Saturday, March 20, 2010

Sweet Charity At The Academy

This weekend is the spring musical at Holy Cross, featuring Julie as Woman With Hat and Woman Panhandler. Here's Julie, from the playbill...

Juliana Balla '13 (Ensemble) is excited to be in her first production, SWEET CHARITY, at Holy Cross. She has performed in Beijing, China and is currently studying Mandarin after a year of living in China. Julie wishes good luck to Alessandra Breen and everyone in the cast and crew.

~Steve

PS: That's a beehive, courtesy of Desi...

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Different Perspective On Standardized Testing

As Z has started his days with a healthy breakfast, a spoon of peanut butter, and a peppermint (reported to increase synapse in the brain) in preparation for the annual tradition of Terra Nova Tests--the Catholic School equivalent of MSAs--that began this week, we were all transported back to Beijing (in our minds, anyway) to the annual test that will take place there and across the entire nation in just a few short weeks....The one that decides everything for a student: The Gao Kao.

While certainly important, standardized tests in America (even the SAT) seem a lot less stressful when compared with their Chinese counterpart. During this nationwide test, signs are posted around all high schools deeming them "quiet zones." Inside, twelfth grade students who have studied their entire school lives (memorizing all the necessary information) are all too aware of the ramifications of their score. Unlike the SAT, this is a one-shot deal which decides whether or not a student will be able to attend college as well as which ones he or she is qualified to apply to. Period.

As stated in a June12, 2009 New York Times article entitled, "China's College Entry Test Is An Obsession," Sharon LaFraniere states, "One Chinese saying compares the exam to a stampede of 'thousands of soldiers and tens of thousands of horses across a single log bridge.'" In this way she notes that "only about three in five make the cut."

Kind of makes the thought of filling in those little circles a bit easier to to stomach, no?

~Desi

PS: This picture is also credited to the June 12, 2009 Times article and depicts the throngs of anxious parents who congregate outside the test sites. Check out the link to this article for even more interesting angles to this compelling yearly event.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Don't Forget To Fill Out Your Brackets!

I know what you're thinking...Of course I've already filled out my bracket! (Or, alternatively, what's a bracket?)

But I'm not referring to the NCAA tournament...Or the NIT tournament. (And you have to be pretty hard core to break down a tournament featuring the 66th through 97th-best teams in the country!)

Maybe this happened while we were away in China, but all of a sudden I've noticed there are a bunch of post-season tournaments going on right now. To wit...

The College Basketball Invitational. According to their website, "The College Basketball Invitational (CBI) provides a meaningful opportunity for teams that deserve a postseason experience. Sixteen teams compete in this three-year-old postseason event, hosted at on-campus arenas throughout the country." This year, the schools include my own George Washington Colonials, along with teams coached by former Final Four coaches Bobby Cremins and Rick Majerus. (Look 'em up!) The most unusual feature of the CBI? The championship consists of a three-game series...That's a first!

The CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament. Check out the selection committee for this event. Familiar names include Lefty Driesell (former Duke basketball player), Hugh Durham (with 633 wins, the 25th winningest coach in Division I history), Jim Harrick (won a national championship at UCLA), and Lou Henson (the Lou-do!). Old Dominion won the tournament last year, and this year Harvard is competing. (I believe Tommy Amaker has the Crimson participating in the post-season for the first time in school history.)

Anyways, you can return to your normally scheduled programming at noon today. Cue up that CBS NCAA basketball music. You know how it goes...

~Steve

Monday, March 15, 2010

Balla Family Tournament Picks

If you're looking for a good laugh, head over to ESPN's tournament challenge, where the four of us have completed our NCAA brackets. Search for the group "Balla Family" and you can take a look at our collective work. Even better, you can enter your own picks in our little group and see just how knowledgeable about college basketball you would be considered if the Ballas were your reference point. It may just be the ego boost you need in the coming weeks!

~Steve

PS: That's Minnesota coach Tubby Smith, moments after his PS: That's Minnesota coach Tubby Smith, moments after his team had been announced as in the bracket. The unknown guy to the right was standing right behind Smith and could not contain his enthusiasm, screaming excitedly right into the coach's ear. The best moment of the entire selection show...