Month: November 2008

Draft proposal

This is a draft that contains information about the study exploring the potential for using Facebook in language teaching. My thanks to the students who volunteered for the study. Please read this and show it to your parents before I pass you the letter of consent. It goes without saying that I will be happy to answer any questions that they- or you- may have about any aspect of the study.



Best essays of 2008 SA2

Here are the essays I have received so far. I have not edited them in any way. Read, enjoy, feel free to comment! I am very grateful to these writers for agreeing to share their work and for sending it so promptly to me. Well done, guys!










There are more essays to come, but as we move further into the future I fear my chances of receiving them grow slimmer! In this respect I must say that last year’s Sec 3s were much faster with their responses. You will notice that for the question on the family gathering and the one on travellers’ problems, there are no contributions. The reason is that there were very few people who attempted these questions, and while I appreciate the valiant attempts the intrepid few made to answer them, I think they will be the first to agree with me when I say that no one quite managed to hit the target with these two questions. Do refer to my marker’s report for some reasons why.

Stiil, let us not give up hope. I have faith that all of you will be able to move on to become even better writers next year. Keep reading widely and writing frequently, my sweeties. The best is yet to be.

From the Dilbert Blog

Scott Adams is one of my favourite writers. Personally I think he may have taken his Dilbert comic as far as it can go, but there is no denying his wit and intelligent ‘techie’ take on life. This is an excerpt from the Dilbert Blog, which Scott Adams writes. I love the way he can take the most mundane of observations and turn them into sidesplitting accounts.


Recently my wife told me I chew too loudly. While I don’t deny the accusation, I wonder how it is possible for one person to chew more loudly than another, assuming both people have their mouths closed.

Do I have thinner cheeks than the average person? Do other people somehow close their nasal passages when they chew so the noise doesn’t come out their nostrils?

I’m reasonably sure the carrot in my mouth doesn’t know who is chewing it, so the originating sound is probably the same with me as with anyone else. There must be something freakishly wrong with my skull architecture, like one of those buildings where you can whisper in one corner and someone on the other end can hear it clearly.
There isn’t a lot I can do about this problem. If you have ever tried to chew more quietly, you know it sounds exactly like not trying. I went from blissful ignorance about my chewing problem to the painful knowledge I have some sort of mastication disability that will make it impossible for anyone to love me.

So I officially added “You chew too loudly” to my list of things you should never tell another person unless you intend it as a practical joke. So far, the list isn’t long. But it includes another one I heard as a teen, when I was most impressionable: “Is that the way you normally walk?” To this day, I only walk from one place to another if I am sure no one is paying attention. So obviously I don’t chew anything when I walk, because that’s a total disaster.

One of my favorite examples in the genre was a guy who said to a nervous groomsman just before a wedding ceremony “I heard that sometimes you can pass out from standing still for too long when you are anxious.” That is pure evil, yet clever enough to be justified, in my opinion. Apparently the victim came close to actually passing out just from the suggestion. Try it at your next wedding and let me know how it turns out.

For more of The Dilbert Blog (at its new home):

Move, don’t stretch


Souce of the above picture:

Psst! I’ll let you in on a little secret! I was once SUPER FIT! You don’t believe me? I used to dance. No- not the modern type. I was a classical Indian dancer. I will try to scan some photos and put them up later, and then you will have to believe me. Anyway, I used to spend hours in training. So much so that  when I went for a medical exam just before signing up for teaching (I must have been about 21 or 22), I was diagnosed as having a functional heart murmur. That really scared me! But the cardiologist said that it was common among athletes who trained intensively. I thought that was quite cool, and went around telling everyone who would listen, till that list grew very short and everyone started telling me to shut up about it.

warm-up1     The point is that I developed an awareness of my body and what it could do. I also gave a lot of thought to the idea of warming up and cooling down. For the longest time, people have been telling us to do stretches as part of our warm-up routine. Now there is research that shows that stretching cold muscles may not be such a good idea. Tell you what. Why don’t you read the article and decide for  yourself?


November 2, 2008
Phys Ed

Stretching: The Truth



WHEN DUANE KNUDSON, a professor of kinesiology at California State University, Chico, looks around campus at athletes warming up before practice, he sees one dangerous mistake after another. “They’re stretching, touching their toes. . . . ” He sighs. “It’s discouraging.”

If you’re like most of us, you were taught the importance of warm-up exercises back in grade school, and you’ve likely continued with pretty much the same routine ever since. Science, however, has moved on. Researchers now believe that some of the more entrenched elements of many athletes’ warm-up regimens are not only a waste of time but actually bad for you. The old presumption that holding a stretch for 20 to 30 seconds — known as static stretching — primes muscles for a workout is dead wrong. It actually weakens them. In a recent study conducted at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, athletes generated less force from their leg muscles after static stretching than they did after not stretching at all. Other studies have found that this stretching decreases muscle strength by as much as 30 percent. Also, stretching one leg’s muscles can reduce strength in the other leg as well, probably because the central nervous system rebels against the movements.

“There is a neuromuscular inhibitory response to static stretching,” says Malachy McHugh, the director of research at the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. The straining muscle becomes less responsive and stays weakened for up to 30 minutes after stretching, which is not how an athlete wants to begin a workout.

THE RIGHT WARM-UP should do two things: loosen muscles and tendons to increase the range of motion of various joints, and literally warm up the body. When you’re at rest, there’s less blood flow to muscles and tendons, and they stiffen. “You need to make tissues and tendons compliant before beginning exercise,” Knudson says.

A well-designed warm-up starts by increasing body heat and blood flow. Warm muscles and dilated blood vessels pull oxygen from the bloodstream more efficiently and use stored muscle fuel more effectively. They also withstand loads better. One significant if gruesome study found that the leg-muscle tissue of laboratory rabbits could be stretched farther before ripping if it had been electronically stimulated — that is, warmed up.

To raise the body’s temperature, a warm-up must begin with aerobic activity, usually light jogging. Most coaches and athletes have known this for years. That’s why tennis players run around the court four or five times before a match and marathoners stride in front of the starting line. But many athletes do this portion of their warm-up too intensely or too early. A 2002 study of collegiate volleyball players found that those who’d warmed up and then sat on the bench for 30 minutes had lower backs that were stiffer than they had been before the warm-up. And a number of recent studies have demonstrated that an overly vigorous aerobic warm-up simply makes you tired. Most experts advise starting your warm-up jog at about 40 percent of your maximum heart rate (a very easy pace) and progressing to about 60 percent. The aerobic warm-up should take only 5 to 10 minutes, with a 5-minute recovery. (Sprinters require longer warm-ups, because the loads exerted on their muscles are so extreme.) Then it’s time for the most important and unorthodox part of a proper warm-up regimen, the Spider-Man and its counterparts.

“TOWARDS THE end of my playing career, in about 2000, I started seeing some of the other guys out on the court doing these strange things before a match and thinking, What in the world is that?” says Mark Merklein, 36, once a highly ranked tennis player and now a national coach for the United States Tennis Association. The players were lunging, kicking and occasionally skittering, spider-like, along the sidelines. They were early adopters of a new approach to stretching.

While static stretching is still almost universally practiced among amateur athletes — watch your child’s soccer team next weekend — it doesn’t improve the muscles’ ability to perform with more power, physiologists now agree. “You may feel as if you’re able to stretch farther after holding a stretch for 30 seconds,” McHugh says, “so you think you’ve increased that muscle’s readiness.” But typically you’ve increased only your mental tolerance for the discomfort of the stretch. The muscle is actually weaker.

Stretching muscles while moving, on the other hand, a technique known as dynamic stretching or dynamic warm-ups, increases power, flexibility and range of motion. Muscles in motion don’t experience that insidious inhibitory response. They instead get what McHugh calls “an excitatory message” to perform.

Dynamic stretching is at its most effective when it’s relatively sports specific. “You need range-of-motion exercises that activate all of the joints and connective tissue that will be needed for the task ahead,” says Terrence Mahon, a coach with Team Running USA, home to the Olympic marathoners Ryan Hall and Deena Kastor. For runners, an ideal warm-up might include squats, lunges and “form drills” like kicking your buttocks with your heels. Athletes who need to move rapidly in different directions, like soccer, tennis or basketball players, should do dynamic stretches that involve many parts of the body. “Spider-Man” is a particularly good drill: drop onto all fours and crawl the width of the court, as if you were climbing a wall. (For other dynamic stretches, see the sidebar below.)

Even golfers, notoriously nonchalant about warming up (a recent survey of 304 recreational golfers found that two-thirds seldom or never bother), would benefit from exerting themselves a bit before teeing off. In one 2004 study, golfers who did dynamic warm- up exercises and practice swings increased their clubhead speed and were projected to have dropped their handicaps by seven strokes over seven weeks.

Controversy remains about the extent to which dynamic warm-ups prevent injury. But studies have been increasingly clear that static stretching alone before exercise does little or nothing to help. The largest study has been done on military recruits; results showed that an almost equal number of subjects developed lower-limb injuries (shin splints, stress fractures, etc.), regardless of whether they had performed static stretches before training sessions. A major study published earlier this year by the Centers for Disease Control, on the other hand, found that knee injuries were cut nearly in half among female collegiate soccer players who followed a warm-up program that included both dynamic warm-up exercises and static stretching. (For a sample routine, visit And in golf, new research by Andrea Fradkin, an assistant professor of exercise science at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, suggests that those who warm up are nine times less likely to be injured.

“It was eye-opening,” says Fradkin, formerly a feckless golfer herself. “I used to not really warm up. I do now.”

There are also some suggested exercises that you can do to warm up, and you can check them out for yourself:

But be warned: know your limits. Exercise can hurt you if you do it the wrong way, and if you have any doubts, I am sure (though I haven’t asked them!) that your PE teachers will be happy to help you out.