Saturday, July 11, 2009

Getting bigger

Went shopping for office pants. Waistband size increased by another inch. Sigh. Am now so close to Dad's size when he was my age.

Friday, July 10, 2009


Hmm... this is one experiment worth trying out on the kids to see if the results are reproducible.

Edit 01:
But seriously, folks... we got a mention in "Discover" hailing what we've done to Pulau Semakau as one of "9 of Humanity's Greatest Environmental Successes"! Not bad!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Language and old age

If ever there was an incentive to develop "superior" language skills at a young age! This study of nuns' brains suggests that a strong command of language in one's teens and 20s tends to ward off the symptoms of dementia and Alzheimers' disease in old age. Read it for yourself here.

Should wave this at my kids if they ever ask why we're such grammar nazis grading their scripts. But with my kind of memory... er, what was I saying...?

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Angry stomping people

Stomp (ST's purported "citizen journalism" site) fascinates me. Most of the so-called stories are little more than the tattletales of small-minded people ratting out on other people's petty misdemeanours in public -- with pictures. Yet it's a daily visit for me because the small-town gossip is just too compelling to pass up. It's almost a competition to see if the current story could possibly be any worse than the previous one.

There are few better examples of global village technology being used to perpetuate just the village. Everyone's minding everybody's else's business, airing everybody's dirty linen in public, expecting some authority or other to solve the problem for everyone. And then bemoaning how ineffectual the authorities are going about it. Tsk, tsk.

I'm not suggesting we should take the law into our own hands, enacting mob justice on every instance of loutish behaviour we encounter. I'm saying we should allow some flexibility in administering the written social rules rather than complain so loudly every time people are not slavishly adhering to them. It's quite vindictive, some of the entries, as if posted to spite someone else because the contributor isn't allowed to do the same thing.

Maybe it's all just in the eye of the beholder, 'cos on the rare occasions that I have used public transport (for example) I have yet to encounter any of that 'inconsiderate' behaviour that gets featured every day on Stomp ad nauseam. What I have encountered are clear pathways on escalators shared between walkers and non-walkers, or when there is a blockage, a polite "excuse me" more often than not has the effect of parting the Red Sea. In the trains, people are popping up and down like so many jacks-in-the-box offering their seats to people who vaguely look like they might appreciate the seat more. It's even a bit embarrassing how polite they try to be with the old and infirm, the pregnant and the child-laden.

If people eat and drink on the train, as long as they show some personal responsibility in clearing up after themselves, then there shouldn't be a problem. People are hungry, people are tired, but just because there are written rules doesn't mean we as fellow commuters cannot be more understanding and accommodating with each other.

I am now very cautious when taking the MRT. With all these camera-happy Stomp contributors around, I worry that one day my unflattering photo will appear on that infamous website with the complaint that some young whippersnapper should be giving his seat up to me instead of hogging it for himself and his $#%* ice-cream cone. I could never live that down.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Monday, July 06, 2009

Not a(nother) model essay on Technology

How do I spend my Youth Day day off? By preparing material for a lecture answering the following essay question:

"Technology never provides solutions – it only poses more problems." What is your view?

What follows is NOT a 'model answer'. It's more like a coherent collection of ideas that the candidates might have included in their essays, but pitched at the level of a well-written H1 paper.

Again, to me it's just an outline for a much larger paper, since I've left many claims unsubstantiated, but even then it's still a hefty 1800+ words long. For one thing, it's a very general question, and for another I'm trying to incorporate as much subject material as I've gathered from all the essays I've been grading, so I've got a lot of mileage to cover.

Next step is to condense it to about half its size, and in a form a 17 year-old would be reasonably expected to present it in.

If you insist on reading the original, click here. But don't say I didn't warn you!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Just one thing

Quote of the day: "School teachers are concerned about creating moral people. [But] We focus more on getting the students better grades in a short amount of time. That's why we are needed and popular," says super-tutor Woo Hyeong-cheol. Woo's annual paycheque comes up to US$4 mil.

There's a bold mission statement if I ever saw one. So devoid of fluff and other distractions, the sharpness of focus makes her organizational systems and processes crystal clear, minimizing wastage of resources, maximizing output and income.

We've been discussing campus branding in our recent meetings. Too many people want too many conflicting things for our students. The more we talk, the more things get added on. What we really need is to pare down everything into one core objective that everyone can agree on and work towards.

Do we want our students to have values, or leadership, or world-readiness? We don't have time to give them everything. According to Ms US$4-mil-a-year Woo, students want results above all. If our kids just want results, they can go look for her. But we are a Ministry approved college, so I suggest we pick just one item from our existing list and run with it.

I won't arbitrarily make my choice now. I want to ask my alumni for input 'cos you probably see things quite differently from the Staff and I've already got lots of their input already. My question: what positive experience do you remember best from your days in JC? If I can detect a common thread, that's probably the best indication of how our branding should go.