Saturday, March 07, 2009

Historic morning

College Sports Carnival was today. For the first time, our venue was ECP. Programme was simple; either sign up for a competitive 3 klik trot or a carefree 2 klik stroll on the beach.

As beings of remarkable foresight, June and I met Jojo and Derek for brekkie at McD's before our event. Inside, it was muffins, sausage, hot cakes and scrambled eggs. Outside, the rains swept over with sheets of wet. Just as we'd finished our meal, the word came round: Sports Carnival cancelled due to inclement weather.

Shortest Sports Carny in history. But it could also prove to have been an historic breakfast. The women have an idea which I think has lots of potential. More on that when things develop further.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Strange coincidence

WoW suddenly gets two mentions in the local news on the same day, being associated with the deaths of two promising young men in separate incidents. Both the army doctor and the undergrad were reported as accomplished WoW players, the former "one of the top 10 Warcraft players in Singapore and was among the top 100 in the world", the latter "suddenly threw himself into it with a vengeance, spending as much as six hours a day huddled in front of his PC."

Hope nobody gets too clever and attempts to assert a causual link between computer gaming and strange behaviour leading to deaths under mysterious circumstances. But it's just too convenient and tempting not to.
On a separate note, congrats to the KIds, all of whom passed, ZH being our first ever 'Ace'! And it was great to be reunited with NBS, my partner in crime, again. We celebrated with a MOS and breathed a collective sigh of relief that we didn't let them down after all. Yay!

Who watched the Watchmen?

Me! Wow.

Yes, "Watchmen" the movie is based on a superhero graphic novel. Yes, there are odd-looking people in eyebrow-raising costumes walking among ordinary people in everyday dress. Yes, improbable gadgets are part of an arsenal of other impractical designs. They are there to remind us that this is a story about superheroes who live and struggle to co-exist in our imperfect world -- a world even their vaunted superpowers cannot help.

One feature that stands out in a movie of this genre is that there is no super-villain to fight. No arch-nemesis who plots world-domination that would give a team of superheroes a raison d'etre for their existence. The closest thing to one is a frail old man who has long given up his evil-suit and his evil ways, suffering from cancer and living off a meagre pension awaiting death.

The fact is, superheroes do not need a supervillain to trouble humankind. Superheroes themselves ARE sufficent trouble for us. They are us, flawed, psychologcally warped and twisted as we already are, but enhanced with superpowers. And really, the Watchmen individually don't have much by way of their powers to distinguish one hero from another. They are generally super strong, super fast, super tough, regardless of what name or costume they wear. When superpowers meet normal human strength, it is not a pretty sight. Bones break -- badly, blood spatters on contact. It's just a matter of degree.

In that sense, the Watchmen are a parallel of the Olympian gods and goddesses in Greek mythology, with their infighting and the spillover of that into the lives of mortal men. Some are amoral, like the Comedian who behaves much like the Joker would if he was on the side of law-enforcement, and whose murder begins the story. There are those who see the world in completely black-and-white terms, like the disturbed Rorschach, for whom good is good and evil must die a horrible death. And there are those whose powers far exceed those of human ken, like Dr Manhattan, confused about humanity's doings from his cosmic perspective. With heroes like these, who needs villains any more?

Nevertheless, they all feel responsible for the well-being of people, yet are hampered by their own human weaknesses and a sense of hopelessness that they can do nothing to stop human depravity from annihilating us all.

The world is on the brink of nuclear war, only hours away from The Button being pushed. With a supervillain, the solution is simple: beat up the bad guy, destroy his toys, save the world. But with superheroes vs (national) superpowers, the problem has become infinitely more complex; the solution perhaps more drastic than can be conscionable.

"Watchmen" does not promise brainless entertainment. The plot's throughline gets interrupted often with flashbacks adding little bits of exposition at a time. It's also disconcerting to watch the Watchmen not behave in the way we've come to expect from our heroes -- the mask only hides the face, but can't hide human nature lurking beneath the skin. And at the end, we, the audience are left to judge if in the use of power, even for the greater good, the end justifies the means.

Heavy stuff. Lots of dialogue; short, intense bursts of action; moral shocks and dilemmas to ponder over; nobility mixed in with a lot of nastiness; a movie that requires concentration and active reflection. Did I like it? Yes! But I felt quite drained after.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Sick? Leave!

If only our staff would follow the above advice, we might not be falling sick so often.

Today we had a lecture shared between Paul and Madam A. Coincidentally, both called in on medical leave, and we were stranded without a lecturer. It was a bit of a scramble, but Amy and I very quickly went through their notes and slides to cobble a lecture together on their behalf.

It's a bit strange going over other people's materials because there are often blanks and knowledge gaps that the speakers' would fill in on their own through a personal anecdote, aside, POV, or some visual material to present. Occasionally we stand-ins may not agree with a point here and there, or we feel that we have better material to illustrate it. So over brekkie we got me prepped to take the mike and pinch lecture for our absent colleagues.

When I got down to the LT, Madam A was already there, breaking her curfew. Somehow, she had got wind that we had no lecturer and so she made her way to campus -- croaky voice and all -- to take back the mike that was rightfully hers. One hour later, after having delivered her lecture and cleansing her conscience, we promptly chased her off campus.

There's something about our college that makes us want to pitch in and do whatever it takes to get our jobs done. There's a certain pride we take in doing a good piece of work. It's part ownership and part not letting the team down, and part because we have a strong belief in the rightness of what we are doing. And as Amy once pointed out, we aren't a calculating people either.

But we do need to take better  care of our health too.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

New vocab: "Sidebarring"

I thought Professional Development (PD) was sort of exclusive to us? It seems we have copied from the Americans again, along with the problems that go with it... being that teachers make the worst students. Click here.

Monday, March 02, 2009

I will survive

Again, not much time other than to post a few links. CNN's got this series on people who are finding ways to survive this economic downturn and it seems like a good time to share some good news amidst the gloom so here goes:
And a story from China!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

An enlightened 21st century robot employer

I am no technophobe. This is the 21st century and I own a robot. It keeps my floor clean, not perfectly but adequately.

I can't help anthropomorphosizing (omg, a 20-letter word!) it. When I push its activation button, it make a cheery beeping sound and backs out of its charging unit all busy and anxious to get to work. It bumps around blindly as it crosses and recrosses the floor picking up bits of debris as it goes.

It's a rudimentary trial-and-error function but it's persistent enough to get the job done. I'm even forgiving of the occasional missed spots -- considering that it works more like a child's toy than an actual intelligent machine, I'm surprised it can deliver the results that it does.

I even worry for it when it starts to lose its charge. When that happens, it will home in on a radio signal the charging base sends out to guide it back to safety and sustenance. But it becomes a game of "hot and cold" as the robot continues to bump around the room trying to locate the signal, sometimes getting close only to be bumped away when it hits a wall or some other obstacle in its path. Will it ever make it back in time before its batteries deplete completely? It's painful to watch, and I have to resist the urge to pick it up and carry it home myself when at times it looks so hopelessly lost.

But so far, the only times it has failed to find its way home was once when we accidentally switched off the charging base (duh) and another time when it jammed on a dishrag that had inadvertently fallen to the floor. But otherwise, it's always been at the last minute able to find the correct vector and go home on its own. As it docks, it chirps its relief, then settles down for a nice quiet nosh until we call it out for duty again, usually the next day.

That's my little robot, my almost fifth pet. So if that's how I'm like with robots as an enlightened 21st century robot employer, then why does the US Army's "Big Dog" send a shiver of fear down my spine?