Saturday, January 29, 2005

For once in many moons my study is clear of junk. I can see the floor again! I can put my feet on my desk and not worry that things will topple over! You didn't need to know that, I'm sure.

Spent the whole day bagging very old correspondence, periodicals and other non-print resources, taking the committment to systematically dump every item I hadn't needed to use in more than a year, apart from just a few items of particular sentimental value -- gifts from students, friends and wife.

I trashed old PC magzines and their accompanying CD-ROMs, and I've sorted out all the PC games I'm no longer playing and replaced the disks with their manuals in their proper boxes, and now, I wonder, if anyone out there might want to inherit some old PC games from me? Let's see what I have...

Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon
Jedi Knight: Jedi Outcast
Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy
Silent Hill 3
Metal Gear Solid 2 (PC DVD-ROM version)
NFS: Underground
Half-Life: Blue Shift (requires Half-Life to play)
Doom 3 (tough decision, but motion sickness prevents me from playing this ever again)

All these games have given me a lot of joy at one time or another, so they deserve to have good homes now while current systems can still run them. Yeah, I'm offering all these games for free on a first chope first served basis, so leave a comment if you see something you want. I've also got some obscure old, old games as well. Inquire if interested.

With June's help the floor is clean, the sofa-bed and the bean-bag are wearing fresh upholstery, and the old animal hair-ridden carpet has been replaced with a brand new one. My desk and Watson have been wiped down and my bookshelf tidied. For a day's work, I think we did good. Now my study is in a fit state to receive guests at Chinese New Year. Don't forget to bring your hongbao!

Friday, January 28, 2005

Blogger is acting funny tonight. I can't seem to get in. Wonder if anyone else is having the same problem or if Watson's not feeling well again. For the last couple of days, Watson's 'net connection especially with blog-related sites has been very slow and it's been getting worse and worse. Hope the problem's with Blogger and not Watson. I can't afford to overhaul him as often as I did before.

I said I wanted to run GP classes according to my schedule, but that's becoming untenable given the little time we have that's quickly running out. Either that or I need to relook my schedule and decide if I'm conducting my course strictly on storytelling or if it's going to be geared towards group oral presentations because I really don't have time to make a smooth transition from one to the other.

Because of the upcoming competition, I'm rushing through my plan to practice the kids in storytelling. I'm cutting corners, burning bridges and the results, if today is anything to go by, are going to be a complete mess.

I tried to do too much today. First a brief narration of a childhood memory using a rough sketch of an object symbolic of the incident. Not to say that the 2 volunteers' stories were uninteresting. On the contrary, both speakers had quite harrowing childhood memories to relive with us. One recalled being robbed at GUNPOINT in her home on Christmas day, the other related quite a disastrous trip up Mt Ophir involving lots of painful accidents and spirit possessions for the different members of his climbing team.

We then had a very sketchy discussion of what qualities a good speaker and a good audience should have, then I distributed a bunch of hastily copied folktales to 6 workgroups and told them to prepare a group presentation inspired by a story of the groups' choice. I forgot that preparation for such a narration involving planning, teamwork and much rehearsal needed more time than the half-hour I allocated.

I had hoped (and I did tell them so) that they may use their imaginations and in the best possible way present their stories as a team, i.e., involving everyone as a presenter. I had expected a variety of formats -- press interview or talk-show involving the main characters, a debate disputing the "moral of the story," or a role-play or something. Everyone opted for the role-play (simplest option, right?). As a result,when the groups eventually presented, I had to concern myself with pointing out basic concepts of theatrical presentation and what I wanted to focus on -- group presentation dynamics, confidence building and speaking without relying on a written script -- went out the window.

I simply wanted to do too much today, did more than I had planned for, and diluted everything in the process. One step forward, two steps back. Oh, bugger.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Although my alarm clock rang at 5:30 this morning, sunlight was already pouring through my window and I knew the worst had happened. I jumped to check June's clock and, yep, it was 7:15, no way to make it to assembly on time. Standard procedure is to notify Vince who agreed to help me take attendance for my CT. Fine.

CT rep was overjoyed that Civics Tutor was not available to take attendance personally and with much enthu marked off the register on my behalf. Great!

I arrived and gave my first tutorial of the day to a very lively Arts group. Then it was time for GP with my CT. Apart from one earnest China scholar, the room was empty. She was as mystified as I was over the whereabouts of her mates. No prizes for guessing where they were: chillin' out in the canteen, CT rep having declared my absence from campus thus no tutorial for the day. The pronouncement was premature, but an understandable mistake, given the circumstances.

By the time they sheepishly arrived for tutorial, half an hour had gone already so GP had to stretch right into CT period to make up for lost time. And I was so looking forward to playing Pictionary too.

The CT tried to appease me with an uneaten apple and some candy. Quick thinking on their part. Humph.

I have since changed the battery on my alarm clock so this mistake isn't likely to happen again, right?

I was in such a hurry to get to college this morning I forgot about popping by 7-11 to get a jar of peanut butter 'n jelly (PBJ) for the EL potluck lunch. Just as well, it probably wouldn't have gone with anything the others brought. Nirm's chicken curry, Lucy's home-made corned beef buns (so professionally done they looked store-bought), and unidentified sources brought the veggie samosas, fruit (including tiny oranges that were meant to be eaten with their skins on), Cadbury's Caramello and Vanilla ice-cream topped with strawberry and chocolate sauce, agar jelly, and rolled chocolate wafers. Ate and ran, though I really should have helped out with the cleanup. I don't have an excuse, I can be horribly thoughtless at times.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Today marks this year's annual X-country run at MacRitchie. A day where everybody gets all hot and sweaty and congratulates each other for completing the 4.2km course. Except, of course, for the unhealthy and infirm, e.g., yours truly, who spent most of the run confined to the cafe on top of the hill overlooking the reservior.

In the number of years I've attended this annual event, this is the first time the cafe was actually open and I could buy a vanilla coke to occupy me till the races were over. My fellow invalids sat with me and we spent a pleasant afternoon together in the great outdoors.

Really, if I could get medical clearance to run, I would. There's a trophy for the staff race every year, and how difficult would it be to finish in the top 6? If I was allowed to run, I'm certain this would be an attainable goal, and my desk is due for another display of glitter, if only...

Am proud of fellow pegasii, Lynnette and JY, who finished 5th and 6th in the staff women's race respectively and can now decorate their desks with their trophies. But X-country isn't a House event this year. The Championship is awarded to CCA groups instead. This year, the Championship was a clean sweep by our canoeists in both Guys and Girls team categories. Looks like they're seriously training for some serious awards this year. Seriously.

After X-country, I went to meet June at GV, PS to make use of my 2 comp tix to tonight's preview screening of Finding Neverland. I found this invitation in my pigeonhole yesterday addressed to the "Head of Drama Club," so position does have its privileges. Heh.

A very deftly balanced movie playing off the complexities of human relationships: youthful playfulness vs adult pragmatism; human imagination vs human mortality; "pretend" vs reality. It's also a comment on the marketing of public entertainment and how contact with children sometimes unlocks or reawakens the kid in all of us, to believe in and thereby enjoy the things that go far beyond mundane, inevitable reality.

Don't want to spoil the movie talking too much about it, but it is quite a beautiful piece, a bit like what Big Fish was, except not so OTT. Many in the audience developed a case of sniffles watching this movie, so be warned, a pack of tissues might come in handy, especially for the more sensitive of us. No, it may not be a howler but it is an insight into the very ordinary things that go on around us that -- with a little imagination -- transform everyday life into a daily adventure. Cool!

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The GP Oral Presentation Contest is one week earlier than I had planned for. The in-tutorial preliminaries should have started this week to short-list the representatives who will represent their CTs in the 2nd round held next week in the LTs during GP lecture slots. This OP contest is intended to be the JC1s' graded assignment for Term 1, thereby giving us an alternative to marking written work by hand and reducing pressure on the new students so that they can enjoy JC life more. Also, it could be a load of fun for everyone.

The OP is to be given without AV assistance, and should be about some significant event that had taken place in recent history that had a significant impact on our lives today. Pretty much anything goes, really, and can be justifiable as such. For example, the development of the i-Pod has changed the way we access music and has led to the problems of piracy and copyright issues. Or the students could talk about changes in censorship laws in Singapore or what a change in PMs might bode for our near future. Whatever. Something happened, and now we live or think or otherwise behave differently from before.

A team of 4-5 members will represent each tutorial group, they'll all slug it out in the LTs next week, and the final 3 teams will compete in the grand finals a couple of weeks before the term ends. There is no set format in which the teams must make their presentations. They may opt for a straight prepared speech, play a skit, conduct an interview, host a talk show, whatever their imagination and creativity leads them to do.

But next week's deadline is very tight for what I had in mind. The first 2 weeks I intended to build confidence in my students. Only subsequently would I have unleashed the full magnitude of their OP obligations on them. I am making good on my promise to focus my tutorials on storytelling first before looking at GP proper and so far the activities and the students' involvement levels during tutorials have been encouragingly positive. Once they all learn to speak confidently and freely share info during tutorials will further lessons actually be engaging and fun. But, now no time , so how?

I don't care. I'm running my carefully thought out plan for my tutorial groups as is, but concurrently I will be training an 'elite' group of speakers to represent their respective CTs, giving them a crash course in research, discussion and presentation skills so they can compete competently next week. That's 'cheating' according to the word of rules governing the contest, but not the spirit. After all, I am obliged to send my best representatives to compete, right? No one should dictate how I am to go about selecting and training them. I wanna win!!!

But regardless of the outcome all my students should by the end of the term be confident speakers so that wherever they go from Term 2 on, they will continue to engage their tutors and each other, supporting each other in their preparation for uni life in the coming years. Well, let's hope I can pull it off.

Monday, January 24, 2005

The staffroom was reasonably sane this morning. A number of people knew about my weekend purchase but they didn't draw too much attention towards it. Only Anthony, Vince and Amy had a short discussion with me to find out the details and to question what I had got for the price I was paying. And they also remarked how disappointed they were that they missed the chance to go test driving with me before I made a final decision. Nothing I can do about the latter, but as for what I actually bought, here goes:

A 1.5l auto Mazda 2 in Brilliant Black. It comes with a 6-piece sports aerokit including a sports front bumper, side and rear skirt air dams and a single piece roof spoiler; 15" sports rims; reverse-gear proximity sensor; a 6-CD front loading changer with steering-wheel mounted controls; a sports leather interior (for $300 extra instead of the full price $650); and remote alarm system.

It's fuel efficient because of its VVT engine which regulates the amount of fuel consumed based on what the car is doing at the moment, and it's safe due to its 4-wheel ABS and dual air bags. It has a versatile rear compartment that can be easily configured to transport passengers or goods as necessary. With the passenger seats completely folded up I could imagine I'm actually driving an SUV. Well, I used to want an SUV before it became fashionable, but now that everyone has one, I can't be bothered with it any more.

Yes, I'm now in debt for a hefty amount. My loan is with OCBC at 2.2% per annum for 7 years (or 84 months), and there are still other per month costs of running a car that I have still got to factor in: gas, parking, ERP, insurance, taxes (road and apparently radio), maintainence... anything I've missed out? I guess I'll be doing my best to remain employed with the Ministry for a long time yet to come. No wonder people can receive 25-year long service awards on Teachers' Day.

I'm gushing, I know. But unless I get the excitement of buying a car out of my system my entries will continue to be as constipated as yesterday's entry. Am I quite done? Uhh... yeah, for today, anyway. Heh.

Right, let's change the subject...

Skipped out on tonight's workshop. Too physically tired from running around in the afternoon with the Drama Club which is being put through the paces of extra physical activity to keep the members' health up during this lull period. We raised a good sweat and even self confessed ball-phobic Mel showed the she could run and throw and catch with the best of us. If this is going to be a weekly Monday event, wonder what's going to happen to my evening workout session -- I'll be too pooped to attend, like tonight. [Hmm... still looks a bit constipated.]

Sunday, January 23, 2005

It's hard to find nian gao (sweet, sticky rice cake) in the hand-made variety though the market is full of the factory-made stuff. This popular Chinese New Year snack has gone commercial and the once traditional labour of love has given way to hi-technology, hi-volume, hi-genic distribution this year. We searched our market for the banana leaf-wrapped hand-made nian gao, we scoured Chong Pang market and the market at the Block 260s, but it looks like all the small-scale suppliers have all been wiped out by big business this year. Guess it was just a matter of time. Anyone who has seen hand-made nian gao still being sold please let us know where, ok?