Saturday, March 12, 2005

It's late, I know but it's been a long day.

First thing in the morning I'm paying my parking fine at the nearby AXS machine. So damn easy to use, I'm afraid I might get so addicted I just might purposely irritate more URA aunties so they'll fine me some more. $12, gone just like that and I think it's fun. What's wrong with me?

Today was our scheduled half-day off in celebration of our outstanding 'A' level results. Official time to end classes was 1310 hrs but the Drama Club stayed on from 1400 to 1700 for our Friday rehearsal.

I hadn't mentioned it before but I'm really happy with the music MJ is composing for our musical, though there was a slight misunderstanding with Pete who played his initiative card and wrote some of the music by himself. Suddenly, from no music I had more options of original compositions than I knew what to do with.

I decided on the best compromise and that was to get both composers working on the same pieces of music cooperatively rather than separate pieces of music in competition with one another. Pete assured me that there was no intention on his part to compete, but perhaps if he and MJ had communicated better with each other earlier it might have saved us a few ruffled feathers.

Rehearsals are going well (considering how little time we have left to curtain) and we are working with the novel experience of having the script written out as we are blocking the scenes. What's happening is that we are projecting our script onto a screen in our rehearsal room, working out the stage directions and dialogue, choreographing movement on the fly and instantly feeding back to our scriptwriter at the console what he needs to fix in the script. Presto! Changes are made and the script continues to evolve as we go.

A very scary way to work, but I have confidence in Tina. She's not up for this year's Life! award for best director for nothing! Incidentally, all the best director nominees this year are all linked together through Tina who has had a hand in training them all while they spent some of their earlier years playing with us at MU. Sam (3 nominations!) and Nat have made great progress since those early days and we're proud of them.

By the time I left campus after rehearsal, there was only my car, Amy's and Vince's left in the parking lot. Have to be grateful it was a half-day, else rehearsals would have started to 1600 and ended at 2000. That wouldn't have been funny.

Popped Shall We Dance (Gere and Lopez) into the DVD. It's a Hollywood remake of a Japanese movie I watched some years back. It was an amusing and whimsical look at how John Clark (Gere) deals constructively with male mid-life crisis by taking up ballroom dance lessons and in so doing he rediscovers the romance in his overcomfortable, overfamiliar marriage. I'm no fan of ballroom dance myself, but the choreography is quite something to watch; graceful, dramatic and passionate. Whoo! And a cast of quirky characters thrown in moves the story along quite painlessly as well.

Right. To bed...

Thursday, March 10, 2005

I really have to apologize for being a rotten GP tutor and Civics tutor to my current yet soon-to-be-disbanded CT. Ever since the Chinese New Year public holiday there has been a weekly disruption to our timetable: experiential learning, KI course for me, release of results, and PW course again for me, so in reality my CT has yet to truly experience what GP and Civics tutorials are like. So much for their 1st term preview of JC life. My other 2 tutorial groups seem to be enjoying themselves for the most part, but my CT... sigh. I just haven't been there for them, I feel.

Today I abandoned them again to attend a briefing by a Cambridge marker on the new look PW will have this year. Less rigid in structure, more open in interpretation of the question, less quantity of research material required (no more overstuffed GPFs), but higher level and quality of in-depth analysis required by each member of the PW team. Assessment criteria has now been condensed even further and a few redundancies have also been eliminated.

There is of course the group assessment, but individual accountability seems to be this year's emphasis. Another small step in the right direction as far as intention goes, but a human resource nightmare since instead of keeping an eye on 5 project groups we PW supervisors are now chasing up 25 individual students multiplied by the number of PW classes we're assigned (2 for most of us). It's going to be an interesting year.

After the briefing, we adjourned to lunch at the Annalakshmi. This restaurant concept is very special. The menu is an all-you-can-eat Indian vegetarian buffet with quite a variety of rice dishes, veggie curries and gravies to savour, fruit and pastry desserts, juices and hot beverages, and all for the price of... well, you decide. All proceeds from whatever patrons decide to give go directly to charity. This business model sounds like a recipe for financial disaster, doesn't it? But the establishment is already in its 19th year and looks to be still going strong. I love the concept: eat as much as you like, pay as much as you like. If you want to try it out, it's on the 2nd floor of the Excelsior Hotel. Use the mall entrance, not the hotel entrance. Really, here you have nothing to lose (the food and ambiance have quality), and a good cause to support with your contribution.

And I got my first parking fine today too. I parked at the National Library parking lot, which is just a short walk to the Excelsior, but I didn't read the parking rates carefully enough. Here, parking is $1 per half hour, not per hour as I have gotten used to. For parking 1 hour more than what I paid for, I now have to pay $12 in fines for my misdemeanor. I am a criminal!!! What will my mother say?
Amazing. I hypothesized a scenario with my students just a couple of days ago: what if PEARLS was scrapped? On freeing up this time committment from students, what kind of activities would they pursue out of interest rather than for incentive? Sorry to say most of my students couldn't conceptualize this possibility.

Today, this sacred cow lies dead in a mercy killing. No more PEARLS for this current batch of J1s onwards. What was unthinkable just a day or so ago has become reality today. The kids are free! There will probably be a lot of unhappy, aimless souls casting around for some sense of structure in which once they felt comfortably constrained in, at least initially, but it's time people realised that forcing kids to participate in activities is not the responsibility, nor even the calling, of schools and colleges.

As with any other transition, there will be an awkward stage as we find new stability but I think we've taken another step towards becoming a more mature people. It all depends now on whether kids and their parents and teachers(!) can cope with the insecurity of driving without a safety belt, with the kids themselves in the driver's seat.

Edit 01:
It was Q-tip's 1st outing to the Colbar. She made the acquaintance of Wendy and Anthony and may have planted a seed of a thought in them about accessorizing their new apartment with a canine of similar size and temprament. She sat quietly while we took turns to put her on our laps as we chatted.

Weng joined us later and purchased a small bag of pork crisps from the bar. He passed the bag around and June took a piece, like we all did. Wendy's piece was quite large and by it's appearance I recognized it for what it was -- deep fried pork lard, the stuff they use in tiny bits to flavour some local fried noodle dishes. June hates to see them in her fried noodles and will hunt down every last one of them, putting them in a neat little pile at the side of her dish. Tonight, however, she was quite happily munching away on her piece of pork lard, not knowing what it was. I couldn't stop myself from announcing my discovery out loud, "chee yao cha!" June's face changed. She choked and spluttered then disappeared indoors to parts unknown and we didn't see her again for a couple of minutes while she rinsed out her mouth with Dettol. Moral of story: Ignorance is bliss, or a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

I'm a cute widdle kitty up for adoption... Posted by Hello

I don't even have a name yet. Will you take me home? Posted by Hello

Yep, Flirt's injured kitten is much better now. He's playing rough with the other two cats, dashing around at top speed all over the place, and his limp certainly isn't obvious anymore. He's also starting to grow and as much as we like him, we've still gone beyond our limit of 2 cats max, and we're now searching for a good home that'll take him and treat him well. June's put a good word in with the bakery lao ban niang who was a faithful provider for Flirt and her family, including this unnamed kitten. All of Flirt's other kittens seem to already have been adopted by families in our neighbourhood and this one will remain in our care until he finds a new home; soon I hope, before the occasional catfights (for the position of Top Cat) in our house get serious. June says we'll toss in some cat accessories as well to save his adoptive family of these necessary expenses. Right. Think about it, ok?

Monday, March 07, 2005

Not much happening today. The limp on Flirt's still nameless kitten is hardly noticeable now, though his paw is still looking awkward. He may be small, but he's starting to demand his way from the other members of this household. He no longer recognises the priority Belle has to be served first at mealtimes. He trades punches with Momo just to be naughty. They all give way to him because he's just a little kitten, but I hope he doesn't turn into a Little Emperor due to their indulgence.

Training proceeds for our bowling team at SAFRA Yishun. I managed a 3-game average of 138 despite some horrible out-of-control frames. Vince has improved quite nicely. If he's willing to commit to our cause, we'll take him. Amy is also improving, today breaking the 100 mark though she seemed tired in the last game and dropped slightly below her usual score. Anthony is off his game, distracted by the new toy he bought for his car: a Digital Signal Processor (DSP) that makes his car stereo sound really sweet. Yee, our 3rd member couldn't make practice today even though he suggested that the loser of tonight's game will buy breakfast tomorrow. Guess brekkie will be on him, by default!

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Learned a new word, "daizyoubu," which means "no problem; I can do it!" Am considering this word as a possible name for the M2, or Flirt's kitten, I can't decide which. It was a visiting Japanese preacher, Pst. Nobu, who used this word in his sermon about faith.

This morning we woke up late, having slept late after an evening of carousing. It was raining heavily so we decided to avoid town area and instead take a short walk down the street to Evangel for 11am service. It's not like it was our first time there, but when we go we know to expect an all-out assault on our auditory senses. The worship is loud and enjoyably so; and everyone who preaches there, or indeed grabs hold of an unattended mike, shouts at the congregation with unbridled passion and fury. Wonderful orators, all of them, but we leave with our ears ringing and slightly groggy.

Pst. Nobu is here on a short vacation with a small crew from his church in Japan. He was introduced as a man who firmly believes that it would be a Japanese who would successfully reach out to the Japanese people. Likewise, it will be the representatives of the "unreached" peoples themselves that would make the best outreachers for their own peoples, because they understand their own people best and because they know their own culture and sensitivities best. This point was inadvertently proven correct in a real, practical manner by a member of the church leadership closer to the end of the service. But first, a story that Pst. Nobu used to illustrate what faith is.

A crowd has gathered below a length of cable stretched over the tops of 2 buildings. They watch hushed as a tightrope walker gingerly makes his way across the wire and when he safely reaches the other side, the crowd cheers wildly at his accomplishment. They call him "great," "magnificent," and "awesome!" Then they fall silent again when they hear his voice calling from his perch. "You call me these wonderful things, but is there any of you who would dare ride on my shoulders as I cross back along this tightrope?" No one responds. "Crazy," "seow!" they tell each other. Then one little boy stands up and says, "I would!" The crowd holds him back, reminding him of the danger and his social irresponsibility should he fall and make a mess on the sidewalk. But the boy brushes past every well-meaning adult and climbs up to meet the tightrope walker on the roof of the building. The tightrope walker carries the boy on his shoulders and slowly, carefully walks the wire once again. There is another hushed silence, then another round of wild cheering when they both make it safely to the other side. When the boy returns to the crowd they ask him where he got his courage to try such a dangerous thing from. He says, "Simple. The tightrope walker? He's my dad!"

Faith is knowing, really knowing who our father is, and what he can do. It's one thing to stand on the sidelines and cheer and clap and shout praises, but it's quite another when he tells us to trust him in crazy, dangerous times. Can we endure by simply trusting in him or do we balk, lose confidence, berate our situation and just sit there and say, "we're all going to die!!!"? Faith. Daizyoubu. Don't leave home without it.

It was a great sermon I thought. Then it took a Singaporean to spoil the service for me through some thoughtless, careless remark. The lady pastor who took over the mike got a bit emotional sharing (talking about, not opening up her purse and throwing money at the congregation) the church's financial blessings. She let her tears flow, sobbing occasionally, then said one really insensitive thing to our Japanese guests. "You Japanese aren't used to this... I'm crying up here, but you can't show your emotions, can you? [Imitation of Japanese stoicism] I'm Singaporean and I can express myself any way I want..." Oh, the assumptions and cultural stereotyping going on in that head of hers, letting that one utterance fly like that. That was embarrassing, but mercifully brief. I'm pretty sure it was forgotten amongst the other things she was shouting at us.

If we really want to reach out to the unreached peoples, given how culturally superior we think we are, I am convinced now that they're better off reaching out to themselves.
A long day out and about. One of the few Saturdays where I actually have the morning free with no other agenda other than my own. Q-tip got her first long ride in the M2. After breakfast we drove out to look for Weng's birthday pressie and thought we would look through the flea market at Liang Court for an antique object that he might like. No luck for us there as the place looked like it was undergoing some renovation works and it looked deserted too. So we sort of gave up the search and drove back to Sembawang Park to let Q-tip stretch her legs a bit.

Sembawang Park is quite large, as parks go around here. There were a few families strolling, picnicking and fishing, but not too many. Lots of shady spots under the trees and the sea breeze makes the park a great spot to cool off in. This place might also be a great venue for rollerblading as it is open, not crowded and the slopes are gentle enough to be challenging without being too dangerous. A possible routine activity contributing to my new healthy lifestyle, perhaps?

Having failed at the task of finding a pressie for Weng, we assigned Anthony to go forth and seek his fortune. He returned with an ethnic blowpipe with 6 darts in a matching quill. Nice job! But because it was a bit cheap considering how many people had a stake in the same pressie, June & I decided to throw in the bottle of Canadian ice wine that was sitting almost forgotten in our storeroom.

The party at Weng's house was fun, though not the overboard asylum he had made it out to be. The theme was "Juvenile" and some of us came in their old college t-shirts, or threw together a makeshift school uniform (Wendy seems to have made a good effort with her white blouse-checked skirt-school tie-floppy school bag ensemble), while I and June made do with a t-shirt-3/4 berms combo, what we usually wear every day, basically.

Dinner was barbecued junk food: french fries, chicken nuggets, meat patties, hot dog sausages followed later by the slower-to-cook shepherd's pie and the piece de resistance, 2 ikan tenggiri in foil. Lots of Coke and since most of us drove, few of us could touch much alcohol though it seems everyone had brought some.

For dessert Weng passed around slices of a watermelon he had injected with vodka. An interesting idea, though the distribution of liquor was uneven. Some of us got a concentration of vodka, some got none at all. I drove home safely, so I guess I was one of the latter.

We had a mini-rock concert on his lawn, enjoying the sounds from an amalgamation of members from Weng's 2 different bands. We passed the night to the beat of the band, trying to bowl over tiny skittles we set up on the lawn with a handful of marbles. Party on!!!

Left just before midnight while the party was still at full swing. Old bones need their rest. Tomorrow's going to be another long day.