey); 
Stefania Belmondo (Cross-Country Skiing); 
Alisa Camplin (Freestyle Aerials); and 
Brian Shimer (4-man Bobsled)

All of these stories share a common element: the athletes or team faced testing times and some measure of intense adversity.

My favourite story was probably Stefania Belmondo's, who quite epically, overcame a 13 second gap (I think) after her right ski pole broke to take out Gold !!! Prior to the race, no one had given her a chance because she was deemed 'too old'. Belmondo was so angry that her ski pole broke but she admirably channelled her anger in a positive manner to catch up and take out top spot --- not without the help of her coach though who had to quickly drop everything to find her a new pole.

Thanks to Getty Images

Similarly, if I remember correctly Brian Shimer attended his 5th Olympic Games at Salt Lake City as the driver of the USA-2 four-man bobsleigh team. He too was deemed 'too old' to win any medal.

Thanks to Wikipedia
Shimer had always finished outside a medal position at the last 4 Olympic Games, and there was a low point for him when he thought he had finished in 4th place "again" in 2002 after his team failed to beat USA-1.

This occurred in circumstances where Switzerland and Germany were expected to fight it out for Gold while USA-1 and USA-2 were expected to slot it out for the Bronze medal. The pure elation of the team and himself was evident when, amazingly, Switzerland failed to live up to the hype! It wasn't a gold medal but all of them certainly didn't care. USA took out Silver and Bronze.

This made me realise that it's all a matter of perspective - for example, for triple Silver medallist, Lee Chong Wei, a Silver medal could be viewed as a curse; for Brian Shimer Bronze is the top of the world.

The other stories were also quite simply fantastic:

Courtesy Getty
  • Ms Camplin winning the first gold medal for an Australian woman at the Winter Olympics (the honour of Australia's first ever gold medal going to one Steven Bradbury at the same games.....another story worth telling on its own merits); 
  • Jim Shea Jr overcoming the grief of losing his grandfather (who was an Olympian like his father, Jimmy Shea Senior!) just one month out before the Games started to win Gold just as his grandfather did; 
  • Janica Kostelic giving Croatia their first ever Gold medal (and more!) at the Winter Games despite being an underdog in some events and having several knee surgeries. Her unusual but effective training regime is a must watch for any athlete;
  • The Canadian Hockey Team finally defeating their nemesis the USA after a long long gold medal drought.


I'd highly recommend this DVD to all sports fans, particularly Olympic fans.

My score is: 9 to 9.5 out of 10, perhaps 9.3.

I will be looking out for Bud Greenspan's DVDs from now on.

Now I'm off to watch the last quarter of Western Bulldogs v Swans....

Really hoping for a Bulldogs upset.

Andre Lim