Monday, April 30, 2007

Clever children

According to my students, young people, specifically between the ages 15-18 are extremely clever. Why do I say this? Well, apparently youth nowsadays can design new-fangled, up to date
1) Ambulances
2) Photocopiers
3) Air-conditioners
4) Computers
5) Mobile phones
6) Lifts
7) Cameras
8) X Ray machines (that print in colour)

with additional, never seen before features that are revolutionary to companiies like Nokia, Nikon, Otis, Dell, Daikin, Xerox and they will jump at the opportunity to buy all the rights and patents to these new inventions, kowtow to these teen prodigies and make these kids all teen-millionaires.

They can also recreate things like
1) Bell's telephone
2) Henry Ford's car
3) The first microscope
4) The first piece of paper

On top of that, 18 year olds can be trusted to synthesise plastic, create nuclear energy, split atoms and make water all by their lonesome selves.

I know it was partly my fault because I had once said that if one wanted to build a bomb, one need only go online to find out how to. It's my fault. I forgot that students had no sense of irony.

Anyway, I'm guessing if I gave them enough time, they could solve world hunger, reverse global warming, stop the polar ice caps from melting, heal the sick and oh, I forgot, bring about World Peace!

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 19:46

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Moooove Over

If there's one thing that will change my mind about how uncreative and unimaginative Singapore is, it would be these cows.

Every year, they appear. In itself, they're a really clever marketing gimmick. It gets people talking, there's excitement over cow-sighting all over Singapore and the wonderment of how they seemingly appeared and disappeared overnight. It also, in its own way encourages creativity. There's the usual cow-tipping that occurs in the middle of the night, the re-arranging of cows into compromising positions that could possibly mean jail terms for the cows based on Singapore's rather strict laws about indecent exposure and acts. It also brings out the cow-hustler in some people where midnight jaunts are planned to hustle some cattle into getaway cars with their headlights dipped from vulnerable locations by people dressed in black doubling back on their tracks in order to ensure they don't get CSI-ed.

This year, they got smart. Where the cows are, there are also signs that warned potential hustlers that the cows were under surveillance. Trip wires perhaps? A computerised sheep dog?

Whatever it is, I'm glad they're back. They cute, they're funny, they make me laugh and this year, they made me scratch my head a little because this year the theme was something along the lines of "Becoming a famous cow".

Bruce Lee Elvis
This one, we took the longest to figure out. Eventually we figured the hiked up leg wasn't because it was going to pee paper droplets but it was channeling Bruce Lee.

Elvis wasn't all that hard to figure out and neither was Marilyn Monroe- who else would moon her cow butt at the world?
Marilyn Monroe Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson was a bit of a head-scratcher until we saw noticed the white socks and black shoes attempting to do the moonwalk.

Charlie Chaplin
Too bad Charlie Chaplin looked forlorn and the staff around his neck made him look even more miserable.

But all in, a whole lot of fun. They should have Halloween Cows too and Christmas Cows and Valentine Day Cows, we could overdose on cows. :)

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 10:46

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Bah Humbug!

The only thing about worse than being ill is being ill without medication. This isn't an unusual type of being ill. The run-of-the-mill cough and cold with minor inflections of voicelessness and and itchy throat. The only difference is that for the first time, I can't medicate the cough. Or rather, I can't medicate the cough effectively.

I've been given herbal cough mixture on account of various properties of cough mixture containing properties akin to adrenaline which at this point, in my delicate condition, is risky to even inhale. So I'm miserable. And then there's the feeling hot. Not fever hot, but temperature hot. I've been living my days at home in a tank top but because of this chest cough, I can't wear tank tops unless I want to cough till my stomach muscles split. So, I wear a t-shirt, which to me could just as bloody well be a giant fuzzy fleece sweater right now. And I can't have the air-conditioning on because it dries my throat and makes it feel like it's bleeding. And the humidfier doesn't work enough so all in, this is where I'm at. I'm sick, I can't take medication. I'm hot but I have to remain covered up. I have an air-conditioner that works perfectly well but I can't use it. Buggerit.

My solution that doesn't work all that well, eucalyptus laced tissue paper for temporary reprieve and sleeping with 2 fans on, on as little body area as possible so that there's minimal heat generation and wishing in vain for some sub-Arctic temperatures.

All in all, I have to suffer. And I don't even have the vocal capacity to whine about. Talk about suffering in silence.

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 23:06

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The Truth about cats and dogs


From a Dog's Diary:

8:00 am - Dog food! My favorite thing!

9:30 am - A car ride! My favorite thing!

9:40 am - A walk in the park! My favorite thing!

10:30 am - Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!

12:00 pm - Lunch! My favorite thing!

1:00 pm - Played in the yard! My favorite thing!

3:00 pm - Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!

5:00 pm - Milk bones! My favorite thing!

7:00 pm - Got to play ball! My favorite thing!

8:00 pm - Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!

11:00 pm - Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!

Excerpts from a Cat's Diary:

Day 683 of my captivity:

My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength.

The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the floor.

Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates of what I am capable. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a "good little hunter" I am. The audacity!

There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of "allergies." I must learn what this means, and how to use it to my advantage.

Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow -- but at the top of the stairs.

I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released - and seems to be more than willing to return. He obviously has a screw loose.

The bird must be an informant. I observe him communicating with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe ... for now.

-Taken from somewhere. Don't know where.
The reason I prefer cats to dogs. :) Dogs are cute but cats, they're cute.
Packrat would say otherwise but it's my blog. :)

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 19:46

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007


The problem with being home for lunch is trying to figure out what to eat without it being too much trouble. I'm lazy to cook up a storm because I'll be cooking up a storm for dinner and I have work to get done by dinner time. So what do I do? Peer into the fridge and see what I had to improvise with.

So what did I find in the fridge?
1. Some left over duck from dinner with my parents on Sunday.
2. Some plain pasta from the last time I had a pasta hankering.
3. Chilli padi.
4. A packet of cheery cherry tomatoes (I just wanted to write that!)
5. Preserved olive leaves (traditionally to be eaten with plain rice porridge)

Hmmm, enough to make a meal. The end product?


Most yummy! Pity there was no green to make the picture even more colourful. I checked, the only thing green in the veg compartment was guava and I wasn't going for a lunch that eclectic.

Now I'm full and reluctant to work.

Oh, I also found a bag of chocolate chips so I'm tempted to bake cookies but work first. These papers need to be graded by 5 pm!

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 14:48

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Friday, April 20, 2007

The importance of being earnest

I was just chatting with a student about the importance of doing literature. And it wasn't that I thought it was entirely crucial that he be familiar with the romance between Elizabeth and Mr Darcy although some may say that Mr Darcy is the quintessential male that every girl would want to fall in love with and every girl dreams of as Mr Perfect.

It had more to do with what Literature as an intellectual pursuit could teach a mind. I regret not reading literature in university, I was on to, what I thought were, more practical things like understanding Cold War politics and how the human mind worked at that point and have regretted it ever since. Why? Because what literature could have taught me, no amount of reading Foreign Affairs, Nature or Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology could have. And while I don't regret learning about all these things, it's such a shame that I hadn't had more time picking up the intrinsic and intangible.

The intrinsic and the intangible are so underrated these days. People don't know how to appreciate it anymore. It's become an exercise of understanding the semantic and syntactic representations of words. It's no longer about reading beyond that, reading into why certain words were used or why things were said in a particular manner. It's no longer about seeing through the veneer of the politically correct or simply the practical words to read into the emotion of the writer and what the writer is truly trying to bring across.

And because of this, the written word, in whichever form, is often misinterpreted. Misinterpreted based on one's limited, practically schooled, sometimes myopic schemata rather than listening to the voice that eventually comes through, especially if the writing is well thought out and written with sentiment. The result of this, laughable assumptions, pained amusement, hastily quashed retorts and indignant misunderstanding. To make it all the more shocking, these flagrant misreadings are often the product of what we, in society, consider an educated mind. Why? Because they have degrees in practical areas like computing, the sciences, engineering, accounting and business rather than airy flighty things like literature, philosophy, sociology and cultural studies.

*Having said all this, I know that there are exceptions out there, science-y people who read REAL books, are sensitive readers and appreciate (if not LOVE) the written word and people who have done the so called flighty but more intellectual subjects who inevitably become the ones that are the square blocks that fit so perfectly into the square openings. So no stereotypes here, just massive amounts of exaggeration.

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 23:54

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Let them eat cake

A colleague and I were feeling really blue about work and life in general. She was at the point bursting and swearing in colourful Hokkien in the middle of the office.

Me, I've been feeling depressed (although I strongly suspect mine's hormonally induced) and feeling like nothing in the world is right.

So the both of us decided we needed to get the heck out of work and go somewhere and chill even if it was for an hour. We ended up at the Coffee Club because we decided Starbucks was too plebian and we needed more therapy than Starbucks could offer.

I decided I wanted cake. So we went for this.
chocolate decadence

It was cappucino ice cream, chocolate ice cream on a thick Oreo crust sprinkled generously with crushed Oreos. To top it off, we had a rambutan-pineapple frostie drink. All in, a totally sugared tea that made the world look slightly friendlier although we thought it looked hazy when we stepped out. Our conclusion was that we had sugar-induced glaucoma and thought it was the funniest thing in the world and laughed all the way back to the car.

Indeed, we were high. On chocolate and sugar.

But now, I'm pleased.

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 17:56

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Splat, again!

I've been seeing these mynah birds use my air conditioning compressor unit as a resting perch. They always have twigs in their mouths. Sometimes they leave the twigs on the compressor unit and I'm tempted to reach out and sweep it away but my pregnant belly gets in the way and it really felt like too much trouble for me to keep the outside of my window clean.

I'm glad I didn't. These birds were trying to build a nest. I haven't figured out where but I have surmised that it's a little bit above our compressor unit. Unfortunately, I found out in a very sad way. I happened to look out the window and my eye caught bits of baby blue shell on the unit. Upon closer inspection, it was a cracked egg.

Cracked egg

Although I have very little affinity for birds, I felt extremely sorry for the egg and the parent birds. I do have a sneaking suspicion that it also has to do with the fact that the egg shell is a very pretty shade of blue. But that's just me being ditzy and flippant.

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 17:20

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Saturday, April 14, 2007


Since my previous posts apparently exude angst (I did not know that it did, I must be more angsty than I thought I was), I thought it was time to reverse the angst and resume regular inane programming.

I saw this in the bathroom and it cracked me up.

Face wash

Looks like someone is serious about not wanting to lose her face wash and thought chaining it to the tap was a brilliant idea.

Poor tube of face wash, it's all tied down and can't go hang out with its other face wash friends. I hope she takes it for walks everyday, otherwise, that would just be plain cruel.

Ondine tossed this thought in at 09:02

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

A proportional response

There have been some kind people who have tried to console me about my previously angsty post and basically tell me that I am changing lives and I am making a difference. Packrat's blogged about it from a more serious perspective and the conclusion that the both of us came to is that a) we're not upset because we think it's something we deserve, we're upset because it seems a more self-serving exercise than one that's out of bettering the society b) there's no way that it comes out well no matter how many angles you look at it from.

Anyway, on with life I say. But the cynical teachers that we are, we have to put a spin on it. I mean, after all, it affected us. I have colleagues that hyper-ventilated when they heard the news, others that wanted to throw tomatoes at the television screen, others that could not concentrate on their work for an hour after hearing it. So, the conclusion is that we all have to find a way to get on with life. They've screwed us before, they're screwing us now and they'll screw us again so the easiest thing to do, get on with it.

So, the spin. This came after there was feedback from students that we apparently are not doing enough for them and we should help them more. And the retort we are all using now is "well, I'm only obligated to help you 3 to 5 % more than I used to." So, okay, here's the first letter of the first word of the first sentence of the first point of the first paragraph of the first answer to the first question you asked. If we were given 33% more, mayhaps a third more effort.

Call us mercenary, call us calculative, hate us for not being filled with noble aspirations and a sense of calling and service but hey, we gotta survive. After all, we're all they have.

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 08:09

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Growing up

When I was young, during birthdays and Chinese New Year, the wishes I would get from adults would be "study hard, grow up and get a good job". Yup, I roll my eyes now as much as I did then.

So apparently, I didn't study hard enough because I have grown up and I have a job but it pays peanuts. And apparently, my job, like many others in the civil service was due for a pay raise. Cool I thought although I had a sneaking suspicion it wouldn't be much since my job doesn't have a "private sector" to compete with. I, however, did not expect that the pay raise would be a 3- 5% increment especially when other sectors of the government service get 15% or even 33%. Yup, that's really going to keep teachers from quitting or moving on to greener pastures.

But I guess it is my lot in life, because I did not study hard enough to become clever enough to be a minister, much less Prime Minister or President of the country, because then my pay raise would be a whole lot more and I would be earning in the millions. So on with the life of drudgery, I say and embrace it.

As a matter of fact, I embraced it a great deal this morning. Students who gave me angst this morning, my mantra was "I'm not paid enough to be that nice to them" so I proceeded to lock them out of class. Students who looked at me for direct answers to questions they were supposed to wrack their brain about, I adjusted the mantra to "I don't get paid enough to do your homework for you". In fact, I think I'm angsty enough to start chanting "pay me peanuts, you get peanuts" and actually toss peanuts at them but I shan't. I don't want to be known as that crazy, hormonal teacher.

But the truth behind all the angst is this, teachers put up with a lot of crap, from every one of their, for the want of a Singaporean bureaucratic term, stakeholders and on days like this, one is reminded what a thankless job it is and how true it is to say "I'm not paid enough for all this crap". It's one of those days when, if someone tells comes up and tells me teaching is about the passion and the changing the lives of the students and the satisfaction from being able to make a difference, I will tell them to "shove it where the sun don't shine".

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 13:01

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Channeling Miranda Priestly

Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada was divine. Her stare, her lips, the volume she chose to speak and her one liners.

The one line that's been resounding in my head since I've woken up this morning is " By all means, move at a glacial pace. You know how that thrills me".

Not that it thrills me, but the moving at the glacial pace, that's me, today. I feel like I'm wading through sludge, that I'm moving in slo-mo and it takes too much effort to move.

And it's Monday.


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Ondine tossed this thought in at 08:32

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

My father, the fruiterer

My father's a grumpy man and a rather formidable one at that. On top of that, he's kinda deaf. Actually, very deaf. And very gruff. So, it's hard to talk to him. On so many levels. But he likes having us around even if he doesn't hear us all that much. As a result, we eat dinner as a family once a week and it's quite a logistical exercise cos it's 11 of us plus an infant.

Anyway, occasionally, my father surprises us. The siblings all had issues with him as we were growing up because he wasn't exactly the easiest person to live with. But then again, we've grown up since and we see him for what he is. An imperfect man trying his darndest to be a good father.

And at the crux of it, he loves us to death and shows it in his own way, like doing this or what he did tonight which involved bags of fruit. According to my mother, every Sunday, he must have the car and he must go out and buy fruit. My father loves fruit, by the way. And today, he walked into the restaurant and announced to his 2 married children not to leave without taking fruit from him. Which was cool by me since I like fruit and my theory is that one can never have enough fruit.

I find out only after he's left that he had gone out to buy enough fruit to painstakingly divide fairly into 3 portions- and these were 3 large portions because I came home with like 4 mangoes and 10 mangosteen! One for me, one for my brother's family and one for them at home. It touched me in a big way even though it wasn't all that big a gesture- afterall, an onlooker would say that it was just fruit. But it proves my point; he always thinks of us. A lot of what he does or what he enjoys doing revolves around us. And he gets a big kick out of doing that and all he wants in return is a loud word of thanks and acknowledgement that he's still needed. I'm guessing, that's what a lot of our parents want from us, even though some have the knack of pressing all the right buttons and irritating the heck out of us.

But at the end of the day, I think it's cool what my dad did. It's not a lot that he asks for and it's not something I'm going to withhold and it's really not just because I like fruit.

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 21:26

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Thursday, April 05, 2007


Over the weekend, I was at my brother's for dinner and was inadvertently entertained by my nephew and niece. My nephew brings home ideas he learns in school, possibly in Art and builds or makes things. The craft of choice this week was making a scarecrow out of a broom. Cool. His five year old sister tries to copy him but is hampered a little bit by age. She decided to make a face out of a plate. Cool. She picks up a styrofoam plate and then asks for chopsticks. I told her I'd give her the chop sticks only if she wasn't going to use it to poke holes in the plate. One could see her visibly deflate as I poked holes in her grand plan. Petulantly, she wailed "WHY???". Her mother and I said at the same time that it releases bad things (i.e. CFCs) into the atmosphere and that wasn't good. She reluctantly went off to get a marker pen to draw eyes, at her mother's suggestion. I felt bad for denying her childhood creativity, but at the same time, she's the one that's going to live in this hot, sweaty, rain deprived, flood inundated world.

Fast forward to yesterday.

I was given instructions to teach a class on self-esteem (Don't even go there...). Apparently, part of the "props" for the lesson was styrofoam boards that students were supposed to break. Immediately, I told the coordinator, I'm not doing so, the world is going to shit and I'm not going to be party to destroying the world in the name of pastoral care and guidance. The response I got was bizarre. So what if the styrofoam came free with the package? So what if the school did not have to pay for it? So what if I got students to stand round the broken bits of styrofoam and breathe hard?

Apparently, two-thirds of my country realises what's going on with the world but knowing and doing's really different. I'm guilty of owning a car, running air-conditioning and lining my bins with plastic bags. I do try though. I'm not sure how much difference that makes but where I can, I won't. Like kungfu styrofoam.

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 12:30

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" Far in the stillness, a cat languishes loudly"