Saturday, July 24, 2004

It's the aftermath of Parents' Day and the final wake up call to students who think the finals are still far off in the distance. It's a bit rude to bring parents in to play the role of tolling bell, but they have the right to know how their investment in the futures of their offspring is paying off. Different reactions from different parents, not always predictable by the results we deliver. I observe them all and I think of my own parents and the sleepless nights and grey hairs I have given them in my time. The worry, anxiety, concern, and , yes, underneath it all, the love they have for their kids; I've made Mom and Dad experence all that as well.

I know what it's like to deliver a poor report to the old folks: the initial apprehension, delay up to the absolute last minute, followed by the sharp words, the tears, the disappointment, the advice the admonishment, blame and worse. None of it makes any difference though. It doesn't make things better, it doesn't make things worse. It just... happens. Occurs, as if it wasn't happening to you. There's always another test or assignment to fail tomorrow, anyway. And so the cycle goes.

All this I experienced at 'O' level, and by the time I failed to get a cert from the VITB (ITE now) it was just resigned acceptance. My point being that my students are showing results today that are better than mine ever were when I was their age, but parents will always fret over what has not succeeded and discount that which has been accomplished. Fact of life for parents, I suppose, though it doesn't make life any easier for their kids.

Kinda' makes me wonder about my ability to raise a child.  I was at Mom's place for dinner tonight and the chaos and noise the 3 grandkids were making was sloooowly driving me insane. My sister's kids are already quite obedient and manageable. Nevertheless, from the excited, raised voices competing for attention, to the roar of cascading toys and components of toys and accessories being tipped out of their container, to the incessent screeching of some unfortunate miniature vehicle being dragged over the floor by ungentle hands, I could not bear to imagine life continuing throughout the day like this when only a few hours' of exposure could already elevate my stress to near unbearable levels.  Next time someone asks me when I'm going to bring another screaming child into this world, I'd like to know if that someone is offering to take care of it on my behalf first. Ooh...! How bitchy!
Tired. Still having trouble sleeping at night. Then woke up seriously late today: 7am! Missed assembly, a first for me this year. Still feeling like I'm on the brink of a Great Big Flu outbreak but it's just tantalizingly out of reach. It's not like I'm looking forward to it, but I just want to get it over with. Spend a couple of days in bed, douse myself with medication and I'll be fine again. With my luck, it'll hit during the National Day weekend when I really won't need it. Not with the promise of Doom 3, and my cousin's most novel beach wedding party to attend. Please, no!

Attended the SYF Drama Finals with 'sif, or should I say we both got a ticket each? 'sif, as Pres, deserved to go while I needed to see for myself what kind of a standard a Gold award play reached. Won't do too much of an evaluation here until after I've compared notes with 'sif over what we both saw. One common element that I noticed was that Gold standard plays run heavily with emotion and melodrama. People scream at each other and there's quite a bit of crying. Strong central characters are also a must, even if supporting cast are only so-so.

Left Chinese High early, before the results were announced. Too tired to last till then. Besides, I had a chance of beating the crowd at the bus-stop. I knew the performers' supporters would stay to the end. My strategy didn't pay off, however. The northbound bus from town was already full of passengers and it was a long ride home standing in the bus. At the Upper Bukit Timah area, my stomach reminded me to have dinner so I alighted prematurely at the most well-lit settlement to look for food. There happened to be a Killeney Road Kopi Tiam in the midst of a number of seafood restaurants lining the road. I stopped to order a Hokkien mee and a Coke. Under the circumstances, I just wanted to eat something and balek kampong ASAP. Sated, the lazy bum hailed a cab and rode home in comfort.

'sif messaged me the results: Play of the year by ACJC, Actress from MI, Actor from VJC. No arguments from me. Looks quite fair. Congrats to them all!

Have to psyche myself up to meet the parents tomorrow. Parents are supposed to be our partners in bringing up "our" kids, but when did this notion come into the picture? I don't remember having my parents roped in to keep me in check after 'O' levels. The assumption then was that having attained secondary school education, we were qualified to work to support ourselves and our parents no longer needed to monitor us so closely any longer. Nevertheless, it's probably going to be interesting for me to get to know my class through their closest sources. I wonder what embarrassing stories I will hear tomorrow *rubs hands in glee*.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Caught Will Smith in I, Robot. Pretty ok movie though nothing to rave about. Questions of trust abound as allegiances and suspicions flow quite fluidly between persons and robots. It all starts with a suicide under suspicious circumstances and a trail of clues that follow lead to... well, let's just say that it's bigger than just a question of who killed whom.

Can we say we are truly free as long as we live under the law? When does programming become sentience? When does law become trust? And when trust becomes the guiding principle, is there any further need for the law? Perhaps that's it, then. Where there is no trust, we have the rule of law. Only when there is trust, we can abolish the law and then we can be truly free.

A little disturbing, the depiction of the storage of obsolete robots. In that scene, we could ask if we can equate programming with nobility (i.e., the act of being noble, I'm not talking about royalty).  If it is just a reaction to the program, does self-sacrifice count?

So many questions. But questions are at the heart of the story. Each clue deliberately leading to another question rather than providing an answer. Makes perfect sense to me. I've always maintained that whenever faced with a problem, all we need to do is ask the right question and the solution presents itself.  Takes a sharp mind, though, to ask the right question.

Quite a philosophical movie then, a bit understated a vehicle for Smith, but it shows he's maturing. Whatever. I'd watch a Will Smith movie any day.


Must take a quick moment to be oh, so proud of A2's mid-year overall results. You've topped the Arts fac with the most number of passes in your subjects, and Farisa's made the Arts Honour Roll, so indulge me while I *beams*.

OK, high over. I hope A2 is able to get some encouragement from the results and push on harder to do themselves even mo' betta. The results were just quantitative, not qualitative; and you guys know that there's still ground to cover before you're really ready to face your final test.

Your success is no reflection on me, but rather on yourselves and your own efforts. There are still a few more assignments left before the end, so let's go all out to make one success feed subsequent successes. You should now be wary of overconfidence, but some confidence in yourselves is good for you too. Pack your bags with all the confidence you can carry and no more. Right. Move out!

Oh, and congrats to Sanjeeda (Drama Club) too for topping the Arts Honour Roll, if you ever find this entry.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

A2's looking sharp! :) Posted by Hello
Addendum: Forgot to mention Ray and Chun who performed in the final dance number. Did A2 and Team Pegasus proud. Thanks, girls!

Happy Racial Harmony Day, everyone! The day began like a nightmare. I was so nervous about today's proceedings, I think I actually fell asleep at about 2am. After 1 and a half hours' of beauty rest, I woke up abruptly at 4:30 am and I couldn't get back to sleep again, though I resolutely lay in bed and tried my best to relax.

The early morning thunderstorm brought both dogs, Mimi and Q-tip, running over clamouring to be let on the bed and sleep next to us. About that time I had to get up and drag myself onto campus, so I regretfully left them all nice and snug in bed to catch my transport.

The rain made so many people late today, including one of my comperes! Both were supposed to meet before 7, but by assembly time Compere 1 hadn't shown up yet. Compere 2 was freakin' out backstage, dreading the possibility of shouldering the show alone. Just before curtain, the dancers who had prepared the dance items were nowhere in sight, and I was running all kinds of disaster scenarios in my head. The Principal had just publicly thanked Cikgu Ibrahim and me just before the show and I wondered whose head would have rolled (mine probably) once the curtain opened and noone was behind it.

But wonder of wonders, both comperes appeared and pretty much everything went on as scheduled with only a couple of minor hiccups. The Principal was impressed with the dance numbers, rough though they were, and lamented that some of the more outstanding performers were not with the Dance Society. The participants of the RHD quiz were so very sporting and answered the simple (and I mean simple) questions with such enthusiasm and spirit, quite uncharacteristic of the usual NY "cool" apathy.  Special mention must go to Sarab and Sonia who improvised a comic routine when both came forward unexpectedly to answer the last question. Their exchange came across as natural and real because, being siblings, it probably was.

A2 looked such a treat today, all the colours and borrowed costumes, as you can see in the picture above. Check out our album for more pix! (A2, this album entry looks rather bare so help me u/l the shots you took today to fill it out. Thanks!) I was a little miffed when various people couldn't see that my outfit was authentic of contemporary Hawaiian national dress, but instead decided I was just impersonating a beach bum or a tourist. The shirt was a real Aloha shirt I bought in Maui and the shell lei (well, it was a bit small) was a souvenir from the Hawaiian Cultural Centre in Oahu. So there!

Had an interesting time with Drama Club later this afternoon arguing over how the succeeding Exco lineup should look like. It's ironic that the decision makers are mostly the current and departing seniors who are deciding on the people we, the staff advisors, will be working with from now on. We have our input, of course, but we do trust the seniors, who have had more contact with their juniors than us, to make the right decision in the end.

And Mimi went home today. The experiment worked quite well, in fact. All of us are slowly adjusting to relocating Mimi to our premises. Mimi also needs to get used to living with us, accustomed as she is to living at her current home. For the moment, it looks like Mimi will have 2 homes from now on :)

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Another oddly disjointed entry by yours truly. Crazy week.
It's a bad day when I have breakfast at 3 in the afternoon. And what I ate was a cup of Korean instant noodles that has been mouldering away in my cupboard since I visited Korea 2 years ago. No worries, though. The expiry date said it was still good until August. That's cutting things a bit close. Glad I remembered I still had it. Saved for a special occasion, eh?

Sadly, I've been so busy that I've had no time to shop for my RHD outfit. Like I said earlier, this week is one of the mad ones. A2's taking quite some trouble over dressing for the occasion tomorrow and I don't want to let them down so I'll just have to improvise somehow. Must also remember to bring my dica (Korean slang for "digital camera"). Time to update our old CT photo album!

Ds. June Tan in one of her sermons mentioned a curious fact of wildlife. When a mother eagle senses that her chicks are ready for flying lessons, she applies the most practical of pedagogies: she picks up each chick (actually mom eagle doesn't have many chicks, maybe one or two at most) and physically flings them from the nest. As they fall (they live high up on the cliffs, so there's still some time before they hit ground zero) they instinctively flap their wings and before they know it, they are soaring off into the wild, blue yonder, ready to take care of themselves, leaving the safe but dull old nest behind.

Flinging time is here. Flap hard. Flap and soar.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Taking a short break from preparing my portion of this week's lecture material. It's now the eleventh hour and I'm still hard at work. Gaah! *Panics*
Something I've been a bit embarrassed about that I will reveal now: Remember the entry made a few weeks ago about the Toilet Uncle being replaced by another sanitation officer? Toilet Uncle is still here, no sign of him being replaced yet. His social skills haven't improved, and he looks like he's going to remain here for the long haul, despite everything he said earlier. Happy for him that he still has a job, but I swear, that man lives in an alternate reality!
Also, Cat Auntie has been a feature over the last couple of days. She is in some financial difficulty now, on account of her age and medical condition and the fact that her three kids don't seem to be helping to support her even now that she's unable to maintain a proper job. Everyone has recently found grounds to reduce their financial contribution to her upkeep and it looks like she's in dire straits. It's sad that someone who has a heart for even the strays in the neighbourhood hasn't got kin who have much of a heart for her.
It's ironic that the prize winning Commonwealth Essay that we looked at in class was also written along these lines. Neglecting our elderly is becoming a national pastime. No wonder we're a bit cynical about having our own kids. It seems we are more financially independent if we save up for our old age rather than fritter our wages away on our own self-created parasites which we call our children. The ROI just doesn't seem worth it anymore. Whine, whine.
Sorry. This invective isn't directed at my young audience, whom I know aren't this irresponsible. I just feel bad for Cat Auntie and I hope things will get better for her soon, though I don't know how that might be possible. Bummer.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Blaah! I hate it when I develop symptoms but not the disease. I've been sneezing and leaking from the nose all weekend, with the occasional hack, but I still feel healthy. Well, healthy enough not to warrant an MC anyway. BTW, I wonder if anyone else experiences this but sometimes when I cough suddenly, it feels like I've compressed part of my brain against the inside of my skull and for an instant I get a blinding headache as a reward. The only way to prevent this unpleasant sensation is to have advance warning that the cough is coming, then press down on your skull hard with both hands so that when the cough comes the pressure on both the outside and inside of your skull equalizes and your brain is prepared and left unperturbed. I have a theory that fever develops in most cases of the flu not because of flu viruses but because of bruised brains. Just a theory.
The papers finally got round to printing this year's winning Commonwealth Essay Competition entry. Maybe we'll look at it in class tomorrow? Here's the link, but again it won't last long. The story is packed full of dualities: ancient-modern, young-old, faith-cynicism, empowerment-disenfranchisement, male-female, East-West, hi-tech-lo-tech, lasting values- temporary materialism, you get the picture. I guess it's not bad for a "2-hour rush job," eh? It's still a bit rough, but not bad.
Got to lecture this week, and fuss over the Racial Harmony Day event at the same time. Still, the excitement everyone's generating over getting their costumes together by Wednesday is quite a fun ride. Even the staff can be heard conspiring over who's going to wear what or who's going to borrow what from whom. Now I'm under pressure to find something suitable to wear too. What fun! It's like Halloween's come early this year! This week is already promising to be hectic. Just bring it!
Just clicked on the Doom 3 website and after years of promise and development there is an actual release date published. August 3 2004, which is so darned close, my palms are getting all sweaty thinking about it. Oh, the anticipation...
Time to go shopping for hardware, la, la, la...
The National Day loooong weekend now has a purpose and a meaning! If you don't see me again, you'll know what's happened. Just alert the proper authorities, oh, and my wife too. Tell her I love her... out! bzzzzzt...