Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Remember to Tip the Skycap

One thing I have to finesse before our flight is the tipping of the skycap when surrounded by family who are more comfortable waiting in the check-in queue. I'm gonna attempt to leave a big tip so that they will overlook weighing our bags. It's always difficult to pay the appropriate rate for service when one's folks are around; they seem to prefer to tip based on a 1970 pricing schedule. Old rich folks don't seem to tip all that much, perhaps that explains the second adjective in their description.

Here are some of the things we've accomplished in the 72 hours as prep for our excursion:
  • completed FY 2006 federal and state taxes;
  • changed all bank accounts to online statements;
  • update credit cards so they won't expire when we're overseas;
  • renew driver's license;
  • packed our bags, weigh them, throw stuff out and repack;
  • transferred our work onto the backs of colleagues;
  • get cash, separate out crisp clean bills, deposit the dirty ones;
  • search the house for that little trinket that we (read: I) lost;
  • call family one last time while on Eastern Standard Time.
Finally, Hanoi Life informs that Superbowl XLI will be live on cable, Monday Feb. 5th at 7 am. Like Walter Payton, that's Sweetness. The echo chamber has started in earnest concerning 'two black head coaches in the SB,' and we're only Day One of a fourteen day media countdown. It got a segment on today's NBC Nightly News.

Here's an interesting take on the hubbub: With Dungy and Smith In Super Bowl XLI, African Americans Forced To See Positive Role Models.

Monday, January 22, 2007

As the Days Dwindle

Wow, what a great day of football. VA was even encouraging me to watch, a rarity. Two black coaches representing the nice guy clique in professional sports. The sports media are gonna go hysterical with proclaiming this historic, but it's just a cool thing. Now, will someone give Norm Chow a head coaching gig?

It's only a coupla days till the flight, so we're buttoning things up here. VA's last day at work was on Friday, and she was emotional about it, 'cause she's a rare gem who actually really enjoys what she does. I hope to be that lucky one of these days. Or maybe she hates her job but just doesn't wanna go to VN.

We threw a 'see ya in a coupla years' party the other day and a whole host of friends who came on by were playing around with the notion of visiting us. C'mon down, we'll start up a B-n-B just for ya. I promise to have more food than last night. (sorry about the lack of food dudes).

And it finally snowed here, first snow this winter. DC is considered the South, but it is supposed to snow once in a while. While melting snowcaps are better indicators of environmental change than warm winters, the average person is more experiential than scientific in their outlook. A couple more of these indian winters and those El Nino explanations will not be enough.

Lastly, we nailed down details for our short sojourn in SGN before heading up north. The Company will pay for the hotel. It'll be 70,000VND. $5 bucks. Living high on the hog, courtesy of the expense account. This is the ngot life.

Monday, January 15, 2007

10.. 9.. 8.. Countdown Is On

Zero hours 10 A.M..


(William Shatner, 1978)

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Under-Trained English Teachers Hurting Vietnam?

I was intending to title this post "Teach for Vietnam" - but that was before I read this bit on "How to Write Great Headlines" and made an attempt to put that advice in action.

Recently I became interested in the English teacher phenomena simply because one cannot read blogs about foreign lands without tripping over an English teacher. They're like the modern day missionaries (or at least complementing them), opening up 'new' worlds to the West, or more precisely, the English speaking West. Musings from Preya and the WP’s A1 article titled “For Teachers, Being ‘Highly Qualified’ Is A Subjective Matter”* (Washington Post, Saturday, January 13, 2007, Page A01, Michael Alison Chandler) only added to this interest.

The English teacher gauntlet runs from foreign licensed teachers, to CELTA trained folks, to untrained native English speakers. One wonders whether the vast majority of English teachers – the CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) peeps – are worth the rents they extract from parents the world over. It's been ages since I've last looked at an ERIC search, but a quick Google didn’t net any specific results.

However, an imperfect corollary is the United States program Teach for America (TFA). For those not familiar with TFA, it's a federally funded program started under the Clinton years that places college graduates, after a period of training, in "at-need" schools. The prototypical image of TFA is that of a white, or at a minimum, privileged, Ivy Leaguer going thru a summer of training which results in their placement at an "inner city," predominately black, or at minimum, minority, student body. The comparison is imperfect because, among other things:

  • TFA > educated than CELTA;
  • TFA > training than CELTA;
  • TFA > paid than CELTA;
  • TFA students > English skill baseline than CELTA students;
  • CELTA students > older than TFA students; and
  • CELTA students <>

So what has TFA “wrought?" On its site, TFA touts the findings of a Mathematica study (Decker, P.T. et al. (2004) The Effects of Teach for America on Students: Findings from a National Evaluation). Here's the study, in HTML format for an easy browser load. Here's the .pdf for the simple graphics.

Long story short, compared to all other teachers in the study (which comprised certified and uncertified teachers), TFAs over a school year improved Math skills the equivalent of one additional month of instruction and had no statistically significant impact with respect to improving English abilities over and above the non-TFAs.

A study not advertised on TFA’s website finds that TFAs perform the same as uncertified teachers and underperform certified teachers in Math, English and language arts.

So, is the answer to the subject title query an affirmative, or is the answer more ambivalent - if one wants to learn English, what options does one have? As one may say, 'You learn English from the teachers you have, not the teachers you want.'

*P.S. killer quote from the WP article whining about non-uniform teacher certifications:

[T]he special education teacher didn't meet the law's standard because she had a provisional license. But after earning a master's degree and completing a 30-hour literacy class, she obtained full certification, and Virginia now deems her highly qualified to teach language arts. In Maryland and the District, however, Ramadane would be asked for more: another standardized test, more professional coursework.

Um, like every other “professional,” one should have to qualify for licensure in each jurisdiction. Is this an unconscionable burden? Lawyer, doctors, real estate agents … nail care technicians, all have similar licensure demands.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Five Reasons Why Apple iPhone Will Fail

As the hubbub of Apple's iPhone previewing dies down, folks are looking a bit beyond the snazzy interface. After inital interest on my part, here are five reasons why Apple will not be the company phone:
  1. Cannot buy "unlocked" phones and hacks to unlock will be tamped down by boots from Cupertino - monopoly is not just a Redmond thing;
  2. Won't sell to Europe till Q42007, Asia till 2008 - largest phone markets will snap up Nokia and HTC catchup models instead;
  3. No 3G - just (the) EDGE, in 2008? I've always disliked U2;
  4. You can't install software on it - no Skype for you (or Office, Outlook);
  5. Non-user-replaceable battery - only meant for power(ed-by-USB cable) users.
That's a short run down of why I believe the iPhone, in its current specification, is not culturally sensitive to the business sector, a group that has an appetite for expensive communication devices. P.S. RIMM closed at 133 today.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Brief Reversion

This is for VA, more than anyone, because she enjoys Mark's writings. HanoiMark recently dipped back into the Hanoi ether, if only for a short breath. He's recounting it now at Six Months in Hanoi.

Compressed Consumption

The countdown to our trip has begun, sorta. We're still really busy sorting out things - from selling possessions to wrapping up work engagements to finding serfs for our kingdom – therefore we're not really counting down yet.

One of the things we've done in preparation is exercising our credit cards. We've basically compressed 9 months to a year of shopping for durable goods into a month. If it fits into our luggage, we're considering buying it here, even though prices may be lower overseas. There is something to be said for the peace of mind knowing you'll have (mostly) what you want, instead of hoping that we can find it in Vietnam.

Yes, one can find practically anything in Vietnam, but (a) will it fit, (b) how's the quality and (c) how convenient is it for us to hunt it down? Consider these purchases our last little participations in the US economy for a while.

One thing I would like to buy is this Apple iPhone, just announced at MacWorld today. This morning I’m reading live blogging of the conference and this thing sounds promising, though I’m not fully versed on smartphone user requirements.

Very recently, we’ve become “switchers” in the Apple parlance, and I must admit that Apple’s solutions are very elegant. Maybe in the upcoming months, we’ll move more towards the hipster side of the technology divide.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Best. Game. Ever.

2007 Fiesta Bowl: Boise State - Oklahoma. Too bad I didn't catch it live on the tube, but I gather this is how I'll experience American sports for the next two years.


The Superbowl is on Feb. 4, 2007. I wonder if there will be local broadcasts of it; if not, I'll resort to solutions like SOPcast and this Streaming NFL Games guide.

Monday, January 01, 2007


Last post of the year and one meant for posterity. My VN liege, not to be confused with my global liege, VA, said this in an email:
Merry Xmas and 2007 will be a great year.
Here's hoping that this prediction will be borne out. Good luck, to one and all.