Saturday, May 29, 2004

Postings for the last few days have been quite heavy and heavy-handed. Cathartic for writing, but perhaps not so reading. Sorry. I've just been thinking too much. The Day After Tomorrow has been an excuse to reflect on the things we are doing as individuals and as a global community and it's not really a happy reflection. As individuals, what we do in our lives is in reality so insignificant. The futures we plan for ourselves and work so hard to build; are we able to pick up the pieces and build a new future if things just don't go the way we plan? Collectively, can we see that our insignificant comings and goings add up and the cumulative effect of it all can cause such dramatic changes around us and place us in just the state of jeopardy that we are working so desperately to avoid? And as individuals, will we care only after it's too late (c.f. the Vice Pres)?

The concepts Day After considers are quite profound, but because the scope of destruction is so tremendous, the movie's focus on how the cataclysm affects one single family feels narrow and claustrophobic. It's admirable how Dad braves everything to go fetch his son, stranded in the NY Public Library in the middle of an overnight Ice Age, but you have to ask yourself, "What the heck for? And what does he hope to accomplish once he gets there?" If anyone had survived the flash freeze -- and many people did -- then a far more efficient rescue operation would have been mounted for them. Dad's only excuse to traipse from Washington DC to NY over fresh tundra: "I made a promise." Forgive my skepticism but, yeah, right. Makes for a storytelling device but it does stretch credibility a bit. Besides, the focus on this one tough trek means so much less sympathy for everyone else who was caught unprepared for the freak storm. It's like oh, everyone else is dying around our heroes; erm... ok, nothing more to see here, let's just move on. I left the movie knowing that I wasn't impressed, but I couldn't articulate why. It was June who mentioned this point first, and I thought she hit the nail on the head. Maybe I can convince her to write reviews from now on?

Like I said, too much to think about. This morning I made myself happy with a couple of prata and a wadai then sat in front of the TV watching Saturday morning cartoons. You should see the grin on my face now. I'll stop blogging in time to watch Kung Pow: Enter the Fist (click the link and play with the "Dub your own flick" toy -- be patient, it's hilarious!) on STAR Movies in about a minute. Wonder what my face will look like then?

Friday, May 28, 2004

Our Career Seminar today, particularly the one on fashion and media design was a great success, judging by the number of students who stayed behind and plied our guest speakers with so many questions that they missed their lunch reception and Mei Lian had to take them out to lunch herself. It helps that Melvin and Peng Kiat (sorry, I can't remember the exotic name you introduced yourself with) are a couple of shuai ge and living proof that even if you look like a total dweeb in your class photo, a couple of years in professional training can do wonders for your image.
UPDATE: I remember now! He introduced himself as Calaeo Tan... wonder what his friends in college called him back then?

As speakers, they weren't exactly captivating but their passion for their art was inspirational. Despite their work in the glam industry, it really is more about work and less about glam than people imagine. They talked about their long hours, days on end without sleep; and their constant contact with people in order to raise sponsorship and to keep their ideas fresh. And yet they believe in what they are doing and that's really what counts.

Considering that they didn't take art as a subject in college but rather the more "practical" math, economics combo, the artwork they showed us is really quite amazing. And they said some nice things about economics and gp as well -- how their other classmates struggled with research and essay writing because they lacked the analytical rigour of the humble general paper, and how economics is helping them understand market forces better and so be able to strategize and position their work to their full advantage. Maybe they just had to say it, but it's good to hear the truth from an alumnus. It just sounds more credible.

Despite my initial misgivings, I'm glad to have hosted this career talk. I have hope in the students who simply won't stop asking questions. I see many talented students who draw so well, but due to practical reasons they feel they can't focus their attention on what they are good at. So I hope this session will help them raise the value of their talents and abilities in their own minds and see that there is an avenue for developing themselves this way.

My CT abandoned me to play badminton alone with 3A1 and 3A3. I had 1 good game before being too worn out to continue. Lost the match but it's good to know that my reflexes are still as good as they were 12+ years ago. I was never a good badminton player anyway. Kenneth did something nasty to his shoulder while playing. We thought he had a cramp at first so we left him to suffer while we continued the game thinking that cramps usually sort themselves out very quickly. When the pain didn't dissapate however, we got worried. Vince tried to sort of immobilize his arm with a long piece of fabric and a towel and then drove him to TTSH. Kenneth's got some good friends who helped him carry his stuff, bag, racket, shuttles, from the hall into Vince's car. Duds supported him all the way and Gid and Adam accompanied him to the hossie. What a way to begin summer vacation.

And yeah, it is the start of summer hols. We bade goodbye to Sheena who's going to the US on an internship, and Kevin who gave Pegasus an impressive start in Wednesday's Staff race. Don't know if Mun Yee is staying on, but we've received a new bunch of staff into the English Department as well. Don't know them just yet, but soon, perhaps. Oh, did I mention it was the summer hols? Yes, we still have lots of work to do and to catch up with, but hey, it's the SUMMER HOLS! Yeeeeeaaaaahhhhh!

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Warning: food for thought ahead. Ingest in small chunks.

We're pretty much at the half-way point of our 2nd year. The final stretch looms just up ahead, but the hard thing is, as always, the end is the beginning of something new. For some, it means moving on to National Service, for others to work and to most everyone else, further studies. It's meaningless not to be able to see beyond the finish line, for the effort expended in the race then has no purpose other than to finish. People thrive when they can continue looking forward to the future with hope and anticipation. To put it simply, Nintendo says, "Welcome to the next level!" As long as we focus on "welcome" we will do ok at the "next level."

We're showing our students the next leg of their lives with our annual Career Seminar for Year 2s. We've led up to this point with an excruciating programme on preparing resumes and gearing up for job interviews so that they might see that what they are working now has a function in their lives and in their futures. The reality of working life for the Year 2s is so close now. It wasn't long ago that people started looking for jobs at the age of 12 (PSLE), 16 ('O' Levels) and 18 ('A' Levels) and today jobs still exist for holders of these qualifications. Gwyn, alumnus from 2002, is already working full-time -- gainfully employed, as they say -- and the hours she works is no joke: 9-11 because in the workplace there is no timetable. It's do until done, by specified deadline, or if you can't do it, someone else will elbow you aside for the opportunity. The nonsense that students do and will try to get away with in College will not be met with understanding and forgiveness in the real world. That's because people are an expendable resource; there will always be a constant supply of people, especially as Colleges and Universities now churn out qualified personnel en masse. Education was once a privilege, now it's standard issue.

How are we to approach "The Job" in such a nasty environment? Is all we have to live for meaningless drudgery for the rest of our lives? The staff's usual comment, "College is hard work but it's nothing like working life!" doesn't seem to promise much for our students. In a world that's become 24/7 can only Animal Farm's Boxer survive? If our students think they are being groomed to be Boxers, it's timely to remind them that Boxer was turned into glue when he became a liability due to age and fatigue. Boxer was no survivor. He focused on a solitary goal and refused to learn more than what was required of him to fulfil his task. When his task was done, so was he.

The survivors were the pigs. Smart, constantly learning, experimenting with their knowledge, teaching skills to others whom they could exploit later, forging links with others in the larger world (including the enemy!); they did it all and they stayed on top. The only thing the pigs lacked was a set of scruples, a moral code and a sense of value for their own community. So we try to teach our students to be like the pigs: work smart, thrive, survive; but we also balance the survival instinct with community spirit and a sense of compassion for the less privileged so that everyone can live and be happy. Well, ideally speaking anyway.

Oh, "The Job." If you're going to be working 24/7 at something, it makes sense to enjoy what you are doing else it won't be long before you're knackered, literally. If at the moment you don't enjoy any particular activity take every opportunity to try something new (within your moral limits, of course), or forever remain in ennui. Go, seek out and develop your passions. Whatever it takes.

At the same time, remember that when you are starting out, you really are nobody, so be prepared to do stuff that nobody is expected to do. The late William Teo's policy is for new actors to step onto the stage only to sweep it clean for the more experienced actors to perform on. When you've learned to sweep the stage well enough, you might land an extra's role. And so on. When employing your passions in a profession, first learn to sweep the floor.

Wow. What a bunch of conflicting messages. Congrats if you are still reading. Take whatever truth you want from this mess, but that's quite enough for one day.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Beautiful day for a Track & Field Meet. Mainly Track today, though. Clear sky, summer sun, reminds me of one of the more muggy, humid days in TO.

Must congratulate the guys for amassing a bunch of medals for House Pegasus. Sarab, Iqbal, Firdaus, Fadzli. You guys showed great spirit and enthusiasm running your events and taking turns to whack the kompangs for us along with 'sif and Ramzi. Unfortunately, a few heroes aren't able to carry a whole team. We need a lot more pegasii (is that the right plural?) like you if our House is going to do better next year. I am, of course, disappointed that Team Pegasus has gone to the bottom of the House standings after today, but that still doesn't take away your achievements. Congrats, boys!

House Pegasus. We'll be back! Posted by Hello

Duds, if you're reading this, my congratulations to you and House Phoenix, and to your House Masters, Vince and Lena. Vince may have lost the Bowling battle to us, but his prize today more than makes up for it. Can't help comparing your success with Hogwart's House Griffindor and thinking, red is a fitting colour to launch the our new Houses in the College. Your cheerleader who hurt her leg deserves mention as well for her courage and determination to continue with the routine. Hope she'll be ok.

It's a rare sight, but the Milo truck made an appearance at the track today and kept us supplied with the chilly, chocolatey beverage. It's no substitute for breakfast but it comes a close second. As Richard pointed out at brunch, the Milo served from the truck tastes way better than if we were to concoct it ourselves. Strangely enough, it's also better than the Milo in tetra-packs and sold in shops and vending machines. Shouldn't Milo all taste the same since they all come from the same manufacturing plant? Perhaps it's just the mystique of the old Milo truck that serves up unlimited quantities of cold Milo on hot, sweaty days when everyone is thirsty from exhaustion and exposure that adds to the taste. In the farthest reaches of my memory of the truck, MacRichie Reservoir Annual X-Country 1978 till today, the truck's been working it's magic. And the magic must be in it's generousity, freely providing what is needed to those who need it. A lesson in life maybe?

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Nephew, EJ's birthday today. Went to Sembawang (mom-in-law's place) to celebrate. The kid is completely obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine. Everything he got was Thomas based: Thomas school bag from us, Thomas figurines on his birthday cake (more on that later), and a Thomas battery operated train set that runs on its own set of rails. He wore a Thomas t-shirt too. And to think that Thomas has a face that would have scared me when I was a kid! There's something disturbing to have an organic face fused onto an inorganic chassis. Soft tissue melded into unyielding hardness with no visible transition. Dunno why the concept upsets me, I can't explain it, but there it is.

My mom-in-law is a baking marvel. It was she who baked our wedding cake out of a real fruit cake and marzipan, decorated with silver candy sphereoids and a Precious Moments wedding couple figurine on top. The last item of deco was an inspiration of June's who found a use for the wedding gift from our mutual friend, Joyce. Nice touch. EJ's birthday cake was a sponge layer cake sandwiching an assortment of thinly sliced fresh fruit including kiwis, strawberries and peaches. The whole thing was encased in a coat of fresh cream making it look like it had just recently been snowed under. On top, as I mentioned, was a small plastic Thomas who appeared to be passing by a ranch comprising 2 plastic fences and a horse peering out at the techno-organic transport whizzing by. A couple of plastic trees rounded out the diorama. The candles were of course the anomaly.

College sports day and a WITS presentation to look forward to. Hope the day really is as short as promised. The latter part of the programme is the more worrying of the two. Well, see how, lah.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Swiss Alps Posted by Hello

Vive la Paris! Posted by Hello

Somewhere in Ireland Posted by Hello

OK, nobody get excited. I haven't run off to exotic locales over the weekend. I'm just testing Hello from Picasa as a possible means of hosting pix everyone can see. It's a bit bothersome and the initial learning curve is steep. I hope the post works. The pix, by the way, are my bro's.

SAFRA Yishun no longer has tikam-tikam night. There's nothing to win for our high scores any more so boo. Games are cheaper though -- a 10 game set @ $2.60 per game -- problem is that immediately after our last game, the computer resets itself and wipes out our scores so it's impossible to make an end-of-game analysis of our individual performance. So from memory, I've worked out my 3-game average for today is 131. I've done better before. June pulled a thigh muscle on her first throw and had to watch the rest of the game from the sidelines. I'm going to rub it down for her soon. With nothing to win, we did the usual: losing team buys the drinks. Madly enough, Anthony agreed to give a 60 pinfall handicap to our opposing team, Ed and Cheryl. Despite the outrageous handicap Anthony and I still managed to score our drinks off them. The alley now serves a bottled root beer that is so smooth going down. Can't quite recall the brand... IBG Root Beer, or something. It's nice.

Now at home and I've got Belle cradled on my lap. She's got her right front paw stuck in my face. She's not comfortable with my face getting too near her's hence her defensiveness. Momo is similarly defensive in the same position, but not as polite. Rather than using her hand to fend off an intrusive face, she uses her foot instead. Bleah! Anyway, cat cradled and purring on your lap, hot Horlicks on the desk, courtesy of the Missus (thanks, June!) and blogging it all down. That pretty much rounds up a pleasant evening. Night!
You represent... angst.
You represent... angst.
You have an extremely cynical outlook on just about
everything. It's okay to sulk and be
depressed, but life is short, and you only get
one. It's only what you make it, and only you
can make it improve.

What feeling do you represent?
brought to you by Quizilla

What? Angst? Me? I guess we never outgrow it.
Q-tip got her walk in Yishun park today and picked up a bunch of red ants along the way. It's really exasperating to hold her steady while June and I comb her fur looking for every last one of those pests. Anyone passing by us must think we're abusing our dog because she's struggling so hard to right herself. She really hates being turned onto her back. But if we don't do anything, they bite her and the pain shows in her walk and on her face, the poor thing.

Finally mustered enough willpower to bathe Momo today. She hasn't bathed in more than a year! *sings "Smelly Cat." Well, from now on she's going to get a bath once a year whether she needs it or not! Had to trim her claws before her bath and wear my crappiest T-shirt since she's bound to tear it to shreds while in the shower. Momo is such a yowler, a scratcher and a biter. It takes both of us to hold her steady while spraying her with warm water and lathering her up with tea-tree oil based flea and tick shampoo. Not that she has fleas and ticks, but better safe than sorry. She goes into a complete panic when we turn the dryer on her. A few minutes of blow-drying is all she can take. We give up when we think we've done our best to dry her and the rest is her own look out. 2 animals abused in one day. Must be a new record for us.

Bro dropped in on us later this afternoon to return my digicam and get his pix burned on CD-ROM. He's got some nice shots of his tour in Ireland, France, Switzerland, and wherever else, although his shots tend to focus on old photographs and other publications rather than on his traveling companions and exotic scenery. Well, he has got some of those too. He's not completely mad, you know.

We all went to Changi Airport for Popeye's chicken, which we've been looking forward to all week. Forget what I said about it earlier. It's gone down the tubes although it still is marginally better than KFC. Portions of mashed potato and coleslaw are a little smaller, chicken is dryer and tougher than before and as such it was a small struggle to down our order. *sigh. Perhaps it was too good to last. Maybe we came on a bad day, but I'm sure we'll give Popeye's one more chance to redeem itself in our esteem... in the near future.

Finished our day at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in Terminal 2 with a caffeine fix and pleasant conversation. He had an Espresso Americano, June an ice-blended mocha and I had a ku-niang ice-blended black forest mocha, cherry on top. So I like my ice-blended sweet with crunchy ground coffee bean and maraschino cherry bits; it's supposed to be dessert, right?

Looking forward to the coming week. June hols begin after Friday -- last chance to rest up and psych up for the final sprint towards the 'A's. 03A2, if you think you've been working hard till now, Term 3 will raise the bar for you. If you think you haven't been working hard, it'll be time to press the nitro button. Soon, you'll be speeding out of my life and on to your own and I'll miss you terribly. But it's too soon to talk about that now...

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Dragged myself to a vitally important workshop on the appraisal system the teaching profession will be rated under from 2005. As useful as the information was to us, there was no way they could have made it interesting. It's just that kind of a subject. So it's more than "these are the hoops, jump through them," it now adds on a component of "we know how well you've been jumping through them because we observe you jumping in this particular manner."

In a way, I suppose it's good to have a systematic means of setting specific standards for employees to live up to or aspire towards, but it also means that the things we do as a necessary part of our jobs, things that we don't give a second thought about because of how common sense they are, now become obligatory and no longer fun. When we do something right, we want to forget we did it right then the next time we have to do it again, it feels fresh. When we do something wrong, we want to forget because it would probably have been an unpleasant experience.

You might say these memories are important to keep otherwise we won't learn from our experiences, but I say let our subconscious minds do the learning while our conscious minds focus on the practical, daily, mundane stuff of getting through the day. That's putting the right parts of our minds to work on the right jobs. Instead, what we have here is a system that records and monitors every individual at ever single little turn so that whatever you do good or not-so-good, you have to take the time to consciously remember every single little detail about it so it can go in your report for the year.

The tedium of do-record-do-record-ad infinitum sort of makes you not want to do anything any more so you can avoid recording it just to break out of the cycle. (To those of you embroiled in PW, I assure you, I know your pain). Then again, I seem to be recording everything in my blog and it doesn't seem to be so much of a bother. Hmm... I guess the audience and the motivation for writing and reading these records have something to do with it. I blog in the hope of being entertaining (er.. you are being entertained, I hope) and perhaps of being understood. The appraisal is a record to show that I know how to do my job at the level of expectation placed on me by dint of my official capacity as an employee of my employer, and to show I am doing my job better than the next poor schmuck who is destined for a 'D' or 'E' grade. Better him than me. See why it's so painful?

Whatever. I'll continue to do my job as far as I'm able and not worry too much about it because I know the veritas of this situation: Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose. Tell me if I'm not right.

Watched Shrek 2. Funny, irreverent, lots of fun! Worth watching once. And don't leave the cinema until Donkey's problem is resolved.