Sudden renewed interests

It’s that CTB chap again.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I tend to get about ten to twenty hits a day. The exception to that was the day I got about 16,000 hits because of CTB (aka Ryan Giggs) and the business about the superinjunctions earlier this year. That quickly calmed down and the shores of my little island were no longer battered by the storms of popular interest. I think there was a short-lived surge after that about this particular topic, and now there’s been another one (a couple of days ago), although I can’t say what prompted either. I’m sure there are better sources of information out there than this blog.

Coherence and cohesion. I never really knew you.

My learned colleague, Mr Jones, has been banging on at his classes about paragraph unity recently, which got me thinking about the matter, and then wondering – for the first time ever – what coherence actually means. When I was looking at a writing guide I bought from Cosmos Books in Hong Kong a few years ago, I found that the definition (more or less “each sentence has to be relevant to the topic”) was not quite the one I’d been applying.

I’ve been treating coherence as the degree to which a sentence is comprehensible and, to a much lesser extent, relevant to an argument. I wasn’t applying it to the grammar inasmuch as I was applying it to the sense of what was written (and the mark scheme we’ve been using has a separate section for grammar). I suppose I might say clarity.

But when I start then considering cohesion, I must admit that I’m much less certain what coherence really means if it’s about the relevance of a sentence to the topic of a particular paragraph. To me cohesion is about the connections between sentences. A non sequitur, for instance, violates cohesion because one sentence doesn’t follow the sense of another and may not even be relevant to the topic.

Observing that coherence and cohesion both come from the verb cohere, I’m not inclined to regard either as especially useful where two clearly distinct terms such as argument structure (or, on second thoughts, relevance might be a better choice because of the potential breadth of argument structure) and connectivity would, I think, be preferable. But it might also help to think of coherence as the y-axis (that is the relationship between the topic of the paragraph and the sentences in that paragraph) while cohesion is the x-axis (the relationship between one sentence and the next).

Thus the AS students may have better coherence than I thought, and staccato1 to bad2 cohesion. There’s generally a poor flow of ideas, and it’s often hard to see a clear narrative thread, which makes me wonder whether I’m the idiot. (Actually, that should be the sign telling me that they’re the ones making a mess of things.)


  1. Ideas are relevant but come one after the other without any proper development.
  2. Non sequiturs abound.

Out with the new and in with the newer.

The previous version of Frέegαтe was a very short-lived thing, having lasted little more than a week or so before the latest version appeared this morning. There’s been a slight change to the old girl, too, with the numbers now in percentages instead of milliseconds, whatever that means.

Hark, hark, the dogs do bark

The beggars have come to town.

When I first came here, I could often hear one of those horrid, wheezy lap dogs that imperial citizens keep as pets yapping away at something. Often it would start barking in response to fireworks being set off somewhere, and as far as I could tell, it was several storeys below me. It’s been awhile since I last heard anything from that particular creature, but though it may have gone, it has a successor.

In recent days, another of these ghastly, irksome creatures seems to have arrived in the building, but this time it’s in one of the flats a few storeys below me. Today, for example, it has been barking on and off at the gods alone know what since some time this morning. I assume that it is in one of the annexes downstairs, having been left alone all day by 丰太太, who will eventually come home, dress it up as if it’s a doll, and take it for a walk.

The beggars have also come to town. It’s the season when the farmers’ wives (as I guess they are) come into town with their state-authorised child and beg because there’s nothing to do out in the countryside at the moment. There have been a couple near the intersection where 县前街 meets Baoli for about three weeks.

While I’m mentioning being beggared, I asked Mum how much a big bar of Whittaker’s chocolate costs in New Zealand: NZ$3.60, which is ¥17.63 at the current rate of exchange. From 远东百货 it costs me nearly four times as much. I still manage to spin each bar out so that I’m getting reasonable value for money in comparison with, say, a small bar of Dove chocolate, but in reality, the advantage is probably imaginary.

Meanwhile, at Papworth Hospital:

“Bugger Bognor!” exclaimed the Duke of Edinburgh. He looked left and right, but there was no sign of the Grim Reaper.

“You’re not going to die that easily,” replied the Queen.

Video: A collection of supercars courtesy of the China Sportscar Club – Top Speed

Video: A collection of supercars courtesy of the China Sportscar Club – Top Speed.

Last week, I saw a live Audi R8, which was being parked outside the brothel spa which is on the corner of the lane to the side gate of Jinma. The only other R8 I’ve seen here was on display in Baoli alongside a 911 Turbo S.

The R8 on this occasion was a matt black and white car and had the SCC badge on the back, but I had no idea what it stood for until I saw the article above on Top Speed, and the video.

The irony is, of course, that the video itself isn’t viewable inside the prison walls – at least not on YouTube. Mind you, the video is from Youku (优酷).

‘Tis the season to be irksome

Fa-la-la-la my arse.

Both this and my Live Journal blog have been coming in for a steady stream of vacuous comments from those lovely people who think that everyone else should supply them with free advertising space. How long before they devise a program which pulls certain words from the original post in an attempt to make their comments sound relevant?

“I found your post on <insert topic here> really fascinating, and if you’d just send me your credit card details, I’ll steal your money and deluge you with more unsolicited comments. Did you know that I eat used toilet paper straight out of the bowl?”

It was present day at school today. I scored a small stash of swag, but we can say that the slightness of the quantity was a message on my perceived usefulness as an EFL teacher at AS level. When one of the students in AS4 said something about watching a movie this morning, my deliberately curt reply was that I didn’t give a damn what some other teacher had done. This isn’t because they did not give generously, but because I had no desire to send them a signal that indolence and a poor attitude earns them movies.

I did get a nice card from a girl in AS2, who wrote in it “Thank you for remembering my name”. This is probably a reference to babysitting AS2 recently. The student in question was one of those anonymous girls whose general performance in class was utterly uninspiring. I must admit that I’m a little shaky with the names of a few of last year’s PAL students.

Anyway, I need to… Well, I just need to.

Wins and losses

My least favourite character in MASH.

Yes, farewell Kim Jong-Il, thou monstrous turd in the swimming pool of humanity. The thing of second least value on Earth is still worth infinitely more than you ever were; and also, you were complete rubbish in MASH.

In the Imperial Palace, the Emperor breathed a sigh of relief at the news. The stinky little goblin wouldn’t be back to steal more spoons.

“Miriam,” he said to his wife, “we’re using the good silver tonight.”

Meanwhile, Vaclav Havel, a man of much greater worth and therefore a much greater loss has also died. Unlike Kim Jong-Il, the BBC has the world paying tribute to you. Kim Jong-Il merely gets reactions.

We’re going to get days off around Christmas and New Year, but this afternoon, Peter came and told us we’re now going to get the Monday and Tuesday off. Guess what that means. Yes, we’ve got school on Saturday before. It gets worse: it’s probably going to be Tuesday, which is my bad day. Bugger. Oh, and I’m going to be doing some babysitting first thing on Friday morning while other people go off on holidays.

This morning a new version of Φrεεgaтэ appeared. The previous version had actually been quite stable, and had lasted much longer than any of the versions I’d been using previously.

While we’re talking about all those things the Empire hates on the Internet (aka almost everything), I still can’t see the point of Facebook and have, by and large, lost interest in Google+ where two or three people do all the posting as far as I can tell.

Well, I should go and cook tea before I realise that the final exam is much closer than I thought.

BBC News – David Cameron says the UK is a Christian country

BBC News – David Cameron says the UK is a Christian country.

No, Dave, it isn’t. It’s a secular state which has been heavily influenced by Christianity in the past, a point which the PM eventually makes. Actually, this isn’t my main purpose for making a note of this particular story.

What caught my eye on this occasion is how wishy-washy Dave was because, obviously, he was desperately trying to avoid offending potential voters – any potential voters.

He also turned his hand to a little irony:

“Many people tell me it is much easier to be Jewish or Muslim here in Britain than it is in a secular country like France,” he said.

The difference, as far as I can tell, is that the French state defends secular values (e.g. the ban on veils); but I wouldn’t be surprised if the number of people who go to church in France on a Sunday is comparable with the number in Britain. Also, from the outside, France seems less tolerant of otherness, which probably has less to do with its secularity than it has to do with the general culture. In other words, if France was a more religious nation, it would still be no more tolerant of other faiths.

By the same token, I suspect British tolerance has little or nothing to do with religion given the quite small number of actual, practising Christians. There just aren’t enough of them to go round being tolerant.

::: A Short History of UK Place Names :::

::: A Short History of UK Place Names :::.

That sound you can hear is me scratching my head as I wonder why the imperial reactionaries have blocked the site above. Is it laden with anti-Empire propaganda? Not that I can see. In fact, the author seems to show no interest in the Chinese Empire at all. How dare he pay no fealty to this most glorious of realms where the air is ever so clean, the water so clear, the citizens ever so civilised and polite, and the government ever so tolerant.

I have a good mind to write to The Guardian about it.

Another nightmare ends

You’ve all done very mediocrely.

I finally managed to finish marking the AS tests this morning with the pressure on me to add the marks to this online database we now have. The Economics class averaged 55% because that’s what being arrogant and fat-headed gets you, while the Business class averaged 59% because they at least put some effort in.

I wasn’t being slow doing the marking, but since each piece of drivelsome writing was taking me 15 to 20 minutes to mark, I needed time away from writing which was hurting me mentally and physically. I don’t know whether the IELTS band descriptors still describe writing as placing a strain on the reader, but this stuff placed a strain on me. (I have to confess that I’m going to tell the little darlings that “stuff” is not appropriate in formal written English. This isn’t, of course, formal writing.)

The students can’t write cohesively; they can use paragraphs, but only crudely as they insist that everything about a particular main idea must be in the same paragraph; they’ve obviously been taught to place the topic sentence at the end of the introductory paragraph, but they haven’t been taught that the rest of the paragraph needs to be interesting and engaging. Oh, hang on. They have no idea how to write in an interesting and engaging way.

They still won’t be able to grasp that their English is a long way from being up to university standard even when the evidence is in front of them.

Cambridge puts Isaac Newton’s notes online • The Register

Cambridge puts Isaac Newton’s notes online • The Register.

Or, if you prefer, the BBC version of the story.

Ye Diary of Sir Isaac Newton.

Up, and to ye Orchard where I did sport with Mrs Fitzsimmons; and by and by, an Apple struck me on ye Head, wherefrom I did discover something most marvellous, viz. Calculus, and with ye greatest Pleasure, introduced Mrs Fitzsimmons to ye Method of Integration. Fnarr! Fnarr!

But most vex’d today, for I am still, as yet, unable to discover Gravity, which finding, I would tell Leibnitz to go unto some other location and differentiate himself. LOL!

Thermal knicker weather

Worst climate evah.

The icy blasts from Siberia have arrived once again, and if I was an irrational religious person, I’d assume the gods had invented China to punish people with an extreme(ly unpleasant) climate. The sky is clear, the sun is shining, and the wind-chill factor is… Well, a number I’d rather not know.

In refurbishment news (everyone’s favourite section), quite a bit of 县前街 has been wrapped in green gauze as part of some apparent programme to refurbish the shop fronts, and work continues along 道长巷 where there are even pictures of the intended result.

With regard to the latter, the street should be blocked off to cars because the work takes up quite a bit of the lane; but that would be too sensible, and cars approach from both directions. So far I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t encountered one of those annoying jams where Moron A won’t give way to Moron B, and things get worse as Morons D, E, F, and G turn up and start sounding their horns.

Speaking of four-wheeled morons, I was heading down the cycle lane on 香榭街 a day or two ago and watch another motorist reach the end of the first section of the lane only to find that the way was blocked by another car which had left an insufficient gap. What did our boy do? He started sounding his horn as if by its magical blasts, the owner of the offending car would be instantly transported there to move the vehicle out of the way. The sensible solution would be to block off the cycle lane with some solid bollards and provide some sort of off-road parking.

I’m still marking the writing section of the AS classes’ monthly tests. It’s been taking me about twenty minutes to wade through each one because of the quality and the length. Almost none of the students have written a plan, and none of those who did at least write something in that section have produced an adequate plan. The old IELTS band descriptor about the writing having a negative effect on the reader still applies very much in this case. Mark has also found a set of SAT writing descriptors which refer to the writing as immature in the lower bands.

In addition, this is one of those situations when I put in much effort for very little return. The quality of my little darlings’ writing isn’t going to hugely improve as a result of my comments, but I suspect most of them learn nothing from them. I have been trying to avoid wholesale rewriting, preferring more general comments that indicate something is wrong to encourage them to find an answer for which they will never look.

I don’t know whether David Cameron has done the right thing with Europe or whether he’s merely behaving like a 3-year-old at a birthday party who wants everything just so when it’s not his birthday. There’s a round-up of comments from across Europe in the BBC article Euro crisis: Europe reacts with anger. Meanwhile, in London, the bankers will be pleased that their lapdog barked in their interests. I’m sure there’s a tin of Winalot Prime in it for Dave, and a nice new collar and leash.

I’ve been playing a little chess again against Shredder. I’m not seriously trying to compete against the program, but rather to see how quickly Shredder can defeat me or how long I can hold off the inevitable by playing badly. My records so far have been five moves (without resorting to a Fool’s Mate) and twenty-three.