Saturday, April 07, 2007

Clan celebrated Uncle W's golden wedding anniversary last night at Ah Yat. The whole banquet room was full with our family, his in-laws and friends. Uncle W sure knows how to throw a party!

The food was standard 10-course Chinese fare, not quite spectacular, but then it wasn't the highlight of the evening. Most of the evening we were entertained by the 'live' musicians whose oldies repertoire took us past retro right into nostalgia. Each table had an ample supply of songsheets so we could sing along while we ate. Apart from the MC and the regular musicians, a few other 'guest performers' took turns with the mike, including a cannot-make-it blues singer who seemed to be making up the words as he played. Perhaps that's the nature of the blues?

I think June would have enjoyed the evening if she didn't have to go to Bangkok. They were playing songs from her favourite era.

But to think of a marriage that has lasted 50 years and is still going strong is such an inspiration. Uncle and Aunt have always been a loving couple, inseparable though all these years. In his address to his guests, he hinted at an incident many of us have by now taken for granted, and we got to see it from Aunt's perspective. She had to say 'goodbye' to him once when duty called, and she had no assurance that Uncle would return home alive again, or even if he would return home at all. But her unquestioning trust gave him the courage and assurance that what he was doing was the right thing to do. That operation is now a small, mostly forgotten, chapter in our local history books.

True love breeds true courage. 50 years on and looking ahead... for me and June, we've barely scratched the surface of what it means to be married to each other. As we sang along to those old songs, as we watched Uncle and Aunt dance... I really missed June last night.

Friday, April 06, 2007

I picked up C&C3, and after only 2 moderately successful campaigns on the GDI side I'm already getting my sorry butt severely booted by the Brotherhood, and I'm playing on 'easy' mode. So I like playing games, but obviously that doesn't make me any good at them.

No messing about with the venerable RTS formula for C&C3. Establish (or rescue) a base of operations, fortify base defences while simultaneously building up a massive army comprising a variety of capabilities. When ready, send the troops over the hill to wipe the enemy off the map.

The game is graphically a treat with destructible terrain and firefights that are awesome to behold. When units gain access to beam weapons and railguns they light the map up in a breathtaking firestorm whenever they encounter their opponents. Such eye candy makes even losing a few units bearable while learning not to do "that" again.

Setting the battles in context are live-action cutscenes with a number of characters played by actors on the sci-fi circuit. Michael Ironside and Billy Dee Williams head up the GDI, while Joseph Kucan and BSG's Tricia Helfer lead the Brotherhood. Helfer's BSG compadre, Grace Park (whoohoo!), lends a supporting role -- now, there's a reason to get through a battle and open the next cutscene quickly!

This is a game more suited for multi-taskers. There are resources to balance and allocate, favourite units to keep an eye on, and battles to wage on a number of fronts. People like me who can only focus on one problem at a time frequently have their asses handed back to them on a plate. Never mind. If I can't multi-task, I can still exercise my persistence and resilience, and the payback they get when I finally succeed will be sweet.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Well, he's a different Jim Carrey, anyway. Still playing crazy but in The Number 23, he isn't playing for laughs. His character, Walter, is gradually losing his mind thanks to an anonymously written novel his wife buys for him as a birthday gift.

As Walter reads his gift, he moves from indifference to mild interest, then to obsession and paranoia bordering on suicidal-homicidal tendencies. It's tense wondering what might send him over the edge. Walter's a bit like Carrey's other character, the Cable Guy, but with a deeper exploration into his psychosis and motivations.

The novel he reads seems to parallel his life and he comes to "realize" that the number 23 rules his life like a family curse. Applying numerology on the minutiae of his life -- e.g., name, birthday, address, memorable events -- somehow they all add up to 23, just like it does for the novel's protagonist.

As the gristly details of various characters' deaths in the novel come to light, Walter becomes convinced that they refer to real events, and that he is about to become the anonymous novellist's next victim.

For some people, literacy and mathematics are not a good thing.

Anyway, this whole numerology nonsense is all about finding things just because people start looking for them. We creep ourselves out observing the staggering coincidences between the assasinations of presidents Lincoln and Kennedy, for example. But if you think about it, the probability of the digits 2 and 3 appearing together at any time is as high as any other pair of numbers appearing together: only 1 in 89, if I calculate correctly. And when we accept multiples of the 2 digits, plus the reverse order of the digits, the odds shrink significantly lower still. 23 could rule your life as well! Coincidence? I think not!
I take Strip's Innuendo of the Week Award back. I will re-award it to my very own Department for the outcry we made about our staff welfare fruit entitlement:

Today's fruit was banana, and this batch was slightly underripe, had been left in the sun in transit and was personally delivered to us by HP.

Mel: This banana is hot and hard!!!
Me: HP, how did you handle my banana? Why's it all sticky???
Amy: It came like that.

Oooo...k. 'nuff said.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Xmac's Innuendo of the Week Award goes to the print ad in today's ST, page 3:

"Special clearance for virgin forests
Why beat around the bush any further?
Make STRIP your first time and we will shave half the price off"

The ad is for Brazilian waxing!


Sunday, April 01, 2007

So foreign students are kicking the butts of our local students in contests and in academic grades. Why's everyone so broken up about that? Speaking as a previous "foreign student," I don't find it surprising at all.

It's not the education system. How we educate our kids doesn't differ much from place to place. Sure, the packaging may look more attractive here and there, but the simple formula remains: kids either make the effort to learn, or they muck about and waste their time -- and everyone else's.

It's the fact that they're consciously identified as "foreign" that makes the difference. Like it or not, it takes a lot more for them to be assimilated into their host country, so they tend to work harder at it. Since they're going to stand out anyway, it might as well be for the right reasons than for the wrong ones.

They also have more at stake. The costs are higher to be based overseas, and there's the constant reminder that there's a significantly higher investment their parents have put into them than their locally-schooled compatriots. So if they like where they're staying, they'd better give their parents the expected (or better) ROI, or risk getting yanked back home again.

Besides, the personal investment is also pretty steep. Having to move away from friends and loved ones for a few years to study means making the personal commitment to make the separation count for something to make the pain worthwhile.

Having the best of two or more worlds gives them a huge advantage in appreciating and understanding learning points better than mere locals.Foreign students have a much larger worldview than locally bred students, being that they have the experience of another world, another lifestyle that they either wish to improve or live up to. After all, they're already living in a situation in which they have to ask questions and learn things quickly or they won't survive long in their strange new world.

Of course there are colossal failures as well, but we don't notice them much. They arrive with a big superiority complex and when things don't match up to their expectations they get homesick and flunk out. Good riddance.

But the fact is, the foreign kids who are doing well here are thriving because they really do like it here. That's something we should be proud of as their hosts. We must be doing something right to attract so many of them, and having them beat the pants off us means we have a new standard to reach for. The alternative is to forever remain stagnant, boring as ditchwater. And let the world pass us by.

As a foreign student, I surprised myself topping classes that I seemed out of place in: the only Oriental kid in English Lit. back then. Except for the class in feminist theory that was mostly populated by angry single-mothers, that is -- that one I hid under the table most of the time. As far as I knew, no one begrudged me my success. Perhaps that's because Canada recognizes itself as predominantly immigrant populated anyway, and it's a fact that we Singaporeans need to wake ourselves up to. We'll gain so much more if we learn to include rather than perfunctorily exclude.