Saturday, July 22, 2006

Expedition XO's log, Earthdate 07212006:
Skeleton crew took possession of MPV class vessel, Estima, reg.: SDW-7607K, at 0900hrs.
Rendezvous with full crew complement at Checkpoint Bugis. Lost 1 junior crewmember to healthscreen failure, but expedition proceeded as planned.
Detoured back to Pilot's residence to collect personal ID inadvertently left behind.
Detoured to Local Liaison Officer's residence to collect holodisks for in-transit entertainment.
Holodisk transmitter system failure resulted in temporary morale setback, quickly rectified by re-engaging "personal conversation" mode lasting the duration of the trip.
Vessel developed "whistling noises" at high speeds along Malaysian North-South highway. Cursory inspections for leaks, etc., failed to detect any obvious problems with hull integrity, warp drive or life-support systems.

General expedition notes with image archive can be cross-referenced here.

Personnel Notes:
Resource Procurement Officer's acquistions from Orang Utan House: 7 T-shirts. From Giant Supermarket in Makota general supplies depot: a large quantity of personal mood-enhancing, nutritionally dubious, ingestible materials. Excellent!
Navigation Officer discovered several discrepancies in our starcharts, but Pilot managed to locate Objective Satay Celup via Serendipity. Counselling Officer was on standby to manage any stress fallout, but no action was necessary. :)

Further Notes:
On return leg, vessel encountered heavy warp traffic delaying our homebase ETA. While Immigration and Customs checkpoints were understandably bottlenecked, other causes were closures of traffic lanes on CTE main warp corridor, 1 due to regular maintainence and another due to wreckage from a brief but intense skirmish involving 5 vessels of differing classes.
EXO took over helm duties for crew disembarkation run. 7607K docked in EXO's residence docking bay at 0100hrs, earthdate 07222006.
EXO returned 7607K to dry dock by 0905hrs as per agreement.
Discovered "whistling noise" was due to hull damage to vessel's undercarriage shielding, possibly due to debris impact some indeterminate time enroute. Though not obvious at first, the breach grew progressively worse as the drive wheel kept in constant friction with the loosened hull plating. Replacement is inevitable.
Dry dock authorities will liaise with Pilot for follow up procedures, if necessary.

Expedition Evaluation:
Overall relaxed and relaxing trip, good food, even better company. Plans in motion for a return trip, longer in duration. Hotel Puri recce'd and designated Starbase for future ops.

End log.

Friday, July 21, 2006

A temporary respite from work, and time to smell the roses and chicken rice balls. College has declared today off in lieu of Polling Day. A little hasty planning during several breakfasts this past week resulted in Vince, Amy, Dee, Lucy, Jo and me renting a Toyota Estima and heading north to Malacca...

Thursday, July 20, 2006

As I work on essay skills with my GP groups, I find that it isn't the lack of content that's bringing down grades, but rather the overflow of content that overwhelms students and shocks them into mental paralysis. The misconception is that the more content goes into an essay, the better it will be graded; but quantity of content means nothing if it isn't relevant to the question.

It's all well and good to maintain a storehouse of knowledge, but selecting the most appropriate material from it quickly while disregarding the rest without guilt or doubt, and organizing the selected material effectively pays off more handsomely in an argumentative essay. After all, the objective is to win the argument, not confuse the situation any more than it already is.

For any argumentative essay, one fundamental requirement is to be able to have a general discussion on the concept in question. The simplest way to explain "concept" is to think of it as a short phrase that describes what the essay is about without any opinions or other preconceived notions about it. For example,

Q: The only role of the mass media should be that of a watchdog. Do you agree?
Concept: The mass media as watchdog.

Q: Does the Internet have a positive or negative impact on your society?
Concept: Social changes resulting from the widespread use of the Internet.

Q: Should people have the right to decide when and how they will die?
Concept: Human rights and the differences between suicide and euthanasia (asks a bit much of a miserable 800 word essay, I say)!

Notice that the concept can double as an unbiased title for the essay. Identifying the right concept gives us a handy guideline to help us decide if the content we select is relevant to our essay or not. What determines our stand (thesis) will depend on what our selection then leads us to believe about the concept we are discussing.

Hmm... I seem to be obsessing over GP this week. Guess I'll have to get it all out of my system before I go back to my regular nonsense. Bear with me, there's more but it's already quite late!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The interview with ZB has been published, and 'deep and Que have their pix printed in colour. I'm not entirely sure what the article actually says, given my level of Chinese literacy, but you can access it online here.

I can only content myself with a very badly translated into English version here.

Monday, July 17, 2006

In "Philosopher's Stone," letters from Hogwart's to Harry Potter are addressed, "Mr. H. Potter, Cupboard under the Stairs, 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey, England" to which we can add, "Western Europe, European Continent, Planet Earth, Sol System, Alpha Quadrant, Milky Way Galaxy, Known Universe."

How does a postal delivery officer know which mailbox to place one letter and not another? The information on any address is arranged from the smallest possible unit that needs to be located (the person) to the most reasonably large locus where said person is most likely to be found, in ever-widening concentric circles.

So any terrestrial post office can easily locate the intended receipient of a piece of mail by country, then by state or province, then district, then street, then housing unit, (then in Harry's case, by specific room in the house) till finally the mail reaches the right person. The additional information might be useful for perhaps an inter-galactic mail courier, but it follows a similar narrowing procedure.

Whichever layer of our address we physically occupy determines our view of the world in which we live. We wish for our GP students to at least live as citizens at the national (country) level and to write from that perspective. Better yet, if they could feel like they occupy a much larger space, on the regional or even the global level, the scope from which they write would be so much wider.

Unfortunately, most of our students still write as if they only live inside their "Cupboard under the Stairs," cooped up within the confines of 4 dim, dusty walls with no window to even look out of. And they wonder why despite so much work they undertake to do better in GP, they still find difficulty getting a satisfactory grade.

Open the door and step outside. The world is bigger than your comfy bedroom.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Whoa, stop the presses! Just got a comment from an author whose work I reviewed a couple of months ago. Now I'm truly awed by the power of the Internet in helping perfect strangers contact each other. The world is so much smaller now!

Wish I could write back to him, but the link to his email address doesn't work somehow. Hmm... perfect, the 'net isn't.

Just for reference, my review is here.

Dr McG's comment is here.
What makes a person a criminal? The simple answer is, the law determines for us who stays free, who pays a fine, who goes to jail and worse. But while it's easy for the law to see things in clear black and white, in the realm of human interaction, things get horrendously fudgy.

Laws change retroactively, in response to disastrous events the repeat of which we hope the new laws will protect us from. But what if by enacting new laws, a group of people who were once tolerated by society suddenly become lawbreakers simply because the new laws say they are? Or what if the beliefs of a group of people suddenly become outlawed overnight and they have to decide to abandon their beliefs or face legal consequences?

In the light of religious extremism and senseless terrorist attacks on secular society, society usually seeks the protection of the law to preserve a sense of security for daily existence. In the US, for example, new anti-terrorist measures have been enacted by their lawmakers; but such measures have also caused concern that the citizens' civil rights and liberties have been sacrificed as a result.

Marvel Comic's recent "Civil War" story arc is a modern day parable for the fear and tension against the unpredictability of life and death as we recognize that terror strikes anyone, anywhere, anytime. No one is safe, no one is innocent, everyone is a target.

It isn't an act of terrorism that sparks off the Civil War. It is an irresponsible act of nationally televised super-grandstanding by a group of inexperienced costumed heroes causing a horrific disaster in Stamford, a peaceful residential suburb. The death toll runs in the hundreds, the majority being children from a neighbourhood school, the calamity's ground-zero.

Thus, the move to press a Super-human Registration Act into existence. This Act by law eradicates any protection superhumans have of their secret identities. The law compels all superhumans to be properly trained and carry a Federally approved licence, their activities having to be officially sanctioned by the US government. In other words, they have to become civil servants if they wish to continue righting wrongs, doing justice and preserving the American way. By implication, it will also become the government's decision as to who registered superheroes go after.

The new law, such as it is, splits the superhero community asunder: those who feel that registration is the right and responsible approach (notably Iron Man and surprisingly, Spider-Man, and those who never had a secret identity in the first place, like the Fantastic Four), and those who feel that secret identities have to be protected (for fear of reprisal agaist their families and loved ones, or just at least having a chance to lead a normal life on the side) and that what they do should not be government-controlled or directed (biggest surprise for this faction is Captain America -- chief protector of American values or something like that).

In one early incident that causes the superhuman community to have a very serious think over this situation, the Fantastic Four's Human Torch gets hospitalized by a very angry, very human mob who recognizes him (he is a public figure, after all) and attacks him outside a nightclub while he is there on a date.

Because a new law is called into existence, many superheroes who refuse to abide by it become super-villains overnight, and are being hunted down by others who were once their friends and colleagues. Some previous super-villains who choose to abide by the new law suddenly become elevated to hero status as well, so the whole Marvel Universe is in massive turmoil as loyalties change, battle-lines are drawn, and casualties mount.

What makes a person a criminal? The Law. Whose side are you on?