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England Lose to Iceland — But Then, You Expected That

Were you shocked the other day when England lost 2-1 to Iceland?

Of course not, because you read my post just a few hours before kickoff.

Just saying.

Great Wall of China and South China Sea: Historical Parallels

2016 07 01 South China Sea

Highly recommended: The WSJ‘s Andrew Browne on parallels between China’s Great Wall, which was erected at a time of debate about the country’s role in the world, and their current claims in the South China Sea:

Echoes of this history reverberate today in the South China Sea, where China is building massive fortifications — artificial islands dredged from the seabed — to help defend a “nine-dash line” claim that encircles almost the entire waterway and reaches almost 1,000 miles from China’s coastline.

U.S. Adm. Harry Harris rails against the man-made islands as a “Great Wall of Sand.” Defense Secretary Ash Carter warns that China risks building a “Great Wall of self-isolation” through actions that have alarmed its neighbors.

In a matter of days, a United Nations-backed court in The Hague is expected to rule on a challenge to China’s claim brought by the Philippines. The decision will address an issue that has preoccupied Chinese dynasties since antiquity: Where does China end?

This has infuriated Chinese leaders; the presumptuousness of foreign jurists sitting in judgment upon what China regards as a matter of Chinese sovereignty is intolerable. Beijing has boycotted the proceedings.

Yet there’s an even more fundamental issue at play, one that dominated the debate in the old Ming court and that has rumbled on ever since: How should China conduct its relations with the world?

Image: Wikipedia.

Why You Shouldn’t be Surprised When England Lose

2016 06 27 england iceland euro

In about five hours England play Iceland in a Euro 2016 final 16 game. England may not lose this match, but they will almost certainly not win the tournament.

Here’s why you shouldn’t be surprised that the England national team aren’t more successful than they are.

Are you ready?

Here it is:

They’re actually not a global footballing power.

Now, this may come as a surprise, given that the guy who coached the soccer team at your high school had an English accent, as do many of the pundits who commentate on football games on TV. And yes, England is home to world’s most popular league.

2016 06 27 england crest

In addition, as British people may remind you, England invented the game and in 1966 won the World Cup — though it was at home in England and the team benefited from a dubious refereeing decision.

In the half century since then, however, they have won…not a single title.

The closest they came was making it to the World Cup semi-final in 1990 — a benchmark even the U.S. nearly achieved in 2002, when Gregg Berhalter* would have scored had it not been for a Torsten Frings handball that went unpunished.

But I digress.

Among the factors I have heard people give for England’s failure to win tournaments:

  • The Premier League is too fast-paced and physically demanding
  • There’s no winter break, so players can’t recuperate properly
  • There are too many foreigners playing in the Premier League, so English players don’t get a chance to develop
  • Highly paid players are more devoted to their clubs than to England
  • The youth team coaching isn’t good enough, so players don’t reach their full potential
  • Previous coaches, like Fabio Capello, were too strict or didn’t understand English culture or communicate with their players
  • English players typically play their best in cold weather; they can’t win in the heat.
  • They’re just so unlucky, with inevitable pre-tournament injuries
  • Penalties! They’re a crapshoot!
  • The English media are too hard on players, who then crack under the pressure of carrying a nation’s weight on their shoulders
  • Wives and girlfriends coming along to tournaments distract the players

And I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if another reason is added to the list after this tournament: Brexit somehow distracted the players, or sapped the fans of their enthusiasm.

But, as some have pointed out, England only under-achieve if you think they should do better.

I don’t. They do about as well as you could expect.

When you think England, don’t think Brazil, Germany, or Italy.

Think Portugal.

In other words: pretty good, but not absolutely top-tier.

Let’s look at their Fifa world rankings since 1993:

2016 06 27 england fifa ranking

So, they’re now ranked 11th in the world, and their average ranking since 1993 is ten. That’s pretty good! But it doesn’t make them elite.

Other sides that have won the World Cup once, like England, include France, which won in 1998 and have an average ranking of nine, and Spain, which won in 2010 and has an average ranking of five. Both are better than England.

What about the big boys?

Brazil have won five World Cups. This is what their ranking — which averages out to three over the years — looks like:

2016 06 27 brazil fifa ranking

Germany (average ranking: five) and Italy (average ranking: seven) have won four times each. This is what their rankings look like:

2016 06 27 germany fifa ranking

2016 06 27 italy fifa ranking

Portugal, which have an average ranking of 11, are much more like England:

2016 06 27 portugal fifa rankings

So, again: England don’t underperform. They perform as they always have.

They’re basically Portugal, except they won the World Cup fifty years ago. And they don’t have a Cristiano Ronaldo.

*My own personal footballing claim to fame: In a college game against the University of North Carolina, Gregg Berhalter scored a penalty on me. I dove the right way, guessing the left footer would blast it to my left, and came absolutely nowhere near it.

Singapore Taxi Hack: Mirror for Passengers to Check Oncoming Traffic

Singapore taxi mirror

I spotted this clever feature in a taxi cab here in Singapore recently. Had never seen anything like it.

As you can see in the image above, the car had a mirror affixed to the outside of the rear seat passenger side door. When passengers get out, they can use it to check for oncoming cars or motorbikes.

Simple and clever.

I shared the photo on Twitter, and users pointed out such gadgets would be useful in far flung places like India, the U.K. and Uganda.

So there you go: Safety innovation, straight out of tiny Singapore!

Book Notes — ‘Freedom,’ By Jonathan Franzen

Note: I have long kept written notes on index cards about the books I read. I decided to share some of these thoughts here, and will be posting them, one by one on individual books, in no particular order. I’ll group them all together on a central page later. Thanks to Derek Sivers for the inspiration.

2016 06 22 franzen purity

Purity
By Jonathan Franzen
Published: 2015
Read: April 2016
ISBN: 0374239215
Amazon link
Rating: 9/10

Brief recap: A novel about youth, ambition, and desire, packed with sharp cultural observations. I loved it, as I have loved most of Franzen’s fiction.

My notes:

  • The novel follows protagonist Pip Tyler as she seeks out direction in her life and tries to negotiate her relationship with her mother – and her father, who she didn’t know growing up.

  • While the novel is nearly 600 pages long, I found it to be extremely fast-paced, and loved the intricacy of the plot, with scences boucning between decades, both in the U.S. and in Germany.

  • I liked Franzen’s description of the geography in Bolivia, where part of the novel takes place.

  • I can’t excerpt it here because it present a major spolier, but the language describing one key character’s sudden demise was striking. I read that passage again and again.

  • My sense is that if you liked Franzen’s earlier works (as I did), such as “The Corrections” and “Freedoms,” you’ll like this one, too.

In This Weeks’s Newley’s Notes: Stand-Up Desk Benefits; ‘Brexit’ Explainer; ‘Blade Runner’ Typography; the Business of Guns

The latest edition of my email newsletter has gone out to subscribers. It’s pasted in below.

To get these weekly dispatches delivered to your inbox, sign up here. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief — and few people unsubscribe!


Hi friends,

Thanks for reading Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter in which I share my WSJ stories, posts from my blog, and various interesting links.

What I wrote in The Wall Street Journal

India Relaxes Foreign Direct Investment Rules. This is big news for Apple, which may now be able to open its own stores in the country.

What I wrote at Newley.com

IPhone 6 Touchscreen Problems? You’re Not Alone – I’ve encountered a beguiling problem. It is driving me nuts. Have you experienced something like this? Lemme know.

5 items that are worth your time this week:

1) Stand-up desks are supposed to be healthier than ones at which you sit. But a recent study shows another benefit: greater productivity. That’s probably because standing makes workers more active and thus more comfortable, so they concentrate better.

2) Everything you always wanted to know about “Brexit” – the potential exit of Britain from the EU, set for a vote on Thurs. – but were afraid to ask:

– The New York Times has an explainer.

– The argument for leaving, as articulated by The Telegraph, is:

Once we have left and are no longer subject to the free movement of labour, popular worries about immigration will become a matter for the British government and for Parliament. This does not mean there will be no immigration; quite the contrary. People will be welcome to come and work in the country and visitors and tourists will flock here as they always have.

But we will control our own borders; we will let in who we want to come and contribute to our economy. And if the country does not like the way the Government is conducting its immigration policy then it can turf it out. As things stand, there is nothing that can be done.

And the argument for remaining, by The Economist:

The liberal Leavers are peddling an illusion. On contact with the reality of Brexit, their plans will fall apart. If Britain leaves the EU, it is likely to end up poorer, less open and less innovative. Far from reclaiming its global outlook, it will become less influential and more parochial. And without Britain, all of Europe would be worse off.

Start with the economy. Even those voting Leave accept that there will be short-term damage… More important, Britain is unlikely to thrive in the longer run either. Almost half of its exports go to Europe. Access to the single market is vital for the City and to attract foreign direct investment. Yet to maintain that access, Britain will have to observe EU regulations, contribute to the budget and accept the free movement of people—the very things that Leave says it must avoid. To pretend otherwise is to mislead.

(Thanks to Jake for the last two links.)

3) The New York Times has a disturbing look at thousands of people suffering psychotic symptoms who have banded together online, claiming they are victims of a vast conspiracy. Isn’t the internet awesome?

4) This painstakingly researched piece on the typography in “Blade Runner,” one of my favorite movies, is exceptional.

There is even an examination of newspaper fonts in the movie. Headline: “FARMING THE OCEANS, THE MOON AND ANTARCTICA.” Dek: “World Wide Computer Linkup Planned.”

5) Post-Orlando #longread of the week: “Making a Killing: The business and politics of selling guns,” by The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos.

Have a great week!

@Newley

P.S. If someone forwarded you this email, you can subscribe here.

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IPhone 6 Touchscreen Problems? You’re Not Alone

2016-06-11iphone2.jpg

Shown above and online here are a series of Tweets about a very annoying experience I’m having with my iPhone 6, which I bought less than a year and a half ago, in February 2015.

The touchscreen has been intermittently failing for several weeks – sometimes it works as it should, and sometimes it’s unresponsive, with touches and swipes yielding no response.

There are many accounts online about similar issues with various models of the phone.

Sometimes rebooting works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes locking the screen and then unlocking it again works, and sometimes it doesn’t.

Perhaps most maddeningly, at times touches yield delayed actions, or massively sped-up ones. Sometimes the phone even suffers from phantom touches, with apps being opened or screens being swiped completely independently.

I tried erasing and restoring it as a new device, but that didn’t work. The problem persisted.

So I finally took it to an authorized service provider here in Singapore recently.

The tech quickly diagnosed the problem, noting that unfortunately, the phone is out of warranty.

It seems to be suffering from a hardware issue, she said, perhaps due to motherboard or display problems. She said it would cost as much as S$550 (about $400) to fix it, and that even then it would only have a ninety-day warranty, and the problem could persist. One option: I could sell the phone to them – for about $50.

I asked the tech and a more senior manager if this is a problem they see frequently, and they said they had seen it before.

Sadly, thus, I don’t have a fix to share. But if you’re similarly beset by the issue, just know this: You’re not alone.

In This Week’s Newley’s Notes: Tech Stories from HK; Asian Godfathers; Ode to Trustafarians; Aging Goalkeepers; King Tut’s Meteoritic Dagger

The latest edition of my email newsletter has gone out to subscribers. It’s pasted in below.

To get these weekly dispatches delivered to your inbox, sign up here. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief — and few people unsubscribe!


Hi friends,

Thanks for reading Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter where I share my WSJ stories, posts from my blog, and various interesting links.

What I wrote in The Wall Street Journal

Singapore’s Grab App Can Now Hail Lyft Cars in U.S.:

The latest step in a global ride-sharing alliance between rivals of Uber Technologies Inc. went into effect Thursday, allowing users of a popular Southeast Asia-focused transportation app to begin making car bookings via Lyft Inc. in the U.S.

I also spent Thurs. and Fri. in Hong Kong attending The WSJ’s Converge tech conference. In addition to posing for creepy pics with humanoid robots, I wrote some stories. To wit:

Microsoft Not Building Driverless Car But Wants to Help With Tech:

Microsoft Corp. isn’t building its own self-driving car, but is bullish on helping others with related technology, a senior executive said.

Southeast Asia Startup Scene Is Sunny, Investors Say:

Venture capitalists and investors attending the Converge technology conference in Hong Kong on Friday expressed optimism about the future of startups in Southeast Asia, despite significant challenges.

What I wrote at Newley.com

Book Notes — ‘Asian Godfathers,’ by Joe Studwell – Probably the best book I’ve ever read on Southeast Asia. Highly recommended.

5 items that are worth your time this week:

1) An interesting thread on Quora sure to appeal to productivity nerdz: “What is the most powerful tip you’ve gained from reading a self-help book?”

2) “Why I Quit My Job to Travel the World”, by Joe Veix at The New Yorker, is an excellent send-up of “digital nomad” (or, perhaps more fittingly, “trustifarian”) culture. It opens:

On paper, my life seemed great. I had a dream job, a swanky apartment, and a loving girlfriend. But something was off. I couldn’t bear being chained to my desk in a stuffy office any longer. So I decided to quit and travel the world, bringing only my passport, a small backpack, and my enormous trust fund.

I also like:

As a citizen of the world, I rarely get lonely. Everywhere I go, I meet such diverse groups of people. In hostels, I’ve shared beers with friendly British and Australian twenty-somethings. In hotels, I’ve sipped wine with friendly British and Australian forty-somethings. We all became lifelong friends, despite the language barriers.

And:

Of course, this “no reservations” life style isn’t for everyone. In many ways, it’s harder than the old corporate grind. Many stores don’t accept my Centurion card. Sometimes it’s difficult to get even one bar of cell service, which makes Instagramming more gelato a real struggle.

3) The Onion has a nice take on the passing of The Greatest: “Dozens Of Social Issues Thankful They Never Had To Go Toe-To-Toe With Muhammad Ali.”

4) Video of the week: Mexcian club Pachuca’s 43-year-old (yes, 43-year-old!) goalkeeper, Oscar “El Conejo” Perez, pulls off a triple save against Monterrey in his side’s the Mexican league title-winning game. Did I mention he’s 43?

5) So, King Tut’s dagger was made out of a meteorite. Here’s the original paper.

Reader feedback

Remember Flyover Country, the app I mentioned last week that provides geographic details on the land you’re flying over? Reader Mechum P. writes to point out that it does, indeed, work outside the U.S. “Flyover Country works everywhere! but it can be slow to download your routes,” he says. Thanks for the feedback.

Have a great week!

@Newley

P.S. If someone forwarded you this email, you can subscribe here.

Recent Stories: Grab <--> Lyft; Microsoft Exec on Self-Driving Cars; Venture Capital in Southeast Asia

I’m behind in sharing some of the stories I’ve been working on. Here are a few from last week.

The first, on Grab’s integration with Lyft in the U.S., begins:

The latest step in a global ride-sharing alliance between rivals of Uber Technologies Inc. went into effect Thursday, allowing users of a popular Southeast Asia-focused transportation app to begin making car bookings via Lyft Inc. in the U.S.

Users of the app from GrabTaxi Holdings Pte. Ltd., which operates in 30 cities across six Southeast Asian countries, can now use the service to hail vehicles in more than 200 U.S. cities via Lyft. In December, Lyft said it was teaming up with Grab, as the company is known, after announcing a similar agreement with Chinese startup Didi Chuxing Technology Co. in September, bolstering the competitive field against the much larger Uber.

The second, on Microsoft, which I wrote while in Hong Kong for our Converge tech conference, begins:

Microsoft Corp. isn’t building its own self-driving car, but is bullish on helping others with related technology, a senior executive said.

“We won’t be building our own autonomous vehicle but we would like to enable autonomous vehicles and assisted driving as well,” said Peggy Johnson, who heads business development for the Redmond, Wash., tech titan, speaking at the Converge technology conference hosted by The Wall Street Journal and f.ounders in Hong Kong Friday.

Ms. Johnson said Microsoft has asked various auto makers what kind of technological applications they are looking for, whether it is working with Azure, its cloud-based service for businesses, Office 365, the cloud version of its productivity software suite, or its Windows operating system.

And finally, another from the conference: a look at how investors – such as Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin – are increasingly pouring venture capital funds into Southeast Asia:

Venture capitalists and investors attending the Converge technology conference in Hong Kong on Friday expressed optimism about the future of startups in Southeast Asia, despite significant challenges.

“Between Southeast Asia and India there are about two billion people,” said Facebook Inc. co-founder Eduardo Saverin, speaking on a panel about investment opportunities in the region. “It’s arguably the fastest-growing internet market in the world.”

In the first quarter of this year, funding to companies in Singaporethe region’s startup hub–rose sharply to $199 million from $53.1 million a year earlier, according to Hong Kong-based AVCJ Research.

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