By In Social Media

Trying to Fit a Fight Into a Sport

As soon as the final bell sounded in the main event bout between T.J. Dillashaw and Cory Sandhagen last weekend, I knew the scorecards were going to be strange. My hunch, which turned out to be correct, was that the final verdict would either be a split decision or a majority draw. When you’ve watched enough close fights, you know that the only thing more dynamic and unpredictable than the fights themselves is how they are judged.

Calling the fight “close” isn’t entirely accurate, though. It was in one sense, but in another it really wasn’t close at all. If the purpose of a fight is to inflict more damage than you receive — which is the intuitive understanding of how fights work — then Sandhagen was the clear and obvious winner. He hit Dillashaw with more and harder shots throughout the fight, slicing and bruising the former champ’s face into a bloody mess. Sandhagen, however, ended the fight relatively unscathed. If the fight happened anywhere but in the Octagon, there would be no doubt in anyone’s mind who won.

But the fight did take place in the Octagon, and it was judged in five minute intervals, not in entirety…


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By In Social Media

We Need To Take Wildlife Harassment More Seriously

The recent spate of pictures and videos showing visitors harassing animals has touched a nerve, to say the least.

It started a few weeks ago with a TikTok video of a Louisiana woman touching a sleeping monk seal on Kauai that quickly went viral. Afterwards, a slew of similar pictures and videos flooded local social media pages. From there it snowballed into coverage from every local media outlet, prompting Gov. David Ige to release a statement that people who mess with local wildlife will be “prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

That is unlikely to happen to recent offenders. There are essentially three avenues of prosecution: in federal court, state court, or civil court through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Disturbing wildlife is a misdemeanor under federal law, but it’s a felony under state law, with a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Even the most righteously outraged would probably agree that half a decade behind bars is a bit stringent for a thoughtless and idiotic moment that ultimately caused little actual harm.

Part of the issue here is the health and safety of the animals themselves. Human interaction is an ongoing threat to the roughly 1,400 remaining monk seals in existence. According to NOAA, as of 2018 at least 12 monk seals have been intentionally killed by people. But even in less extreme situations, people can unknowingly expose them to diseases and contaminants or disrupt their sleep patterns, either of which can have dire consequences.

Yet I get the sense that the outrage is about more than the animals themselves. As beloved as monk seals are, they do not have much direct or immediate impact on our daily lives…

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

The Grisly Allure of Broken Bones

In the main event of UFC 264, which will likely be the biggest mixed martial arts event of the year, Conor McGregor joined the dubiously exclusive club of UFC fighters who have lost due to horrific leg breaks. Prior to him, only Chris Weidman, Anderson Silva and Corey Hill had done the same.

It was hard to see what happened in real time, but it was much harder to look at what actually happened on any of the innumerable replays — especially for someone who has suffered ankle injuries throughout his life. You may point out that technically he broke his tibia, not his ankle, to which I say it really doesn’t matter; it happened close enough to the ankle to look like an ankle injury, and the psychological damage that has already been done cannot be undone.

Yet there I was, watching every slow-motion replay, cringing and consoling my legs for the psychic damage I was inflicting on them. It reminded me of the Weidman break earlier this year, and how afterward I went back and watched it — and the Silva and Hill leg breaks, too — multiple times. I suppose I had long internalized Bart Simpson’s advice: if you don’t watch the violence, you’ll never get desensitized to it.

I can’t imagine I’m the only one who did that, though; I’m not special or unique enough to be the only one who thinks or does something. The sudden and grotesque physical devastation of a mid-fight leg break is hard to ignore, no matter how much you want to look away. Part of the reason we watch this sport is to see the absolute limits of the human body. This includes seeing it in its most vulnerable and shattered state…

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By In education, Hawaii

Teachers, Don’t Be Shy About Talking To The Media

In the last month, local news stations have reached out to me no less than three times to talk about some education issue or another.

This is not because of any particular expertise I possess, but because I’m available. In the never-ending time crunch of the news world, it is better to have a know-nothing who is there than an expert who is not.

My response is always the same: unless I’m uniquely positioned to talk about the subject, I send along the opportunity to a few of my colleagues who usually have smarter, more considered things to say. So far, they have all declined — my motive with this column is to nudge them toward doing it in the future — which compels me to ask teachers I know from social media. If no one answers the call, I’ll do the interview.

I’m obviously not against going on the record with my opinions, but sometimes I simply don’t feel strongly enough about the interview topic to add anything meaningful to the discussion. If I’m going to speak (or write) publicly, I want to have something to say, not search for something to say.

More than that, though, I worry that some people may take my thoughts about education as the prevailing opinion, by virtue of ubiquity rather than merit…

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By In education, Hawaii

There Is No Right Way To Grade Students In A Pandemic

By now, students and their parents should have received their final report cards from last year. As always, they will be received with either dread or delight, regret or relief.

A lot of conflicted feelings also went into the input of those grades. Grading is always fraught, but this year it was especially so. The relevant questions were no longer just what and how to grade, but if we should grade at all. Algebraic equations are hard enough to learn in normal times, let alone when you’re at home with spotty internet connection and your neighbor’s lawnmower going off.

Every teacher I know adjusted their normal grading habits in one way or another. A friend at another school gave slightly increased scores for work turned in on time, instead of reducing grades for late work.

The pandemic was as good a time as any to reframe rewards and punishments.

The two primary changes my team and I made were a) allowing students to re-do all of their work as many times as they needed, and b) allowing students to turn in their work until the end of the quarter — sometimes after — without penalty. We also offered daily study halls, both virtual and in-person. If work is supposed to ensure that learning takes place, then the rationale was to give students as many opportunities to learn as possible.

I still think these were appropriate things to do given the circumstances, but at the same time, some problems emerged…

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