Saturday, February 05, 2005

Went to support the college team in the Debate Invites on campus. A number of colleges sent their 1st year teams to be blooded for the first time in the earliest inter-college tournament of the year.

For Vince, Anthony, Amy and me, we also took the opportunity to skip out between Shah's opening address and our team's first contest to have a leisurely breakfast at Ya Kun, J8. I wish Ya Kun would let us crack open our own eggs rather than serve them already swimming in a saucer at the collection point. It may be one form of quality control, ensuring the customer gets eggs done just right, but eggs cool off quickly like that and get yuckky if not immediately consumed. Still, I am amazed at the size of the egg yolks they serve -- big -- and the generosity of the butter slab that goes in between each slice of toast. Good stuff.

Back on campus we watched both our matches against Millennia and National. Must say we were lucky to beat Millennia. The adjudicator took great pains to thoroughly explain the faults of both teams and the debaters had a really good lesson in debating at competition level. We won not because we had a particularly strong or well-argued case but because we cast sufficient reasonable doubt on our opponent's. Though we fielded a stronger team against National, we didn't make it past them though we might have if we had more confidence of delivery, could think faster and had more passion and belief in what we were presenting.

1 win, 1 loss. Acceptable result, I suppose.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Yay! Took the M3 for a short drive back from GFC to college. It has a nice, quiet engine that you can barely hear even on ignition. Everyone was in a hurry to get back because of this or that reason so I took it into the parking lot where we all scrambled out and scattered to do our own things.

Tina's officially signed on to direct Drama Night, but it's still nerve wracking that it's already February and our script's still in process. We had to push our annual event back to the first week of May -- now just 3 months away -- and there's still little progress even in casting for roles yet. Tina's, of course, anxious and though I may not look it I am terribly concerned. Can we make our deadline? We started the year with very high ambitions but reality is staring us in the face again. Too much inertia, something's got to be done, but what?

Last year when we had problems in production, Cara talked to me and I could advise her being that I was the experienced one between the both of us. She was overall responsible and I could be calm, objective and I could see from the big picture perspective because I didn't have to deal with everyday reality. This year, Cara's gone, I'm taking responsibility, my vision is clouded with too many minute details, and I don't have an experienced person to turn to for guidance. At least, not on a day-to-day basis. I feel like I'm running things on my own and that sucks.

I don't know why exactly, but it looks like this year we drama advisers don't even seem to have time to talk to each other. I need someone around with whom I can just live, breathe and talk about Drama Night to help me keep focus, so like it or not, whatever time is at hand I will have to seek out the company of Mel and Pete a lot more often regardless of our schedules. Likewise, they will have to make time to hang out with me too. No 'meetings,' just breakfast and lunch. Everyday. Until we're so easy enough with each other we're tossing insults back and forth across the table and, sometimes, ideas too. Like it was last year.

Hope it isn't too late.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

I am so pumped! Anthony and Amy thought they'd put me to the test today. When we drove out for lunch, Amy gave me the keys to her car and designated me the driver.

In a way, it was after talking through things with the two of them that I decided to get my own car. Anthony (voice of adventure) + Amy (voice of reason) = Mazda2. I guess you could say they're my car's Godparents. I still don't know what to call my car yet, don't even know if it's a boy or a girl, so I'll wait patiently a little longer until it is delivered.

Amy's Echo is easy to drive. Being small, it takes corners well and the steering is light. Acceleration isn't fantastic, a bit like the Getz, needing time to torque up before release. We, no, I drove to our favourite prata place at Rosyth. It's a reasonable distance from campus to take the Echo on a joyride, yet close enough to make it back for tutorial.

Anthony behaved himself and didn't try to be as distracting as he might have been with a more experienced driver. His restraint was a good thing 'cos there was little space to park except to parallel park in a pretty tight spot by my estimation. Haven't done any parallel parking since my driving test in, oh, 1990(?) but I did reasonably well today. A bit far from the kerb but it was an infrequently used side road so I didn't feel the need for perfection.

Lunch was Maggi mee goreng with a fried egg on top. The 3 of us ordered the same thing so no problems splitting the bill. I went with the "no chilli" option which I think was a good decision. Last time there was so much chilli my stomach was uh... volatile all day. Today, I could actually taste the mee goreng. Next time, I'll opt for "no ketchup" as well.

On arriving back in college, they really tested my parking. Amy chose the furthest lot in the tiny parking space by the running track. This involved me backing the Echo past 3 other parked cars before swinging butt-first into the lot. For the first time, I truly got the hang of coordinating eyes with hands with feet and disengaging brain. It worked. Not too much problem parking, though a bit close to the left kerb this time.

Small car I now have the confidence to handle. How about a bigger car: Anthony's Mazda3? If he'll let me drive it, we'll see, won't we?
I want my car, NOW!

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Look what came in my mail today:

1 Bill from VISA showing a credit balance of $1.25, which means I overpaid my previous bill by this amount (this is a good thing).

1 Statement from HDB informing me how my monthly home payments are doing. I couldn't believe my eyes at first. Between June and me, our monthly loan repayment total should have put a healthy dent on our loan amount, yet on the final tally we've only repaid a little more than $4k over the last year. I looked again and came to the horrid realisation that my monthly contribution just barely covers the interest on our loan and it's June's contribution that's actually paying off our principal sum. Ouuuuuccccchhhh...!

1 copy of my Purchase Agreement with Mazda reminding me of yet another major monthly expense which in turn reminds me why I need a monthly paycheck for a long, long time yet to come.


Once in a while we need a reality check. 'nuff said.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

It's that time of year again when June's all-consuming passion is to bake her own supplies of Chinese New Year cookies enough to distribute to both our families and to our colleagues as well. The pineapple filling has been cooking in the wok for more than a week already and it is almost dry enough to use. Today though, she's focusing on her corn flake cookies, trays and trays worth, and all molded by hand. Soon she'll be working on her peanut cookies and kuih makmur (link for info only; this isn't June's recipe), and I believe she has been experimenting with almond cookies this year too.

At this time of year she is at her most exhausted state, working her butt off to fill a pile of plastic containers full of her kitchen-baked goodness. Why does she do it? Because she's really good at it. And I'm not just saying it because I'm married to her. Just ask our families and our colleagues.

No, her cookies are not for sale in case you are wondering. They can only be given away free, gratis, limited quantities only. Maybe that's why they're so good?

Me? I've been working on a couple of documents detailing my strategy for helping my current batch of students get through their Term 1 Oral Presentations. They are a bit long to force anyone to read them in this blog, so download the texts from the links below if you're interested:
Stories Past & Present
Paul's Complicated Framework

Monday, January 31, 2005

We had to call in the professionals.

2 weeks ago, June decided she would strip off the solar film coating the inside of our windows 'cos she wanted a brighter house. Her first attempt was in the guest room where she started peeling the film off one shred at a time. The film is stuck on so tightly it takes quite some effort to remove and it really is slow going. Worse, the film leaves behind a nasty adhesive residue that opaques out the window even worse than ever. Undaunted, June used a rag and a bit of water to scrub each window clean of the gummy stuff, failing which she tried paint thinner which smudged the window worse than ever, then she enlisted my help and together we both ripped at the remaining windows in the guest room, followed by the windows in our living room. Once you start, you can't stop.

Ripping out the film is the fun part. Scrubbing the windows clean, that was the killer. All our household solvents were less help than the elbow grease we eventually resorted to. Before long, we developed serious blisters on nearly all our fingers and had to concede defeat. 5 panes completely clean, 1 pane semi-clean, 1 pane left untouched and 4 panes left in our bedroom also untouched. It took us close to a whole week to get this far. However, this wouldn't do for the new year. All the film had to go, and all the panes clean else it'll just look and feel half-done.

June found Window-Cool, a company that does solar shielding and today they came over to finish the job for us. The rep was quite impressed with what we had accomplished so far -- but at what cost, we asked, thinking of our poor, abused fingers. The pros had a bladed tool that easily stripped the film off without scratching the glass. Phase 2 involved a chemical solvent that they sprayed on the window which they then scraped clean with a smaller bladed tool and finally buffed with cloth. 5-and-a-half panes completely clean in 30 minutes. Casualties: none. Damage to wallet: $120. Should'a called them in earlier.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Took a walk on the Empress Place grounds having had an early breakfast and finding there was still time before service this morning. The Park is full of Botero sculptures all in their glorious reubenesque nudity. Yes, the unkind would say Botero sculptures are grotesquely obese, especially not representative of the "healthy lifestyle" we are supposed to be promoting here. It's as if the Sports Council people aren't talking to the Arts people and we're getting mixed signals from our authorities.

But there is something about the serene contentment, the revelry of fullness that exudes from the XXXXL figures. Their faces don't show much expression, but my impression is that they are happy. From "Adam" and "Eve" to the "Woman with cigarette" to (bow before my knowledge of Greek mythology -- I knew what the title was without looking at the plaque) "Leda and the swan" they are all in poses of rest and perhaps they serve as a reminder, in the middle of our busy cityscape, that it's ok to relax, it's ok to be contented, it's ok to be fat, um..., satisfied anyway.

To escape a bunch of evangelistic Falongong members who attempted to tell us how glorious it was to self-immolate in protest against repressive authoritarianism the first time we passed them, we detoured back to our service using a section of Nicoll Highway between the Esplanade and One Fullerton. June and I haven't walked this scenic stretch since our dating days, so a bit of nostalgia there.

Niece Joanne's birthday so after service we went to Kino, Taka to get her a book voucher. 9 years old, already a bookworm and media junkie. Aren't all first-borns like that?