Archive for the 'talk' Category

happy/crappy teacher’s day

Although the day went well enough at school with the requisite class parties and student performances, I’m still reeling from my CATASTROPHIC performance at the staff dinner last night. Was supposed to play guitar as part of a traditional “lets-sabo-the-new-teachers” item during the dinner and was so uncharacteristically nervous that I pretty much forgot how to play 2/3 of all the songs.

Nightmare flashback images = fumbling the (ridiculously simple) intro to “Dream a Little Dream Of Me” 3 times; looking up to see my expressionless colleagues; staring at my malfunctioning fingers and thinking, “Why are they shaking so much?”

Now I’m gonna be “that guy who gets nervous onstage”. Fuck.

In other news, Peter Hook at Zouk was fucken ace. Though apparently someone wanted to pick a fight with me on the dancefloor, which is also very uncharacteristic.

Maybe next year I’ll just stay home.


obligatory stock-take

Actually this should have been done last night, but what the hell. This blog’s been up a year with a view to documenting my major lifehack – and I’d say the remix of my life has been not too bad.

Let’s see, I quit my shitty job, found a new job, my parents got sick (again), my dad had to go for major surgery, he kicked its ass, my brother got married, my sister-in-law got pregnant, and I’m enjoying the hell out of being a student again. For all intents and purposes, 2006 pretty freaking rocked. I think I didn’t fuck it up this time. Very cool.

In keeping with my frankly quite dumb blog title of zerotwohero, I’m upgrading myself to 0.3 since my last grade of 0.1 when I got my new job. Still got a ways to go, but I think I’ve some idea how to get there.

going native

I thought I’d ought to bring up the fact that I’ve recently had a very kind mention in my social studies tutor, Kenneth’s podcast (currently the only Singaporean podcast to be featured in the ‘education’ category at the iTunes store, mind). Thanks, Kenneth.

According to him, I am apparently among the first generation of teachers to be digital natives – native speakers, so to speak, of the language of computers, video games and the Internet. While I’m not that sure I’m one of the first to become a teacher (I am a latecomer to the profession, after all), I am pretty sure what little tech-language my colleagues speak doesn’t seem to be helped along very much by our system’s approach to educational technology.

We have a particular module in school that’s supposed to teach us technology-oriented pedagogy, which is unfortunately as legacy as you can get. Things like not using too much animated clipart on a powerpoint slide, fun with agents (like goddam Clippy) and an implicit direction towards using “cutting-edge” presentation software like Flash or Director. I realise bureaucracy is a necessary(?) evil of the civil service, but I sincerely hope someone over there realises that multimedia isn’t the buzzword anymore.

We’re living through the most exciting Internet boom since, well, the bubble, and I haven’t heard the term Web 2.0 in class once. I don’t care if its a cliché, it should have been addressed at the very least. What else is blogging, Myspace, wikis, Friendster, IM-ing but Web 2.0? Why aren’t we using the surfeit of web-based, socially-networked apps – which our students already use – to teach them? Why not folksonomies like, flickr and RSS, off-the-shelf tools our students can continue to use outside of school?

Lifelong-learning is the aim, isn’t it?

To be fair though, I understand that the system won’t be able to change in years, much less overnight. As one of my tutors told us today, if this year we changed the exam system to support new literacies (which is another story), the parents of kids (and the kids themselves) who took the exam last year would have our heads.

Nevertheless, I hope it won’t take too long before someone higher up groks the fact that social networks are the new multimedia, exactly like student-centeredness is the new teacher-centeredness (fellow teachers know what I mean). Instead of finding new ways of merely engaging our students, we should be building architecture to connect and share digital information with them and with each other. Metcalfe’s law is the order of the day.

So what I’m saying here is this – social networking is staring us straight in the face while simultaneously aggregating a civilization’s worth of information a mere click away. And all we can talk about in class is how blogs are just for ranting.

I may or may not be a digital native, but I do know that even if I were, it’s not on account of what I’m learning now at school.

power to the people

Please excuse the hackneyed title post, but I just read the most compelling argument for blogging as citizen activism ever.

For those who think that we are cocooned in our safe little online havens, we are not. The government monitors our blogs. They have to. It isn’t just about security threats; they need to know what we think. They need to know what concerns us. And events like the Wee Shu Min incident shows how much power and influence we can actually have on them. Sure, the beauty of the incident, is that not everyone agreed with each other. A number of people sympathised with Derek Wee’s post; a number didn’t as well. A number of people thought like, and still think like Wee Shu Min, and do believe that in a meritocratic system, “survival of the fittest” is a way of life. Yet more believed that this ought not to be the case in any nation-state with a government machinery that was to serve the citizenry. It isn’t really a question of who is more right or who is more wrong – the important thing is that there was a proliferation of debate. Everyone had a view because it hit so close to home. Sure, a number of people got carried away with mud-slinging and condescending abuse (which a number of people also said that they did not agree with); but for the most part, everyone was talking. Everyone felt strongly enough this subject to not want to keep it under the carpet.

And the result? MP Wee Siew Kim was forced to address the concerns in the national newspaper. He did not have to; the majority who did not read the online blogs and visit the forums would not have known any better. But he did.

After giving it further thought, I guess the real consequence of the online debate was an apology from an MP – which admittedly, is a rare and wondrous thing – but there hasn’t been really much of a revolution or actual policy change as a result of the whole affair. So not really activism as I see it.

Nevertheless, a definite sense of change is in the air, and I’m pretty damn excited to see how we’ll go from here.

So please, please go to Coffee and Cigarettes to read the rest.

the writing life

I did mention in a previous post how I’m pretty inspired by Stephen King – well, here’s the man himself talking about his muse.

There’s a mystery about creative writing, but it’s a boring mystery unless you’re interested in this one small animal, sometimes quite vicious, that makes its home in the bushes. It’s a scruffy little thing with fleas and often smells of whatever nasty mess it’s been rolling in. It can never be more than semi-domesticated and isn’t exactly known for its loyalty. I’ll speak more of this beast — to which the Greeks gave the comically noble name musa , which means song — later, but in the meantime, believe me when I say there’s little mystery or tragic romance about the rest of it, which is why they never show the working part in movies about writers, only the drinking, carousing and heroic puking in the gutter by the dawn’s early light.

I always remember reading King many years back, describing the rush of inspiration as feeling like his muse shat on his head. I try to hold to that economy and total lack of conceit as the best form of writing, plus the fact that a little toilet humour never hurt anyone.

five questions

It’s not everyday I get tagged, so what the hell, here goes…

1. Why do you blog?
This blog started off as a way to document my job search after quitting tv earlier this year, but since I found a new job pretty quickly, this has become more a storehouse of information and fragments of my incessant web-surfing. Some posts about my family are a little more personal, but they exist on the blog to help remind me of significant events. I try to be a little original once a week and come up with a book review – I’m thinking of switching to a new project when my 52 books are finally up, so that ought to be fun.

2. Which author and/or book has most influenced you?
This is one of those impossible questions, innit? I’ve devoured books non-stop for close to 2 decades now and its pretty nigh-impossible to narrow it down to any one author or book. I can list a few authors who’ve pretty much defined my reading though – Philip K. Dick, William Gibson, Douglas Coupland and Stephen King. What sets these writers apart are not so much how I’ve enjoyed reading them, but how much I aspire to write like them as well.

3. Which three blogs do you most visit? I love tech and I like taking the piss, and Gizmodo manages to combine both these things in a convenient, constantly-updated, piss-taking, tech-loving package. I like my tech news instantaneous, and it pleases me no end when the Apple store guy expresses surprise at my shockingly up-to-the-minute questioning. C’mon, doesn’t everyone stay up reading live-bloggings of Apple keynotes?

Pink is the New Blog Back at my old job, the staff was pretty much divided thus – those who read Pink, and those I wouldn’t hang out with outside of work. Yes, I know celeb gossip is both very gay and ultimately counter-productive, but goddam if I can’t get my daily dosage of Spederline shizz. I can only wish that one day I’ll be as twisted as Warren Ellis, the sickest comics writer ever to troll the internets. I began my previous blog in emulation of his mutated, icky weirdness, but I’m plenty happy just to let him own my ass.

4. Why do you read fiction?
There’s no way of putting this without sounding trite, but fiction sometimes takes me away, and sometimes it brings me back. That pretty much sums it up.

5. What makes you laugh?
Mostly Grace, but oftentimes its friends, comics, cartoons, movies or blogs. I laugh at myself a fair bit, which is mostly healthy, I think.

Ok, that took a little longer than I expected. Thanks to Josh for the tag – I’m not tagging anyone, but feel free to try if you’d like.

no more reveille for me

Now that I’m supposed to be all teacher-like and whatnot, articles like this begin to catch my eye. It helps when I think I totally agree, of course.

Kids trudge through the week on insufficient sleep, barely limp to the finish line on Fridays, use the weekends to pay off the week’s sleep debt by snoozing until noon and then try to readjust their body clocks on Monday morning. Prof. Jim Moss, a sleep expert at Cornell, says: “It’s as if at the start of every week our kids have West Coast to East Coast jet lag.” He finds that in the early morning classroom “the overwhelming drive to sleep can replace any chance of alertness, cognition, memory or understanding.”

And we also know that later school start times can reduce this affliction. Amy Wolfson, a professor at Holy Cross who studies Americans’ sleep patterns, tells me: “The evidence is pretty clear that students in the later-starting schools get more sleep and have less tardiness, fewer behavior problems, and do somewhat better in school.”

I actually like starting classes at 830am in the morning as opposed to starting work at 10am back in my old job, but I think 730am assembly at secondary schools is pretty freaking crazy. TOM CRUISE CRAZY.

meeting manaf

There’s this guy I always see during my thrice-weekly runs along the canal behind my house. I mean, there’re a lot of guys (and ladies) who jog there regularly but this particular guy, Manaf, stands out.

While the rest of us are in reasonably good enough shape to count as joggers, Manaf doesn’t run so much as shuffle, and he’s pretty much the skinniest guy I’ve ever met (think Jack Skellington from Nightmare Before Christmas). He’s there everyday, and one day, it just occurred to me that this guy’s probably has or had some illness but he’s still out there every single day pounding the pavement along with the rest of us.
So I started giving him a little wave and smile everytime we ran/shuffled past each other, and it became a bit of a little routine – we’d pretend not so see each other til we were about 2 metres apart, then we’ll both look up and do our little greeting. Before long, I realised that almost everyone running along the canal daily knows Manaf and has their own particular routine with him.

I always mean to strike up some sort of conversation with him but it’s not that easy when we only acknowledge each other for 2 seconds before we’re on our way again. Doesn’t help also that my iPod’s permanently grafted to my ears when I run.

So anyway… it rained today in the middle of my run and I got stuck under the highway with Manaf for about an hour and a half. Our conversation ranged from running (obviously), our jobs, living in CCK (30 odd years for Manaf), Singapore Idol (he’s not a fan, me neither), Premier League (I had very little to contribute) and my favourite, 70’s metal!

Manaf is the original Mat Rocker, having fronted a band covering the Scorpions and Rainbow in the 70s. Ramli Sarip (of Sweet Charity) and him were neighbours in the same kampung, the village head of which was Ramli Sarip’s father! Manaf told me about the old metal gigs that used to held near the now-demolished Van Cleef Aquarium at Fort Canning and how he used to have a mullet and skintight black jeans.

Of course, this all ended with the government crackdown on all things rock in the 70s. This is sort of a sore topic with me as well, so after awhile we kinda forgot the rain and just lamented our mutual loss… (not to mention Singapore’s)
Eventually the rain let up enough and it got too dark and cold, so we decided to head back. I may not have hit my target distance today, but today turned out to be one of my more interesting runs. Next time I see Manaf, instead of just waving, I’m going to flash him one of these..


Among the best books I read last year belong to David Wellington’s Monster Trilogy, three serialized online novels about zombies. The first instalment, Monster Island, is probably my favourite book last year.

Earlier this year, Wellington released and finished Thirteen Bullets, about a highway trooper hunting (and being hunted by) a series of vampires. While Wellington professed that it was his best work, I think it’s his worst. An ok read, I guess, but then I’m pretty finicky about my bloodsuckers.

And now…. Frostbite is his newest serial novel. Not very clear what its about yet, but I’m guessing werewolves, which are always cool in my book. Here’s the feed.

Update: And its works! Links are live again.


Chekkit, boys and girls – I will weep tears of blood if my harddisk crashes on me now. Time for a long overdue backup.

For those who care about these kinds of things, I encode my songs as mp3 at 192kbps.