11 Aug 2013: Gorked Out by Nausea but Still Functioning

First thing workout, 20 min, 5 min spent doing 75 lowrise step aerobics, 15 doing supine air-conducting and weights. The step aerobics caused light nausea. Later in the day, was seriously nauseated by my attempt to walk to the Circle-K. Shall reduce the dawn step aerobics to 50 temporarily. Had hoped to get to the June peak of 200 but that’s off the table. For now.

This nausea may be chemotherapy-induced altho my last chemotherapy session was two weeks ago. I’m theorizing that the Taxotere (a cytotoxin or cell killer) takes time to act on cells in the stomach, will check this with doctor.

But I still feel like I’m playing chess with Death, or Uncle Fester.

Screen Shot 2013-08-11 at 8.11.23 PM

The doctors have moved up my August cancer status meeting to this coming week. That somehow doesn’t scare me because I can’t let things scare me, it causes negative emotions.

A retired physician and friend has confirmed what I feel, that I can no longer move to a bachelor apartment or residential hotel by myself but need assisted living…which I get from Grantham which, as cancer overtakes heart disease as a killer (owing to pollution). My physician at Grantham has confirmed what my original doctor had said. I can stay here indefinitely.

I don’t want to live in a bed in a public ward indefinitely so I confirmed in return that I’d continue to search for other, more private arrangements. The retired physician and friend suggests monasteries, Christian and Buddhist, on Lantau Island so the next step is to check with them.

Hong Kong’s Tiger Tutors

This excellent BBC documentary documents the classes given by “Richard”, a millionaire “tiger” tutor and the efforts of one of his students, “JJ”.

I’ve seen “Richard” on the sides of buses wearing Best Quality yellow suits (like the successful doctor-professor at Queen Mary on “grand rounds”) and here I see “Richard” teach using Cantonese and reciting lists of words for memorization because “Richard” has found them in past papers.

“Richard” is a millionaire whereas I’m retiring on social security; as are many of my fellow NETs (Native speaking English Teachers) who are living and retiring on air.

I teach words in context (using English, of course) as part of a grammatical system about which Richard appears, in the limited teaching sections of this movie, not to know. His teaching methods are absurdly out of scale with respect to the hype surrounding him. We see him using Cantonese (an error since the students need immersion in the foreign language) and we see Richard recite lists of words that he has found on past papers and so believes will appear on the written and oral parts of the test.

Richard is defeating the purpose of the test by coming close to cheating when the test taking strategy is to memorize words; people will succeed on the test and will get English-centric jobs. On those jobs, such as HSBC help line operators, they will reduce customers to tears with their misunderstandings which are not funny any more.

Hong Kong is a global city because it was up until very recently English-centric. A case can be made for preferring Mandarin-Chinese or even diplomatic French as a world language, but despite its partial globalization as a result of the Chinese diaspora from Guangzhou, Cantonese is not in the running as a world language. Hong Kong University students find it a laugh and a half to get their Cantonese and English speaking professor to teach in Cantonese when all the students on the first day are Cantonese speakers, violating a fundamental university rule, in the name of a hip multiculturalism being turned and twisted by the dialectics of hip into its dialectical opposite, a sour ethnocentricity. But it won’t be funny when Hong Kong turns into Manila, losing its place as a world financial center.

The test most of the students are preparing for in the film is the critical Hong Kong DSE which determines whether students in lower status government schools will have places in universities. Most of the places in universities go to students from top international schools which prepare many students for the more prestigious IB or “International Baccalaureate”. Since athletics and manual labour have no prestige in Hong Kong, the test is critical for those who take it.

But…”JJ’, the student at the school where Richard teaches, despite great effort writing lists of words down without joy or understanding, does poorly on his “mock” examination which is administered (as a separate expense to JJ’s family and as almost pure profit to the testing centre) so that students can check their progress; this should be a part of what Richard offers but he cannot “invigilate” tests.

“Invigilate” is British English for proctoring tests, setting up the site, distributing materials, and starting/stopping the test. The first time I heard it I was massively confused until I realized it was the same as to proctor in American English. You do have to get out of American English and into World English at a minimum here, where World English is closer to British English than it is to American English.

But the nub of the problem is that JJ, after his family has paid Richard and his firm thousands, does poorly on the grammar part of the mock exam which he consequently fails. The narrator doesn’t see the problem but it’s a plain as pikestaffs when we see millionaire Richard in his gold suit enumerating probable *words* and the students desperately writing them down for memorization. The students are not learning grammar.

Language doesn’t consist of words it is grammar structure all the way down to the bare metal; words have a complex structure, words contain words and particles of meaning like “in”, “un” and so on. There is no such thing as a word.

I devoured the Oxford Reference Grammar on the Lamma Ferry in the summer of 2005 to prepare to explain my intuitive NET knowledge. The ORG is a magnificent outline of all of English grammar. Since I’d just developed a theory and praxis for OO (object oriented) software development I applied this to an English parser which is not yet complete, but helped my understanding.

Kant said, in Der Kritik der Reinen Vernunft that understanding a line is being able to connect the dots. Don’t contemplate infinity, start constructing it. But there is no learning by doing in the Hong Kong educational system and this is its problem.

After devouring an Oxford Reference Grammar which is still marked by my effort, being wrinkled by ocean spray and rain, I then jumped into seven years as an NET and social studies teacher making 20K a month in Hong Kong dollars, nowhere close to where this clown is making for ruining his student’s chances.

I prepared a student living in public housing similar to JJ’s for the equally critical IELTS. This is a test administered by a private firm to all comers who then take their scores to international companies who need English speakers or in my student’s case, American universities. It was clear to me the first visit to the student’s home that it was critical for him and his family that he succeed.

At the time I was managing what I knew to be a cancer PITA (pain in the ass) using Panadol and Tramadol, a mild prescription “opiode”, or psychoactive, possibly addictive, opium derivative. I also managed it by taking a long but pleasant bus trip home through the rural New Territories and Hong Kong’s western districts south of Tien Mun, sitting on padded seats which were a relief after the metal seats of the MTR.

The student succeeded and has passed the examination with flying colors.

My question of course is whycum I am no gazillionaire like Richard? Well, part of the reason is probably that I haven’t managed to learn arcana made up and named by business school professors which have no meaning. Also, business lunches bore me. Another reason may be my spending habits but it’s hard to see how buying lots of books could be a sole or major reason.

It’s frustrating not only in my teaching and tutoring career but also in software and in art I should put out such an effort in self-training and get no love, but the reason is obvious. Certification at the right time is what counts.

Any way, the non-zero probability of my imminent demise and/or my retirement savings and pension covering my needs make the whycum question and the frustration less important. Until Ingmar Bergman’s Death comes calling I can pursue, here, mew’d up in chez Grantham, my intellectual and artistic interests unfettered for the first time in years by child support or rental needs,

And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh
At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues
Talk of court news; and we’ll talk with them too,
Who loses and who wins; who’s in, who’s out;
And take upon’s the mystery of things,
As if we were God’s spies: and we’ll wear out,
In a wall’d prison, packs and sects of great ones,
That ebb and flow by the moon.

Shakespeare, King Lear

Therefore, my interest in the questionable success of Richard and other star tutors is academic. I think as an NET that they are an extraordinarily poor choice for students seeking help with examinations. They should be allowed to function, of course, but companies like my former employers (NTK Learning Centers) offer a far better deal.

The problem is that families in the City of Sadness cannot afford the rates charged by the learning centers. Their best choice is often to find an NET and negotiate a rate as low as 100/hour – this is all many families can pay, and of course most tutors (including I myself) reject it. But many of the best tutors regard their jobs as social service and for this reason tend to negotiate affordable rates pro bono.

For the record I cannot work pro bono because of the cancer but that may change owing to my need to stay active. A return to The City of Sadness may help me survive longer.

The tutors also need to teach humane and effective test-taking strategies such as getting enough sleep (eight hours or more) on the night of the test. JJ and the other students consistently get 5 hours per night and cram all night the night before the test. Because teachers also push themselves they get the same absurdly insufficient hours of sleep.

I didn’t “get”, I took eight to ten hours of beauty sleep per night consistently, for good health. Of course, this didn’t avoid my Stage 4 prostate cancer ha ha. But, I did get, or rather took, 31 years of reasonable on the job productivity with two retrainings, one for object oriented .Net development and the other for language teaching.

Lasting from 1973 continuously to 2005 my programming career of 33 years was considerably longer than average owing to my rude good health and the needs of the kids, and it was followed at a minimum by five years full time employment as a teacher.

In the programming career I did mainframes, I did client/server and I did some Internet development. Physical exercise kept me at it. As a bonus, being so long employable in high-paying positions has given me a larger Social Security pension.

As a teacher after that of far more than English: I wrote a History of the United States for SAT Students, taught art history and philosophy, and practically everything else except science and math.

The Right, in overemphasizing a fetishized and reified “productivity”, simply ignores the fact that sitting in a damn office in the same damn city in one’s twenties day in and day out destroys the spirit and makes people into creeps and Snoids. Older people have more interesting resumes these days because some of them get out more than younger people and took more risks. Of course, this contradicts my view that young people need to work at jobs that pay into Social Security now that I think of it, and I have no solution at this time for this contradiction. Oh well.

For a better authority on how to be productive, in her case at an academic job as a tenure-track PhD, I recommend Tanya Golash-Boza’s blog http://getalifephd.blogspot.hk/ and her related content. In particular her resume is disheartening to people who haven’t cracked the publishing demands of academia; Professor Golash-Boza has published hundreds of papers in her field, which focuses on mass deportation of immigrants, especially from Peru.

It’s ironic, of course, that Golash-Boza calls for a future free of objectification, for like many successful but left-wing academics, and professionals, Golash-Boza self-objectifies thru time management and other skills. You more or less have to these days but das ist ein anders.

However, Golash Boza’s academic praxis, although unified with these urban training boot camps certainly by the word “education” if and only if the most brutal “boot camp” training is education…I happen to believe that it is, or if you prefer there is some grand but nameless Concept covering the spectrum from boot camp to the graduate seminar.

Change Record

12 Aug 2013 Minor changes and corrections: hey yo YAPCaB thanks for the visit sorry if the site was changed after you examined. Any changes after you left are minor. (Update 24 Aug: not so minor after all: sorry: I continually re-read this blog in hopes of finding proofreader’s errors, or worse, that I might miss in earlier run-throughs.)

16 Aug 2013 Change “all night .” to “all night on the night before the test.”.

24 Aug 2013
1. Change “their schools” to “their scores”
2. Added comments re positive benefits of physical exercise
3. Minor corrections here and there
4. Extensive changes to section on how to stay productive for 38 years


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