Saturday, August 03, 2013


We're fast becoming regulars at Sun Ray. Consider it a default choice due to factors of proximity, friendly service, good food and dog welcome policy.

Looks healthy. Tastes great. Kept cold throughout the meal. It was both a drink and a dessert.

Sup du jour: crustacean-corn. June said it was too salty. I concurred. Then I realized it was probably my fault. The pepper grinder incorporated a salt grinder that I didn't notice before. So a liberal sprinkling of pepper came with a corresponding amount of salt as well. Design flaw.

Seafood spaghetti aglo olio. Nice, but I saved my stomach for...

the strip loin. As usual, served with the correct doneness of rare, with the rind of cow fat left intact. So good.

Btw, no more weekend set menu, we were told today. Never mind. What we wanted wouldn't have been included in the set anyway.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Fellow flailers!

Following up from my previous entry, I got to see a lot more of my colleagues who are enthusiastically flailing about in unfamiliar territory than I gave credit for.

The souvenir book (left) the organizers handed out is quite a thick compilation of lesson plans and strategies used across all levels of education designed to get the kids off their lazy butts and take a more active and purposeful role in their own learning.

Some of the stuff that I got to observe were tools I and anyone else have easy access to for free over the 'net. The strategies they shared were simple enough, and up to a point I'm using them the same way. It's good to know how closely parallel we are in our objectives, and even better to learn from the variations in the way we use these tools.

Dean Krishnan would be happy to see how so many of us are trying out new methods of student engagement rather than stick to the old tried-and-true formulas that we have grown accustomed to.

Maybe the four-lane highway we're all waiting for our pioneering flailers to construct is closer to realization than I had imagined...?

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Give a man a fish and he'll expect you to catch more for him tomorrow

I very much doubt that such a dramatic conspiracy theory actually does exist. The quote, "people here are taught what to think" is to some extent true, but it does not occur as a result of any Head Office directive. In fact, Head Office is constantly encouraging us to take courses in which we learn about fostering in our classrooms creative engagement, critical thinking, and collaborative and self-directed learning while navigating through the wild and woolly Internet zone.

Head Office recognizes that our economy is unable to survive on mass production any longer and our task as educators is to take apart the apparatus that once churned out factory drone workers (I'm a product of that system... and no, I'm not proud of it) and rebuild a more modern structure in which to develop a new generation of imaginative, creative, analytical, design-driven problem-solvers, ready to take on the challenges of an uncertain future.

In the meantime, instead of the government asserting its authority, there has been a great loosening up of citizens' freedoms. The media are age-restricted rather than blanket-censored; Internet access and the discourse that transpires therein is largely free-and-easy; the police are hardly anywhere to be seen (sometimes we even wonder if there are enough police around to maintain law and order if things went bad); and people are becoming increasingly bold and more vociferous, taking issue with the apparently incompetent and self-serving policies of the big, bad government.

20 years ago, when the Man had it all locked down, the government was inviolable. Today there exists a relationship between the government and the people we can only describe as "no up, no down". Today, we think nothing of hurling rotten tomatoes at our MPs and Ministers whenever they say something stupid or make some gross miscalculation in their decision-making. The roles of master and servant have almost reversed places in this new flattened hierarchy.

The guy being interviewed in the Al-Jazeera clip above thinks we are sheep, but clearly, we aren't. We may be the product of an education system that tried to make us meek assembly-line operators. We are the generation that was taught what to think, but even so, we aren't thinking along party lines. Instead, we are thinking we want more opposition voices in Parliament, more representation for our own needs and aspirations which are far from fulfilled, less BS from the incumbents and more engagement in talking about the things that we want rather than having what we need forced down our throats.

If today's generation is being taught to learn by rote, it's because that's how we learned when we were that age. Pupils, parents, pedants and Principals swear by that method, so no matter what Head Office tells us, at implementation level we do our own filtration and fall back on what has always worked best: standard answers which we all agree on, making them easy for the kids to memorize and for us to grade. This is the legacy effect of an education system that surpassed all prior expectations and is now struggling to cope with a new reality. Few want to let go of a system that worked such wonders before and venture into untested waters to explore beyond the familiar. Fortunately for us, I do see the few out there, flailing about, doing their best to trailblaze a four-lane highway for the rest of us to follow. But until that happens, the old methods will still be with us for a while yet. Hence, the inertia.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Elitism is only half the story

Interesting that retired PM Goh is reminding the privileged people to guard against elitism.

I'll open a can of worms by suggesting that in creating a social divide, it takes two hands to clap. While we would like the privileged to not act like jerks who have too much money to know what to do with, the rest of us not-so-privileged folks should likewise not let the income gap cause us to despair and pigeonhole ourselves into thinking we've stagnated, and blame the 'elites' for keeping us down.

Our economic system still offers opportunity for everyone who seeks it. For us starting at the bottom of the pile, if we set our sights high, there are ways to get there -- but not through the safe, secure office job we've been promised as a child for studying our brains out and passing exams.

We're only stagnated if we swallowed that promise hook, line and sinker. The way up is tough; fraught with failure and dead ends. At times, our progress is so slow that it may look like we'll never get there, but we keep moving forward with our dreams, our plans and our goals anyway. People will kindly 'advise' us with the best of intentions to be sensible and get back on the 'safe' path again, and many times, we'll be tempted to quit. And if we listen to them, that too is stagnation.

I'm not saying that we should gamble blindly, but rather to have a dream we can articulate and have a plan we can put in action. We learn from our failures, pick ourselves up and keep climbing. And even at the end if we don't 'make it' the way we had originally defined 'make it', we're still further along ahead of where we were when we started our journey, and much happier for it.

Or just be content with what we have and live within our means, even if we have to forego the luxuries we see other people enjoying. After all, on first impression, there's no way to tell if they are up to their necks in hock in order to luxuriate in their finery.

Elitism means to keep things from people. Envy seeks to take things away from people. Both forces at work in society cause irreparable rifts between people, making them think that the existing system does not work when in fact it does. It works on the principle of Generosity: to put things in people's hands. Give.

Dog play date

Tasha's going to meet a new friend over dinner so she's spending the morning at the groomer's to get her presentable.

This is Twinkle, a fellow maltipoo. Although they both belong to the same designer breed, their genetic variables make them look and behave very differently from each other.

This is the location of our date, III Cafe. It's on East coast Road, around the corner from Siglap. But to find the place you have to first enter George's Mad Grill, then keep right to slip in through a side door and up the stairs to this little pet dining haven.

The menu for humans offers simple dishes without too much variety. We ordered two sides of ham and bacon pizza to share among our party of four.

The baked salmon was the overwhelming favourite main course, beating out the wrap 3:1. The salmon came with a zesty fruit salad which was sweet and refreshing. The salmon itself was a bit dry and overcooked for my taste -- but then I prefer the sashimi style any day.

Dog dish: huge meatballs (your choice of meat). And this is Tasha wolfing down her share like there's no tomorrow.

Group photo time! And yes, Pebbles came for the ride too. But he stuck close to his corner of the sofa and socialized with the others... from a distance. other diners brought other kinds of pets than dogs too. A couple of kids, who got somewhat more attention from Tasha than they liked, brought a guinea pig in a small mammal carrier.

Ok, so food-wise, Sun-Ray Cafe offers a better quality menu at slightly higher prices, but this place is more spacious, offering the dogs more room to run, play and mingle. The atmosphere is bright, open and friendly, so be prepared to entertain strange dogs coming right up to sniff you at your table while your dog does the same to other tables.