Waiting on God

Older woman with straw hat relaxing, seen in E...
Older woman with straw hat relaxing, seen in England 1976 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I hate getting older. I hate the sensation of slowly losing my faculties. For example, I’m proud of my vocabulary, but these days I sometimes cannot bring a particular word. Or another word slips in in its place.

For example, above I wrote “facilities” first, and then realised that I meant “faculties”. Words which I would have written without even thinking suddenly are suddenly tricky to spell. “Thought”! Is that “ght” or “gth”? I used to be able to write whole paragraph without seeing the wiggly red line even once.

Spelling
Spelling (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Even worse, when I’m talking to someone and I pause to collect my thoughts and work out what I am going to say next, they try to finish my sentence! That is incredibly annoying, but people seem to think that it is funny. The only time that someone finishing someone else’s sentences was in a sketch by Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett (“You Can Say That Again“).

One’s mental faculties reach a peak at sometime between 20 and 40. Babies are born with immature brains and our early life consists of us learning how to get on in life and at the same time allowing our brains to mature. From then on our brains start to slowly fade over time.

Our memories and our ability to access them slowly decline. I’ve always been quite good at quizzes and I hope and believe that I am still good at them. However I do know that I can’t access answers to quiz questions as fast as I used to be able to do, and quite often I find that I can’t recall an answer at all, only to realise, once the answer has been given, that I knew it all the time. I couldn’t recall it at all, but it was there, in my brain, but inaccessible to me.

The abilities that we have built up over the years after we became physically and mentally mature by offsetting the start of the loss of brain cells with experience start to fade as more and more brain cells die and lesser used abilities start to be lost. If you haven’t played golf in a while or ice skated since your twenties, if you try to take up the sport again, you will have to relearn it.

English: ice skating at bondi beach
English: ice skating at bondi beach (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since the circuits have not faded totally away you may achieve some level of competence fairly quickly, but you will never reach the height of ability that you had in your twenties. Even if you don’t give up a sport your abilities will fade, just not so quickly as if you had taken a break from the sport.

I was trying to make this post about me but I’ve drifted into generalisations. I’ve not retried a sport that I was good at, as I was never that good at a sport, but I have tried ice skating and roller skating after not having done it for a while, and I was able to manage it pretty well and pretty quickly too, so I think that I can vouch for my statement above.

Tre personer som åker långfärdsskridsko
Tre personer som åker långfärdsskridsko (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One’s senses also decline with age. In particular, eyesight fades noticeably for most people. Things like cataracts and other conditions can only partially be mitigated. Spectacles tend to get stronger and the muscles that focus the eye deteriorate as other muscles do.

I’ve worn glasses since I was a teenager, that is, for most of my life. I can vouch for the fact that my eyesight has got worse over the ensuing decades, though I can see most things fairly clearly. I can’t easily read the small typefaces that are usually used for the ubiquitous “Terms and Conditions” found with appliances and contracts, but I suspect that the type has also diminished over the years and that the firms that supply the product or commodity hope that no one read them anyway.

The other senses also fade as the sensors and nerves age. Things taste blander, smell less fragrant, touch becomes less sensitive, and hearing tends to fade too. I’m fortunate that my hearing has not, as yet, been severely impacted, but I do suffer from tinnitus intermittently.

Taste is an awkward one – as one’s sense of taste declines, so, potentially, does one’s ability to digest food. The complex mechanism that is our digestive system of develops problems as we age, meaning that we may need to switch to less spicy foods, and since the sense of taste is declining, everything may taste even blander!

Chilli pepper 1
Chilli pepper 1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Joints wear as we get older. So do the ligaments that connect to them. Muscles become less effective. Balance, which depends on certain nerves in the ear, may be affected by the general decline of the nervous system. As I said above, my hearing is still pretty good and maybe as a consequence my balance is still pretty good, fortunately.

My joints do give me trouble some of the time, especially my knees. That’s something of a family joke as my father has had knee problems. He has had both knee joints replaced. My sisters also have issues with the knee joints and so do my daughters. We’ve all inherited the family knees, apparently.

Capsule of right knee-joint (distended). Later...
Capsule of right knee-joint (distended). Lateral aspect. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

People are living longer than ever before, but this is for many a mixed blessing. My father and mother are both still alive at more than 90. Fortunately they are still both pretty well, and although they do have some problems, both mental and physical. Others are not so fortunate and may spend years or even decades crippled by arthritis or a stroke, or severely constrained by some condition or other.

My biggest nightmare, as I grow older, is that my mind will fade away, or I suffer from some long term debilitating illness. I had a heart attack many years ago and in many ways it would be preferable, at least to me, for me to die suddenly from another one. Of course it would be traumatic for my family, but I’d hope that they would know me well enough to realise that I would prefer it that way.

English: Intubation - placement of endotrachea...
English: Intubation – placement of endotracheal tube with a laryngoscope to a doll in an out-of-hospital -exercise. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Loneliness

English: The loneliness of Culloden Culloden i...
English: The loneliness of Culloden Culloden is one of the few areas that I leave feeling full of sadness. This lonely tree at the sight says it all. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Robinson Crusoe was marooned for years on a tropical island. At first he succumbs to despair, but later he starts to make things easier for himself, at first rescuing goods from the shipwreck which is fortunately accessible at least for a while on a reef.

He has no one to talk to, until Friday, but he is kept busy just surviving. This business, wondering where the next meal was coming from, how to provide himself with shelter, all the minutiae of just living would have initially staved off all sense of loneliness.

Robinson crusoe rescues friday-1868
Robinson crusoe rescues friday-1868 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Later on though, when his immediate needs were catered for, he must have reflected on the fact that he was totally alone on the island. (I read the book years ago, and I’m speculating – I can’t recall if he ever got into a philosophical mood or not). It would have been a driver to explore the island and finding no other people would have been a blow.

People in general need other people. In the book Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, Ben Gunn is marooned on an island for years and become slightly unhinged by the loneliness. He spent a lot of the time on the island dreaming of one thing – cheese. However, he does not completely lose his senses and is able to take part in the events that follow.

The Black Spot. Illustration by N. C. Wyeth fo...
The Black Spot. Illustration by N. C. Wyeth for Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1911 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some people choose to isolate themselves from the rest of the human race, mainly, it seems for religious reasons. It is possible for such hermits to voluntarily return to the human race, something which is not possible for those who are marooned on an island, and this may make the separation more bearable.

The reason that hermits choose to isolate themselves from the human race is so that they can concentrate or religious or spiritual matters without being distracted by the minutiae of human life. Obviously they still need to eat and perform bodily functions, but those can be kept to a minimum and the hermits mind can be free to concentrate on one thing for much of their waking moments.

English: St.Martin in Memmingen. Choir stalls:...
English: St.Martin in Memmingen. Choir stalls: Portrait of a hermit Deutsch: St.Martin in Memmingen. Chorgestühl: Porträt eines Eremiten. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While human companionship can help to keep one sane, the constant interruptions to one’s train of thought can be distracting or irritating. Samuel Taylor Coleridge was writing the poem “Kubla Khan” when he was distracted by a person from Porlock and the poem was not completed as originally Coleridge envisaged.

Computer programmers often find that when they are concentrating on their task they will “enter the zone or the flow“. This is an almost trance-like state where the programmer is totally immersed in the task at hand, and the interruptions of normal life are not welcomed. A programmer in the zone may regard time spent on sleep, food and other necessities as unimportant, and this is why programmers sometimes subsist on coffee or energy drinks, and eat pizza and other fast foods that can be ordered in.

The immersive effects of the zone are not only felt in programming, I believe. Programming is in many ways an art, and I can imagine that the same is true of the other arts, such as painting and writing, as the example of Coleridge suggests, though he was using opium at the time he was writing Kubla Khan.

The feeling of being in the zone is, for the most part, intensely solo. While two or more programmers can work simultaneously of the same piece of code, this is much more difficult to achieve. I’ve seen programmers team up and program, but the feeling of being in the zone is much more fragile when more than one person is involved.

English: Programmer
English: Programmer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In contrast, debugging a malfunctioning piece of code can be easier for two or more, as the different insights broaden and direct the flow into areas that neither would have thought of by themselves but in general the immersion is not so deep.

Quite often an isolated person, say a shipwrecked person, or an elderly or sick person who is not mobile and therefore spends a lot of time alone, will have an animal as a companion. The little old lady has one or more cats. The shipwrecked or marooned person may have a dog. A companion animal eases the separation from the human race.


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A lonely person may pick an unusual animal as a companion. Some sources suggest that Michael Jackson made a pet of a rat and that his father killed it, but this story is muddled with the story behind his hit song “Ben”.

An isolated person may talk to the animal in default of being able to talk to other human, and may unwisely attribute human traits to the animal. If the person is alone with the animal for too long he or she may come to believe that the animal responds either verbally or by actions.

An albino pet rat eating a piece of bread.
An albino pet rat eating a piece of bread. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes an isolated person may imagine a fictitious companion, either totally invented or based on a real person. He or she may act out what he believes that the imaginary person would act out. In the film “Psycho” Norman Bates assumes and acts out the identity of his dead mother, who he killed 10 years earlier. Bates was isolated by his mental illness, and not by being physically isolated.

There are various causes of isolation – it may be unintentional, as in a shipwreck, or it may be intentional as when a sailor is marooned for mutiny, or a person may be isolated as a result of sickness, either mental or physical, or it may be a side-effect of old age. A person may be isolated by deafness or blindness, or physical inability to move.

Blind Girl
Blind Girl (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, some people seek isolation in the form of “peace and quiet”. If a person is highly stressed in their day-to-day life, they may find themselves looking forward to immersing themselves in a book, or taking a bath, or in any of hundreds of ways of isolating themselves from the general hubbub of human society. Possibly with a reasonable supply of alcohol to hand, merely to aid the relaxation of course.

English: Peace and quiet This part of the trac...
English: Peace and quiet This part of the track is very quiet apart from birdsong, the gateway on the left is about four feet wide, small enough for animals to pass through when the farmers and lead miners had horses and carts. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Consciousness continues to amaze and elude


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I make no excuse for returning to the topic of consciousness. It’s a phenomenon that, apparently, everyone experiences, and almost certainly some animals experience it too. However, it is the ultimate in subjectiveness. No one except yourself knows how you experience consciousness.

It can’t currently be measured and we can only detect it by the behaviour of a person. The old chestnut of a comatose patient coming round with hovering relatives and medical staff is familiar to all. “He’s coming round!” says a person at the bedside as the patient’s eyes flicker and his muscles twitch.

English: Man in coma still not responding to s...
English: Man in coma still not responding to stimuli. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is not a reliable way of determining consciousness. People have surfaced from comas or anaesthetics and have reported that contrary to the physical evidence they were in fact conscious for at least some of the time when they were comatose. Also, deep brain scans have shown changes which may indicate that the patient was responding to question in that his brain patterns changed, which has led to a medical furore. There is disagreement as to whether or not the changes in the brain indicate that the patient was in fact conscious.

Definition of “Conscious”
1.

a. Characterized by or having an awareness of one’s environment and one’s own existence, sensations,and thoughts. See Synonyms at aware.

b. Mentally perceptive or alert; awake: The patient remained fully conscious after the local anesthetic was administered.
2. Capable of thought, will, or perception: the development of conscious life on the planet.

The fact that consciousness is an objective phenomenon (so far as we can currently tell) means that we can only subjectively assess if it exists in a person. Even if a person behaves as if he or she were conscious, feeling pain, drinking beer, doing all the things that a conscious person would do, how does one know that this person is actually a conscious person? It is conceivable that what looks like a person is a sort of zombie, programmed to behave exactly like a conscious person would behave.

English: zombie
English: zombie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(These philosophical zombies are not like the usual cinematic concept of a zombie – they look like ordinary people, they have not died and revivified, bits do not fall off them, and they don’t have a hunger for brains. It’s a technical philosophical term).

The short answer is that there is currently no objective was to tell. Everyone except yourself might be a zombie. Erm, although I subjectively know that I am not, which might mean that I am the only conscious person in a world of zombies. It’s probably simplest to argue, that I am conscious, and I appear to be little different to everyone else, so it would be silly to argue that everyone else is a zombie. It’s much more likely that we are all subjectively conscious in our own heads.


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Consciousness appears to be an aspect of the brain/mind. If parts of the brain are destroyed, or momentarily shocked by a blow, consciousness ceases and the person becomes unconscious. As above, though, it is conceivable that a person might not be able to move or respond, but still be conscious in the prison of their skull. It sounds like a particularly unpleasant fate.

Consciousness appears to be an emergent property of the brain/mind, because there does not appear to be a particular part of the brain that is related to consciousness as such. I think that it is fair to say this, though I haven’t delved into the subject much recently, though I do read things as I write these posts. In doing this I read an article on The Time website which hits many of the same high notes as I’ve hit here. It’s nice when I find an article that does that!

Emergent (software)
Emergent (software) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An emergent phenomenon is something like a family or a sports team or a termite nest. The emergent phenomenon is not implicit in individual members of the family or the sports team or the termite nest, but all the members make up a new entity which has an identity of its own.

Emergent phenomenon rely on the synergistic effect of all the members working in a concerted way to achieve more than a single individual can achieve by themselves. (Emergent phenomenon are not restricted to social interactions – water is wet, though an individual water molecule cannot really be considered to be wet in itself).

Synergy-reaching-with-kite
Synergy-reaching-with-kite (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It follows that, just as the higher animals band together into families, bands and packs, which is an emergent phenomenon seen in humans societies, that the brains/minds of some animals are likely to experience the emergent phenomenon of consciousness, as they behave as if they do. It is highly unlikely that consciousness only evolved in one species, though of course it is possible.

Opponents of the idea that animals may exhibit consciousness suggest that we are anthropomorphising when we detect conscious behaviour in animals, and that they may be be zombies (in the philosophical sense of the word), and that the apparent consciousness is merely behaviours that are instinctive.

English: A German Shepherd dog Polski: Owczare...
English: A German Shepherd dog Polski: Owczarek niemiecki (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course, no one knows for sure if animals do experience consciousness or not. I rather feel that it is likely that they do, and the extent to which they do is determined by how sophisticated their minds and brains. Certainly, I feel it is unlikely that consciousness is controlled by a genetic on/off switch and that it evolved in animals in the same way as any other trait, that is gradually, and our near relatives on the genetic tree are to some extent at least conscious.

If this is so, then consciousness in animals other than ourselves inform ethics – we should treat animals as if they are conscious beings, as far as we can. I read a science fiction story once in which every being on the earth got a boost in brain function as a result of the earth leaving any area of space where a brake was put on brain function by some physical field or similar phenomenon.


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The human race immediately became super-intelligent, and apes became at least as intelligent and conscious as we were. Also other animals, which we used as food sources became to some extent aware. As the story ended one of the characters was musing on this fact and suggested that maybe a religion of self-sacrifice could be given to these animals so that we could continue to eat them. I’d suspect that, more likely, the human race would become vegetarian! Or possibly, as suggested in the story, we would employ the apes to do the dirty work for us.

Animal husbandry
Animal husbandry (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Cricket – bat and ball game

Many young British Pakistanis play cricket for...
Many young British Pakistanis play cricket for recreation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That’s how Wikipedia describes cricket – as a bat and ball game. Since the Cricket World Cup is currently being staged in Australia and New Zealand, I thought that I would choose cricket as the topic for the week.

The roots of cricket are in England, though it so happens that the mother country of cricket has been eliminated from the Cricket World Cup (CWC). Cricket has spread to a number of other countries as a result of colonial and other influences and 14 teams have been taking part in the 2015 CWC.

List of ICC cricket member nations. Orange mar...
List of ICC cricket member nations. Orange marked countries are test teams, yellow are associate and purple are affiliate member nations. (Note: Certain island nations may not be shown.) For those who may not be able to make out the colours: Shade used for Australia is orange Shade used for United States is yellow Shade used for Mexico is purple (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cricket playing nations are either full members of the International Cricket Council or associate or affiliate members. The CWC contestants are the 10 full members and 4 other members who are required to qualify for the tournament. The ‘minnows’ as the associates and affiliates are often referred to rarely trouble the full members in matches, but upsets are not unknown.

Of the bat and ball games, cricket is of the class where a batsman defends a target from a ball thrown (“pitched” or “bowled”) by a player from the other team. Points (referred to as runs) are scored by running from one end of the pitch to the other, or by hitting the ball out of bounds.

Sri Lankan bowler Muttiah Muralitharan, the hi...
Sri Lankan bowler Muttiah Muralitharan, the highest wicket taker in both Test and ODI forms of cricket bowls to Adam Gilchrist. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cricket is similar to baseball and softball and the informal game of rounders in the sense that the members of the batting team take turns ‘at bat’. The target area is a physical target in cricket (“stumps” and “bails”) but is a virtual box in baseball and softball. There is no specific target in rounders, where the ball just has to be hittable by the batter.

Cricket has two “targets” or wickets, and I can’t think of any other bat and ball sport that has two wickets or the equivalent. The wickets are one chain apart in the old Imperial measures, and the person who delivers the ball to the batsman throws or bowls the ball from one wicket to the other. The game switches around after every 6 balls, with a second bowler bowling at the batsman at the other end of the pitch. This is termed an “over” as the supervising official, the umpire, calls “Over” when six balls have be bowled.

English: Wicket, the stumps being hit by a ball
English: Wicket, the stumps being hit by a ball (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In informal or backyard cricket it is common to have just one wicket and a single pole (or stump) for the bowler to deliver the ball from. Other rules are ignored or modified as appropriate from the much smaller space available. In recent years, there has been a move to formalise at least some games of backyard or beach cricket and to institute competitions in the formalised code. These are still considered “fun” games though.

There are variants of cricket played in some Pacific Islands, The rules of these variants are also informal, team sizes are variable, and the bat often resembles a war weapon. Teams can contain both men and women and people of all ages. The Wikipedia article mentions that there have been attempts to formalize the rules of this variant of the sport.


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The original format of the formal game of cricket is multi-day, multi-innings. Even the Island form of the game runs to several days, but that may be related more to the social nature of island cricket than anything else. As in any formal game the equipment and the uniform is closely specified and in particular the uniform is white – known as “cricket whites”.

The multi-day format is unusual in sports and arises from the fact that each team has eleven players and each may have to have their time at bat twice in a game. Shorter forms are often played at a semi-formal or provincial level, many being completed in one innings in one day. Cricket is not a quick game in terms of time taken, as each batsman may face upwards of one hundred balls. The semi-formal “village green” cricket is a leisurely affair, in spite of the fact that the ball may be bowled at speeds of up to 150kph.

A family playing cricket on the Village Green
A family playing cricket on the Village Green (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A new form of cricket has developed where the number of overs or sets of six balls is restricted to 50 for each team. The uniforms are not restricted to white and some other minor changes have been made to the rules. These changes have led to a more exciting, quicker form of the game and the matches are over in one day. This is the form that is being played for the Cricket World Cup.

There is an even shorter version of the game called Twenty20, which is a fast paced version with only 20 overs per side. Both the 20 over and (slightly less so) 50 over versions of the game result in fast scoring and more excitement than the standard version of the game as teams, both fielders and batsman take a  more highly charged attitude.

Turner slides to prevent a boundary during a T...
Turner slides to prevent a boundary during a Twenty20 Cup match against Gloucestershire. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The sport is professional at the top level, and the top players are treated as celebrities. Since the sport is international these days players get to play in many countries. In particular many overseas players play in the Indian Premier League, a very rich Twenty20 competition based, as the name implies, in the Indian sub-continent.

The stance of a batsman in cricket is side on, with the bat grounded before the bowler start his delivery and raised backwards in preparation for the stroke. Consequently there are left hand and right batsmen (and bowlers). Since the game has been around there are unique terms for various matters to do with the game.

Collins's batting stance
Collins’s batting stance (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For example, the field positions have traditional names which might seem whimsical. “Silly Mid On” is one of them. It certainly is “silly” as it is close to the batsman in the natural line of a stroke on the on or leg side. The position is intended for a close in catch and is obviously dangerous as the ball is hard, much like a baseball. Some Silly Mid On fielders wear protective helmets and other gear.

One field position that I had not heard of until recently is “Cow Corner”. A fielder at Cow Corner is in much the same line from the bat as Silly Mid On, but much further away, almost on the edge of the field (the “boundary”). The name seemly relates to the rustic roots of the game where the field was indeed a field or paddock that had to be cleared of livestock before a game could commence.


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Of course, the cattle would most likely have left deposits behind them which could trouble the fielders during the game.


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Sporting Times

Sport in childhood. Association football, show...
Sport in childhood. Association football, shown above, is a team sport which also provides opportunities to nurture social interaction skills. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We as a race spend a lot of time on what is loosely called ‘sport’. From the ad hoc beach cricket and ‘touch’, through the more organised school age sports, through the grade sports all the way up through the local and national representative sports, both individual and team.

The individual and team sports pull in a huge number of supporters, officials, organisers and so on, so it is rare individual who has not been in some trivial or profound way involved in sports at one time or another.

Strongmen event: the Log Lift & a referee (bac...
Strongmen event: the Log Lift & a referee (backwards). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sport is obviously of great importance to the human race. I don’t know of any animal that indulges in activities that could be called sports. Of course, males of many species battle other males for dominance and control over females or territory, and their young do seem to practise for these battles, but there is no sense in which these battles are fought for pleasure. They are too serious for that!

Great Battle
Great Battle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The roots of sport can be found in interpersonal contests of course, like arm wrestling to see who is the strongest, or quizzes to see who has the best memory and so on, but human contests don’t usually have the serious implication of battles between animals of other species. Very often they can be cooperative contests as training exercises so that the group as a whole can perform better.

Two young men arm wrestling
Two young men arm wrestling (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This would be very useful indeed to hunters, who as a group would be benefit from the increased accuracy with the spear or the bolos, or even the simple thrown stone.

The technology would also have benefitted from such practice contests. Each contestant would have seen how his fellow contestants had improved the technology. That’s no doubt how the woomera or atlatl came to be invented, in a contest before the hunt.

Mokare with spear and woomera, another woomera...
Mokare with spear and woomera, another woomera lies at his feet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sport can also serve as a way of defusing or sublimating a dispute between rival groups. The tests of skill replaced an actual contest, and rules of procedure were imposed on the contest, so that, mostly, no one actually got killed.

The smallest group of humans is probably the family, which has a flexible definition. It could be as few as two people or as many as twenty. The concept of the nuclear family, mum, dad, kids is fairly new, inspired by cheap or affordable housing, and the ubiquity of affordable transport.

English: Indian family in Brazil posed in fron...
English: Indian family in Brazil posed in front of hut – 3 bare-breasted females, baby and man with bow and arrows. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyway, whatever the size the family team ‘competes’ usually in a more or less friendly fashion with neighbours. However neighbourhood families ally themselves in competition with other neighbourhoods to form villages, suburbs, cities and so on up to countries. Only at the highest level is there no global group, though the United Nations aspires to that title.

United Nations - New York
United Nations – New York (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sports give humans the chance to compete, and they seem to enjoy it. How else can one explain the rise of sports like snooker, card games, and contests which don’t rate the name of sport, such as beauty contests? Is car racing a sport? Obviously some people are better at these marginal sports, so is the contest the key? It seems so.

When there is no one else around humans will compete against themselves or against chance. Solitaire, a card or peg game for a single person is popular and automatically installed on most computers. It is used in cartoons to characterise a lazy or disinterested employee.

The initial layout in the solitaire game of Golf.
The initial layout in the solitaire game of Golf. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Often a person may not be particularly proficient at a sport but may still enjoy it. They may enjoy it particularly at one or two removes, as spectators.  Spectators may identify strongly with the sports person or team in which they are interested. If they come across supporters of some other person or team, they may interact adversely with them, even to the point of fighting with them.

English: Angelic Supporter used in Heraldry
English: Angelic Supporter used in Heraldry (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Parents are notoriously partisan supporters, yelling support from the sideline to their offspring, often I suspect to the embarrassment of their children. Parents also tend to overestimate the abilities of their kids and tend to push them more than they should. Sport for kids should be fun, but pushing them too hard can spoil their enjoyment of sport, which is a shame.

English: Wildman Supporter used in Heraldry
English: Wildman Supporter used in Heraldry (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Those who continue to enjoy their sport and become good at it can become heroes to a large number of fans. The All Blacks are almost revered in New Zealand and the national team who play the national sport can not only receive adulation but can also be paid a lot of money.

Of course if the national team fails that can lead to a sense of devastation for their followers. Failure can be losing to another team or simply not winning. Recently the New Zealand All Blacks drew with the Australian team and it was almost as if they had lost! Fortunately the All Blacks won well the next weekend, otherwise the country might have sunk into depression.

All Blacks v Wallabies
All Blacks v Wallabies (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sports stars in the most part realise that they are representatives, but the stresses on top sports people is tremendous. The All Blacks are a good example of this. One or two of the top echelon of the rugby players in New Zealand have not succeeded in withstanding that pressure and have had issues with alcohol and violence. In a lot of ways it is unfair to expect exemplary behaviour and expertise at the top level of the sport.

Nevertheless, a surprising number of top sports people do appear to be genuinely nice people. These days, the team captain, winner and loser, has a microphone stuffed under his or her nose and is expected to give an instant analysis of the game, and to their credit most appear to come up with something intelligent about the game, congratulating their opponents, win or lose.

English: interview
English: interview (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Interestingly, after the drawn game I mentioned above, both teams were disappointed, but for slightly different reasons. The All Blacks were expected to win, and were expecting to achieve a record number of wins, and their disappointment at not winning was obvious. There was a sense of let down. The Australians, however, obviously believed that they had missed a great chance to beat the All Blacks.

Shows All Black haka before a match against Fr...
Shows All Black haka before a match against France, 18 November 2006. The All Blacks won the match 23-11. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Earthquakes

English: Quake epicenters. Română: Epicentre a...
English: Quake epicenters. Română: Epicentre ale cutremurelor produse în intervalul de ani 1963–1998. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week’s subject pretty much suggested itself. There I was, sitting at my desk, and suddenly I felt this rolling, shaking sensation. Well, I feel it every time a truck goes past, but this time the shaking continued and it became apparent that this was an earthquake. It measured 6.6 on the earthquake scale and was the biggest one I can remember for a long time. Fortunately we were not at the epicentre and no one was killed. Those living close to the epicentre had a rougher time than we did and many houses were damaged, though only one appears to have been severely damaged.

(Note: Images in this post are not from the Wellington earthquakes that I am talking about in this post).

Since we are prone to earthquakes here the children in school are drilled in what to do when an earthquake strikes. I particularly like the idea expressed by one child that “earthquakes cause salamis”. (See the second video on the page that is linked to above.)

Earthquake Drill
Earthquake Drill (Photo credit: Benjamin Chun)

The previous earthquake happened when I was at home. Instinctively my wife ran for the door. I equally instinctively rushed to stop the TV from toppling! It’s funny what you do in an emergency.

Luckily no one was seriously hurt in the earthquakes though people in lifts (elevators) and at the top of high buildings were shaken about a bit. Apparently lifts (elevators) are designed to stop moving if there is a big quake.

In the city nothing much was damaged, although a lift (elevator) shaft which was damaged in an earlier quake is scheduled to be removed and one ‘lane’ (pedestrian access between buildings) in the city centre was taped off by authorities. Last time there was a certain amount of damage but nothing significant, though people were sent home so that the buildings could be checked. A rugby test match between New Zealand and Australia may be cancelled. That’s classified as a Big Thing round here.

Footbridge over Avon river following both Sept...
Footbridge over Avon river following both September and February earthquakes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All in all, people have taken the earthquake in their stride, though news pictures showed some people who appeared to be in shock. The one injury that I heard of was one woman who tried to dive under her desk and missed cracking her head against it. I saw a picture of two girls hiding under a desk with a bottle of wine. That’s apparently what they had been doing all afternoon. One guy texted from the airport and said that he would be glad to get up into the air. (As it happens the airport stopped flights in and out for a while, but they soon caught up with the backlog).

Naturally people wanted to go home to be with their families and to check that their houses had not been damaged. This led to the roads out of and around the city becoming gridlocked. I didn’t want to get caught up in that so I hung around until just before the time that rush hour usually happens  and my trip home was in fact easier than usual. I did wonder what would happen if a significant earthquake or after shock happened while I was travelling at 100kph on the motorway! Also, there is a part of my route that lies under a motorway bridge, and there was a chance that I’d get stuck at the traffic lights. Fortunately they were showing green so I did not have to stop under the heavy concrete spans of the motorway. That would have been scary.

Footbridge over Avon river following both Sept...
Footbridge over Avon river following both September and February earthquakes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The thing about earthquakes is that you don’t know how powerful they are going to be. You don’t know if it is going to be a jiggle and a roll or whether it is going to rip the building apart underneath you. I find them scary and exhilarating. After one is over people are often more relaxed than before it, and gather to exchange news and ‘war stories’. At least, that is so in the earthquakes that I have so far experienced. But they have been relatively benign.

Unfortunately this was not true nearer the epicentre where almost all the houses had some damage, though no serious injuries have been suffered and no fatalities have happened.

Wellington office after earthquake.