Cricketer Phil Hughes, 25 Dies in Action

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I remember playing cricket when I was at school. I played decent wicket keeper and terrible batsman. I was small and ill-trained at batting. One game we played a local school and their lead bowler who played for the county took every wicket except until no.11 came out. He had 9 wickets for 0 runs! At the other end was one of the opening batsman, Matt Goode, now a relatively famous actor. Goodie won’t admit this but he spent the entire innings avoiding their demon, lead bowler.

I trotted out in my oversized pads and paddle-sized bat. Goodie gave me some advice but he must have known it was over. 3 balls later it still wasn’t and I’d scored 12 off their main man. He was almost in tears. At the end of the over, Goodie and I laughed together. I was eventually out for 14 and managed to hand my wicket to the other bowler.

Phil Hughes died this morning (European time) aged 25. He succumbed to his injury from two days ago. If you don’t know, Phil Hughes was a cricketer, an opening batsman for Australia and was struck by a rising ball at the top of his neck while playing for his state. Deaths don’t usually occur in cricket. This is the first I have heard of. Possibly in the past players could have died while on the field on a hot summer’s day. When I first saw cricket they were a bit tubby round the waist and long days in the field or batting must have taken their toll. But in the modern cricket, it’s possible to say this guys are genuine athletes so to see a death is unexpected.

This dismaying circumstance is also despite the adherence to modern protective measures and modern medicine. In the past, helmets were not common and bowling repeated bouncers was also common practice. You can understand how fearful players might have been back in the 1970s and 1980s when only donning a cap, they faced the might of the West Indies pacemen Joel Garner. Malcolm Marshall and Michael Holding who bowled at around 90mph and legitimately aimed at the head to make the batsman leave their stumps unguarded or to palm it to the wicketkeeper or slips known as callously as Death Row.

My favourite cricketing memory involved the duel between Brian Lara and Glenn McGrath in a test series a few years ago when McGrath, the Australian pace bowler tried all manners of aggressive but legitimate tactics to get Lara, the masterful West Indian batsman, out, with Lara smiling his pearly whites throughout it, inviting it on and smashing anything he could around the ground. This is what makes cricket a great spectacle.

In Phil’s case, the ball missed his helmet and struck him at the top of his neck. This ruptured his artery which bled into his brain causing him to first black out and put massive pressure on the brain. Doctors removed part of his skull to relieve the pressure but the internal damage was simply too much. It’s the kind of injury more often seen in car accidents but again there, it’s not common.

Before knowing of Phil’s death, the Economist talked of moral hazard, a concept more commonly known in economics. Essentially if you feel better protected, you take more risks, knowing you will probably be insulated from the worst effects. Whether this moral hazard is true in cricket I doubt. Cricket is an one of the most individualistic team games out there. Batsman face bowlers alone. Bowlers have strategies developed with the team but essentially it’s a duel. However the culture of a team is there and no one wants to give their wicket away cheaply.

I lived in my cricketing day some glory at a sport I have never really cared for. Phil lived a lot more glorious days than I and would never expect to go out on the field. We never do but in that gladiatorial duel, Phil won more than he lost. RIP

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Facebook and the Stasi

Back in June, Facebook admitted it had been running a psychological experiment along with some universities to tweek the newsfeed of users. Some were shown more negative status while others received more positive posts from their friends and news outlets. The aim was to see how these affect the mood of the users. Naturally this drip-drip method of manipulation had the expected effect; those with more negative news surrounding them reported feeling worse than others.

This manipulation is troubling on many levels. Its creepy to start with but fundamentally the shifting of our information by a corporation making its money from advertising is hardly new. Google filters its results according to what ‘they’ believe you need. However shifting and in his case, undermining the psychological environment is troubling for our newsfeeds are meant to be reflections of our friends and our interests. When a friend has a problem you feel concerned and want to help. But if we are artificially surrounded by negative news, painting our world as a more desperate and lonely place than it is, this could have serious implications for psychological health. The reverse, creating a happier world than reality could also lead to delusions but at least happy ones.

IMG_20140620_141249Also in June, I visited Leipzig, a new Berlin if you believe that hype, the reasoning being Berlin is now gentrified and full of jaded hipsters. Leipzig and Dresden, two old East Germany cities to the south are the ‘new’, new places to be. Both big university cities with bohemian areas, I liked both. Dresden had always been on my list for it’s long ornate waterfront but it was Leipzig that really caught my eye.

It’s a city to hang out in rather than be mesmerized by the sights but it is home to the Stasi Museum. The Stasi were the East Germany secret police who took surveillance to a level possibly unheard of. If you want to see a dramatisation of the Stasi and it’s debilitating effect on society, try to see The Lives of Others, an Oscar-winning film from 2006.

The Museum known as the Runden Ecke was a prominent landmark in the city, fairly assuming but centrally located. From here, the Stasi coordinated their surveillance. The museum shows the roles of the Stasi, the various tactics, the equipment used, the psychological methods and a list of those executed.

What most struck me was the long term strategies used to undermine individuals who were deemed problems for the state. These included a slow, drip-drip process of breaking up marriages of dissidents by creating affairs, undermining academics with poor reviews in papers and creating suspicious and jealousy within families. These were long-term projects and perfected over time.

Does facebook tweek the world we live in to try to make us believe things? Well yes of course. That’s advertising but at least we know what we see. When what we believe to be our natural world is in fact completely manipulated by a corporation in the name of experimentation, however innocent, opens a whole new area or maybe just shines a light on what’s been happening all along.

CBS treats Americans as simpletons!

http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/belgium-knocks-usa-out-of-world-cup/

Such patronising language for Americans and foreigners alike.

One of the biggest sporting events of the year! 28 inch sphere! The anchor even speaks at such a patronising speed.

During the game, I followed NFL, NBA and MLB twitter accounts and despite the bullshit talked by some political commentators, these all-American games were completely involved in the event constantly posting about the game and accepting tweets from players watching.

Just for note, this, the USA vs Belgium or Germany vs Ghana were my favourite games of the World Cup.