Saturday, May 13, 2006

What are we staff doing on campus early on a Saturday morning this long weekend? Posted by Picasa

We're competitors in a Library-organized checkpoint-to-checkpoint race, a.k.a., "Makan Mania 06." Objective: to eat our way through different kinds of food at each checkpoint. The difficulty is that while we select the food items ourselves, the last letter making up the name of the previous food item must begin the name of the next food item. A further complication is that each food item has to conform to a specific restriction set at the checkpoint.

These rules already sound quite complex. There's more. Each checkpoint puts either an individual team member or the whole team in a challenge to complete for a cumulative total of points; and there's a scavenger hunt challenge for even more points.

Perhaps it's simpler to just track our progress (or just check out our pix for a summary):

Checkpoint 2: Serangoon Central
Food item: Char kway teoW
Challenge: Bean counting game (Amy)
Restriction: Halal

Checkpoint 3: Chinatown Complex
Roadblock: Charades of food item names (June)
Food item: Water chestnut drinK (from a Halal kopi stall)
Challenge: Drink 2 bowls of sesame seed paste (June -- despite it being a team challenge)
Restriction: Crispy

Checkpoint 4: Maxwell Road Market
Food item: Kaya toasT
Challenge: a makeshift bagatelle game (Team)
Restriction: liquid and sour

Checkpoint 5: Golden Shoe Complex
Food item: Tom yum noodleS
Challenge: throw darts for points (Xmac) (Failed)
Penalty: eat 5 chili padi (arrrrghhh!)
Restriction: at least 4 colours

Checkpoint 6: Beancurd shop on Short Street
Food item: SkittleS (TM)
Challenge: finish 4 bowls of beancurd (Team)
Restriction: bitter and sweet

Checkpoint 7: Tekka Market
Food item: Schweppes bitter lemoN (TM)
Challenge: sell 8 cups of teh tarik at 50 cents each (Team)
Restriction: nil, but must bridge food item with final food item: Kaya fondue

Final checkpoint: Makansutra, Esplanade
Bridging item: Nasi LemaK
Challenge: identify mystery food item (Amy, June)
Penalty: or eat it (Xmac, HP) (blech!)
Bang gong to end race!

Our team was the first team to arrive, apparently smashing all previous records by at least 2 hours. Congrats, to us! We make a great team!

It's the Vesak Day public holiday! This is probably the best view to have on a Friday afternoon. Posted by Picasa

Sentosa's Palawan Beach is popular with dog owners. Mimi's quite at home here. Posted by Picasa

We think Q-tip doesn't really like swimming. She just does it for the exercise. Posted by Picasa

Q-tip gets the comfortable spot to nap on the beach. Posted by Picasa

All this, and in the evening June and I caught MI:3 too! It was loud, cinema making full use of the digital stereo equipment to maximize our money's worth. Likewise, the air-con: froze my butt off watching the movie, and as NBS will testify -- if I say it's cold, it IS cold.

Isn't Kaiser aptly named? He looks like a little fascist here. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Must remember I owe the GFC drinks uncle $3.70. With less than an hour to spare for lunch, NBS and I made a dash for GFC, completely forgetting to bring money with us. We had to make do with the small change in our pockets to pay for my wonton noodles, but her fan choy and our drinks had to go on our tab.

Good thing we're regular customers.
Spent Wednesday afternoon at a general briefing for all PUS participants, and a rehearsal for our presentation team at our host's homeground. Our presentation is still pretty raw, and lots more need to be done in refining our script and movement so that it looks less static.

I've never had any PUS experience before, so I don't really know how our approach to the presentation is going to be received. Not that there isn't substance in what we're going to say, it's that our delivery is bimbotic, playing for laughs rather than serious-but-boring.

But what I'm most proud of our total PUS effort this year is that it's been mostly student-driven. They came up with their own ideas and research for the written report; it was their idea to shoot the presentation video (and develop the content therein). All we staff did -- well, Gerald did spend quite some time and effort guiding the research team along -- was in mainly making their vision happen, and the necessary admin which I sort of muddled through. Still muddling...

I've always thought the PUS was supposed to be done by students for students. Regardless of what other colleges may be doing, I intend to be true to the spirit of PUS.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Spent Tuesday afternoon in the company of fellow teaching staff from the various colleges. We had been gathered to give feedback to our employer (via an impartial third party observer from the private sector) about how things are on the frontlines, and what the Ministry can do to help make it better for us.

There were lots of vocally charged women seated around me. Apart from myself, there were only another 2 guys, and they both left the talking to me. Not sure what I can divulge from our discussions other than that we had quite a cathartic trashing-it-out session amongst ourselves.

But through our brutally honest exchanges I sort of got the feeling that most staff unhappiness seems to come from the individual institution's culture and protocols. There were only a couple of major issues that all of us experienced in common, but most other peeves seem endemic only within our own personal environments.

I'm cynical enough to know that whatever upstairs thinks will benefit us bottom-feeders, by the time it trickles down to us, the idea would have morphed into something quite different, and more often than not means more work for us. For example, when our Boss said teachers would get more time (para 20) for personal development, what we got was an hour scheduled into our timetables for a weekly "sharing session" by fellow staff on topics that needed to be approved for relevance to our teaching subjects.

The formality of these sharing sessiosn makes them limited in effectiveness. We would have got more problems surfacing, more ideas thrown about, more collaborative planning of activities, and a more conducive working environment if they had just given us a common slot on our timetable (which they have) just to hang out with fellow staff, drink coffee and yak agenda-less (which they haven't). Better still, if the timeslot was, say, just before lunchtime on a day we didn't have to return for classes so that we could spend the rest of the afternoon doing fun stuff with each other too.

But of course, people are just going to see this interpretation as 'wasting taxpayers' money' because none of this can be counted as 'work.' After all, we're not paid to have fun, are we?

Monday, May 08, 2006

I am about to take a sledgehammer to the clunky old Pentium II that I'm using to edit the PUS video clip. I've got about 20 minutes of raw footage that I want to extract just less than 5 minutes from. It should be an easy matter to do a simple copy-and-paste job, but nearly every step of the way the PC hangs and I have to start all over again and again and again...

Even when I save what few edits I've made, the save process is itself touch-and-go. I'm never certain if the save is going to be successful after several minutes of hard-drive grinding, or result in yet another occasion to hit ctrl-alt-del.

The sum total of practically a full day's tedium: I got my 200Mb 5 minute edited footage done. I'd stuff the whole lot onto my thumb-drive, but the terminal is running on Win 98(!) which doesn't recognize my new(?) hardware. The terminal doesn't even have networking! So I finally got it burned onto a CD-ROM. Playback from the disk is brilliant: I got sound, no picture. -__-

It's enough to tear the few strands of hair I still have out. I've fantasized flinging my headphones at the monitor to make it work faster, but there were kids present in the com lab, and that kind of behaviour isn't exactly good role modelling, is it?

A day for dark, violent thoughts.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

PUS shoot this morning was just grand! I had a cooperative, enthu cast and crew taking scenes of a so-called 'traditional' business and its subsequent transformation into a corporate giant :P

Despite the obvious anachronisms, we're hoping the sepia tone will creat the illusion of the not-too distant past, and that the audience will be forgiving...

Ah Seng's roadside stall c.1960 Posted by Picasa

The new Ah Seng International Kaya Toast flagship outlet Posted by Picasa

What's a shoot without an accompanying 'making-of' video? Posted by Picasa

DoP at work, getting his shot the way he wants Posted by Picasa
If there's one thing this General Election has proven, it's that Singaporeans do not like change. Sure, everything changes around us: prices go up, buildings come down, policies cycle, the economy steamrolls on... but as long as we have a choice, we choose not to rock the boat.

As it was when Parliament dissolved this year, our governing authority today is back to status quo. The Ruling Party has all but the same 2 parliamentary seats, the 2 split between the same entrenched Opposition politicians that sat there just 14 days ago.

The Ruling Party may be autocratic, automatic, arrogant, above-all (and that's just the 'A's) but as far as we Singaporeans know, it's a formula that works, and we're not about to change a winning formula, are we?

Yes, the popular vote has risen quite a bit for the Opposition this time, but this only goes to show how adamant we are that our incumbent Opposition remain where they are, as they have been for years, and not lose out in a closely called face-off. We're not taking that chance.

In a world that is madly changing around us, Singaporeans are only too happy to grab onto something that they can ensure won't change, and that is how we are governed, warts and all. Heh, Democracy.
So nice! A reunion of sorts for 3 generations of NYeDC during tonight's run of "Five Foot Way.":

Cast and crew, "The Odyssey," 2004 Posted by Picasa

Cast of "Oz," 2005 Posted by Picasa

Cast and crew, "Five Foot Way," 2006. Posted by Picasa
NYeDC's Drama Night 06 was a generally tight script. Mel primarily wrote "Five Foot Way" as our SYF piece this year, meaning it was actually meant for about a half hour run. Drama Night usually runs a full hour, though, so tonight's script was an extended version, so to speak.

Set along a row of shophouses sometime in the 1960s, it focused on the friendship between 2 boys, 1 Malay and 1 Chinese, during the time of ethnic violence in our history. Despite the focus, the play was still mainly ensemble driven with everyone making the street come alive: Mrs Ang's kopi tiam all hustle and bustle, Sanjeev's bookstore and Cik Zu's mee rebus stall calm and easygoing.

I like the script for its local flavour, colloquialisms and all. Despite the heavy handed censorship from the SYF organizers the dialogue was still essentially recognizable street talk.

The cast was engaging, each character portrayed quite strongly, though certain stereotypes were hard to avoid. Fran, who played the beng went a little ott, looking for laughs that dulled his menacing quality a touch. 'deep played Sanjeev too conservatively, as did Zu; there were times the mike couldn't pick up their voices audibly enough. 'tilda's Geok is the most lighthearted character so she might have concentrated more on her innocence and fun-loving nature and less on being 8 years old.

Dory played Mrs Ang with lots of spit and bile, and it was nice that there was some attempt to explain her bigotted attitude, though it was just a throwaway line that the audience might have easily missed.

Des and 'mir work well together, both balancing each other nicely. Des' morose straight-man and 'mir's happy-go-lucky wiseass have the potential to be a great comedy couple, if they want to explore the pairing further.

Still, being an extended script, there were occasions when the dialogue got flabby and uncertain. Too many last minute changes that don't get rehearsed adequately will do that. The fight sequences were still rushed and the ending scene was strange because 2 characters are talking about a third character as if she wasn't there, and yet she is obviously sitting there in their plain view.

With the stage set and costumes and lighting and more rehearsals, tonight's production was a great improvement from when I previewed it last week. Some tweaks are going to be necessary to get it ready for the SYF, but not too many.