Monday, January 06, 2014

Cricket wrapup

Ben Stokes

With a complete whitewash of the England team now in place one has to wonder where they went wrong.  I am going to suggest that they did not have enough South Africans in their team this time.  It's a long time since the England team has been an English team so even their wins are not much credit to the English.  And their most acclaimed player this time around was a New Zealander -- Ben Stokes.  If they had all played like Stokes they might have  won. 

As it was, one of their South African players -- Trott -- went home early with depression and another -- Pietersen -- was unlikely to have his heart in the game because of a big bust up just over a year ago which could have had  him expelled from English cricket altogether -- if they had not needed his skill with a bat.  His loyalties clearly were not with England last year and it's hard to see how they could have recovered after the shellacking he got subsequently.  I append below a relevant comment from last July by someone who knows a lot more about English cricket than I do

Of the 11 players likely to take the field at Trent Bridge, three - Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott and Matt Prior - were born in South Africa.

And if you look at the members of the 30-strong England Performance Squad named for the 2013 international summer, no fewer than eight were South African by birth.

Aware of the sensitivities of the issue, the England and Wales Cricket Board ruled last year that, in future, cricketers who move to England after their 18th birthday will have to live here for seven years before they qualify to play for England.


Less maths makes HSC physics 'dumb'

The Board of Studies will review the HSC Physics syllabus this year to assess whether a move away from mathematical content had weakened the subject.

University lecturers said high school physics had been "dumbed down" and focused on the history of physics at the expense of rigorous mathematical analysis and problem-solving. As a result, they said, students often arrive at university with a distorted view of what physics is and whether they are good at it.

There are a substantial number of marks assigned to answering what I think are frequently Mickey Mouse questions

The debate adds to concerns raised by Australia's chief scientist, Professor Ian Chubb, about the national shortage of science, technology, engineering and maths skills. In 2012 he released a report saying it was in the national interest to strengthen the science and maths supply line as a matter of urgency.

Yet HSC enrolments show students increasingly opt for general mathematics instead of the more challenging 2-unit maths. And the proportion of students studying physics is sliding.

The associate head of teaching and learning in physics at the University of Sydney, Associate Professor John O'Byrne, said the "crashing numbers" in physics were part of the reason the mathematical content of the subject was reduced when the syllabus was restructured about a decade ago.

"They're trying to present a physics course that will attract a range of people," he said. "You don't do that by making an intensely mathematical physics course, unfortunately."

But Richard Hunstead, who is a physics lecturer at the University of Sydney and assesses HSC exam papers for the Board of Studies, said he is uncomfortable with the "touchy feely" questions.

"There are a substantial number of marks assigned to answering what I think are frequently Mickey Mouse questions, which rely on rote learning and parroting back material from the textbook," he said.

"This is one of the things that irks me when I review the paper each year. It appears the Board of Studies is quite adamant that they want to make it an all singing and dancing course that has a more wider compass if you like. It touches on more subject areas but it does it in rather superficial ways." Consequently, he said, some students arrive at university without the adequate "mathematical competence or insight".

"I think the level of maths that is now expected of students in the HSC has actually dumbed down what we are able to offer in first year [university]."

The first-year physics director at the University of NSW, Elizabeth Angstmann, said the HSC course was more of an arts subject than a science.

"About a third of the syllabus is history-based, rather than actually solving physics problems," she said.

The president of the Board of Studies, Tom Alegounarias, said it was "a substantial exaggeration" to suggest HSC physics was more of a history than a science. But he conceded there was "more language in it and less scientific and mathematical analysis".

While he was not certain why the changes to the subject were made, he said that "I can imagine it was about communication being just as important as the maths".


Abortion condemned

 Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi has labelled pro-choice advocates "pro-death" and accused some women of using abortion as "an abhorrent form of birth control".

In his new book The Conservative Revolution, Bernardi said it was "horrendous and unacceptable" that the abortion "death industry despatches 80,000 to 100,000 unborn children [in Australia] every year".

The Abbott Government backbencher also denounces non-traditional families, surrogacy and euthanasia, laying out five pillars for a "conservative revolution" in which he calls for the restoration of the traditional family model over all others, the ABC reports.

"Given the increasing number of 'non-traditional' families, there is a temptation to equate all family structures as being equal or relative," he writes.

"Why then the levels of criminality among boys and promiscuity among girls who are brought up in single-parent families, more often than not headed by a single mother?

"What is missing in the push for human cloning, in vitro fertilisation and surrogacy, for example, is the understanding that children come into families as gifts, not commodities."

In a call to arms to fellow conservatives, Bernardi writes that Australia has lost its direction in part due to the absence of religion in politics and says the greatest threats to Christianity are the "green agenda" and Islam, which he believes to be incompatible with Western beliefs.

"I believe that by stripping God and religious principles from our culture (and our politics) we have become a nation which does not know which port it is sailing to," he writes.

Senator Bernardi, a key member of the Liberal party's right wing also advocates a return to individual workplace agreements despite Prime Minister Tony Abbott acknowledging that the former Howard government's WorkChoices policy was "dead, buried and cremated".


Greenie Council slapped for sea-rise panic

A NSW judgment has castigated a local council that permitted a couple to build a house on a beachfront plot, on condition they tore it down in 20 years assuming UN predictions of sea-level rise and coastal erosion come true.

NSW Land and Environment Court senior commissioner Tim Moore struck down the condition, saying in his judgment that Great Lakes Council had held a "Damoclean sword" over Greg and Lesley Newton, who had sought to build on a vacant block at Jimmys Beach on the mid-north coast of NSW.

The judgment has been hailed by a lobby group representing coastal home owners in the region, who are facing similar "time-limited consents" based on dire UN International Panel on Climate Change predictions of rising sea levels.

It comes when, as revealed by The Australian, the NSW government, infuriated that some coastal councils are unquestioningly adopting the IPCC predictions and imposing often severe planning restrictions, is preparing to issue instructions for them to apply common sense.

It is a victory for the deputy mayor of Great Lakes Council, Len Roberts, who led a minority of councillors against a majority headed by Mayor Jan McWilliams who voted to impose the time-limited consent on the Newtons.

Commissioner Moore struck down Condition 7 in the development approval, which was limited to a period of 20 years, at which point the owners would have to hire a consultant to re-examine coastal hazards. Unless the council decided sea-level change and coastal erosion were not developing as predicted, the owners would have to abandon the house.

In his judgment, Mr Moore said the condition was unfair, since when the Newtons bought the block a year ago, there was nothing in the council or title documents that suggested any such severe development approval conditions would apply based on coastal hazards.

"Although Condition 7 is cast in terms that hold out a prospect of some future reconsideration of its impact toward the time that the Damoclean sword is scheduled to drop, the burden placed on whoever might be the owners of the dwelling at that time is not an insignificant one -- there is no guarantee of an extension," Commissioner Moore said in his judgment.

"Holding out such an illusion of hope, in itself, is unreasonable in circumstances where the outcome is highly speculative."

Mr Roberts, who has long experience in local government, including the then local government appeals tribunal, told The Australian that commissioner Moore's decision set a precedent that was likely to be adopted by coastal councils in NSW. "I knew this was possibly going to be a test case," he said.

Mr Newton, who owns Woolwich Marina in Sydney, said he and his wife would now proceed to build a house at Jimmys Beach, but were considering suing the council for allowing them to buy it with no warning that severe development conditions would be applied only months later.

Commissioner Moore ordered the retention of a condition of the development approval requiring the Newtons to build bigger than usual footings and foundations.


No comments: