Saturday, February 26, 2005

Attended a course on "Mental Skills Training (MST) for performance excellence" on campus today. Compulsory for all staff to attend. To appease us for calling us back on a Saturday morning, we got a pretty decent catered breakfast to start the day.

The trainer was one of a small handful of local sports psychologists working locally. He tried to tie his ability to overcome his horrible ('horrible' is relative) academic history with his current role as a trainer of our national athletes' minds, getting them to focus their mental energy on overcoming their performance obstacles.

His methods involve keeping logs and records for training performance, evaluating and correlating personal emotions and thought processes with personal targets hit or missed. We went through some simple exercises for relaxation, concentration and positive imagery, and listened through lots of personal anecdotes of his experience as a college athlete and as a mental skills coach employed by various local schools.

There seems to be a snag when we think about whether we perform to win (as in athletics) or to enjoy the experience (as in drama). To want to win means having a goal, a point of focus to drive and strive towards, which is fine for competitive sports; but for aesthetic experience it's harder to set a concrete goal to aim for. Is our goal to make as much profit as we can on our performance? Is it to get a good review from our critics (a major can of worms for any aesthetic activity)? Is it to get our students to build personal skills in the field and to enjoy the experience so much that they continue to develop those skills in later life?

For competitive sports it's simple: win/lose; gold/silver/bronze; Xth position in the rankings. How does one set such clear-cut goals for an aesthetic group? And yet we must at least set some standard, some mark to stretch ourselves to reach, else the performance is pointless. I suppose we ultimately have 2 very clear responsibilities: 1) to the audience who must enjoy the performance and 2) to ourselves for whom the show must go on.

To summarize things in my own words, performance excellence is about Passion and Professionalism. Passion is the fuel that drives one to perform at one's best because there is some intrinsic motivation for the performance, PEARLS be damned. Professionalism is both glue that binds a performance community together, and a lubricant allowing individual performers to relate well with each other within the community as well as to set and raise the performance bar for each stratum within the community.

Passion and Professionalism then. Perhaps we can set Drama Club goals around these 2 driving principles?
Dammit! Lost a post due to me pressing a wrong button on my keyboard. It closed my browser window before I could publish. Gaaaah! The scary thing is, I don't know which button I pressed! Will piece it together again tomorrow. Waaaaah!

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Escaped from campus today to attend a course on the New Subject which will be introduced into the curriculum next year. It's a fascinating examination of how it is we know what we know, and how it is that we trust what we know to be the truth. Well, that's just a simplified version of what we expect our kids to grapple with, even as I am grappling with it in this blog. The subject really should be called, "quid est veritas?" because this little Latin phrase summarises its objectives quite succinctly.

No question, it is a difficult subject and certainly not for the fainthearted. It is for those with an undefeatable sense of adventure, a drive for discovery, and a passion to challenge the known for the sake of gaining greater understanding of the unknowable. This, of course, leads to a small problem: how to teach this subject in such a way that the students will develop their innate curiousity and turn it into a sharp, practical tool of inquiry as they strive to seek answers throughout the rest of their lives? This, no one can teach us pioneer teachers facilitators of this new subject. We will have to learn on-the-job even as the kids struggle to make headway exploring the human mindscape. Wonder how many intrepid explorers we have out there amongst the next year's batch of 16 year-olds? How many of my previous batch might have taken up this challenge if it was offered to them?

Being in town for this course meant being just a short distance from the original Killeny Road Kopi Tiam, the one that was closed for CNY a couple of weeks ago. Today, NBS and I got to try their nasi lemak which was generously spread over with sambal chilli. Very basic, no-frills and no add-on options either. The kaya toast is different from Ya Kun's in that Killeny Road uses thicker slices of bread, lightly toasted, with warmer, meltier butter and a subtler kaya spread. I don't know which kaya toast I like better. Given a choice, I'd prefer to let someone else make the decision and I'll just go with it.

It is now evident that my parallel parking is better than my reverse bay parking. No problems parking at Lloyd Road, though I forgot to display my parking coupons and had to run back before the URA auntie came along. Good thing I hadn't gone far before I realised my mistake. Also, coming into town into the ERP zones is very expensive. The $10 I had in my cashcard diminished suddenly to slightly more than a dollar just from entering the zone! How do people drive in on a daily basis? It must cost a fortune!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The quality of this blog seems to be deterorating. It's almost perfunctory, just another day-in-the-life kind of thing. Oh well, part of the writing discipline I suppose, to keep on pressing on while waiting for new inspiration to strike. Let's see...

I really like my current Arts tutorial group. Only 13 in the class and it doesn't take much to spark off a raucous discussion with them. They are so ready to jump into a topic and argue it amongst themselves. They have strong opinions (although individually they could be better informed) and I truly have kopi tiam sessions rather than "lessons" with them. Discussions quickly become shouting matches as they tumble over each other trying to make themselves heard. It's fun for me to just conduct/moderate/facilitate them, occasionally tossing new material in the form of a question or comment for them to tear into like a pack of ravenous wolves. A couple of the initially quieter ones are now starting to vocalize their thoughts as well, though 1 vocal chap has suddenly become disengaged and is becoming a bit of a diva in an attempt to seek some kind of attention. Perhaps I should find out a bit more about him and see if he needs special assistance or something. For a bunch of "Higher Chinese" kids, they seem to enjoy GP in a way that runs counter to what we usually observe. As one of them remarked this morning, a 90 minute session just flew by. Guess we must have been having fun.

For lunch we went to have Katong Laksa, and for a change I decided I didn't want to drive. Amy drove instead and she managed to squeeze into a rather tight though conveniently located parallel parking spot just in front of our eating place. Vince arrived as we were finishing our meal. Behind him came a large garbage truck that stopped parallel to Amy's Echo, and hence in front of us. Ugh. The garbage truck revved its engine loudly then a cloud of flatulence exploded from its exhaust port, showering the Echo with soot and ash. Part of the noxious cloud enveloped us too, and it was a good thing we had finished our meal by then, though Bhags wisely decided not to continue polishing off the dregs in her bowl after that. Bleargh!

Drama Club is moving forward with our Drama Night preparations. We have an updated script to work with, though a rough final script should be ready be Saturday. We should also have our casting done by then as well. Tina worked on a bit of choreography using office swivel chairs, and she was quite impressed with the set concept that Yee came up with. Backstage is hard at work on costume designing and the publicity machine is just starting up. It's going to be a breathless run up to opening curtain but we've left the start gate and we're off! From next week, 2 rehearsals a week. Then 3, then 4. Oh, my...

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Proud of the Drama Club's J1s today. They had a performance during common lunch break, venue the Drum. It was the physical manfestation of a chatroom dialogue. Though there didn't seem to be much use of movement in the short play, the stillness seemed appropriate to the situation they were playing out. The performers included the 2 scriptwriters for this play. The text was based on an existing play, but 2 of our J1s rewrote the script in order to discuss issues that are more of concern to teenagers today: homosexuality, loneliness, eating disorders, self-mutilation... and worse.

It was fun to see the J1s in action, especially since I have been too busy to help them. They were on their own throughout the run of this production and I must say, they pulled it off quite splendidly regardless. The title of the play was "No Easy Answers," and like the title goes, many of the issues were left open-ended at the end of the play. Looks like we've got a good set of J1 who are committed, independent, interested players. Hope they stay after first term.

Went with bro-in-law's recommendation and went with a full bi-monthly car grooming service. Eddie's set up is a tentage within the Orchid Country Club's driving range parking lot. He's a friendly enough chap who knows his cars and takes great pride in making the cars that come under his care gleam like new. All the cleaning is by hand, not machine. For taking up the package deal, my first polish included a sealant treatment to protect the M2's body from minor scratches and other damage from tiny flying objects, like the gravel in the campus parking lot for e.g. Service was quite rapid. I drove in at 1600 and the M2 was ready to drive out at 1900. He takes cash ONLY so credit-card dependents please take note.

If this seems like incoherent rubbish, it's because I'm half-asleep writing this.
Driving is fun, but it creates its own set of stresses. Constantly moderating speed, judging distances, obtaining situational awareness, making decisions based thereupon raises the heart-rate quite palpably, yet it's the kind of adrenaline rush that gives a thrill rather than reduces one to a trembling wreck of nerves. It's a new state of mind I am learning to ease into and I hope to "become one with" without incident.

I'm now practicing as much as I can on the road. Drove out to SAFRA after classes with Anthony, Amy and Vince for a round of bowling. I had an excellent first game with a number of spares and a turkey (my first in who knows how long) then about the 9th frame I broke a nail [bimbo!] on my middle finger and I blew my last frame for a score of 168. Our second game was total crap. Vince left, and Anthony and I struggled to reach 100. Bad 2nd game! Only Amy was happy because she surpassed her own expectations by scoring 84.

Drove out to dinner for once! I picked up my parents and took them to Chomp Chomp for stingray. On a weekday the crowds aren't too severe. We found a table pretty easily, right in front of Lucy's, and the food arrived quite promptly. Prices of the dishes were ok, except for the sugar-cane juice. At the market, the same size mug costs only $1. Here, for 3 mugs I gave the guy $5, expecting change. He said I still owed him $1! Ouch.

Parents are happy. They haven't had a car for years and it's not so fun and not so personal to call a cab everytime they want to go out. Now at least they have a new option, as long as I can spare the time.

Does anyone know where there are dog-friendly eating places? We've promised Q-tip rides but for the moment we're still scouting around for places where she will be welcome.

There was an Alien/Aliens double bill on Star Movies last night which ended past 1am. Hence this late post.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Finally collected my M2 from the showroom! And for the first time, I'm a driver not a passenger! Long may it be so.

We went through a once-over look at the body to ensure it was free of scratches or dents. Chew showed me the operations of the electronics and how to open the trunk and hood. He showed me the different components that sat so neatly in the engine compartment, handed me the rest of my documentation including the Certificate of Insurance and the car's manual and servicing record, and we drove off to the nearest Esso station where I applied for a Smiles privilege card. Chew was nice enough to buy me my first full tank of petrol even. We dropped him off at the showroom and we set off on the car's maiden road-trip.

From Macpherson we headed east looking for Changi Village which we found with ease thanks to a general working sense of direction and then by following the roadsigns pointing us in the right direction. Ipoh Hor Fun for lunch, one of the specialties at the hawker centre there (it comes highly recommended by both Channels U and I) and it didn't disappoint. Lots of ingredients went into the dish: chicken shreds, mushrooms, green vegetables, a deep-fried wonton, all swimming in dark gravy. Here we aslo found a drink stall that sold pineapple juice with bits of pineapple in each glass. We thought this drink had gone extinct years ago! It tasted like it had too much ice in the glass, which was probably true, but it had a delightful pineapple aftertaste. The pineapple bits were sweet and fun to chew. Nice.

Drove home to rest then drove out again to mom's for dinner. They were surprised (pleasantly, I hope) at my new purchase. There were lots of questions, of course, and when my sister arrived, there were more. Brother-in-law, Irwin, gave me a contact for a car polishing service at the Orchid Country Club that he and his colleagues like to go to. I'll check it out tomorrow to give my car it's protective first layer of polish.

My driving report so far:
Parking -- sucks. More (much more) practice needed, both parallel and reverse.
Street driving -- not bad. Keep it easy and everything will be fine.
Highway driving -- generally ok, could be more confident in time.
Changing lanes -- be bloody well more careful!!! A couple of close calls with larger vehicles in 2 separate incidents. Accelerate when merging into faster lanes, clear rear vehicle completely before switching lanes. Practice!!!

Looking forward to driving to college tomorrow. As I told my sister, I can no longer afford cabbing it any longer. ;)