Friday, July 28, 2006

Friends@Maju has just changed its lunchtime set menu. Just as well; we were getting a bit tired of their previous one.

Today being Friday, we felt the need for more pampering so Amy, Dee, Josh and I went for the more expensive set lunch option. Josh's ox-tail stew came in a healthy-sized portion and looked like it melted in the mouth. Amy picked the bones of her baby back ribs clean, 'nuff said. Dee and I ordered the seafood jambalaya. For a portion of what actually amounts to seafood fried rice it actually made my mouth and stomach happy. The shrimp and fish pieces were tender and fresh and the mix of spices in the rice was novel and, um, sang! I really don't quite know how else to express the sensation. Fine. Maybe I'm gushing a little, but I haven't been disappointed by this place yet.

Speaking of friends, I really do appreciate the mealtime companionship I've enjoyed, especially from Amy and Vince, without whom dinner would have been quite dreary this week in particular. Not to say that Q-tip doesn't make good company, but her subjects of conversational interest are somewhat... limited. Thanks, guys! :)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Didn't know it, but I have family who had to be "evacuated from Lebanon," wot with all the bombs droppin' and all. Sort of brings the news in the far-flung middle-east a little closer to home, though this branch of mi familia I've hardly any contact with due to geographical distance.

The young lady in this news article is my cousin (mom's sis' daughter) and I haven't seen her since eh... a long time ago. Still, glad to know she's ok.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Catch a fish for a Singaporean and he will eat for a day. Teach a Singaporean to fish and he will expect a textbook, handouts, worksheets, quality instruction, regular testing, course reviews, safety guidelines, IT lessons... and wonder why fishing is so boring. And not want to learn anything else for the rest of his life.

Today's "Teach Less, Learn More" workshop has parallels with how organized religion picks up on Divine Commandment and turns tablet-engraved words of wisdom into dogma and ritual. It's the nature of being in an organization, I guess. The leadership is obliged to interpret the Word from On-High on behalf of the rank-and file by translating It into procedures that are easy to follow. In this way, we obey the Word, and thereby are we good.

This heretic observes that we are simply barking up the wrong tree with TLLM. TLLM is a value and an attitude, to be obeyed in spirit and not by the letter of the law, or SOP at our level. It doesn't neatly translate into "action plans" or even "learning activities," but it is an admonishment to us in the education service to stop overplanning the lives of our kids, force-feeding them with exam-based but otherwise irrelevant nonsense inapplicable to real-life, and conditioning to them to think it is us who hold the key to their "success in life."

TLLM makes sense, particularly in today's context in which Education has taken on such self-importance that without Teacher's proper supervision, young lives get ruined. And what a waste of our only natural resource that would be.

Homework for math, tutorials for physics, chapters of texts for lit, project research for GP, who knows what else for other subjects... daily exercise regimen for physical health... CCA responsibilities... adequate rest and nutrition... revision of the day's lessons... remedial this, remedial that... tuition... Students seem to live in a time warp that stretches longer than the usual 24 hours a day for the rest of us normal people. We do this to our students because we are good, dedicated teachers. We blame ourselves if individual students flunk a major exam, and think if only we worked them harder they wouldn't be in such dire straits.

Yup, it's all about us. We take things personally: they failed because we failed them. They messed up because we didn't take them in hand. And so, we do everything we can to ensure they don't fail. And we make sure they know it, too. We boil down complex ideas to easy-to-swallow but meaningless factoids. We drill from TYS, as if the only questions (and their corresponding answers) our subject poses come from the last 10 years' worth of exam papers. We pack the time table and schedule their holidays so that they can't waste time with frivolous activities outside of our supervision.

TLLM basically says, stop it. Stop hand-holding them all the way to adulthood. Stop giving the impression that they always have to get it right the first time. Stop pre-digesting things for them and making them eat vomit. Stop being the centre of their learning universe -- we aren't that important. Really.

Individual words make up a sentence, but it's the tone and inflexion that give the sentence it's meaning. Likewise, TLLM is about the manner in which we teach, not about what activity or content goes into the lesson. It's not so much a matter of doing less, or even doing things differently. It's a matter of being. Being more considerate. Being more humane. Being more realistic. Being more practical. Being more far-sighted.

It's also a matter of trust. Trust that kids will learn useful things from people other than ourselves. Trust that learning doesn't always have to be ordered, structured or even planned. Trust that kids will learn in time, so let them have time to learn. Trust that when a child falls down, he will pick himself up, dust himself off and continue the game because there's still fun to be had in playing.

Good luck planning a "TLLM lesson." Oxymoron of the day.

Edit 1:
Happy birthday, Josh!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

I may be left to fend for myself for a time, but June didn't leave me unprovided for. As she is wont to do before an overseas trip that doesn't include me, she left behind a little something to keep me occupied until she returns. Under the sheets this time, I discovered a hidden cache of assorted snacks, all neatly arranged so that no suspicious lumps stood out. Good thing I'm not the kind of person who jumps on the bed when no-one's looking, eh?

Such a colourful arrangement it was, too. I wanted to take a picture, but I had given June the digi-cam for her HK holiday snapshots, so I'm camera-less for the moment. The best I can do now is to list what the individual snacks are before they get devoured:
  • Chocolate sandwich biscuits x 1 roll
  • Pocky-like biscuit stix topped with chocolate and almond bits x 1 box
  • Kjeldsen's butter cookies x 1 soft pack
  • Lay's potato chips, salt and vinegar flavour x 1 bag
  • Caramel corn puffs x 1 bag
  • Snickers x 1 5-pack

While I wait for my wife to come home, I can rest secure knowing that I'm not gonna starve.

Monday, July 24, 2006

And just like that, June's packed her suitcase and left for her mother's.

The family has a 0600hrs flight to catch, bound for Hong Kong. Yup, family vacation time; and I'm the man o' the house again for a week! Oh, the possibilities...

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Caught "Dead Man's Chest," a sugar rush of wild, frenetic, high energy action from beginning to end. This second installment of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise is a fusion of the old sea myths of the Flying Dutchman, the Kracken, and the maritime euphemism of "going to Davy Jones' locker."

DMC seems fixated with the idea of balancing honour and integrity against selfish betrayal of friends, family and loved ones. Turner and son are deadset on doing the best they can to watch each other's backs, while pretty much everyone else has his or her own agenda to run. And while Elizabeth Swann realizes her heart's desire lies between her white knight in shining armour and her bad-boy pirate captain in heavy eye make-up, the boys seem intent on chasing this movie's featured treasure for reasons other than to get the girl.

Resolution? What resolution? DMC is, after all, part 2 of a trilogy. Like "Empire Strikes Back," DMC ends in a cliffhanger and a promise of more swashbuckling high-jinks on the high seas to come.

Oh, and a tip from NBS: there is a final scene at the end of the credit roll. Did you see it?