Alan Shearer demands complete control at Newcastle

Alan Shearer will be offered a four-year contract to continue in his post as Newcastle United manager today, when he meets Mike Ashley for the first of a series of critical meetings that will determine the relegated club’s immediate future.

Shearer is eager to remain in his position following the expiration of his eight-game deal, but will demand complete autonomy over playing matters at St James’ Park and will request a transfer budget in excess of £10 million on top of whatever money he can bring in through player sales. In turn, Newcastle’s owner will point out that an annual wage bill of £74 million is unsustainable in the Coca-Cola Championship and must be halved.

After their 1-0 defeat by Aston Villa on Sunday – a result that condemned Newcastle to existence outside the top division for the first time in 16 years – Shearer called in his players to the club’s Longbenton training ground at 9.30am yesterday. Over 45 minutes, they were provided with summer fitness programmes and told that pre-season training will commence on July 1.

In brief remarks to the first-team squad, Shearer intimated strongly that he would return to the dugout and warned that significant upheaval would follow. “If I’m here next season, there are going to be big, big changes,” he said. He will look to freshen his coaching staff, with Colin Calderwood’s departure as one of the first-team coaches expected to pre-empt John Carver’s return to the club.


The scale of the task facing Shearer is enormous. “The problem this club has got is that the other Championship teams have already started preparing regarding players and everything else,” he said. “Newcastle are already lagging behind. The sooner a decision is made, the better for everyone.

“It needs to be filled with people who love this club. We’re up against it already. We have to get over what happened at Aston Villa. We need to look at it with a clear head. I will give them my opinion on what is wrong and what needs to be done.”

Shearer will present Ashley and Derek Llambias, the managing director – whose statement expressing “disappointment” in the immediate aftermath of relegation contained no apology to supporters – with a list of players he wishes to retain. Steve Harper, the goalkeeper, Steven Taylor and Nicky Butt will figure prominently, but offers on most other players will be considered.

Players such as Michael Owen, Mark Viduka, Claudio Caçapa and Peter Lovenkrands are all out of contract and will leave, while there is little chance of high-earners such as Obafemi Martins, Gérémi, Alan Smith, Fabricio Coloccini and Jonas Gutierrez staying at the club. Buyers will also be sought for Joey Barton, Xisco and José Enrique, although the danger for Newcastle is that interested clubs may be unwilling to match their wages; Xisco, for example, is believed to have a six-year contract worth £50,000 a week.

Taylor, the England Under-21 captain, has pledged his future to the club he supported as a boy, while there were also words of encouragement for Shearer from Damien Duff, the Ireland midfield player. “I am as loyal as they come, whether the gaffer stays or not,” Duff said. “But if there is one man to get us back up, it is him. It has been a proper football club for eight weeks and it was about time it was.”

As ever, Ashley’s intentions are unknown, but having invested more than £250 million in Newcastle, the club are now effectively valued at £100 million. A potential takeover involving Freddy Shepherd, the former chairman, has been mooted, although the financial position is stark, with the club’s annual television income of £40 million being replaced by a £12 million parachute payment, plus Championship television revenue.

it’s quite emotional to see newcastle and middlesborough relegated this season. they used to be the big strong clubs. especially newcastle. but with shearer guiding them now.. they’ll bounce back. give him some time to rebuild and maybe after few seasons they’ll come back strong.. i have to agree with espn comentators the other day while watching the game, the club needs major change from top to bottom. anyhow i wish good luck to them. article from TimesOnline.

What Gender Is Your Roomba?

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Why do we assign genders to robots, even when they look like Wall-E or a Roomba vacuum cleaner? That was the subject of a panel at WisCon, where a roboticist debated sexbots and macho tanks with writers and science fiction fans.

Technical writer Heidi Waterhouse chaired the panel called “What Gender is Your Roomba?” where she was joined by robotics engineer Hari Mirchi and fantasy author Madeleine Robins. Waterhouse began by saying that she’d done an informal poll at the con, asking people what gender they imagined for their Roomba broom robots. “A lot of people said it was female because it does domestic work,” she said. “Somebody said it has no gender until they get angry with it, and then it becomes female.”

Robins said her Roomba was female, but only because “everything in my house is female except my husband – I have two daughters and a female dog. So I just assume all the machines are female too.”

Mirchi said none of the machines in her house were gendered except her Roomba, which is decidedly male. “I have a hard time communicating with it and don’t understand its behavior, so I think of it as male,” she said.

The question is, why do even roboticists attribute gendered characteristics to something as clearly inanimate as a Roomba? “I think we want to anthropomorphize our robots,” Mirchi said. “So we give them genders.” She talked about a study done at the lab where she’d worked on robots in Japan, where researchers introduced a genderless robot to schoolchildren. With its boxy frame, the robot struck the children as male or female seemingly at random. “About fifty percent of the children called it female, and fifty percent male,” she said. “But the gender each child chose for the robot had nothing to do with the child’s gender.”

Robins asked why certain machines are gendered female, while others are male. Ships – and, in science fiction, spaceships – are female. But soldier robots are male. Nobody could figure out what a tank’s gender might be.

The speakers and the audience debated why ships are female, talking about how it was partly maternal because the ship protects its crew in a kind of womb. But it’s also condescending, because of course the ship cannot do anything without being controlled.

Waterhouse talked about how robots in science fiction are often divided up into two groups: Fembots (who are generally sex bots or at least sexy) and hypermasculine military-style robots like Terminators or Robocop. Audience members noted that when the robots aren’t particularly sexy or macho, like those in Wall-E, we still assign them genders. Perhaps, suggested one person, we want to give genders to robots in order to make them seem more human. Calling a robot “it,” the way the humans do in Terminator, is intended to turn them into faceless enemies.

Mirchi described recent efforts in Japan to create robots who will be caretakers for the elderly or sick. These robots, she said, are deliberately created to be genderless. But the idea of creating a genderless robot, especially one that will interact a lot with people, seems doomed. Even schoolchildren assign random genders to robots designed to be genderless.

Panel members and the audience debated a lot about why people sometimes want to make their robots female, giving their GPS devices women’s voices for example. Or why it’s common to give automated instructions to pilots using male voices. Female voices are easier to hear over engine noise, but studies show that people follow instructions better when delivered by a male voice. Are our robot designs sexist, or pragmatic?

The question I was left with after the panel is what will happen to all these gendered robots in the future. If robots ever achieve human-level intelligence (or greater) will they want to be gendered, or will they view gender as something human-centric? Perhaps, in the end, robots will develop genders that mean nothing to humans, assigning specialized pronouns to wheeled robots, scorpion-shaped robots, insect-sized robots, and humanoid robots. Will relationships between the scorpions and insects be taboo?

found this interesting article from Gizmodo. perhaps one day i’ll buy the angelina jolie-ish robots. it