Sunday, May 21, 2006


Today was the annual Eurovision song contest where almost every European country is represented by one song and TV viewers then select the best song by phone voting. Latvia was represented by a capella group Cosmos which finished 16th with 30 points:
8 points (representing 3rd place) from Lithuania
8 points (3rd place) from Monaco
4 point (7th place) from Ukraine
4 point (7th place) from Ireland
3 point (8th place) from Estonia
2 point (9th place) from UK
1 point (10th place) from Russia
Cosmos did not make top 10 in the other 30 participiating countries.

As usual, many viewers voted for their neighbouring countries. Latvia almost always gets votes from Lithuania and Estonia, regardless of how good the song is. Russia and Ukraine also supported us this year, probably, for the same reasons. Ireland has a large number of Latvian guest workers. Monaco's vote is the only mystery here.

Not all votes are decided by friendship between the countries. To win the contest, a song has to do well across the Europe. This year's winners, Mr. Lordi from Finland, collected 289 points from 33 countries.

Most of 600 million viewers probably complained how bad the songs were but, nevertheless, they will tune back for next year's contest. And, according to Wikipedia, NBC has purchased rights to create a similar show where songs from US states will compete one against another.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Ice Hockey World Championships 2006

2006 World Championships in Ice Hockey is almost over. Team Latvia finished 10th:

Latvia - Czech Republic 1:1
Latvia - Finland 0:5
Latvia - Slovenia 5:1
Latvia - Canada 0:11
Latvia - USA 2:4
Latvia - Norway 4:2

The results are about what one could reasonably expect. Latvia almost always finishes ahead of Norway and Slovenia and was expected to win those teams. The other 4 teams are all significantly better than Latvia. 1:1 tie against Czech Republic was a nice surprise and fuelled hopes that our team could make quarterfinals, playing on its home ice with arena full of Latvian fans. The next games dashed those hopes. 0:11 against Canada was particularly painful. Canada is expected to win Latvia in ice hockey, but not by 11 goals. (Well, a referee who was very strict against Latvian players and maybe too respectful of Canadians, was a part of that.)

The generation change on Latvian team was nearly complete this time. For long time, the team consisted of players who started playing for Latvia in 1992 (after Latvia regained independence and our team returned to international tournaments) and continued playing throughout 1990s and early 2000s. In this tournament, the only players left from that generation were Naumovs, Pantelejevs, Semjonovs and Tambijevs. 14 out of 24 players have started playing for the team in last 5 years. A few years ago, there was a bit of fear that the new generation might not be as good as the previous one. But it has turned out to be fine.

Unfortunately, the games are still hard to find on Internet. I watched part of the Latvia-Finland game on an Internet feed of a Russian TV channel. When I tried to watch the next game on the same site, the access was restricted to subscribers of the Internet provider which provided the broadcast. I would be willing to watch the games on pay-per-view basis, but there was no such option, either. One website was selling access to games of 2005 World Championships, but not 2006.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Analyzing terrorist networks

Newsweek has a a story on social network analysis:
To understand why the NSA wants to look at your phone bills, check out the work of Valdis Krebs, an expert on "social-network analysis." By mapping the connections of Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, two men that the CIA had suspected as Qaeda members back in 2000, Krebs established not only that they were dangerous—they had direct links to two people involved in the USS Cole bombing—but that someone named Muhammad Atta was at the center of their social web.
Nice to hear that a Latvian scientist is doing important work! Here is a podcast interview withValdis Krebs, from ITConversations website. I'll listen to it sometime (after I finish all the work that was due yesterday...sigh).

Saturday, May 13, 2006

First post

After commenting on weblogs of other people for a while, I've decided to start my own. This will be primarily my opinions on Latvian politics, society and sports.