Saturday, January 23, 2010

Replacement sofa

Say hello to our new Sea Horse sofa, a significant downgrade from the one it's replacing. At least the new one is neat and because it's a little smaller, our once cramped living room now feels more spacious.

Tong had also dropped by to help us with some home repairs -- a leaky kitchen tap for one, and to troubleshoot a lighting problem in the bedroom. And Ling helped us save $35 which the delivery guys were charging us to dispose of the old sofa. No, she didn't carry it off herself; she reminded us that the Town Council provides a bulky item removal service for free. We'll give them a call on Monday.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A sad tale with ice-cream

When our doorbell rings we normally won't bother to see who's there unless we have a prior heads up that we should be expecting guests or a delivery. But there was no way to pretend no one was home because our living room lights were on and the TV volume was up.

It was a young fellow at the door with a heart-wrenching story about how he had to help his mother support his family of three brothers, blah, blah, and would we be so kind as to purchase some ice-cream from a small styrofoam box he was carting around?

It was the same type of ice-cream our local vendor-uncles sell in the form of wafers and sandwiches from off their motorbike sidecars. He had a variety of flavours too and so happened he was able to supply us with sweetcorn and his last carton of raspberry ripple. How much? $20 for the two cartons we had taken off his hands. Blink, blink... a tad steep, but who were we to cast a wet blanket over youthful entrepreneurism, right?

That was last night. Tonight while we were over at M-i-L's, a girl approached the gate with a story about how she had to work to pay her school fees, blah, blah, and would we be so kind as to purchase some ice-cream from a small styrofoam box she was carting around...?

Next time we want ice-cream at a premium, we'll walk to the supermarket for Ben and Jerry's. And we'll savour it while wearing headphones over our ears and watching TV in the dark. Call first if you want to visit.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Eyes on the prize

NYeDC is back in competition this year. The dreaded S'pore Youth Festival (Drama) has spun another revolution and it's our cue that's been called. The pressure's on and there are forces behind the scenes that remind us that there needs to be an achievement goal to attain or better otherwise we shouldn't have bothered trying at all. Failing to meet our expectations assumes that the human/financial/time resources would have gotten a better return if it had been invested elsewhere. Or in short, just FAIL.

Here's a dilemma that we tend to get ourselves into. When kids join a CCA, is it for their own enrichment and exposure, or is it for the development and training of their talents? The choir is currently holding auditions because it wants the most musically inclined kids to make up its numbers. Sports groups have trials to select the best talents to represent the college. There's always a prize to be won, and everyone wants the best possible chance to win it. The prize, or how close a CCA gets to it is the justification for the existence that CCA. Life is cold, hard and practical. No return, no investment.

Lament all you want, that's the way it is. CCAs are serious business.

Which is why I'm so glad to have caught tonight's episode of "Glee" on Star World. All this negative thinking has been weighing me down lately, and even though it's a TV show it was refreshing to look at my situation from different perspective. Glee follows the misadventures of a talented but dysfunctional high school choir as it prepares for the National Championship. The budget to keep the club running, the aspirations of the Glee club members, the passion of the teacher fighting to keep the club alive are all on the line -- they've bet the farm on the Nationals. It's not an unfamiliar situation to us CCA I/Cs.

But "Glee" recognizes one thing that I may have forgotten in my funk. Kids join a CCA to become good at something. That's what the CCA offers them: the training, the advice, the encouragement, the exposure, and ultimately, the benchmark by which they can measure in concrete terms how good they have gotten, and how far they still have to keep going if they really want to make use of their talents in the future.

We may not like working towards the prize. We may not like working under the pressure. But without either the prize to aim at, and without the pressure to keep the engines running, there wouldn't be any point to working at all.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Dual income

My wife works and I stand to gain more from this financial arrangement between spouses, according to the Pew Research Center. But that's basic mathematics [2(income)/x(dependants) > 1(income)/y(dependants), where y>=x], isn't it?

But my puzzlement is more regarding the question of why when more women are getting an education more men are not, and when more women are entering the workforce more men are losing their jobs? That's what the numbers are implying... or am I reading them wrongly?

Assuming gender bias isn't clouding my judgement, it seems that on the whole, men and women don't like sharing gender roles. When women started moving into once male-dominated areas, the guys quit the field. Whether in education or career, work or housekeeping, the main trends point to an either-or proposition -- one gender occupies one domain, the other gender occupies the corresponding domain.

But it's still too early to see if this revolution will result in a complete reversal of our traditional gender roles. Probably not, I think, but in the meantime I'm not going to be an old-fashioned patriarch about it. My wife works and our combined income makes for a more comfortable lifestyle for both of us than I could provide for myself on my own. Can't see anything wrong with that.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Out of idle, into first

We're three weeks into the year and the first batch of assignments has already arrived to be graded. It'll be a struggle to get the momentum back, seeing as how the brain is still fuzzy having just reanimated from winter hibernation.

Also had my first meeting with a whole new committee comprising Meng, YJ and Loke. The meeting went chop chop with a liberal sprinkling of mad ideas and terrible jokes around the table. And we still managed to get a plan shaped up within an hour. Well, the rough outline of one, anyway.

Yep, the work year has definitely begun.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Pickles in hand

Thanks to Jen, we've started on a programme joining her and her family to cook and deliver a dinner dish to the residents of the Gift of Love Home every third Sunday of the month. June whipped up a chix stew cooked according to a fairly standard recipe which we then transported over to join with the other volunteers' dishes for a residents' pot-luck.

The home is for the destitute elderly, many of whom are wheelchair-bound. At five o'clock sharp with everyone arranged at their tables, the dinner-bell sounded, everyone recited grace and immediately got on to the business of eating. Although we were encouraged to engage the residents in light dinner conversation, I being such a terrible conversationalist was ever so grateful to be handed a container of achar (mixed shredded pickles) and told to just serve.

In less than a half hour, dinner was over, the crockery and cutlery were washed, tables cleared and wiped down, the floor was mopped and disinfected, and the residents had moved off to whatever programme was awaiting them next.

For us, "next" was dinner with our families. Which is kinda' sad 'cos the people we'd just served don't themselves have family to go back to. That's why they're here.