The Media Spotlight

For anyone that has been following US politics, it might have crossed your newsdesk that Eric Cantor lost his House Republican seat against David Brat. Not a small loss given that Cantor is the House Republican Majority Leader, so certainly worth some media attention. But if there’s a surer sign of the excessive media spotlight, its when a single story gets run into the ground with frankly excessive coverage. Beyond the news that Cantor lost (somewhat unclear how that single issue can get restated in so many different ways) and who might take over his job as House Majority Leader, there all manner of articles ranging from its impact on the Democratic Party, the role of the media, the role of money, the future of issues like immigration, the rise of the Tea Party, reactions from senators and house representatives.

My RSS reader exploding with Cantor related stories...

My NYT RSS feed exploding with Cantor related stories…

My point is, the fact that US politics focused almost exclusively on this singular story – devoting considerable coverage, air time, column space – is just a sign of both the intensity and excessive nature of the news media spotlight. Yes, he lost, yes it probably matters for Republican leadership, at best it’s a sign of other underlying trends. But no, it doesn’t deserve the excess of news coverage it’s garnered. Almost nothing does. Profiles on every possibly connected individual, excessive analysis of possible causes and even the most tenuous effects.

Perhaps it’s better if we all just chilled out. Analysis in the heat of the moment is almost never very useful.

Fabricating a HK Tiananmen incident?

I don’t count myself amongst the pro-government camp when it comes to politics in Hong Kong. I generally side with the pro-democracy camp. But regardless of political affiliation, one cannot but help be concerned by the anti-Chinese bias of many western media companies, particularly those in the US.

Take for example NYTimes’s coverage of the protests against national education and their not so subtle attempt to link these protests with the Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing in 1989:

The protests in Hong Kong, a former British colony returned to China in 1997, have been somewhat similar to the much larger Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing in 1989: large numbers of students have flocked to public spaces in front of government buildings, staging sit-ins and, in some cases, hunger strikes.

All true, thankfully modified by the phrase “somewhat similar”. Now here comes the more subversive bit:

ESF pupils come up with the Baccalaureate goods

From the SCMP Jul 10, 2012

Of the few pupils who achieved perfect scores for the International Baccalaureate (IB) exams this year, one in 10 came from Hong Kong. Of the 109 students who achieved full scores of 45 marks on the global IB exams – considered one of the toughest pre-college exams in the world – at least 12 of the top achievers were from Hong Kong.

English Schools Foundation (ESF) students continued to achieve strong results this year, with the number of students achieving full marks increasing to nine from four last year. Local direct-subsidy schools the Diocesan Boys’ School and Creative Secondary School, each had one student get the full score in their first year administering the exams. Victoria Shanghai Academy also had one pupil with the top score.

“We are proud of the hard work we’ve put in,” said Deep Vaze, the only student from the ESF Island School to earn a perfect score. Vaze credited his score to the competitive and supportive atmosphere created by his teachers and classmates. He will be studying at Harvard University in September.

The other top scorers from ESF schools were Cindy Ling, Hedy Man Pui-ying, Rupert Phillips and Edward Tam Yuk-wang from King George V School; Calvin Po, Anahita Sharma and Ronald Yip from South Island School; and Sarah Chan from Sha Tin College.

Top Posts of the Year 2011

2011 is coming to a close, and has grown another year older, 27 months and counting. There have been over 88,700 views since this blog began in October 2009, and over 550 posts (recall just 12 months ago, that number stood at a little over 180) which means that the “Posting at least once every week in 2011” commitment became more of a ‘Posting once a day’. It’s been an amazing year in terms of the blog, nearly 66,000 views just this year. So here’s a look back at the top posts of 2011.

1. WSDC 2011 – Team Lists [1st all time]
Part of the WSDC 2011 series, the posts resided in sidebar of for over 8 months in the run-up to WSDC 2011 in Dundee, listing the team members attending WSDC 2011, at least those I could find.

2. Fire at UWC Atlantic College [2nd all time]
Other than debating, this was undoubtedly the second biggest story of the blog this year. I started this post 2 hours after the incident itself and continued updating it as a running summary of the situation.

3. TOK Essay – May 2012 [3rd all time]
Let’s just say this has not been the highlight of my Christmas holiday.

4. Fire at UWC Atlantic College – Photo Set 1 [4th all time]
The first images of the aftermath of the fire. Incidentally, April 14th was the busiest day on the blog with just under 1,300 views in just 24 hours.

5. [RESULTS] LSE Open 2011 [Tab]
A tournament I attended with David as my debating partner, joined by other Team Wales member Cat and Sarah. An amazing experience and my first peek into university level debating. You can read about what happened in my de-facto diary entry 1, 2 and see how Team Wales fared.

6. WSDC 2011 – Official World Rankings
Also part of the WSDC 2011 series, the official world rankings followed my earlier, and rather more controversial, post with my own calculations (which were quite accurate, even if I say so myself)

7. AC IB Results 2011
A good year for AC and some good results all together for my dear second years. Sadly, that puts the bar quite high for the UWC AC class of 2012.

8. [RESULTS] WSDC 2011 – Round-up
The ultimate summary of my final high-school tournament – WSDC 2011 – before I left the high-school debating scene. An amazing tournament and some unforgettable memories. Thank you to everyone.

9. Fire @UWC Atlantic College – Photo Set 2
The second set of photos regarding the Sunley fire, this time with my own photos.

10. SCMP – Profile: Chris Lee (IS) IGCSE Top of the World
A not so original post, but an article that did catch my eye, and clearly attracted quite a bit of attention too.

Honorary Mentions

I think it is worth noting at this point that although only 3 WSDC 2011 related posts were found in the top 10, and only 4 debating related posts, the next 10 posts are exclusively debating related, 8 of which are WSDC 2011 related as well. August 2011 was also the most popular month for with nearly 14,000 views. A final thought: isn’t it interesting that Team Singapore, Team Canada and Team England come in as top posts on their own?

11. WSDC 2011 – Team Singapore
12. WSDC 2011 – Media Guide [UPDATED]
13. WSDC 2012 – Prepared Motions [UPDATED]
14. [RESULTS] WSDC 2011 – Round 1 & 2
15. WSDC 2011 – Team Canada
16. [RESULTS] WSDC 2011 – Break, Round 7 & 8
17. WSDC 2011 – Team England
18. [RESULTS] WSDC 2011 – Round 5 & 6
19. ASDC 2011 – Participating Institutions
20. WIDPSC 2011 – Grand Final [RESULTS] + Analysis

Misinterpreted Emoticons

An interesting episode reported on by the New York Times that serves as a reminder to be careful when sending messages digitally.

Emoticons can produce another layer of confusion, however: they don’t always read the same way across different technical interfaces. “In the text function of my BlackBerry there is a sidebar menu of emoticons (how ridiculous is that?) that shows the yellow smiley faces, except they are also crying and raging, and winking and blowing kisses, etc.,” Dr. Bates wrote. “I sent a fairly new acquaintance a ‘big hug’ emoticon — which, for the record, was ironic. But anyway, on his iPhone it came up with the symbols, not the smiley face, which don’t look anything like a big hug. From his perspective they look like a view of, er, splayed lady parts: ({}).“He then ran around his lab showing colleagues excitedly what I had just sent him. Half (mostly men) concurred with his interpretation, and the others (mostly women) didn’t and probably thought he was kind of a desperate perv.”


Weird Sports: Running with iPods

I have personally yet to run a full marathon. The longest I’ve ever had to last is 10 deadly kilometers. I honestly have no idea how people manage to stay on target for a full 42.something kilometers, but they do – my respects. For many runners, listening to a bit of music on your iPod is a norm. You will almost never go to any running competition that doesn’t at least have one runner plugged in to their music. Perhaps that’s how people get through a marathon, but listening to something other than their own feet pounding the ground.

Oddly, that’s not allowed. Apparently, USA Track and Field (USATF) rules used to ban any use of electronic devices, including iPods. Though the rules have been relaxed, there remains a bad on elite athletes who still cannot use an iPod. Granted, elite athletes are less likely to use an iPod, they often have the ability to last through-out the 42.something kilometers, but why shouldn’t they.

I hardly see how a little bit of music gives someone an unfair advantage. If anything, having things dangling around your neck and having to carry the weight of an iPod, although small, would be the greater annoyance.

See and for details.

Weird Sports: Fashionable Swimmers

Want to be a fashion-conscious swimmer. Not if you’re Japanese


Japan’s swimmers could face lifetime bans if they dye their hair, wear an earring or have brightly decorated fingernails.

Japanese officials have launched a strict policy to prevent athletes turning up for competitions looking more like rock stars than swimmers.

Male and female swimmers caught sneaking into each other’s rooms at training camp, where the sexes have separate sleeping quarters, will also find themselves in hot water.

Controversy @ CIS and HKIS

I had read this by-and-by in the news over a month ago. But this SCMP feature really summarizes it well and outlines quite nicely what has been happening.

I don’t know nearly enough about the situation to say much. All I can say is that I believe that board-room drama should never, never affect the standard and quality of education that the students receive.

From the South China Morning Post, 26 October 2011

Who’s pulling the strings?
Internal power struggles at two of Hong Kong’s most elite international schools – HKIS and CIS – raise questions about their governance and accountability
By Chris Ip, Oct 26, 2011

At Hong Kong International School, with the most expensive tuition in the city, the head of school serves only at the approval of a church council more than 12,000 kilometres away in the American Midwest.

At the Chinese International School, the board of governors sacked more than half the members of the school’s foundation and may face possible legal action over the action.

They are two of the city’s top international schools – the elite of the elite schools and also the most expensive. Unlike the English Schools Foundation, most top international schools are private, non-profit and receive no government subsidy. This means they enjoy virtual independence from public oversight. More than a decade of reforms for local and ESF schools have meant nothing for these institutions.

Personal Eco-Concierges

In lieu of all the environmental sustainability messages that are being put across, an interesting new profession has sprung up, as the New York Times reported. Personal Eco-Concierges who will help you make decisions that are eco-friendly, do the tough research and save you time.

It’s an interesting concept and I think it’s a good substitute for those who truly wouldn’t have been eco-friendly otherwise. Obviously it’s preferable if we are all eco-friendly. But hey, who would mind a little bit of help?


They will run your errands by bicycle, recommend a spa that gives vegan manicures or buy organic clothes for you and your dog. They will even book you a dream vacation and buy the appropriate carbon offsets.