Saturday, February 02, 2008

The militants responsible for blowing up the pet market in Baghdad have finally made a statement about how far removed they are from the rest of normal human society. The weapon: bomb vests strapped on mentally disabled women (though I don't know how the militants mentally disabled the women... probably through endless repetition of boring militant rhetoric). The detonator: a cell phone. The target: pets -- kitties, doggies, monkeys (actually, these shouldn't be kept as pets), birds, and the kids who throng the market every week looking for an animal they can shower their budding affection on. And the regular joes, shmoes, and janes taking their families out on a weekend jaunt, the usual IED fodder.

Don't know what's up with them militants. It's fine if they blow themselves up 'cos there'll be less of them in the world, but they aren't even doing that now. They're detonating bombs by remote control showing that cynical as they are about life, they do feel that there is at least one life worth saving: their own.

If we look through their eyes, this is what we'll probably see: Women have attractive qualities so they make good bait to draw as many as possible into the kill zone. The mentally disabled are of no use to anyone and are probably carrying the curse of the Almighty anyway, so no loss there, and no backchat either. The cell phone to them is not a device for getting to know people but to communicate their miscreant tendencies instead. The poor shlubs who got blown up , well, the more the merrier, and the stronger the statement that nobody matters in this petty vendetta of theirs. And the animals? People seem to care more for the four-legged beasties that serve neither as labour nor food than for the militants themselves and their pitiful cause, so they deserve to get blown up too.

That's it, then. There's no one left that they would want to share this world with. So why don't we just offer them a nice asteroid for them to inhabit and leave the rest of us alone? A couple of hundred smelly bearded guys squatting on an arid rock floating through the cosmos. After all, if and when they achieve their desired objective, that's still going to be the net result.

Friday, February 01, 2008

It was kinda' fun to self-diagnose my own inner-demons, though the game initially was to source interesting reading material for KI from Psychology Today. I like the articles 'cos they are easy to read, without all the technical gobbledegook that professional shrinks use to euphemise "I haven't the foggiest idea what's wrong with you. Solve your own problems. That'll be $150 for this afternoon's session, thank you!"

The topics make for highly compelling reading: advice on confidence-building, an in-depth look at introversion as a personality trait, how to get over a break-up, taking apart "champions of lost causes" to see what makes them tick (tick, tick, tick, boom!). I could picture myself lounging on a comfy couch as the Doctor probed the deepest, darkest recesses of the cesspit I call my mind with the most impertinent of questions.

Fortunately, my indulgence in an afternoon's worth of pop psychology didn't cost me a cent. I grabbed the couple of issues lying around in the college's library stacks for a free consultation.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

For a moment this afternoon, I really wanted to shut down my brain. It was textual overload after a whole day of processing text from a variety of sources: admin forms, news, lecture notes, play script, meeting notes, routine schedules, email.

It was the compulsion that was scary, like being addicted to the stuff: ploughing through one thing, then putting it away and instantly, instinctively, reaching for another. Even when I was trying to rest, I'd naturally gravitate to the library looking for something new to read, or trawl the 'net for news and trivia. My whole world today comprised nothing but text, and nothing but text could fill my world. Seems as if I was trying to occupy my mind though there was nothing there but noise, yet too afraid of the resulting silence if I stopped. Weird.

Let's not do that again. ok?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Teachers are great students, contrary to popular belief. The Civil Defence people came over to teach us staff how to save lives in an emergency, but I also got to see how fantastic lessons are conducted as well.

We ran three modules in one afternoon: fire fighting, CPR and first-aid. They could have been dreadfully dull as they involved us learning procedures for dealing with various types of emergencies, but we had a ball of a time instead.

Some things the trainers did right:
(1) Invoked self-interest -- we saved our lives and those of our friends too
(2) Liberally used self-deprecating humour -- they didn't take themselves or their content too seriously
(3) Delivered only core ideas -- just enough theory for background understanding but not to confuse or bore us
(4) Lots of stories -- we could vividly visualize the situations we had to respond to
(5a) A variety of media -- text and visual...
(5b) A variety of practical activities -- contextual and tactile
(6) Highly participatory, spontaneous presenter-audience interaction -- non-threatening environment giving free-rein to questions and responses from both parties

But most of the enjoyment from this afternoon's session was due to (6). We staff may have been bored and tired, but we were fully participating in the lessons anyway. We asked as many questions as the trainers asked us, we answered questions voluntarily even if we didn't know if our answers were right (we didn't take it personally if we were wrong, sorry B-lo), we threw observations, comments and questions as they occurred to us even if it meant interrupting the presentation. We took every opportunity to engage, sometimes even make the trainer eat his words (like making him confess that Chapter 1 in the Training Manual had some outdated information).

We had a great time, 'cos we wanted to learn, and more importantly, we wanted to play and have fun with the trainers and their programme. That, I think, is already half the battle in creating a lively, constructive learning environment -- the learners themselves having a good reason (whatever it is) for attending class.

Ha! Everything I learned about teaching, I learned from a firefighter.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Kids are left to roam the streets unsupervised during the afternoon hours and dogs have to live in pet hotels costing a monthly bomb of a bill. Sumiko continues acting wistful, pining away for a family with kids of her own to assuage her boring single life. When we connect the dots in today's ST, we're looking at a picture of a people who are lonely even in the midst of company. Is that what life in S'pore is like these days?

While I have little affinity for kids, it does perturb me that of the kids surveyed there were so many left to fend for themselves while the adults were out at work. That they were gormless enough to receive a stranger's advances suggests that they are quite lonely for an adult's attention, especially if the adult treats them as equals and not talk down to them. Kids like being helpful, particularly if it seems to them as if they posess some knowledge the adult does not, like how to get to the MRT station for example. And with all the questions the reporter asked, the kids are quite happy to spill the beans on their personal lives. Who else is there to talk to? Who else has shown them such interest in a while?

On the other end of the spectrum, some people are spending a lot of money making sure their dogs are well taken care of. They can't help it. Our society isn't open enough to tolerate the idea of peaceful mutual coexistence between the species. So by legislation or public censure, we separate companions from each other, and make them pay a hefty penalty if they wish to continue the relationship. I shudder to think what happens to those who can't afford to make such payment, and I'm reasonably sure there are lots more who fall into the latter category than the first.

Even the free-wheeling single, living an independent life, accountable to no one, unencumbered by family responsibilities goes all misty-eyed longing to exchange all that for domestic bliss and its attendant shackles and chains and the promise of a lifetime of hard labour that follows. At least she won't have so much time on her hands that she's "bored out of her mind" over the weekend.

Isn't that the problem? We only want a family on the weekend to keep us occupied and busy. Family isn't so important on weekdays because we already have our hands full with our occupations and businesses. It's fine to let the kids roam the playgrounds on weekdays, we'll make it up to them on the weekends when we pack them off to tuition and ballet class and check on their homework when they come home at night. Oh, by the way, remember to drop in on Fido at the pet hotel on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We have to hug him and let him know we love him, or he'll have separation anxiety, you know?

Geez. Even I think there's something wrong there.