Saturday, July 16, 2005

"He floats through the air with the greatest of ease
The daring young man on the flying trapeze"
George Leybourne (1882-1884)

Another day of insane derring-do. Hong Choo's next on the hitch list so we took him to Sentosa for trapeze lessons before his big day.

It's like a Club Med set-up with suspended safety nets, but only one flying bar so solo "performances" only. There is a practice bar on which we all have to try out the tucking in of our legs into a rotation around the shoulders and finishing with a full body suspension hanging from the knees, hands free. After successfully mastering this maneuver (within tolerable parameters) we're ready for the real thing.

We climb to a narrow platform about 2 storeys high, safety belt securely around the waist. On the belt are 2 D-rings which the 2 ends of the safety rope clip onto. On the platform, the instructor talks us through the take-off procedure. He secures us by grabbing the back of the safety belt while we reach for the flying bar first with one hand then the other.

Teetering on the edge of the platform, we "step-off" while the instructor simultaneously lets go of the safety belt and we're feeling the rush of air against our faces in a moment of exhilarating freedom. Before we lose momentum, we have to think through the hang-by-the-knees maneuver and actually force our limbs to move accordingly, though poor timing, adrenaline, muscle fatigue and acrophobia make it even harder to execute than when we were still on the ground.

We learned 3 different kinds of dismounts so we went up 3 times each to try out each one. The first was a standard butt-first land-in-a-sitting-position, though most people still end up landing face-first instead. The second is a back-flip dismount: on the swing, feet together, kick forward once, kick backwards, tuck knees into chest and release bar. In theory, momentum spins the body 360° legs over head then we land again in a sitting position. In theory, anyway. Last, the flying dismount in which we remain suspended from the knees and at the apex of the "away" swing, release the knees and adopt a Superman flying position, belly landing.

Most of us -- especially the tourist kids who had joined our group -- managed to perform reasonably well. One nervous teenager landed head-first onto the safety net and bounced into an awkward somersault, which looked quite hilarious though it was probably embarrassing for her.

Group performance review: Martin: self-declared non-participant. Anthony: injured in training, sidelined. Hong Choo: set good example. Weng: credible. Luanne: lost momentum early. Ed: letting go issues. Me: form over substance.

The guys went up North for a seafood dinner. I took family (June & 2 dogs) home and gave Ed a lift back on the way. Muscles starting to hurt. Hmm... wonder who's next on the list to get married?
It's late, but now I can't get this thought out of my head. With regard to the furore over the case of Durai poTTer and the Fund of Kidneys -- and though I rarely do this -- I offer a little biblical insight that sort of settles it for me:

"Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn." Deuteronomy 25:4

Whatever follows from now, I hope it won't contravene this fundamental principle of employer-employee relations.

Nevertheless, easy for me to say, since I haven't contributed anything to the fund recently.

Friday, July 15, 2005

It's fun enlightening kids and seeing them respond with genuine comprehension. For some inexplicable reason, every project group seems bent on conducting a survey as part of their data collection process. Invariably, their survey mainly seeks info regarding the public approval of their project. It's like they want to prove to their supervisor that despite the advice given so far, as long as the public approves of their project, all will be well with the world.

What is the objective of the project? To create/devise/design/... whatever thing. Any idea as of now how to go about delivering what was promised? Umm... no... OK, how long will the survey process take from designing the questionnaire to collecting data to data analysis? 2 weeks? And so the survey results will most likely tell you what? Er... that people will like our project? And after 2 solid weeks of backbreaking work, will this information take you a few steps closer to learning how to make your project work? Er... no, just that people will like it or not... ooooohhh!

Oh well, a whole afternoon of that so it was most excellent when Anthony suggested we go chill at Settler's again. But parking there is mad. I drove around the block quite a few times, got my bearings screwed and got lost a couple of times. Eventually I gave up and parked at the lot I just happened to be passing on New Market Street. Walked the rest of the way to Settler's. Good thing it wasn't a long walk.

I had already had dinner so I contented myself with a small plate of "black pepper" fries and a RB float. Our group entertained ourselves with 'Apples to Apples,' a mix-n-match word game of random associations and hasty explanations.

A kick-back, laze around Friday evening. The weekend's finally here!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Good news! The Drama Club's performance isn't this Saturday after all, but next, 23 July. Which means I can have a life this weekend and still have a little more time to polish the production into something credible. As it is, judging by what the kids were coming up with at this afternoon's rehearsal, this movement piece is becoming increasingly watchable and there are moments when the ensemble actually offers some rib-tickling scenes.

With more polish and timing I think our presentation of "Tangerine" will be quite unusual and unexpected. Hope the audience gets it though. I am asking them to make a stretch of tolerance to sit through the whole thing. Must thank Mel for kindly doing the reading so I can concentrate on directing. I promised her an expensive dinner at "somewhere nice" for her sacrifice. Wonder if she'll hold me to my word?

Good to see that Amy's big project turned out quite nicely today. She'll score some major points for sure. She was in charge of the new council's investiture and it flowed quite smoothly, like clockwork. What helped was that there was no attempt to make the event appear more than it was. There have been previous similar ceremonies that became rather emotional affairs for the participants. They teared, some quietly sobbed behind their dignity, some had stiff jaws but trembling lips because it's hard for the exiting council to say goodbye amidst the recollection of memories both happy and painful.

This ceremony though just as dignified kept the tone light and perfunctory -- just a matter of remove badge, sit down for the outgoing councilors. The mandatory speeches were thankfully short utterances of politeness and quickly followed up by the next item on the agenda. The new council was sworn in and invested with the duties, responsibilities, rights and priviledges of councilors which they will fulfill to the best of their ability and partake of to the fullest of their capacity respectively. Plain and simple. Lovely.

If there was anything that bugged me, it was the sense that the ceremony might have been just a little over-rehearsed. Even the tribute song from the incumbents to the umm... out-go-bents was mechanical, lacking the spontaneity that it might have had. That's Amy's mania, I suppose. It's a good thing she hangs out with us, who every so often remind her not to take herself too seriously, to take it easy and not get too obsessive over protocol, or else she might become another [ex-colleague with control issues] and that, I think, would be tragic. Don't worry, Amy, we're not gonna let that happen to you. No way.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Embarked on another round of training for The New Subject. For this term, every Wednesday afternoon I will be on campus at the new SMU learning about critical thinking and logic in the hope that I will be able to acquire and use these skills for myself and then pass them on to my eager, young, bright-eyed apprentices come next year.

I'm really excited to be pioneering this new direction in education; to train students in thinking for themselves, to regain their natural curiosity for the world around them and to be able to relate their input and stimuli to a moral core and make well-reasoned judgments and take action accordingly. Proactive, independent, self-motivated students who care about what goes on around them and are willing and able to do something about it. All this from a 1-and-a-half year course + another half year of independent research. Well, that's what we hope we'll get, anyway.

Meantime, I'm learning all this new stuff about the different ways we can encounter, express and evaluate Truth (Veritas) and it's quite confusing and technical right now. Our instructor, Mark, assures us that we'll get better with practice so NBS and I will have to have frequent arguments with each other just to sharpen the tools that we use to extract truth. Ooo... verbal lightsabre duels, though as Mark reiterated several times, the 'argument' in this context is not for the purpose of 'winning' but for establishing the Truth.

Oops, tangential thought. From marking over 70 GP essays over the last week or so, we lament that the students tend to balance their arguments badly. They present schizophrenic cases allowing contradictory positions without dealing with the truth of the matter. This is akin to merely reporting on a quarrel between 2 parties with differing viewpoints and just leaving it as such without resolution. He said, She said... so what? A 'balanced' argument isn't just a matter of parroting 2 (or more) sides of a story. Any idiot can do this, no need to take the 'A' levels for this skill.

What do we do about a GP essay, then? We determine how the statement of inquiry (i.e., the essay question) contains only a partial truth and we apply to the statement the various parameters, conditions, circumstances, etc., that will make the statement true. We then use sound reasoning to prove the verity of the modified statement. No wonder GP is so tough, so hard to "score" in. We only teach them to 'balance,' and not how to deal with conflicting thoughts and patiently tease out the Truth for a better understanding and appreciation of life itself.

Thus enlightened, I went bowling with the guys again. Personal high game: 190. Personal average:>150 over 6 games. Quite ok, lah.

One last parting shot: Kids, take a lesson from June who's resting up her sprained back now. When you have to bend to pick up a heavy object, for goodness sake, bend your knees as you establish your grip, then straighten your legs to carry it up. DO NOT lift with your back or there will be... consequences.
Great. Spent another evening passed out on the living room floor drifting between Theta and Delta state. I must have been more tired than I realized. Now I'm awake (barely) I've just got enough sense to get myself showered and into bed properly. G'night!

Monday, July 11, 2005

Arrived at Plaza Starbowl late for training. Monday's bad for me because of my 3 lecture slots packed within a 4-hour window in the afternoon, so it's a no-lunch day. Today was a bit worse 'cos the Drama Club needed to rehearse for Saturday's performance so even after the last lecture I was still engaged.

Before commencing bowling training, we had a much needed dinner at the new-looking food court bearing the name, "Sultan's Kitchen." I had the chicken cutlet from the western food stall. Nice, large, breaded chunk of chicken fillet that I tore into with great enthusiasm. Halfway through however, I realised that the cutlet was a bit underdone and decided to stop eating it in case I get food-poisoning from eating partially-cooked chicken meat. Hope what I did eat was still fit for human consumption. Guess we'll find out tomorrow. Meantime, there's bowling to be done.

The bowling alley was full with all lanes booked for some corporate league night. We had to wait a bit for a couple of lanes to clear but in the meantime we tried to pursuade Amy to part with her hard-earned cash and buy a ball and shoes for herself for $160 and be a full-fledged member of our we-own-our-own-ball-and-shoes club. Amy stood her ground, though, and since she wouldn't let us help her with shopping we killed time shooting pool instead. Yee and me vs Vince and Anthony. My pool is still erratic, though I can occasionally pot a ball or two if the angles line up right. More practice needed, def.

After winning a game apiece, we finally got to bowl. Team performance for a 3-game series: Average. Good thing the competition date is at the end of this month. More time to train!

Bah... slow news day.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Bathroom's Spartan in it's simplicity. Same as it was before. Posted by Picasa

Yay! Bedroom's habitable again! Wonder how long it'll stay this neat? Posted by Picasa
I signed up for a Friendster account last night, after 17 million people had already signed up for one. I did that because I found someone's blog and I wanted to add a comment. Dumb thing won't let me comment unless I was a member. Great sales gimmick; good thing membership is free.

It's really sad as a new member. As I set up my account, the counter reminds me how pathetic my life is. It reads, "You have (0) friends." So I edit my profile, recalling bits of my life, interests and hobbies hoping to attract the attention of other people who might share my wavelength. Maybe that counter would rise a little higher if so.

I also search around a bit to find names of people I know. Not many names appear, at least for my age group (ancient) so it's either my contemporaries are far and few between or they're just not net savvy enough. Nonetheless, I do find a few names, and coincidentally, they're the people I hang out with on campus and off anyway. So I "invite" them to be my Friendster friends and await a favourable reply.

Thing is, as I search through millions of names and faces wondering who and where my friends are, I flash back to an unrelated piece of info someone divulged a couple of days ago. There is another bunch of staff leaving either for greener pastures or the service altogether. It's an annual cycle and of course the industry is a bit concerned about its annual turnover rate. I might have been a statistic, myself. My intention was to fulfill my 3-year contract and leave to rejoin MU (not Manchester United) full-time. Nearly 6 years later, I'm still keeping my tab running.

Part of the reason is that I need the money, but if that was the only reason I'd be the saddest sod on the planet. The workload and responsibilities keep piling up year after year, and the restrictions get tighter and tighter. It's not the kids who keep me around, though they have their charm and their ability to keep the place interesting and challenging.

What's really keeping me around are my fellows in the staff room. The people we can discuss work with but, more often than not, anything other than work. Having meals is riotous with insults thrown around, insinuations made, aspersions cast, characters defamed and having generally unwholesome talk around the table. We compete hard with each other in our games, we celebrate our happy events and we chill out after hours. We even get in trouble together, occasionally receiving the same 'gentle' reminders in our email inboxes.

In a workplace that's crazy but pretends to be sane, it's great to be able to gather a few people together with whom we can be sane but pretend to be crazy. Thanks, guys!

*wipes tear