Saturday, September 18, 2004

Sampling the wonders of the 5-day week. I used to have a policy about it -- it was once sacred to me. When I was studying I mugged like mad (relatively speaking, of course) from Monday to Friday, and when Friday evening came along I totally fasted from work until Monday came again. It's time to revive old habits. Yes.

Today wasn't a complete fast though. I marked, but I also watched John and Jennifer Burb grow into an elderly couple and their daughter, Judy, become an adult. I've helped them all with their careers and their relationships, though Judy didn't get much attention initially. I think from now on, it'll be Judy's story and I'm now trying to find her a boyfriend or two or three, as she desires. Indulgent "parent," I am.

So very tired of the food served at the coffee-shops downstairs. Same thing all the time so we went to Northpoint's Pasta Cafe for their linguine primavera in tomato sauce. It was the sauce I've been craving all this week, for some reason. Dunno why. Wandered around Popular for travel books (watch this space) but couldn't find any. Pah!

Swenson's 'Ice House' for dessert. Fresh, clean tasting after-dinner treat; nothing more than vanilla ice-cream, some little butterscotch topping and a sprinkle of ground up roasted groundnuts for texture. Feels light going down because there's no chocolate anything to be found in the sundae.

Total stands as follows:

> Today's tally = 6
> Cumulative total = 77

Getting close to the end, though it's still a stretch to go yet.
Holy cow! 4 a.m. already! I been a baaaad boy! Spent too long in Pleasantview, neglecting all my other needs. At this point my personal stats look like this:

Hunger: medium
Comfort: low
Bladder: very low
Energy: depleting fast
Fun: way high
Social: medium
Hygiene: very low
Environment: low

You guessed it! The Sims 2 has finally hit the shelves and everyone's favourite human life-in-a-fishbowl desktop toy is back and better than ever! Spent pretty much the whole evening getting myself reacquainted with the controls and gameplay and trying to manage (manipulate?) the lives of a young suburban family that came prepackaged. The Burb family has 3 members, Dad, Mom and daughter and for the moment, I'm playing their lives almost like my own: slightly introspectively. This gameplan may not work well for the daughter who's Aspiration is Romance. She doesn't meet enough people, but I'm focusing on getting her grades up first (ain't that typical?).

This game is so open ended that watching your Sims fail is as fun as helping them succeed in life, sometimes even more so as they tend to become neurotic and fall prey to all sorts of unpredictable, irrational behaviour. However, as a gameplayer I do my best to fulfil the goals set for me in the game, so I generally have happy shiny, well-adjusted people living in this little house in Pleasantview. Perhaps when I'm more facile with the game, then I'll start 'helping' my Sims get what they fear most rather than what they aspire towards. That'll screw them up nicely, and then the fun and hilarity can begin.

Meantime, I'm neglecting my real life and my real marking which stands thus:

> Friday's tally: 5
> Cumulative total: 71

Must make up for it this uh... afternoon.
bhyclare.lgtmb//g... zzzzzzz...!

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Between marking, invigilation and not much else, life has ground almost to a halt. Hate to think how this life might translate in the coming year when the 5-day week gets fully implemented in college. You'd think that we'd be celebrating a 2-day weekend, but that's just only one way to look at it. The days of work may have been reduced, but the hours we have to work remain the same, it's just that with the new scheme, we have fewer days in the week to do it all in.

This backlash doesn't afftect just us teaching staff but all our students as well. We have so many students and staff, but so few tutorial rooms to use that the time we're supposed to be saving is going to be spent queuing up for space to have lessons in. We can still expect to start our days before 7:30 a.m. but don't expect to knock off before 6 p.m. or thereabouts. We're all looking at 11-12 hour days 5 days a week just to have an extra day off on the weekend. And we haven't factored in our CCA committments yet. God help those of us who have 2 CCAs and have to supervise them both 2 of the 5 working days in the week since CCAs won't be held on Saturdays either. Then we have stuff to do in our so-called free-time: the marking, the lesson preparation, the research, the committee meetings, staff training... who would have guessed so much misery might come out of working 5 days a week?

Actually, the idea isn't bad. The execution, though, is always the problem. The rationale behind the directive is to reduce the workload from 5 1/2 days to 5 days, but the implementers will still demand 5 1/2 days work to be done in 5 days instead. Ah, well, it happened in Genesis too. The people complained so the Pharoah ordered that brick production be doubled, while straw be reduced by half. The civil service was just as efficient and pragmatic then as it is today.

Stuff we bitch about at breakfast. Wanna trash out problems honestly, avoid having committee meetings. The informal meal where no one takes things, each other or themselves too seriously is the ticket.

Sympathies to Jong Yann who is having a wisdom tooth problem today. Hope her dentist will be able to do something about it tomorrow.

I've been sort of good, despite having a chemistry invig duty in the afternoon:

> Today's tally = 12
> Cumulative total = 66

Rewarded myself dining in with June: Classic Greek (with feta, moza and edam cheese, yum!) + Meat Lovers' pizza from Canadian 2-for-1.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

We wish Anthony good fortune as he leaves for Paris tonight with the Singapore national team to compete in the Championnat du Monde de Petanque 2004 -- that's the Petanque World Cup to translate from the French. The competition will be held in Grenoble where he will be travelling to once the team gets acclimatized in Paris.

Forewarned of his destination, some of our colleagues (I'm tempted to mention them by name 'cos it would be fun, but I won't) accosted him this morning to place their orders for LV merchandise which, apparently, is cheaper when purchased at the source. What better way to train one's stamina and competitive acumen than fighting tourists and bargain-hunters over luxury items at rock-bottom prices? So thus, and over breakfast, we bade him fare-well.

He should be boarding his plane right now so, Anthony, the hopes of all Singapore lie with you and your team to deliver what Ronald and Jia Wei couldn't at the Olympics -- a medal from a world competition! No pressure! We'll also be happy if you came back with an Eiffel Tower paperweight or an LV wallet or something. We're nice people.

As you might imagine, my morale for marking is pretty low today after all that excitement. Here's the score so far:

> Today's tally = 9
> Cumulative total = 54

Fatigue is setting in. Must take it easy...

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

I have to be honest. I love the prelim and mid-year exam periods. It is such a rare thing for me to have breakfast on Tuesday morning as lessons usually begin immediately after assembly. But today, students are taking their papers, and I can concentrate on clearing my pile of essays, and that's pretty much it, as I wasn't down for some exam duty or other. Breakfast itself isn't worth mentioning apart from the fact that it was a necessary rest-stop and energy recharge procedure before being able to face that rather daunting pile of marking again.

Lunch at GFC, same-old same-old, but in the afternoon, Amy developed a craving for ice-cream and she kindly surveyed whomever in the English Dept was still in the staff room to see if anyone else wanted a snack. She took our orders for different kinds of ice-cream and soon returned with a whole bunch. I got a very chocolatey Nestle Cornetto -- the topping comprised little chocolate spheres and chocolate sauce in alternating segments, and even the cone had been dipped in chocolate. It was slightly melty so it didn't last very long. Better in my stomach than on my desk, or worse, on someone's essay, eh? It went well with my afternoon coffee.

A small morale boost and here's my score for the day:

> Today's tally = 15
> Cumulative total = 45

Heh, so proud of myself!

Monday, September 13, 2004

Had lunch at The Dubliner's and I must say, it's nice to be back.

Back? Yup, this downtown Irish pub now occupies the site where once had stood the Orchard School of Arts and Commerce, where at the ripe old age of 23 I attended class hoping to pass my 'A' Level cert.

In most respects I was a model student, except where wearing the uniform was concerned. The Principal and her hubby were starting to introduce some idiotic uniform rules, and I, having been through 2 years ('O' Level holders did not qualify for 2.5 years' service) of wearing camo-green military uniform, plus the fact that I was legally an adult, was not about to comply. I tried to compromise by wearing a white button-down shirt with blue jeans, but I could tell it was only a matter of time before I'd get on some unpleasant list or other. Providence then opened the door for me to take my studies overseas, thus avoiding any unnecessary confrontation. I tended my resignation with glee.

Many years later, I'm back at the exact site of my last Singaporean Alama Mater and I'm lunching on shepherd's pie with my teaching colleagues who are here for not just the food and the um... malted beverages but also for a pleasant environment in which to continue their prelim marking (yes, call me obsessive).

Lunch at The Dubliner's is at a 30% discount off menu prices, though I don't know how long this promotion will last. Shepherd's pie, as I discovered, seems to be a mutton(?) stew covered over with a thick layer of fluffy potato mash for the pie crust. The meat is a very fine mince, stewed very tender and the dish generally goes down easily with small-talk and sips of liquid refreshment. I wonder if it really is mutton, though. The stew is so fine, I'm not absolutely sure, but won't shepherds lose the trust of their sheep if they went around smelling like mutton? Sheep are dumb.

Eating al fresco is quite a pleasant experience here. Partially shaded by tree foliage, we sit and dine as shadow patterns alternate with sunshine spots on the cobbled terrace. The gentle trickle of water from the landscaped waterfall add to the ambience of a lazy afternoon, but we were there for a reason. For me and Gerald, it was strictly lunch; for Vince and Anthony, after lunch was marking time. It was still early afternoon when I left them there to slowly ruminate over the imponderables that are students' answers to GP questions.

I caught the MRT home for some pet therapy... and to update the scoreboard which reads:

> Today's tally = 11
> Cumulative total = 30

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Spent most of the day marking essays and am now wondering what we have failed to teach. Normal, rational arguments generally follow this pattern:
If A = B
and B = C,
then A = C. That's logical, right?

The essays I've been marking generally look like this:
A (therefore) = C.
And that's all!

The answer (A = C) may look the same BUT the process and the development of the answer simply doesn't make sense because the linkage (B) is almost all but ignored. Typically, this kind of argument works if you were the Dictator of a banana republic and because you repeat it often enough and loudly enough your people will start to believe you. However, try this kind of reasoning with a group of rational people and it's goodbye, Senor Presidente, as your shoulders bid a fond farewell to your head.

I've also been doing some math (oh horrors!). A balanced argument doesn't seem as important as it might appear. An essay with a strong, well-presented, cohesive argument may score a maximum of 18 out of 30 marks for content even if it is "not necessarily balanced" (quoted from the essay marking scheme). But an essay riddled with contradictions because balance is poorly argued (worse -- forced because it is "required") risks scoring a maximum of 12 out of 30 content marks for making a mess of the argument. That's the difference between a D and a C grade, and it could be all the difference in the world. Those of you consistently scoring D and below, please take heed.

If this rant isn't making sense to you, please go find a GP tutor to speak to BEFORE you take the exam for real. If there's a problem, let's fix it now!

After blowing off steam,'s the scoreboard:

> Today's tally = 14
> Cumulative total = 19

And we're off and running!