Thursday, July 28, 2016

The baseball-equity cartoon

No, no, no. The above cartoon attempts to explain how equality does not necessarily mean fairness. Actually, what our three friends are demonstrating is criminal activity -- watching a game without paying for a ticket. How are these three moochers being fair to those people in the stands who paid for entry?

In the right panel, all barriers to accessing the game have collapsed. And because nobody needs to buy a ticket, the sport has no more money to maintain a nice, fancy stadium any longer; all the pros have lost their jobs. Goodness knows what our three friends are still watching. Happy now?

Unless... the transparent fence represents a TV screen? It doesn't cost as much to watch a televised game, and every viewer has clear line-of-sight to the action, regardless of how vertically-challenged they may be. The stadium still functions and the professional players are still employed.

All the tweaks we might make meddling with human political systems for the sake of 'fairness' will always leave some party or another dissatisfied. It is perhaps technology that is the greatest leveler in the end.

Footnote: Located the original artist of the graphic. Craig Froehle is now tracking in fascinating detail the meme he created. Click here for an interesting read into how it has spread in its many permutations since its conception in 2012.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The gentle art of fencing

Teaching kids to argue is like issuing each of them a personal sword and teaching them to fence. At first, they are all excited with the weapon in their hand. They wave it around, wildly slicing the air and make sound effects as they play with their new toy [it's NOT a toy].

When the excitement has died down and they are calmer, maybe they will start paying attention to the rules of the sport. The most important rule: stop looking at your opponent's sword. As fun as it may be, the score is not counted by the number of times you hear the sound of metal hitting metal.

In this game, you keep your eyes on the target. You win by stabbing your opponent through the heart.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Last show of the season

[NYeDC in rehearsal at The Arts House]

Just when we thought we were done for the 2016 season, Sirius engineered an invite for NYeDC to perform at Celebrate Drama! 2016. The theme was "Celebrating Diversity", and it so happened that one of the items at Drama Night suited the bill. Not sure how the item entitled, "The Outsiders", fit the definition of "celebrate" but it was about the exclusion of foreign workers from the society they work in and for.

Our biggest problem was that in its original form, the script was very harsh in tone. While we tried to play it for laughs, our in-house audience saw little humour in it as the behaviour depicted was critical and accusatory of our local population. In rebooting the script, we initially struggled with feelings of being censored by our audience feedback. It was hurtful that this item, featuring one of our stronger scripts, was not as well-received as we hoped, and that to be allowed to perform it in public, we had to "balance" the treatment ad make it less insulting to to the people we meant to insult -- or at least to make them reflect on their treatment of foreign workers.

So, how to make the narrative more audience-friendly without watering down our authorial intent? First, we took out all specific location references and kept them to "foreign" and "local", suggesting the same situations could occur anywhere in the world. Then we gave the characters some psychological and emotional depth so that they no longer were playing out stereotypical scenarios to amuse one another (as in the original script), but rather to depict personal experiences and explore how the discriminated feel about being discriminated against. We kept the Singlish delivery because it sounded more real to the narrative.

Having taken audience feedback and reworking the parts that didn't work, we eventually devised a much stronger script than before. The item carried more weight and more authenticity. The situations were still absurd, but the intentions and emotional linkages were much clearer for both the performers and the audience.

And at the end, the one performing the closing monologue delivered with real emotion: the tears; the cracking voice; the breath pattern; the pauses; all real and nothing like we had ever seen her rehearse before. We couldn't have asked for a more powerful closure. Later, we asked her if the script really meant that much to her. And she said she was really feeling the weight of this performance... being the last one of the season! #oscarmoment

Anyway, such an exciting run for the 2015-6 batch of NYeDC members. The 2016-7 lot have big boots to fill.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Spoonfed all the way

The dude that posted that "Teaching, not research should be universities' main mission" is sadly mistaken about the role universities play in society. The university is not play-school. The university is where the big kids go to learn stuff. Learn, not be taught. Universities are where discoveries are made, where expeditions into the unknown are undertaken. Universities are all about research, and for the verification of that which is purported to be True. Eventually, from those discoveries, new knowledge trickles down to be taught in schools.

At the university, there are no teachers. Every student is both a learner and a sharer of that which he or she has learned.The more experienced staff -- the professors and graduate students -- share their research, the undergraduates learn what it takes to challenge the research being shared with them, and if qualified, get to undertake research on their own in time.

Ironically, the letter writer has no clue that what he is asking for is at cross-purposes with itself:
Tertiary students are self-propelled, literate, curious and energetic. The “what” and “how” of engaging them should ride on this spontaneity. Let them participate and seek new ways of learning.There should be space for inquisitive minds to explore disciplines beyond their specialisation. Let them take elective modules in colleges outside their own.
They should be exposed to diversity, with student populations representative of the world. Cross-cultural acumen is imperative in this age of globalisation.
He is absolutely right about his observations about the activities that go on at the university, but if by the time one gets to become an undergrad and still doesn't know how to teach and make the best use of available resources for oneself, one is already handicapping one's own learning -- by going in with a fail-blame-other-people attitude. Such 'students' are only interested in possessing a titular degree, but have little respect for the responsibility that comes with it: that of contributing in return new knowledge through their own research thus enriching human understanding as a whole.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


Made use of AA and got a towtruck for M2. Yes, the poor fella with the leaky radiator. Been quoted $400+ to replace it. Ok. Do it!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Overheated and dehydrated

M2 is usually a good boy, but today, first his engine temp light started blinking for a while before holding steady. Then the engine warning light lit up. And then the blue temp gauge lit up too. The dashboard was a Christmas tree of red, yellow and blue lights. Managed to make it to a location where he would be safe for a couple of days.

When the engine had cooled down enough, I checked the radiator. It was dry. It thirstily drank down a whole juice container of water. 10 minutes later, I checked under M2 and found a puddle of water that was significantly larger than there was 10 minutes ago. Confirmed: radiator leak.

Can't do anything about it 'cos I'll be busy tomorrow. Hopefully, I can take care of him on Tuesday.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Cut off

What the cutting off of civil service computers from the Interwebs really means is that the Gahmen is tired of providing free surfing privileges for us. Now if we want to surf, we have to pay for it from our own pockets. We buy our own workstations and subscribe to our own mobile hotspots. Guess the era of free Internet is over.

Edit 01:
Except for us in the education fraternity. Phew!