Friday, April 28, 2006

Such fine weather this afternoon. Took most advantage of it by driving out to ECP as soon as humanly possible after classes to rent a bike and get some sweating done. Our staff have begun a Friday morning jog-walk thing for exercise, but I need more space and better scenery to motivate me.

Discovered that where I thought the biking trail ended on the east side, it actually continued via a short detour through the walking track. It led to a part of the beach I'd never been before, and how gorgeous it was! A green grove lining the smooth cycling track, sandy beach and blue sky. Ok, golf course on the landward side with the occasional 747 marking the sky with its jet-trail, but other than that it was quite heavenly. It's a great 'blading track and I can't wait to go back again.

Got back to campus in the late afternoon to give fresh eyes to this year's Drama Night production on Mel's request. I'd been putting it off for a while, actually, knowing that sticking a hand in too early will only confuse the performers who would have had to listen to far too many directors. Today, the most I could help out with was in working out the steps in a couple of fight sequences; though choreographing stage combat isn't really my thing.

Since I was on campus anyway, I brought over my portable DVD viewer and a stack of assorted DVDs to keep the Council staff entertained while they're stuck at their induction camp for the newly elected Councillors over the long weekend. Hope it was enough to keep their morale up.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

I got off uncharacteristically early. It's the sense that the major stress points of the week no longer factor on my calendar, and the knowledge that a long weekend is coming up that after classes today I felt I could breathe a little easier. I had some admin to take care of for PUS at SR, then that was pretty much it. I'm on "standby" mode right now, enjoying it while I can. Maybe this weekend I'll take a look at the compre scripts I've accumulated and get round to actually marking them...
NY conneXions Dead-Tree Edition #2 is available from today! Limited stocks only! Get your more environmentally-friendly downloadable version here (.pdf, 1.6Mb)!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

2 big headaches have passed as of today. The presentation to the cluster heads is over, and the print version of NY conneX (#2) is in my hands, ready for distribution tomorrow.

If you had ever gone to visit your school's P when you were a kid, it usually meant that you were in trouble. It meant that you had been sent down to The Office and into the deepest dungeon lair of the scariest monster residing There, and probably never be seen again. That was in the 70's when I went to school, anyway.

Today, our presentation team had the prospect of facing 30 or so of these mythical creatures, but thankfully throughout the weeks we'd been preparing for our song-and-dance, the numbers eventually dwindled to today's final count of 6. Coincidentally, that was exactly the number of presenters in the team too. Pupil-teacher ratio of 1:1, then. Couldn't be more perfect.

It's good to find out that Ps these days aren't anything like the stuff phobias and nightmares are made of any longer. We had been preparing to be torn to shreds by a no-nonsense squad who would be critical and suspicious of whatever we said, being that they are busy people and would take a very dim view of other people who waste their time. Instead, our 6 guests were warm and cordial, interested in what we had to say (even though at points we tended to ramble off topic a bit), offered relevant views and opinions during discussion opportunities, tried their best to apply what materials we were feeding them, and most of all, they were appreciative of us.

While it may be true that doctors make the worst patients, I just discovered that these Ps made the best students I've ever had the pleasure of teaching. They genuinely came with the intention to learn from us, raw as we are in our attempts to apply some kind of critical thinking structure to our curriculum. Yes, that was the content of our presentation, if you must know.

Personally, I'm quite gratified that despite their earlier prejudices against Wallace + Gromit, they saw many uses for Nick Park's creations in their own schools after they watched a segment from "The Wrong Trousers" I screened for them as part of my presentation.

So that's over, more or less. Think it went quite decently well. Heh.
Just finished reading Anthony McGowan's "Hellbent." It looks like a kid's book. I found it in the Young Adults' section of a Times Bookshop. It reads like a kid's book. It is full of juvenile, sophomoric toilet humour, and is overflowing with excruciatingly hideous idioms and similes only a 14-year-old boy could come up with, and only his scabby 14-year-old chums would chuckle at due to peer pressure.

The cover graphic is a simple looking label that reads, "WARNING: The most disgusting book you'll ever read." Now, that's really targeting a 14-year-old audience, and I had to go pick it up. And I couldn't put it down after that.

I don't know what the kiddies who persuaded their parents to buy this book think of it, but I think it's one of the most disturbing depictions of what hell is like without getting all religious and preachy about it.

In fact, McGowan looks at the concept of hell more from a philosophical point of view, examining arguments about the human condition, free will, existentialism, morality, justice, and the nature of hell itself: what it is, how it operates and how it devises specific torments particularly tailored to maximize the individual's misery with respect to the sins the individual is being punished for. McGowan is clear that in hell there is NO atonement, just unceasing eternal punishment.

The individual in question is a 16-year-old boy who is killed by an ice-cream truck(!) and goes to hell ostensibly for being a teenage prat. His personal hell is to spend eternity having nothing to do but read from a huge library of philosophy books and listen to nothing but classical music. He gets the idea that there must be someone else in hell who's suffering from the torments of having to play violent video games and listen to loud music for eternity. His quest then is to find this little corner of hell and trade places with its occupant so that even if they have to spend forever in hell, they would at least be doing things that they liked.

His journey through hell shows us hell's different facets, where every section and every district while being different in form from one another is the same, if not worse, in function -- causing pain, misery and suffering to the souls of the damned.

"Hellbent" doesn't seem like a cautionary tale. It doesn't really offer any tips about how to avoid going to hell, anyway. It doesn't say that hell is our inevitable end, either. What I think McGowan is getting at is that, mitigating circumstances notwithstanding, there are choices and there are consequences. Hell is only a consequence.

Which got me thinking along a similar thread to NBS some days ago: why is it that the decisions we make within our lifespan -- measured in mere decades -- should result in consequences that last throughout eternity? That doesn't seem all that fair, does it?

Parents, unless you want to spend lots of time answering difficult questions, or comforting your kiddies from their nightmares, I suggest you avoid buying this book as a bedtime story for junior. This might be a great text if you take KI though. Wanna borrow it, NBS?

Monday, April 24, 2006

Got an evening out with June, along with Amy, Dee, HP and Vince. At Amy's suggestion we got tix for Bush's Brain, a film documentary peek behind-the-scenes of the W Bush political campaign engine.

It was interesting to see the allegations made against Carl Rove, the person whom the documentary claims is the real "Brain" behind the President. For people who watch wrestling on TV, the Bush political team seems to behave like the teams that will do anything to grab championship belts and retain them at all cost. "The Four Horsemen" comes to mind, as does the now defunct "NWO." Tactics include misdirection, distraction, low blows, illegal tags, and in somehow spinning a drama for themselves or against the opposition not so much as to gain popular support but rather to cause the opposition to lose popular support.

Anyway, they play a dirty game in Washington. The documentary comes close to suggesting that W Bush becoming President is parallel to Mr Chee winning the elections and becoming PM instead of Mr Lee.

So here we have another Bush-bashing film, though not so sensational and spurious as Moore's Bowling for Columbine.

Went to the Dome at Bishan for an after movie snack. June's chili con carne was too salty and I thought the cream sauce for my mushroom pasta wasn't really cream but rather some cornstarch mixture. Blech. Maybe next time, we'll just order dessert here.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

I never did mention when June came back from her Philippines tour of duty, did I? Well, she arrived home Friday night having survived a trip that wasn't as bad as she had previously imagined. I think the choice of hotel and airline made a lot of difference in making her feel safer and more at ease with her surroundings.

From the pix, I can tell she's happy to be home. And she's brought a bunch of hastily acquired souvenirs (mostly grocery items from a supermarket at prices she couldn't say, "no," to) back with her.

Wonder if this is going to be just the first of many overseas business trips for her? Apparently, there's plans for her to visit HK next, maybe in May.

My wife: a new member of the jet-set, accumulator of frequent-flyer mileage, bargain-basement shopper of souvenirs from strange and exotic locations. If I wasn't such a lazy-bum, gravid with couch-potato inertia, I'd actually be jealous.
As you can see from the missing entries, this has been one hell of a week. I don't think it's ever been this bad before, when the work has got the better of my time and attention. The long, late days; and even the slightly shorter days when I'm sitting in front of Watson wondering what else has been happening in my life apart from preparing for classes, NY conneX -- both on-line and print versions, the presentation we're giving the cluster bosses next week, oh, and the PUS as well.

It's not like all the work isn't fulfilling. I love everything I'm doing. It's that there's only so much lovin' this body can give within so short a time. If I could just focus on each task one at a time, I wouldn't be so stressed out. But having to deal with them all at once in the same week, it's like having an orgy with partners who are quite jealous of each other. Sorry, but there's only one of me and only so many orfices with which to keep everybody satisfied. Some are just going to feel slighted.

I shouldn't really complain so much. Gerald and the research kids have done a fab job on the PUS written report. The conneX 1st years have helped me lay out 50% of next week's print edition together -- a tremendous increase from the 0% of last ish. Deadlines are go for next Thursday's release, and I'm happy about that.

This evening I spent an hour as an invited guest at a 'top JC in Bishan.' It was the closing ceremony for this student-initiated-organized-run conference for youth, the idea of which was to bring all post-secondary institution kids together in an effort to understand and appreciate one another better.

I thought that was a brilliant idea, seeing as we keep stratifying and stereotyping people by their academic backgrounds. From the video clip of this overnight camp, the kids looked like they had great fun mixing with each other. My congrats to the organizer, who did what she set out to do. Determined girl, that young lady.

Hope the few KIds who went had fun too, and found some new friends from outside the college. Always good to keep expanding the horizon.

My Big Boss, the guest-of-honour, said as much in his address.

It was a closing ceremony full of technical problems: mikes that didn't amplify, equipment giving nasty feedback from some loose connection somewhere, the video clip soundtrack playing directly off the projector's pathetic little speakers, and even the stage draperies sagging. But that's the beauty of the event, isn't it? No 'professional' adult help to make things slick and smoothly run. A bit 'Kids Next Door' in improvisation, but there's the charm right there.

Hmmm... and Q-tip got groomed today. We found a fortuitous appointment slot for this afternoon, and of course, we took it. Trimmed her fur short. Now she no longer looks like the Abominable Snowball.