Saturday, July 31, 2004

I survived the day a little short of breath. There's a nasty phlegm build-up in my bronchial passages though I haven't started coughing yet. Decided to skip this afternoon's rehearsal to prevent weakening my body further through physical exertion. Apologies to everyone involved.

Found out that the abandoned canteen where we were to have our in-line skating lesson last evening was out-of-bounds to students AND staff because it no longer belongs to our campus and it's scheduled for demolition so it's quite dangerous to hang out in. I wonder where the lesson was moved to?

Must also confess spending another point six k again, this time on an LG 17" LCD monitor. Gave my brother my 17" CRT to save him $200+ since he is on such a tight budget. (I sound so noble, don't I?) Helped him pick his parts which the dealer assembled, and for what he paid I think he got a really good bargain. His new system can take a slew of upgrades, more than my current could ever handle, so he's quite future-proof. Between his and my purchases, he paid less for his new system than I paid on my upgrades. There is no justice!

As for me, I repaired my stupid RAM problem without having to go to the dealer's. Actually the RAM wasn't the stupid one. Now I know: RAM has to be placed in the computer in descending order, i.e., biggest chip goes in slot 1 and then downwards from there. With a lot of ham-fisted pulling out and shoving back of VGA card and installing the memory chips in different configurations, I finally figured it out. So now I'm running 1024Mb worth of memory like I paid for. Yay! Now I have to figure out why my new benchmark is lower than my previous when I was using less RAM. It's going to be a long night...

Friday, July 30, 2004

It's getting to mid term and it's good that students are already approaching me for consultations on their GP. What's taken them so long? The best lessons are really with tiny groups and 1-to-1 sessions. We talk, we think, we discuss and the teaching becomes so effortless because the student/s learn without noticing it. Full engagement counts so much towards our ability to learn.
Conversely, large classes are counterproductive. No one learns, everybody distracts everybody else, or else are cowed into compliance so that the work done begins and ends in the classroom with little to show for it in the long run. No wonder parents pay for private tuition, the Sports School and other elite schools are deliberately keeping their classes small, but we civil service types face larger and larger classes each year. When accountants run the show, I guess this is the kind of logic you can expect: low costs and high profits tend to override wisdom and reality.

Fine. Enough editorializing and getting sidetracked. I just meant to say that as the time draws ever closer, I'll be expecting more students looking for more of my time. I look forward to it. Let's get some real learning done, and done right.

I must note my expenses for the day: at least a sixth of a kilo dollars, mostly spent on a new 9800 pro :) and 512Mb of RAM that doesn't seem to be working!!! Watson isn't detecting the new RAM at all, pretending that it doesn't exist >___<. Hey now, wassup? Think I'll bring him back to the dealer tomorrow and find out what's wrong. Still, the pro board has nearly quadrupled Watson's performance from my previous ti4200, according to 3DMark2003. Watson now proudly wears the "Fueled by Sapphire ATi" sticker on his chassis next to his power button, and when I can get the stoopid RAM to work he'll be prouder still. For the VERY curious, here are Watson's specs as of today.

This evening I was supposed to join ODAC for an in-line skating lesson in the abandoned canteen. I would have gone if I hadn't reached home in the afternoon then realized I had left my keys back on campus! Must've left my brains on my desk at the same time, if you ask me. So I grabbed a cab, drove back, ran to the staff room, grabbed my keys, left my brains alone, ran back to the cab and drove home. 16 wasted bucks for the round trip, and a lost half hour or so too. I was so annoyed! Didn't feel like going anywhere again after that. Hope the next round  of in-line lessons will start again soon. Bah!

Thursday, July 29, 2004

First set of block tests over for this term, and another one to go next week. The marking load is mad again and only 3 weeks to finish the marking. When am I going to have the time to do it, I wonder? Please don't say that's what my National Day long weekend is for 'cos I've got erm... other things planned. Must work really hard this weekend then, else I'm going to regret it. *psyches self up*

Stress of External Validation is over for me, having gone through my interview today. My group represented the CCA and enrichment aspect of the college and I think we managed to convince our Validator that we have a pretty good CCA programme in place. At least the round table chat was amicable and we were backing each other up with our answers, and everyone was smiling, which I'll take as a good sign. Questions about student leadership, interdisciplinary collaboration and alignment to overall Vision, Mission, Goals came up.

If anything, the interview helped me see how closely knit our CCAs have become in helping each other out in our various college activities; even more so than we have been in the recent past. The Validator asked us to think about how we can evaluate the effectiveness of our current programmes in terms of helping our students become the people they need to become. I guess the best way is for our students to tell us what they think of the experiences we put them through after they move on to the next and subsequent levels, so, oi, people, feed back, ok?

On the homefront, Mimi's come to stay with us again. This time for 2 weeks, after which we'll decide if her residence will be with us permanently or not. We'll see...

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

As the sun slowly disappears behind the darkening horizon, we sadly bid goodbye to the senior members of NYeDC, who officially, though informally, have stepped down to focus now on ace-ing their 'A's. It's been a wild ride, with lots of ups and a few downs and it's been a pleasure working with you guys. The last official thing we did together was to approve the new NYeDC leadership and I think the line-up is certainly a promising one. It's sad to see 'sif and co. go but you all have outgrown this little sandbox and bigger and better things await you now. While you're out there pursuing your dreams, we'd love to have you back once in a while to play with us again. (Gwyn, where are you?)

Congratulations to Fazli and the newly minted Exco. You've stepped forward to take over the reins of some ornery ol' horses, and as you asked, so shall you receive. NYeDC is now in your hands so let's ride on to greater glory. As far as your expectations go, the goal this year is "elite CCA." What does that mean? Here's my 2-cents worth, and see if you agree:

  • All members are immediately recognizable through their unity of spirit and bearing.
  • Despite the homogeneity of college uniform, all members wear their Drama badges with pride. As such, the uniform must be worn in such a way that the badge looks bigger than it actually is.
  • There is so much passion for theatre and for productions that members, whenever they gather, talk drama as a reflex rather than as an item on an agenda.
  • All members must have an attitude of train and re-train in pursuit of perfection. Nevertheless, less-than-perfection will never be an excuse that overrides the desire to perform.
  • All members will use every learning opportunity during club activities to connect with and support their academic learning.
  • Remember that the best performers can be either introverted or extroverted in their personality. No one is to be underestimated in their ability to deliver on their promises.
  • If things seem overwhelming to the individual, the group rallies behind and supports the effort. Do not hesitate to seek assistance from fellows or tutors.

Notice I haven't mentioned anything about awards. Awards don't make a CCA elite. An elite CCA wins awards. So let's focus on making our CCA elite first, then the awards will come in as a side-effect.

We've already taken the first few strides towards elititude, thanks to our seniors in shaping the unity and spirit that lives in NYeDC today.  NYeDC 04-05, get your 7-league boots on and grab a big stick. We've got some hiking to do!

OK, change gear...

June rescued a tiny kitten from a storm drain during her stray cat run before dinner. It had fallen in and couldn't climb out again. So June reached in and pulled it out, then returned to the table where I was sitting and asked if we could adopt it in case it was dumb enough to fall in the drain again. This was a serious consideration, especially after June had earlier said that Mimi is likely to come live with us permanently very soon.

We went back to look at the kitten again after dinner and the stupid thing had now fallen into the monsoon drain which was next to the storm drain and was much deeper. The kitten was frantic, making such pathetic mewing noises hoping to attract a rescuer. With a resigned sigh I opened the grating over the drain, lowered myself in and fished it out. Good thing it wasn't afraid of me -- I wasn't going to chase it all through the drainage system in North Yishun just to save its life.

Fortunately the rescue was easy, but now I had a new kitten on my hands. Oh dear. Unable to take in another stray, June had a brainwave. Perhaps the Malay provision shop people might take it in, seeing that they are kind to the strays around their vicinity. Smart idea, though it wasn't the provision shop that took the kitten, it was the young Malay girl working at the pet (fish) store who did. Hope they'll be happy together. We'll keep tabs on them.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Everyone's  tense over the upcoming External Validation exercise the college is going through this week. Preparation for an important assessment is understandable, and everybody's thinking, "what if we screw this up? what if I screw up?" Indeed, what will happen? Ideally speaking, whatever the report says it simply means that certain college operations can be done better if we were to make certain changes in our current practices and procedures; or that under our current standards of assessment we are doing fine, so can we see if we can reach a higher standard by the next assessment? The whole exercise is no more than a learning experience but people, knowing people, are likely to take things more personally than objectively. Hence the preoccupation about not screwing up. Hence the added stress though it really is unnecessary.

Fear of recrimination, reprisal and blame, if anything, is a lousy motivator. After meeting parents even a couple of days after Parents' Day, it's clear that fear is at the heart of parent-child relationships and in many cases the cause of an unhealthy rift between the two. Parents obviously want the best for their kids, so by the same token, why can't we trust that our kids want the best for themselves? Unfortunately, by focusing on criticizing the negatives rather than encouraging the positives, both kids and their parents get the impression that they are striving for opposite goals rather than the same one, hence the perception that attempting to communicate with one another is a futile, even counterproductive exercise. And from there it's a downward spiral to heck.

Kiasuism is a trait Singaporeans are proud to identify with, but it's about time we started doing things because we see the worth of the activity rather than because we fear the consequences of not doing them (or screwing them up). I bet we could go a lot further, with less than half the stress.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Starting to obsess over getting new hardware for my computer. In fact I went temporarily insane and mulled over the idea of having a complete system overhaul and giving my brother all the parts I want to change so he can have his computer up and running again. Then reality kicked in. Bah!

Went to Sim Lim to drool over peripherals again and decided that for the price I had to pay for upgrades, the difference in performance was negligible and simply not worth the outlay. Besides, I just received my annual bill for one (yes, one) of my insurance policies, the amount due would buy me a beautiful new PC with all the bells and whistles I could want. Arrggh! Opportunity cost strikes again! So my brother isn't going to get hand-me-down parts from me any more. He's going shopping for a brand new system for himself this weekend and I'm just tagging along to advise him.

No, that's not true. There's still enough in my piggy bank for a graphics card and RAM upgrade. I still have a few days to think about getting a Radeon 9800 pro to beef up my system just a little. It's the only thing that will make any significant impact on performance anyway. Anyone interested in a slightly used Nvidia GeForce4 Ti4200? Using the latest driver it's still working a treat!

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Day started early again, it being yet another last Sunday of the month. We were running a little late with our breakfast sandwiches and missed our bus. Not wanting to arrive any later, we caught a cab which was way faster than the bus-MRT ride could have ever been. We arrived 10 minutes early, and we were for once the earliest contributors at the Friendship Sunday breakfast. (Oh, wait, not counting the time we brought sandwiches and then discovered that there was no Friendship Sunday event that month! Doh...!)

We also found out that we had a reputation of being the last contributors to arrive every month. That is, everyone was complimenting us on the prompt sandwich delivery for a change. Usually it's more like saving the best for the last. Thank you.

Budak Pantai were our guest performers this month. The name of the group translates from Malay as "Beach Boys," so I guess the guys who gave us "Surfin' USA" and "California Girls" were the inspiration for this talented group of acapella musicians. As we had arrived early, we could watch them working over their pre-show preparations. It's nice to see performers who are professional enough to focus on setting up their tech properly rather than going over the motions of their performance in a last minute rehearsal. It shows confidence in the performers and an attention to details that are usually taken for granted -- the technicals: e.g., sound checking and balancing -- that if not prepared well and well before-hand could just as easily ruin a good show.

The members of Budak Pantai are all professional career people who only sing together in their spare time. One of the members happens to be the reigning "Singapore's Brainiest Lawyer." It must be great to be so multi-talented.

Their performance was light-hearted and good-natured, though very focused. Their voices harmonized well and their arrangements of familiar religious chorales are as surprising as they are refreshing. Their rendition of a Christmas carol that I've for the moment forgotten the title of was sung to a catchy Caribbean rhythm with faux accent to boot and was almost danceable to. If we had given them more time, they would have given us more of their cheery, improvised patter but we only gave them 4 songs and it all ended too quickly, I thought.

Nice to see Kit again who is making a whirlwind drop-in from Manchester to surprise her dad (my uncle) on his birthday. The whole family on my Dad's side had a local buffet lunch at the Peninsular Hotel. The food was only so-so, but the company was excellent. Discussions about the upcoming beach wedding party pretty much went nowhere as both groom and bride-to-be were simply allowing things to happen rather than making any actual plans for the event. Their laissez faire approach might upset a few people, but it's almost modus operandi in my family. Particularly amongst the males. Heh.