Saturday, February 02, 2013

TV withdrawal

Been without a TV for more than two weeks already. Not that I've been trying to prevent further brain-rot, but that since the Hitachi conked out, we've been going through the process of shopping around for a new one at a price we are comfortable with.

The Hitachi we sold off for $20 to the friendly neighbourhood karang guni man (a.k.a., the itinerant scrap dealer) -- although he wouldn't have taken it at all if we hadn't also saved the stand it came with. Apparently, people in Indonesia who buy their consumer electronics second-hand don't mount their TVs to their walls. Go figure.

Anyway, that was two weeks ago. Finally, this arrived:

That was yesterday.

Today, the new TV is still in the box. While the delivery went without a hitch, it seems somebody (i.e., our dealer) neglected to arrange for the human resource to do the wall mounting for us. Next available date: Monday, late afternoon shift.

And so... we continue to wait.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Greater plans are afoot

While the Population White Paper announcing plans to cater to a 6.9 million population by 2030 has riled heartland sentiments, there is one other Masterplan that is slowly but surely being realized, but remains undisclosed for the moment. This unannounced Masterplan will kick in if the vast majority of S'poreans are so adamant against population growth that the proposed population projection becomes politically unpalatable.

What Masterplan? Haven't you noticed all the extensions to the MRT lines that are coincidentally going to continue all the way to 2030? All that tunneling going on under our feet is designed to undermine our bedrock foundations so much that at a push of a button, a small chain of explosions will detach the island from the Asian continent altogether. Prevailing winds and ocean currents will then shift us entirely into the Pacific Ocean where at a precise location that is equidistant from any major landfall, we will anchor and live our lives happily away from the rest of the world.

Our island is so small that no one would bother to visit us all the way out there. We have nothing to offer them, anyway, apart from maybe our heavenly chilli crabs -- if we could gather a decent enough harvest from the ocean bottom. Likewise, we could all subsist reasonably long and healthily, feasting on all the vegetables we can grow in our hydroponic rooftop farms.

No pressure of competition, we can all put up our feet and relax while watching the sun set over the horizon, once we're done tending to our veggie crops in the morning. The kids can play all day, though they might occasionally have to help out carrying seed bags and take turns running on the hamster-wheel powering the desalination plant that provides us with fresh drinking water every day.

Life couldn't be more idyllic. No one would miss us and while the rest of the world can rain nuclear apocalypse upon themselves, we'll be safe in the middle of the ocean. If we play our cards right, when all is said and done, we could be the only remaining survivors left on planet Earth. When that happens, we would have achieved World Conquest -- thus finally fulfilling our National Aspiration to be the only people on the planet that matter! *waves S'pore flag enthusiastically while National Anthem plays rousingly in the background*

Remember, patriotic S'poreans say 'NO!' to 6.9 million population.

Secret Masterplan proposed by Global Domination White Paper.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sock it to 'em!

NYeDC takes a stab at basic puppetry. It's good to have Sirius back for another season taking the kids in hand -- and getting their hands in socks. Who knows? Maybe we can offer the CNY cultural showcase a skit involving slithery sock serpents in honour of the upcoming Year of the Snake. Then again, maybe not. They are still a tad rough.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

There's a machine for that?

Can such things be? This here is an electric kueh buloh making machine. Judging by the design and gaudy paintjob, it's been in M-i-L's possession since the '70s. But I think June wants to follow the more traditional way of baking what I guess is the local equivalent of the humble madeline... though for the moment, she's shifted her attention to baking cupcakes.

Monday, January 28, 2013

A little perspective

Featuring news appearing on the very same day:

Govt has to speed up on bread-and-butter solutions (ST Forum Letters)

Do more to stop eating, drinking in buses (ST Forum Letters)

These links represent the voice of People Power in S'pore.

Egypt protester: "There is no bread, no freedom" (CBS Evening News)

representing the voice of People Power elsewhere.

Banishing happiness from the classroom

After a round of assignment grading, I've had an epiphany about why the kids sound so flat, dispirited and naive in their written work. The kind of answers they were giving me was equivalent to typical teenspeak: "How was your day?" "Fine." "How was school?" "Good." In an exercise that required the kids to explore problems, issues and concerns, the kids were killing off the discussion like they didn't really want to talk about it. It was like they were faking a veneer of happiness as if appearing unhappy was abnormal behaviour.

As education workers, we generally like happy children. They are easier to control in class as they tend to be more compliant with what we tell them. Anytime we notice a child is unhappy, alarm bells ring. We take it on ourselves to "get to the root of the problem" and punish, counsel or medicate their unhappiness away so that they can return to a state of compliance and be like everybody else again. Our assumption is that happy is normal, unhappy needs to be dealt with -- severely, in some cases.

I think we're forgetting something. The happy student has the least incentive to learn anything new. It's the unhappy student who stands to gain more from learning than the contented one. Happy students are resistant to learning because new ideas rock the boat they're already comfortable in. Unhappy students learn because of the opportunity learning offers to change their circumstances for the better.

These days, our efforts in school are geared towards making our students as happy as possible. At home, too, parents want their kids to be happy and will do everything they can to make it so. We simply give them too much: resources, equipment, information. The kids themselves have to be feeling that with so much going on around them to make them happy, they should be happy -- but they're not. And if they're not, something must be wrong with them. So they pretend... and then they turn in essays that we'd prefer to burn than grade.

New rule for my classes: My students have to be angry; upset; disappointed; frustrated; worried; scared; and bring all their negativity into the classroom. The happy student is complacent, useless and a non-contributor and has no place in my class.

I don't have to make them unhappy, I know they already are. My class wlll be noisy with kids sounding off their gripes, grouses and rants. I'm not going to pretend that I have a solution to their troubles. That's not my job. My subject being GP, I teach them to observe, organize, evaluate and recommend approaches to deal with their own problems so that they have something useful to learn.

However, last thing I want is to dictate what they should think. I don't want them to approach their questions by trying to recall how Mr X answered a similar question previously; what argument structure he applied; what his conclusions were... Their problems, their approaches, their solutions, not mine.

... and a little something more. An Ingredient X that I will be experimenting with in subsequent classes. I'll let you know how that turns out once I get some data to reflect upon. Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Visiting our neighbour in the North

This meal marks the accomplishment of something I swore I'd never do. I'll give you a hint: this is a shake tempura mayo bento from a restaurant called Kinsahi... located at the AEON Tebrau City. I drove up to JB.

And back. I'm still alive; my possessions and loved ones are still intact; and my car's GPS unit isn't being tracked by the authorities from two or more sovereign States. Let's call that a step beyond my comfort zone, shall we? Though by now it's quite clear that anywhere outside the confines of my cosy living-room bean bag is beyond my comfort zone.

It helped that we went north in a two-car convoy led by Tong, who is more experienced with the checkpoint procedures and road conditions of our neighbour in the North. We kept in touch on the road by walkie-talkie and no one got lost. In fact, the drive, once we got clear of the inevitable traffic congestion around the causeway area, was smooth and even pleasant. As a precaution, my GPS was active and though I was mostly following Tong, it did not steer me in the wrong direction.

On this trip, the closest thing I experienced to danger was when I'd returned to the causeway after a moderately successful shopping trip. There was a long line waiting to be processed by Malaysian Immigration and I was getting bored and sleepy. I closed my eyes for a second, and for a brief moment, I was transported out of the present into someplace that wasn't "here" and a time that wasn't "now". That's the danger of micro-sleep. I opened my eyes to June's screeching and frantic waving of arms as she sat in the shotgun seat. I'd taken my foot off the brake and was advancing towards the waiting vehicle in front of me. Jamming my foot down, I stopped just before contact. No harm done but, darn, what a scare!

Would I drive back up there again? Now that I've broken the taboo the first time, subsequent trips are conceivable. But there must be a real good reason. Though bigger, a shopping mall there is still just a shopping mall.