China Rat Tribe

China’s Rat Tribe


NPR has done a moving story on Beijing’s Rat Tribe: people living illegally in basements of buildings.

China Rat Tribe

In Beijing, even the tiniest apartment can cost a fortune — after all, with more than 21 million residents, space is limited and demand is high.

But it is possible to find more affordable housing. You’ll just have to join an estimated 1 million of the city’s residents and look underground.

Below the city’s bustling streets, bomb shelters and storage basements are turned into illegal — but affordable — apartments.

This is basically underground slums. These poignant words sum it up:

“They’re hoping that their next generation, their children, will be able to live above ground,” Kim says. “It’s this sense of longing and deferring a dream. And so it makes me wonder how long this dream can be deferred.”

This sounds like Neverwhere, does it not?



This is why I follow Arnold Kling


From his post this weekend:

I take an outlier point of view, which is that the Fed is not important for the macro economy. Walrasian economists needed something to pin down the nominal price level, so they nominated the money supply. I instead take the view that money and inflation are largely social conventions. Extreme measures by the government can change these social conventions. Otherwise, in my view, the belief in the power of the Fed is a superstition. This superstition is best maintained if the Fed’s actions are mysterious. If the Fed were to follow a transparent rule, I think that the superstition would be exposed for what it is.

This is at the bottom of his take on the Neo-Fisherite (keeping rates low encourages low inflation) & market monetarist (target nominal market levels) thinking.


Guardians of the Galaxy


One of the best comic book based superhero movies. It is a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but unlike the other 10 or so films that have come so far, it has no continuity elements in common with the “mainline” story. What makes this movie tick is that it is just fun. Not taking itself seriously too much, lots of gags and wise cracks, but not just a series of poor jokes. Fantastic, and if you can see it on an IMAX 3D screen do yourself a favour and watch it in large format.

This movie is what Star Wars could be if it was made today.


Eye of Siva

Germany – Brazil (7-1)


What a match! 4 goals in six minutes, 5 before the half-hour mark! Germany handed Brazil their worst defeat ever. With this match the following records got set:

  • Made themselves the top scoring team in the WC history (taking the top spot from Brazil) (223 vs. 221)
  • Equaled Brazil’s worst ever defeat (6:0, back in 1920, against Uruguay)
  • Achieved the biggest ever victory in WC semi-finals (last one was 6:1)
  • Made Klose the top scorer in WC history (taking over the top spot from Ronaldo)
  • Scored 4 goals in 6 minutes & 5 under 29. No team has ever done that in WC.
  • Scored as many goals as Brazil conceded in their previous 9 World Cup final games combined
  • Bestowed Brazil their first official defeat at home since 1975.
  • Became the team with most appearances in World Cup Finals at 8, after being tied with Brazil at 7.

And they could have scored more except that they decided to take it easy in the second half. Probably “resting” themselves ahead of the final. Not risking injuries, etc.

Five Germans on the score sheet: Muller, Klose, Khedira, Kroos and Schuller. The last two scoring twice each. A stoppage time goal by Oscar was the only thing Brazil got. Neuer was as good as ever in front of the goal keeping out about 4 shots at the start of the second half.

Muller now was five goals in this Cup and he got the same the last go around. 10 goals in 12 matches is probably the third fastest of all time. And he is young enough to be playing in another couple of tournaments. He should be having Klose’s 16 goal record in his sights soon.

The crowd started booing the home team towards the end, especially Fred who has been ineffectual throughout the tournament. Hulk showed some speed and skill, but he remains unable to finish. Substitutions (Ramires and Willian) showed some promise at the start of the second period, but with a five goal deficit that was just a bit of a show.

As a neutral this was a nice thrashing to watch after the way Brazil played against Colombia. That was one of the dirtiest games with Brazil playing in a very foul manner. They needed to be punished for that game, and this was sweet to watch from that perspective.


Weekend of round of 16


An underwhelming Brazil team beat Chile on penalties. Brazil showed brilliance during the first 20 minutes that also saw them go ahead. An equalizer in the 32nd minute showed that Chile was going to put up a fight. Through the late minutes of the first half and throughout the second, Chile was the better side. Pinilla’s strike hit the woodwork late in the second half that could have sealed their win. But they then started playing very defensive – playing for penalties effectively – only to lose 3-2. Jara had an unfortunate day out – first with the own goal (credited to Luiz, but off Jara’s leg) and then the missed fifth penalty shot. To be fair to Brazil the referee disallowed Hulk’s goal for a handball which looked like a wrong decision. It could have been 2-1 to Brazil at full time. An unconvincing win.

Colombia continued their fine run, and James Rodriguez is becoming a player of the calibre of Messi or Neymar. Two goals, the first a sublime one which caught everyone by surprise, takes his total to 5 for the 4 matches played. Uruguay missed el canibal and they just did not have any creativity up front. Colombia will take heart from Brazil’s uninspiring win & Neymar’s potential injury issues as they fancy their chances for the quarter final.

The Netherlands snatched a victory from Mexico. An early in the second half goal had the Mexicans ahead till the 88th minute but two goals in 3 minutes put the Dutch ahead. In the second period Mexico sat back and allowed the game to come to them. The Dutch attack was relentless led by Robben. Van Persie was out of sorts (probably due to the heat) and was replaced by Huntelaar. The equalizer was good, but Robben dived to set up the penalty in stoppage time. Huntelaar converted and the Dutch go forward. They will fancy their chances against Costa Rica in the next round.

Costa Rica won a well-deserved victory against Greece. They went a goal ahead (once again Brian Ruiz) but Greece snatched an equalizer in the dying moments against a 10-man Costa Rica side. The 10 against 11 battle went on through extra time and eventually went on to penalties. Costa Rica got all five of theirs to win 5-3. Neither of these two countries have ever got this far in the World Cup. So Netherlands may well feel that their progress to the next stage is pretty well assured. But Costa Rica have been the find of the tournament playing some excellent football throughout the tournament. Bound to be an interesting match though.


WW1 trigger


On this day, 100 years ago, Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria was shot dead triggering the start of the first world war. Though the war had been looming for a while, Austria-Hungary took the opportunity of the assassination to start the war. The assassination itself was not particularly remarkable. In the course of the next month, though, Austria began provoking Serbia eventually leading to declaration of war exactly a month later. Read Wikipedia for more on the assassination and the war.


The Americans


By my count we have had 14 Matches between American sides and the rest of the world during the World Cup so far. The results are unambiguous: Americans lead 11-2 with one drawn match.

  • Chile, Colombia and Argentina have won both of their matches.
  • Brazil, Mexico Costa Rica, and Uruguay have won the one match they have played so far against non-American teams.
  • The United States has one win and one draw.
  • Only Ecuador and Honduras have lost.




Funniest moment of the Colombia – Ivory Coast match


Do I take the free kick from here?


Football strategies


Some hack posted this on facebook. Pretty much summarizes the game strategies for some of the major teams.



World Cup



Instead of creating multiple posts, I am going to do a running commentary here.

Weekend update (22 June)

Shorter comments. A few good matches over the weekend, and a few dull ones.

Italy – Costa Rica (0-1)

What a match! Costa Rica had a penalty denied minutes before half-time and then immediately proceeded to score to take the lead before the break. And then went on to defend it through a very tense second half. They did not sit back all the way and there was some good play here. This team is a revelation. With two wins (the other against Uruguay) they now stand TOP of the table. England go home as a result of this match.

Switzerland – France (2-5)

France hammered Switzerland in this match. Five different players scored as they went 5-0 up. A couple of late goals by the Swiss saved them complete destruction. But then came the final whistle. In between Benzema missed a penalty that could have taken the tally higher. Swiss defense like Swiss cheese was full of holes.

Honduras – Ecuador (1-2)

Argentina – Iran (1-0)

Iran played everyone in defense. But the Argentinian side still does not look like they are playing as a team. In the end it took a stoppage time strike by Messi to take them through.

Germany – Ghana (2-2)

Germany was behind 2-1 when Klose came on. Within two minutes he got the leveling goal. His 15th World Cup goal (equals Ronaldo’s record). A very close contest. Lots of open play. Enjoyable. From Germany’s point of view this was probably a missed chance to go clear to the top of the group.

Nigeria – Bosnia (1-0)

Belgium – Russia (1-0)

S Korea – Algeria (2-4)

USA – Portugal (2-2)

94 minutes and 20 seconds played (5th and final minute of stoppage time) when a Christiano Ronaldo cross found Varela’s head leading to the equalizer. USA played brilliantly well – attacking football, passing well. Both goals against them came off their own errors. The first in the sixth minute by a poor clearance inside the area, while the second was a poor pass by an otherwise strong Bradley in midfield. The draw means that all four teams in this group can mathematically still advance, though Germany and USA with four points apiece are the most likely to go through. Thanks to the poor goal difference Portugal will find it very difficult to progress.


Update 3 (19 June)

Colombia – Cote D’Ivoire (2-1)

Colombia won despite a fantastic Gervinho goal where he took the ball past some 5 defenders. Brilliant. Good fast paced game and the goals started to rain in the second half. For a second match in a row, Ivory Coast came alive really only after Drogba came on as a substitute. Drogba is a catalyst for his team to play better and he tends to draw away a couple of defenders allowing the rest of the team some space.

England – Uruguay (1-2)

Another disappointing England game. Only Rooney made an impact and he had one narrowly missed free kick and a header into the cross bar before he managed to score England’s only goal. At the other end it was Suarez all the way, with a couple of good “assists” by Gerard. Yay! Liverpool. Oh, wrong game! If England had to face a one man team of Suarez, they would have still lost. Complete defensive capitulation.

Japan – Greece (0-0)

Despite a Greek red card, Japan was unable to score.

Update 2 (18 June)

What a day! We got the first two eliminations. Here it goes

Australia – Netherlands (2-3)

The scoreline could have been the other way around. Australia were just brilliant and Tim Cahill produced what was the best goal of the tournament so far. A missed opportunity for them when the score was level at two apiece was followed by a goal at the other end leaving the Dutch ahead. One of the best matches of the tournament. Sad to see the Aussies leave the tournament. Cahill now has more World Cup Finals goals than Christiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Wayne Rooney COMBINED.

Spain – Chile (0-2)

The other group B match saw Spain clobbered again. Tiki-taka went tuk-tuk. No grace in passing, no possession game, no game indeed. Chile had everything: attack, creativity and finishing. Thanks to Spain’s loss, both Spain and Australia get eliminated. Netherlands and Chile having won both their matches so far go through. Chile looked like they could go a long ways in the tournament.

Cameroon – Croatia (0-4)

Croatia looked as strong as they did on the day they played Brazil. That did not end too well, but with the Brazil-Mexico match ending in split points, the Croatia-Mexico will be a decider.

Update 1 (17 Jun matches)

Belgium – Algeria (2-1)

Yet another match where the team scoring first went on to lose the match. This seems to be a bit of a pattern here. Algeria played better than I thought and were the best African team of the tournament. Belgium was the stronger team in the second half, though it required substitutions for them to get into a real flow.

Russia – S. Korea (1-1)

No idea what happened.  Nothing for 67 minutes. Then Korea went ahead. Russia equalized a few minutes later. It all happened so fast (as it does if you watch a match on fast-forward mode!)

Brazil – Mexico (0-0)

For the second match in a row, Brazil could not get together enough as a team. They were the superior side especially in the second half. But their best finishes – and there were a few good strikes and headers – were stopped by the amazing Mexican goalkeeper Ochoa. The Mexicans played well together again, but their shots kept going above the cross bar as if we were back in South Africa 2010. The problem for Brazil was once again the ineffectiveness of their striker Fred. If he continues to flop around, Brazil are in serious trouble. Oscar was bottled up on the left side, but he switched right and went head to head with Layun. Neither of these two were as effective as they were in their first matches.


Original post (Matches of 16 Jun)

Germany – Portugal (4-0)

Was Portugal out of it or what? One would have expected a close contest and it was nothing like it. Germany was not playing to their potential, but they did not have to. They had no opposition whatsoever. Mario Gotze was ineffective but that too did not matter. Pepe head-butted Muller unnecessarily and got himself a red card for his efforts. That was with under 10 minutes left for half time. First half saw 3 goals, and the second half saw Germany passing the ball around aimlessly. In the end Muller ended up with a hat-trick and is now the lead goal scorer of the tournament so far.

Iran – Nigeria (0-0)

Only draw so far. Only goalless match so far.

Ghana – USA (1-2)

32 seconds. That is all it took for Dempsey to get one in. It took over 80 minutes for Ghana to equalize and then the US went ahead within minutes. The US appeared to use up all their skills and energies in the first five minutes. Afterwards they just defended wave after wave of Ghananian attacks. Defended well though.


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