Saturday, September 29, 2007

Who Moved My Cheese?

Doraemon... the 1st episode

Have been faithfully following the Doraemon series over the weekend (Saturday for the repeat while Sunday's fresh episode).

Went to You-tube... and did a search. Not bad... found a few versions of the song... and the one in cantonese (a very different one) actually demonstrates how to draw it.

Also found the 1st episode... guess what! discover that all the figures were so much slimmer then!!! Cheers, Doraemon!!!

Staying Cool under Pressure

The title could my attention... Staying cool under pressure???? Oh yes, it's something that we often forget... or it simply goes unnoticed! We often do not notice the building up of pressure (the process), it's just like the pressure cooker, until it reaches the limit, it exploded (if we could not find the outlet of pressure)!!!

Here, in the article (under Recruit, 28 Sep 2007), it relates a story: There lived a man called Ticky. One day, he wandered into a Blacksmith's shop. The blacksmith just pulled a horseshoe out of the fire. Unsuspectedly, he reached out to the horseshoe! Of course, we know what happened next.

The article used this analogy to bring in what Peter F Drucker said, "a crisis must never be experienced for the 2nd time"

The article suggested that if one feels that the temperature in the organisation rises, one should stop and make a 3-point assessment of the situation:
  1. Is the friction caused by pressure from outside sources (eg. customers)?
  2. Is the friction coming from inside sources (eg. employee demands, unreasonable imperatives from senior executives)?
  3. Any personal issues invading the work place, brought in by one or more individuals up and down the organisational ladder, including yourself?
The advice is:
"Whatever difficulties are causing the organisation to heat up, you will be the one to cool the situation by, first, identifying how similar challenges were successfully negotiated in the past and second, refusing to pick up the hot horseshoe a second time."

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Typhoon? Cyclones? Hurricanes? What's the Difference?

This article caught my eyes: How Typhoon Wipha got its name.

But before that... there's always one thing I could not quite differentiate - how different are typhoon, cyclones and hurricanes? From the Hongkong drama, we often heard about the locals, especially the boatpeople are always worried over the typhoons and it means rain - very very heavy downpour... but there are also other times from the documentaries, they talked about hurricanes, that normally sweep across the US!

Read HERE for more information.

Have we ever wonder how these disasters got their names? and why they are given such fanciful names?

Points from the Sunday Times (23 Sep 2007):

  • Centuries ago, people in the Caribbean islands (map) begin naming tropical cyclones after Catholic Saints
  • Australian Clement Wragge is the first meteorogist to name hurricanes at the end of the 19th century. He started using Greek letters before switcing to women's names. (Read more about Australia's first weathermen; Reason to name hurricanes)
  • Naming of hurricanes after women's names became popular in the 1930s-40s. US Army Air Corp and Navy meteorogists often name them after wives and girlfriends.
  • In 1953, US weather Bureau decided to use female names exclusively.
  • In 1962, naming of tropical cyclones of South-west Indian Ocean begins.
  • The Australian and South Pacific region starts giving women's names to storms from 1964.
  • The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the National Weather Service in US switch to a list that include men's names as well.
  • The WMO draws up a list of names for tropical cyclones in the Northwest Pacific basin that includes names from Asia and other parts of the world.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


It's mid-autumn festival again... Mooncakes! mooncakes! everywhere.

There are several legends about mooncakes, in particular, the popular one is the one about war - that the secret message was hidden in the mooncakes and passed down to everybody out there and....

About communication media...

Putting aside the taste and the look of the mooncake, hey, look at the communication media used! Even food served as a vehicle of communication so many decades ago! The Chinese were really innovative, right? Who would have thought of 'embedding' slips of papers into food! Of course, this tactic has been copied umpteen times as we watched movies and dramas!

Of course, apart from mooncake, another amazing way to 'post' letter/messages by air - with the pigeons! 飞鸽传书。Never have we seen that in any western movie... but the pigeons are such convenient and reliable postman in the past! It's amazing!!!

About appreciation of language and culture...

Just wondering... to many of us, especially in Singapore, apart from celebrating the festival because it's part of the Chinese culture, what else make it more meaningful?

It was a joke highlighted on the papers last year... that banners hanging outside the community clubs and RCs named the festival - "Mooncake Festival"!!!! OK, the banner were written in English!!! So, are we celebrating the mid-autumn Festival or the mooncake festival? I wonder...

Another highlight on this day, the 15th of the lunar August will be the lanterns! Oh yes, the lovely lanterns that is make up of the 'cane' frame with colourful cellophane papers - that make up the different animals and vehicles... oh yes, to light it up, we really have to use candles!!! This have evolved over the years and to a large extent, loses its essence already! Why? In the name of fusion (?) when the Japanese style lanterns are introduced? In the name of safety (?), progress(?), lanterns operate with batteries! OK, fortunately, our 'clever community' has not introduced the new deviation - "Lantern Festival" “ 灯笼节”.

~o~o~ A beautiful card from Mr Low ~o~o~


一口甜甜的饼,再来一杯幽香的茶。。。哇! 是一种享受!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Number Chasing? Award Chasing?

2 days ago, was talking to 2 colleagues who just joined HQ this year - One activity at this time of the year (apart from exams) that is absent at HQ is - SEM!!! The School Excellence Award. One may think that I'm mad... in fact, I miss SEM!!! hahaha... not enough of torture??? Not really... but I thought it is a rigorous and thorough process to 'stock take' the status of things.

Doing SEM, in fact, is a very thorough process that gets the schools to self-evaluate how sound its programmes are, how holistic the programmes are, and of course, the 'results' component is a means to tell how effective its programme is... in fact, it's just one school of thought that effectiveness can be measured by numbers, which in fact, many of the 'results' are demonstrated through straight line graphs, unfortunately. In other words, in a way, numbers speak louder than qualitative inputs, sometimes.

Then we talked about awards... yes, many a times, we 'stock take' awards when we start working on results components, such as Criterion 9. Over the years, MOE has introduced many different kinds of awards... so much so that the 'chasing after awards' symptom has become more and more common... So, what are awards? why aim for awards?

This spring out an interesting discussion - the school looks for awards, therefore teachers and pupils work hard to achieve that award! But what's the intent? I remember one of my ex-Principals got us to see 'awards' from a different perspective - they are just sign posts... in fact, when this was first introduced to the SCC, most do not quite buy in... some of us were quite sceptical! Similarly, for most teachers, they felt it's like 新瓶装旧酒。In fact, some of us might have thought... well, just say it straight, you want results! Right? Need not beat around the bush!

On the other hand, sitting back and look at it... indeed, think about the mission of the school... it's to develop our young - academic and character... Be it there's target or not, isn't that our key role being teachers who create direct impact on their growth, being the planners who map out
how to achieve this... in fact we are responsible for every child who's sent to the school.

So, when the school sets the target, the KPI, that 60% of the pupils to obtain distinction for a subject... how do we interpret that?

  • Let's strategise and make sure 6 out of 10 pupils must get a distinction ... well, meeting KPI, right? Very quickly, we can see our pupils being categorised into different 'bands' - those smart and motivate ones... quite sure they can secure a distinction without much 'interference' from teachers... Those who are of distinction material but lazy... do something to them - psycho them? threaten them? (definitely can find a way to get them score a distinction!) Those 'borderline' cases but motivated ones, usually the careless ones - make sure equip them with some foolproof techniques/skills... still not enough to make up the 60%? Then next lot - careless, not so motivated... still can do something... OK, meet quota already! Then how about our remaining 40%?
  • Of course there's another school of thought (taught?) - 有教无类 . (Yes, this reminded me that it's the hot button of one of my ex-Principals who do not really believe in this... probably seen too much of the 朽木 that are beyond repair... But (I think) he believes that everybody starts with an equal ground, time will tell whether one is a 朽木 or not. Of course, he will not spare them, to ensure they don't rot the rest of the eggs in the basket. However, one thing for sure he won't do - to pre-determine how many golden eggs are there in the basket; but he set the quality control to ensure at least how many golden eggs are there in each basket.
  • See the difference in the above?

One colleauge recently asked: Why schools go for green award? what has it got to do with pupils' development in the school? indeed, she was asking, why must the school chased after awards? This in turn adds pressure to the teachers, who have to run the programmes, etc.

  • In fact, my very first response is, do we know the rationale behind such awards? Hm... again, it's just a sign post, it's a recognition of the amount of effort put in to promote certain aspects (that's why there are so many different types of awards). On the other hand, unfortunately, many a time, teachers are not informed of its fundament rationale, but the indicators to measure it. See? It turned into a result-driven move!
  • For instance, the green award, why schools go for it? I think we have to re-visit the rationale. OK, must admit that I can't recall hearing the rationale of the award (from any of my bosses). However, let's step back and think - Why do we go green? It's about about mother nature. It's about our environment - a precious source. Isn't it everybody's (earth being's) responsibility to love and protect it? To do this, it starts from us, ie. our habit, the right values! I thought these are important. To inculcate this, the school creates opportunities for students to raise their awareness, to 'practice' it. So, to see how successful in value-adding to the people... so far (unfortunately) the only means is to measure it through something that's measureable and observable - ie. through programmes in place and the outcomes (ie. normally represented in the form of numbers).

So, is it worth going for the Green Award? Hm... Think this is not important, 'cos it's just to measure the extent of effort... but I think what's more important is the INTENT behind all these processes! What do you think?

Monday, September 03, 2007

The "阴" and "阳" of fighting mozzies

The other day, a few of us were talking about who's more prone to mosquito bites (in the context of the dengue phenomenon). Then recall reading this article in "Mind Your Body" (August 8, 2007).
  • Can garlic keep mozzies away?
  • Drinking alcohol attracts mosquitoes?

What attracts mosquitoes...

  • alcohol is yin or expanding. Having alcohol in the blood thus attracts mosquitoes, which are compact - that is, contracted or yang creatures.
  • So... mosquitoes are yang?
  • Other yin food includes sugar, carbonated drinks, most food chemicals. Excessive amounts of fruits will also attract mosquitoes.

What keeps mosquitoes away...

  • Foods with qualities opposite to that of alcohol and sweets.
  • This would be salt, which is very yang or contracting.
  • Macrobiotics recommends umeboshi, a salt-pickled sour plum similar to the sng boey. But it has to be of natural, organic quality. Umeboshi containing chemical food colouring may not work.

My personal experience...

While in Bhutan, I was surprised why I was attacked by insect whereas people living under the same roof (ie. the locals) were not affected... One of my local friends casually joked, "It's because your blood is fresher and sweet."

Hm... In a way, it was true, I thought... the locals do not fancy chocolates though they like to chew gums! I love chocolates! Indeed, I imported my favourite chocolates... so, the sweetness in my blood attracted the undesireable attraction!

Another point: The locals love chilli, which is one of their 'staples' (of course, besides rice)! So, chillis are too hot for mosquitoes! (I guess...)

Saturday, September 01, 2007

A tribute to my teachers

Like what Zubaidah mentioned in her ecard - once a teacher, forever a teacher... in chinese, we have the same saying, too ... 一日为师,终身为师. It sounds like the kungfu shows where the disciplines live with these beliefs and thoughts.

Look around, "Teachers", go beyond those through formalised learning institutions. They could be our mentors, they could be our seniors, they could be our bosses, they could be our peers, and they might even be our students!!!

Yes, every year this year, is an important day. While I was still in school, it was just an event to celebrate - frankly speaking, I knew little of its meaning in my school days! Like many today, it's just a day to celebrate and have some fun, party and no lessons! (Yes, there was one year, the class spent so much time to draw and decorate the notice board so that our teachers could not carry on with the lessons! hahaha....). What's more in the university days, when we were very 'detached' from our lecturers and tutors!


But looking back, some teachers that I can remember... some teachers who had make a difference in the way I think, I believe, I behave...


from my primary school, Beatty...

Mr Chan Kok Thye, my Chinese teacher, also the Discipline teacher. I don't call him 曾老师,I call him 曾先生 . And yes, he did not call me 桂艳.But, together with my surname: 罗桂艳同学. I looked forward attending his class... Why? Looking back, I guess because Chinese was (and still is) my favourite subject and the one that outperform any other subjects. Yes, Still remember that the only competitor at that time was Pei Pei. We were in the same class since Primary 1... all the way to Primary 6... Each year, it's either myself or Pei Pei will top the Chinese class... hahaha... anyway, we were very good friends... so, both of us were engaged in such friendly match for 6 solid years. Of course, I was also the apple of Mr Chan's eyes :D And yes, being the Head Prefect, I'm one of his left/right hand! OK, to describe him - he was lean and tall, and yes, always have a cane with him. In fact, one thing that has proven right is, acknowledgement of good performance reinforces positive behaviour and motivates one to work even harder and better. Be generous with praises!
Another teacher is Mr Teng Kom Ming 陈老师. Yes, my Chinese teacher again in P4 and P5. Still remember that he was usually the one teacher will led the few of us to cross the busy Lavender Street either on our way to the school or on our way home. Oh yah, his timing was always so predictable... still remember that once, the road was filled with so much vehicles that I almost cried when we stood on the middle of the road while the vehicles simply just zoomed past us, front and back! Ever since that incident, I insist (till now) that I'll cross in a safe manner - traffic lights, zebra crossing, overhead bridge and underpass... yes, they're a must! Also, it pays to be late than never...


Mrs Hum, my P2 form teacher who also taught us English. Still remember the painful hits by the wooden ruler on my palms because I cheated in the English spelling! I was still puzzled why such as foolish act - as a child, scoring full marks is important to me then. It was the first and last time. This was the most unforgetable and important lesson learnt. No more after that... no matter how desperate. Honesty! Honesty! Honesty! I will never forget to uphold this value.

Another unforgetable instance happened in an English lesson again and I think, to some extent, after that instant, I quietened down alot. It was not because I was talkative, but I became more conscious and cautious when I speak in English! Still remember the story - "King Solomon and the 12 Children" that tells how the King used his wits to solve the puzzle. It was the first time I was caught not able to pronounce the words "Child" and "Children" correctly. The worst came when I still could not produce the words despite she repeatedly correct me in the same session. That was devastating to an 8-year-old child! My self-esteem was badly hurt! For this, I always remember that self-esteem is very fragile - so, it takes one's extra effort to ensure children learn in a safe and conducive manner...


Ms Sally was the one who made me realise my forte in music... Hm... I played the chinese instrument 月琴 since kindergarten, but I did not know I could sing :D (oh, it sounds funny right? Everybody can sing... but to sing in a choir!) I was selected to be part of the choir to sing in the competition - ok, still remember one of the songs - The Spider and the Fly. Hahaha... still remember how to make it sound cheeky when we impersonate the spider... and thanks to her for introducing another song to us - When You're Smiling.... That, I learnt no matter who comes, smile... it's magical... it breaks the wall between people... smile... to look at the better and brighter side of things. Thanks! I'm still practising that!


My Secondary school days at Temasek...

Mrs Gan, my Science Teacher who's very motherly... not very tall... always see her in the Science lab.
Another is Mrs Ang, who was at the plump side. She was not very fierce, but she looked fierce, probably because of her bright red lipstick! Can imagine when she talked, it's like the 血盆大口! That explains why I never own one bright red lipstick!
I think, among all the Science teachers I had in the secondary school days, the most classic one would be Ms Rama. She was a beginning teacher when posted to the school. Still remembered that she liked to describe the canteen of TJ (but could not remember under what context). She's now the HOD/Maths in BNSS. Well, she taught us Physics - one of the most 'abstract' subjects in Sec 3. I'll never forget who we did during our Physics lessons - it was practically a copying session. The whole class turned into human photocopiers!
But somehow, we passed our exams. I think, that explains... when a child is successful (pass or fail an exam), what matters most is how the child reacts to the situation... the teacher is good, it enhances the performance... if the teacher is unable to provide good guidance yet the child is smart or found his/her way, he/she can still succeed!
Mr Goh Aik Choon was the most animated teacher we had. He added life to our Additional Maths lessons. OK, bear in mind that back in the early 80s, computer was still an alien term to all of us! Could still remember how he moved from one end of the classroom to the other, to illustrate what's meant by displacement. OK, he was also a discipline master. He was known to be fierce. However, he was totally different when resumed the role of teacher. In fact, the class was surprise and never knew why he was replaced by Ms Rama... But having been in the system now, I think it's because of re-deployment due to new staff... what shortlived joy to learn the subjects!
Ms Teo was best remembered of her big ear rings. Yes, her colour sense - her pairs of ear rings always matched wtih her dress that came with a thick belt and of course, a matching pair of heels! What else I remember about her class? Hm... She knew when to give a pad on our shoulders. She bothered and care to acknowledge improvements made by her students ... and more importantly, I think, I worked for me! :D

Oh yes, how could I missed out my Chinese teachers. There were Mr Sim 沈老师 (外号:沈胜衣), Mr Fong 方老师 (外号:方得老). Of course, another young teacher who was always bullied by the class 刘老师. A very nice lady who bothered to check and find out more in order to answer to our queries. The last time I met her was at NAS, when she did a follow-up on a project with the Chinese department. Well, while in TMS, I still did well in Chinese... however, the kind of enthusiasm and motivation seemed to have shrunk. Why? Hm... I think it's the teacher's factor! Teachers do make a difference!
Among all the teachers in TMS, we all know there's one whom we can't "play, play" with... That was Mrs Yang, the Home Economics Teacher! She was in her early 40s (I guess at that time)... she was well known for being very fussy. Oh yes, we suffered alot during the Home Economics class. It was really 不动为妙. The 3-4 periods per week was the most stressful lessons of all! Now, try to see from her perspective - hm... perhaps, it's the high standards that she demanded from her students?


It was quite unfortunate that as I moved higher and higher, there seemed to be lesser and lesser that I could recall... Just wondering, when we said, teachers made an impact on the students' life... then who left the deepest impression with the students? I think, for sure (in my case), it's my primary school teachers! The least, the ones in JC. In JC, the impression is really, only the fittest survive, especially when in one of the top JCs then, Temasek.

My JC days? Apart from my CCA, it seems dry... Lecturers? Tutors? Hm... my impression was they didn't care much... as of the well-being of the students, except getting them to hit the number of As (yes, now I know these are their KPIs!). So, KPIs were not new to the system!



~ These are some e-cards from friends ~

Set a Good Example

Read another article Set a good example (under Recruit on Sept 1, 2007)...

One interesting thing pointed out in the article: emotional engagement.
How does this come about? It brought up that, with close competition in the market, customers demands more and service provider has to deliver. The customer is bombarded with tons of marketing messages that attempt to influence his brand perceptions of various products and services.

It takes something drastic to catch his attention amidst the avalanche of information. The key is to emotionally engage the customer. Logic makes him think but emotion makes him act.

In fact, this is applicable and observable to workshops we conduct - in a way, a "good" workshop comes with trainers being able to connect to the participants! Put ourselves in the shoes of the participants - what are some workshops that we really feel good after it and what are those that we just take it as any session?

Different types of Team members?

Was reading this article: Make it a Team Effort (under Recruit on Sept 1, 2007)... It brought up several points about how bosses tap on what they have to bring about team performances. However, the way it's put across... don't quite see the human resource capacity building aspect...

1. One thing very true: "As a leader, you should gain the respect of your subordinates"... however it did not elaborate how to go about doing it or pen down any 'observable' symptoms on this...

2. "You may not always be liked, because many decisions that effective leaders need to make may be unpopular with at least some of the people". True! This is not the first time I hear this. I first heard this from my work review with Mrs Tan WL. Yes, one of my ex-colleagues who was quite close to me did once alerted me of a nickname some colleagues give me - Slave driver... hahaha!!! It was because at that time, I took bold steps to drive the library programme quite differently, and also, because I stepped into the terriority which was once owned by a single owner then... I also learnt: Change management becomes important, not only to the leader, but also to prepare the team that undergoes the change.

3. "Cultivate an ethical culture... Every action you take must demonstrate your ethical values". Maybe I deviate from the main topic, but I think an ethical culture is really crucial for one to work in a safe and trusting environment. Why do I say so? For instance, teachers expect a fair assessment being presented during the annual Staff Appraisal/Ranking session. Do the key personnel present a fair assessment of the fellow colleagues? any bias? While everybody in the team have been briefed on the necessity to keep the discussion confidential, yet, after each session, there'll bound to have some teachers who are aware of what's discussed. Why? As a result... what do other key personnel think? what do other colleauges think of their reporting officers?

4. The article further classifies team members into several categories... (quote from the article)
  • Water-walkers: This group consists of capable, intelligent and quick thinking people. Take care of them. They can go right across the street and get paid more than what you are currently paying them.
  • Speed-breakers: Your speed-breakers are those who will readily give you the reasons why a new idea won't work out without even exploring alternatives. They slow down the progress of the entire organisation. Move them away from departments such as corporate planning and product dvelopment.
  • Actors: These people put up a show in your presence and project themselves as performers, when actually they are not. The sooner you identify them, the better it is for group morale and productivity.
  • Routine specialist: They carry out all the routine, mundance activities and keep themselves occupied. They meticulously follow procedures. Use them for back-end jobs. But make sure they are efficient in what they do.