Thursday, October 22, 2009

GP has a gender -- she's female

I am going to start thinking about GP essay questions as if they had been asked by women. I hear tell when women ask questions, they aren't looking for answers. Neither are they looking for solutions. Try give a woman a solution and at best it's irrelevant, at worst it's just wrong. Then she'll cry and become completely incomprehensible. Where and how the 'F' grade came about, we'll never know after that.

No. If a woman asks a question, it's because there's something on her mind that she wants to discuss. She may not be entirely clear what it is exactly, but that's why she needs someone to talk to while she she sorts out her own mind about it. Most importantly, she just wants to be heard, preferably understood and above all, respected for her position on the issue.

When attempting GP essays, the kids tend to behave like a man dealing with a woman's question. Get to the point, solve the problem, bada boom, bada bing, pass the beer, we're outta here. Handle a woman like that and it's the couch for you tonight, buddy. You'll be lucky to have a blanket keep you company while you shiver in the dark.

A GP essay is not an answer, and it definitely is not a solution. It is the question itself -- expanded through the gentle teasing out and exploration of its inherent nuances and issues, insecurities and complexities as it ponders the validity of its own biases.

The essay therefore behaves more like the listening ear of a sympathetic confidante than Mr Fixit with a Stanley toolbelt. There's a lot of "do you mean...?", "I recognise...", "I identify with...", "I understand where you're coming from because...", but of course in less informal conversational language. She wants to know your position on the issue, though she is not threatened if you have an opposing opinion from her's (she's a woman -- your opinions, however interesting, are still wrong) but in the grand scheme of things, all she wants is to have her views aired, discussed, evaluated in a non-judgemental way and, as the really wise man already knows, the conclusion is hers to make though he may have gently led her there through the discussion.

Like a question from GP, when a woman asks a question, it's an invitation to a conversation, so engage her, even indulge her, at the intellectual level. Do not offer her a screw from the Fixit toolbelt as is our usual knee-jerk reaction... though she could be more receptive later, when she's in a better mood.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


I have suddenly, inexplicably and literally lost my voice. Woke up yesterday with a bad throat, but thought it would subside as the day went on. Didn't happen. Thought I would sleep it off last night. Didn't happen either.

Fortunately, the medical prognosis seems optimistic. My meds are just a throat spray (minty!) and a course of antibiotics for the inflammation. The bigger worry is how to resume consulting kids without aggravating my current condition?

Well, let's see if one more night's sleep will do the trick.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

KOREF, Day 2

A bit late for sunrise, but Jojo leads us in a session of sun salutations to greet the new day.

Since we're on an organic rice farm every meal is based around, you guessed it, organic brown rice. We're looking at brown nasi lemak for brekkie which was quite good especially with the sweet but totally non-lethal Level 1/2 sambal chilli. Fresh food is always nice, but I still have yet to acquire a taste for brown rice, unfortunately.

Modern rice farming techniques have dispensed with little old ladies beating the heck out of rice sheaves to extract rice grains. Here we have a threshing machine operated by a guy sitting on top (not shown in pix) while the de-husked rice grains fill the sack below.

Secret of eco farming: many of the farmhands are short-term international volunteers who basically work for board and lodging, having eschewed the decadence of modern living, and who are in their own way doing their bit to advance the cause of responsible, eco-friendly food production methods.

After a briefing on how to operate a sickle, we're sent off to the fields to harvest rice. It would probably have been back-breaking work if we had put our heart and soul into it, but we were mugging for the camera most of the time while enjoying the mud spa that we'd been sunk to our knees in. That was one muddy field. Heh, typical tourists.

Bonus: a chance to observe a sweet potato harvest as well. These were also organically grown and there were some whoppers that got dug up -- bigger than anything I've ever seen at our local markets. The champ was a monster that tipped the scale at 13kg.

Our last stop before arriving back home was a Malaccan dessert place in Kluang. We hadn't had anything this ice-cold for the last couple of days and this was a seriously welcome treat. The cendol was sticky, molasses-sweet, not overpowering with the lemak (coconut milk) flavour and most importantly, refreshing. Next stop: home.

Great little weekend getaway, though city-boy that I am, I doubt I could stay sane there for too long, starved of electronic entertainment. Nevertheless, it was fun to be out in the sunshine and physically interact with the environment: touching things, getting dirty, entertaining the possibility of encountering some unfamiliar, potentially dangerous critter residing in the murky, muddy depths... but nothing like that did actually show up.

Must thank Jojo for organizing this little trip. The company may not have been familiar, but proved to be quite comfortable and entertaining in their own way, anyway.

Lots more pix: click here.