Saturday, August 01, 2009


For a pain in the neck that just wouldn't go away all week, June made an appointment for me at Body Contours where she has a package. She signed me up for a 2 hour rub-down, concentrating on the neck and shoulders. Despite my protestations all week that I was actually all-right, I really needed the kneading -- even being kneed in the back during the treatment felt good.

I didn't quite catch the name of my massuese, but she had skillful hands, finding the right spots to put just enough pressure on without the hurt. It wasn't just hands on tissue, though. At times she went full weight with practically bone on bone contact... the point of her elbow rattling my ribcage, then turning the bones of her forearms into levers that hauled my neck into attitudes I'd never dare reach on my own. That went quite a ways towards making my spine happy again.

For an extra $28, she let me try out a ginseng-jojoba-sunflower oil which was supposed to improve blood circulation, do good things for the skin and some other unintelligible stuff. Conversation wasn't exactly scintillating, but that's just me. After marinading me thoroughly with the mixture, she sent me off to the steam room to double-boil for 15-20 minutes, and behold: Korean ginseng chicken soup, best served during the cold winter season. It was all I could do to refrain from taking a bite out of my own wing to see if I tasted as good as I smelled.

Though my neck was feeling better after the treatment, it's starting to hurt again. The problem must be more deeply-rooted than I thought. Darn pain in the neck... ow*

Friday, July 31, 2009

Meet the parents

Met worried parents to discuss their kids' mid-year results. Good to hear that apart from me, my colleagues from the other subjects were giving the same diagnosis: kids are working hard, and studying hard, but they are not using their content knowledge in the most effective manner. Question analysis is damnedly important, but it's a step they ignore in favour of just spilling their guts at the sight of a familiar question topic.

Sometimes, as in the case of GP, the more they study the worse the result. That's not to say study is not required, but breadth is more what we're looking for -- a little knowledge about many things -- rather than depth, that's what the other subjects are for. Too much depth knowledge and kids try to impress us with everything they've got... and forget that there's a question to answer.

It's like being on a battlefield. The less the ammo, the more care taken to make every shot count (I think Arby came up with this one). The trick here isn't to cut down content knowledge because that is the ammo. Rather, the kids have to be convinced that what they know is never anywhere close to a lot. Then they'll be a bit more circumspect in choosing the appropriate round to hit the right target. I hear Socrates turning in his grave already.

I wonder if it's an Asian thing, this memorize your way into the civil service study strategy? But parents today still think this kind of education is what will bring their kids eventual success. It seemed like news to them when we recommended a more inquiring, evaluative study approach over wholesale absorbtion. They got it when we explained it to them, hope their kids did too.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Alone in the dark

After the lecture, it's the duty of the lecturer to ensure that all electrical devices are powered down. That means being the last one out of the lecture theatre, sometimes in near pitch dark and aiming for a little square of sunlight in the distance that marks the exit.

I realise I'm no longer afraid of bumping into... metaphysical things in the dark. What I'm more afraid of is bumping into unseen physical objects that could cause unnecessary barking of the shin, or worse. Fortunately today, I made it to the door unscathed.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

All the places between school and your bedroom

A quick preview of the visual treat I have in store for the kids tomorrow: Home, by Yann Arthus-Bertrand. Talk about shifting the camera to an overhead view, global scope! Lots of GP essays we could generate from this "Home" movie!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Grow big and strong

Best news I've heard all day is that milk and dairy products are indeed good for health. I survived TO by drinking lots of milk daily. Morning I had it with cereal, and through the rest of the day I kept myself hydrated with milk instead of water. These days, I don't drink so much milk any more, but on the odd occasion (like last week) when my teeth hurt, I head straight for the supermarket for a carton of milk and treat them old chompers to a fresh, new coat of calcium. It's a time-tested remedy.

All this might sound counter-intuitive to all you cholesterol-sensitive, lactose intolerant folk... but really, Milk. It does a body good.

This space paid for by the National Dairy Board. Not.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Report on Somali piracy

It's that time of year when the Year 1 kids are struggling with their Project reports. I'm not involved this year, but there's a good chance I will be next year. In preparation for that eventuality, I'll place a link in today's entry to a superb article in Wired that could serve as an example of a project that looks fun to research and present.

"Cutthroat Capitalism" is a report on piracy on the high seas, off the Somali coast. That's as current an issue as anything today. It's sensational, it's exciting and as it turns out, somewhat blown out of proportion. That's something this article attempts to do: cut through the media hype and show what exactly is going on there, through impartial interviews with both victims and pirates alike.

The report is also intriguingly multidisciplinary in the way it ties in current affairs with economics and mathematics, presenting a critical thinking approach from these different perspectives. There's even a little sociological glimpse at the heierarchical and organizational structure of the pirates, proving a method to their apparent madness (I ask you, a couple of speedboats attacking a tanker: sounds sane to you?).

Obviously, this report is by a professional outfit with probably lots of resources at its disposal, but it's the approach and the presentation quality, the flow of information and the strong sense of purpose throughout that I'd like my next year's kids to learn from.

Anyway, even for its own sake the report is fun to read, and the new insights it offers about the pirate situation is quite an eye opener, through a perspective we don't usually get from the local newspapers.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sign of confusion

Oh, dear. You can't even trust the cops, these days.
(TCM shop, Yishun)

The cat menace

With reference to "Trapping and dumping strays and pets unbecoming in gracious Singapore " by Jeanne Nicole Chan (Ms):

You poor, misguided woman,
You assume that Singapore is "gracious" but that will never be so, as long as the stray cat menace that terrorises our neighbourhoods has not yet been put down. Rest assured, however, that the Great Leader of the Most Sterile Anti-Feline Movement, Der Fuhrer Tony Tan Tuan Khoon, is slowly but surely gathering the faithful and soon we will eradicate this threat once and for all.

Our Leader's plans for the Final Solution to the cat infestation will bring forth a glorious cat Holocaust from which this scourge to our society will never recover. On that day, and only then, will our nation finally achieve its true epoch, and we will see graciousness in all its abundance bless this land.

We believe this is what you and all Singaporeans are hoping for. Why not, instead of sitting back and bemoaning our society's lack of graciousness, join us in the active trapping and culling of stray cats and do your part in bringing back the graciousness you are so lamenting for? Together we can look forward to that Great Day, though our victory will be all the more sweet if, likewise, we toil as comrades together.

As long as we can keep the CO generators running, our Day will surely come. Have no fear, woman, cats will one day be just a vague memory, spoken of only to frighten little children who will not otherwise behave themselves.

Yours sincerely
Under-minion to Der Fuhrer, Der Fuhrer's Office