Saturday, September 30, 2006

When I left home at the age of 22 to study overseas, I left feeling I HAD to leave because I was neither wanted nor valued here. My academic achievments were worth less than nothing. At the age when my schoolmates were going to work with high expectations (it was the boom period of the late '80s), I was still the proud holder of only a rudimentary 'O' level cert, with the job prospects of a [insert whatever your mother lamented your fate would be when you got 97/100 marks here].

From the airport, I was determined to make a better life for myself out there. I had my ticket to ride and there was the possibility that, hey, maybe I would never have to come back again! Promises, promises.

I spent nearly 5 years living in a time zone exactly 12 hours apart from my point of origin, literally on the other side of the earth. And I'd be lying if I said I missed home. What was there to miss? Family? But I was independent, free, to go where I wanted, do what I liked, whenever I liked, buy whatever I wanted, with no one to answer to but myself. Food? I was surrounded by such a variety of food from all over the world, with way cooler places to eat it in too.

The grass in the park didn't induce itching, the weather didn't encourage sticky sweatiness (except in late summer), the people were friendlier and more used to seeing strangers than they are here. There were sports teams we could really root for and scream our lungs out for (go, Jays!!!), and when the Jays won 2 back-to-back championships in 92-93, I learned what pride really felt like. You get the idea. I never wanted it to end.

Today, I've been living back home for nearly 3 times the length of my stint overseas. Ironically, I've spent about half that time working with the social institution that caused me to leave in the first place: Education. Funny how life turns out.

Reflection prompted by today's ST article on the 'Singapore diaspora'.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Lost Olly today. Just like that, upped and left for the poly. Sigh. Well, good luck, m'boy and may you find better success where you're going!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Got an unexpected call from Will, saying he has finally compiled the footage of my last major performance with MU. That performance was 4 years ago already. How time flies.

This evening we dropped in on MU ostensibly to collect the DVD from Will, but also to sit in on our last rehearsal together, for the last show we'll be performing together. Though I say, "we," June and I will be in the audience this Saturday instead of being in the show itself.

It's the last show because we're closing shop end of this year. Our key members are committed to their work here locally (like me for example), while a couple of us are headed overseas to LA and Paris, and there's not enough critical mass left to keep the group together.

Still, as Tina sort of suggested, the company has fulfilled it's purpose, providing us with training and exposure and now, we're free to go independent and explore the world on our own. It's a GOOD parting.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Genting is bidding to install THIS as part of their plans for the IR on Sentosa?

It's about bloody time! Trash rationality and whatever bleeding-heart arguments about conserving the natural environment, moralistic pontification about the ills of casino gambling, yadda, yadda, yadda...! For my own personal pleasure and selfish desires -- barring any other offer for an even bigger, better, faster 'coaster park -- they've got my vote!

Who's with me on this one? Say, "Hulk, yeah!!!"

Sunday, September 24, 2006

We in the staff room have always been indignant of the staff appraisals we have to sit through every so often. We think of them as a "corporate American" idea that puts undue pressure on us and pits us in unhealthy competition against each other to attain the best personal ranking at the end of the year.

This potentially divisive but mandatory exercise in worst case scenarios could lead to backstabbing, theft of ideas and innovations from others, a disruption of trust amongst people who need to work together as a team, leading to a survival-of-the-fittest scramble for the top. Doesn't seem like a healthy environment to bring kids up in, does it?

But Stossel, in "Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity," is forcing me to have another look at competition and what it does for the consumer. John Stossel is a free-market advocate, and speaks out against government control policies in the US economy. Indeed, the amount of meddling that goes on there that he exposes makes them look like hypocrites when they criticize us for our state-planned economy.

OK, granted that if such a book were written here about our government, there'd be a general consensus to treat it with suspicion, disdain and contempt as we do with Mr Chee and his publications. But Stossel's critique of the US government has nothing to do with us, right?

Anyway, back to our topic of competition. Market forces, Stossel believes, are the answer to pretty much everything that's going wrong in his country. If the market is free to apply Adam Smith's "invisible hand" the US would get the best solutions to poverty, hunger, gender equality, human rights, healthcare, and, yes, education as well. But instead, government controls and regulation kill competition and makes these problems worse than ever.

Competition is good because it forces people to improve and innovate, in order to provide goods and services to consumers at either better prices or some other value-added incentive. The consumer will always benefit because of the choices there are available on the market. Those who aren't chosen go out of business (tough) but the consumer benefits from getting the best value for money every time. In this economic model, if we put the consumer first, then everything supposedly will fall into place.

What if we applied this theory to our own education system as well? How much better would I perform, knowing that if I failed to deliver the goods I'd be immediately replaced by a young tyke eager to earn his stripes? How much more would I be motivated to innovate, to prepare my lessons better, to be more well-read and knowledgeable, to make my lessons more fun and engaging, if I knew the students could choose between boring ol' me or some other less socially inept teacher instead?

Frankly, I'm afraid to know the answer. But it does put the appraisal into another perspective.

Wonder if this idea would apply if we made things more competitive for the students too? Would they be falling over themselves to be more diligent and turn in better work on time? Ok, let's not get carried away.
For goodness sake, people, stop abandoning your pets! Driving towards Yishun dam we saw a small shape crawling across the road. It was a tortise and it looked lost and disorientated. Cars and huge trucks occasionally whizz by along that stretch and it was a prime candidate for road-kill if we didn't do something.

Fortunately, it wasn't a busy road (which is why people tend to speed here), so I pulled over to the road shoulder. June performed the rescue, plucking the tortise off the asphalt. She said that it was trapped between the kerbs on both sides of the road and could never have climbed to safety without assistance.

But what to do with it? To release it back on either side of Yishun dam would be counter-productive. Too full of people, too many cars and trucks, and water so deep it could drown. So we drove him deeper towards Seletar Camp where there is a little water feature that extends out of the golf course there. There's tall grass, shallow water, water-lillies and tiny fish swimming around, and there we left it.

Hopefully, no one will disturb it there.

Actually, what we did wasn't much better than what its original owners did. It's still very cruel to abandon a pet into the wild. There are too many unknown factors to know what the impact of a new organism will be on an existing ecosystem. The risk of damage or destruction to either one is very high. We tried to salvage what was a certain fatality, and under the circumstances that was the best solution we could think of.

Don't make us have to make decisions like that again. If you're thinking of abandoning your pet for whatever reason, stop it! Bad human! Go to your corner! Don't make me go over there...!