Saturday, February 19, 2005

Ok. Yesterday's post sounded a bit more serious than I intended. I got stuck on a thread and couldn't see a way out until the end. What I did intend to say was that my still nameless M2 was formally registered yesterday and Chew faxed me the log card so I could make arrangements for season parking at my HDB branch today. The log card will soon be obsolete because of the new e-system the Registrar will be implementing in a few month's time but until then I still have hard copy evidence that I own my own set of wheels.

The other thing I wanted to say yesterday was that Flirt's nameless kitten with a limp was X-rayed and was pronounced healthy with no broken bones. We can be thankful for that. But his wrist joint looks either dislocated or has a serious ligament injury and we'll need to take care of him personally for another few weeks while he recovers. Looks like Belle and Momo are used to having transients stay with us now. They're no longer sulking lumps but are going about their normal lives even though there's one more cat sharing their food and their facilities. Meantine, he misses his mom and cries a lot for attention. He loves being stroked and that calms him down somewhat but left on his own... he's just manja, that's all.

This morning we went to our HDB Area Office to apply for season parking. I brought the faxed copy of the log card and used my driving licence (we haven't collected my ID from Chew yet) as identification with counter staff. It was all very efficient. While she filled out my details on her PC I filled in the GIRO form for subsequent payments. With GIRO there's no need to worry about using overnight parking coupons to park in season parking lots any more. Season parking applies immediately the day you pay. 2 month's payment in cash or NETS to cover the processing time before GIRO kicks in.

The regular parking coupons in $0.50 and $1 denominations we got from 7-11 along with a cash card for ERP and for use in cash card parking lots downtown.

The great tragedy is, my M2 is waiting for me at the warehouse today, but I can't go collect him because I'm just too busy with Parents' Day. So Chew will drive him back to Mazda Motor from the warehouse so I can just pop by the showroom tomorrow to get him. 1 day more...

Friday, February 18, 2005

Part 2 of the J1s' Experiential Learning took place today. The tour groups had the whole of today to complete their assignments based on their experiences at Escape Theme Park yesterday. Of course, students being what they are, they didn't impress us much with the way they handled their own time. On a day without a structured timetable so that the students could complete their tasks unsupervised (it was an interdependent learning exercise after all), there were a few who just couldn't take their tasks seriously enough and decided to manage their time doing their own thing as they tried to leave campus before dismissal at noon. These few caused the whole J1 cohort to report back at the Hall for a round of attendance taking a half hour before they were officially allowed to leave.

We staff are constantly torn between freeing up the students to be responsible unto themselves, yet being forced to take 'corrective measures' when students (even if just a few) do stupid things to erode our trust in them.

This sort of thing happens less often when one leaves school to work for a living. The consequences are much greater to bear, for one thing. A reprimand, let alone a dismissal from a job has serious repercussions on a working person's prospects for the future.

For the student, what's the worst that could happen? A scolding? Demerit points? CWO? Easily laughed off, and these days if anything happens to a student in school, the parents step in to shelter the offender and will try all ways and means to shift the blame elsewhere, particularly back to the school itself.

Question: will a working person's parents do the same thing if their child got fired from his or her job? Would Miss X's mom take Starbucks to task if the organization had punished Miss X for a work-related misdemeanor? This scenario is highly unlikely, yet it happens in school. No wonder students don't see much further beyond the end of their noses. They live in a parent-sheltered non-reality. No responsibilities, no consequences, they don't even take themselves seriously.

This is not to say that the majority of our students are like that, but it's true that a few bad apples spoil the barrel. Because of a selfish few, the majority, who are responsible if fun-loving, cannot live in the freedom that they deserve. We're always coming down hardest on the good students because they happen to be diligent enough to be present whenever there's a shelling to be delivered.

I wonder if up to this level of education, parents are more a hindrance to their children's education than they are a help. At this level, we staff need a freer hand to hire and fire students, just as corporate employers are free to deal with unproductive employees. After all, employees or students, at this level they are of the same age and should be treated as such. That way, we will have students in our schools who really want to be there, who have studied their contracts carefully and know what is expected of them and will live up to their expectations in order to receive the benefits that they expect in return.

There must be a clear point at which parents know when they cannot interfere in the lives of their children any longer, and I propose that that point should be, for convenience sake, by the time the kids have taken their 'O' Levels. At JC level, 17-18 year-olds do not need their parents to shelter them any longer and by the same token shouldn't need their parents to tell them what to do either. It was like this 20-30 years ago. To have the situation as it is now is regression, not progress.

Why am I obsessing about this topic today? Because tomorrow is the J1s' Parents' Day. What message are we sending, I wonder?

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Whee! Today all the J1 students and tutors dumped all formal tutorials and went to Escape Theme Park for a day of activities in the open air and bright sunshine. Formal clothing went out the window, only that the students had to be in their orientation Ts for easy identification.

All the students had already formed their tour groups from within their GP tutorials and were tasked with a number of different small assignments set by our different departments while entertaining themselves on the rides. As far as I could tell, the interest was more on the rides than on the assignment book, but who could blame them? Anyway, apart from a few tasks they had to manage on site (like measuring pulse-rate before and after a ride) there will still be time for them to complete their tasks this weekend.

The activity I planned for the students was nothing more than the stipulation that they tour the park in a set group of 4-5 members. Group integrity to be kept at all times. To facilitate the relationships amongst the group members, I assigned a specific role to each. There was a Motivator, a Cheerleader, a Resource Manager and an Arbitrator; and in case there was an additional member or two in the group, they could double roles. During GP next week, the groups will assess their success in maintaining cohesion, and correlate their success (or failure) with how well the group members played out their duties in their assigned roles.

Now, this simple activity was designed with Total Defence Day in mind; I still am NE i/c after all. Q: how does this activity relate to Total Defence? Drop me a note if you think you have an answer and see if you're right!

I landed the role of PA announcer as my duty for the day. So I burned 6 CDs full of randomized assorted music and tried my hand at being a radio DJ, spinning discs and making announcements, or rather vocal inturruptions, at every half-hour interval. At first I was all fired up and speaking with FD's smoothness, then as I realised that I could only be heard within the space of the Central Pavillion and not much further beyond, my enthusiasm took a bit of a hit. By 1130 I had run out of things to say and I guess my alternative career at 'Station SKPD*' died a natural death. Beyond that I was making inane comments and not long after my job was just to pursuade people to go home.

Never seen anything like it before. Usually our problem would have been how to keep the students entertained within the premises until dismissal time. Today, noone wanted to leave. We had to beg and cajole the students to make their way to the exits as the park had to close for the day. First I tried to be subtle by announcing the last song to be played at my station. The I stopped the music completely, kept my CDs and physically left my station. As noone got the hint, I had to grab a loudhailer and along with other staff we went from ride to ride "granting permission" for them to go home.

Picked up another kitten after dinner. This ash-coloured furball is one of Flirt's babies and the Cat Rescue Squad brought him home, bathed him and will take him to the vet tomorrow to have his front paw looked at and treated. Poor thing's limping so badly. Needs attention ASAP.

*Station SKPD was derived from the title of today's activity, 'Escapade,' which was in turn coined by both me and Agnes. 'Escapade' was a joke acronym we made up and it stood for, ahem, Experiential Scholastic Collaboration Alternative Plan And Developmental Exposure, which actually means nonsense. But we liked 'Escapade,' so we kept the title.
A lo hei with the Drama Club involving both J1s and J2s. Mel went out to Sushi Tei to bring the lo hei back to our rehearsal room. It was very fresh (it was made fresh on the premises upon ordering) and we very quickly polished it off. It was funny to hear her pronounce general blessings in Mandarin on the club and our members. She's become quite the mother for the kids and I think they love her for it.

Just before our ceremony, I drove solo in the Echo and had the worst possible time parallel parking in a lot near Brown Box where I met the guys for lunch. It didn't help that the lot was just outside the betting shop and the people waiting in line got quite a show of the car see-sawing in and out of the lot and eventually giving up, leaving a very badly parked car behind me. At least the road was clear enough to still allow traffic through.

I parked right in front of Vince, so he anxiously came out of the cafe to guide me in. Just as I left the car, the Merc in front of me decided then to leave its lot giving me ample space to maneuvre. I wasn't interested. Insult to injury, huh!

The Chef's Salad at Brown Box is nice! Fresh garden veg with slices of not-overcooked hard-boiled eggs and bits of ham. Mmm... No time for a bigger meal, but the salad held me satisfactorily the rest of the afternoon.

Mazda's Chew called to inform me that my car's just about ready for registration. He'll collect my ID card tomorrow, complete the registration on Friday and I should have my wheels by Sunday or Monday. Awesome! Meantime, I'm practicing parallel parking like crazy now. Simulated, of course. If you want to practice with me, just click here!

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

"Friendship Day" futsal tournament including 2 staff teams playing. In the staff face-off the winning team automatically qualifies for a semi-final match against a student team. Us old men, Vince, Anthony, me, Gerald and 2 surprise guest players, Hd Arts and Richard joined us against a younger, fitter Arts/Math/PE team led by the experience of Hd PE, soccer i/c and our current DM. Hmm... well, maybe their team only was 50% younger than ours. Ha ha.

We played in the blazing hot mid afternoon sun in the netball court, our goalposts improvised from 2 netball net poles placed at each end of the court. The match only lasted a total of 15 minutes, but really that was all we could take of running around like mad in the heat.

Our 2 teams were interestingly matched. They ran faster for longer distances, we tended to be more adventurous and creative with our probing of their goal. We created more chances at goal with more spectacular strikes, they played a passing game with fewer attempts at our goal. Unfortunately for us, they managed to convert 1 good strike whereas we were lacking that element of luck that could perhaps have made a difference.

Our best chances came from a chested volley from me that went just wide of goal, and a full-blooded volley from Anthony that splintered the crossbar without breaking it. If we were on camera we would have seen multiple replays of our shots from different angles in slow motion. Our downfall was our fitness. On a swift counterattack, we were too winded to sprint back in time to defend our goal and Gerald was left alone for a moment with Chee Peng (I think it was), who scored.

We adjourned to Gardens to rue our chances and drown our sorrow in so many large mugs of sugar cane juice that we made the Auntie a very happy woman. Anthony, of course, ran his own replays of his chances repeatedly and vowed vengeance if we ever met up again. Perhaps if we ask Amy nicely she'll set up another match for us?

Training. Fitness. Once we can run again, our team'll be unstoppable. You'll see. Oh, wait... wasn't this supposed to be for 'Friendship Day?'

Monday, February 14, 2005

Pix uploaded purely for bragging rights. No trophy yet, but working on it! The red text says the score must be verified by TNT before I can be awarded my NP. :)Posted by Hello

It's V-day but there's not much to say about it. I'm proud, I guess, that my CT kids have been able to sell out all merchandise from their gift booth, and the proceeds have gone into purchasing more stocks to be sold over the next couple of days. Enterprising lot, they are.

And as far as gifts are concerned, I am officially the Giver of the Worst Gifts Lifetime Achievement Award Winner. Whenever I go shopping for a seasonal gift I don't want to appear like I'm purposely shopping for an item specific to the occasion. I prefer to shop for utility items rather than sentimental types because I would rather not enter a store looking like the turnip that just fell off a turnip truck, even though that's what I actually am. Fine. Totally unromantic, though I did promise in an earlier entry that I would try harder.

Perhaps it's time to stop being an out-of-the-box thinker and stick to conventional gifts instead. Flowers, candy, CD full of romantic songs (even though I'm currently boycotting commercial music because the industry has criminalized file-sharing). Safer options and stocks are plentiful so, why not?

What DID I get for June, you're probably asking right now. Don't bother asking, suffice to say it was rather ill-conceived, involved more effort to obtain than was necessary (I realize now), it didn't work like I thought hoped it would, and I'm too embarrassed to think about it any further. No, it's not contraceptive in nature, in case you're wondering, though I suppose it has become that now.

Maybe if you ask nicely, June will tell you what it was herself... It made sense to me at the time, that's all I'm saying.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Mostly confined to the neighbourhood again. This is probably one of the last few weekends that this is going to happen, so I'll just consider today a day of rest. June's finishing off a stack of Cantonese serial VCDs, a story involving lawyers, but I don't know anything more about it. I tried watching an episode, but couldn't understand the dialogue and eventually gave up. Pity, because June's really enjoying it.

Spent most of my time involved in heavy neopetting instead. Won another trophy, this time for Cellblock which is incredibly easy to beat once you've mastered the sequence by which you place your game pieces. And completed another mission for Defenders of Neopia (take that, Cave Chia!). The Neopets Total Defence (huh?) game is also up and running. The game is based on something Singaporean kids are good at and well-practiced in: comprehension. Just think of it as a cheap way to earn 1500 NP or so per day while it lasts.

I got my hair cut at my neighbourhood barber. Big Malay guy, big hair. He must be good because from the morning right till the afternoon when I decided it was time for my hair to go he was cutting hair non-stop. Customers were just filing into the barber shop in a never-ending stream. Poor guy was alone, his 2 able assistants/partners/employees were nowhere in sight, off on a CNY break, no doubt.

This guy understands what to do with my head -- got my hair cut very close again without making my head look too spherical, and I like it. No wonder he was still working right into the early evening when we were on our way to Mom's for dinner. Sad thing is, there is a new barber shop that just opened in the opposite block of shophouses, and no customers. The 3 barbers just sat around their shop smoking and reading the papers and not a head to groom.

Mom likes her new DVD player. My bro will be pouring over the manual tonight, so I think he'll be ready to give her lessons on its useage pretty soon. Left her with a couple of DVDs, Lilo and Stitch and the old classic, The Wizard of Oz, just so she can experiment with them until she gets the hang of the player's operations. She should have fun.