Saturday, August 18, 2012

Brunch at Jones'

Dunno why I thought Jones the Grocer would have a fish and chips thingy to satisfy  a recent craving, but no dice there. What they did offer was this rigatoni served with stewed veal, topped with gruyere cheese shavings. The pasta was nicely al dente, but a bit cold around the edges. Either I took too long with the shot (above) or it might do them some good to warm their plates before serving. Fortunately the stew was generous and still hot, so overall, it didn't taste too bad. The pix doesn't do the colours much justice, but they do take the trouble with presentation and this was actually quite an appealingly coloured dish.

The other thing we ordered on the brunch menu was this, the Croque Madame. Basically a ham, egg and cheese panini wrapped around with a wide strip of Parma ham. I don't comprehend the name of this dish: it didn't come with anything discernibly deep-fried and crispy so the "croque" is a bit of a misnomer; and the Madame... well, I don't quite see a "Madame" lifting this Dagwood-proportioned sandwich up to her mouth with both hands and chomping down with gusto, so that too, is something of a mystery. Having said that, it was still a darned good, hearty sandwich.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Run away! Run away!

When a St Andy's kid runs away from home because of exam stress, something has gone terribly wrong with the whole system. At one point St Andy's prided itself on being an equal-opportunity educator (save for the all-boys exclusivity). That was back when 'maximizing potential' meant that if a kid could reach a 'C', he would be coached to maximize himself to reach his 'C'; and an 'A' achiever would be maximized to reach his 'A'. Today, we've moved our goalposts so much that everyone's potential is expected to be an 'A*' within a certain narrow time-frame; failing which... let's just say our life-expectancy becomes significantly curtailed.

Of course, back then, some education was better than none. We grew up in much simpler times.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The "how far" question

Heeyyy, kids! It's model essay time again!

Been trying to explain to the kids why "to what extent..." and "how far..." questions cannot logically be answered with "to a large/small extent". The common error is to argue for and against the subject in order to somehow determine whether the pros outweigh the cons or vice versa. However, unless the essay identifies some criteria for this decision -- such as a value, a context or some other yardstick -- that decision is arbitrary and often baseless. Less skilled essayists are also likely to end up with internally conflicting arguments with little to no resolution.

"To what extent" and "how far" assume that the subject is already in play. In this case, the question "how far should a state have a right to monitor the actions of people within its borders?" the argument is not whether a state should or should not have or use its internal monitoring capabilities. Rather, the assumption is that the state does indeed have a right to do so, the question then being how much of this right is it acceptable to exercise before it becomes an unacceptable abuse of power. This is not a question for merely comparing pros and cons but a question of clearly identifying what is normal, acceptable behaviour of the state and what is clearly abnormal, unacceptable behaviour. And if at all possible, identifying some kind of general principle that can guide the responsible use of such power.

Hopefully, the kids will be able to see how this essay argues and resolves the above dilemma without tying itself up in convoluted knots. Ok, enough talk. Here it is: click here.

Behind the scenes: wrote another massively long essay but ruthlessly chopped it down to [close to] the word limit. Also replaced one of the original paragraphs 'cos it was sounding paranoid and pushing towards an extreme I did not want to deal with. Yes, I'm also aware that the conclusion is easier said than done. Sue me.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Return of the baby

News that I have become a great-uncle once again should put the Senior Lee's fears to rest. This whole baby dearth thing is probably a phenomenon relating specifically to my generation born during the tumultuous years between the 60s and 70s. People blame the population policies of the period and while there is truth in that perception, the greater truth is that people are more flexible than just blindly complying with a non-compulsory governmental exhortation. My generation is the literally lost generation, at this age too old to reproduce and too tired to bother looking after babies. The generation after mine is better-adjusted, a lot more secure and forward-looking. I daresay the babies are coming back again.