Review: The way home (2009) – George Pelecanos

I had been searching for a book that related to life as probation officer. The earliest impressions was something related to the series ‘The Guardian’.

‘The way home’ perhaps exceeds expectations. We find ourselves from the third person, looking at the lives of the (white Caucasian) Flynn family. Thomas Flynn, an ex-cop, probably agnostic. Amanda, his Catholic wife. Chris, the sole surviving male child (his sister dies earlier).

The book, more than juvenile crime was about parenting (and life).

The back page synopsis/write up left a deep impression: “…Thomas knows that no parent can protect a child from all the world’s evils. Sometimes you have to let them find their own way home.” Thomas was not the best of role models. In the closing pages, Pelecanos narrated that he would die at 55 from drunk driving. Moreover, in the adolescent phases of Chris’ misdemeanors, he did not appear to take a serious attitude. Eventually, he changed. Though it broke him to send Chris to Pine Ridge juvenile prison.

Upon his release, roughly ten years on, Chris gains employment under Thomas’ carpeting business. But it seemed that trouble was too near. Revenge nearly cost him and his girlfriend their future.

What was likeable was its realism and comprehensiveness. (Pelecanos helped produce the series ‘The Wire’.) The issues ranged from libido, to prejudice and racial disparity or alienation. The black and white divide still looms large; clearly seen in the reactions to deaths of black suspects in the US during the recent months. The language was what people actually spoke. We get to learn what goes on in peoples’ minds including: ‘Is my son going to get through life with $35k of income a year?’ – a paraphrase of what Thomas asks himself; how much former convicts distrust the police establishment; and their ‘code’.  Perceptions can often overwhelm the truth, at times for the worse…

People die. Ben who ‘graduated’ from Pine Ridge with Chris and later worked with him died. He died innocently. He died because he kept the ‘code’, the one with loyalty sticking out.

Lawrence Newhouse, a fellow prisoner with Chris, died. Chris could have died with him had Newhouse not knocked him out prior to the revenge attempt. They knew what was going to happen and they knew they were caught in a vicious cycle of violence (and despair?) but not everyone got out. Somethings just had to take place…

Knowledge and truth, it appears is not enough for people to act in self preservation…

On a related note, the psychiatrist/psychologist (or neurologist?) stated inside that the over time, reasoning (prefrontal cortex of the brain) development would catch up with emotional growth (brain limbic system). If this is true, how then should we treat teenagers who have broken the law?


Focused listening & learning

When was the last time you felt listened to?



What was the other person doing that made you feel that way?



Did the person switch off his/her phone? Look at you? (No, not staring…) Rephrase what you said? Kept silent for the majority of the time?



And finally, what did it make you feel?




It seems that people who digest information through the aural route may have an advantage in this regard. You might want to consider practising? Such as listening to audio materials and taking notes to check for understanding?

General Paper (GCE Cambridge ‘A’ Level) and History (Secondary and GCE Cambridge ‘A’ Level)

Interdisciplinary synthesis has been envisioned for sometime. I am glad to have read Patricia Koh’s ‘A-Level General Paper Comprehension: Mastering Short Questions.’ (2014: Singapore. Market Asia Media Private Limited).

Tone questions from source based studies (in History) are probably so challenging because we lack the vocabulary. Koh lists 7 “Positive” and 9 “Negative” ones. There is a shorter list on “Others”.  This is a useful starting point for providing fine-tuned and precise answers.


Reading – Variation

I was saddened by the cessation of Credo Reference from the Singapore National Library Board (NLB) eDatabase (probably sometime last year).  It provided succinct pieces for the student (read: time savings!) and sparks for more extensive research.

No matter, I came to rely on others like Encyclopaedia Britannica Online still on the eDatabase. Like existing books from Scholastic (and many others), they provide differentiated articles on the same topic. Suppose you search for ‘war’, you would have seen 3 varied Reading Levels. Reading Level 1 is the shortest and 3 is the most comprehensive. In this way, working adults and not only students can more comfortably take on unknown subjects at their own pace.

This is important because the ability to learn and relearn (some also call this reinventing or innovation) has become essential. It is not limited to the private sector, especially the technology industry. Just ask the food safety executives or healthcare managers in the civil service. Protocols and processes (may) need immediate change when facing imported food that contain toxins or poison; the same occurs when reacting to ‘imported’ pandemics. Each second counts! Indeed, the ability to make such decisions come from having the latest information available (from reliable sources).

Read on!


Postscript: Sadly, sometime after the post, Encyclopaedia Britannica Online was also taken off NLB’s eDatabase. There are likely still other useful ones of course on history and business for example. Other interesting areas for more research include the usefulness of reading aloud (this I believe is irrespective of age. I, as an adult experienced it as well.)

Updated – 2 May 2015

The dash

The dash, is stated by the well sold book ‘Eats, Shoots & Leaves: the zero tolerance guide to punctuation’ (Lynne Truss, 2003) as idiot proof since it is visible and appropriate in very a many instance or circumstance. (p. 157) It is difficult to use it incorrectly, Truss argues.

A wonderful example one discovers from Edmund Chan’s ‘Radical Discipleship: Five Defining Questions’. (2014). “Thus, I seek to reduce things to the irreducible minimum — to crystallise the thought.” (p. 24)

Spend some moments to ask what you felt when you saw the horizontal line as you read the sentence… we might have very similar conclusions on why the dash here was used so well!

China, China – Immanuel Hsu

In the past decade if not more, China has become a huge talking point. It has become in the words of a friend ‘flavour of the month’.

Of the earlier interests in the China was the seminal classic written by the deceased Immanuel Hsu – The rise of modern China. Last month, I read the Chinese version. It was privilege to have read the 6th edition (published in 2000, 5 years before his death). His views of Chinese & non-Chinese interaction was optimistic (as inferred from his preface).

One interesting point was that Britain, in 1860,  actually changed from a neutral stance to one supporting the Qing dynasty. The rationale was that a stable government would enable trade. Thus in a sense, the narrative of final stage imperial China completely at the end of a huge negative stick held by the West would be exaggerating to say the least. Moreover, as an aside, if one studies the tributary pressures that prior Chinese dynasties put on places like Korea then the overall picture becomes that much more nuanced…