it's all fun and games with science (yes you promise that science is fun, yada yada yda) until someone decides to set insanely difficult questions and fuck the brains out of everyone. and of course i feel bad because i haven't adequately prepared everyone.

not that i don't mention it or teach it in class but i think it always flies over their heads and when i stay back to teach it's usually only the more motivated ones (or those with tuition outside) who get it. So I can only give the papers and say, good luck, and as Sherlock Holmes used to say, once you're done eliminating the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable is usually the truth (and the correct answer).

I am really pissed off now so I am going to teach them IUPAC nomenclature if that's what they want. It's so unfair to set O level questions for Sec 1s.


the weekend finally rolls around and with 3 weeks or such before I leave, I know I really should be preparing for leaving (you know, notice the stuff I haven't noticed before, appreciate the people around me, go shopping for things, things we should do daily but we don't). I don't know about the first 2, but for the 3rd requirement, in a globalised world such as ours, there's no problem whatsoever with popping over to our friendly neighbours for a dose of shopping.

but no, i was really just very excited to get a stamp on my spanking new unused singaporean passport which currently only has a british entry clearance on it. 90+ pages, yet pristinely blank. have got to go overseas!

so myself and alex and chanlek (who's motive really was just to renew his damn stay in s'pore) pop over to jb (but we don't really know anything about it). Just sit on 170 like us dumbfucks until chan lek takes causeway link and reaches there eons before us.

chaos and dust! lovely. what a breath of fresh air. after taking 2 hours to clear immigration (oh nothing really, the thais have to take the prize for causing huge impatience and distress), just walk around the only streets we know, jln tun abdul razak and jln wong ah fook. had to settle lunch so we ate indian food. and then we just went shopping. how exciting.

but plenty of roadside food stalls (you know, the time where food centres were actually hawker centres, where there were push carts and everything, and policemen wore shorts, and where singaporeans were actually more resilient you know!), but in order to avoid sounding like an old man, i mean, the people are the same really, but you just have to step across the border to be reminded of the differences in social organization that exist.

and, in case you avoided the subtle product placement in my post, we took the SBS TRANSIT 170 to bt timah before we decided we really needed to eat chicken rice before we go so we went to WEE NAM KEE to eat their fantastic chicken. and talk about politics and watch fucking chelsea get 3 points for free. not to mention watching highly educational bollywood film about sai baba and his magic kris who was saved from the pyre by a water spouting elephant, and the episode of saturday night live where they had paris hilton in it. lovely.


visited the swank people at hsbc today (oooh ushered into international banking office ooh) where there are posh sofas and pictures of rich men escorting their wives out of cars. and free copies of the economist and cups of coffee. oooh sure better than flying over and then being rejected over the counter over there.

but the service was excellent, all smiles (although it was a rather busy day), and I've always been fascinated by banks. maybe because they're all snobbish in the old world kind of way, a, you know, i'll always earn more than you do, i don't know why you even bother kind of attitude. and all the fancy financial instruments and things you play with. and where pr officers seduce the next rich man to put their billion dollars with the bank you can trust. (sorry i didn't say rich woman. old world.)

but they did give me due attention even though i'm only opening a paltry account with them, and then it struck me, if they catch all the uk graduates, each putting maybe 1,000 bucks in the account (low estimate, some people put more at once), that's 1000 x 1000 easily (assuming of course hsbc doesn't get hold of all the uk bound people out there, of which there are few thousands, post and undergrad). a million bucks in cold hard cash, put it through the banking multiplier voodoo money printing machine and you can generate 10 million of loans easy. not to mention when the people have it made after school you seduce them again to leave their money in the bank when they begin working and you see what good service is about. relationships. or relationships are about good service, which sounds a bit dodgier. and there's also a range of deposits, fixed, term, currency that will suit their needs even fine (and yours, in case I didn't mention it.)

teaching today was excellent, because finally got back to bio, and i love teaching bio. as i was presenting, i was thinking, "so why am i not studying biology. oh yes because i'm studying economics." fascinating.


went to see michelle off at the airport today.
all the best and good luck for your studies, and whichever chapter you're going to begin next.
remember me!

it's really emotional how people are leaving, not so much that they're gone for a year or so, but I realise, yeah, how grown up all these little boys and girls have begun since I ever knew them, how, as they strut confidently through airport terminal halls (sometimes getting a bit disoriented), that we'll all be starting new phases of life, tertiary education and all, and it's when people really split up and have to find their own world.

wish i didn't have to wind up my spring and go to school tomorrow.


Hmm. So cute! Anyway. Just a bit more on our education system, to wipe that smile of his face.

Now school ends at 1.20-2.30, depending on which school you're from. Currently, workload at the school I'm teaching at seems pretty ok, other than the occasional make-up lesson, most of the students to get to go back at a sane hour.

Lately there have been many parents complaining to the forum that schools in Singapore are too stressful, the hours are too long. I have to agree with them, especially if your kid happens to be in one of the top schools. If he's in a Sports CCA or some other one which takes up a huge chunk of your time (and energy), or in council or something to that effect, he could be returning as late as 7-9 pm at night, (for a secondary school student, pretty late). If you do bother finishing all your homework you end at 12. This, was at least, not really a recent development, because these were the hours I had in Secondary One, and with 3rd language and all, you really look forward to weekends.

I understand why schools would want to keep children in schools. One child in school is another off the street. And, if you look at what children can do in their free time in Singapore, it's some variation of computer game (MapleStory/ DoTA?), hang around in Orchard, watch movie, etc. I don't even know what girls do in their free time (talk on the phone?). Well, the facilities are there to play street soccer. That's if your other friends are not in school training for debate/whatever they're involved in.

Ultimately, it's about how fast kids mature. For a large number of our rather resilient students, coping with extended hours is natural, part of the system, and only for their own good. They learn to enjoy and see the benefits in what they do, and if you ask many of the overachievers Singapore has produced they would definitely look back and say "that was time well spent." But for those not so driven, it's really a big torturous process which they'd rather have much later.

The only other alternative is to drop out. Don't attend your CCAs if you're not interested in them, or at least, schools should reduce barriers to entry between them. (In the school I'm teaching at, there are sports classes, which get the cream of sporting talent in Sec 1, and the rest get places in other non-sports CCAs). A danger then is you don't capture the talent which develops when some of those scrawny would never have made it in Sec 1 guys become lean and athletic and etc after their puberty.

And you see the problem is not with schools, but rather with a lack of spontaneous activity available that's organised by things other than schools. Where would I go to play beach volleyball at 13? Where do I bring my skateboard? So you have to go to places like church to find bands and everything. That's why school just really lost meaning for me for a good 4-5 years of my adolescence.

This, admittedly comes from my rather myopic view. Our education system is really rather fantastic and engaging in the classroom, but I just have issues with the fact that we have an undue reliance on it, that we're not trying to find ways where children can learn not only out of the classroom, but out of school! Because there's "out of classroom" learning in CCAs and activities in school, but I think kids should learn to exist in a independent framework of their own, at least until we're reasonably sure all of them are mature and know what they want (from the choices they've seen by interacting with the world), then we can fill their damn brains with all the knowledge they ever need.


I've been reading a bit more about Asperger's syndrome and it sort of reinvigorated my interest in psychology and everything, especially since it seems to be useful in dealing with people who react atypically to social situations, like the person who doesn't speak in class.

I was first informed about it by a psychologist friend of mind, who used to work with autists. Why it's always been so interesting to me is because, it seems to me conclusive evidence of the power of the brain. Why do people have edeitic memory? Obsessive compulsions? Now, we're all fond of prescribing neuroses (although the danger of self-diagnosis is ever apparent). But to me, all these "syndromes" just show what happens if we take our little idiosyncracies to their logical conclusion. For example, Asperger's seems to be an extension for what would happen if the "male" intelligence were to dominate over "female" aspects of the mind. if it sounds a bit withc doctor-ish, don't take my word for it, look ti up on wikipedia.

and, and meanwhile, lip has given me an econs question, which absorbs my concentration for the next few moments=)


raised my voice at the kids today. incorrigible bastards were whacking the hell out of each other (albeit with a newspaper). well initially it was just incessant chatting. right, i'll go over and single you out. all around they were talking, of course, because it was presentation time and the presenters, their own classmates were not capturing their attention.

"why you only scold us? other people also talking what." fine. so i'll scold the whole fucking class. shut up.

so was chatting on msn with one of my students just now, who probably checked if i thought his class was full of irritating jokers. of course not, they're just lively and i told them to remember me when they become pm/famous author/director/ or custodian of my cpf account (yes, that 30+% of my money which is meant for my retirement. can't i try to do better myself?). but it's this portions which i find meaningful, i guess. such a poor guy right, only fulfilment is chatting to 13 year olds. cradle snatcher!

and in explaining to him, i hope i've got it right. i don't want anyone to die under my watch (or get heavily injured), and i don't want people to have to waste time standing for half hour outside the staff room in some meaningless punishment. shout once, and you save a lot of pain.

another student of mine doesn't talk. i thought it was a physical disability (he kept asking me for marks by writing). the class seems to think he doesn't talk either. after checking with form teacher, turns out he just refuses to talk and his class has accepted that, even telling me before the presentation that he doesn't talk. well, before that, had written him something about the "principles of science", and hoping that he speaks up more just like he did for marks, maybe for something more important next time, because he accused me, the poor sod, of betraying the principles of science because i didn't give him an extra mark. sometimes you wonder whether you should indulge him by communicating to him by writing, or ignoring him, in the vain hope that he'd speak one day when he realised it's necessary?

i wish i knew more about psychology and stuff. would probably help with questions such as those.
it's time for the tuesday evenin' rescue from my fate
just remember not to arrive for me too early or too late
if you must, take the car, be back by twelve tonight
don't be like cinderella and leave behind your slippers in your flight
and as you drive past all the blocks all staggering with their weight
sure as hell hope i'm still in a lucid mental state.


what would be really cool, is if all the students broke out into:

"we don't need no education!
we don't need no mind-control!
no dark sarcasm, in the classroom!
teachers, leave us kids alone!

don't need no arms around me
don't need no drugs to calm me
i've seen the writing on the wall
don't think i'll need anything at all
all in all, was all just bricks in the wall"

mmm, yes, music teachers making kids listen to pink floyd and the little anarchists running around all the place. student protestors hanging the principal from his guts as he swings like a pinata from the flagpole. and they're all smoking joints to tripping music instead of studying hard and well.

honestly, hope you enjoyed school, i didn't enjoy all of it (especially when i was much younger) . i also hope, for the sake of teachers everywhere, that students can't bring guns to school.


Love minus one

I was talking to my friend who was teaching lit, and he complained about how difficult the tests were, and how unfair they are to kids. and i took a look at the lit paper and it's insanely difficult. so share his sentiment that the questions are really unfair. besides, i never respected lit questions much, i always could feel some of the sentiment but you know i've been hopelessly wrong before.

but the key thing is, there was a boy who got 0 (assuming no moderation and all). 0/20. kosong. How do you bring back a test paper with 0 on it for your parents to sign? What's wrong. Do you know zero (nothing)? I'm not for political correctness, failure is failure, but I mean, clearly something is wrong if someone has 0 and he has attempted the questions. and bear in mind, it's not an essay which has gone completely out of point...

the key thing is, we make tests so difficult. is it to prepare kids for some imaginary life out there? come on. when someone gets 0/20, they're going to cry (heard he did). They're never going to love lit (well, unless they're astonishingly stoic and mature about it, though i doubt), if you effectively tell them, well, you suck, forget it, you can't even get a single mark! Some real poor German you are.

My favourite meaningless quote about the topic has to be

"You know there's no success like failure, well but failure's no success at all."

Clearly we learn from failure, but I don't think it's nice to assume necessarily that we need to make people fail to learn... come on...

That's from Dylan by the way, I was watching unplugged and he was performing. lovely blues. interesting title huh. love minus one. what is infinity minus one? infinity. and what is love minus one? love. because love is boundless (infinity)... you get what i mean... well that's my hypothesis anyway, we're on the topic of numbers anyway. haha. and after teaching the pH scale and log... haha. but it's fun, they're all adding me to msn, my students. and it reminds me of what "chatting" was like when i was 13! it doesn't matter, triviality. but whatever he would have intended, really, most of what he writes is really good poetry and has been thought through, and when he takes up the guitar and harmonica it's really very lovely how someone who defies the stereotypes of nice voice / good looking and all just brings music into the world.

If anyone's interested look at the lyrics of "Desolation Row", or better still listen to it, it's from Highway 61 revisted I think.


got off to teaching today. there i was worrying about my first class, and when you walk in and everyone stares at you, i guess that settles it. move into gear... and just let fly.

it's amazing how catholic catholic high really is... they do say their prayer at morning assembly and do their bible readings and everything... well, but ask the boys who were sleeping if they got any of that... to me it felt a bit weird, being a catholic, i didn't realize when i was in st michael's how the other students must have felt as we were singing hymns and all, it always felt a little bit sweet to me and i think (though it brought back nostalgia) that maybe it's not such a good idea to do it in the morning. there is no harm to exposing non-christians to christianity (i mean, after all, just take it that people are telling you a story about people named jesus and john and so on, so it'll be fine. I was wondering though, why few of us people, for example, attended schools where they would teach us the hadith and Koran. By the way, I have to mention this cleric that they brought onto BBC hardtalk the other day. He was unapologetically unpolitically correct (double negative! , in the sense that his remarks were of the sort like : "oh, all britain should live under the syariah, britain is a zone of struggle because there are still unbelievers, and I refuse to condemn my Muslim brothers who blew themselves up because I would never condemn a Muslim brother). Now, I wish I knew something more about the religion, but, apart from the outrage which is to be expected from the comments (the host was exasperated, and frankly, amused, one of the few epidodes where he probably couldn't see eye to eye with the guest), what is amazing is that they brought this radical on tv, and this radical was willing to speak his views on it. Before you condemn that, you can condemn him for his views, maybe question the BBC for allowing him to broadcast them, but I really relished the opportunity to see this guy talk about his views. It shows the problem there is, that there exists all this radicalism, and before we hide behind a wall saying, oh "muslim doesn't condone this, muslim doesn't condone that", it was good to hear from someone, who is reflective of why the problems begun in the first place. Listening to the fiery rhetoric, you'll know that for every person, or 10, who has a moderate view, you'll always have such extreme views, and it would be good to know what those views are, and how to shut them up.

back to school, yes. after the initial fascination with my name (always gets them), got on with it. Now, the kids were really eager and enthusiastic. Well, there were those who would doze off (am I that boring!), but no, what I mean is I expected worse. I quaked in my shoes expecting troublemakers who would challenge me, walk out of class, make fun of my clothing etc. There's always a smart aleck in the class who mimics the difficult things you say, answers all the questions overenthusiastically. For the rest, well, it's not easy to get people to speak up individually (in a coherent manner). They love shouting out things in groups, but as 13 year olds, when you single someone out to speak they're often so goddamn shy, and they may have the damn answer in front of them but they're a bit scared, still. But really, these people are really rather bright to begin with, they'll grow bored to death (I thought) if I persisted with sticking to the syllabus would half bore them to test. I did try to fulfill my obligations (go through answers and all), but really, it wasn't capturing them, and hopefully the multimedia and my computer helped, because kids are really suckers for video and pictures (who isn't). Tried to get them to speak up as individuals, some were game, the shier ones really are still shy, and there's a lot to learn! But they're only sec 1, so cute! and when they greet you, wow really power trip xia. Haha and I didn't realize there are so many Indonesian students who study here and thankfully, they happen to be some of the brighter ones.

I watched seven swords too, after a long hard day (only 3 periods of teaching!). No before that I reached the visa centre in a fluster (the buildings are so tall in shenton way!) , I was really really on adrenaline, no lunch, and hated waiting, I tried to frighten the officer with all my documentation (see, so much paper, I can't have forgotten anything!) I thing I irritated her with my overzealousness (quick quick need to eat no sleep), and I'm not a very nice person sometimes when I'm like that.

I rushed to PS for the movie, and yeah I love listening to martial arts stories told in series of 4 words (I mean proverbs lah!) So elegant... and the horses and the landscape. No really hot chick, but when you see the hero/heroine get cosy in the depth of some snowstorm to retrieve some sacred sword you get hot in your pants and think (after a long hard dya like this, I would just so love to collapse in someone's arms). But of course in every show people get sliced to bits/die and reality sets in, but it's a happy ending. and it reminded me of the girl I met on 170 the other day. She was studying English (vocab cloze i think, it was quite amusing to see the different definitions of butt : cigarette butt, butt of jokes, which she translated as ??????, i hope the chinese works now. ) did anyone teach her what a butt was? haha. but yeah I was so moved when she saw a fellow person from hubei, and they just talked, and i thought, man this girl is a long way from home, studying english, trying to make it as whatever she wants to make it here in s'pore. and seemed so lonely, and you know, i'm a sucker for these kind of moments when people recognize each other and make it all so much bearable.

Irritable during French, not really concentrating. but it's nice people see you're visibly tired and make allowances for your sour face and ask about you. and i wrote to my cousin, and she's telling me about romania, and what she thought of her life thus far, and it did give me food for thought and i'd be lying if i wasn't influenced by what she thought. and if i could distill everything, if i could find one thing good about all this moving and everything, is that i have this feeling, now, that je ne voudrais jamais reste comme je suis. No, it's not how I want to think all the time, but it's how I feel now. A rolling stone.


happiness is a warm gun (mother superior jump the gun?)

i was on the bus back with her and i thought "yeah, gosh, has the week went well."

it went well because of the people around me. the people i ran into. i've been running around singapore all week (no not to catch one last glimpse of the sights), for work/teaching/related things, and i met all sorts of people.

there was "yin", at the bus-stop outside SPH, who I was extremely wary of because he was carrying bags of plastic bottles, looked dirty, and was really friendly. he asked my nationality, name and other personal details, tried to strike up conversation, shook my hand (i must admit i thought, does he have aids). fear was telling me, you know, friendly people always get shot or mugged, maybe you shouldn't talk to him. but i couldn't think of a reason not to, so i politely made conversation, reassuring myself, that maybe he's lonely, and he said he hangs around there often, and regardless of his motives, it was a harmless, friendly conversation which lasted all of 10 minutes and got on the bus. I never knew why he would talk to me. Being friendly? Trying to pick me up? It didn't matter, and I don't think anything did, maybe he walked off dissappointed not having robbed me, or maybe he was happy someone just talked to him. well, just watched crash (mm good show) and it did teach me, don't fear! fear fucks the hell out of our minds and makes us do evil shit. self preservation and all, but it would suck not to live to principles.

there was the taxi driver, 50- sum'in? in a rush, cause he was changing shifts, and he told me he would "jia kuai yi dian, bu yao pa!" and he proceeds to rush through the gears... hitting a maximum speed of... 60! wow. how fast. and he says about how good he knows the route, that he's saving so much time. he gets excited when he beats a yellow light, and when he gets cars coming through from the slip road, taking his hands of the wheels, clapping, "look ma!" and when simon & garfunkel's "i am a rock, i am an island !" plays, he blasts the volume and sings along. and he's so happy.

and the people all outside the salvation army! i mean, cynicism about charity aside, i guess it's just indicative of a world, that really, one must be "able and willing to pay" to get what one wants. it's not a damnation of the principle, it is quite logical, just that unfortunately in life not everyone is "able and willing to earn", which then starts of with unfairness etc.

and i returned to camp, to see my old mates, my understudy, xin hong, who told me tales of israel, it was really nice to see how everything just turned out, the office and everything (made me feel well, a little proud). and of course, i realised i do care deeply what happens in their lives though i don't see them all that often, because i guess i do admire them for making the most of their time in army, and even some of my seniors in there, i admire their honesty, that when they're dissatisfied they say so, and how they have to work so hard, taking all these degrees part time, and it just makes me so hopeful in the resilience and determination people show in life, you know, not competing, but just in staying afloat.

maybe it's the running around and the prospect of teaching and this sense of purpose in preparing for studies?

but maybe it's all the smiles that people show me, being hospitable, inviting people in, and it falls into place, that what i need to be happy is that sort of feedback and to notice it from time to time, that everyone around you does appreciate you, in some shape or form, and it's the need to have the conviction that you can make others happier. that sort of belief, when it floats by, is the best thing you can ever hope for. and it's also taking things slow and knowing why you're doing them, and if you can elucidate them clearly, to yourselves and others (something why i admittedly have not been very succesful in), then you have every reason to hope?

idealistic? you bet. but it gives me this floaty feeling, so would you just keep the needles away. thanks.

oh and i've been busy trying to eat all the food i can muhaha! tiong bahru, adam road. name it, i'll eat it!



yay! i finally will get my wish and get to teach the eager young minds of tomorrow. but perhaps they're not all that eager and maybe they don't really care. still it's their world so all the best to them. i can't even remember the last time i was a schoolboy with shorts.

met the other ie scholars and all and it was a rather ra-ra morale boosting session (i like the rec room!), but all good. what's getting me excited is my course and i've switched to doing more reading and less math (got a bit boring), going through "the european economy between the wars", which, considering i haven't touched history since sec 2, really interesting, but mainly because i didn't get to do modern world history so i had to read it up mostly on my own and i guess it's just sheer curiosity as to how the world got to how it is and i'm all the more convinced now that I have to do the EH option in my 1st year. Seeing how all the books seem to be Oxford University Press makes me a bit miffed I'm not in Oxford but I remind myself Oxford doesn't offer econs (PPE is not econs!) and perhaps that will make me not feel so bad about missing out on the manicured lawns in front of medieval buildings. give me a 10 storey social science library anytime!

a few more pre-departure things to settle (and let this be a reminder to myself), TB and meningitis jab, a bit of shopping, visa app, and preparing for teaching. organise farewell, write farewells? and need to sleep, on top of all that!