Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Trials and Tribulations of Tuition

Really, what is the opposite of disillusionment?

Back in high school, crushed between the insurmountable expectations of our hopeful parents and the contemptible judgement of our sneering peers, we all tend to develop extremely skewed views of our teenage selves. Only with the benefit of some time and distance do we realize that most of our insecurities about ourselves were all for naught.

That - and coming face to face with the acne-ridden distraught teenagers of today.

I used to think that I needed to be more driven, more focused, more ambitious, more... well, everything especially when it came to my academic studies. Even in my already relatively packed co-curricular activities, I kept wondering if I was doing quite enough to buff up my curriculum vitae. Even though short of joining a club or society that miraculously convened on a Sunday evening, I doubt I could find the time!

Looking back, I needn't have worried too much.

How foolish I was. Judging by the sadly mediocre students coming to Charming Calvin for extra tuition, I might be quite as terrifyingly kiasu as Paris Geller.

The students at Gradgrind are quite an interesting lot. Not only are some of them unsure of what subjects they would be taking for the exams, they don't particularly see any need to prepare at all. So what if they are flunking half the subjects in school?

Or if they don't even know the first thing about algebra?

A handful in upper secondary can't even do a simple times table sum without the help of a calculator. For someone whose knowledge of mathematics is already less than stellar, that's really horrifying.

Of course their less than knowledgeable, terribly enabling parents aren't helping much.

Parent : Oh, he will go for tuition classes when he needs them.
Paul : Isn't he flunking most of his subjects? 
Parent : Well I think so. 
Paul : Think so? You don't know how he's doing in school?
Parent : Umm... not great I guess? 
Paul : Interesting.
Parent : He will ask for tuition if he feels like it. Anyway he's headed for college.
Paul : Doesn't mean he can afford to fail. He'll still need a bare minimum to enter.

Seriously I doubt he will ever ask for tuition. And better start scraping together cash for that college trust fund since he's gonna need it! That's even if he manages to get the bare minimal pass - which seems pretty unlikely with the feeble effort he has put in.

Of course if you looked as hot as Pietro Boselli, you would have other options for a career. But even this handsome fellow studied really, really hard!

Look, I know academics isn't for everyone. Burying your head in a tedious textbook for half the evening when you could be out partying drunk with your friends isn't all that easy. Especially when you feel the rewards reaped aren't all that much. But at least give it a college try rather than surrendering so easily to lethargic apathy.

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Posted by savante at 9:45 AM 2 comments

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Miss Brozone

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman in possession of a good mind always seeks to friendzone any eligible bachelor in a mile radius. 

Perhaps that's the sacred mantra oft-times repeated by the Dogmatic Duennas from the Draconian Domicile since the three seem curiously determined to deter any male suitors from crossing the sacred threshold of their convent. Time and again even the most steadfast supplicants find themselves dumbfounded by the various misandrist stratagems perpetuated against them by one or more of the duennas.

Though sometimes not entirely by design.

Certainly not when it comes to Marvellous Mabel who finds herself discarded upon the proverbial shelf from no apparent fault of her own.

Or at least that's what she would prefer to think! Gifted with many virtues she might be but not when it comes to the craft of courtship. For the most part, Mabel tends to unwittingly repudiate a suitable gentleman just as they've steeled themselves to attempt a bold move. Or find herself inadvertently brozoned by them instead as her vivaciousness easily translates into seeming boyish camaraderie by the men.

Mabel : Do you like me? Like really really like me?
Suitor : Well I don't just buy dinner for anyone. 

Still that surely doesn't compare to the times when Marvellous Mabel seems almost perfectly obtuse to the subtle art of seduction practiced by her hapless swains. 

Paul : You're certainly back early!
Mabel : I'm not sure if he likes me. There might be no interest at all. 
Paul : He asked you out. He watched a movie twice just to see it with you. He bought you dinner. He drove you home and walked around your apartment building several times just to be with you. He tried to kiss you.
Mabel : He's being friendly?
Paul : Friendly. That would have been a goodbye handshake.

How many gentle hints could he have possibly left behind? Short of an inappropriately direct embrace, I doubt any well-meaning gentleman could honourably disclose his intentions.

Posted by savante at 5:56 PM 0 comments

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

The Surgeon's Daughter

Although I wouldn't say medicine is my first calling, I certainly found the wonderful mysteries of it all endlessly fascinating. Being frankly interested in the dust-filled tomes of arcane medical text definitely helped somewhat in my studies back in school; otherwise I swear it would have been utterly tedious. After all, we learn all about the inner workings of the human body and that should be assuredly interesting to all who possess them, I assume?

Apparently I was wrong in making that assumption.

Back in medical school, we had quite a number of legacies, meaning children of surgeons and physicians who we all erroneously figured had a significant leg up when it came to studying medicine. Turns out they weren't all that different from the rest of us wandering lost in the winding shelves of medical journals and textbooks.

In fact I think they might have had a tougher time than the rest of us with all the weighty expectations heaped upon their scrawny shoulders.

Something I definitely confirmed when the surgeon I worked with brought his daughter to work. With the overabundance of medical grads coupled with the serious lack of available posts for them, things aren't looking that bright for new doctors here so it didn't surprise me to see his recently graduated daughter coming by for a tour of duty.

Though I am starting to doubt very much her sincerity.

Perhaps I might be a tad biased but never have I seen so little enthusiasm in a newly minted physician. Ever. So much so that I've dubbed her Apathetic Anna.

At the beginning of our careers - something I presume we all had a hand in choosing, I would have expected at least a reasonable level of zealousness. If you can't even muster up that teensy bit of excitement now, what about twenty miserable years down the line when inevitable apathy sets in? Even I was far more keen - and I was hardly the intense, overachieving Gungho John types way back then.

Paul : Perhaps you would like to close up the surgery? Maybe a few stitches? 
Surgeon : An excellent idea!
Nurse : Yes, try. Here's the needle. 
Anna : Umm. If I must...

Really. We practically had to cattleprod her to do so.

Talk about disinterest. Back in the days, we had house officers lining up just to complete stitches on a freaking dried banana. Not even on a patient. To earn that particular honour, you'd probably have to seriously dismember several of your own kiasu, obsessed colleagues just to get close enough to holding that needle. Everyone was just so psyched to be a doctor their first time out.

Houseman : We get to cut? Really? Really?
Houseman 2 : I wanna do it! Can I?
Medical officer : It's a corpse. Get a grip. 

And we're not even talking about the scalpel yet.

Which I doubt very much Anna would be interested in. Really, you can easily imagine Anna's disturbingly blasé expression as she dully observes the surgeon sketching detailed diagrams of the surgical procedure post-operatively. Short of several jaded socialistas that I know, I doubt anyone could look that dolefully bored.

Maybe she was watching paint dry. 


Posted by savante at 6:25 PM 1 comments

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Gradgrind School

Ever since Charming Calvin made the decision to stumble down the arduous path of adolescent education, I have wisely kept my sentiments to myself. Though I'm endlessly supportive of his ambiguous post-dismissal plans, I know first-hand from both my teacher parents just how difficult it is keeping unruly teenagers reluctantly tethered to the millstone of a tedious biology textbook.

Sometimes it's a hellish job and don't let anyone - even our dogged Mark Thackeray - tell you any different.

However I'm glad to see Calvin take up this onerous challenge with a sweet smile. Took me several weeks of him giving weekly classes before I even attempted a peek at his teaching methods.

Granted he had quite a... problematic student to say the least. Occasionally there's a spark of brilliance noticeable in the eyes of those we talk to but tragically so far, I have yet to see anything in his student's painfully blank expression but dull apathy. Of course it doesn't help that Calvin has adopted the intriguingly old school pedagogy much favoured by Mr M'Choakumchild of Gradgrind fame.

Calvin : Potential energy is the stored energy of an object by virtue of its position relative to other objects. 
Student : Uh. 
Calvin : Potential energy is the stored energy of an object by virtue of its position relative to other objects. 
Student : Uh. 
Calvin : Do you understand? 
Student : Uh. 
Calvin : Alright, let's move on. 
Paul : What? It's clear he has no freaking idea what you said. 
Calvin : What is potential energy? 
Student : Uh?

It was sadly apparent from the vacant look in his eyes that very little of what had been said throughout the class had actually registered inside his brain. Honestly medically speaking, I doubt the spoken words had barely triggered his eardrums; certainly none of the vital information had even migrated via neurons to the cerebrum for processing.

Really. The student heard but didn't listen. Nothing short of a sledgehammer would be able to get him to focus.

An apple for teacher? 

And Calvin's didactic methods clearly needed a timely shift.

Far be it for me to exhort at length on the quality of teaching - not even sure if I could better his attempt - but Calvin certainly reminded me of my own pedantic school teachers. Till now I can still recall the Physics schoolmarm muttering repeatedly about potential energy with very little explanation - and there's me at the corner of the science lab doodling caricatures of her sputtering gobbledygook.

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Posted by savante at 5:22 PM 0 comments

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Serpent Demon

Much as they always feared - and despite all the various warding precautions and magical defences they had taken years to construct around the seeming impregnable family compound, the deceptive serpent demon had managed to land a terrifyingly weakening blow to the stalwart matriarch. There was a palpable gasp amongst the leading warriors of the clan as they simultaneously turned to her only to see her clutch her bloodied sword arm and stagger backwards. With a startling flash of pure white, the infamous Staff of Baram fell heedlessly from her other hand. 

Even as Sir Calvin rushed forward to catch her fall, he could hear her faltering words through the sheer din of battle. "Cal, call the children..."

Snatching the magical staff to cast a shield of protection around them, Sir Calvin crouched down closer. Surely he could have her wrong. "Mother? What do you mean? Children?" 

"Your niece and nephew. Cal, Cal, they have to know." Her fragile looking hands reached for his and held them resolutely. "Promise me."

At least that's what I presume happened last week at Forteresse de Borgia. After all it was the inauspicious inception of the Hungry Ghost Month whereupon the portals of hell creak open allowing all manner of mystical mayhem to flare up.

So you can imagine what a terribly busy month it would be for the beleaguered Keepers of the Portal. Oh wait, that might still be a secret. Shhh.

Calvin : Shh. Don't let Uncle Paul scare you. He only looks mean.
Nephew : And barks a lot?
Paul : Be careful. I bite as well

As per Madame Borgia's incontrovertible instructions, Charming Calvin has immediately departed for the other side of the Big Puddle to retrieve the precious children mentioned above. His niece and nephew actually. Recently struck down by a debilitating malady, our poor Madame Borgia finds herself somewhat indisposed and in need of perpetual succour.

Though she has repeatedly refused my obscene Western medical practices and opted instead for a more obscure brand of otherworldly regimen consisting of gory blood-letting, dubious concoctions and possibly virgin sacrifices.

Well maybe not the virgins since they are truly impossible to find these days.

No matter the reason whether for familial ties or for nefarious hellish purpose, I'm just glad Charming Calvin has taken this huge step to bring the children into the family fold. Not only will he be accompanying them on this positively dangerous journey all by himself, the children will be coming over without their daunting mother in tow. Progress at the very least!

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Posted by savante at 9:47 PM 0 comments