Saturday, October 02, 2004

For the first time in almost a year, we walked to Yishun Central for breakfast, taking Q-tip with us. Since some idiot wrote in to Streats to complain about people bringing their pets to eating establishments and the Health authorities confirming that such a practice was frowned upon, we were quite put off our weekly routine, until today when we just couldn't be bothered about it any more. It's time to conveniently forget what was said before and let old habits surface again.

On the way, we stopped to feed Dasher's Auntie and All-eyes in the void deck across our block. Then we took care of ourselves with (not very good) kaya bread and boiled eggs from Central's S-11. Yes, boiled EGGS, which we have been deprived of for a month thanks to the Malaysian poultry and egg ban.

Home-grilled chicken legs for dinner to celebrate the partial lifting of the ban too. At least prices have almost come back to "Reasonable" again. Chicken and eggs, how we used to take them for granted. Well it has been a tough month.

Spent most of the day in a nearly vegetative state. We glued ourselves to the TV watching the ending of the Amazing Race:4 and the entire season of AR:3. Quite zoned out now.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Happy birthday, Yan! You're lucky to have such good friends who are fun and creative and confectionarily gifted! Hope you had a great day!

>>Fast Forward to this evening. We were at the Sun Plaza Kopitiam for dinner. June had the personal steam boat which I thought looked rather large for a single consumer. She recalled that the last time she ordered it, the person behind her ordered it too, but to share amongst a family of 4. They didn't look all that well off and they didn't order anything else. June felt bad that the amount she was wolfing down was enough to feed a small family. It didn't help matters when the children stole envious glances at her every now and then. An unpleasant memory.

After dinner, we were still early for our movie so we picked up a couple of travel guides from the library and June found Quill (Jap movie about a puppy who becomes a seeing-eye dog) on VCD in Sembawang Music Centre which she instantly purchased (the VCD, not the Centre), sucker she is for cute puppy movies. Me too, actually. We also saw Van Helsing on VCD, but she held back 'cos she wanted the DVD format instead. Funny it isn't out at the same time. Maybe the DVD hasn't cleared our censors or something.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse ROCKS! The sequel is so much more enjoyable than the original. RE kept the action confined in an underground science research facility, so the game was basically well-armed professional soldiers vs. zombie nerds, geeks and assorted eggheads, and a malevolent AI. Nevertheless, only Alice (Milla Jojovich) and Matt, her husband(?), survive the original RE, overwhelming force of numbers being on the side of the zombiefied socially inept.

RE:A releases the zombies into Raccoon City itself and now the mix of characters and their respective skills and talents is much more dynamic. The main crew comprises a superhuman Alice; Valentine, a disgraced female cop; Olivera, and abandoned Umbrella Corp security guy; Teri, a TV news reporter; and a well-armed gangsta with considerable street smarts; pulled together by a wheelchair bound scientist, Dr Ashford, who sends them on a mission to rescue his daughter in exchange for passage out of the city before it becomes 'sanitized.'

As with most zombie movies the zombies are mostly incidental. It's clear that the 'Evil' comes from a source other than the shambling, moaning, ravenous, ugly people themselves. The heart of RE:A is of course the frequent use of a wide array of weapons and explosives with digital sound turned up. The fight sequences are so fast they are barely coherent, yet each punch and kick makes almost palpable impact, breathtaking to watch. Occasional popcorn-spilling shocks, flying fists and feet, stylish gunplay, spectacular explosions, and a practically indestructable Milla Jojovich, what's not to like? Big grin for RE:A! When's the DVD coming out?

Nice to see scenes of TO, which doubled in the movie as "Raccoon City." Seeing the CN Tower and the beautiful, UFO-shaped City Hall again... ah, the nostalgia.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

'tis the season for writing testimonials for 03A2. It's time for me to exercise my memory and recall all the things we've been through in the 7 terms that we've been together. I need to reflect on how much each individual has grown and matured, how much they have really learned about life and their place in society; an evaluation that could perhaps be more valid than any academic results from a single exam will ever show because it is based on personal contact and experience. It's also my last duty as a Civics Tutor.

I hold my CT with a loose (lax?) hand, letting things take their own course rather than shaping the group within specific and expected parameters. My people need to forge their own identity, and I'm only there to tweak, not to engineer. And today, I feel that my work is almost done. My people are almost independent of me and I can sense my obsolescence setting in, as it should. CT period was interesting in that about half the group was fully engaged in a brainstorm- planning process for an event that the group members felt truly motivated to organize. The plan was as concrete as it was complex, and everyone had something to contribute to the discussion. There was no need for any "supervision" and like it or not the event will take place for certain. After all, the event is an important one!

True, in the grand scheme of things, a project like this has no earth-shaking consequences, but to see the passion and the ideas being slung around and the sequencing and allocation of tasks to different people, what we couldn't "teach" in PW was happening right there without any prompting from any Ministry directive, and I was very happy to let it continue. A small project like this one develops skills and confidence that translate into more ambitious projects later, as long as the planners approach them with the same energy and the same sense of worth.

Unfortunately, not everyone was included in the project and it was a bit awkward for the rest of us. I could only distract those of us who were not involved with some administrative procedures, but eventually they found other ways to keep themselves occupied. Every social group has some clear divisions between the members and in order to maintain group cohesion these lines must be respected as they were today.

Hmm... this entry's a bit cryptic. Perhaps I'll clear things up tomorrow, if I feel like it. Meantime, people, may your project prosper!

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Every performance run without an adequate or proper rehearsal is always a nightmare for me. I've learned that I tend to work on my own, not utilizing the human resources available that would actually help me reduce my load and my stress if only I had mobilized it earlier. And I guess that's a major part of the problem, getting things done earlier, which I find impossible to do because I'm not organized like that. I'm not someone who calls people together for meetings, or to plan stuff, I'd rather handle things on a need-to basis. But up to a point, I realize I can only be in one place at a time, doing one thing at a time. A team would expand my coverage, and my control over the situation and I wouldn't have to live through the process worrying about what's going to be happening next.

The Security Seminar (previously called the S-cube Seminar) for our First Years was not the disaster it might have been, but I felt things were out of my control even though I was the college rep in-charge of it. I believe what Agnes said (perhaps in jest) to me, that today I was the least popular guy on campus because I kept everyone back when they could have gone home to study or otherwise prepare for their promos next week. I felt really bad about that, and I felt even worse when Cikgu handed me a loudhailer and sent me into the canteen to chase stragglers into the LT with it. Trust me, I used it sparingly. I felt it was just wrong.

I have nothing against the Seminar, but I wish it didn't have to feel like such an imposition on my part to make the students attend it. I tried to paint it in a positive light, but it is thoroughly disheartening to hear not interest generated from a new learning opportunity but rather requests to "be excused" from it for one reason or another. I never mentioned "attendance is compulsory," because it really shouldn't be. The information promised should have been interesting enough, and of concern enough for everyone to attend on their own accord, but the dismayed groan I elicited when I said that attendance would be taken felt like another nail in my coffin.

The students did attend the Seminar, close to full capacity the LT was. The Seminar turned out ok with the efforts of the MDC's OTT performance which was appreciated by the audience. But I felt, by the quality of the majority of the questions asked during the forum, the students got exactly what they expected/wanted from the experience -- nothing. How do we convince our students that we organize things like these for their benefit, and not that they attend these things for ours? One thing's for sure: my rep must be so bad now, I couldn't stay on as a Year 2 tutor next year, but I'll have to start fresh with the new batch instead. Hello, PW!

Well, I bumbled my way through again, then drowned my sorrows with KTV, a pasta dinner and good company. The song I chose didn't have pinyin lyrics, but everyone sang along prompting me with the words and I seem to have passed my audition for the KTV contest. Now to practice, practice, practice until I have a credible performance. I will NOT show up as comic relief. Shah, Anthony and I were a bit helpless while the rest of the group sang in Mandarin; Jong Yann easily outclassed all of us; Amy, Lynnette and Vince were OK; Mel preferred the English stuff though she could hold her own in Mandarin, but it was Thad who stole the show, displaying a proficiency of Chinese literacy that surprised us all. Let's also just say Thad didn't need the mike, such gusto that boy.

Sorry for the long rant. Pasta dinner at the Bishan Olio Dome. Penne in garlic mushroom cream sauce. Yum. How could I be unhappy after that?

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

I think I have everything set up for tomorrow's S-cube Seminar. Everyone needing to be briefed has been briefed. AV (including simultaneous video feed into LT3)... check. Furniture set... check. Air-conditioning for the 2 venues... check. Ooh, heck! I forgot the gifts for the guests! Oh, well, something to put on my to-do list for tomorrow, then. I think the logistics are mostly ready. Hope the audience is too. *crosses fingers

It's the Mid-Autumn Festival and families have hit the parks and open areas to frolic on this brilliant moonlit night. Traditionally, the learned would sit outdoors to drink tea, admire the radiance of the fullest moon of the year, and be inspired to compose poetry. Nowadays, the outdoors is full of youthful pyromaniacs laying clusters of lighted candles in void decks and on concrete walkways while waving sparklers in their sweaty little paws. The younger ones carry lighted paper lanterns or the less traditonal inflated plastic lanterns powered by AA cells accompanied by a badly synthesized looping clip of music. It's a great excuse for a family outing, to have an after-dinner picnic under the stars, and share moon-cakes filled with sweet lotus-bean paste and sometimes one or more salted duck egg yolks for luck.

Wish I had brought my digi cam with me when I went to Mom-in-law's for dinner tonight. Her living-room window overlooks a small playground and a fitness park. Tonight, the scene was almost magical, with the flickering clusters of yellow-orange flames identifying different family groups, the smoke and the activity; and the best thing about it was that no one had organized any of it. Real families, having real fun on their own accord. Who says tradition is dead in Singapore?

Monday, September 27, 2004

Dinner at Fran & Margaret's Posted by Hello

Finally caught up with Fran Conan and his wife, Margaret. If you think Fran, the ang-mo looking fellow on the right, looks familiar you've probably seen him in various local TV productions playing token ang-mo roles. His biggest role was the terrorist in MediaWorks' Frontline (like it says on his T-shirt). Anyway, he's a great guy and a real professional to work with, whether onstage or behind-the-scenes. This could be our last opportunity to meet up with him and Margaret as they are returning to Winnipeg soon. Since he can't take back his rather extensive videotape collection (video format from here isn't compatible with Canada's) he gave us his entire set of Amazing Race tapes up to Season 4. June is so thrilled.

We had a simple dinner at the Conan's. A vegetable-shrimp stir-fry and Fran's specialty crock-pot pork rib stew, made from pretty much anything he could get his hands on in the kitchen and thrown into the pot to slow cook until dinnertime. He said he threw in some Grand Marnier, hollandaise sauce, barbeque sauce, a selection of assorted herbs and spices from his spice rack including some clumpy tumeric, honey, worcestershire sauce and dark soy sauce along with potatoes and celery. Margaret surprised him by throwing in some black mushrooms and fungus when he wasn't looking. The stew was delicious and the 4 of us cleaned up, leaving little room for dessert, Wall's fruit cocktail, which I like.

Nevertheless, we just had to make room for a glass of his brother's homemade Canadian ice wine, which was very sweet. Ordinarily, ice wine would be quite expensive on the market so we couldn't pass up the opportunity to sample something so hard to come by.

As they are leaving soon, they need to rent out their flat until they can legally sell it on the open market, but they're having difficulty finding a tenant, times being as they are. Anyone whom you know might want to rent a 5-room HDB in Punggol?

We're going to miss Fran and Margaret. Take care, guys!

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Our guest artist at service this morning was Señor Alvaro Sanchez, guitarist extraordinaire. He treated us to a medley of traditional and contemporary worship songs on his Spanish guitar. He also used a very modern-looking electric guitar and a full sized harp, just him making beautiful music on stage. His fingers were so deft, simply flying over his strings, even providing his own drum effects while playing the melody of The Little Drummer Boy on his electric. Sr Sanchez doesn't need a band, he and his guitar are one.

I mention him because he is giving a seminar/workshop on guitar technique and talking about Music as Worship on 29 Sept evening at St Andrew's Cathedral. Perhaps there might be some who might be musically and/or worshippally inclined, who might want to take this opportunity to learn from a master musician himself. All welcome, no religious experience necessary. I wish I brought back the flyer so I can give more details, but I guess I could find out more if anyone's interested. Oh wait, I found a link to the online plug here.

That's great music, then this afternoon while randomly surfin' I found this. I guess if you like Asian music and "half-naked Korean boys..." this site's for you. Look for the chin2.mpg link and if the video doesn't play, make sure you get the latest DivX codecs first.

Yep, not a very eventful day.

Edit 01:
Whoa! Talk about coincidences. I was just reading this Yahoo news article on US soldiers writing blogs about their experiences in Iraq and how some of their commanders are reacting to this new development, when this guy wanders onto my site as I'm reading. Wonder what he thinks of my stuff, considering how trivial my experiences are (no offence to you guys) compared to his. To CBFTW and all your "Allies," stay safe and keep on bloggin', 'k?