Saturday, December 17, 2011

Baby language

Neh = hungry
Owh = sleepy
Heh = discomfort
Eair = lower gas
Eh = burp

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Devotion (ODB, Sun 13 Nov) - Be Who You Are

SCRIPTURE - 1 Pe 3:8-17
"13 Who will harm you if you follow what is good? 14 If you suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are you; be not afraid or troubled by their terror. 15 Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts; be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you the reason for your hope." - 1Pe 3:13-15

It's better to suffer for the cause of Christ, than to let the cause of Christ suffer.
We should stand up for our faith in an increasingly secular and pluralistic society. If we are criticised or marginalised, we should respond with gentleness and respect.

On secular platforms, where appropriate, I should testify of what God has done.

Give me courage to do so.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

The Science of Favouritism (Time, 14 Nov 2011)

Since procreation is basically the biologically narcissistic act of replicating ourselves through succeeding generations, parents choose the biggest, healthiest offspring, as it is more likely to carry healthy genes into the next generation.

A crested-penguin mother will kick the smaller of her two eggs out of the nest. A black-eagle mother will watch idly while her bigger chick rips her smaller one to ribbons. The function of the second chick is insurance; if the first chick is healthy, the policy is cancelled.

Firstborns are often the family's favourite: the rule of sunk costs. The more effort you've made developing a product, the more committed you are to seeing it come to fruition.

The most likely candidate for the mother's favourite is the firstborn son, for the father, the lastborn daughter.

Favouritism can fluctuate, depending on family domains. An active child may be intolerable at home, but a darling on the field.

Kids who feel less loved are more likely to develop anxiety, low self-esteem and depression.

Favouritism conflicts fade as children get older.

Being the favoured may boost self-esteem and confidence but studies show it can also leave kids with a sense of arrogance and entitlement. Unfavoured children may grow up wondering of they're somehow unworthy of the love the parents lavish on the golden child. But they do better at forging relationships outside the family.

Monday, October 17, 2011


Sign on Pavlov's door: Please knock; DON'T ring the bell!

Magicians produce rabbits out of a hat; behaviourists produce habits out of a rat.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

One-Handed Roll

Tuning your drums

Monday, September 12, 2011

Child photography

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Little Fish Shop (nex)

Ladies and gentlemen, THIS is the true seafood paradise.

From obscure varieties of fish to a straightforward seafood paella, this is where you can extend your palate without being embarrassed, thanks to the helpful, knowledgeable and sincere waiters here.

We ordered the paella ($39.90 for two persons). The portion was not overwhelming and it was chockfull of mussels, prawns, scallops etc. While not traditional (pan, saffron etc.), it was a decent take on a favourite dish.

Our neighbours had the barramundi and sockeye salmon. It looked and smelt delicious. It was a huge hunk of fish, as opposed to the miserable slivers you get at other restaurants.

We also had a Peach & Honey smoothie and a lemonade cooler, both delightfully-mixed drinks that washed the meal down really well.

I can't wait to come back to try their fish entrees.

Crazy, Stupid, Love

Steve Carell brings that endearing quirkiness we first saw in Little Miss Sunshine to the fore once again. Sure, he may be getting typecast as a lovable loser going through a mid-life crisis (a-la 40-Year-Old Virgin), but this empathetic endeavour maintains its appeal for now.

This feel-good rom-com reinforces the institution of true love, if not marriage, and one of the best parts is where all the characters come together for the first time; their genuine surprise mirrors that of the audience.

The standout scene for me is when Emily (Julianne Moore) calls Cal (Steve Carell) ostensibly having a problem with the heater, but she calls only to hear his voice as a source of comfort; what she doesn't realise is that he's in her backyard secretly doing some gardening. Awww.

All in all, a heartwarming if cliched movie holds its own with its formidable cast; Carell alludes to this when it rains during his most depressing moment: "What a cliche," he deadpans. Definitely one ti bring your better half to, if only to appreciate him/her all the more for who they are.

PS: Doesn't Emma Stone look like the 50-ft woman from Monsters vs Aliens?!

Saturday, September 03, 2011

school kills creativity - ken robinson

‎9:56 - There's one answer; it's at the back; don't look; don't copy.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Why can't opposition MPs be advisers to grassroots bodies, PA?

Just cos someone's an opp MP doesn't mean that he doesn't support all Govt policies. Ignoring them when appointing grassroots advisers is a gross generalisation bordering on xenophobia. This is PA shooting themselves in the foot, an open admission of a subjective, selective, sycophantic policy of key appointments in a non-partisan entity. MPs're elected by the people, opp or not; who's PA to say they're unfit?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Neil Humphreys' Be My Baby

‎"My excited wife cried, craving her head left and right and waddling slightly from side to side like a disoriented penguin."

‎"We giggled like cheeky cherubs and danced around the bathroom to Judy Garland - once my wife had pulled up her trousers."

""What? What is it? What have you seen? What does it say? You've looked at it before me, haven't you? I told you not to do that. Well, what does it say then?" My wife often does this: Argue with herself and win."

‎"Checking over both shoulders, I skulked down the aisles for several minutes, taking a disturbing level of interest in underarm deodorant, while waiting for an elderly man to make a final decision on the colour of a toothbrush." - On buying a pregnancy test kit

‎"There is a laid-back calmness, a certain serenity even, where unchecked jubilation and hysteria should be. After 15 years of waiting for the doctor to say yes, I fear a sense of anticlimax sneaking up and I'm struggling to deal with it. This is not how I'm supposed to feel." - On news of his wife's pregnancy

‎"Now she rubs more than Aladdin." - On his wife's propensity for belly-rubbin

"Yes, there was a family called the Kerrs who had the bright idea of naming their son Wayne."

"When this is all over, I'm gonna feel like a conductor's baton waving about in the Royal Albert Hall." - On the expansion of his wife's cervix during delivery

"After several fruitless phone calls, I concluded an obstetrician's duties included hiring obstreperous receptionists." - On a frustrating search for someone to deliver the baby

‎"She once slipped on our wet, tiled kitchen floor, forgetting that she herself had mopped it just five minutes earlier." - Neil Humphreys on his wife's genetic bumbling
I know someone like that.

‎"I heard the toilet flush in my wife's second home before he waddled in, hands permanently stuck to the back of her hips." - Neil Humphreys on his wife's active bladder

‎"We needed whites, according to my wife, lots of whites. White is the new black for sexless babies. We're gonna have a bouncing baby ghost." - Neil Humphreys on buying clothes for his baby whose sex he does not want to know

‎"One particular boy's tee displayed all the symbols of popular Australian sports: a cricket bat, footy boot, golf club. Where I grew up, that was a list of weapons." - on the unoriginality of children's clothing

‎"Nursing bras tend to come in three sizes: large, extra large and parachute."

"He likes to read and write?! Was that the best you could come up with?" I hissed. "You might as well have said that I live sand and water play too!" - on his wife's introduction of him at a parenting class

"My mother always said I had a great face for radio."

"She now leaves notes everywhere, detailing the day's agenda and any outstanding errands or engagements in a paranoid bid to stop her mind unraveling. She is turning into Guy Pearce in Memento." - on third-trimester pregnancy amnesia or mommy brain

"The pelvic floor muscles have enough to concern themselves with at the moment and a sudden increase in abdominal pressure from laughing may allow a few drops of urine to squeeze through. Being a caring husband, I'm taking this additional responsibility seriously by making her laugh as often as possible."

"... as welcome as a fart in an astronaut's suit."

A midwife had handwritten 'wife - vegetarian' and 'husband - author'. What was its relevance? Perhaps the tools of my profession will be of some service during the birth. Perhaps Dr Derek's head will pop out at the end of the bed and shout, "We need to get this baby out now! I need a clamp, scissors and a couple of funny paragraphs!"

Baby-themed CD: Be My Baby, Sweet Child of Mine, Ice Ice Baby, Hot Me Baby One More Time, Final Countdown, Under Pressure, Push It

Only 5% of women deliver on their expected due dates.

"Wait. Stop the car," she replied, suddenly clutching her tummy with both hands. "What? What is it?" I said, executing an emergency stop in the middle of the deserted road. "Look," my wife exclaimed. "There's a load of kangaroos grazing over there." I almost bloody left here there.

Moments later, after a particularly hefty push, I let go of my wife's leg to kiss her gently on the forehead, only to watch it flop spectacularly off the bed and swing limply over the side. "Neil, my leg is numb from the epidural," my wife screamed. "If you want this baby, I suggest you go pick up my leg and bring it back!"

Tokophobia = fear of childbirth

Five reasons why a baby cries - hunger, pain, tiredness, dirty diaper, hot/cold

To-do: Glucola test for gestational diabetes, TENS, antenatal classes

Friday, August 12, 2011

Weird Singapore facts

Singapore's weirder islands: Violin Island and Junk Island.
According to LTA, a taxi gets hired 25 times a day on average. Assuming that's a 24h shift, how much idle time is that?!
Average Singapore wage is $2710. I'm below-average!
The Cathay was Singapore's first skyscraper at 17 storeys.
Most common Chinese surnames: Tan, Lim & Lee. No wonder the Presidential Election turned out like that.
Coldest day: 31 Jan 1934 - 19.4C
First fast-food joint: A&W at SIA Bldg on Robinson Rd
Semakau Landfill is made entirely of incinerator ash.
Rodolfo Nolli (1888-1963) sculpted the old Supreme Court, City Hall and Tanjong Pagar Railway Station.
Last kampung: Kampung Buangkok (1956)

Sunday, June 05, 2011

New teams!

Hi guys,

Thanks for making the effort to come for the ALG Get-Together today. Things certainly didn't turn out the way we imagined it would, but I believe this is all in God's plan. I was really impressed by the mature words of Sharon Wong and Angela about getting out of the comfort zone and getting to know new people. *applause*

Having said all that, here are the key things that have transpired from our discussion today:

1. New teams
We decided to draw lots as it was the fairest way to decide the groups, since most of us opted to change rather than stay in the current team. By drawing lots, we've ended up with the following teams (I/C in CAPS):
JON, Sharon Teo, Jasmine, Aaron, CK
YEW HOCK, Sharon Wong, Debbie, Kenneth, Dominic
Angela, Matthew, Ai Ping, Jackson, Jeannie (I/C TBC)

Congratulations on having the opportunity to meet new people and grow with them. As Sharon Wong put it, when we started off this year, we were also relative strangers to our current ALG, but then grew closer in these 6 months. I believe the same will happen again.

Also psychology studies show that you can't really start with a new team until you have closure with your current team. So perhaps you guys can organise one last farewell meeting with your current ALGs to thank them properly for the blessing they've been to you, and wish them all the best in their new teams.

2. Samuel & Shirley to Marrieds
As announced some time back, Samuel and Shirley will be moving on (graduating?) to the Married ALG. Since Shirley wasn't able to join us today, we will meet after service on 18 Jun for their farewell dinner. I think Matthew, CK & Jackson should decide on the place, to make it a special occasion for their ALG. In view of that, we will meet in our new ALGs only from 20 Jun onwards, the following week.

3. Kampung Games Day
For our 2nd quarter outreach, Matthew and Jon will be organising a Kampung Games Day comprising some of the games we played as children.

Date: 10 Jul (Sun)
Time: 1-4pm
Cost for Agapeans: $10 (free for guests)
Venue: Blessing, Serangoon

Look out for the Facebook events page ( Let's make it as big a success as our Kinect Sports Challenge was.

4. Reminder
Finally, a gentle reminder about the purpose of ALG:
We want to help one another grow in Christ, and we do this by sharing our personal devotion, testimonies and prayer requests. After each meeting, the I/C should ensure that someone posts something (picture, summary etc.) on the Facebook page so that the rest can appreciate what is happening in the other ALGs. This should be done as soon as possible, by the next day.

Yew Hock and I would like to thank all of you for being such a participative and democratic group today. Here's to helping everyone grow even stronger in God for the rest of 2011!

Agape, Aaron & Yew Hock

Monday, May 30, 2011

Sesame died today

To think that a hamster that could not reciprocate feelings could leave such a lasting impression on our lives. Rest in peace.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Letter to Heng Swee Keat by Monica Lim

This woman is our Joan of Arc! Educators, read this and weep in joy! She may not be an educator, but her urgings resonate with my very soul. The education landscape she describes is one that I'd subscribe to in a heartbeat.


Dear Mr Heng

The recent polls have triggered many dramatic changes, the biggest of which is PM’s consistent refrain for transformation.

In this spirit, I’m writing to you to ask whole-heartedly for a transformation of our education system.  If not a complete transformation, at least a holistic review of some of the basic tenets by which education policies in this country are made.

As a parent with one child in secondary school and another in primary school with contrasting abilities, I have, over the years, become increasingly frustrated and disturbed by many areas of our education system which I feel are not edifying to the development of children.   At the risk of sounding like one of those domineering, opinionated mothers, let me try to persuade you, from the point of view of a concerned parent, why a change is due.

Education is not a business

Many have felt that Singapore in the past few years has been run like a business and this mindset has filtered down to education.  These days, teachers are ranked against each other measured by KPIs. If their students don't perform up to par, then they drop in ranking. I assume this affects their appraisal and promotion prospects. Principals are also under pressure to keep up in school rankings (and not just in academics), hence they push their teachers to achieve better results.

Here's what happens when schools are run like businesses. Teachers become workers assessed and ranked according to quantifiable output. The principal is like the CEO, answerable to a higher authority based on numbers. Students become products, they are valued only according to the quantifiable output they can contribute, everything else is peripheral or redundant. Everything is reduced to numbers.

Therein lies the problem. When you run a business, the focus has to be on results, preferably quantifiable results. Don't get me wrong, I think it's well and good to try and assess the effectiveness of a school.   But instead of seeing how we can better assess the effectiveness of schools, we run the schools to make them easier to assess.  

Education administrators love this because it's so neat, structured and orderly. But the problem is education is about moulding of individuals. And neither individuals nor learning is neat, structured or orderly. The process of education is not and should be like that of manufacturing, taking place in a factory.

A friend of mine who volunteered to lead a character module at her son’s school was taken aback when she was asked for KPIs.  I have other friends who are teachers have expressed frustration at being assessed purely by how well their students score.  If we take this route, there is no "business" value in helping a student overcome his learning disability or giving special attention to a child from a difficult family background because the outcome is not quantifiable. We're leaving it to the assumed social conscience of the teacher and the school to step forward in such instances. But realistically, ensuring ‘A’ students continue to get top grades will likely get priority because it directly impacts on the teacher's KPIs.

Obsession with results

The inevitable outcome of an education system that is run by KPIs is the obsession with results and by this, of course I mean quantifiable results.  What happens then is the focus is shifted from the process of education to the end result of scoring, because that is what is measured in the end.

For example, I find that the way many subjects are taught in schools are based on the marking template, understandably because if the objective is to maximise scores, then you teach to fulfil this objective.  I’m a corporate writer and one of my biggest pet peeves is the way composition writing is taught in primary schools. 

Many teachers today are told to mark the language of a composition based on how many "good phrases" are used. In my son’s school, a commercial book of good phrases is part of the syllabus and the kids are told to learn these phrases, even for spelling.  These phrases are often so bombastic and pretentious that nobody in real life would actually use them.  Yet the students are taught them because “ticks” are given for each “good phrase” and added to their vocabulary score.

I remember during a parent-teacher conference, I raised my concerns to my son's English teacher.  To my utter surprise, she agreed with me. She said that once the school started imposing the memorising of good phrases for composition, she ended up with 44 scripts of almost identical introductions (mostly about the "fiery sun in the sapphire sky").  Unfortunately, her hands were tied.

I know why this is imposed - it's to make marking simpler. This way, schools don't have to depend on the arbitrary standards of each marker and the marker just has to follow a matrix. It's certainly more orderly but don't mistake it for creativity. I don't know any other education system which designs its curriculum around the grading. Shouldn't it be the other way around?

To me, attempting to come up with a template for creativity is simply oxymoronic.  Ironically, we’ve managed to suck the creativity out of creative writing.

This obsession with results extends outside of the classroom.  In my daughter’s school, the performing arts groups are given funding according to how well they perform in the SYF.  Likewise, bigger budgets are given to sports that bring in medals. The list goes on. What this breeds in the race for medals and results is that schools often prioritise these over values like effort, sportsmanship and character building.

Even otherwise worthwhile activities, such as CCAs and community service, have lost their noble intent somewhat, as many students now perform these duties clinically for the sake of window dressing their resume.

Valuing people based on academic results

As a direct outcome of a school system that emphasises scores above all else and uses these scores to dictate the child's educational path at a very early age, Singaporeans have become obsessed with chasing grades.  While I don’t deny grades are important, for many, they have become life-centric, meaning kids spend every waking hour performing tasks that will help them better their score. 

The mindless pursuit of academic achievement has become so over-arching that many parents are now sending their kids for what I call indiscriminate tuition – tuition in every single examinable subject whether or not the child actually needs it.  My daughter is in an SBGE (School-Based Gifted Education) class and her classmates were either from the GEP in primary school or top scorers in the PSLE.  So I was startled when she told me that most of her classmates have tuition in 3 or 4 subjects.  Tuition has become a crutch - even if the kids are doing well on their own, parents fear the consequences of doing without it.

The backlash is that our children’s self-worth and perception have become intrinsically linked to their academic grades.  Teachers, peers and possibly parents judge the value of students according to their academic ability. I know children whose self-esteem is low simply because they don’t do as well in school as their classmates.  In the “branded” schools, it also breeds elitism because these students deem others less academically-inclined as somehow inferior.  When my daughter attended her first day of school in sec 1, many of her new classmates, meeting her for the first time, didn’t ask “what’s your name?” but “what’s your t-score?”

This treatment of academic prowess as a “superior” skill can be seen throughout our system.  Although we profess to embrace all talents, it’s often lip service.  Prefects and student leaders are usually chosen first on their academic ability before their leadership skills.  In many DSAs for sports, schools still ask for academic results before they will even entertain the child for a trial.  The message we seem to be sending is: we'll look at your other talents IF you have the academic ability.

Putting standards above learning

In my son’s recent p5 mid-year exams, in one class, every single child failed the math paper.  This is a common scenario among some of the popular schools.  Obviously, it’s not because the students are intellectually deficient.  It’s because the papers are often set at a level designed for only the top 25% of kids.  In fact, one question required a method that had not yet been taught to the students.  It’s a mockery of the “teach less learn more” motto – does it mean the teachers teach less but the kids somehow have to learn more on their own?  No wonder tuition centres are flourishing!

I’m tired of hearing the age-old excuse from schools that this will spur the children to work harder.  Incidentally, this is not supported by fact. I suspect it's an urban legend spread by schools who wish to justify their "high" standards.  I meet many parents and students who are more demoralised than "spurred" by their consistently bad results.

What is the point of this? The age gap between my two children is only three years and yet I can see that what my younger child has to learn at his age is markedly more difficult than what his sister had to know.  

Perhaps this constant accelerating of the educational syllabus is a knee jerk reaction to the influx of brilliant foreign students, but this is no justification.  We need to recognise that these kids have completely different motivations. They are here purely to study, to carve a better life for themselves, much as our students work harder when they study overseas.  Do we then use these as benchmarks to whip Singaporeans into shape? 

No education system is a one size fits all but we need to consider the best interest of the majority of students.  If half your students fail in an exam, it doesn’t reflect badly on the student – it reflects badly on the teaching.  I find that in setting the curriculum and exam papers, there seems to be some semi-sadistic streak in MOE and schools, to trip kids up and make them feel stupid.  It's as if someone is saying, "Aha! I managed to set a question that no one could answer!"  There will always be a small percentage of brainiacs who can ace any exam, no matter how difficult.   That is not a logical benchmark by which to design curriculum or exam papers.

Plea for a more meaningful system

In the course of my work, I had the opportunity to interview the Vice Dean, Education of Duke-NUS.  It was, in my mind, one of the most inspiring interviews I’d ever conducted.  In his words, “We don’t just want the straight ‘A’ student.  Does having one less ‘A’ make you less of a person?  We know Singaporeans are already great at memorising facts – we’re looking for passion, dedication and the ability to see a problem through different angles.”

I feel we could use more of that mindset here. Singaporean educators are often proud of our high standards but let's be honest, we're good at ticking off checklists, exams and competitions. We laugh at the laissez faire American system for its laxity but in truth, they have churned out more innovators and thinkers from their messy system than we have (even after adjusting for size and population).

I will be the first to admit to occasionally suffering pangs of anxiety when my child doesn't do well in an exam because it's hard to stand firm in the onslaught of a tsunami of kiasu-ism.  But at the end of the day, I try to keep reminding myself his character and happiness matter more.  I want a kinder system, one that encourages my child to explore the world around him, not closes it up. One that shows him the richness of issues and topics out there, not limits him to four subjects.

I want a system where I can encourage my child to enjoy music, art, sports for their own sake, and not with the pre-requisite that he does well academically. I want him to want to help others, and not because it counts towards community service hours in his report book. I want to groom a child with integrity and respect towards others, and I hope others can appreciate him for these values.

I am doing as much as I can in these areas but I cannot fight against the education system. I'm writing this in the hope that as you now helm the Education Ministry, you can make the transformation happen. 

Thank you very much for your time.

What Yellow Ribbon?

An honest and heart-rending conversation with a parent has me doubting the fairness of our legal system and the naive idealism of the Yellow Ribbon Project. I feel so helpless and hollow.

wrongfully accused of a crime while on MOE bond. didn't have money to clear his name. now has to pay off bond, house is repossessed, and no one wants to hire him.

Sir Alex Ferguson bans journalist for Ryan Giggs question - ESPN Soccernet

This man is ruthless! One sneaky question and you're murdered!

Filipino Accent Tutorial by Mikey Bustos

MCYS acting minister Chan Chun Sing dancing

Reviewing ministerial salaries: Seven lessons from the private sector by Mak Yuen Teen, Today

Two, adopt some macro performance measures which capture overall performance in a holistic way (such as average GDP growth, average wage growth & unemployment rate) and micro performance measures which directly reflect a particular minister's performance (e.g. traffic accident rates, average expressway speeds, admission rates of S'poreans into local universities, percentage of low-income families owning HDB flats).

Monday, March 07, 2011

Nani’s Horrific Injury From Jamie Carragher’s Tackle: Photos

Before we criticise Nani for what we thought was play-acting again, this is the result of Carragher's tackle. Steven Gerrard owes him an apology for falsely accusing him. Nani was able to walk to the referee to remonstrate because he was in shock with his adrenaline pumping. Only later did the pain hit him. I suffered something similar.carragher foul Nanis Horrific Injury From Jamie Carraghers Tackle: Photosnani injury 1 Nanis Horrific Injury From Jamie Carraghers Tackle: Photosnani injury 2 Nanis Horrific Injury From Jamie Carraghers Tackle: Photos

Friday, February 25, 2011

Plato predicted Hollywood

"Then shall we simply allow our children to listen to any story anyone happens to make up, and so receive into their minds ideas often the very opposite if those we shall think they ought to have when they are grown up?" - The Republic, 360 BC

Friday, January 14, 2011

Gravity- String Theory for Dummies by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

Is gravity a strong or weak force? We think it's strong, seeing it holds moons in orbit, but it's actually rather weak, as eraser-sized magnets can overcome the gravity of the entire Earth when it lifts a paper clip off the ground. Yet gravity is so prevalent because electromagnetic forces are self-neutralising; sometimes they attract, and sometimes they repel. Meanwhile, nuclear forces operate at atomic distances, whereas gravity interacts across the universe.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior by Amy Chua (WSJ)

Can a regimen of no playdates, no TV, no computer games and hours of music practice create happy kids? And what happens when they fight back?