Crime and punishment

Posted: January 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

I’m sure I’m not the only one who raised an eyebrow at today’s story about a soccer player being banned from the game for five years … for spitting at a referee.

I didn’t witness the incident and I don’t know anything about the player involved, 28-year-old Detroy Smith, a midfield player with St. David’s but really, FIVE YEARS? For an amateur player? For spitting? Liverpool’s Luis Suarez, one of the best professional players on the planet, only got 10 games for the far more heinous crime of biting an opponent during a game!

I’m certainly not condoning Smith’s anti-social behaviour but surely the punishment is way out of perspective. I understand that the Bermuda FA want to stamp out this sort of behaviour (Bermuda referees get enough abuse as it is) but surely such an excessive ban is not only sending the wrong message but could potentially have an unintentional knock-on effect socially.

This sort of draconian and heavy-handed reaction – a long-time feature of Bermuda’s soccer and cricket authorities – may drive Smith out of the game for good. Is that fair – given the humiliating publicity that such a ban receives in the press – or desirable? Surely it is far better to ban him for a number of games or to the end of the season than risk losing a player to the sport (or to another sport) altogether.

I have no idea whether Smith is a fine, upstanding citizen normally or a sociopathic threat to society but let’s say he was a younger man for whom soccer was a way of escaping the clutches of less positive influences in his life, perhaps even gang involvement? Idle hands (or feet), devil’s work and all that. Surely far better to make every effort to keep him open to those positive influences.

Through my son’s involvement with junior soccer, every week I see young boys from every background dedicate themselves to training three times a week plus a game on Saturdays. It’s unquestionably healthy and I’d like to think that the discipline, teamwork and social interaction they get from it will stand them in good stead in later life, not to mention the possibility of a career in the sport or a college scholarship. Sure, some of them will go off the rails regardless but I’d be willing to bet that number would be far greater without soccer.

Yes, sporting bodies should be commended for trying to promote good behaviour, sportsmanship and so on but perhaps their zeal to enforce it needs to be tempered for the good of the game too.

 

 

 

A very good year

Posted: December 31, 2013 in music

I don’t know about you, but I thought 2013 was one of the best years in music for a long time. Not least because so many of my favourite bands not only released albums after long hiatuses but burnished their legacy with work of real worth. Add to that a bunch of promising newcomers and more established artists hitting their creative stride, there was so much to enjoy that I chickened out of choosing my annual top ten and went for 15 instead (plus a couple of honourable mentions).

So for what it’s worth, here are my personal favourites. Enjoy – and let me know what your picks were. You might also want to check out my friend Mark Nash’s top FIFTY (!) list – he clearly listens to way more music than me!


 

Past lists:  2012 | 201120102009 |  2008

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If you or I were imprisoned unjustly for 27 years, much of it in solitary confinement, as Nelson Mandela was, we’d probably come out bitter and hellbent on exacting revenge on those responsible.

In the UK in the late 1970s, when I was in my teens and early 20s, many of my generation were seething at that injustice and the evils of the South African government’s apartheid system. Indeed, at a time when the right-wing National Front was on the rise, we were pretty worked up about racism in general. If we weren’t taking part in Free Mandela marches or concerts, then it was an Anti-Racism or Anti-Nazi League rally. We vilified those businesses or sportsmen who broke  government sanctions and went to South Africa.

But if we believed that Nelson Mandela would one day be released, I don’t think any of us would have predicted that he would become the country’s first black President and that instead of spearheading the ANC in bloody retribution against their oppressors, he would lead an astonishing and courageous reconciliation that helped heal a bitterly divided nation and avoid almost certain civil war.

As he later wrote about his release: “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” Nelson Mandela was already a hero of mine before he left prison. His dignity and humility after his release made him, in my eyes and those of millions of others, the greatest human being of our lifetime whose ideals and integrity put every other statesman in the world to shame.

His charming personality in public made all of us feel like we knew him. Of course most of us only saw him through the prism of TV, not as an ordinary flawed human being, someone whom his first wife, taking a dim view of his earlier philandering, dismissed as “just a man”. Read the rest of this entry »

David L. White (1933-2013)

I was saddened to hear of the death of David L. White, former editor of The Royal Gazette, who passed away last night after a long illness.

While he and I did not always see eye to eye professionally during our time at Par-La-Ville Road, we enjoyed a far more cordial relationship after he retired and I came to respect his talents and generosity of spirit that weren’t always appreciated or valued in the chaotic and dysfunctional nature of a daily newsroom.

In fact, had it not been for David I would not have ended up in Bermuda at all, let alone call it my home for more than 30 years as it was he who interviewed me at the Berkeley Hotel in London in 1982 for a job on the sports desk of the Gazette.

It was the longest and most entertaining interview I’ve ever had, largely because by the time we’d finished, it was early evening and he insisted on buying dinner. As we sat down, he asked me what I would like to drink. Not knowing the protocol one should take with a prospective (and foreign) employer, I asked what he was having. “I’m having a f******g double vodka and tonic!” he declared loudly. “The single measures you Limeys serve are a joke!”

And so we proceeded to consume an absurd quantity of vodka and good wine. I have no idea what we talked about from then on but as I stood swaying on the Tube platform later that night waiting for the train home, I remember feeling confident that I would be leaving England for a tiny island in the Atlantic later that year.

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As someone with obstructive sleep apnea, I was pleased to see The Royal Gazette give coverage to this common but chronic disorder the other day.
The more exposure this disorder gets the better as many people are unaware that they have sleep apnea and go untested, often with tragic results. While sleep apnea itself will not kill you, like high cholesterol it can have serious and life-threatening consequences if left untreated. These include: high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, car accidents caused by falling asleep at the wheel, diabetes, depression, weight gain, impotence, and headaches.
The good news is that once diagnosed, sleep apnea is treatable and manageable. I would urge anyone who has any sort of sleep problems to talk to their doctor as soon as possible. Although I  always snored badly (people in adjacent hotel rooms were known to bang on the wall), it wasn’t until my wife, who is a light sleeper, noticed that I stopped breathing several times a night that I became aware that I had a serious problem.
Following a visit to an ear, nose and throat specialist, I was hooked for an overnight home test which confirmed a problem. That was followed up with a full sleep study at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston that revealed the seriousness of the disorder.
As a result I now sleep with a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine, a pneumatic portable device (not an oxygen tank as referred to in the Gazette story) that maintains air pressure through a nose or nose and mouth mask to keep the patient’s airway open during sleep. It’s not a sexy look and did take a bit of getting used to but it’s a small price to pay when one considers the consequences.
Oh, and my wife is not woken up by my impression of a 747 taking off next to her every night.
I hope that in time, the new King Edward VII Memorial Hospital will have full sleep study facilities here in Bermuda but at present, most patients will need to travel to Boston for this. Fortunately most local health insurance companies will cover the cost of the flight and two-night stay.
There are other treatment options depending on the severity of the apnea. I would recommend the following sites for anyone wishing to find out more details about the diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea:

 

It’s so easy these days to download music, movies, books and games. However, it’s just as easy to forget about some of the pitfalls – especially as a parent.

Recently I was self-righteously shaking my head at the story about Canadian parents whose 7-year-old twins bought $3,000-worth of in-app purchases on iTunes while playing the hugely popular game Clash of Clans. How could they let that happen? A week later I was shaking my head in disbelief when our credit card statement showed that our 10-year-old had racked up almost $500-worth of in-app purchases for the same game in just four days!

Click and easy: in-app purchases for Clash of Clans range from 99c to $99.

Click and easy: in-app purchases for Clash of Clans range from 99c to $99.

This is mere chicken feed for Supercell, the game’s Finnish developers, which reportedly rakes in a staggering $2.4 million a day from in-app purchases from the only two games it has in the market - Clans and Hay Day, played by an estimated 8.5 million people daily.

So how did our little spending spree happen? We’re a pretty tech-savvy family and heavy iTunes users (no, you really don’t want to know how heavy), and I thought we had taken precautions to stop things getting out of hand. We set up our teenaged daughter with her own account that can only be sustained by iTunes gift cards. Until he is a little older, we allowed our son to use our family account on his iPod but adjusted the settings so that he had to ask us for approval and to put in the top secret password for him whenever he wanted to purchase anything. Any purchases were then duly deducted from his pocket money.

Up until last month this had worked fine but, as I found out to my cost, I had not made one crucial change to the settings, which was to require the password for every purchase. As I had set it up, once logged in to our iTunes account, any subsequent purchase during that session (i.e. until the user has logged out or turned the device off) did not require the password. As a result my son simply didn’t think the charges applied as

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Bezos kindles hope for media

Posted: August 7, 2013 in Uncategorized

The recent sale of one of the world’s great newspapers, the Washington Post, to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has raised eyebrows across the media industry. Given how Bezos revolutionised the retail business, many commentators are speculating that he may just do the same for the ailing newspaper sector.

Jeff Jarvis: reporting is more important than ever.

In a recent article for German newspaper Der Spiegel, Jeff Jarvis, one of my favourite writers on all things media, is optimistic that Bezos can bring the best of the internet – efficient business models that focus on individual relationships with their customers and users – to the Post.

The article addresses the bigger picture of the future of newspapers, arguing that while the internet continues to change our perception of the media and what constitutes news in the Twitter age and the relentless flow of information, it is also an opportunity for news organisations and journalists to “reimagine” themselves.

He writes: “There is still a need for journalists, perhaps greater than ever. Journalists must add value to that flow of information, confirming facts, debunking rumours, finding sources, adding context and explanation, and, most importantly, asking the questions and getting the answers that are not in the flow — that is: reporting.”

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