Davos Newbies Home


It’s not often that two of my interests, tennis and technology, come together. But the news that the BBC will be using Hawk-Eye in its Wimbledon coverage this year neatly knits the two.

Hawk-Eye is the kind of technology that Europeans suffering from techno-insecurity would probably expect to come from American television. In fact, a young Englishman, Paul Hawkins, developed Hawk-Eye to determine whether lbw decisions in cricket were accurate (if you don’t understand what that means, you can find out here). In tennis, it does two things brilliantly: it graphically shows whether line calls are right, and it provides a revealing graphical analysis of a player’s shots. It seems certain to me that in a few years, major tournaments will dispense with line judges — the referee will rely on Hawk-Eye’s far, far greater standard of accuracy.

On Saturday, when Andy Roddick was devastating in his defeat of Andre Agassi, Hawk-Eye was able to show both the distribution of Roddick’s nearly unreturnable serves and measure exactly the trajectory of his record-equalling 149 mph serve (which Agassi returned). Wonderful, wonderful stuff.


Like most parents, I spend a disproportionately large amount of time talking about schools with other parents. This is probably not a recipe for low blood pressure in London (or any other big city, for that matter), but it has certainly displaced property prices as the conversation of choice in the circles in which I move.

So I was particularly affected by Taylor Mali’s poem, What Teachers Make (via James McGee, via Mamamusings, via Loren Webster). Read the whole poem if you care about our society.


Felix Salmon gets a lot right in his review of Sandy Balfour’s Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8). But I have to take issue with his broad assertion that “the English cryptic crossword is the last bastion of the Old England which John Major so hilariously thought immortal”.

An Englishman in New York, Felix clearly has not been spending much time lately with Guardian crossword puzzles. Of course, some of the old anglicisms are retained. But most of the cleverness comes from the way in which The Guardian’s setters have kept up with the times, rather than fallen behind.

I do agree, however, with Felix’s analysis of why the great English cryptic tradition is unlikely to catch on in the US: “The English are very good at rituals; the Americans much less so. Americans, I think, will only take to crosswords insofar as they can complete them… Cryptic crosswords have a steep learning curve, and Balfour, for one, had years of happy crosswording before he actually finished one on his own. That’s not the type of thing which is likely to take off in an American culture of instant gratification.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *