Saturday, July 03, 2004

You must be up to your eyeballs listening to me complaining that I am up to my eyeballs but, oh yeah, I still am. Went to college to mark today and I realized that I could have brought Q-tip with me so I can have an occasional pet therapy session every 4-5 scripts. I think she'd love the outing, I know I need the destressing. Maybe I'll do that Monday morning (if I can still wake up from Portugal vs Greece, heh heh!). I'm making full use of my coffee mug now, but must always remember that it's almost twice the size of normal coffee mugs so 3-in-one coffee must never be drowned in more that half a mug full of water, else bleeah!

Not many staff on campus today but Boon Sin was pretty hyper about taking some of the year 1s to the National Stadium for the Youth Festival thingy. It was tough eavesdropping on her conversation with Agnes about caps, sunshades and other solar protection when I'm stuck indoors and will most likely continue to be all through next week as well. Gripe, gripe, gripe. Don't know what I did to deserve it, seeing as I've been a bit grouchy recently, but Boon Sin kindly packed for me a mini curry puff, a samosa and a potato ball that had been left over from some function earlier this morning, for my lunch. Was quite touched at this unexpected kindness. Sweet kid, that.

June took advantage of the absence of that pest of her husband this morning to spruce up the house, including clearing out the fridge that probably contained stuff that expired in '02 or earlier. Correspondence that might have had some relevance a year or so ago dumped. Dog bathed. Floor mopped and vacuumed. 2 cycles of laundry completed. By the time I got back, she was wiped out. Poor thing. I think she deserves some appreciation. Any suggestions?

Heard strange industrial noises coming from the kitchen and went to investigate. Looks like June's got her second wind. It was the blender that was making all that noise. June's working on baking a Milo-banana cake using a recipe taken from Australian Women's Weekly (print version). I came out just in time to help her stir the flour into the butter-egg mixture which she had just blended. Now she'll work out the lumps left by my deft blending hand. Wonder where she gets the energy? Love the girl!

Friday, July 02, 2004

Still plodding along with scripts which come and keep on coming in a never ending stream. The deadline looms and I'm still so slow....

A quick note then about the mini staff 'revolt' I mentioned some time ago. Situation was that someone had observed that the driveway leading up to the roundabout in front of the Drum's main entrance took an awkward left turn for those driving onto campus. If either the driver or students crossing the road there were not careful, there could be a nasty accident. Not willing to take any chances, that someone (don't ask who, I don't know either) suggested that instead of turning left and circling the roundabout clockwise as usual, we should drive anti-clockwise around the roundabout, thus avoiding the awkward left turn. The wheels were set in motion immediately (who says the College doesn't move fast?) and we got arrows painted onto the road indicating the anti-clockwise direction for motorists to drive around the roundabout. Getting dizzy yet?

Problem was, most people ignored the arrows because the anti-clockwise direction contravened the general "keep left" rule of the road, while some obedient folks disobeyed road safety rules and complied with the controversial markings. Cars started to meet head-on in the crowded space in front of the Drum and thus a bigger problem started emerging.

To solve this mess, the decree was passed down from on high that henceforth, we would follow the arrows as laid down and paid for by the College fund. Thus began the revolt. The basic premise of the staff was that traffic laws must not be violated because even if staff complied there was no guarantee that non-staff driving into the College would likewise comply because they would not know to apply this esoteric rule and would naturally follow instinct and take the clockwise path instead. Moreover, by taking the anti-clockwise path, at the point that drivers switch from the usual "keep left" rule to "keep right" instead, cars would meet head-on again once they have negotiated the roundabout and had to switch back to normal "keep left" again.

If by now you have no idea what's going on, let's just simplify things by saying that the staff revolt was aimed precisely at avoiding this confusion for ourselves, parents, suppliers and guests, and of course our students. We felt that the awkward left turn was a small price to pay to keep this pandemonium from ever being created.

Today, during our 2-and-a-half hour long staff meeting at which this issue was an item on the agenda, the uppers confirmed that the issue has been resolved and the case is closed. The decision was ultimately based on a formal letter from the LTA which stated in no uncertain terms that under no circumstances are existing traffic laws to be violated. So that's that. The arrows have been washed off and we get to keep our safer, more sensible option, the awkward left turn. I hope everyone's happy now.

Students, do us a favour now: try your very best not to get KO'ed by a car anywhere near the roundabout area, please.
I am officially on strike! I refuse to mark another script. I am going absolutely potty making judgments on other people's written work and making decisions that they are not likely going to be happy with. Over and over again. For hours on end. I want a break and I'm claiming one now!

I'm sitting in front of Watson now, having spent the night far, far away from any comprehension script. I'm wearing a blue t-shirt that June bought for me from Bossini last week. At the bottom left corner of the t-shirt is a plastic label with a little red spider motif embossed upon it. I'm wearing it today for the first time, and for a special occasion. June bought a similar t-shirt for us to wear to watch Spider-Man 2!

SM2 is gorgeous! A roller-coaster not in the sense of thrills and spills, but rather of emotional responses to the conflicts the characters (yes, in the plural!) go through. While the main focus is of course on Peter Parker, each supporting character is similarly under one crisis or another that is neither overplayed nor overblown but realistic and believable within the context of their situation.

What works is that the superheroics and colourful costumes only play on the edges of the story and are really a metaphor for the internal battles that rage within each character. The story is a human one. It's about Peter Parker, Mary Jane Watson and Harry Osborne, and Otto Octavius. Even the villain, Octavius, has a reason for being, a conflict triggering his madness. I've never seen Doc Ock in this light before -- a noble, brilliant man struggling for control over the amoral technology of his own making. Ock's robot arms likewise almost have a personality too, and a primeval motivation for their actions: fight to survive, kill or be killed, fulfill your raison d'etre. Each arm can act independently but always in concert with its partners; which must be hell to choreograph but such a marvel to watch.

The Parker-type is a character usually played as a buffoon and a loser by the likes of Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller. Sam Raimi's Parker could have been played that way for laughs too, but there is a fine line between the clown and the tragic hero. The difference lies in the character's mortality, and not their pain. Pain is comedy, death is tragedy. Sandler and Stiller are clowns because despite the pain their characters endure at no point in their movies is there any actual danger to their mortal being. Parker's motivation is in constantly fighting death (his own and everybody else's); heck, it originates in the death of his mentor and father-figure. The driving force is darker but the stakes are higher and it's what makes Parker a hero.

The lofty "messages" such as "we are responsible for the choices we make," and "we are responsible for the gifts we are given," are balanced out by "we don't have to face our responsibilities alone." The latter is a message that is so important but we always neglect to consider it whenever we focus on just carrying out our duties, responsibilities and obligations, and we think it's all so overwhelming.

Watch SM2 for a morale uplift! Don't waste the weekend!

On a slightly different note, here's a link to England's Euro Cup hopes which I place here to commemorate their fighting exit from the tournament.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

I'm just a kid
And life is a nightmare
I'm just a kid
I know that its not fair
Nobody cares
'Cuz I'm alone and the world is
Having more fun than me tonight
-Simple Plan, "I'm Just a Kid"

OK, I'm being childish. June's gone off to watch the Moscow Circus in Woodlands, and I'm stuck at home with papers to mark. No, not that she wouldn't let me go, but I knew I couldn't make it. It's quite different from when I took my 'O' Levels. Then I really was a kid, and I really got left behind to study whenever my family went out. Fat lot of good it did my grades... but I'm not bitter.

So now I'm >ahem< more mature and I've got my priorities aligned with my responsibilities, but it doesn't matter; being left behind still sucks.

Guys, after you take your last paper tomorrow, have a great long weekend! Enjoy on our behalf, can?

Forgot to mention: I discovered what a 'vegetable dosa' is from the prata shop downstairs of my place. It's a dosa that comes stuffed with coleslaw! Yuck! Next time I'm sticking to my usual masala dosa. The potato stuffing tastes much better, and it's cheaper too.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Today's entry is in recognition of the Toilet Uncle who keeps the public toilet next to our NTUC Fairprice open. He also accumulates used cardboard boxes and sometimes currently-being-used cardboard boxes, and roots through garbage bins for recyclable stuff to sell to supplement his income. You could say he's one of the catfish in our pond.

Smokes too much, drinks too much Guinness and many a night stares out at the world through a haze of mild intoxication. White-haired (though not always looking elderly), skinny, and walks with a limp and in possession of erratic interpersonal skills. A friendly enough fellow with a lot of angst kept mostly under control. Mostly.

We are quite wary of him because his behaviour can be quite unpredictable. When we walk down his corridor we don't know if he's going to wave and smile, or pretend to threaten our dog, or pretend to be terrified of her (or pretend that he's pretending), or complain about his life with statements that make us feel guilty about ours.

Uncle: Hello! Chi4 bao3 le4 mei2 you3? (Usual greeting in Mandarin)
Us: Hello! Chi4 bao3 le4! (Usual cheery rejoinder)
Uncle: Wo2 zhen3 tian1 hai2 mei2 chi1... ("Well, I haven't eaten all day...")
Us: Oh...! >blink, blink<

We just don't know how to respond after that. If we knew it was a one-time thing we wouldn't mind helping him out with a meal, but we know that we are going to see him every day so are we meant to invite him to dinner with us night after night? Being sympathetic can lead to such an undesirably complex relationship.

Anyway, I mention him today because after tomorrow he will be replaced by someone whom, he says, did him out of his job. Today he was clear, lucid even and he wasn't pretending. Despite everything, he's become a part of our daily routine and we are sorry to see him go.

We've managed to keep our relationship as minimally simple up to now. For that, he deserves a place in my memory (no, it's not like he's going to die or what!), so here's to our Toilet Uncle! Cheers!

Monday, June 28, 2004

OMG so little time, so much to do. And I'm moving so slowly too. It's like that when you first start marking, you never know what to expect in the answers you read. It takes time to see the various permutations that are possible, and once a pattern starts emerging then things can go much faster. But for the moment I'm still at the feeling swamped stage. And tired. Oh, I mentioned that before, didn't I?

Glad I only had one relief invigilation. It was this afternoon during the math paper. 1 hour relieving Fook Khim the next relieving Weng Heng. It is so hot in the 3rd floor classrooms. The heat reflects off the sunshade over the gallery and bounces directly into the room. Even the fans going at full blast can't do much about it. Hardest thing about invigilation is staying awake. The students have their minds at full steam working out answers to their test questions, the invigilator has no stimulation at all, whatsoever, nada. Just stand, sit, walk around and constantly watch whatever non-activity is happening, or rather not happening in the room. There are occasions when you black out for a split-second -- your head jerks backwards because your neck muscles no longer function, or if you're standing you suddenly pitch forward as your mind forgets to fight gravity while it reboots.

I had to keep myself awake repeating song lyrics in my head. Today it was "Truly, Madly, Deeply" by Savage Garden and "Song for Whoever" by Beautiful South. It just so happened the latter song was what Cara insisted on playing in her car as we drove to our unofficial staff canteen for lunch with our usual lunch crowd. The song stuck in my head for a while. I also had to imagine wild but impractical lesson plans for my classes just so I could keep the mental gears going to stay awake.

Oh yeah! Cara let me drive her car back onto campus after lunch. The controls are so sensitive and I had quite a time getting a feel of how much pressure to apply to the accelerator, the brakes, and trying to remember my driving theory at the same time. Just before the college gates, Anthony remarked that I must be getting the hang of it 'cos I just hit 40kmh. Idiot.

OK, wasted enough time... back to marking!

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Bad news: Mimi went home today. Good news: Q-tip's no longer limping. No, good news and bad news do not always have to be related.

Our new vicar preached at our service for the first time but I'm sorry to say I fell asleep through most of it. Guess he didn't leave much of an impression on me. It's just that I've been tired over the weekend and I'm still tired right now. Building up the energy to go back to disciplined routine is part of the problem and maybe the other part is insufficient sleep due to too many late nights these past few days. And I don't have to study for exams, so I really do sympathise with the students. But I have a marking pile that is no joke either. Marking is almost a routine, assembly line job except that it also requires exceptional creative thinking and interpretive skills as well as an evaluative mind that can decide whether the words written (sometimes deciphering the handwriting is an additional task) can possibly make any sense in relation to the question being asked, and how well, before allocating a quantitative value on the latter.

It's such a paradox how mentally taxing this mindless exercise can be. No wonder I'm zonked...