Tuesday, January 31, 2012


What civilisation would have a one-handed god of war? The answer, of course, is the Norse.

I've always wondered about that symbolism: the Norse god Tiw, for whom Tuesday is named, is said to have surrendered his right hand to the Fenris-wolf as a pledge of good faith (which his pantheon immediately broke). The wolf bit down, the god lost his hand, but the great chain of being that would hold Fenris till the end of the age was in place.

The lesson to me, the one I think about on most Tuesdays, or Tiw's days, is that sometimes war can be seen as a needful sacrifice. A war that does not help to keep chaos at bay is a worse war than one which does, although all war has an intrinsically serious moral burden.

In Tiw's case, the loss of his master hand in Norse society would have disqualified him from leadership; indeed, it should have disqualified him from godhood. And yet... there he stands, with a silver hand, much like his Celtic counterpart Nuada.

Tiw, also known as Tyr, faded early from Norse myth. He was seen as the organised face of war, much as Athena was in comparison to Ares. Wise and self-sacrificing, Tyr apparently had little place in later Norse myth. His name is absent from the Eddaic poetry about Ragnarok, the last battle of the world.

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Monday, January 30, 2012

The Last Minute Lasts 3-5 Months

Quite often, people remark on the fact that I seem to have a lot of last-minute students. That's one of those strange terms, because although I know what they mean by it, that's not conveyed at all by the naked text.

That's because 'last minute' has become somewhat of an anachronistic term. I can only imagine that this refers to old-time clocks which showed the time changing in increments of minutes, as the mechanism shifted the hands by 1/60 of a revolution. Recently, the term 'last second' has become a bit more common, since that's the smallest convenient unit of time, and clocks use those now. The older term 'eleventh hour' is hardly ever used — after all, now you can get a lot done in the last hour before midnight or noon.

But back to my students. No, I don't think they're last-anything. They do often come to me with 3-5 months remaining of their effective school life before terminal exams. And every single one of them has the potential to do well.

My job is, at the very least, to get them the equivalent of a B grade. This is generally easy to do; get them up to speed, throw them in running, they'll make it.

My calling is a bit different. It's to see if I can push them to an A grade in the short term, or if I have more time, to instil in them some interest, motivation or drive to be habitual learners. That old adage about 'teaching a man to fish instead of giving a man to fish' is pretty applicable. But all that is moot unless you can persuade the person in question that fish is worth eating, that there are many kinds of tasty fish; and that a lifelong interest in finding, catching and eating fish is a worthy one.

And so... give me a student for 3 months and I'll give that student fish; give me a student for 18 months and I'll make that student a fisherman who eats what he catches.

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Universal Education and the University

The idea of a university is the logical outgrowth of the idea of the collegium. This is the idea that people should get together to engage in educational discourse, edifying each other and those who are in attendance but not otherwise engaged. A university is just a collegium with a larger ambit; or as formulated in the USA, a college with the 'will teach postgrad courses and grant postgrad degrees' role tacked on.

The graduates of such a collegium or university could then become professors, that is, people who had thrashed out their ideas, threshed out the chaff from their ideas, and trashed the bad ideas, so as to be able to profess something worth professing. The whole idea was to go through the process first and then go out into the world to make it a better place (or not).

This was why most universities of old grew up as relatively cloistered environments akin to monasteries. The word 'edifice' from Latin aedificium (what they called libraries, mostly) reflects that. Sadly, many modern buildings are edifices that do not edify (much as many sacrifices these days do not make sacred).

In the early days only people who valued education went into such institutions. This changed when education was seen as imparting economic value to graduates. Then getting the degree became more important to the majority of the world than actually going to a college or university. And, as with watches, clothing and the luxury versions of all such consumer goods, labels also became worth something.

However, there are many simple tests of educational quality. Some come with counter-tests.

For example, ask a student whether there is such a thing as absolute truth. If that student replies in the negative, then ask whether this negative is absolutely true. On the other hand, an educated mind can juggle n+1 contradictory ideas in n sections of the brain while working out how to verify and hold on to n-1 of them for further analysis.

A good institution will have made students who, formerly unable to survive a battery of these simple tests, can do so by the time they graduate. For students who could already survive such a battery, the institution will have made them able to design and deploy such tests themselves.

All this, of course, leads to a society where ideas are thrashed, threshed and trashed more accurately and usefully. Or in theory, that's what should happen. Universally.

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Saturday, January 28, 2012


Janissary cruellest month, leading
Students out of holidays, feeding
Memories of desire, breeding
Dull Jacks with much work.

Jillian kept us warm, blanketing
Us with regretful nos, bleeding
Our little life with her rhubarb.

And so we were all surprised when Janissary
Came thundering over the hills
And Jill and Jacks fell through the downs
Wasted by pale coffee and flowers
Wondering where the waters and the carpeter
Went to kindergarten together.

For of course without a good carpeter,
You would have to train your own grey matter
To weave a tapestry of knowledge
From the waste land.

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Friday, January 27, 2012


And it came to pass that Atlantis had need of heroes. But some had made themselves as unto gods, and hence disqualified themselves; and some had feet of clay, for they were idols; and some disdained the very idea of heroism, preferring other terms more quantitative and less qualitative.

Most disdainful were those who themselves wrote heroic tales, for they pointed out how easy it was to invent heroes and tell stories about them, and thus argued that all heroes were likely invented, and their fabled heights were but storeys. And this was only too easy to believe, for Atlantis is indeed a many-storeyed land.

But yet, the Gnome.

The Gnome, unlike Black Diamond (who succumbed to the temptation of naming heroes), claimed to dream no dreams. Indeed, he denied having any visions, for he said he was no dreamer. He did not think of himself as a hero, and he was suspicious of that label, for he was a pragmatist.

And so, the Gnome.

The Gnome was of the gods on one side (or at least, the Celestials, for that is what his people called themselves) and of the giants on the other (or at least, the Wanderers, for that is what his other people called themselves). He did not like the glare of the spotlight or the boom of the thunder, but he did not mind harnessing the lightning in order to bring fire to mankind.

But then, you might say, being a titan should have disqualified him too.

The Gnome, though he bestrode Atlantis like an invisible colossus, did not think much of titanes. But he was a hero of the kind one hardly thinks about.

You see, while striving not to be a dreamer, he created visions. While avoiding heroism, he made heroes. And while doing his job parsimoniously and unromantically, he sat in the middle of the web and coordinated the efforts of others in making a better life for many.

For many? Not for all?

No, not for all. The Gnome, in his words to a range of audiences, was always careful to point out that you could make life better, but not for all. There would still be those who won less, who earned less, who became losers relative to whatever winners there were. He himself just went on, doing project after project, spinning narrative from his busy spinnerets.

He made the birds fly. He brought music to the hall. He was master of weapons and maker of shields. He was patron to muses and horses. He educated the masses and massed the educated. He was taskmaster and mentor, cryptic sage and determined reader.

He was a pantheon unto himself. And that is part of why he was heroic, epic even.

But the last part of why he was a hero was that he was flawed. Like Achilles, or the Hooded Man, or any other hero, he had a weakness hiding amongst his many strengths. And in the Orwellian year, he went away from the thunderbolt and into the slow evening of his long day.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Transfer Window

Sometimes you sit around and let the imagination roam across the imaginary. Surprisingly, one of the ideas that often strolls across the table between one pint and the next is that of transfer windows for teachers.

Can you imagine if you coupled education league tables with teacher recruitment? Your board could authorise a transfer budget, which you could use to poach teachers from rival schools. You could have draft picks for teachers from the local academy or institute of education. Schools at the bottom of the league tables could get first pick.

Scouts would roam the classroom corridors and halls of academia for the sake of sniffing out the next master teacher. A scorer could literally put on a master class.

The more I think about it, the more interesting it sounds. But at some point, the drink runs out and we have to go back to reality. Or take a leak elsewhere.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pulau Blakang Mati

Somewhere on the ridge between Churchward's Mu and Sclater's Lemuria, there is an island. That island is called, by its longest-term inhabitants, the 'Island of Death-From-Behind'. Some wags have therefore concluded that the ancient indigenes knew what a civil service was.

But emerging from the Atlantean towers to the north comes a book, presently being proofed and completed. It is the tale of the Gnome, referred to several times in this blog, and the modern Imhotep of this present Atlantis.

The question that was being debated by some in recent times was: "In what way was the Gnome a hero?" It is an interesting question, and one well worth considering.

The Gnome was not a barbarian or slave gladiator who with might of arm drove the enemy away in flight. He was not a wizard-king single-handedly holding back the fall of night, the incursions of chaos, the end of time, or the ruthlessness of the Lords of Order. He was High Priest of his own order, but not the bearer of the temporal majesty — that was the Thunderer's role.

Yet, as the book will show, the Gnome was a hero because he was a hero with a thousand faces. Whether it had to do with the instilling of lessons, the defence of the realm, the collection of rare birds, the injection of culture, or the hard golden coin of the marketplace, the Gnome had everything to do with it, while the Thunderer's bolts struck downward to the left and right, removing opposition. Like Gilgamesh and Enkidu, the Gnome was the true tragic hero, while the Thunderer was his foil.

A hard truth, perhaps, this story of Atlantis.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Why Do They Do So Well?

There's nothing wrong with élites per se. Even the most egalitarian of human institutions will spawn an élite of some sort, and in most cases, it is this élite which makes history, spinning it out as if it were a particularly recalcitrant fibre being made into some monstrous tapestry.

But because élites are so dominant, because they are the core of every republic and the key to getting things done, they are also the most likely cause of evil. If the élite go bad, the rest of society will find themselves looking up at a quickly-descending boot-heel, or perhaps a preparation for descent into hell.

So it is good to have a regenerative principle for the élite, a healthy and gradual replacement of establishment by the less-established, in turn supplanted by the non-established or dis-established. This creates the constantly shifting quasi-stability that is characteristic of a measured locomotive gait, as opposed to the rigid but twitching spasm that comes with a too-prolonged upright immobility.

The élite always does well because they're supposed to. We, society at large, create them from ourselves; where they are, our ancestors were or our descendants will be. When the so-called 99% calls upon the 1% to share out the wealth, it is as ludicrous as if the car that depends on a microchip were to start trying to cannibalise the metallic gold in that chip.

Go for chip replacement, not cannibalisation. Destroying the old without replacement will destroy you too, you teeming masses of the 99% who desire the downfall of the 1%. Me, I'm with the part of the 99% that doesn't mind as long as the 1% don't desire -my- downfall.

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Year of the Water Dragon

"God is working His purpose out as year succeeds to year; God is working His purpose out and the time is drawing near. Nearer and nearer draws the time, the time that shall surely be, when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God, and the waters cover the sea."

So goes an old hymn. But the waters really are rising, bringing chaos as ever. For that is the symbolism of Tiamat, old Chaos, and water dragons. This year, if the auguries are to be believed, will be one of deep disarray and the collapse of order.

Sadly, because of the last few years, many will say, "What's new?"


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Water Dragon Year This Will Be

The Chinese calendar allows one of five elements and one of twelve animals to represent each year. The year that begins on 23 Jan is a water dragon year, which of course appears once in every 60 years.

It's therefore fairly appropriate to use the idiomatic blessing 龍馬精神 (longma jingshen) or 'spirit of the dragon-horse' at this time. It alludes to the virtues of the mythical dragon-horse, normally along the lines of having dynamic strength throughout a long life. But what's even more interesting is the fact that there's a perfectly good Germanic female name which means the same thing, more or less.

That name is 'Rosalind', which has nothing much to do with roses or linden trees. The elements hros and lind are Old English for 'horse' and 'serpent', and allude to the graceful power of the archetypal horse and the wise beauty of the archetypal serpent. It's also the name of a famous Shakespearean female lead: Rosalind from As You Like It, renowned for her wit and beauty, but also for her loyalty to friends.

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Saturday, January 21, 2012


There is a rainbow above me
And the ground beneath me.
There is the sky of stars my roof,
And the trees that guard me.
There is cloud against the sun's heat
And the sunlight in day;
There is wind across the moon's glow
And the cold dew at night.

Here with my cat I sit and wait;
Here with my love I drink and dine.
When fifty years are gone
My memories are dust.

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Cheetahs and Leopards

I've loved watching cats of all kinds since I was young. I actually entertained ideas of being a zookeeper once. When I was in primary school, I knew the major cats (family Felidae) of sub-family Pantherinae (lion, tiger, jaguar, leopard) and that they weren't felines, technically (sub-family Felinae takes care of the domestic cat, cheetah, etc).

I was therefore vastly entertained to see someone online comparing two proposals that looked similar to him and saying that they were as alike as a leopard and a cheetah. Actually, the only major similarity is that both are spotted cats.

Here's a quick run-down of some of the many major differences:
  • A cheetah is a feline that purrs, a leopard is a pantherine which doesn't.
  • A cheetah is the fastest cat on earth (up to 120 km/h), but a leopard isn't (max 60 km/h, only half the speed).
  • Leopards are powerful enough to climb trees while carrying a heavy carcass. Cheetahs cannot climb trees (they're the only cats which can't retract claws, so cannot grip well).
There are many other significant differences which a simple Google search would expose. The irony was that this somebody was saying that good research skills would have made for better proposals. Ahem.

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Gaia Endrained

i caught this evening weeding's failure
kingdom of greening's greatness
fern-frond flashing furious flora
surging stalks storm-drain seething


There are some lovely leaves to be seen in that drain. They are deep green, with pink hearts and dappled yellow. There are some tiny fernlets and an accretion of moss. The drain may be discomfited, but Gaia has been poking her elegant nose into the business of men again, and her little beautiful victory is to be respected.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Millennium Catalog

The golden cat sits in the golden sun. This is something he has been doing for nigh on a decade now. He is no longer the jumpy kitten he used to be, hurtling around the bedroom and bouncing up and down.

He came to us, abandoned in a storm-drain, at the turn of the century. Now, into the second decade of the new century, there are days on which I wonder when he will no longer be with us.

On days like that, I write about him. I take photos of him. It is all very sentimental and unproductive; some might say it is irrational. But our definitions of 'rational' and suchlike are human, and humans shouldn't be allowed such liberties. As research has shown, removing emotion from humans reduces motivation for any kind of behaviour, including rational behaviour.

The golden cat in the golden sun is no mere meat-machine. He is a friend, despite having little in common with me, this non-feline who cannot think with his mind or perceive with his senses. And I think, as he turns and decides to trot over to me, that he has the cat-equivalent label for me.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I have sown no wild oats,
Have tilled no black earth;
No mystery of Gaia
Surrenders to me.

The vine, date, and olive,
Oak and ash and thorn —
These mysteries are hidden,
I have lost them all.

But I have the black sauce,
And the seed of heat;
The noodle is summoned,
The dumpling is stewed.

I sit in the hot world.
The steam is rising,
The mineral rain falls
Into the sunlight.

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Curriculum Development

As most people know, curriculum is the Latin word for racetrack. It is the course which chariots, horse, or humans run; it defines their ambit, and hence their ambition (which is the driving force behind their performance on the track).

The point about curricula is that they are courses laid out with a certain amount of planning. A straight course, like a 100m sprint, is an explosion of power and grace aimed in one direction; a curved course allows some manoeuvre and perhaps the display of slightly more complex skills; a 10,000m race or a marathon — the latter run across a rather more tortuous course — allows the display of fortitude and resource management as well.

In all cases, there is a plan. There is a central idea behind the layout of the course, there is an idea of what we are to be testing and how we are to test it.

Unfortunately, in many institutions, the idea of curriculum development has become something more akin to the design of a fun fair or an amusement park. You see freaks of all kinds, extreme performances, ostensibly all connected to one or more themes, but in reality just designed to put people through their paces in peculiar and novel ways, and collect money from them.

That's not to say that a fun fair or amusement park cannot have a rigorous curriculum design. Some can indeed show curricular excellence. What I'm saying is that a fun fair or amusement park need not have a rigorous curriculum design, and hence curriculum development is of no import to the economic model thereof.

My fond hope is that holistic curriculum design and development will be elevated to the necessary art it is in the sphere of education. What I'm now seeing is teams of bickering specialists carving out little fun fair and amusement park booths and tents for themselves. As long as they have space in the fairground or park, they're happy. They have no thought at all for their relationships with the rest of the carnival.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Singular Answers

There is a human need to find singular answers to questions. There are, unfortunately and ironically, several kinds of 'singular'.

There is the 'singular' that is an apparently unique answer, the lazy form of which is the generic answer decorated and customised to look different from all other variants of the generic original.

There is the 'singular' that is odd, eccentric, deliberately made different from the usual. And in a culture of such singular tropisms, it is likely to be fairly common.

There is the 'singular' that assumes a convergent approach based on rules. That being so, it boils down to a multiplicity of interpretations or expressions of such rules.

And there are many more. But some, it should be said, are better than others.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Under Grounds

I had a rather peculiar dream last night. My remembered dreams are few and far between, but when I do get them, they're doozies.

I dreamt that I was a sleeper agent for an unknown conspiracy, or at least one I had no suspicion of being related to at the time. For some reason, I was hiding out at my parents' place. When the agents of authority came knocking, I had to escape, a process which required much stealth and skulking and lying face down in a dry ditch for some time.

When I made my move, it was into the underground canals and tunnels around the Hill of Tin, with the authorities on my tail. I found sanctuary in the depths with a succession of post-Apocalypse coffee shops, cafés and eateries with rather familiar names — Wild Honey with a unicorn, Starbucks with a mermaid, and several others.

I remember that the authorities were thrown back with heavy casualties at the machine-gun fortifications of Killiney Kopi Tiam, and they retreated completely when they realised they would have to face the cannibal baristas of Gloria Jeans, and the nuclear lattés of McDonald's.

Eventually, I was able to re-emerge, after many cautious sorties through the secret vents of the vast Subterranean Mess Rapids Transition system. Or something like that.

Yes, it was quite an interesting dream, this one.

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Friday, January 13, 2012

The Glove Song of J Eugene Stiglitz

In the world the tankers come and go
Talking of Michelangelo...

No longer apes and peacocks and brazen locks,
No longer ivory and resin, amber and socks...

Surely is underdevelopment the bane
Say the prophets of the ticker
We should pump it up, inflate the pain.
I am no prophet — and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the garment of my mattress flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

No! I am no development framework, nor was meant to aid;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two;
Avulse the print and other media tools,
Deferential to the internet,
Politic, cautious, meticulous,
Incapable of sentence-making yet,
Most times indeed ridiculous,
Though from the best of schools.

But South America still lies stagnantly
Like seaweed floating in the listless sea.
I have heard the mermaids singing each to each
Their apocalyptic future on the beach.

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Mass Production

What is this thing called mass? How is it produced? Why is it apparently an intrinsic property of some parts of the universe? Is it a dimension like space or time? After all, when discussing dimensionality of units, we tend to look at mass, length and time.

These thoughts flashed through my head as someone came up with the fateful words, "Do you teach physics?"

My first response, which fortunately I did not make aloud, was: "I don't think any physic would like to be taught by me."

My articulated response was, "Hmm. In a manner of speaking, yes."

Meanwhile, a massive sense of oppression, like that caused by the looming darkness of a thunderhead, began to build. Fortunately, good coffee metabolized it away.

Later in the day, the good coffee's metabolic powers led to a spate of mass production. Ho ho.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Language and Truth

Reading China Miéville's latest book, Embassytown, one has the gruesome thought that Ursula Le Guin and Jack Vance have decided to play a terrible joke by sending young Miéville a bunch of the naughtiest linguistic ideas ever and letting him run wild.

What if language could only express truth as perceived by a sentient biological mind (how ever defined)? There are enormous consequences — for a start, you could use successful communication as a test for sentience of the biological sort, or for mind. And you would be able to trust any language-based communication too.

The idea is so large it boggles the mind. Wittgenstein would have risen from his grave to see this happening.


Quote of the day: "It made sense that they would try. It would have been an elegant imperial manoeuvre. Counter-revolution through language pedagogy and bureaucracy."

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Pile On My Desk

Sometimes you think of a post title, and then it occurs to you that 'The Colour Out Of Space' would be an equally good title. It does funny things to your mind.

But here I have in front of me a pile, indeed. And the pile is full of stuff which I am reading, have been reading, or will have read in a while. Besides the obvious fiction, which includes much Peter Beagle (an interest rekindled by a unicorn), Philip Reeve, Andrea Camilleri, China Miéville and Gail Carriger, I also have much not-so-obviously-fiction which might even be non-fiction.

It is this latter class which I will now describe.

I have the following on and around my desk right now, all partly read:
  • Michael Sandel's Justice;
  • Bryan Turner's The Routledge International Handbook of Globalization Studies;
  • Tu Wei-Ming's Confucian Traditions in East Asian Modernity;
  • Simon Winchester's Atlantic;
  • John Kay's Obliquity;
  • Atul Gawande's The Checklist Manifesto;
  • Nassir Ghaemi's A First-Rate Madness; and
  • Lee Kuan Yew's My Lifelong Challenge: Singapore's Bilingual Journey.
I have no idea what will emerge from this confluence, but the last time this kind of stuff interacted, I found myself two book chapters and a thesis to the good. I cannot wait to see strange beast will soon slouch its way through the Internet to be born.

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Monday, January 09, 2012

Beyond the Weakened

And it is the next day the man has a fever but it is not the same man and not the same fever and you drive and she drives and we all drive together the man who would be driving all he might be thinking about is which iron he should use to drive the ball the hole the course of antibiotics and the course of holes are one in his streetlight-revealing nightmare ride the drive is all until you get to the calm and empty hospital and you wonder why it is so empty and what they do to get it that way the blood the bits the fragments of lives and the young girl with the sprained foot she thinks is broken and will she ever dance again and will ice packs cause frostbite no but if they fall into the sea then we will all drown as the poor baby polar bears drift out and drown too.

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Sunday, January 08, 2012


Sunday you send the man with the auto-immune syndrome through the barrage of tedium and nightmare sensations that is modern healthcare catheters and all and you wonder why he is confused because you are confused and don't know it and after all why should he not be confused for the light is weak and grey and blue and the staff are greenish grey and blue and the beds are metal or maybe plastic and the same cloth the same wood veneer the same walls and paint and after a while the same people seem to come at you with needles and tubes and clipboards and in the end what is it all for all for all for go to sleep and if not waking up you won't mind but in the end you do.

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Saturday, January 07, 2012


Sometimes there are awe-inspiring pieces of writing. And sometimes, there are pieces of writing that inspire other things. I have found a template for political speeches of a certain kind. It is here. It has gone memetic.


"When I made the decision to [execute life-changing event] in [year], [something] was not a key factor. Loss of [precious something], [painful stimulus] on myself and my family and loss of [something else] were. The disruption to my [life aspect] was also an important [something]. I had some [synonym of dirt] to believe that my [something] would not suffer a drastic [something] even though I experienced a drop in my [something else]. So it is with this recent [ouchie]. If the balance is tilted further in the future, it will make it harder for any one considering [general life change]."


More examples can be found here.


Friday, January 06, 2012

It All Comes Down To This

Every year, it all comes down to this, that one's life and its accomplishments and decorations are reified into a single number. That number, no longer satisfied to be half a right angle or the answer to life, the universe, and everything plus three, is the refined prism-exudation of enlightenment. Or so it seems.

It is only the beginning, young Jedi Wyverns. If you truly believed, as your forerunners did, that the best is yet to be, you would not be so focused on just this one point of the present, soon past and forgotten.

But that is life, nor are we out of it. For where it is, there we must ever be. Sorry, Kit.

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Thursday, January 05, 2012


It is serpentine, but lithped. Or perhaps aspiring paint thinner. But it is also the sitting around in crouching wariness or stooped immobility as one awaits the results of other people's labours. O what is that sound, as Auden might have asked.


Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Jerusalem by the Merlion

And was that ship in ancient times
Docked at this city's pirate port,
And did the lone wolf's mighty spawn
Hunt fin and scale and fluke for sport?

And did his burning eye see true
The vision of commerce and trade
And was the Venice of the East
Indeed the slave of Mammon made?

Bring them the paper of their chains
Bring them the numbers of their bonds
Bring them the season of the rains
That fills the trading-road with ponds!

They shall not cease from mental fight
Nor shall they sleep but toil all night
Till they have learnt what is not learnt
And saved what has not yet been burnt.


I too have seen the opposable bamboo and gazed upon his works. And so, bad poetry, mixed metaphors and a total vomitus of angst. Yes, results are out tomorrow.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2012


Over here, Tuesday is grass-cutting day. The neighbourhood grass-cutter goes from house to house cutting the grass, mowing the lawns, blowing the leaves. The cat gets very twitchy, and so does everyone else.

I fled the house at 2 pm to do some chores over at my parents' place. They had some repairs and other tasks that needed carrying out. We sat down for coffee and pie. It was a good time.

I returned, however, to more grass-cutting, the allergic responses thereto, and a cat who had lost it and was wailing. By the time things had settled down, I was... twitchier. I had to go through a twitching hour, you might say.


Monday, January 02, 2012


Mondays are twitchy days. You don't know what to expect, or you think you know what to expect and hate it. And then if the Monday is a holiday, it's worse. It's like having a prolonged Sabbath, which instead of being particularly sabbatical, is overabundant. Twitch.


Sunday, January 01, 2012


Looking back on the year just past, I can now see that the learning experiences I suffered through have made me rethink education. It is becoming more and more true that direct intervention appears to jump-start learning, but habituation is a powerful force and conditioning polishes the responses and reflexes. Learning occurs best after severe trauma, while the brain (if we thought of it as self-aware) would be desperately re-organizing its networks for optimality.

In other words, throw all the blocks into the air, and while they are falling, catch and reassemble. The people who can do this to themselves most quickly and usefully will win the education sweepstakes. If you can indeed think of several impossible things before breakfast and then have dinner at the restaurant at the end of the universe, you have indeed got it made.

Whither then assessment and evaluation? Last year, some very bright people concluded that increasingly detailed fMRI scans would allow us to decide very clearly whether someone had learnt something or not. Who knows? In a few years' time, maybe examinations for certain simple or easily-defined tasks will consist of a 30-second brain scan.

In fact, perhaps an annual medical exam would tell us what our individual rankings should be. Haha!

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