Saturday, January 02, 2010


It's good to know there are upcoming changes to the teaching and testing of Chinese to cater to students who have difficulty in the language because an increasing number of them are growing up in English-speaking backgrounds. I presume some of the changes might include a more bilingual approach such that the use of English will be used in Chinese class to facilitate better communication and foster understanding (i.e., comprehension) between teachers and learners.

In the past, the most frustrating thing was being restricted to only use Chinese in class, and how could I answer the teacher's questions if I didn't understand the question? How could I ask if I couldn't formulate the question? How could I read if I didn't have a Rosetta Stone to translate from? It was a downward spiral of "negative talk" and punishment that drove our mutual antipathy in the bad old days.

Today, though, I no longer feel so negatively towards Chinese. I believe I've picked up more of that language through informal means than I ever did than in the ten years I spent in the classroom. It's still embarrassingly pathetic, but I can get by and better with more practice.

But this entry isn't about me, for whom it's all too little too late. It's about the kids studying GP with me. Against the grain, many of them have grown up in predominantly Chinese or dialect-speaking backgrounds. Though their experience in my class is probably not as dire as mine were in my day, English is tough on them especially at the level we expect them to use it. Grammar can be confusing, vocabulary is immense, spelling isn't always 'like it sounds'. Not to mention that we want them to think, reason and logicize in a language that isn't their first choice of communication.

If we're trending towards accommodating English-speaking kids in Chinese class, maybe it's also time to slaughter GP's sacred cow of "only English to be spoken in class" for our more Eastern-rooted kids. A little compromise for the sake of clarity and keeping everyone on the same page would help a lot more than enforcing a dogma that does little to encourage the kids to use the language more.

* Heh. Looks like a Korean word, doesn't it?

Friday, January 01, 2010

First dinner of the decade

New Year's day, 2010. It's been completely dedicated towards preparing this family feast celebrated with the in-laws. This was one occasion for the turkey and pumpkins we were so desperately hunting for last night, but failed to find. The turkey being carved up on the far left was the one we bought for this occasion weeks ago. But because a couple of unconfirmed invitations suddenly became confirmed, our turkey supply of one became inadequate.

As you can see from the orange shade of the soup, we found our butternut pumpkins after all. The further you go looking for something, the greater the chance you're going to find it in your own backyard. These we found this morning at the market where our old place was. Saved!

June took on the lion's share of getting this meal ready. From boiling up the soup to roasting the turkey to prepping the salsa for the tortillas, to chopping up the salad, she was multitasking in the kitchen like you wouldn't believe. Me? I'm just there for basic fetching and carrying, and other assorted grunt work. Which suits me just fine. I'm quite brainless at the culinary arts. :P

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Unnecessary ventilation

So much for the lovely 'marshmallow' sofa, as B-lo called it. Now officially the cats' scratching post, the damage has gone beyond tolerance. This part of the sofa is Maui territory.

Welcome to Kaiser-ville. Rhumba trembles in his dock (background).
The cats will have to enjoy their little nests while they last. After more than a year's gritting of teeth, we finally shelled out for a replacement sofa. A cheap fabric one. From Seahorse.

Cats. Can't have nice things in the house if you must live with them.

Edit 01:
We're a bit short of turkey and pumpkin this festive season. In desperation, we went to Mustafa Centre after dinner to see if there were any left there. In Little India we braved traffic, walking crowds, and very nearly got broadsided by a mad speeding taxi, but still came away bereft of our quest items. What turkeys were available were too small for their price, according to June, and what pumpkins they had were not of the butternut variety. But we did load up on biryani spices, rice and baking supplies -- stuff that wasn't on our shopping list. Such is the nature of shopping at Mustafa's.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The mountains shall crumble

Nothing like going back to the office and cleaning out the ol' desk for the new year. It was a two day job, but progress has been quite satisfactory.

Stuff I've been accumulating since c. aught-four(!) has been stratifying and petrifying into an entire mountain range spanning the whole of my work surface. It's been so bad that when I really need some space I've had to squat at other people's desks if they've been left temporarily vacant (you have to time it right with their timetables). Or flee into the library -- but that's not always possible 'cos kids are always hangin' about out there. Blech.

My great levelling project has seriously undermined the foundations of the once-mighty geological feature on my desk. I admit, it's not completely flatland yet. It still looks like a diorama of natural features that William could use to teach his Geography classes with, but the view just isn't as impressive as it once was.

It feels so good to have reclaimed some territory for myself. And if the ants want to go skiing next winter, they can go to Aspen. I don't care. Send me a postcard.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A little cash back

So what happened to the old LG 1710 that was sitting all mopey in the corner of the study, having been replaced by the new 2250?

I've been looking around for places that recycle or accept donations of old computer peripherals -- but not many organizations around here do this sort of thing. There's the Salvation Army drop box, but because the 1710 is a sensitive and functioning electrical appliance I didn't want to just drop it off and not know if it'll be mistaken for junk and trashed after all. Same with other charitable organizations because there's no proper facility for handing over such donations.

Thankfully, I discovered Ca$h Converters. The person I spoke to on the phone insisted I speak in Mandarin, which involved a lot of hard thinking to make the necessary translations between us. The best I came up with was, "ni2 you3 mei2 you3 mai4 [wrong intonation!] dian4 nao3 de4 dian4 si4 ji1", at which he said "oh... mo-ni-tor, ah?" It turns out they don't accept ancient CRT monitors, but LCD ones are ok.

After the formal assessment (conducted in English) at the premises, my four-year-old 17" LCD VGA monitor fetched a grand total of $35 because of it's tip-top condition. A fair enough price, I guess, considering how relatively cheap brand new monitors are these days. And that means that because of my generous friends, and my long-service incentive, and the cash I got back, I hardly paid anything for my new monitor. And the old 1710 can still find a good home. For me, that was the most important priority since electronics are actually too environmentally toxic to just trash.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Finally gone digital

After holding back for several months, I finally decided it was time to use the birthday vouchers from my colleagues. Combining those with my long-service incentive, they amounted to a fantastic subsidy towards an new Samsung 2250 22" wide-screen monitor to replace my ageing LG 1710.

With the new monitor, I'm operating in full DV-I mode, having spent the last four years in analog VGA. At 1920x1080 resolution it's like having new eyes when playing games like DA:O. Sharp, clean, clear graphics and text... and skin textures I had never noticed before -- a close-up Wynn shows her wrinkles and a couple of age-related blemishes over her left eye, for example. Such details were washed out at lower resolutions. How ever did I live before digital?

Met said colleagues for dinner followed by "Sherlock Holmes". Followed by dessert at Haagen Dazs to help Amy use up her 1-for-1 coupon. It's good to be back with the company again. Work looms just up ahead, but for the moment we're re-establishing our ties after vacationing separately during this break period.