Saturday, July 26, 2008

Going once, twice... sold!

Oh-tee-pee signed this morning. Barring any unforseen complications, our house is going to a nice FT family. The agreed price is reasonable for our location and considering the market as it is, we are very happy. Made a much smaller loss than expected, 4-figures instead of the five we were anticipating when we began this mad adventure of ours.

Then this news hits the morning papers: "Yishun to get exciting new facilities in facelift". FT family looks like they've got a good deal too. How's that for win-win?

Friday, July 25, 2008

How blue is my S'porean?

We don't even have 50 years of history as a nation, but we already seem to have developed a sharply defined distinction between whom we consider to be true-blue S'poreans and who are "foreign talents" (FTs). We've got people quibbling over losing jobs to FTs, rights to purchase public housing, attend public schools, and now the right to represent the nation in sports.

A true S'porean is someone who was born in the S'pore, and has... um... well, apart from the guys having to serve NS, there isn't really much else. Just how many people in the world can qualify by this drinking-straw narrow definition to be S'porean, then? A couple of million, maybe, out of six billion? We have no history, no land mass, and no critical mass to even make up a decent self-replenishing population, and we still have the temerity to demand an exclusive membership in this little country-club of ours. Right.

When are people going to realize that erecting fences around ourselves is more likely going to keep us in, all nicely penned up suffocating in our own dung, rather than keep other people out? No one would come here willingly anyway, unless we gave them a reason. We ourselves were once cast-offs hailing from other lands, though now having made good, we have excised from our memories the bad old days. This nation grew on the backs of lost souls seeking a better life. When the Brits put out the call that anyone with adventure in their hearts and nothing else in their pockets and stomachs could try their luck here or bust, we were the first to line up at Immigration. Nothing has changed since then, except that we're now starting to get uppity, looking down our noses at our newly-arrived FTs and exclaiming, "there goes the neighbourhood!"

It makes no sense to deny FTs housing and education. How else are they going to assimilate into our community and become S'porean? If they can live door to door with us, struggle through public education with us, they will BE us. Otherwise we segregate them, put their kids in private schools and make them live in separate housing, and then they'll either feel discriminated against, or possibly even superior to us. Neither reaction is going to engender any strong affinity for us and make them want to put their roots down should the choice ever come up for them.

And if they can help us set new standards in sporting and other achievement willingly under our colours, then they represent the best and brightest our nation has to offer. Hiding them under a bushel is simply a pure waste of available talent.

Like it or not, we are an immigrant nation. Our open door through which people freely come and go is an integral part of our success. Close it and we kill the goose that lays our golden eggs.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

"I don't know!"

Kids are looking lost and panicky over their second common test paper. Essay exams drive them nuts because their instant response is to assume they know nothing about the topics the questions cover. But that's exactly the point of essay exams, particularly for GP. There is no other reason to take GP than to train in crafting out a rational answer to any question to which our initial response is, "how the ^%#$ should I know??"

GP is humbling that way. Every essay begins with zero knowledge. Unlike the other academic subjects the kids are taking in the JC, it is the question that is more important than the answer. A GP essay is little more than the breaking apart of the question and examining or exploring the intricacies of each little component and then reassembling it all back within the context provided by the question. This is excellent preparation for the Uni at which every question in any subject they will encounter will be structured more or less like this.

It helps to have lots of background knowledge of the subject. The more knowledge we have the more facets we can appreciate of the question, but having comprehensive knowledge is not mandatory. There's only so many bits we can play with in the 800 word limit.

The less the knowledge, the higher the fudge factor. It's best to keep the knowledge up, of course, but it's sufficient to strike a balance between the two. That's the real skill, and that's how most questions get answered in the real world, anyway.

The best questions are those that answer themselves. A good GP student will be able to identify such questions and let it take the lead in coming to an answer.

The higher up the education ladder we climb, the less we know, we realize. But that's great! "I haven't a clue" is the best way to begin answering a question. In fact, it's the only way.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Let the bidding begin!

We finally got an offer for this old house. Just as we were starting to develop an inferiority complex, we received at least an indication that someone was looking at us with more than just a passing interest. There were a couple of other interested parties who raised an eyebrow at us earlier, but took to their heels the instant they noticed some inexplicable feng shui problem they could not reconcile. We've never had a problem living here, but beliefs are beliefs, so whatever.

The offer is no great shakes, nowhere near the king's ransom we were hoping for. But it's a start. We know now how the market values our piece of humble real estate in actual dollars and cents and we're prepared to be realistic ourselves.

And now we wait while they mull over our counter-offer. Make us happy, please.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

From the horse's mouth

Spent the last couple of days taking lessons on critical thinking from John B, the man, himself. His technique is simple: layer in a little theory, throw us a bone to maul together in small groups, review the carnage, peppering it with bits of additional techniques, cautions, and other interesting little nuggets as the situation warrants. His lessons are easy-going, free-flowing chat sessions that really made us feel like we were actually learning something... not foreign or alien from ourselves but something we had in ourselves already but hadn't properly awakened yet.

Every discussion was a test, but we weren't testing each other. Rather, we were putting ideas to the test as we took them apart and looked at whether they worked or not, how they worked if they did and where they failed when they didn't. Nothing was personal. I messed up my evaluations a few times, but hey, no pressure; it's all just part of the learning curve, anyway. I never once felt I'd got things so wrong that I was too intimidated to say whatever came to mind the next time something did come to mind.

Good food (yesterday, Ragazzi; today, Colbar) and pleasant company for lunch added additional motivation to a couple of days well spent.