Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Loud, Plaid and Called

Today is the Feast Day of St. Andrew, who was deemed the Patron Saint of Scotland in the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath. Your humble Friar has some Scottish heritage -- of which he is proud, aye! -- and so he enjoys noting this day, which is not observed nearly so widely as good old Patrick from the nearby Emerald Isle.

St. Andrew's day has nothing analagous to Paddy's green beer and, frankly, your humble Friar would advise against consuming any beverage which looks like it might be plaid. But following Andrew's footsteps as an apostle is an outstanding idea worthy of consideration.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Everything's OK Now

The truth is that over its recent history, the International Olympic Committee has proved that there are very, very few totalitarian dictatorial buttocks which it will not kiss a la Crash Davis, but their supernatural ability to do so while also assuming both supine and prone positions in front of the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party is a miraculous sight. Not a sight to behold, mind you, at least not in front of the kids, but certainly a miraculous one.

As noted earlier here and elsewhere, former Chinese tennis player -- and Olympian -- Peng Shuai first accused a former Chinese government official of coercing her into sex. Then she disappeared, and an obviously faked email claimed she recanted her accusation and just wanted to be left alone. The IOC, recognizing the danger facing its last tattered shreds of respectability and a lucrative partner relationship, acted swiftly.

IOC President Thomas Bach, either explicitly or implicitly, offered his organization's services in the fakery of convincing everyone that Peng was just fine. Bach claimed that he and other IOC members spoke to Peng in a 30-minute international video call and she's all A-OK, so there's no need to move the February 2022 Winter Games from China. Pictures that are supposed to represent the phone call were released, but the full video has yet to be (perhaps making sure all gun barrels aimed at Peng remain offscreen.)

I think there was a call, as I can't believe the IOC would go so low as to help with a photoshop that made it look like there was. But I'm almost certain that listening to it would make clear what a tissue of lies the CCP is trying to sell and how eagerly the IOC is to help close the deal so as not to endanger its commission. If this pattern continues and the IOC keeps participating, it's going to owe a lot of apologies to the former East German judges for impugning the honesty of their results.

Friday, November 19, 2021


A few days ago Chinese women's tennis player Peng Shuai accused a high Chinese government official of coercive sexual behavior. The Chinese government reacted as totalitarian dictatorships do and she has now disappeared. The Women's Tennis Association received an email that almost no one believes that Peng sent, retracting the allegations and saying she was just fine.

Unlike the spineless National Basketball Association, which bent over backwards to grovel when a general manager tweeted support of Hong Kong democracy protestors, the WTA said no dice and that it would be happy to pull all of its business out of China unless Peng's allegations were investigated and definitive proof of her continued well-being offered. WTA Chariman and CEO Steve Simon's exact words were, “We’re definitely willing to pull our business and deal with all the complications that come with it.”

Meanwhile, LeBron James has yet to say the word Uyghur in public. One begins to wonder whether the spheres on the court are the only ones involved in that game. Except for Enes Kanter, of course.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021


The website Goodreads, of which your humble Friar is a member, has posted its opening round ballots for it's "2021 Choice Awards." Now, though I read a lot of books, I am accustomed to low familiarity with many of the nominees. I don't read books in several of the categories, and in the case of several others, well, the nominees suck and I don't want to read the books.

I am even accustomed to have never heard of several of the nominated works at all. I leave many categories blank because I am not the person to tell you whether a book on the ballot was any good or not. But this year I found one book -- just one -- in the entire slate of nominees I would like to vote for. I have skimmed singer Brandi Carlile's memoir Broken Houses and plan on picking it up, which was about as close as I could come to picking a favorite in any category.

And this year I had no idea who a good four-fifths of the authors were, let alone the books they wrote. I'm not sure how wise a move this is for Goodreads. Middle-aged grumps like me are probably more likely to be bookish people than the screen devotees of the Millennial and Zoomer generations, so it would seem smarter to find books we read in order to draw attention to the contest. But apparently I'm not as smart as those folks are, which I guess is OK. It means copies of what I want to read stay on the shelves longer and I've got more time to pick them up.

Saturday, November 13, 2021


On the 110th anniversary of Buck O'Neil's birth we find welcome news, as outlined here by Kansas City Star columnist Vahe Gregorian. The driving force behind both the creation of baseball's Negro League Museum and elevating the profile of that league and its all-but-forgotten players missed inclusion in the hall in 2006 by one vote. He died months later. Now a select committee that meets every several years has included him on its Early Baseball Era ballot for possible induction in 2022.

Gregorian quotes museum president Bob Kendrick's story of how O'Neil handled the news that day as evidence of his strength of character and graceful spirit. He also makes a point of saying that he doesn't want to look like he is pressuring the committee voting on O'Neil and the others. I, on the other hand, wish to make it clear that without Buck O'Neil, the Baseball Hall of Fame is nothing more than a storage shed for a bunch of bronze semi-likenesses hanging on its walls.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Cool Hat

In today's reprint, Hobbes the tiger runs afoul of the mysterious and indefinable characteristics that comprise "cool." To his disappointment, "cool" does not include sombreros.

Friday, November 5, 2021

Testing, One, Two, Three

According to the organization Ofqual, my headline is not easily understood and might demotivate learners.

My headline has more than one potential meaning, you see. On the one hand, it's the time-honored phrase that speakers will say into a microphone as a sound technician sets audio levels. On the other hand, the word "testing" can mean many other activities. Thus, my headline uses "complex language" that could cause the aforementioned demotivation.

Kristina Murkett, writing at Unherd, goes over some of Ofqual's complaints and suggestions as they relate to national academic tests in English schools. Abstract nouns, homonyms and metaphors are also among the targets Ofqual would like to see done away with in order to make exam questions "accessible, clear and plain."

That by itself is a worthy goal -- if the questions are not clear then the answer could come from what would, to the scorer, look like left field. But if a later discussion showed that the student gathered a different meaning than the questioner intended and responded to that, then the supposed wrong answer could be seen as right.

But, Murkett notes, the goal seems to be less clarity and more dumbing down. We deal with homonyms -- words that mean different things but sound and are often spelled alike -- every day and we understand them based on their context. Although "bank" can be both a financial institution and the side of a river, I am not at all confused over which of them is a good place to put my money. The federal government, on the other hand...

The point is that understanding the question demonstrates as much mastery of the skills being measured as does the answer to it. I might have memorized the facts the class was designed to impart to me but in order to demonstrate knowledge I need to be able to put those facts into a proper context: I need to know which of them answers a particular question.

Anyway, Murkett's brief piece points out that Ofqual's proposed strategies would simply water down the exams until they were as useless as testing opponents say, except for the purpose of convincing students they are as unable to understand these things as their supposed benefactors say they are. When I'm teaching a lesson in a youth Bible study, as much as half of my work is convincing the the students that the things we're talking about are not beyond their reach. That knowledge, it would seem, they have learned well.

The should have, of course. In a society that sees them more as targets for faux rebellion, faux outrage, faux sexuality and dozens more other fauxs and tells them they'll only find their identity and values when they reject the ones given to them, they've had many teachers for that lesson.