In quarantine-May 31, 2021

As we arrived on Sunday, medical personnel were shouting that “You must quarantine for 14 days. If you’re here for less than 14 days, you must quarantine all the time you are here.”

So, with curfew starting on Sunday at 2pm, it was straight home and into quarantine. Well, the three of us had been together for the past week, so I’m not sure we needed to isolate from each other, though one doesn’t really know.

Main thing was to alert people that we were not going out of the property and if anyone needed to enter, they’d be let in and allowed to get on with their task, leave and we’d close up behind them. It was necessary to let in someone to fix a microwave that should have been repaired last week, but no amount of telling not to call my mobile phone but the home number would stop a technician trying to call me, while I was abroad. Why bother? I asked myself. He arrived and fixed the latch, which had been waiting to be done for nearly 2 years! You read, correctly.

My wife had already adjusted well to online grocery shopping and was itching to get our larder restocked. We got stuff delivered by midday.

Our housekeeper had decided to go to country while we were away. Once she got back mid-morning, it was “Keep your distance!” and not compromise the ‘pods’ the rest of us were occupying.

Some friends called and were told we could wave from upstairs or if they just did a drive-by.

We’re sticking with the rules. Not sure if anyone else is, but I really hope so. Having seen near-normal life coming back in the. USA, we hope that even with our limited COVID vaccinations, we can hold the line on rising infections and positivity rate to see some major improvements in coming months.

People watching-May 30, 2021

My wife, bless her, thinks that writing is just about being seated in a comfortable chair on a nice day. I try to explain that, if that is how some find inspiration, it doesn’t work for me. If possible, my best inspirational setting is being outdoors walking; that’s when I have my best thoughts. But, if I’ve been travelling, I’m in my next best inspirational space, just observing people and how they often have no sense of themselves. So, this is just a little glimpse of what I glimpsed during a few days travelling to Connecticut for our youngest daughter’s high school graduation.

Most humans have two eyes but never see: The advent of electronic devices did not create people’s inattention. I remember from my earliest days many incidents when people stepped out into traffic because they just lived in a world of oblivion. Devices just give most people something to focus on that keeps their heads down. We may need to solve some of the problems that causes by placing signs on walkways not at head height or higher. Airports are terrible for this inattention because people are often confused as they try to find their way and places to eat, drink or catch a flight. But, what’s more fun than just letting them meet you with their head planted in your chest and they walk on, rather than stop and look? 🙂

#COVID19Life has opened up new topics of conversation: How has it been where you live? Do you know anyone who had COVID? How was it? I really hated having to be in quarantine. Nice mask; is it (from your) work/school/town/homemade/surgical/KN95/’gator’? I’ve not seen my (parents, grandparents, children, friends, etc.) for months. Has your child been able to go to school? Didn’t home schooling drive you all nuts? Have you had your vaccines, both doses? Which did you get? What will you do if you need a booster? Will you mix and match? There are many more. By the way, how are you? 😉

Airports and planes are the places where mask compliance is best.

Dining out has really changed: It’s not evident what will happen in the next 1-2 years with dining out. It may never get back to what it was. At my daughter’s school, the dining room had been reconfigured from last fall to have tables for only 4, with plastic dividers to make each person their own pod. Food was pre-packaged or served; no open counters for salads, snacks, drinks, fruit, etc. Choices were more limited. Restaurants had to adjust to fewer people in total, and fewer coming in to eat, if allowed. They also had to deal with space restrictions that they could not control, eg outdoor dining was possible, but limits like distance from roads meant some could not simply put diners outside. Staff needed to live their new lives and many were furloughed or choose to stop working because they now had to supervise schoolchildren through online lessons, at home. And more.

Exercise and health have become premium concerns: Many have learned that a healthy body will be a better defence against viral infections than medication. It’s easier if you live somewhere where outdoor access is close to hand. It’s easier if you have that with few risks of encountering others. Walking in woods and golf courses is great. Playing tennis isn’t that bad. Going to indoor gyms? Not so cool. Living in Jamaica, where most gyms are outdoors, is near ideal, except that you really must limit your visits to early morning or after sundown.

Hygiene has to be (re) learned: I remember, early during the pandemic, when it became clear that many people had some sketchy hygiene habits. It’s not the stuff of the anal retentive to clean and sanitise everything, but simple hand-washing was novel, for many. I’d stopped shaking hands years ago, for some simple reasons: I noticed how some people just used a restroom and just walked out the door. In the Caribbean, we’re appalled by that–“Nasty!” Living in the Tropics makes you a bit more aware of germs and parasites, etc, but still. I recall when kids used to come to play how some of them never had the habit of washing hands before meals or after toilet use or after handling visibly dirty items. Touch wood, none of our children ever got sick from some gastric infection, but when one thinks how common they are amongst children, no wonder.

A little taste of returning to near-normal after #COVID19Life-May 29, 2021

The USA is further advanced getting through the pandemic than most countries, so it’s been interesting to experience that for a few days.

Last night, we had our last meal together as a family, in a restaurant. It was somewhere that my youngest and I had eaten in February 2020, for my birthday. It had been a nice experience at a restaurant I know from one of its other locations in Virginia, J. Gilbert’s. But, we were unsure what the experience would be like this time.

So far, I’d dined on burgers and had the ‘everything comes in a paper bag’ experience, eating inside. It was fine, but no one else dined inside. There were 3 different stations for pickups: online, delivery, inside. I asked the staff how things had been since the pandemic began and heard a lot about how things had evolved and continued to do you.

My wife and eldest daughter went to a pizzeria and ate outside. It was a blistering day. The food was great and again the story about dealing with the pandemic.

Restaurants can’t just change their physical or personnel options quickly as rules change.

Operating has been hit by lower demand even if some increases came from online ordering or for delivery.

Last night, we found staff all masked but customers encouraged to remove theirs, and not have to ‘lift and bite’. We had a waiter who was as enthusiastic as any I’d ever met, and knowledgeable about the menu.

Reservations were for 2 hour blocks and 5-7pm suited us. We were all due to travel early on Sunday.

It was good to see a near-normal dining room in action, again.

We’re not there, yet, in Jamaica.

Graduation day!-May 28, 2021

More can and will be said on days to come, but a few words today will suffice. Joy and pleasure, given by our treasure, the youngest of 3 daughters, as she graduates from high school.

Rhian will be blessed more because she’s been lucky so much of her life. Chance smiled on her.

Born in a hurricane in Washington DC in 2003. She’s been one of the few who didn’t miss too much real school because of the COVID pandemic.

Her markers in life are already impressive and, of course, we hope for more and greater. No pressure!

She’s stood on many shoulders to see where to go and held by many hands along the many paths taken so far. Continue to be guided by those who really care for you. That’s all.

Love you like cooked food! 🇯🇲

Was the Premier League season like no other like no other?-May 27, 2021

An interesting summary of the past English top-level football season was presented by EPL Live on May 25:

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The 2020-21 Premier League season was the season like no other. Or was it?

Certainly, it differed from the norm in many aspects. The ongoing global effects of the coronavirus pandemic meant that for the majority of the campaign fans were still not allowed to attend inside stadiums.

The delay to last season also had a knock-on effect and meant the fixtures came thick and fast, causing a congested schedule and little chance to pause and reflect.

But just how different were things? Well, using some key metrics from the good folks at Opta, we have taken a look back at the comparative data going back to the 2003-04 season to look at things from a statistical standpoint.

ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK

There were certainly plenty of games with a high volume of goals and some unusual results, too. Remember Aston Villa beating Liverpool 7-2? And the Reds routing Crystal Palace 7-0?.

But in our time period, there have been nine occasions when there have been more goals tallied than the 1,024 this term. Indeed, you only have to go back to 2018-19 for the most celebrated – a whopping 1,072.

However, this term comfortably produced the highest number of penalties taken at 125, an average of 0.33 spot-kicks per game.

Players this season have statistically been more accurate as well. An average shot-conversion rate of 11.14 and shooting accuracy of 48.87 are both the highest since 2003-04.

On the flip side, this campaign produced the fewest number of shots (including blocked shots, 9,194 – an average of 24.2 per game). For context, there were 11,050 in 2010-11 – an average of 29.1 per game.

Last season saw the fewest amount of headed goals at 138. It was up to 170 in 2020-21, but that is 35 fewer than in 2010-11 – the highest on record since 2003-04.

YOU’VE GOT TO HOLD AND GIVE BUT DO IT AT THE RIGHT TIME…

No, that header is not just a popular lyric from the John Barnes rap in ‘World In Motion’ but a sense of the evolution of possession football and patient approach play in England’s top flight, reflected by the increasing number of passes accumulated in Premier League seasons.

Back in 2003-04 there were 284,243 (748.01 per match), while the fewest over an entire term was 272,290 (716.55 per game) in the 2007-08 campaign.

This season produced the most passes ever recorded with a staggering 359,160, equating to 945.16 per game. Moreover, the 81.5 per cent passing accuracy is also the highest in our data.

Continuing a trend of the changing times, this term marked the fewest passes in the final third (98,770) and the lowest percentage of passes into the final third (27.5 – data for these metrics began in 2006-07). The most passes in the final third occurred in 2016-17 when there were 106,993.

The 25.1 crosses per match was down slightly on last term (26.5) but still up on the fewest recorded of 24.2 in 2018-19. The highest average was back at the start of our data in 2003-04, when there were 42 crosses per game.

MAINTAINING DISCIPLINE

In perhaps another sign of how the game has evolved, this season saw comfortably the fewest number of tackles (11,800 – 31.1 per game) recorded. In comparison, the most in a campaign in the same metrics saw 18,050 and 47.5 in 2006-07 (when tackling data was first taken).

That would go some way to explaining why there were only 1,095 yellow cards dished out – the second fewest in our timespan (an average of 2.88 per match). The least amount shown was back in 2004-05 (1,015, 2.67 per game), while the most in a single campaign was the 1,392 in 2016-17 (3.66 per game).

Red cards were up from the 44 dished out last term, with 48 shown. That number is higher than the 39 dismissals of 2017-18 but way down on the 73 of 2005-06.

However, fouls conceded were up for the second consecutive season (8,283) from a low of 7,768 in 2018-19. That number is still much lower than the high of 10,886 in 2005-06, though.

VERDICT:

Overall, there can be no doubt this season was completely different to any other we have known in the Premier League and, fingers crossed, more and more fans will return to stadiums from next season. 

In purely statistical terms, the data seems to suggest a continuation of certain trends (more passes, fewer tackles, fewer crosses, penalties on the rise) than any sort of mind-boggling anamoly. So, from that sense, perhaps it wasn’t quite as different as we thought.

Lessons from Mr Antonio Watson’s ‘gun hand’ gesture-May 26, 2021

The Jamaica Observer editorial yesterday gave its views on this controversial issue:

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The typical nine-day wonder has reached the furore over the ‘gun hand’ gesture by Petersfield High School standout athlete Mr Antonio Watson at the 2021 Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA)/GraceKennedy Boys’ and Girls’ Athletics Championships at the National Stadium.

We have, in the meantime, very carefully reflected on the controversy over the hand gesture symbolising the shooting of a losing athlete  Edwin Allen’s Mr Bryan Levell  and the fierce for-or-against arguments regarding Mr Watson’s action for which he has apologised. The main points we found are as follows:

• The 19-year-old was merely mimicking what he had grown up around in the society, because children live what they learn.

• The gesture has to be seen in the context of Jamaica’s troubling murder rate involving the gun.

• It’s a class thing, and if Mr Watson had been from a top high school his action would be ignored.

• He shouldn’t be condemned or chastised; instead, his vast athletic potential should be nurtured.

• Use the occasion as a teachable moment to espouse valuable lessons.

We made special note of the advice from our greatest athlete ever, Mr Usain Bolt, with whom the athlete is being compared: “Reason with him, yes, about his action, but don’t crucify him… It’s a learning lesson and teachable moment for all. Youths, be strong and remember anything is possible, don’t think limits.”

Noteworthy, too, is the response from ISSA: “Champs has always been a time to showcase and celebrate talent. While we encourage the colourful behaviour of victory celebrations and acknowledge the value and excitement it brings to the championships, it should always be within the code of conduct that guides how we act on and off the field and track.”

It is interesting that the large majority of the criticisms were not about punishing the student, but were centred on what others were saying, which suggests that the outrage was an attempt by the society to assert acceptable standards.

We have seen a similar occurrence in the United States, which is known for mass killings, including at schools. The American media is replete with stories of schools suspending students for making similar gestures, in some cases with backlash from parents.

Since the 1994 Gun-Free Schools Act mandating zero tolerance for students bringing guns to school in the US, administrators had been expanding that basic notion to include gun play with toy guns, food shaped into guns, and even hand gestures.

In August 2019 the Pennsylvania Superior Court upheld a lower court’s ruling that a 64-year-old man was guilty of criminal disorderly conduct for “pointing a finger like a gun at a man, and making a recoil motion as if to suggest he had shot him”.

The Jamaican society should learn from others. We are particularly sensitive that our young athletes be guided, because an international sponsor such as Nike or PUMA wouldn’t want to market their brand with an athlete making an offensive gun gesture.

But for now, we’ll take Mr Watson at his word:

“Upon reflection, I recognise that my gestures could have been misleading and I have no desire to negatively influence others. In fact, going forward I aspire to demonstrate positive behaviours and attitudes that will inspire countless young Jamaicans to strive for excellence and make our country a true beacon of what is good in this world.”

Garth Rattray | Stop the gunman gestures-May 25, 2021

I’m very much in sympathy with the arguments in this column that was published today in The Gleaner:

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The caption below a picture in the online Gleaner on Saturday, May 15 read, “Petersfield High School’s Antonio Watson (left) gestures to Edwin Allen High School’s Bryan Levell as he crosses the finish line ahead of him in the Class One boys’ 200m final during the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Athletics Championships at the National Stadium on Saturday.”

But that “gesture” was far from innocuous; and a video of the event shows two gestures. In the first, Watson used his left hand to mimic a handgun directly pointing and firing twice, at close range, at his rival. The video then shows Watson use his right hand to pull another make-belief handgun, from his waist, and with flamboyant glorification of gunmanship, mimic chambering a round and pointing the handgun off somewhere. 

I am informed that gun mimicking occurs repeatedly at Champs; but that does not make it okay. Such offensive and aggressive displays continue because the meet officials failed to nip them in the bud. Our athletes dare not gesture in that manner after winning any event overseas; why are they allowed to point make-belief guns directly at their rivals here?

No doubt, some (numb to Jamaica’s unabated violence, and/or placatory apologists) will brush aside the gestures as no big deal, relegate them to youthful exuberance, toxic jubilation, or ‘the culture’. But those offensive displays that mimic gunmanship should not be misinterpreted as innocent celebration; they mimic shooting others, an act meant to get rid of others permanently. 

If someone on the street mimics shooting me, I would feel a reasonable apprehension of an imminent harmful or offensive contact. I would feel under threat, assaulted. Try mimicking a gun pointed at any security force personnel and see what happens.

SERIOUS INTIMIDATIONS

What message does mimicking murder send? There are no redeeming qualities to gesturing like a depraved and murderous gunman. Those gestures are nothing but serious intimidations and macabre rehearsals of murderous acts. They incite and encourage bitterness, the type that kills sportsmanship and transforms friendly competition into acrimonious rivalry. This is the exact diametric of what sports is meant to achieve. FIFA would never ignore or tolerate such behaviour, and neither should we. 

The following day, The Gleaner stated that “The incident has been met with public criticism amid Jamaica’s troubling murder rate.” Watson apologised in a carefully crafted statement, ostensibly penned by someone else, to ward off serious repercussions that could jeopardise his career. “I therefore want to unreservedly apologise to all the stakeholders, my school, fans, and family for my actions … . I have taken full responsibility for such actions as it is in no way a reflection of the ethos of my school, the principles of my coach or the position of ISSA or any of the sponsors”. 

Jamaica is under siege by gunmen who act with impunity. They attack and kill whomever they please. They terrorise individuals, communities and the society at large. The gun has become the surrogate for the power that knowledge and skill bring. The gun has become the means of inflicting pain on others, a blowback of disenfranchisement, disempowerment, disrespect, disdain and distress among the less fortunate. Guns have become the final arbiter and the final solution for almost any problem.

Guns are used to intimidate the entire country; we venture on to the streets with some degree of timidity, wondering if we will encounter violence, especially gun violence. We try to secure our homes, our sanctuaries, from blood-thirsty gunmen. The gun is the murder weapon of choice in Jamaica; it is responsible for incalculable suffering and billions of taxpayers’ dollars being spent on security and healthcare. It has decreased productivity and dissuaded business investment. 

In an enlightened society where there is awareness of the meaning and serious impact of mimicking murderous gunmen, all athletes would be warned of disqualification for any such action. And if any breaks that rule, they should be summarily disqualified. We must draw the line somewhere.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.

Phil thrills, wins and doesn’t spill-a PGA Major victory for the ages and the aged-May 24, 2021

It’s taken for granted that many important golfing skills wane when players reach their 40s, and worsen into their 50s, especially the fine skills of the ‘short’ game and putting. But, many players on the pro circuit have shown that we shouldn’t take that for granted of the best players. For sure, there’s plenty of skill visible still on the Champions Tour (over-50s). I started golf in my 50s and my best skill is my putting.

Nerves are supposed to jangle more as age takes its toll. So, it was expected by many that Phil Mickelson’s nerves would let him down; they have before. Phil is nearly 51. He was playing in the lead group with one of the younger bucks, Brooks Koepka, who having come off an indifferent period with injuries, but with a record in Majors that’s really stunning and had the fitness, strength and nerves of a Titan.

Well, Phil took home the Wannemaker trophy, winning easily in windy conditions that turned the course on its head and forced many errors, even for him, but his play was almost the most solid in the final round. Scoring 1 over par for minus 6 overall was a great win.

But, he made history as the oldest winner of a golf Major:

Things got wild at the end as the crowds spilled onto the fairway, but it was homage to one of the game’s heroes, akin to what Tiger Woods had to deal with as he came in for his 2019 Masters win:

Along the way, on the final day, Phil’s magic with a wedge was on full display:

The win was sweet to savour:

Along the way, Phil showed he could “bomb” it like the new big guns:

He debuted on the Champions Tour last year and has already shown that he’s more than capable of winning easily there, with two victories. But, I suspect, they’ll have to wait a bit to get more thrills from Phil.

Now, after an indifferent year, the Wizard gets his first Major in 13 years. Well done, Leftie!

Eurovision Song Contest 2021: UK gets “nil points”! #Brexit realities?-May 23, 2021

I’ve rarely been a fan of the Eurovision Song Contest, an annual singing and music contest for ‘European’ countries. More often than not it was a few hours of listening to what passes for popular music, much of which is a sad reminder of drunken boozy sessions of tourists in well-trodden resorts like Benidorm. But, with its long history of great musical talent that has shown the world where to go, who would have thought that the UK could not muster up a few votes? Who would believe that the UK would end up dead last?

First, let’s congratulate the winners, Italy. It was a wince-making performance, more notable for the prominence of the lead singer’s ‘junk’ that the TV camera people couldn’t avoid giving their focus. Moving right along. Nothing about the song is memorable, as far as I recall.

But, the contest just showed the world what Brexit really means to the rest of Europe: the UK is not part of ‘us’, any more.

The dismal performance is more stunning when you recall that voting is open to the public:

Does that mean UK viewers also disliked their entry so much? “Nil points”!

I think I should be grateful that I have never heard the UK entry, and will try my hardest to keep it that way. 🙂

Good thing, it’s not like football, where the bottom ‘team’ would get relegated. But, if it were, where would they send the UK?

Finally, the UK’s song was entitled ‘Embers’ and that, sadly, is where it now lies.

Answers on a postcard. 🙂

Gleaner Editorial-Time to put justices of the peace to work-May 22, 2021

The following was published in The Gleaner, today.

There is justification in continuing to explore pathways to a safer Jamaica because we believe the future of the nation hinges on how well citizens can be preserved to make their contribution to nation-building.

News reports tell us that many communities are in crisis. Familial structures have broken down, resulting in vicious and sometimes deadly confrontations, caused by feuding among partners, siblings and children.

On top of that, there is the ever-ready supply of guns that it seems children are now holding guns before they are able to hold a book. As a nation, we recognise that we are all affected and must be prepared to collectively confront these difficult issues.

But we need not wring our hands in frustration, for the country has the requisite human resources, if properly directed and monitored, to make a difference in the way people behave in their communities. For example, we believe that a key community resource, not fully exploited, is that of the justice of the peace (JP).

Delroy Chuck, who heads the justice ministry, has recognised that this group has huge potential and has often referred to the critical role JPs can play in the administration of justice. He has been steadily recommending new appointments to increase the cadre of JPs across the island, and has ramped up training through the Justice Training Institute. 

Currently, there are more than 12,000 JPs in the island, and they are no longer restricted to offer service only in the parish in which they were commissioned.

WORKING CLOSER WITH POLICE

If, as the name suggests, justices of the peace are meant to keep peace within a specific community, then they should take on a more active role in mentoring and nurturing community members who are facing difficult times. Indeed, we see the JPs working closer with the police to identify trouble spots, or to offer counselling and comfort where necessary.

To his credit, Mr Chuck has been introducing a number of features to modernise the way JPs are appointed and how they carry out their duties, and these are contained in the Justice of the Peace Act 2018. The role of JPs, for most people, is to certify documents or preside over Petty Sessions (renamed Lay Magistrates’ Court).

JPs are required to do much more, such as visit prisons to ensure prisoners get proper care, as well as children’s homes and homes for the aged. We believe, if these visits were being done as intended, some of the atrocities that have been uncovered in these facilities could have been detected and corrected long before they reached crisis proportions.

In the new dispensation, JPs are supposed to submit an annual report to the custos, which would give a summary of their activities. We applaud this attempt at accountability, for this will help separate the active from inactive.

MENTORSHIP SKILLS

Mentorship and nurturing skills are in great demand in many of our communities, as the role model figures are steadily diminishing. The JPs, who have intimate contact with their communities, should be trained in these skills as well. For a time, appointment of JPs was marred by charges of cronyism and political patronage. These were not persons anxious to serve their community, and it was reflected in how they performed their duties. Also, charges of corruption and demanding pay for work formed dark clouds over some JPs, which caused them to lose some of the community respect they used to enjoy.

We think Mr Chuck has made a good start, but there is so much more to be done. There has to be a weeding out of inactive JPs, those who are morally or ethically corrupt, and the lazy ones. We tend to create new agents for change, instead of refining the ones we already have. We see here an opportunity to build a strong force for community enhancement and, ultimately, a better future for Jamaica.