Friday, October 08, 2004

Happy bdae to Jen (centre)! Jen's flanked by us on the right and her dad and someone we don't know on the left. Posted by Hello

Celebrated Jen's birthday at Poison Ivy, the little restaurant outlet of Bollywood Veggies, an organic vegetable farm on Neo Tiew Road (where's that?). The restaurant is named after (who else?) Ivy, who together with her hubby own the farm. Ivy herself is quite famous personality in women's sport in Singapore.

As the farm produces organic vegetables, our dinner almost literally came from the back garden. The chili padi, bananas, brinjal (eggplant), ladies' fingers, to name a few greens were of course fresh, but my plebian palate couldn't distinguish between organic and inorganic(?) vegetables. Regardless, the buffet-style dishes were delicious especially the banana curry (bananas+grated coconut+cinnamon sticks), the eggplant curry and the tender lamb. Yes, LAMB, and no, it wasn't a vegetarian dinner. June pigged out on the wadai.

I don't usually like local desserts but the consistency and flavour of the tapioca cake, the kueh ko swee, and the banana cake impressed me. The kueh ko swee particularly, since grandma died and took her recipe with her.

If eating vegetables constitutes a healthy diet, then this place can be considered pretty healthy. That, the red wine and the quiet, rustic, away-from-it-all ambience, and air-conditioned comfort make this place a great afternoon hangout. Indeed, it's only open for lunch and tea from Thursday to Sunday only. Dinner tonight was possible due to special arrangement -- Jen booked the entire restaurant for her guests!

One problem is that the restaurant is so out of the way, it took 2 calls to 2 cab operators before we could book a taxi to take us home. If we are ever going up there again, we'll have to go with someone who's driving.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

There are worse ways to spend an afternoon than at The Dubliner's. Fortunately, there we were for lunch, Anthony, Vince, Amy, me, and Cara joined us later, as usual. We were saying hello to an old friend, now retired from the education service. Ken used to teach GP with us and ran the Drama Club (then ELDDS). Just before the '03 batch came in, he decided it was time to move on and took his pension back home in Oz.

Today he's en route to Thailand mixing business with pleasure, no doubt, and he's stopped over for a couple of days to catch up with his mates here in Singapore. He's going to KTV the night away with them, then be on his way tomorrow. Ah... yes, the life of globetrotting luxury. Well, he's paid his dues and he's entitled. More power to you, Ken!

It was such an enjoyable afternoon under the trees, slowly demolishing a beer-battered fish and chips, and discussing Ozzie politics and journalism (inspired by Amy) with a pundit. It was so enjoyable, I decided to dump my afternoon tasks and get them done some other time (priorities, you understand). Now I'll have to work on Saturday, so much for prevailing personal policy, but the tasks are important and need to be done before next week.

Dubliner's is as generous with its portions as ever. Usually, fish 'n chips comes with a wedge of lemon, but we got half a lemon each. Plenty of hot, crispy-outside-fluffy-inside fries and 2 large strips of beautiful, smooth, white cod in batter. But when Vince's shoulder of pork arrived, my jaw dropped and my fish dish suddenly paled in comparison. To think Amy and I agreed that we were feeling carnivorous today but in a moment of folly ordered fish instead. Vince's 'pork shoulder' was 2 awe-inspiring chunks of pig meat, and oh, the thickness of dripping pig fat, and the crispy, crackling pig skin topping it off. Instant jealousy, I tell you. Also possibly instant cardiac arrest if I tried to swallow that lot down, so perhaps it was for the best that it stayed out of my reach.

Instant noodles for dinner. What a show-stopper.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

I want to kill the sidebar calendar for one reason. It's ugly. But for now it's serving a purpose, so I'll spare it. I thought that around this time things would be winding down towards the year-end hols, but what we are now reducing in curriculum time, we are making up for it by having "sharing sessions" and "seminars" at cluster level and beyond. This morning I received news that I was selected to give a short presentation at the Cluster "Blue Sky" Carnival in which various schools in our cluster will share things that they have done that could illustrate what "teach less, learn more" (the Ministry's new buzzword) means.

To be selected is an honour, I suppose, and the presentation is only for a quarter hour slot, so not much of a demand for my blood, sweat and tears. But I wonder what you guys think about my sharing the "I&E" assignment you worked on in the 2 I&E days early this year? Considering I had so much to learn from the number of problems that surfaced during the actual execution of the assignment, would I dare present it and claim it was a success? At best, I can honestly say it was a well-intentioned exercise that had a lot of bugs in it. If there was any learning to be gained from it, I guess I got the lion's share. Hee hee.

So that's one more thing added on my to-do list. There's also the annual NE-coordinators' meeting and there are some interesting things on the agenda... but I won't mention anything more until I've heard more.

Turned down an invitation to bowl at the Grassroots Club. Legs are still aching from Monday's practice, so not wise to aggravate them further. Spirit willing, flesh weak. What can I say?

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Unofficial tutorial sessions are the most enjoyable for me. Small group, everyone paying attention, me being asked questions and responding to each individual's specific concerns and tailoring material on the fly to cater to different students' particular needs. Helps also that they are really scared, and I do sympathize with them. Potential 'A' grades in pretty much every subject, but royally screwing up in GP. That's frustrating, but easily explained. Any idiot can study and score 'A's (er... once again, no offense meant), but with GP you can't study something and expect to pass because of the effort spent therein.

Instead, the students' task is to use the content they have already and shape it into the answers they have been asked for. It's like being given plasticine in kindergarten. Kids love plasticine. They squish it, roll it, mould it, sculpt it, and make a complete mess out of it. They love the way it feels in their fingers and how it smears on their faces. They love the control they have over the malleable mass. And when they're done, they have something of their own which they have created and the original lump or slab is no longer recognizable. Sometimes even the original colour has been mixed up with some other hue and the whole thing looks like sh*t. But it doesn't matter. Regardless of what it looks like, the teacher will say things like, "nice dinosaur, Kevin," or, "that's a handy club, Ah Seng, now please stop hitting Amy with it."

No kid is going to preserve his or her share of the plasticine in its shrink wrap and not take it out to play with it. No kid is going to protect its pristine condition and return it to the teacher when it's milk and cookies time because the teacher is most likely to diagnose the kid with some kind of developmental problem. Yet, when they go to JC, the same kids who used to have such fun now work like mad to preserve their content and to return the exact same content to their tutors; then they wonder why they are doing so badly. That's the kind of toil they engage in (or think they are supposed to engage in) and they wonder why they're not having any fun with GP at 18 years old. Where do our youth get their strange ideas from?

Was busy handing out plasticine to various kids today. Will continue to do so over the next couple of weeks. There's plenty to go around.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Tutorials may be over but the pressure's still on. Students are booking free-for-all consultations with their respective tutors around their scheduled lecture slots; so just to make things easy, I'll put this blog's calendar (see sidebar) to good use once again to indicate times that have already been booked with me. I'll take bookings on a 1st come 1st served basis. For the moment, I'm relatively free so I can be flexible and the best time slots are still open to negotiation.

Started working with Cara on our testimonial comments for the Drama Club seniors. Hope to finish by tomorrow so their respective Civics Tutors will have something to say about their CCA involvement. Have yet to work with Mark on our farewell tribute to the Class of '04 in next week's Graduation Ceremony and there's my own CTs testimonials to compose. Devise a simple mime demo for Connie and her sharing session in Nov. Erm.. couple of other things as well before next week too. Guess I'm just reminding myself while everything's still fresh in my memory or I will forget one thing or another and lots of people will want to kill me over it.

Had to destress, so we went back to bowl at SAFRA this evening. Amy showed up and did fairly well for a beginner, but Anthony was way off his game. A few months off-practice and rust sets in bad. Good thing we're starting our training early for next year, eh? My game was quite satisfactory: 151, 116 (there's always 1 off game), and 147. Let's just keep that up, shall we?

Edit 01:
Has anyone noticed that Blogger is really slow in updating our Profiles? Or did I do something wrong?

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Popped Quill into the VCD and I have to say that this narrative is the most devoid of conflict I have ever come across. Quill is the most ordinary dog ever and his biography is so bland, it's beautiful.

Quill's name comes from a dictionary entry as his first trainers name their dogs in alphabetical order as they arrive for training. In advanced training, his instructors notice that he has no particular talents and from time to time they comment on his ordinariness which eventually becomes his most outstanding feature. There is nothing in the story that indicates his rising above this label. His most significant contribution is that he worked as a seeing-eye dog for a feisty chairman of a society for the disabled and a champion for disabled people's rights . Quill's job doesn't even last very long, though it's no one's fault except, perhaps, circumstance. He leads a long and relatively useful and happy life until he returns to his first trainers' house to live out his final year.

There. He was born, he was educated, he worked, he made some friends, he made some people happy, he lived to a ripe old age and then he died. This plotline breaks every convention of how a story should be constructed. The cardinal sin -- no conflict. Yet in so many scenes, my eyes just could not stay dry. It is in how much he was loved, how much people depended on him and how committed he was in doing what was needed of him that is the heart of the story. Though the camera's focus is on Quill, the perspective is from the many people who have to say, "goodbye," to him as he moves from one development phase to another. That is the really sad part, the part where the tears freely flow; it's in the letting go, no, make that the letting grow.

Quill's life is the sort of life we all desire; without all the distracting frills that we want added on to complicate things for us. Quill's life is A Very Good Life. We should be so lucky.