Review: Pacquiao Marquez 2

Round 1 doesn’t have the fireworks of last time: both look to be bigger fighters, which they are as super featherweights (130). Manny definitely carries the extra weight much better than Marquez, by which I mean that Marquez looks a bit softer than he did as a featherweight. It’s all of four pounds, sure, but Manny’s as ripped as ever at each successive weight level. There’s something peculiar about Manny that way.

Anyway, the first two rounds are the usual close affairs that characterized the last 11 rounds of the first fight. Could go either way. Marquez landing the slightly better shots, but only deterring timing shots carrying little danger.

Then Marquez goes down in the third from a great (Marquez-like) counter-left hook. Then he almost goes down again. Manny’s quietly dominating now, actually, if there is such a thing.

Through the 5th, Marquez is looking a bit less sharp than Manny. He’s certainly not got the snap he had in their last meting. Age? Weight? Who knows, but he’s not as effective through the middle of this fight.

Then Lederman gives JMM the fifth. Shows what I know.

The big problem, of course, is that it’s difficult to generalize from these circumstances. I don’t know whether Manny just landed a good shot early in some round keep JMM off balance for a bit and then he comes right back hard like he is in the 6th. The fight is super close.

The differences between the two in each round is narrower than in the last fight, and that’s saying something. Manny is definitely a more complete fighter than he was, but now lacks the element of surprise that put JMM on his butt three times in ’04. Emmanuel Steward agrees with me, noting Manny’s better awareness of JMM’s punches and of his own position. He blocks and counters now.

Wow, Manny’s cut now beneath his right eye. He’s getting touched up a quite a bit in the 8th, almost like he’s taking the bigger shots. Deceiving, of course, since you can’t see power the way you feel power.

Flicking on the commentators, now, they seem to agree that that 8th was a big Marquez round. The 9th is much more even, now. Judges seem to be split but Pac is slightly stronger.

Wow, Pac catches JMM in the 10th on an action-hero-like duck-and-swing, rudely interrupting Lederman’s little monologue. Lots and lots of action.

JMM is blazing away with straight rights, southpaw kryptonite, in the 11th. Undaunted, Pacquaio returns fire. God, how do you score this? 12th also a toss-up, with maybe an edge to Marquez.

Overall, Manny scores knockdowns and lands bigger, better punches whereas Marquez lands perhaps more punches. A question of taste, then. Pacquiao by split decision this night.

Can’t wait for Saturday.

Review: Pacquiao Marquez 1

Watching the old fights on HBO (love HBO).

The first round was predictable and has been analyzed ad nauseum. Pac knocked JMM down three times, but didn’t really seem to hurt him much.

Following that JMM looked a lot more comfortable. I’ve since heard that he started figuring out Manny’s speed and was able to blunt and avoid the hard shots. Nobody seems to expect Manny’s power. Round two looked pretty close to me.

Rounds three and four also looked close. I could see any of these rounds going to JMM, who is settling in nicely. He is clearly the better boxer. He’s clearly a better boxer than just about anyone.

JMM’s face shows that he’s definitely taking shots. At the same time, he’s definitely timing Manny’s advances now. Pac can’t seem to get in there without getting hit clean. Even though JMM doesn’t have anything like Manny’s power, nobody likes getting punched in the face and Manny’s easing off on the offense.

This is what I’m expecting: Marquez to chill things out with defensive countering. Slow things down. Fight his fight. Since nobody ever talks about anything other than the first round, I imagine the rest of this thing is going to go this way.

Not easy coming back to draw things after getting put down three times, but grinding is the way you’d do it if you didn’t have knockout power.

What’s most intriguing about the upcoming fight is that, unlike with Floyd, neither of these two guys’ strengths are really going to fade quickly with age. JMM has an incredible, Hopkins-esque boxing IQ. He counters and moves and anticipates. Manny has supernatural power and balance.

I’m starting to appreciate Manny’s genius, actually. For most fighters, power and quickness cruelly trade off: you need to plant your feet and coordinate quads, hips, abs and shoulders to summon KO strength. It’s both slow and incredibly obvious when you do it: like sounding an air raid siren.

Not so for Manny. He punches with power from what are called ‘angles’, which means he doesn’t hunker down and telegraph cruel intentions, surprising opponents with real sizzle on shots that from most would be cheap patter. Once JMM figured this out, he could deal with this, while others either don’t or can’t. And even an all-time great boxer like Marquez is vulnerable until he gets used to Manny’s style: you can’t pull Mannys off the street to spar against, after all.

Back to the fight. The later rounds aren’t dominant in any fashion, really, but not boring either. Lots of action, which would be really exciting if I didn’t know the outcome: these are two guys that come to play. Without knockdowns, I’d say that Marquez wins 2 of every 3 rounds he and Manny square off. And all rounds are close, so who can really say?

Onto 2.

On Siri

Neat article. Everyone who uses Siri suggests that it’s awesome and can do things for you that you don’t feel like doing for yourself. I look forward to using something like this someday.

But I actually find that the simple tasks that Siri will be good at are things that are getting easier and easier all the time, anyway. Maybe finding a restaurant was a pain 20 years ago but how revolutionary is it that she can save me the few seconds it takes to google something?

Most people don’t live in Manhattan where they want to find a new restaurant every week. Most people stay where they live and are perfectly happy about that. Early adopters, worldwide jetsetters and technophiles are a very small minority, folks. Siri remains unproven.

When Siri can find me a new apartment or book me a holiday at my exact optimum combination of cheapness and niceness I’ll be impressed. Those are the things that feel slow and stressful and time consuming to me today.

People Are Terrible With Counter-Factuals

Here’s an interesting piece: “10 Years Into the iPod Revolution”. I tend to get really irritated with this kind of attribution. My instinct here is to say: it would have happened anyway.

They dig up an interesting review of the original iPod:

People used to argue whether the trend was toward an all-in-one gadget that does everything as opposed to a collection of specialized gadgets. If I’m right about the iPod, both sides of this argument are correct; people will use one comprehensive iPod-like storage and connectivity unit in combination with every specialized peripheral you can think of. As before, something designed for digital music will spread across other areas of technology. Descendants of the iPod MP3 player will replace the PC as the hub of your digital life.

You could look at that last sentence and say: “OMG, he gets it. Apple was destined to make the ipad”. But you’d be skipping over some pretty important information.

First, the ipod’s descendents have hardly become the hub of anything. iCloud is making a play for this, but only within the Apple walled garden. We shall see whether this works.

For another, the iPod was simply the best HIGH-END mp3 player out there. There was always going to be a high-end mp3 player and Apple just crushed that market. Without them, there would have been another and maybe we’d be talking about that one instead.

My first iPod was the shuffle, which was, as far as I can tell, the first real mainstream product Apple ever made. Then Apple found its home in the cell phone market and its exploitation of gigantic personal discount rates. Presto: expensive products seem cheap.

Convergence between mp3 players and cell phones was always inevitable. Apple was the exception, I think, in that no other mp3 player manufacturer made the leap to phones. In every other case, the leap was for phone makers to just add mp3 functionality.

I don’t want any of this to suggest that Apple’s innovation machine wasn’t (isn’t) awesome. That’d be stupid. But to say that they’re more than, say, 10% better than the next rival is overdoing it.

Today’s worst mp3 players are a thousand times better than the original ipod. Apple’s cleverness buys it a bit of time, but that’s all.

More On Fire

Horace Dediu has an interesting and long discussion on the Kindle. Ultimately he shares a view I notice I didn’t put in my notes, but with which I completely agree:

Fire will not have the opportunity to disrupt the iPad or tablets in general. Amazon sees the hardware and software of a device as a commodity and the content and its distribution as valuable. This assumes that the device is “good enough” and will not require deep re-architecting or that new input methods can be easily absorbed. In short, they see the tablet as at the end of its evolutionary path. Apple sees the exact opposite.

Toys

I’ve got two new toys and I’ve been playing with them all weekend.

First, my wife bought me a Macbook for my birthday. I’m a first-time Mac user, so old-timer Mac fanboys (I know you’re out there) will roll their eyes with an indulgent smile at the following:

Holy cow is it easier to use.

It was also a good gift in that, realistically, I needed a new computer but would never have shelled out for this thing myself.

The other new toy is a working web server (my old crappy laptop now that I’ve migrated all my development work to the Macbook) and enough PHP knowledge to compare it to my stop-and-start work with Python/Django. Again:

Holy cow is it easier to use.

There’s no question PHP was built for web development and Python for general-purpose screwing around. PHP actually requires slightly more pure programming shenanigans with the syntax (all those curly braces and semi-colons… ew), but the ability to output html right to a web page is pretty awesome. I was also able to easily translate my Python scripts, to my enduring relief.

The Mac actually seems to lack the selection of easy-to-access tools that my Windows box had, but the interface is a bajillion times easier to use. This swiping stuff is effing cool. I never imagined I would miss hotkeys so little!

Another awesome advantage is that I’m completely remote. As long as I can access my little ftp server I can work on the website from anywhere on any computer. The fact that it was ever otherwise seems faintly ridiculous now. But when you are 100% DIY with no incoming knowledge and zero budget, you forego many comforts.

Review of *The Blind Side* (film)

I first heard about this story on Econtalk where Michael Lewis discussed his great fortune discovering this incredible story. I’ll say: homeless illiterate black kid taken in by rich white Christians and winds up a 1st round NFL draft pick. You can’t make this stuff up.

This movie is also half of the subject of the best film review I’ve ever read, by A.O. Scott. I came across it two years ago and, quite honestly, I think about it all the time.

Some choice quotes:

AN African-American teenager, overweight and undereducated, a survivor of poverty and abuse, is rescued by the benevolent intervention of strangers. That, in a nutshell, is the plot of “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire,” which has attracted fervent praise, as well as some controversy, since its debut in limited release two weeks ago.

The same sentence could sum up “The Blind Side,” based on a nonfiction book by Michael Lewis, which opened nationally on Friday.

And here’s the upshot:

Both movies tell stories that suggest a way out of poverty, brutality and domestic calamity for certain lucky individuals while saying very little about how those conditions might be changed…

Both locate the problems facing their main characters in the failure of families — of mothers in particular — and find solutions in better families, substitute mothers (Ms. Rain and Leigh Anne), whose selflessness and loyalty exorcise the biological monsters who have been left behind.

I have to first admit that I’m a sucker for feel-good, happy ending movies and, unlike Scott, I enjoyed *The Blind Side* more than *Precious*. The latter was just a bit too real for me, even if it probably ‘taught’ me more about life.

I’m afraid that Scott’s ideas have infected me so completely that I’m barely able to muster an original thought of my own. So I’ll give up.

Read his review.

But Does it Work?

Here is Merkel’s review of Mandlebrot’s Misbehaviour of Markets, a book I’ve read:

Most serious investors and academics could benefit from the book.  It will challenge your preconceptions.  That doesn’t mean that everything Mandelbrot writes is correct, but most of his criticisms of MPT are correct.  .

Here is the key conclusion, which struck me as well:

The question becomes what to replace MPT with?

From memory there are a lot of neato descriptions of how price movements can be described by power laws. But what they cannot do is predict future price movements, which makes this book a fun but ultimately useless intellectual exercise, like a crossword puzzle.

Sure, the normal distribution is the ‘wrong’ way to think of all kinds of economic and natural processes. But it’s a friggen useful heuristic and better than nothing.

And better than nothing is usually as good it you get.

Review of *Foundation*

As a fully-credentialed geek, I’m ashamed to admit I’d not read *Foundation* until recently. How it managed to elude me during my voracious teenaged dork-heat, I’ll never know.

The book is a collection of stories centered around dramatic moments in the history of Terminus, a small planet in the outer reaches of the galaxy. Terminus isn’t just some backwater, though, it is a colony designed by Hari Seldon, a visionary who foresaw, though the power of the academic discipline of psychohistory, the collapse of the Galactic Empire into a dark ages to last tens of thousands of years. He hatched a plan to shorten those dark ages to a single millenium by planting the seed for a successor empire. On Terminus.

The book is pure big-picture. The characters are a bit weak but the setting is a vast original universe that makes everything seem fresh. This cuts right to the heart of sci-fi: put boring people in amazing situations. The best of Sci-Fi teaches you something. Changes you. Foundation does that, but not through plot.

Because I probably should explain it, here’s the plot framework of each of the vignettes in the story:

Hero and Rival vie for political power to confront some Threat. Hero outfoxes Rival with style and humor.

Hero deliberately does nothing.

Economics defeats Threat.

(Repeat)

The sci-fi fan in me loves the scale and imagination of the setting: dying galactic empire and all that. And each of the conflicts is resolved by some plot twist or exceptional bit of cleverness by the hero in dramatic fashion. It’s pulpy stuff: bad guys pulling ahead until the good guys win in style.

As a 15-year-old, my review would have ended here. But I’ve got a bit more to say, now.

Psychohistory is ridiculous. It’s a caricature of sociology/economics, of course, but it is in extremis that we learn how silly a strong interpretation of the power of social science really is. That, to me, is what one should take away from the book: social science is incredibly limited. Asimov might have been sympathetic to this idea since the book’s treatment of psychohistory is inconsistent.

At first there are a lot of references to how psychohistory is only useful for large, general predictions, yet there are these unbelievably dramatic appearances of Seldon holograms (who is long, long dead) that coincide with political crises. He recorded helpful messages and set a timer hundreds of years earlier that flipped the thing on at exactly the right moment! A general tool with such precision power? Why the contradiction?

I imagine a Hollywood producer and writer in Asimov’s head fighting over what makes sense and what sells: “there’s no way Seldon would predict, down to the minute, when such a crisis would occur, this is so stupid”, says the writer. “Whatever, responds the producer, we need some drama in here or people will think it’s boring. The audience cares more about excitement than believability. Get over yourself”. And in it goes.

It’s also interesting to contrast Hari Seldon with the Heros of each vignette. Hari Seldon is an academic’s fantasy, a grand puppet master, while the Heros are more like Odysseus: counter-punching, wheeling and dealing.

Without the psychohistory, this book would be a libertarian economist’s wet dream, all spontaneous order and incomprehensible forces overwhelming deliberate action. The do-nothing Odysseus heroes have minimal effect on events and rely mostly on their ability to identify the current and swim with it.

And yet. Attribution bias means heroes and villains are here to stay. Faceless economic forces grinding away in the quintessence makes for a lifeless story.

I originally planned to cover all three books in the original trilogy, but something deep is lost as the series progresses and I never made it past the second book. The story becomes more character and plot driven, but characters aren’t really any more interesting than in the originals. We are just forced to spend more time with them.

The original book was given strength by the short story format. It allowed Asimov to carry around a massive universe in his head and tantalize us with the odd peek here and there. I am reminded of Tolkien’s Middle Earth (or, in a different way, the Marvel or DC comics universes) where there is really almost no end to how deep down the rabbit hole you can dive, these realities are as complete as fiction can be.

But you’re held back by how much material has been printed, which always worked like a charm on me. I’m one of those geeks that would buy maps and encyclopedias on fictional universes, textbooks to learn about things that don’t exist.

The plots just slow me down.