Saturday, August 23, 2008

Shopping spree

Put out another wad of cash for fixtures and fittings for our new place. Sinks, taps, crappers, showers, and a water heater for our two bathrooms, and a hob and hood set for the kitchen.

Seems we got a good deal from this lobang of Tong's. We got varying discounts on each item, depending on the branding, and a small overall discount if we paid cash outright.

It was funny to see all of us us emptying our wallets and counting all the cash we had brought with us to qualify for that last discount. May helped out a lot with her own cash in hand while the store accepted the balance via NETS payment.

So, slowly, painfully, our new premises are coming together.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Farewell, HP!

Full shots viewable here: HP’s Farewell

We played a dreadful trick on HP. We arranged to throw her a going-away dinner at Josh's place, then at the last minute this afternoon, a significant number of us either called, SMS'ed or personally conveyed our apologies for not being able to attend due to some pretext or other. It was a little heartbreaking to make her feel so disappointed, but there was no other way to pull off the surprise we planned for her.

So when we seemingly popped out of nowhere while Josh was giving her the grand tour of his house we gave her quite a shock, and she couldn't stop laughing for a while.

While we ate, we watched Li crash out of the Olympics third place match in table-tennis. Almost a repeat performance from Athens, last time around. The Chinese are just too good.

And, as efficient as I knew them to be, Amy & Co pulled out a cake with a candle on it for me. It was a rich chocolate/white chocolate confection from Bengawan Solo. I'd already blown out a candle at M-i-L's last night, but I guessed my pals opted for surprising me today 'cos there really wasn't any time to do it yesterday. Thanks ppl!

Now, back to HP: anyone fancy an early morning drive to the airport?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Bloodsuckers Top 10

song chart memes
more graph humor and song chart memes

Consider today's ST report on the S'pore's Top Ten absconders of other people's moolah. Out of ten, SIX represent the legal profession. You draw your own conclusions.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Templates and worksheets and kids

Template worksheets are a horror to me. They bore me with their routine fill-in-the-blanks repetition, leaving little scope for outside the box thinking. The point of the template is to think within the box/es provided in any case. It's an extrinsic form of discipline, forcing a particular and artificial flow of thinking through an equally artificial problem, giving the impression that there is only one path to a solution.

But that's just me. I discovered today that kids and templates are a marriage made in heaven. How to make kids sit and focus on a piece of work? Give them a template exercise and they'll be furiously scribbling away, trying their darndnest to fill up the empty boxes like a salaryman attacking a sudoku puzzle. And I sit there with one raised eyebrow wondering why it's gone so quiet all of a sudden.

True, it's an exercise we've done several times over already, so the familiarity must have something to do with it. The structure helps focus and discipline easily-distracted minds to the routine task.The steps to solving the problem are spelled out and the expectations are clear. Or clearer, anyway, than just a blank sheet of paper and a mess of possibilities.

Me, I learn intuitively and introspectively. I enjoy the freedom to explore, to pick up ideas, and arrange them in different kinds of odd combinations. Must be due to the lack of education I received during my formative years. To force me to think within a set framework -- and grade me for compliance -- is quite an anathema to my personal develoment, and I was in my day quite a hopeless student.

But the kids are different. Mainstream-schooled, they need their structures and their scaffolding. For them, step-by-step is the way to go. Fine. Point taken.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A chink in the armour

I'm as proud as any S'porean (apart from the regular gripey malcontents on STI) about our paddlers' team silver at the Olympics. The team did well enough to demolish its opponents in its group, and fought tooth and nail in the semis, but despite its steamrolling success it didn't pick up enough momentum to beat the last opponent, China, in the finals.

I realise to ask for a gold would appear ungrateful, but I am playing a game of "what if?". Could Li, Wang and Feng have taken Zhang, Guo and the other Wang? It may have been difficult, but not impossible since all are top-ranked competitors in the sport. So it isn't in capability that our team faced a disadvantage.

No, what worked against us was having too much respect for the opponent, both in its top seeding and in its partisan home support. This really was China's party, and we tiny upstarts weren't in any position to make them cry if we wanted to. And we didn't want to, anyway; it wasn't in the unwritten 'script'. Perhaps in a more neutral country we wouldn't have been so overawed.

That's one mental block our athletes have yet to work around. We tend to play for what SHOULD be, not what MIGHT be. Our nation can be embarassingly audacious in many respects, but not yet in the sporting arena.

To add another two cents, here's an observation from an armchair critic about our silver medallists: They give away too much about their emotional state in their body language at the table. There's annoyance, frustration and resignation written as clear as day on their faces and postures. While it looks like great passion and drama for a television audience, it's also a dead giveaway to their opponents as to who has the upper hand. They may play excellent ping-pong but horrible poker.

The key to a winning game is in maintaining composure under pressure. An upright stance and a cool face even when losing reflects attitude and control. It can be difficult to master, emo beings that we are, but it pays dividends. "If you're putting up an act for others to see, you can end up fooling yourself too," according to tennis player, Kay Kay Magi. And that bit of self-deception could be just the thing to turn a match around.

And it doesn't even have to apply in just sport.

*Er... no pun intended in the title. Honest.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Olympic silver for our girls

Not often a Head-of-State's national address gets upstaged by a sporting event on primetime TV. Still, it was a match of national importance, an historic occasion and something to cheer about in gloomy times.

The final score was 3-0, but the girls had already won before the match started. They didn't go in to turn the world on its head; it was quite enough that they delivered on their promise. An Olympic silver in a team event to break a near half-century drought is, indeed, something to celebrate.

We certainly do have great girls, go-getters all; inspirational, competitive, showing fire and determination and a lion-hearted fighting spirit. Fabulous, brave, beautiful to behold. We're proud of our girls, including the little swimmer who was the toast of our town not too many days ago.

My question is, where are us guys in all of this? Our national achievements are running on women-power alone, while we guys are either too wimpy, or having a too beer-swiggin'ly good time watching our better halves on TV to match them in ambition and drive.

Perhaps we've identified with our lion city too closely?

It's probably why the PM's so worried. The lion-lioness metaphor isn't working. There ain't no little cubs swelling our pride. But honestly, if I were a lioness myself, I'd be a tad suspicious of the local gene pool too.