Saturday, October 17, 2009

KOREF, Day 1

This is the party that finally made it to KOREF (Kahang Organic Rice Eco Farm). We've got reps from across the depts: English, Chinese, PE, Bio, Chem. Definitely not the usual suspects.

First thing after lunch was a river trek. Initially, I thought we would be walking ALONG the river, not IN it. Here, the main party gets stuck in shin-deep mud. Our party is following immediately behind them.

We get separated from the main body as June lost one of her Crocs in the mud. After much blind digging around, churning up handfuls of clay and rocks I finally grab a rubbery substance and pull it to the surface. June is relieved to have a reunification. Jojo and Derek remained behind with us to help search, and eventually the four of us caught up with the main body at the end of the trail.

The river trek (which is best negotiated sans footwear because of the clingy mud) is hell on bare feet with lots of unseen pokey bits, slippery surfaces and lots of opportunities for toe stubbing. Expect extreme exfoliation and slight bruising of the feet from the experience. But OMG, the walk was tres fun not in spite of the danger but BECAUSE of it. We were really on our own to test our footing and help each other along with verbal warnings and outstretched hands for mutual support and balance. Quite the bonding session for us two couples. Oh, this here is the end point, the estuary where we eventually rendezvoused with the main body. Everyone was happily splashing around and having a cool, soaking wet ball of a time.

Back on the farm, we braved the ropes confidence course strung up over the recreational pond. Lots of challenges that tested our balance or face the consequences of landing in the drink. Overhead, storm clouds were brewing...

Inexplicably, the storm that was threatening to wash out our afternoon only resulted in this gorgeous rainbow that stretched across the sky.

The rec pond was great for messing about in boats -- and bamboo rafts.

This was supposed to be our BBQ campfire. But we knew only so many war songs and tribal dances that hitting the sack early was our next best option. We chose #2.

Lots more pix: click here.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Premature graduation

Said our official goodbyes to our 08' JC2s in a little ceremony that comprised mostly nostalgic yet inspirational speeches and well wishes for the future. The latter included a collection of largely self-deprecating video postcards created by the various IP departments just to send the kids off with a smile and a wave.

In truth, I will miss my earnest 06, my giggly 23 and my bewildered 17. We still have a few more weeks to go before the finals, so I don't really have to let go of you yet. Daily consultation slots will remain open as long as you want them.

Must thank 06 for the hand-crafted book of personal well-wishes for me. I enjoyed reading all your positive reinforcement and was amazed by the effort you put into the presentation.

Meantime, I'm heading out-of-town north over the long weekend. Time to reconnect with the wilderness; to commune with nature; to slow down our pace of life -- far from the maddening crowd. Where I'm going, there's not likely to be broadband so I doubt I'll be updating for a couple of days. Hopefully, when I return here I'll have some colourful pix to brighten up all this drab text. Cya!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Not a level field

Study all you want. Ace the 'A's and aim for a place at the U. But apart from attaining a glowing transcript, there's still one little hurdle to conquer -- the university interview. Here's where we separate the merely studious from the true survivors of the kind of cranial gymnastics a good university education should encompass.

The latter are the ones who appreciate that curriculum content amounts to a sum total of zero at this level of study and hence do not rely on it exclusively to get by. The true survivor knows that context is everything. Context gives content meaning and application. Context stretches content and makes connections with other content regardless of subject area. Muggers, therefore, focused as they are on learning by the book don't usually have a very good time at the U. There are simply too many books to learn in the library.

We've heard that at the university interview, we get asked strange questions that don't seem to relate to the subject of the course we are applying for. That's because grades alone are insufficient to assess the capabilities of applicants. Two candidates with exactly the same top grades competing for a place at the U are not necessarily playing on a level field. The one who is able to process and contextualise content will always have the advantage over the one who can merely retrieve it.

Oxbridge has released some of these odd interview questions and some successful candidates' responses to them. Don't bother learning the answers 'cos I'm sure the questions won't always be the same. Just get your nose out of your book and open your eyes to the world.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Swift action

When Gov Schwarzenegger says he will take 'swift action' on an issue, he doesn't kid around. When pix of his Missus caught in the act of driving while chatting on her cell phone (made illegal in California by his own personal autograph) surfaced on a celeb gossip site, that's what he promised. On the exact same day, the Gov made good on his promise. Rest assured, with his fine solution, that transgression will NEVER happen again.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The last 100m

Education is one of the last industries that follows a seasonal schedule. Today, I've delivered my last lecture for the year. As the kids are preparing for their finals, our attention goes towards personal and small group consultations. Time to focus on specific kids targeting their specific problems in the subject and helping them deal with it. I'm busier than ever now that I have to entertain individual students, but this really is the best kind of teaching; directed, focused, customized... and appreciated.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Clear and conspicuous

Not sure what hold the US FTC has over our MDA, but it seems we S'porean bloggers likewise will have to come clean and "make clear and conspicuous disclosures" of any rewards we might have received for endorsing products or services in our blogs.

Not sure which consumers make their purchasing decisions based on a single blogger's opinion of a consumable item, but we do have a civic and moral duty to protect the uncritical buyer from biased reviews.

So I'll pre-empt the imminent legislation and hereby clearly and conspicuously disclose that I have not received any rewards whatsoever from any producer or distributor of any of the consumables I have reviewed to date. In fact, keeping this blog has yielded neither financial nor in-kind benefits of any sort for me, but instead is sending me to the poor-house for buying with my own money a whole bunch of stuff to review just for the heck of it.

If not for my predilection towards hearing the sound of my own waffle, and for the grand total of roughly three (3) daily readers who have sustained me over five (5) years of postings, I'd say blogging is as un-rewarding an activity as it gets, contrary to what the FTC-MDA collective might think.

Loss leader

Where in this economy of rising prices can we find any product or service the price of which has reduced? Believe it or not, my usual $4.80 haircut cost me $2.80 when I went for my quarterly shearing yesterday. Where the place? Snip Avenue, 418 Yishun.

Service was brusque but that's the way I like it. I was there for a haircut, not chit-chat. I got what I asked for, and for what I paid that was more than satisfactory.

Chances are, they're using this pricing model as a loss leader. It'll entice clients who want more than just a haircut and from there they'll start the real commercial negotiations. But they're happy to take in cheapos like me too because at least I represent a bum on a seat in between the real customers. Win already!