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Thursday, May 21, 2015


When I was in my early twenties there was a group of us who used to get together to play a board game. It was called "Scruples". In this game of moral dilemmas you were given a scenario and a yes, no or depends card. The dilemma in the scenario card needed to be matched with another of the game's players who would ideally answer yes, no or depends to the situation given. As for strategy, you could be honest in your reply, or alternatively you could play Devil's Advocate to stop someone else from winning. If you chose the latter option, you had to have a good reason for choosing the way you did and your rationale would be open to inspection/ridicule from the other players. A straight, or poker face was also a useful weapon, the first sign of a smile and people would know you were lying.

There are times in life when full fledged honesty is a choice that has to be made. The whole concept of white lies, or lies that don't hurt, came about from the desire to protect someone from a harsh truth. It has also been utilised to avoid saying what is truly on your mind. The downside is that sometimes by shielding someone from a truth makes that same truth doubly hard when it is eventually heard.

The rights and wrongs of absolute honesty is a conundrum for the ages. Biblical stories suggest that Peter denying knowing Jesus Christ was an act of self preservation in the face of betraying beliefs and principles. Such extremes show people to be shallow and untrustworthy. Yet in answer to a wife's question "Does my bum look big in this?", what should the husband say?

Sycophants, blithely agreeing with a boss to allow themselves the favour that may or may not come from that, are possibly self delusional but it's hard to deny them their choice when you look at the potential rewards that come from that sort of behaviour. Alas, if the superior is at fault, the wave of support can blind one to the reality and prudence of the situation. Nazi Germany, anyone?

So who amongst us hasn't wanted to tell a superior when they're doing something wrong? Sometimes blunt facts are the perfect broadside when leaving a job as you have no immediate reason to be wary of the words you chosse. But what if you're not leaving and still need to get your point across? A superior who doesn't want to hear the truth because they may not like it needs to look inwardly at themselves. I have seen 360 degree feedback used as an effective tool in this kind of situation. But it still comes down to the choice of words that one uses. A person who chooses to deliver information without considering the impact of what they're saying, shouldn't be surprised at the outcome, especially if in future they need something like a reference etc.

This is where diplomacy and tact join the party. These two guys allow us to pick and choose not only the words we use, but also the time and place in which we use them. Therefore it is possible to still tell the truth but also fall short of being considered impertinent. Alternatively, a good leader would encourage honesty, yet still to be delivered in a thought out manner.

As I said earlier, I guess it boils down to personal choice...

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

National Sport

Every country has a national sport. Well, most do anyway. Here's a quick quiz and see if you can get them right. I'll give you the country and you tell me the sport. Ready?

1. England
2. Wales
3. Scotland
4. Canada
5. Sri Lanka
6. Chile
7. India

You can find out how you did at the end of the post, and I'm guessing you're in for a surprise?

When I was at school all sports were considered 'fair game', as it were. The UK has been responsible for the creation of many sports and games; badminton, baseball, cricket, rugby, snooker, tennis, darts, football, table tennis, netball, golf, bowls, curling, and squash to name just a few and a cursory glance at some stats (I may have been gender or team specific) says that we're world number one in only 4 of that list.

The first secondary school I attended had a great attitude towards sport and games. If you were inclined and showed enough interest, the Physical Education Department would offer their help and resources to help you to do it. So it was that I got to play football, cricket, both codes of rugby, track and field athletics, basketball, volleyball and swimming. On top of this we were able to do lots of outward bound activities such as orienteering, hiking, sea surfing in kayaks, and mountain climbing, basically cause we had a great bunch of PE teachers. I will be eternally grateful to Chris Booth and John Hacking, the teachers, for their interest in us.

It was surprising that when I moved schools at 14, the new school only focused on cricket and football, even though in some ways it was in a better part of the country. I can only guess this was down to interest, or the lack of it, and the calibre of the PE dept.

Technically Indonesia doesn't have a national sport. Some may argue football or the martial art Pencak Silat, but in 1992 Indonesia won 5 medals at the Barcelona Olympics and since then it has been the de facto national sport. It could have been much, much different though as four years earlier Indonesia won it's first ever Olympic medal, a silver, in the archery competition.

Looking around, and especially teaching the youth of the country, one might be forgiven for thinking that electronic sports and games are king in. But when you look at how badminton can very quickly be set up and equipment not needing to cost the earth, it's easy to see the appeal.

Currently, football in Indonesia is in the doldrums. The professional football association is beset by problems relating from bad organisation to rumours of corruption and this has an effect on the teams and the fanatical supporters.

Indonesia is about to spend huge sums of money in building facilities for the 2019 Asian Games, including a velodrome complete with tennis courts. But many sports are elitist and expensive so I can't help wishing the focus was on getting to kids and giving them similar opportunities to those that I had.

I was lucky enough to meet some members of the current Indonesian men's badmnton team recently and I laughed at how even though we invented the sport Brits aren't very good at it when compared with Asians. They in turn joked that Indonesians are good because many don't work. Joking aside, if more people here were able to access the sports for free, rather than paying huge sums of money for facilities that will only be used by a ridiculously small proportion of the population, we might see a few more Indonesian world champions.

Quiz Answers 1. football, 2. rugby union, 3. golf, 4. la crosse and hockey, 5. volleyball, 6. rodeo, 7. hockey

Sunday, May 3, 2015

"Takeaway beer" or "take away beer"?

Wandering around the internet looking for examples of extreme, crazy, or extremely crazy laws, I found these;

Only a qualified electrician is allowed to change a light bulb in Victoria, Australia

In Canada, by law, one out of every five songs on the radio must be sung by a Canadian

In Florida, it is illegal to pass wind in a public place after 6pm on Thursdays

In all of these instances, I find it hard to disagree. Anything electrical is potentially life threatening. Who among us hasn't screwed in that bulb only to get a vivid surprise when the bulb springs to life, indicating our lack of forethought where surging volts of death are concerned? Secondly, if we all started doing the jobs of electricians, they might be encouraged to take up secretarial work, or policing, that's not a good idea.

Canada has produced some awesome songsters. Leonard Cohen, Alanis Morissette and Joni Mitchell are just some of the amazing musicians from the land of maple syrup, so the chances of having to listen to Justin Bieber or Celine Dion that often seems within tolerance levels.

As for Floridian flatulence, well chances are that you're only going to be adding to the unnecessarily high methane levels if you go around casually bottom burping so maybe it should be enforced globally?

None of these laws would stop me from enjoying my time in these countries but that is where they differ from Indonesia's recent decision to remove bottled beer from sale in Minimarts.

The government of recently elected President Joko Widodo seems to be doing all it can to appease it's conservative coalition partners. To protect the morals of young people in a 90%-plus Muslim populated country by removing the temptation from the purchaser and the Minimart sales staff, is something I could live with. 

However, as far as I have been able to determine, the ban only applies to the "local store", not the supermarkets, even going so far as to specify that any supermarket with more than 12 square metres of sales floor area may continue to sell beer as long as it is located in an area next to the checkout.

So I'm perplexed at having visited the four big supermarkets in my local area this weekend; Hypermart, Farmers Market, Giant and Carrefour, to discover that they have all removed beer from their shelves and when asking a member of staff about it I was greeted with thinly veiled contempt. And laughter. 


It is not a need for alcohol on a daily basis that drives me, just the need to be able to enjoy a cold, frosty pilsner in the comfort of my own home whenever I feel like it. This is why I have less of an issue with the minimarts being banned from selling it. But why the need for supermarkets to jump upon the same waggon? 

Sure, beer is still available in restaurants, but at marked up prices and not the comfort of my own home. The agreement to allow Bali to be exempt from the law, on the grounds of disrupting tourism, is so shallow it resembles a beer stain. Tourism is a driver throughout the archipelago.

I also don't believe it's 'Creeping Sharia', a term that suggests Indonesia's slow move to that kind of  government. Rather, it's probably similar to visas and other red tape where the right hand refuses to take any interest in what the left is doing.