Friday, December 03, 2010

Monday, December 29, 2008

From KMT-land in Northern Thailand to a strawberry farm in Miaoli

strawberry picking collage
We went out to Miaoli to pick strawberries on Sunday and got a nice little history lesson thrown in for free. As we were getting our strawbs weighed we got chatting with the owners of the farm. The wife spoke Chinese with a slight accent so my wife asked her where she was from. Turns out she is from Northern Thailand and is a fifth generation descendant of the KMT soldiers who were war refugees after losing the
Chinese Civil War and who basically decided to settle in Thailand (more background of the history here). She married a Taiwanese farmer and has been living in Taiwan since 1995. She talked a bit about the Chinese who migrated to Northern Thailand from Yunnan province and said that the government in Taiwan (or perhaps the KMT party?) has reestablished contact with some families over there and sends small amounts of money every month to help support them.

It was fascinating to hear her talking about Chinese immigrants in Thailand, especially as she is connected to that history...and all the while munching on very delicious Miaoli strawberries!
[Other things I learned that afternoon are strawberry-based factoids. The strawberries at that farm are actually a Japanese strain. Taiwanese strawberries are generally smaller and bruise easily. Chinese strawberries are small, harder and not particularly tasty.]

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Using Twitter to increase motivation in adolescent ESL students

Since starting my new job teaching at a senior high school in September I've been thinking of ways to increase the students' overall motivation to learn English. I would not say that motivation is a problem at my school (thankfully!) but I'm up for anything that might give them that extra bit of interest. Many of my students are avid text messagers so I'm wondering if they might be ripe for an introduction to Twitter

Many ESL teachers already use regular blogs as a teaching aid and as a way of connecting with their students. There aren't that many teachers using Twitter at the moment and most of those are using it to connect with other ESL teachers and to post links to their ESL blog or site. (I've recently started following Chris Cotter of Heads Up English and Sean of EFL Geek 3.0 and I'm discovering more all the time.)  I've found all sorts of useful things by browsing ESL teachers' Twitter pages, but there doesn't seem to be much information out there about how ESL learners might be able to use Twitter.  I teach roughly 250 students a week. I think it would be pretty cool if I could get a proportion of them regularly posting tweets to each other in English, either from their phones (not in class!) or from the web. 

At present I have not really decided the best way to introduce Twitter to the students. I think I will do it in stages and gauge the students response as I go along. The first step will be to give them a quick survey about how they use the Internet and mobile phones. Then I will start a group blog so that I can post stuff that we've done in class as well as related material. As part of their homework each week I will ask students to post at least one photo (or link, video, etc.) on a given topic with a few lines of text and to leave a comment on another students' post. 

I am hoping the group blog will generate quite a few conversations on and offline and provide the starting point for a little expedition into Twitterland. Twitter would therefore be an extension of the group blog. Now it may well be that the students will simply not be all that interested in microblogging in English but I guess we won't know that until we give it a try. 

Wish me luck! If anyone has any experience using Twitter, or blogs in general, with adolescent ESL students, please leave a comment or contact me via Twitter/naruwan.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mooncakes - a recommendation

There was a time not too many years ago when the majority of mooncakes in Taiwan were vile, nasty things; weighty bean-based bricks containing a salty egg yolk at the centre and encased in a tough pastry. You can still buy them today but you don't see so many people eating them anymore.

The new breed of mooncakes are much lighter and smaller with flaky pastry and a sweet, usually adequately tasty, filling. But even then, when you've tasted one mooncake, you've pretty much tasted them all.

There are, however, rare instances of outstanding mooncakes, and last year my wife was fortunate enough to receive a box of truly wonderful mooncakes made by Shun Ching 順 慶. Man, these things are incredible. Super soft flaky pastry, red bean filling with a distinctive caramel flavour, and a dollop of "mwah-jee", a sort of white elastic goo.

We decided to get them again this year and bought some extra boxes to give away. They're not cheap, but would you really expect them to be? I had a couple today, still warm from their kitchens at 214 Hsiang Shang North Road (Taichung City). Heaven. They go exceedingly well with a hot cup of tea or coffee.

[Update: links removed, sorry. The Shun Ching website has apparently been taken over by a smut site.]

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Webcam teaching in Taiwan

With a new version of Skype coming out tomorrow which gives prominence to video calls, as opposed to plain vanilla audio, it got me thinking why teaching English online via webcam hasn't really taken off in Taiwan. You'd have thought that Taiwanese people's love of convenience coupled with the ubiquity of broadband across the island, net-savvy ESL students and educators would be all over learning English via webcam.

There are a growing number of services which let students and teachers hook up online via webcam, such as Edufire, but Taiwan seems slow in catching on to this trend. I think there are number of reasons for this. The most obvious is that despite the tremendous convenience of having class online it's also a kind of sterile experience. I have chatted with my students online via Skype before and it was surprisingly hard going even though we get on very well in person. Video calls suffer from lag and the picture quality isn't all that great which makes it harder for non-native speakers to tell what is being said. Besides, students want to see their teacher up close, lob paper aeroplanes at him, maybe spill a full cup of iced coffee into his crotch, or even to delight in tugging on the hairs on his forearms. Can't do that with a webcam (yet, anyway).

Another reason is bounded up in the peculiar little way that your average Taiwanese student perceives language education. You either go to a buxiban with everyone else or you have a private tutor over to your house. It's all very passive whereas sitting in front of a webcam may feel too intense somehow.

You might think you'd make a killing setting up a webcam teaching service in Taiwan, but people will quickly realize it's easy for the student and the teacher to arrange this themselves using Skype. Ultimately, I don't see webcam tutoring replacing in-person teaching. Taiwanese are notorious for being late adopters when it comes to education, but in years to come I wouldn't be surprised if we see a handful of teachers using webcams as a supplementary method for practicing conversational English.

Mind you, all this is coming from a person who, in 1992, was reading a newspaper article about something called the Information Superhighway, and declared something along the lines of: "Pff! That will never come to anything. Few people own a computer and an even few number actually know how to use one." heh! We'll see....

Thursday, June 05, 2008

I've solved the Taiwan question. It was easy.

As I was sitting here staring into space this morning instead of working it occurred to me how silly it is to use "Chinese Taipei" to refer to the whole of Taiwan. Then it came to me: the solution to the Taiwan question. Rename Taipei City and Taipei County "Chinese Taipei" and cede it to the Peeps Republic of China.

It would be like the Northern Ireland model. People who support unification with China can move to Chinese Taipei, which of course would be run by Governor Ma, while those who favor living in the Republic of Taiwan would move to areas of the island outside Chicom Taipei and live happily ever after.
I can think of stupider ideas (but not many)!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Fifteen years in Taiwan

I can't believe I've spent most of my adult life in Taiwan. Fifteen years! The precise date on which I arrived on this isle silently slipped by me last week as I'd forgotten to set the alarm on the Years In Taiwan Chronometer. I used to be kind of proud about how long I'd been in Taiwan - three years, five years, seven years - now I just sort of shrug and say "a long time" when people ask the inevitable, "How long have you been in Taiwan?" I don't get why some people appear to be impressed by someone who has lived here for a long time. I suppose what people are really saying is, "Wow, you haven't left yet?", and that's a little unsettling.

At the 15-year mark I feel like I ought to know a lot more about Taiwan than I do. I can't speak Taiwanese and I've never been to Hualien. So why am I not listing everything that I have learned, seen and done, in the past fifteen years? Well, I'm mindful of something I read shortly after arriving here, which goes something along the lines of: It's said that someone who visits a country for a few months will return and write a book about it, someone who went there for more than ten years will return and write an essay, but someone who has lived there for more than 20 years won't write anything at all. So, at 15 years, a short blog post seems about right.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Taiwanese women who wear a veil

I've noticed recently that more and more women are wearing sun visors in this position like a welder's mask or a veil. I once saw an attractively-attired woman with her visor down so that you couldn't see any part of her face. She looked like some kind of ridiculous she-cyborg. There are the mask-wearers too. Ostensibly, they are worn to keep away germies and other airborne nasties, but I'm not so sure that's the only reason. Some women seem to wear a mask (plus sunglasses) pretty much the whole time they are outside. I realize that many of these veiled women have spent a fortune on SKII and other expensive skin-whitening products and want to protect their investment - god forbid they should ever turn brown - but I'm convinced there's more to it than that. They are hiding behind a veil, an Asian Niqab, if you like. The reason I think they are hiding is based on my observation that attractive Taiwanese women, especially those dressed sexily, usually have a look of irritation on their face and appear to be in a hurry to get somewhere, or just away from "here". (Maybe it's just me that has this effect on women! ) So masks and visors provide the perfect way to hide, with the pretense that it's for "cosmetic" (irony alert) reasons. So what's the big deal? I don't know. It bugs me. Why are they shutting themselves off from the world in this way? I have no problem with people wearing sunglasses, but to cover the whole face,... it's odd, and I hope it's just a passing fad.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Ghost money. Rat's ass.

I never really gave a rat's ass about people burning ghost money until a new neighbor moved in a few months ago. The husband and wife run a fortune-telling service which requires them to burn ghost money... every... single... day. Not just one burner either; they have three and boy do they load 'em up. They have a folding table outside their store front piled high with wads of ghost money for the day's offerings. How fortunate for our neighborhood is that?

Fili wrote a post about ghost money burning back in March. He concludes that Taiwanese "will figure out their own way of balancing traditions with environmental issues ." Or, more likely, they won't. Fili may call his way of thinking optimism: I call it wishful thinking.

And isn't it interesting how burning ghost money is always framed as a Tradition vs. Environment debate? No, it's not interesting, not even to the tiniest degree . This tradition is getting up my nose, into my lungs, and very probably trying its damndest to give me cancer. I also have a wife and two sons whose noses, lungs and general wellbeing I happen to consider more important than a "cultural activity" as well.

Maybe Taiwanese really will figure out a way, but what I want to know is when? I'm holding my breath here! In fact, we should all be holding our collective breath. The correlation between high particulate air pollution and mortality and respiratory diseases has been well established. So please stop giving me this ludicrous false duality of Tradition vs. Environment. Just stop burning that shit already!

Monday, May 12, 2008

How TCM may actually be saving Taiwan's NHS a bundle

The most recent Skepdic newsletter contains mention of a report by the BBC on an intriguing scheme being undertaken by Northern Ireland's NHS involving referral of some patients to practitioners of complementary and alternative medicine with the NHS picking up the tab. While it may sound like a load of bollocks on the surface, the scheme promises to drastically reduce the amount of money spent needlessly on people who are not really all that sick, or who may benefit just as well from the placebo effect as from a costly drug.

Scott Sommers recently lamented on Kerim's blog that "no one who is truly ill uses [Taiwan's NHS]" and in another comment suggested that folk remedies available on the NHS represent additional costs. After reading about the scheme in Northern Ireland it struck me that the availability of traditional Chinese medicine on the NHS in Taiwan may actually be saving the government a bundle. Rather than over-prescribing prozac and other expensive pharmaceuticals of dubious efficacy, how's about a packet of dried fungus or a harmless session with an acupuncturist at a fraction of the cost? The patient feels better, the government saves money and the NHS remains in less debt than it would have been otherwise. Many Taiwanese use TCM almost exclusively for minor illnesses and non-illnesses. This is a good thing. The last thing we want is for them to be over at the real hospital being pointlessly prescribed pricey drugs. I never thought I'd hear myself say this but let's hear it for TCM on the National Health Service !

Update (2 March, 2009): This article describes some of the findings from the experiment in Northern Ireland. Eight-one percent of patients reported improvements in physical health after the treatments. So what if it's the good ol' placebo effect? It's saving money and people are happy! "The researchers concluded: 'Not only has this project documented significant health gains, but also the potential economic savings likely to accrue from a reduction in patient use of primary and other health care services, a reduction in prescribing levels and reduced absenteeism from work."

Monday, April 28, 2008

New camera awesomeness

I finally got around to buying a new camera on Saturday. I'd hummed and harred for an age about what camera to get. It finally came down to an apple and an orange: the Canon Powershot S5 IS or the Canon Powershot SD 850. I'd been using an ultra compact camera for the past few years (the SD 400) so in the end, as tempted as I was to get the SD 850, I thought it was time to have a play with a camera that has a bit more oomph. The fact that the S5 also takes high quality video with stereo sound, and allows you to zoom and take photos during filming, just tipped the balance in favour of the ultrazoom.

But like I said, it was an apples and oranges debate and really I'd like to have delicious fruits represented in my photographic basket, as it were. So having made up my mind which camera to get, the next question was where to buy. I emailed Michael Turton who owns an S3 and he kindly recommended an excellent camera shop in Taichung. I got an incredible deal which meant that even though I popped various other paraphernalia into the shopping basket, I ended up spending far less than I would have if I'd just wandered around e-street comparing prices. Thanks Michael. I owe you a beer or three!

I've been like a kid with a new toy, as the cliche goes, over the past few days shooting this, that and the other in this mode, that mode and the other mode. We went out to DongShih yesterday and I took loads of shots. I'll post up some of the more interesting ones when I have time.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Mullberries, lucky train tickets, and underpants

Early April in our household basically means two things: putting the duvets away after Tomb Sweeping Day, and going mullberry picking. We usually go to a place five minutes down the road from us in Dali, but this year we thought we'd try the one out in Dadu (大肚) - literally "big belly".Love that name. Well done to the people who thought that one up. The name of the mullberry farm is 追分桑椹休閒農園. [Mildly amusing side note about their website - I asked the proprietor what the significance of "54333" was. Was it one of those number homonyms which meant something like "我是想桑椹' (I'm thinking of mullberries)? Ah, no. It's just easy to remember. But she said I had a good imagination.]

It's a big place, the largest mullberry farm in Taiwan according to one of the faded news clippings on the wall in the weighing area. The kids had a great time searching out the ripe ones. It's still early in the season so there was probably only one ripe mullberry for every twenty or so unripe ones. It's a great hillside location surrounded by a patchwork of rice paddies and small factories. Further up on the hilltop is a large cemetery. When we were there a noisy funeral service was in progress, which made it a slightly surreal experience.

Apparently there is a very old school nearby which was founded about a hundred years ago, and there's an old train station which we're told is also worth visiting. Maybe next time.

There's an interesting tradition associated with the train station in Zhuei-fen 追分. Around examination time, superstitious and/or desperate students anxious to get good grades, will line up in their hundreds to buy a ticket from 追分 station to 成功 (cheng-gong) station. The reason being is that 追分成功 means "pursuing grades to success". Oddly, they don't actually take the train, they just buy the ticket, which I think is cheating!

Part of me loves little traditions like this. It's often the little things, the superstitions and cultural quirks, that make living in Taiwan so interesting. But another part of me gives a sort of snort of derision at the mentality of these hordes who are not just lining up to buy some special ticket "for a bit of fun" but are actually desperate enough to think that this might, just might, help them get the grades they're hoping for. I mean it's like they've never even heard of lucky underpants.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Too much information

I downloaded a job application form this evening and wow do they need a lot of information. Quite why they need to know the name, address, birthdate, occupation and phone number of my parents, in-laws, wife, kids, brothers, sisters and other close relatives is baffling to say the least. Perhaps that is a test in itself. If you willingly provide all that unnecessary information, you are perfect for the job. It's a research company.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, March 08, 2008

A homeless guy, a duck, and a large screwdriver

Saw the weirdest thing this afternoon. Me and the kids were at Chung-Hsing University campus amusing ourselves in the vicinity of the lake when I notice this homeless guy creeping towards some ducks underneath a bush by the water. All of sudden he dashes forward, dives at full stretch and succeeds in grabbing one of them. Pulling it out flapping and squawking, he gets to his feet. I stand there agog as he carries the poor creature over to his bike.

Before I could properly formulate the thought 'Please oh please tell me isn't going to kill that duck right here and now in front of my kids', he reaches into a black bag and pulls out a long, green-handled screwdriver. He sees me looking on in horror and gestures with the screwdriver, making the international sign of 'I'm about to kill and possibly also eviscerate this duck so you might want to think about moving right along at this point'. Message duly received and understood, I gather together the kids who are nearby. As we're moving away along the path, up bounds a tall teenager. Nothing is said but the homeless guy quickly realizes that boy hero is not going to let him do the duck. He then wheels the duck around and flings it in the direction of the lake. And that was that.

I can only assume that the guy was hoping to sell the duck to a restaurant, or maybe he just hates ducks. No idea. In a strange kind of way, the whole duck incident made my day. I suppose that just means not much happens round here.

Monday, February 25, 2008

MJ Klein gets "Ript"

Ript is a free scrapbook program which I discovered literally about an hour ago. Wanting to test it out, I dragged some images from Taiwan megablogger Michael Klein's site, The NHBushman, rotated them, shrunk some, enlarged others, and before I knew it I had a Quintessential NHBushman on my hands. Everything's in there: the Nikon fetish, the guitar, the food, the Dutch oven, etcetera, but couldn't squeeze in the Thai rum, or karaoke! I had so much fun I might do someone else next time, so watch out... Have a go yourself if you feel so inkleined (geddit?!).

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Open letter to Fingarse

I am not writing to you to complain about your overpriced, mediocre food, nor do I wish to inquire as to why that sour-faced woman who works there never smiles or makes eye contact with customers. No, what I wish to vent about is your policy on incorrectly priced grocery items. If a customer has bought some items, has left the store and returns later on, it is a damn cheek to ask that customer to pay an additional 5 Taiwan dollars when you discover that you have screwed up with the price labels. It's not the 5 dollars, it's the f*cking cheek of it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Banquet was a blast

You either love weiyas (year-end banquet) or you hate them. I think they're a blast. Yes they can be tacky and tedious at times but the food is usually pretty good and well, to be honest, it gets me out of the house. I also get to meet some of my wife's colleagues. Not that they say very much beyond "Your kids are so cute" and the like. I hate small talk anyway. Another factor was the noise. The performance was pretty damn loud the whole time and I have no idea how the people sitting at the table next to the speakers were able to stand the racket.

The entertainment this year started off with a contortionist in a glittery yellow constume folding herself inside a narrow tube, followed by a short performance by one of those "bian lian" {face change) artists, which I thought was quite cool, having only ever seen it on YouTube before. The poor guy only got a smattering of polite applause though. Then we had songs from the band - sax, violin and a keyboard. The singer/emcee, a skinny hag in a sparkly red and black dress, hammed it up for the audience and was generally awful but well received. Her various jokes were punctuated by quirky sounds from the keyboard - think "ba da bum" done on the drums.

Next up were the belly dancers. I have to say they did a fine job - well, two of them - the third did seem like she was new to the art of navel wiggling. The emcee then invited three class clown-types from the audience onto the stage to learn how to belly dance. That was a yawn but predictably it went down well with abalone munchers. Then we were into the home straight: the raffle (Kelly won 1600 NT!), a few more songs, a fruit platter, and a half dozen "cold" jokes for good measure.

I didn't take my camera this time because it's pretty much unusable. This photo was taken at the company weiya three years ago which was held in the very same room as this year's banquet.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

One for the anti-Ma club

One for the anti-Ma club
Originally uploaded by Naruwan
This shot was just asking to be taken. Happy CNY everyone.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"No Flavour" dried tomatoes

"No Flavour" dried tomatoes
Originally uploaded by Naruwan
We went to a wholesale sweets and snacks warehouse the other day to get some Christmas treats for Kelly's students. I spotted some dried cherry tomatoes and snapped them up. They were very good actually. I think quite a bit of sugar had been added but they were otherwise extremely tasty and chewy. The label made me smile - "no flavour". That's being over-the-top modest !

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

OMEN street art

OMEN street art
Originally uploaded by Naruwan
I've blogged about street art by OMEN before. An obvious talent. It makes a change from those stencil graffiti which you used to see all over the place in Taichung. Don't get me wrong, some of those stencils are great but OMEN really does it for me. The one above is one he did outside the art museum. Great stuff OMEN. Keep 'em coming.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Out and about on my bike

back door
Originally uploaded by Naruwan
The cool weather has been great for getting out in the morning, either jogging or riding my bike. One route I like to take runs from the end of Hsing-Da Road through Dong Fong Park (there's a 228 Memorial there) and connects to a nice bike trail which eventually leads to and runs parallel to the railway line. It's nice to get out and explore some of the nooks and crannies of south Taichung without nearly dying of heatstroke. You see some interesting things on the way like this back door. Just had to get a shot of it, even though as you can see from the top third of the photo my camera is on its last legs.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Metropolitan Park

long shadows
Originally uploaded by Naruwan
Met up with two old friends who I haven't seen for ages yesterday afternoon at Metropolitan Park. Had a great time. It was funny how Taiwan only feels like summertime in England when it's winter here . Lots of people there. Pick any random block of grass and you'd have at least one frisbee, a toddler, a pooch and a kite if you count the airspace above it! But there was plenty of space to go around so a good time was had by all. Our six kids (collectively!) certainly seemed to enjoy themselves.

Check out the length of these shadows. That's me and Jason not long before the sun set. I reckon those shadows are about 50 metres long. The long downward slope enhances the effect.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

This baseball bat should win me a few votes

Am I the only person who thinks this looks ever so slightly intimidating? I mean he's carrying a baseball bat and he's obviously not on his way to play baseball. Politicians don't generally go around carrying baseball bats while they're on the campaign trail. Subliminal advertising at its finest.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Traditional Chinese Medicine and cancer

My mum sent me this news story about a traditional Chinese medicine called Aristolochia fangchi which has been banned in the UK since 1999 because it can cause kidney failure and cancer of the urinary system. Nice stuff. (By the way, it seems to be spelt wrong in the Yahoo article. More info from Wikipedia here.) There is also the danger that this herb may be used as a substitute for other herbs. The Aussie government has a fact sheet listing the herbs which are most likely to contain Aristolochia used mistakenly - or accidentally-on-purpose - as a substitute.

It made me wonder whether this ancient herb is still available here in Taiwan. Unlikely, but the very fact that you can get TCM on the National Health Service, it's not inconceivable. Afterall, in Taiwan we effectively have state-sponsored snake-oil (figuratively and quite literally - snake oil is available as a Chinese medicine here) provided to the masses alongside so-called Western medicine. I say "so-called" because what that really means is "evidence-based" medicine.

And while I'm ranting why don't we just do away with coy words like complementary/alternative and conventional medicine, and Chinese and Western medicine, and say instead what skeptical minds are thinking anyway, namely: "medicine that works" and "medicine that doesn't work"? I'm of the view that we should only be taking and paying taxes for medicine that works and not be taking medicine and paying taxes for that which hasn't been proven to work, but hey that's just me talking crazy again. Yes, I know some Chinese medicine works - that's when we should stop calling it Chinese medicine and call it simply medicine. You see my point? OK, back to Aristolochia: wouldn't that be a mind-bender - a known carcinogen prescribed by TCM doctors on the National Health System? I just hope it isn't so.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

My great idea

You know what 7-Eleven should do? They should team up with a local supermarket and let customers order groceries and stuff online or directly from a catalogue in the store itself. Customers would then pick up their things at the 7-Eleven nearest their house the following day. This would not be for families to do all their weekly shopping. It would be for people who need an occasional bag full of groceries and other things that aren't currently available at the 7-Eleven but don't have the time to make a special trip to a large supermarket. It would be a great time-saver and, as we all know, in Taiwan life is all about convenience. So is this a great idea or what?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

KFC game

Spot the KLC bucket in there as well! Classic! I'm glad I tried out the Flock browser. It's pretty damn cool;  just drag and drop and bob's your uncle.

Blogged with Flock

Monday, November 26, 2007

Taiwan bird photography: John&Fish

I absolutely love birds. Lucky me then to have wound up in Taiwan which is home to a very high number of endemic species and boasts the second-highest bird species density in the world. Naturally, I'm also a big fan of bird photography, especially of Taiwan birds. The mountains are crawling with bird photographers at the weekend. It's a wonder the birds can get on with the business of being a bird with all those photographers tramping about in their back yards!

John&Fish are a brother and sister bird photography duo. I would say they are the best Taiwan bird photographers on Flickr. Many of their photos get dozens of comments and Flickr group "awards", and they have a heap of testimonials too.

Check out them out for yourself and be utterly amazed.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Jason's Sports Day


Go! Go! Go! Yesterday was Sports Day at Jason's school. It was hot and sunny, the music was blaring and all the mums and dads were there with their cameras and camcorders. Here Jason is just behind his classmate and sprint rival Ah-fu at the half-way point of the 60-metre race. Well, I am happy and proud to report that Jason manaaged to pull ahead and win the race despite a gormless parent who wandered onto the track in front of Jason!
Posted by Picasa

3-D Maze Sphere

I've been playing with this a lot over the past week. A friend of ours bought one each for their kids and kindly got an extra one which they thought Jason might like. Well, he does like it - a lot - and so does his Dad! It's tricky enough to get you hooked but not so frustratingly difficult that you want to hurl it against a wall and jump up and down on the pieces (not that I've ever done that, I hasten to add!)

It's a really ingenious toy and intriguing just figuring out how someone might have gone about designing and making it. You can buy this and other edutainment-type puzzle games/toys at shops inside the Taichung Science Museum.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"How To Teach Stupid Students" WTF?

My eldest son brought this home from elementary school last week. He'd pulled it out of the scrap paper box in his classroom. The literal translation of the title is: How To Teach Stupid Students. My first reaction was "What the hell..?" but when I read the points below I soon realized it's meant ironically; in other words, tips on how not to teach, or "If you want your students to be stupid just follow these teaching tips". I presume this was handed out to teachers for training purposes or perhaps a zealous parent had printed it and given it to the teacher. No idea.

The list makes some obvious points from the School of Duh, but I suppose even good teachers need to be reminded of the basics every once in a while.

Let's run down the list. This is a quick, rough translation so don't get all picky on me, k?

  1. Only use one, unchanging style of teaching.
  2. Only teach what's in the text book.
  3. Require students to provide the standard answers to questions.
  4. Don't permit students to ask questions.
  5. Encourage passive listening.
  6. Make students obey absolutely.
  7. Frequently nag, seldom praise students.
  8. Constantly scold, and disrespect students.
  9. Focus on homework and grades.
  10. Do not permit any mistakes.
  11. Reach the conclusion quickly.
  12. Ask pointless questions.

Anything that you might want to add to that list?