Friday, December 07, 2007

Working breakfast at Cafe Les Amis, Botanic Gardens. Great ambiance for a relaxing brainstorming session 'cos there's good food, big tables and we can do the road warrior thing there as well, HP discovered. Thankfully, the weather was kind. It was cool but no precipitation for the duration of our meeting. And there's the added advantage of taking Q-tip for a stroll on the grounds after.

It was on our stroll that we encountered this guy, by the edge of the big pond where the bandstand is. The pic is a little hard to make out, but it's a squirrel looking like it's doing some exotic foraging. At least, that's what I thought when I snapped this shot. Cute, right?

Idiot! The squirrel was actually in serious trouble, but I only realized it's situation when it lost its toehold and slipped into the pond.

As it splashed around in the water, I lay on my stomach to reach it, but I couldn't get a proper grip on it. Between my flailing fingers it sank like a stone. I could only watch in anguish as fewer and fewer bubbles broke the water's surface. Then they stopped altogether.

I lay there for a long time, hoping for it to resurface by some miracle, but there were no miracles today.

If only I pegged onto what was happening sooner. If only I wasn't such a photojournalist, so anxious to grab a shot of a cute animal. The precious seconds I wasted cost the little guy its life, and this dumb photo can now only serve as its obituary.

I'm going to be beating myself up over this incident for a long time to come. I'm upset, sad, and so very guilty.

Sorry, l'il fella...

Thursday, December 06, 2007

There is Project Work that is such a drag for everyone when it is a compulsory subject, then there is the real deal in which 16-17 year old students spend their holidays working on treating diseases like tuberculosis and bone disorders. The prize is a US$100k college scholarship, so there's something of an incentive, but I believe the money is more a bonus to these kids than the prime factor.

Yes, these are especially outstanding kids to be working at such a mature level, but I'm just amazed that there can be such a gap between them and our regular teenager, since they are the exact same age, after all.

What's it going to take to close the gap even just a little? From what I can see, these kids aren't just textbook smart. They are audacious enough to attempt working on things most adults have no grasp of. There's confidence in their own abilities, yet humility as well in learning from every opportunity. They believe in what they're doing, and know that it's worthwhile as people who are suffering may in time benefit from their study.

Now, that's studying with a purpose. Fox News interviews the grand prize winners of the Seimens Science Competition. Click here.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

To have friends among the people you work with is a major factor in 1) making the job worthwhile, and 2) though the job isn't always fun, at least it doesn't feel like work. I say I'm not a "people person", but keeping the company of a small group of trusted individuals is nevertheless important to me. The time-outs we share while off-duty make up much of my sense of well-being, and I hope they feel the same way.

The last couple of days had me running around like crazy. Tuesday Amy, HP and I dropped in on Vays at Mount A to see how she and the new addition to her family were doing. We arrived at feeding time so hubby, TW, showed us his digital pix of "Doudou" while we waited. When we got to meet the kid in person, she looked peacefully contented, and Vays herself was upbeat as she recounted her delivery experience to us. After our visit, it was off home again to freshen up for the Prom (previous post).

Today, due to some mis-organization on my part, I spent the morning gift shopping with B-lo. The purchase was relatively painless, although we were getting a little worried when the first few stores we inquired at didn't have what we wanted in stock. But we did eventually find it in time for a nice set lunch at the Greenhouse. For what we usually pay at Friends, the set here includes a generous portion of sides apart from the entree. There was quite a variety of veggie-things, while the sirloin went down easily despite being slightly more done than I prefer. And B-lo had her own hunk of meat to drool over.

After lunch, we ran to meet Mel and Wayne for "Enchanted". What a piece of fluff. It had some gloriously funny moments, in particular the big number in Central Park, but while it tried to splice together elements from different popluar fairy tales, I felt they weren't as skilfully woven in as say, Shrek, or Neil Gaiman's intricate storytelling. Perhaps I'm asking too much. "Enchanted" was sweet but predictable.

Then I ran off again to collect June for dinner. It was the core of our usual breakfast company that reconvened at the Ellenborough Market Cafe to feast on the Peranakan buffet. Specifically, we were there for the durian puree that was cold, smooth and creamy, and without the seeds and spikes to get in the way of durian bliss. The other dishes were nice too.

Back to work in the morning, but I'm ready.
The Prom was a little tamer this year. Possibly because of the sit-down 10-course Chinese dinner and the presence of more senior staff that's why things felt a little more formal.

Not that the kids weren't having fun, they were playing along with the table games and being very competitive about it, but the cheering, clapping and general noisemaking for one another didn't exactly feel like it involved everybody. Perhaps they were saving their energy for the post-prom party later in the evening?

Or maybe I'm a bit jaded, having sat through the same MC's schtik for the third time already. I know his jokes, his routines, and despite minor variations here and there, it's usually funniest just the first time.

I promised to get some pix for NYconneX so I was also busy with my cam. Above with me are Que and Taily in one of the very few personal shots I took last night.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

I have never played Hitman, but I went to watch the movie anyway. The Hitman in question is a nattily dressed bald guy with a barcode tattooed on the back of his head. How that makes him inconspicuous in a crowd, I wouldn't know.

His backstory gives him a reason for being as emotional as a hypothermic doorstop. He, and many others like him, have been raised from childhood as smart, efficient killing machines by the nameless Organization. Its clientèle are none less than political heads of state who order clandestine hits for reasons Joe Voter will never understand. The Hitmen are that good, and that expensive. No doubt the Organization itself has an agenda to run in its own interest.

In this movie, Number 47 takes the job of assassinating the Russian president, but realizes very quickly that his client has set him up. His client's agenda is so sensitive that even the Hitman himself has to be eliminated as a potential witness. 47 then has to survive hits from his own colleagues and the Russian secret police, and dodge a persistent Interpol officer hot on the trail of a phantom killer. Meanwhile, out of the goodness of his heart, he protects another witness: a woman who keeps taking her clothes off for him only to be rejected and rebuffed every time. No distractions on the job, or while trying to stay alive, 47 is such a pragmatist.

In whatever situation 47 is in, he firmly remains in control. On the job, his preparations are extensive, every detail thought through, ensuring a clean hit and getaway. His fighting skills get him out of unexpected situations, and at no time do we feel 47 is in any danger. For him, everything that happens is part of his plan, and he does have a lot of foresight.

Perhaps that's why we can't really get into the story much. Our sympathies are more for the bad guys as we wonder what 47 has in store for them, rather than for 47 himself. With the protagonist this strong and invincible, we just coast through the narrative. Though we may revel in the carnage of gunplay and thrill to the swordfighting sequence, the experience is like playing on God-mode. You get to finish the story, but there's little sense of accomplishment at the end.