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Saturday, December 31, 2005

Hi Dylan!

Our friends Dave & Jen have a baby! Just in time for the new year too! See here for a pic of the amazingly serene mum and the little darling. We'll try our best to make it to San Francisco to see you guys over spring break- promise!

Welcome to the world Dylan Gee Louie!

A Child Went Forth
There was a child went forth every day;
And the first object he look’d upon, that object he became;
And that object became part of him for the day, or a certain part of the day, or for many years, or stretching cycles of years.
- Walt Whitman

Friday, December 30, 2005

Playing House

Spending the last few days viewing apartments has been a most illuminating experience. Jude and I aren't dead set on buying something but just thought to keep our options open and so have been looking at several places around his parents' place. Just back from another house-hunting session, and bearing an uncanny sense of contemplation, a feeling I can't quite pin down, somewhere between anticipation, anxiety, and resignation I suppose. I love the idea of finally having a place of our own which we can fix up in a way which is uniquely us and a home we can be proud stewards of; on the other hand, buying a house is a huge committment, and one I'm not sure whether as grad students we can truly undertake. Also, walking around the many housing estates has offered an interesting insight into the whole Singaporean housing experience, one I never quite fully appreciated till now. There's a whole language associated with buying a house in Singapore- phrases like "valuation", "4-S", "4-A", "co-broke", etc. are thrown about and everyone in the loop toss them around as if they were born with that vocabulary; then there are all the players involved in the transaction- the buyers, sellers, agents on both sides, the government gets into the picture, as well as banks, tenants if we want to rent our apartment out, and of course our parents who are probably going to have to help us watch over it while we're away.

Interestingly, this relates really well to something we recently watched on DVD. While we were Christmas shopping last week, we chanced upon the inagural collection of Singapore short films, Singapore Shorts. Jude continues to keep abreast of the Singapore arts scene and we decided to buy the compilation, especially for Tan Pin Pin's Moving House, a short film about compulsory exhumation of grave-sites in Singapore. It elegantly and evocatively brings together social & political commentary about Singapore's housing and development policies, and a moving ethnography about one family's attempt to deal with exhuming their parents' graves in order for the government to take over the land in the name of urban redevelopment.

I grew up in an era where public housing is ubiquitous and the almost instinctual housing of choice. I'd never stopped to think about what it meant to try to contain 4 million people into an island which takes only 45 minutes to drive the length of, and the sacrifices and compromises which have to be made in the name of advancement and modernity. The film brought home to me the realities which belie our internationally reknown housing policy and interrogated the taken-for-grantedness which has always characterized my ideas of what it means to gain a home in Singapore, and what is lost in that process.

Jude and I still haven't decided if we're going to buy anything, but whatever the case may be, as it is proverbially acknowledged, a house doesn't make a home. We have each other, and as far as we're concerned, that's good enough for now.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Restraint is...

...something I have yet to learn. Especially when it comes to food, and especially when I'm back home where more often than not, people spoil you silly by feeding you. My day began with two cups of kopi-O and half a packet of nasi lemak. Right, you might say, it's half a packet, no biggie, but when it's half a packet of rice cooked in rich coconut milk, accompanied by fried egg, fried fish, ikan bilis (dried anchovies) & peanuts, and an otak which is a spicy coconut-based fish paste, all before 10am, you'll understand how indulgent it was... (and how delicious...)

Lunch was at Crystal Jade with my mum and Sam. I clearly have lost the ability to order proportionately when it comes to being back home in Singapore. Between the three of us, we had a bowl of smooth rice porridge, a plate of roast duck noodles, a portion of stewed trotters in black vinegar (I know this sounds almost nauseating, but honestly, there are few things which marry sweet, sour, and savory to such an ambrosiacal level...), and tim-sum which consisted of panfried carrot cake, shrimp dumplings, steamed pork ribs, steamed chicken feet, and baked pork buns. (I can just imagine Melanie squirming already.... Jonas, help.) Oh, and there was a plate of soy-sauce chicken too. Told you I no longer have control over my sense of perspective...

I think my greatest weakness are the desserts, and to make things worst, they're not even local desserts which I can excuse myself for having on the pretext that I don't get them in Ann Arbor. It's those tea-time treats and after-dinner indulgences that simply kill me. Was out with my cousins Jill & Terri and both my sisters and what do we do apart from voluntarily hurling ourselves at the constantly maruading crowds in Orchard Road? Have coffee and Bakerz Inn. We had a warm apple pie ala mode and an evil waist-busting, self control-crippling miscreant disguised as an innocent and oh-so-delectable warm oozing chocolate pudding with ice-cream. Pure evil I say, pure evil!! Oh the horror...

And dinner, don't even get me started... My lovely uncle and aunt brought us all out for Japanese steamboat (shabu shabu). After a trio of exquisitely crafted appetizers, we were presented with freshly sliced Wagyu beef to be cooked gently in a light broth (when I say freshly sliced, I mean it- the chef literally took out the frozen hunk of beef and sliced it wafer-thin right before us). It was the first time Jude & I have had Wagyu beef, and it was delicious. Immensely tender without being greasy at all. And the fresh veggies were a great accompaniment together with what we suspect to be hand-made noodles. But the piece de resistance was the rice porridge that the chef then made right before us using the intensely tasty leftover broth after we were done eating. With just that pot of broth, he transformed a bowl of rice, a beaten egg, some seasoning, a slice of cheese cut up, and some seaweed into what can only be described as the ultimate comfort food to satiate even the most demanding of palates. Nothing fancy here folks, just simple carbohydrates and proteins, but put together in a way that really warmed the deepest cockles of this girl's gut.

So you see, I was not exaggerating when I said I so need to work on fortifying my walls of self-control and restraint- I am not kidding. I need help. I'm contemplating clinical assistance... Like stapling my mouth perhaps.

By the way, we're having a buffet lunch tomorrow with Jude's parents.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Christmas at home was every bit as joyous as we had expected (but also more tiring than we remembered it to be...) Being with family was lovely and everyone loved their presents- I got Jude tickets to watch Feist when she comes to Ann Arbor next month and also the complete Director's Series DVD Collection that includes directors like Michel Gondry, Chris Cunningham, Spike Jonze and Anton Corbijn which Jude has been enjoying for a while; he got me that adorable Threadless t-shirt and a REI vest I've been coveting for the longest time; and Sam- good grief! amongst other things, my dear baby sister received a new pair of Birkenstocks, a Swatch watch, and a Crumpler messenger bag... talk about being loved!

It was also a Christmas of a couple of firsts- 1) my first Catholic midnight mass with Jude's family, 2) our first Christmas with our niece Amelia (who's developing a strange affection for bedding of any sort- pillows, bolsters, blankets...), 3) the first time Johnny Cash has been played as Christmas music at dinner (imagine "A Boy Named Sue" instead of "The Little Drummer Boy"- it's my dad's Christmas present which Jude picked out- Johnny Cash's The Legend box set- to prepare him for the movie that I suspect won't open in Singapore till just before the Oscars); and 4) the first time in a long while that we've had EVERY single member of my extended family at Christmas together. We're talking two grandparents, 11 aunts and uncles, 20 cousins, 5 nephews and one niece. In case the math deluded you- that's 39 people in all (the photos tell it all).

Anways, we're both completely pooped from the festivities, especially the eating. Time for some serious recuperation before we leave in a week. Going back to student life is going to seem like sheer deprivation for a while after indulging so much and also being showered with so much attention and love. We're basking in the warmth of our family and to share it with you, from both of us, here's wishing everyone a truly blessed Christmas!

Enchanted Forest. Peagreen, 2005.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Both Jude & I read the book when we were much younger and remember it to different degrees. I suppose you could think of the movie as a kind of Lord of the Rings for the under-18 set but with what is probably a starker Christian allegory. One could go on and on about the religiou undertones (or overtones) of the story, but as with all allegories, they are meant to be symbolic, not literal- as A.O. Scott wrote in the NYTimes, you don't find talking beavers in the Bible...

Anyways, we enjoyed the movie very much. It was less epic than I had expected but because of that, also with alot more heart. You could palpably feel the human emotions between the children (resentment, betrayal, forgiveness, reconciliation), but at the same time, also the lofty weight of the battle between good and evil. The casting was truly genius, especially Tilda Swinton as the exquisitely malevolent White Witch. It is her almost other-wordly allure that made her an equally evocative Angel Gabriel in Constantine but here, she has truly outshone herself, literally. Some literary characters will forever be immortalized by the actors who play them- Holly Gollighty, Dorothy, Harry Potter, and now, the White Witch. But I thought little Georgie Henley as Lucy was truly the soul of the story. Her well of empathy, faith in goodness, and artless courage made me smile everytime she was happy, and tear whenever her little heart was broken, either by her brother's dishonesty, or at Aslan's sacrifice. Just wonderful.

I did have issues with some of the battle scenes being a little too vivd for young children, and in that vein, also share some of Jude's discomfort at the metaphor of warfare in what is essentially a Christian allegory. But during this holiday movie season, as long as you suspend your religious or spiritual anxieities at the theatre door and embrace the story as a universal tale of maturity, sacrifice and triumph, I assure that you will find profoundly more genuine wonderment and joy in the two-half hours than a giant simian or sashaying bespectacled fowl will ever come close to doing.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Have you?...

Got this from Susan's blog. Most definitely both a liberating but also mortifying recollection...

Jude- bold
Serene- italics

01. Bought everyone in the pub a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula.
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
08. Said 'I love you' and meant it
09. Hugged a tree
10. Done a striptease
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Stayed up all night long, and watch the sun rise
15. Seen the Northern Lights
16. Gone to a huge sports game
17. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
18. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
19. Touched an iceberg
20. Slept under the stars
21. Changed a baby's diaper
22. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
23. Watched a meteor shower
24. Gotten drunk on champagne
25. Given more than you can afford to charity
26. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
27. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
28. Had a food fight
29. Bet on a winning horse
30. Taken a sick day when you're not ill
31. Asked out a stranger
32. Had a snowball fight
33. Photocopied your bottom on the office photocopier
34. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
35. Held a lamb
36. Enacted a favorite fantasy
37. Taken a midnight skinny dip
38. Taken an ice cold bath
39. Had a meaningful conversation with a beggar
40. Seen a total eclipse
41. Ridden a roller coaster
42. Hit a home run
43. Fit three weeks miraculously into three days
44. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
45. Adopted an accent for an entire day
46. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
47. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
48. Had two hard drives for your computer
49. Visited all 50 states
50. Loved your job for all accounts
51. Taken care of someone who was shit faced
52. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
53. Had amazing friends
54. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
55. Watched wild whales
56. Stolen a sign
57. Backpacked in Europe
58. Taken a road-trip

59. Rock climbing
60. Lied to foreign government's official in that country to avoid notice
61. Midnight walk on the beach
62. Sky diving
63. Visited Ireland
64. Been heartbroken longer then you were actually in love
65. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger's table and had a meal with them.
66. Visited Japan
67. Bench pressed your own weight
68. Milked a cow

69. Alphabetized your records (CDs)
70. Pretended to be a superhero
71. Sung karaoke
72. Lounged around in bed all day
73. Posed nude in front of strangers
74. Scuba diving
75. Got it on to "Let's Get It On" by Marvin Gaye
76. Kissed in the rain
77. Played in the mud
78. Played in the rain
79. Gone to a drive-in theater
80. Done something you should regret, but don't regret it
81. Visited the Great Wall of China
82. Discovered that someone who's not supposed to have known about your blog has discovered your blog
83. Dropped Windows in favor of something better
84. Started a business
85. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
86. Toured ancient sites
87. Taken a martial arts class
88. Swordfought for the honor of a woman
89. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
90. Gotten married
91. Been in a movie
92. Crashed a party
93. Loved someone you shouldn't have

94. Kissed someone so passionately it made them dizzy
95. Gotten divorced
96. Had sex at the office
97. Gone without food for 5 days
98. Made cookies from scratch
99. Won first prize in a costume contest
100. Ridden a gondola in Venice
101. Gotten a tattoo
102. Found that the texture of some materials can turn you on
103. Rafted the Snake River
104. Been on television news programs as an "expert"
105. Got flowers for no reason
106. Masturbated in a public place
107. Got so drunk you don't remember anything
108. Been addicted to some form of illegal drug
109. Performed on stage
110. Been to Las Vegas
111. Recorded music
112. Eaten shark
113. Had a one-night stand (it doesn't have to be sex)
114. Gone to Thailand
115. Seen Siouxsie live
116. Bought a house
117. Been in a combat zone
118. Buried one/both of your parents
119. Shaved or waxed your pubic hair off
120. Been on a cruise ship
121. Spoken more than one language fluently
122. Gotten into a fight while attempting to defend someone
123. Bounced a check
124. Performed in Rocky Horror Show
125. Read - and understood - your credit report
126. Raised children
127. Recently bought and played with a favorite childhood toy
128. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
129. Created and named your own constellation of stars
130. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
131. Found out something significant that your ancestors did
132. Called or written your Congress person
133. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
134. ...more than once? - More than thrice?
135. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
136. Sang loudly in the car, and didn't stop when you knew someone was looking
137. Had an abortion or your female partner did
138. Had plastic surgery
139. Survived an accident that you shouldn't have survived.
140. Wrote articles for a large publication
141. Lost over 100 pounds not all at once, but after losing, gaining, and then losing again, it adds up
142. Held someone while they were having a flashback
143. Piloted an airplane
144. Petted a stingray
145. Broken someone's heart
146. Helped an animal give birth
147. Been fired or laid off from a job
148. Won money on a T.V. game show
149. Broken a bone
150. Killed a human being
151. Gone on an African photo safari
152. Ridden a motorcycle
153. Driven any land vehicle at a speed of greater than 100mph
154. Had a body part of yours below the neck pierced
155. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
156. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
157. Ridden a horse
158. Had major surgery
159. Had sex on a moving train
160. Had a snake as a pet
161. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
162. Slept through an entire flight: takeoff, flight, and landing
163. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
164. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
165. Visited all 7 continents
166. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
167. Eaten kangaroo meat
168. Fallen in love at an ancient Mayan burial ground
169. Been a sperm or egg donor
170. Eaten sushi
171. Had your picture in the newspaper
172. Had 2 (or more) healthy romantic relationships for over a year in your lifetime
173. Changed someone's mind about something you care deeply about

174. Gotten someone fired for their actions
175. Gone back to school
176. Parasailed
177. Changed your name
178. Petted a cockroach
179. Eaten fried green tomatoes
180. Read The Iliad
181. Selected one "important" author who you missed in school, and read
182. Dined in a restaurant and stolen silverware, plates, cups because your apartment needed them
183. ...and gotten 86'ed from the restaurant because you did it so many times, they figured out it was you
184. Taught yourself an art from scratch
185. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
186. Apologized to someone years after inflicting the hurt
187. Skipped all your school reunions
188. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
189. Been elected to public office
190. Written your own computer language
191. Thought to yourself that you're living your dream
192. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
193. Built your own PC from parts
194. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn't know you
195. Had a booth at a street fair
196. Dyed your hair
197: Been a DJ
198: Found out someone was going to dump you via LiveJournal
199: Written your own role playing game
200: Been arrested

Monday, December 19, 2005

Simple sustenance

The second food-related post for the day. Jude's mum bought us fish beehoon (rice vermicelli) for lunch and oddly, it was one of the nicest meals I've had since I've been back. I supppose it had less to do with taste and more to do with the simplicity of it all- fresh fish slices, tender rice noodles, and a light tasty fish broth. No frills, no fussy garnishings, just simple fare that was as delicious as it was comforting. And of course the quiet setting of lunch at home with Jude made it an even sweeter joy...

Christmas Dinner I

This is Christmas Dinner I because there is of course going to be Christmas Dinners II and III all within the next week. This is Singapore where we love our food, and we are talking about our family, which loves food even more than your average Singaporean, so there. Anyways, this was a soiree that my sister threw for friends from work and it was veritable success if we should say so ourselves. I think everyone had a great time, and I finally got to meet the people who help make my sister's otherwise crazy demanding job that much less painful, so that was nice :) A whole ton of cooking went on on Saturday though and I imagine that's the kind of effort that goes into preparing a Thanksgiving meal, except without the oversized bird. The pictures are on Flickr and here's the menu:

Smoked Salmon Tortilla Pinwheels
With Dill & Cream Cheese Dressing

Savory Meatballs
Spiced with Cumin and served with Lingonberry Sauce

German Potato Salad

Roast Chicken with Sausages and Sage

Spiced Saffron Basmati Rice
With raisins and almonds

Seafood Stew
In an olive-basil marinara sauce

Honey Baked Ham

Parmesan Creamed Spinach

Hearty Baked Mushrooms
In balsamic vinegar and olive oil

Assorted Pastries

Oh, we also played Cranium, and Sam and I totally rocked! Considering I was jetlagged and she was the youngest in the group, we were definitely at a distinctive disadvantage. But nooo, 12 year-old or not, that girl spelled "jettison" with great aplomb and confidence (despite never having heard the word before in her life), managed to decipher my terrble humming of K.C. & the Sunshine Band's "That's the Way Uh-Huh Uh-Huh I Like It" (even though she didn't know the title- which were the only lyrics she knew anyway), and guessed my sculpting of a turtle even before I could shape its head. Someone say Dynamic Duo??!!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Home for the holidays

I don't think I could have had a more varied spectrum of experiences than I have in the past four days. On Wednesday, it was a typically brisk December morning in Ann Arbor complete with slick ice and deep chill; spent the rest of that day and most of the next stuck next to the most obnoxious Chinese man known to humanity in a stifling air-controlled space that would have out-claustrophobized Claustrophobia if ever there were such a thing; thankfully, the Tokyo-Singapore leg was more forgiving and I managed to not only catch some sleep (whatever sleep means on a seven-hour flight...) but also the sublimely comforting Wallace & Gromit :) And then, against my better judgement, I immediately proceeded to go Christmas shopping with my sisters the very next day- ok, really people, not a good idea. The throngs of Christmas shoppers in Orchard Road- Takashimaya specifically- were mindfully executing a coordinated plan to overwhelm me- M.O.: shoving, jostling, shouting, long lines at the cash registers, people using their shopping bags as defensive and offensive weapons, etc... They emerged victorious because Serene Koh was mentally and physically exhausted by 3pm- I had to plea for a coffee break. And this is from someone who used to be able to do all her Christmas shopping in a day without breaking a sweat, with coffee on the run at that... I think I'm going to stay indoors the next couple of days.

On a less dizzying note, I managed to find a copy of Zadie Smith's On Beauty in paperback at Kinokuniya (with a gorgeous cover no less- yes, I'm shallow like that...). Will finally be able to read it in peace instead of surreptitiously reading bits and pieces of it everytime we go to a bookstore. It'll be good bedtime material after I'm done with all this infernal grading... Also, trimmed our Christmas tree with my sisters and my godsons last night when they came to visit. It was an absolute blast and the two rascals were sheer joy as always (although I'm sure their long-suffering mother would desperately beg to differ).

Spent the morning getting ready for a party my sister's having tonight- decorating the house, cooking, and the most fun of all, putting together the little gingerbread house I brought back from Trader Joe's with Sam. It was alot easier than I had expected- the pieces were all nicely packed and you just have to assemble them with icing. It's so pretty although some of the gingerbread cookie pieces cracked from the plane ride I think. Sam had the most fun putting the decorative trimmings on the house :) The pics are up on Flickr- let us know what you think!

It is such simple pleasure to be around family during the holidays- getting things ready, enjoying each others company, and just all being together. I'm glad I'm home :)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Say hello wave goodbye...

So, it's now 7.32 on a Wednesday morning and my plane leaves in about 5 hours and 20 minutes. I haven't slept since Monday night, so hopefully the hideous Detroit-Tokyo leg of the journey will come and go without me being conscious for very much of it. I really do hate that part of the trip home- there's no personal TV, it's always a full flight (Narita is Nothwest's hub in Asia), and the lousy Northwest service gets progressively worse with every hour we gain in time zone... I came this close to taking two Nyquils with me to knock me out just in case sleep deprivation doesn't do it enough.

Anyways, a sneak into my satchel to see how I'm planning on surviving the 21 hour trip across the world:
1) A fully-charged iPod;
2) The latest TIME magazine (I can't seem to read books on the plane. Magazines work way better for me...);
3) Last Sunday's New York Times Magazine which I haven't finished reading;
4) My notebook;
5) A black pen for writing in my notebook;
6) Gum;
7) 13 final papers to grade. I have 25 students but with each of them submitting a 15-pager, only half could fit in my bag; the rest are going to be checked in. I told myself I'd try grading them now instead of sleeping so I won't have to worry about them when I get home, but as we all know, self-discipline is something Serene has very little of and even less control over;
8) A green pen for grading;
9) My water bottle. The one thing I compromise on plane rides (apart from my sanity and general good cheer) is coffee. I never drink coffee on the plane. We know that coffee on flights is not really coffee right? Think of the worst coffee you've ever tasted; now think of a distant cousin to that coffee; airline coffee is a sad excuse of that distant cousin. That's how bad I think it is. But more importantly, coffee really dries me up on plane rides and I get these really massive headaches. So I literally drown myself in water instead, and hence the water bottle.

So there, my modest survival kit. The next time I post, I will be on a tiny island nation two degrees north of the equator where playing "White Christmas" even in December makes about as much sense as the idea of good airplane coffee. Till later!

Monday, December 12, 2005


Yes yes, to continue the trend of single-word posts this week... Anyways, you think I'd learnt by now that grad school is supposed to be hard. Every semester I tell myself it can't be worse than the last one, and every semester the workload proves me wrong. In Winter, it was my educational statistics class which drove me up the wall (the term paper for which I'm actually presenting at a conference in San Francisco next year so I guess I shouldn't complain...); this term, it's this mammoth 50-page tome that I have to submit tomorrow. I'm on my third draft and I think I've about had it. At this point, I don't reckon I could do much more to it that would change my grade dramatically more than if I just handed it in as it is. It's about the history of Head Start and the program means a lot to me- it's the paper that doesn't...

By about 4pm today, I had been sitting in front of the computer for 6 hours straight and really needed to just get out of the house and do something else. So I did. Drove to the gym in the snow, expended all the frustration and inertia on the elliptical machine for 45 minutes (this is a record- see what stress does?), and for reasons I'm still trying to fathom, went to the store and bought a whole roasted chicken. I came home, made a huge pot of spaghetti, and now I have a massive amount of roast chicken and mushroom pasta sitting in the kitchen. Unbelievable. And I'm not even hungry... Right, and I'm leaving on Wednesday. Which therefore means that's all I'm eating from now till then. Great.

Anyways, am going to have to spend the rest of tonight belaboring this paper- I don't think I've encountered another project that has caused me so much grief. Honestly, if not for the fact that I'm going to see Jude and my family & friends soon, I don't think I'd be able to suck this in and hunker on. God bless their lovely souls...

I love you guys.

Friday, December 09, 2005


You are Ice Cream

are Ice Cream

You're madly in love, cheerful, and carefree. Life couldn't get
any better than this!

Sarah McLachlan Song Are You?

Created by Noor

Ice Cream
Your love is better than ice cream
Better than anything else that I’ve tried
And your love is better than ice cream
Everyone here know how to fight

And it’s a long way down
It’s a long way down
It’s a long way down to the place
Where we started from

Your love is better than chocolate
Better than anything else that I’ve tried
Oh love is better than chocolate
Everyone here knows how to cry

It’s a long way down
It’s a long way down
It’s a long way down to the place
Where we started from...


Since Jude left...
1) My plants have never been so cared for in their lives. With no one else to shower attention on, I water them constantly and prune them to death. I don't think they're appreciating it though- I had to drain two pots of plants yesterday. Think I need to go easy on the love...

2) Instead of cooking everyday, I cook enough food twice a week to last me the next four days. In other words, since Jude's been gone, my meals have revolved around miso-marinated chicken, beef stew, teriyaki chicken, brown rice, and loads of roasted veggies. I store them in boxes in the fridge and heat them up when I want to, or bring them to school with me. It takes alot of the fun out of cooking and eating but I guess I don't mind for now. The thing is, I haven't been enjoying eating very much since Jude left (and this is coming from someone who loves to eat, period); it's just me, my food, and a magazine or my notes. How boring.

3) I've been watching the snow alot. I know, this probably has nothing to do with Jude not being around but I have. Find myself randomly staring out our study room window or the kitchen window and just looking at the snow. I had a field day today- while waiting for the chicken to roast, felt compelled to watch the snow swirling outside. We're in the middle of a snow storm right now- an inch per hour and that's a whole ton. I'm not looking forward to the morning, but for now, it's pretty to watch.

4) I've been baking. Yes, yes, this is coming from the disaster of a baker, but its mainly from those boxed premixes from Trader Joe's. It started with two Cranberry Vanilla cakes over Thanksgiving, then I made chocolate cookies last weekend for a Singaporean friend's kids who're visiting, and tomorrow, I'm going to bake a Chocolate Truffle cake to bring to a classmate's place. Those premixes are a lifesaver and the house smells so good when they're in the oven. Simulates the warmth of having another person in the house I guess...

5) I haven't switched on the TV except to watch the Notebook on DVD over Thanksgiving, and my Thursday CSI and Without A Trace fix. Usually we take breaks in between doing work by watching TV together. Since Jude's been gone, I just end up sitting in front of the computer doing work and my breaks are being able to chat with him online. Beats watching TV anytime.

So there, I'll be home in a week and I can't wait! It's going to be a fabulous Christmas- I can feel it already...

Saturday, December 03, 2005

A Good Teacher

So, I'm preparing for my second to last class for the year, and potentially my second to last class forever. From next semester, I'm committed to work solely on the research project I'm already on right now (we're developing a literacy curriculum for low-income children in cooperation with Sesame Street and Between the Lions!!) and so no longer have to teach for my tuition. Teaching has been a lot of work, more so than research will be I think, but I've enjoyed it. Yes, it's been stressful, but as always, rewarding in a perverse way only other teachers understand and appreciate...

So anyways, this is always my favorite lesson to teach- after 10 weeks of attending to issues of race, class, language and inequality, we're going to look at how their knowledge about these issues then informs their conception of the kind of teacher they want to be. I help them by introducing three models of teaching- the Executive, the Facilitator, and the Liberator. I've found that students understand these models better and identify with them easier when they see representations of them, so guess what I'm going to do? Show them clips from movies as examples of course! So here are the picks I used last semester which I'm going to use again, but I'm open to suggestion if anyone can think of others...

1) The teacher as Executive: This approach views the teacher as a manager of complex classroom processes, a person charged with bringing about certain outcomes with students through using the best skills and techniques available. Carefully developed curriculum materials and methods of teaching backed by research are very important to this approach.

Movie example: Stand and Deliver. The scene where Edward James Olmos tries to teach the group of misfit Hispanic kids about the concept of zero and gets them all to chant "A negative times a negative is a positive... "A negative times a negative is a positive..."

2) The teacher as Facilitator: This places a high value on what students bring to the classroom setting. It places considerable emphasis on making use of students' prior experience. The facilitative teacher is typically an empathetic person who believes in helping individuals grow personally and reach a high level of self-actualization and self-understanding.

Movie example: Conrack. This is an old movie way back when people were just beginning to think of Jon Voight as a sex symbol (yes, that's how old this movie is...). The scene is when he introduces a group of poor Southern African-American kids to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony by tapping into their emotions and feelings about their surroundings.

3) The teacher as Liberator. This approach views the teacher as one who frees and opens the mind of the learner, initiating him or her into human ways of knowing and assisting the learner in becoming a well-rounded, knowledgeable, and moral human being.

Movie example: Dead Poets Society. I can't think of a scene that fits this approach better than the one where Robin Williams gets his students to rip the entire Introduction out of a poetry textbook because it reduced the value of poetry into a mathematical measurement. "Excrement" he calls it...
We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, "O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life? Answer. That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse." That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?
- Robin Williams as John Keating