Amazing Race Australia 1 Ep 10- Masada to Jerusalem

Thus far, I’ve been relatively captivated by the first version of Amazing Race Australia. Tonight’s episode was, however, quite a disappointment.

This is probably the first time any version of the Amazing Race ever brought its contestants to Israel. I don’t recall it happening in either TAR or TAR Asia. There were lots of stunning visuals, but that was about all that this episode had going for it.

You can tell almost for certain that this would be a non-elimination leg due to its placement, but it’s also apt since there were no moments of bunching during the entire leg – which meant that Sam and Renae could only have made up their time lag if another team made a severe mistake. There was no real possibility of making up time just by doing the tasks well as the tasks were relatively straightforward, requiring either brute strength, patience or the ability to recognise symbols and ‘decode’ them. None of these tasks caused any severe problems for any teams. The 3 male teams were so physically fit that carrying that 80kg cross didn’t really cause them any significant delays. The most boring part of the episode was that the teams ended off in the same order that they started in.  That is usually the sign of a bad leg.

This episode with the final 4 teams failed to really showcase the strengths of any of the teams and seemed to focus more on the follies of the various teams. I really don’t think the surfer boys are that great. They have just been lucky through the race thus far, and of course, being young, male and fit helps with all the physical tasks in this version of the race.

I’m surprised that at this stage teams still want to cooperate, which was what Jeff and Nathan chose to do at the Roadblock. That makes for very boring television, though decoding Hebrew text isn’t exactly the most ‘exciting’ task too.

Just as well that this was a non-elimination leg, I would have been disappointed to see Sam and Renae go due to such a boring leg. They weren’t exactly racing excellently too (too slow to find clues at winter palace, tripping), but they made no major mistakes and yet couldn’t have caught up because of the nature of the leg and tasks. Not a good leg – let’s hope the next leg in Sri Lanka will be exciting again!

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Shanghai Food! (Part 1)

My family and I took a trip up to Shanghai this June holidays and we had a great time there sightseeing, shopping, recharging and meeting friends.

There’s too much to blog about and too many photos to be posted up, so I’ll start off (and I’m not sure I’ll even continue) by writing about one of my favourite topics – the restaurants! 

First dinner at Shanghai Min (Xiao Nan Guo)

We were famished when we arrived at our hotel as we had an early lunch on our flight. This restaurant was 10 minutes walk away from our hotel and recommended by our tour guide, so we immediately made our way there. It must have been quite popular, because we were told that we had to vacate by 6.30 p.m. for other reservations. It was indeed a good start to our trip! 

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Some of the more noteworthy dishes were:

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The traditional xiao long bao and pork ribs (I didn’t take down the names of the dishes and I can’t google them, but I think it’s Grandma’s Special Pork Ribs?)

Xiao long bao was of similar standard to the good ones in Singapore in Din Tai Feng or Paradise Dynasty. The pork ribs were very good! Every bit was thoroughly marinated with the sweet sauce. Yum!

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Dumpings with Chili Oil and Peanut Sauce

This was rather unique. I hadn’t tried anything like this in Singapore before – dumpings with chilli oil yes (and we actually thought it would be this), but not with peanut sauce. This was actually a bit too heavy-going for us and we got a little ni of it after eating just one or two.

Famous Nanxiang Xiao Long Bao at Cheng Huang Miao

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Xie Rou Xiao Long Bao (Crab meat)

There was an extremely long queue for this and we were initially hesitant about queuing up. However, I decided that we had to try it since we were here and the queue moved surprisingly fast. I got my xiao long bao in 15 minutes time!

I have tasted better xiao long bao skin before as this was still a bit too thick for my liking, but what was great about this and probably the reason for its great popularity was the abundance of stock once you bit through the skin. The stock was so tasty and there was so much of it! It was worth queuing up for, definitely!

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I’m normally not a Starbucks fan in Singapore, but somehow we kept going back to Starbucks when we were in Shanghai, perhaps because it was something familiar. Starbucks has literally invaded every big city in the world. Within the span of a 15 minute walk, we spotted 3 Starbucks near our hotel and they were all crowded!

 

Much more good food in Shanghai, but will post it in my next post!

Loving Yourself

As I drove to school this morning, I decided to listen to one of the messages by Joyce Meyers that I still remember very well even though it was more than 3 years ago that I heard it.

The title of the message is ‘Embracing God’s love’ and in that message, Joyce Meyers preaches what she feels is the message she would preach if she only had one message to preach.

Here are some truths that resonated with me many years ago, but are still powerful reminders today:

We listen to so many sermons on such a variety of topics, but we don’t stick to one topic and conscientiously apply it for it to have significant effect in our lives.

The most important relationship that you have in the world is with yourself. If you cannot get that relationship right, then you should spend all your effort working on that before doing anything else.

Some of us are too hard on ourselves. When we are hard on ourselves, we become hard on others too. We need to learn that God loves us for who we are, that we are ‘wonderfully and fearfully made’.

We need to learn to love and take care of ourselves. If we don’t take care of ourselves, then God can’t work through us and we can’t do anything for others.

Most of us spend our lives trying to be someone else, but we don’t realise that God just wants us to be ourselves and not anyone else. God made you to be you and nobody else can take your place.

If you don’t love yourself, then you can’t love others because God doesn’t tell you to give what you do not have. If God’s love is not present in your relationship with yourself, then you will not be able to pour out his genuine, unconditional and real love towards those around you.

We must realise that God’s love is in us and that we are God’s temple. If we ponder on that truth long enough, it might just change our entire world view.

I shall be pondering on this truth today as I go about my activities. What a simple yet important reminder!

Useful Ipad Apps for the Classroom

I have recently begun using Ipad in class as a pedagogical tool and I’m finding it to be quite exciting. My students too have a good laugh as I toggle around and figure out how to use it effectively, but it’s been a fun journey so far.

Here are the iPad apps that have been essential for my GP lessons:

  • Stylus


    Yes, this is not an App, but it has been ever so essential in all my GP lessons. It just makes manipulating all the various apps on the Ipad that much easier, not to mention I can use it as a highlighting tool, writing tool and even as a laser pointer! More on that later!

    Styluses are very expensive in Singapore, but I managed to get mine for a good deal on dealextreme.com for only $3.99 USD with free shipping too. Be prepared to wait for about 2-3 weeks for it, but it’s worth it! The one I own looks exactly like the picture above, taken from MrGadget.com.

  • Keynote
    I’m relatively new to Mac, so I was rather impressed by Keynote!
    This serves as a far superior version of Powerpoint as it has an in-built activated laser pointer which appears when you press the touch screen. In addition, it also has Speaker Notes that appear on the Ipad screen, but not on the presentation screen. I’m still exploring this, so if anyone has more tips on how to use Keynote better, please tell me!
  • neuAnnotate



    This is one of my most used applications. It allows you to make annotations on any pdf document in pens of various colours or text annotations too. You can highlight certain portions of a passage, which has come in very handy for my teaching. In addition, you can add cute symbols like a tick sign or a huge ‘VOID’ sign which I have used for dramatic impact when I am telling students what to do.

    It’s lots of fun, especially for a GP teacher who now doesn’t have to print out multiple passages for different classes and can work on a single copy. It also saves me the hassle of having to manipulate multiple sheets of paper under a visualiser.

  • neuNote

    I have experimented with a LOT of iPad whiteboard applications, like SketchPad, Bamboo Paper and the oft-mentioned ShowMe (which allows you to record your voice while scribbling on the board, hence saving your entire lesson), but my final preference for an iPad whiteboard tool is neu.Notes. What I like about neuNotes especially is its flexibility in increasing the size of the whiteboard.

    Most other applications have limited ‘space’, meaning once you’ve used up the space they’ve provided, you either need to erase or turn to a new page. neuNote allows you to shrink the size of what you’ve already done up to create more space to include even more within the same note. It’s very useful for mindmapping and it really helps when I do essay brainstorming. The whiteboard in school is often insufficient and I end up having to erase stuff – now I have a whiteboard that has unlimited space!

  •  GeniusScan

     
    Technically, this is an App that I have on my iPhone but not my iPad, simply because I find the iPhone more convenient for taking photos.
    With GeniusScan, I can now easily ‘scan’ samples of my students work without having to wait for the computer terminal with the scanner to be free and then going through the usually long and tedious process of scanning. GeniusScan allows me to simply snap a picture and then adjust the area of selection. It will then convert this into an image which I can use easily to display samples of student work. The image resolution is not too bad!

These are the tools I’ve explored thus far in my short one month of using the iPad in the classroom, but they have expanded my productivity by lots indeed. If anyone has another other tools to recommend, please let me know!

Unexpected Find: Great Soup!

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Pear and Apple Double-boiled Soup @
Soup Master, Funan Centre 5th Floor Food Court

Amongst all the malls in the City Hall area, Funan Centre is probably one of the least populated of them all. The food court on the 5th floor was less than 40% full when Jasmine and I were there. Who would have expected to find such great double-boiled soup there?

I was looking for something light as I was still peckish after dinner and this was perfect for me.

My experience with Food Court soup has been mostly disappointing – think watery soup with minimal ingredients and lightly flavoured. This soup was the complete opposite of that!

This was a robust and full-bodied soup, completely infused with the taste of pork, apple and miscellaneous other herbs that they put in. This soup was amazing. Prices are reasonable too at $5.50 for a set, which includes rice and vegetable, or $3.50 for the soup alone. This is the cheaper alternative to Soup Broth Asia!

I just found out that there’s a Soup Master at one of the food courts just near my place too! I’ll definitely try that out when I have the chance. A great blessing indeed after a long, tiring day at work!

Amazing Race Australia 1 Episode 9 – Poland to Israel

I mentioned to Jasmine before that nobody around me seems to have that similar fanatical interest in The Amazing Race. I always have so much to say about each episode after I view it, but nobody to talk to about it, so I’ve decided now to use my blog as a platform for me to express my opinions on TARA (TAR Australia) as and when I have any thoughts about it.

TAR Australia continues to deliver quality leg design, but less than engaging character drama in its episodes. I enjoyed most of the tasks this leg and once again, the refreshing fact that the episode comprised of more than just the Detour and Roadblock. I’m not quite sure how I felt about the ‘Guess what your teammate will think’ task as I thought that was really a task that had as much to do with luck as it had to do with knowing what your teammate thought.

This was once again another leg which seemed to put the male competitors at more of an advantage than the female ones (and next week’s one looks like that too) with the parking task. The great thing about the design of this Roadblock is that there was no limit to the number of participants who could take part in it. Unlike some Roadblocks in the American version where people actually had to queue up for Roadblock tasks or there were limits like 3 at a time, this actually allowed the racers to pit against each other, though the task itself wasn’t very exciting.

The detour choices were interesting and both options offered indeed had clear pros and cons to them. The most grueling task this leg was the 200km drive to the pitstop! With the exception of the 2nd episode of the first All Star Amazing Race where there was an extensive drive through the Valley of the Moon, I don’t recall any other episode where the pitstop was so far from the previous route marker. The teams must have driven at least 2 hours or more, but ultimately, there wasn’t much shaking up of team orders through the driving either.

We’re now down to our final 4 teams. I am secretly rooting for Sam and Renae to emerge as champions as they have proven themselves to be tough, intelligent and resourceful. They have gotten through the race on more than just brute strength and I believe they truly deserve to win.

Surprise Gift!

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I was very touched last week when a colleague, who is also a close friend, gave me this birthday gift which is indeed a very suitable gift for an English teacher. And of course, being an English teacher, my immediate thought was how to use it in my lessons. I’ll find a way to use it someday, I’m sure.

Thanks Hanrong for the very thoughtful gift!