Wednesday, December 31, 2008


the last month of 2008 passed with a kind of 'calmed frenzy'. on one hand there was a lot of things going on, and on the other hand, i've found time to sit down, watch dvds (gossip girl OC lost), read lots of books (obama's audacity of hope, twilight x 4 books, tales of beedle the bard, chick lits), and journal about my year that has just passed and really think about how the Lord has been with me and that He has been faithful when i so do not deserve His faithfulness.

well, a good part of dec was spent in japan, one of my favourite countries in the world. it was my 2nd time in tokyo and hakone, and 1st time in kyoto. travelling free&easy with parents in a busy cosmopolitan city is no easy feat. and i'm glad i survived it with much prayer and trust in the Lord. :) sounds bad, but it really was. but the trip had many good things about it too. i really love japan and i basked in the things i love about it. and i got to shop one day in tokyo on my own, which i'm really really thankful for. and i got time to catch up with my sis after not seeing her for 5 months.


when i returned, suddenly, christmas concerts in Bethany was just literally around the corner! it was so packed that i hardly had time to breathe and decompress from the trip. and soon it was last minute revising of actions and lyrics, followed by rehearsals and all. when the concerts were finally over i felt a little sad, knowing that it will be my last time singing with the youth choir, whom i have grown to love a lot. well must always look forward to good things. so it's young adults' group and one voice in 2009. and many more years to come.

last minute christmas shopping and wrapping of gifts and writing of cards is always a tradition every year for me. well, 'cos i'm such a procrastinator. but christmas eve dinner with the family was a nice affair, as usual. this year we walloped 5 bottles of alcohol, probably a record.

christmas service and lunch at the shang this year was good! i really appreciated pastor's message that morning, in a world full of gloom and recession and global warming, it's always amazing to be reminded of the hope that we have in the Lord. :) and this christmas i'm extra happy because of my 2 friends D and D, who not only went for service and lunch, and also our annual gathering at joel's after lunch. and knowing that they enjoyed themselves and in fellowship with our friends from Bethany, and have been encouraged by the sharing session that we had and the songs we sang, is truly pure joy that the Lord brings to my heart. and that God answers prayers.

well before i know it, it's now the last hour of 2008. it's hard to summarize all i have here, because so much has happened over the year and i can safely declare that my year has been a really good one. i've been thoroughly blessed, well taken care of, provided for and so much more. i made it through my FYP, graduated, went into NIE, made new friends, grown in my faith, travelled so much and most of all, obama won the election! haha.

however, i know the world is in turmoil. and many events have happened that just shocks you to the core. natural disasters, always a common fixture. effects of global warming felt everywhere. political unrest in thailand, america, indonesia, japan, malaysia, zimbabwe, israel-gaza, taiwan. terror attacks in mumbai and the lost of a singaporean life. greedy CEOs begging for the people's money to save their companies while travelling in private jets. greedy man who cheated charities of billions of dollars. the collapse of once-powerful investment firms. retirees losing their pension funds within seconds.

well it's unthinkable, but a truly amazing thing that we can have hope despite all these. that we can trust that all is well, that we can rejoice with the truth, that God is with us. and that

"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God,
to those who are the called according to His purpose."
- Romans 8:28

have a blessed year ahead. :)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

twilight. :)

cast of twilight.
(l-r): rob (edward), elizabeth (esme), kellan (emmett), peter (carlisle),
nikki (rosalie), kristin (bella), ashley (alice), jackson (jasper),
cam (james), edi (laurent), taylor (jacob), rachelle (victoria)


now now. this is one of the best looking cast of a movie, ever. and young too! most of them are my age or younger. (darn i AM getting older.)

twilight has given me a lot to think about. and i know some people who come to this blog have not finished all 4 books, so i, being a good friend, shall not post spoilers. i shall collect my thoughts and post them in due time. so all you people who are still reading twilight-breaking dawn, read faster!

well, for the skeptics, the entire twilight saga actually offers much more than the teenage romance-vampire lusts-edward cullen fanatics. it raises questions on morality, mortality/immortality, free will, love, feminism, good vs evil etc. many profound questions can be asked, or at least, i asked. i like such stimulating books.

but of course, a handsome cast is always good. rob pattinson has definitely reached heart-throb status and i can understand. J and i often go light-headed seeing him in those gorgeous wayfarers and that dazzling half-smile. :) and it's good to mention that he reminds us of james dean, who's equally gorgeous.

this prompted vanity fair's contributing editor james wolcott to write:

"When Pattinson’s Edward emerges in the school parking lot, wearing sunglasses and slinging his arm around Bella, he’s the troubled 50s adolescent of fast cars and rebel cool reincarnated—the James Dean of the undead, with a jot of the Dylanesque."

ahhh, how true.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

the liberal arts.

an article written by michael roth on huffington post struck me and made me think about the current state of singapore education's system, and our way-too-often-comparisons with the american education system.

i don't know if people (other than americans) know about the liberal arts colleges that america offers as an alternative to the conventional universities. my own understanding of these colleges and their curricula is limited, fueled only by the occasional mention of it on american television and movies. well this article attempts to summarize the benefits of a liberal arts education in the changing face of what the world demands of its educated citizens, prompted by the fact that many of the top brains that obama has chosen for his cabinet are schooled in the ways of liberal arts colleges.

well some months ago, the press reported that NUS was in talks to set up a new liberal arts college. well that's good news. any diversification of the education system is always good news. to step away from the one-track mind that the path to success in life is through the Os, As, and universities. i like especially the school of the arts, NUS high school, the sports school.

but more importantly, i wonder if the curricula of a liberal arts college, or at least its themes and visions can be applied at the secondary and JC levels of education. i wonder if we can attract our students to look beyond the facts, numbers, equations and grades. and focus on the why and how. the philosophies. psychology. sociology. the human aspects of what we study. the driving force behind inventions and scientific discoveries and great literary works and art (montmarte artists high and drunk on absthine does NOT count). to be able to teach the way DNA was discovered, and the tremendous impact it has on us even before delving into the names of the nitrogenous bases, the properties of DNA and the enzymes involved in DNA replication.

What's a Liberal Arts Education Good For?

Over the next few months, in homes across America, seventeen and eighteen-year-olds will be conferring with one another and with their parents about a life changing decision: What college to go to! After months of research, visits, and advice from "experts," these young men and women must now decide: Where will I be happy? Where will I make friends? Where will I get an education I can afford now, and an education that will remain valuable for years after graduation?

In this same time period, our government officials will be deciding where an investment in America's economic infrastructure will do the most good. Commentators from different political perspectives have often noted that one of the great advantages of America is its peerless higher education system. Although other sectors have diminished international roles, higher education in this country continues to inspire admiration around the globe. When politicians talk about this, they often emphasize the research output of large universities, but the focus should also be on American undergraduate liberal arts education. Liberal arts in the USA provide not only a pipeline of talented and prepared students to the great graduate schools, but also a model for life-long learning that other countries are beginning to emulate.

But in these challenging times, what's an education in the liberal arts good for?

Rather than pursuing business, technical or vocational training, some students (and their families) opt for a well-rounded learning experience. Liberal learning introduces them to books and the music, the science and the philosophy that form disciplined yet creative habits of mind that are not reducible to the material circumstances of one's life (though they may depend on those circumstances). There is a promise of freedom in the liberal arts education offered by America's most distinctive, selective, and demanding institutions; and it is no surprise that their graduates can be found disproportionately in leadership positions in politics, culture and the economy. A quick look at several members of President-elect Obama's leadership team can stand as an example of how those with a liberal arts education are shaping the future of our society.

What does liberal learning have to do with the harsh realities that our graduates are going to face after college? The development of the capacities for critical inquiry associated with liberal learning can be enormously practical because they become resources on which to draw for continual learning, for making decisions in one's life, and for making a difference in the world. Given the pace of technological and social change, it no longer makes sense to devote four years of higher education entirely to specific skills. Being ready on DAY ONE, may have sounded nice on the campaign trail, but being able to draw on one's education over a lifetime is much more practical (and precious). Post secondary education should help students to discover what they love to do, to get better at it, and to develop the ability to continue learning so that they become agents of change -- not victims of it.

A successful liberal arts education develops the capacity for innovation and for judgment. Those who can image how best to reconfigure existing resources and project future results will be the shapers of our economy and culture. We seldom get to have all the information we would like, but still we must act. The habits of mind developed in a liberal arts context often result in combinations of focus and flexibility that make for intelligent, and sometimes courageous risk taking for critical assessment of those risks.

The possibilities for free study, experimentation and risk taking need protection and cultivation. Looking around the world, we find no shortage of thugs who desecrate or murder those who seek to produce a more meaningful culture. And here at home we can easily see how mindless indifference to the contemporary arts and sciences facilitates the destruction of cultural memory and creative potential.

America's great universities and colleges must continue to offer a rigorous and innovative liberal arts education. A liberal education remains a resource years after graduation because it helps us to address problems and potential in our lives with passion, commitment and a sense of possibility. A liberal education teaches freedom by example, through the experience of free research, thinking and expression; and ideally, it inspires us to carry this example, this experience of meaningful freedom, from campus to community.

The American model of liberal arts education emphasizes freedom and experimentation as tools for students to develop meaningful ways of working after graduation. Many liberal arts students become innovators and productive risk takers, translating liberal arts ideals into effective, productive work in the world. That is what a liberal education is good for.

We were surprised last week to hear reports from several liberal arts colleges and universities that they had seen significant increases in 'early decision' applications. At Wesleyan, we were up almost 40%, an increase none of us on the staff would have predicted. Early decision applicants have already decided that if they are accepted at the one school to which they apply in the fall, they will attend that school the following year. Many of the highly selective schools like Wesleyan have robust financial aid programs, accepting students regardless of their ability to pay. In my next post, I'll write more about issues of affordability even with financial aid.

In these turbulent economic times, it appears that students want to know as quickly as possible if they are going to be able to attend their first choice school. Many of our talented high school seniors are doubtless deciding that the significant investment of time and money in a liberal arts education will give them the capacity for a sustainable and creative future. Perhaps they have something to teach us!