Saturday, October 10, 2009

When 100% is not enough

If we accept the theory of evolution as true, then S'poreans deserve to be the first species to go extinct.

Look at the fuss and furore over this year's PSLE math paper. Kids are crying, and parents of kids who are crying are "up in arms" and threatening to storm Castle FrankenMOE with torches and pitchforks. What monstrosity has arisen out of the beleaguered castle this time? Only the hideous spectre of an exam that was difficult to score 100% in.

And why do I assess the local citizenry to be deserving of extinction? It's because we've proven yet again (as we did two years ago) that we're too easily satisfied, too complacent in thinking that 100% = everything. That kind of thinking is what's going to kill us all.

There are certain assumptions that go with a score of 100% in a written exam. 1) It means having studied all there is to learn of the subject. 2) It means all conditions played out to one's best advantage in order for every problem to be solved within the time limit.

The first assumption cannot be true because knowledge is too infinite to confine within the limited scope of a curriculum of study. 100% therefore means we're satisfied with what we know, and there's nothing more to learn.

As for the second assumption, perfect results means perfect conditions, and perfect conditions seldom occur in real life. In truth, perfect conditions usually occur when we lower the bar of our expectations and accept fudged standards as "good enough".

Always gunning for 100% is dangerously closed-minded, especially for kids aspiring to pursue further education in Math and the Sciences. 100% is good enough for lab techs and test-tube washers (do what you're told -- get 100% every time!), but unacceptable to leading edge researchers who are constantly working to devise new methods to learn more about our universe. Trial and Error. The journey, not the destination.

We cannot afford to breed a generation of children who think 100% is an end in itself. Going by their response, parents aren't helping here. This fixation is a mental rot that will translate into their children's lives, making them unable to cope with the need to think and read beyond their curriculum, the need to sometimes reach beyond our perceptions of "necessary" and "possible" in order to create and maintain this "knowledge economy" we are struggling to remake ourselves into.

It's not the kids who aren't scoring 100% anyway that I'm worried about, but the ones that are and are now viewing themselves as failures because for them only 100% will do. Unfortunately, they're to ones who represent our best and brightest, and if their minds remain trapped in the 100% box, I shudder for the rest of us who will fall under their leadership one day. Most likely, it'll be their parents who will be making their decisions and wiping their noses for them at the same time. A recipe for disaster, if I ever saw one.

Please, don't be content with a hundred per cent. Rather, score below and work for mo' (or MOE! Heh.)

Pain in a bottle

At Sunset:

Our table: half-dozen buffalo wings, Level 5.

Immediate neighbouring table: half-dozen buffalo wings, Level 30!

Ok, I'm not sure how Sunset's Levels compare with the official Scoville-scale that runs into the millions of units, but To*ny was already being (as Wayne described) "dramatic" over his Level 5 wing. At the next table the two Aussies, after some of their own dramatics, plunged into their Level 30s, while making sure everyone around them knew the magnitude of the feat they were attempting.

We were an easy mark for them to ham up to, right up to them offering one of us (i.e., To*ny, though Wayne was seriously assessing his own level of bravado) a wing, but failing which came round with their plate and gave each of us a finger dip of evil red sauce just to savour on the tips of our tongues. As a dutiful audience, we absolutely and publicly confirmed to the other diners in the restaurant that just a smudge of Level 30 was unadulterated liquid pain in a bottle.

It starts out with no sensation, then as the seconds tick by the intensity of the burn builds up until all consciousness collapses into a single shard of focus on the points of direct contact between lips, tongue and throat and the liquid sauce that probably originated from Seletar Airport's jet fuel supplies. Both June and To*ny reported temporary auditory dysfunction, though that was not my experience.

Amy, HP and Mel were content to just sit back and watch our self-immolation.

I think our confirmation of the two guys' insanity gratified them more than both the cert they received and having their names pasted on the Wall honouring those who have completed the challenge. There is no bravery without an incredulous audience to witnesses the performance.

Congrats, Mr Black Dog and buddy! You've inspired Wayne to come back next time and try Level 6!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Paperless clinic

Bukit Batok Polyclinic goes paperless: "no paper trail... from registration to check-out." But I have to ask, what about my MC? Oh, and the toilets? Hmm, not stocking toilets could help ANA enforce their go-before-you-fly approach to reducing aircraft carbon emissions. As long as they don't serve baked beans in-flight.

Random. Sorry.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Talking c*ck on TV

On his nationally televised talk show, Mr Letterman confesses his indiscretions and the consequences are a nasty letter from NOW, and an angry wife and co-workers to whom he makes a public apology. On another talk show halfway around the world, Mr Abdul-Jawad "brags" about his exploits on national TV and gets handed a 5-year jail sentence and 1000 lashes.

When are East and West ever going to find any common ground from which even the faintest glimmer of hope for peace between the two can spark? Not in this lifetime, anyway.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

MUA2 side mission tips (spoiler alert)

I hate to brag, but I can be justifiably proud of myself for unlocking the entire team roster in MUA2 on Hard mode. On the Wii, that means completing all the Bonus Missions within the time limit and garnering a quota of points after which the character becomes playable as a team member in the main quest.

The more challenging missions are the solo ones, so I'll share the secrets of some of my successes here.

Jean Grey: use telekenesis (hold B) to slam those cranky bipedal bombs into the cars, thus clearing them easily and quickly so there's more time to devote to the battle with the Grey Gargoyle.

Gambit: use 52 Pickup liberally to break open boxes, junk and hidden rooms hiding those pesky hard-to-find data disks.

Thing: stun everybody with Hand Clap. 'nuff said.

Green Goblin: Spinning Blades is insanely lethal. Repeatedly 1-shot kill respawing Negative Zone guards until very close to quota, then after setting a bomb in the middle of the irritating electrified room, run for cover and stand at the exit doorway, continuing to kill guards until the exit door opens. As long as Gobby remains in the doorway, he can't be electrocuted.

Venom: Same mission as Gobby, except without the bomb setting task. Venom is easier because the mission allows a full team complement. Just keep killing respawning guards until quota.

Songbird: The most challenging thing is to keep the scientists she is escorting alive through the whole mission. Cast Sonic-Scream Shield and refresh often to keep her healthy and enemies weak. When she gets to a door, use Crushing Discord BEFORE opening it to kill enemies on the other side. She can hit them through the door, but they can't hit her. While Crushing Discord is good to use on Light mutants, Shrieking Slice works better on Heavies and Moonstone (Boss). Alternate the attacks when facing Moonstone 'cos Light mutants are attcking the scientists at the same time.

So, getting the whole team was do-able after all. Now the next challenge is to attain the Gold bonuses: same missions, higher quota of points to aim for.

Edit 01:
Huh! Been put in my place by the ST reviewer. Game is too easy, he says. So what? I like easy games.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Fishing for ideas

Gained a little insight into the kids' thought processes as they select essay questions. Facing 12 possible questions, they brainstorm as many anecdotal examples as they can think of per question, thus eliminating the questions they have no examples for. This wouldn't be a bad way to narrow 12 choices if not for the fact that most of the time they end up eliminating all 12, leaving the final option of 'whatever' which they then proceed to write -- example after example after example randomly associated with the topic area in question but with no regard to the question itself.

The kids are puzzled because they are not getting the rewards they think they are entitled to just because they've been able to re-tell several brain-cell killing pointless anecdotes they've forced themselves to study. They did study, didn't they? So why aren't they scoring like they expect? Simple, examples don't answer questions, no matter how long the list. I mean, examples are a fine and necessary thing, it's just that they alone are not the answer we're looking for.

If the question is "why?" the answer is "because." If the question is "should?" the answer is "why (or why not)." If the question is "how far" the answer is "under these specific conditions." If we think about answering the question, paying respect to its particular demands, then from a list of 12 questions, we have 12 options from which to choose our favourite.

By addressing the question, the relevant supporting evidence will surface without much effort. That is, as long as the kids have been keeping up with their daily readings. That's because the right context will locate the appropriate content. It's the difference between fishing in the ocean with random bait and fishing in a fish farm with a net. Ocean fishing is fun, but if we don't use the right bait we have no idea what we're going to catch, if anything at all. Fish farm fishing is hardly sporting, but we know what we're fishing for every time and we'll catch what we want.

GP is different. Unlike the other content subjects, we don't care what you KNOW. We care about what you THINK and if you have good reasons for thinking that way. Which is why our kids are still all lost at sea.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

MUA2 comes up short

The Wii version of MUA2 has less going for it than the PS3/360 version. I was wrong about alternate costumes -- there aren't any. Likewise, there aren't any special team bonuses for particular quartet combinations. And no special dialogues between particular character combinations. There are fewer cutscenes and storyline missions too. Overall, the game (regardless of whether we're playing Pro or Anti Registration) is short, lacking the cosmological scope of the previous MUA. :P

These little features don't really add all that much to the overall gameplay, but they are nice little touches, like garnish on meat and potatoes. The meal is still quite substantial, but the presentation doesn't make us go 'wow'. If the previous MUA didn't have them, I wouldn't have been looking for them in this one. But to remove them from the follow up is short-changing us players on quality while substituting it with, um... nothing. Well, the control system is easier to use, I'll give them that.

Ok, anyway, I think the best characters to have on the team are either Iceman or the Invisible Woman for powerful ranged attacks, a psionic like Jean Grey or Psylocke who can fusion with a bruiser like the Thing or the Hulk for a player-guided "Billiard Ball" attack (creates a hamsterball around said bruiser who then charges masses of enemies for huge damage -- even bosses don't stand up to this kind of assault for long). The fourth member can be just about anyone else, 'cos they're just coming along for the ride.

Don't get me wrong. I am having loads of fun with MUA2 as it is. There are still lots of team combinations and fusions I have yet to try out, and side-quests yet to conquer. They haven't taken the best bits out of the game, but it could have been so much tastier.