Friday, December 23, 2005

Little Things

What do you do when...

1. you're on the phone? Do you pull and fondle the hems of your shirt, roll and crumple any paper that happens to be in your hands, or scribble like mad on a note pad if there is one with a pen around?

2. someone is trying to bore your brains out with the most boring of conversations? Do you "hmmmm, oh, ic" all the way, look left, right, up and down every 10 seconds, or stare at his nose and pretend you're interested in the topic (while at the same time thinking of how ugly he is)?

3. you're in the dentist's chair with your mouth pried open and your teeth drilled into? Do you stare into the dentist's eyes, mask, throat or shirt collar and buttons, stare at the light or the ceiling, or close your eyes and try to imagine you're somewhere else?

4. you're waiting for a webpage to load? Do you stare at the page loading, drum your fingers on the mouse, or click on every other tab in the taskbar in turn just to take a glance at all your other opened windows?

5. you want to curse but your young son/daughter is within audible range? Well, I seriously think you shouldn't, but if you really want to, try using "droppings", "female dog" and "offspring of a female dog" instead of the usual ones.


Monday, December 19, 2005

Untitled ^^

Here's to all my friends: Merry Christmas, Happy Birthday, Happy New Year, Happy Birthday (different birthday girl *wink*) and Happy Chinese New Year.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Shorter is Better

There are lots of discrimination issues - racial, sexual, religious - even discrimination against overweight people; but never height discrimination. Yes, all over, people openly protest and fight against discrimination of others based on race, gender or religion, and never height - I am serious about it. And short people suffer much for being short! One'd never hear of anyone being too tall for anything - but too short, definitely! For one thing, to be an air-steward/stewardess, one has to be above a certain height. I have heard that it's because they have to be able to reach up to the cabinets for hand-luggages (it's lame, but ok, I'll buy it). The other irritating fact is that all models and beauty pageant contestants have to be obnoxiously tall. What - only tall is considered beautiful, and short is not? And it'd never crossed any minds that this is downright a full-fledged discrimination?

My fellow short friends and I have always thought that it is way better being at the height that we are. Not convinced? Let me share a classic then - my good friend Shali's 17 Reasons Why It's Better Being Short:

1. We have lower centers of gravity, thus we're much more stable (we don't go off-balance and fall easily even when standing up during the roughest of bus or train journeys)

2. We don't need to bend when we pass under signboard etc. (no unnecessary strains to the backbone)

3. We are granted a seating in the much talked-about "Penguin Clan" (our own secret society for the vertically-challenged)

4. We have a very low probability ( about 0.000001246) of being struck by lightning

5. We get to line up in front during assembly (every schoolgirl's dream - really!)

6. We'll look 17 all the time (now, nearly ten years past 17, we still need to show our ICs when entering casinos - that's a real compliment!)

7. We consume a lot less amount of cloth for our clothing - really environment-friendly creatures!

8. We get a lower fare going into the bus, zoos, museums etc. (has not happened to me yet, but it's a probable wishful thinking *grin*)

9. During hide-and-seek, we can hide in the smallest crevices (not to mention we can tuck our legs comfortably up around us when we sit in a standard-sized chair, whereas long-legged freaks have to leave them on the floor... haha)

10. Our hearts are much healthier because they don't need to pump vigorously - the distance between our hearts and our legs are not much!

11. We tend to react faster because our impulses have less distance to travel, and can, therefore, reach our brains much sooner.

12. We can float on water easily

13. We get to look like Ms Heng (our petite Physics teacher whom we love and idolise)

14. We look closely related to our ancestors... the chimps (try as you may, tall as you are, you cannot deny your origin!)

15. God spent much less time creating us (He's a busy man, He needs all the free time He gets)

16. We use a lot less water when we bathe.

17. We don't empty half the pool when we plunge in (also, we get to swim in both the adult's and the children's pools)

(For the record, Shali wrote this when she was 17)

Thursday, December 1, 2005

Service with a Scowl

I don't know what's so hard in putting up a pleasant countenance and adding a little pleasure in serving customers and making it enjoyable for them, so much so that companies have to spend money to train and provide incentives for their staff to please the customers. Still, I guess most of these are not working too well.

Within the last one week, I've had encountered bad service 3 times! Twice were with young, impertinent cashier girls, and once with an old fool of my company's HR executive. The problem with cashier girls are a little tricky - the business is not theirs, and they don't plan on holding on to that job until retirement - so what do they care? It's very irritating because you'd be handling your hard-earned money over to an ungrateful, black-faced, scowling brat. For the my recent two encounters, the impertinence included letting me wait, standing at the counters, then having the aforesaid black-faced cashiers come stomping in, snatching (literally) the money out of my hands, then pushing my change and purchases back at me without so much as a 'thank you'. Well, well! These days, I am more well-mannered than to spit my contempt back at these people. A few years ago, when a cashier woman (she's too old to be termed "girl") showed intolerable rudeness and inefficiency, I threw the item I was going to buy back at her, and stomped off, declaring I don't want it anymore. I'm not proud of what I did, but it felt good.

As for the HR old fool, I was very indignant because he'd chided me (in a very insulting manner) for not knowing who to look for for the cancellation of my leave. OK, I admit, it's a little bad that I've worked for the company for so long, and I still don't know the procedure - but hey, that shows that I'm always decided, and always planned my leaves so well, that I don't need to cancel or change the dates once I'd applied for them. And being a non-fickle minded person when it comes to taking days off, am I not doing that old fool a favour by not troubling him changes or cancellations? And to be insulted for that? I think he's seriously more of a liability than an asset to our organisation. What a babi hutan! (Readers, please excuse me language)

Is it really that hard to pleasant? I find it a personal pleasure to speak politely to people (even when I am not gaining anything by doing so) and to smile once or twice in the course of the conversation (although I do not have an enchanting smile). I guess, these days, too many of them are born with the notion that the world owes them a favour. And it's a trait that no amount of team-building or personal development courses will rid, unless they themselves strive to change for the better.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The First Time

I've sung with MeeMee many times but it was the first time I've sung with her in karaoke. It was for a mere 2 hours, and we didn't get to sing many of the songs we wanted to, but it was lovely nevertheless. The karaoke offered, much to my surprise, songs from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera. We sang a few but sadly, sounded nothing like the real thing. We'd make real good Banshees of the Opera though. :D

As for karaoke behaviour - while my colleagues are all bent on singing their best, and trying to keep to the keys (though sometimes they still fly off the key pretty wonderfully) and my friends, who never bothered about sounding good singing, holler about and dance on sofas, MeeMee puts all emphasis on showmanship - arms gestures, facial expressions, moving emotions in the singing voice. Can it be? Can it be Christine? BRAVO! We should do it more often :)

Friday, November 25, 2005

Duets For One

When I was an SAD (single, available and desperate) young lady - quite some years ago - I'd wanted a life-partner with certain degree of musical inclination. Not many people knew this (my husband knows, of course *smirks*) but my dear MeeMee does, simply because she had a similar interest - not in the same man, mind you - but in a life-partner who'd see more than bean-sprouts-fried-with-salted-fish when looking at written music. We'd once vowed that we'd get boyfriends who could sing (tolerably well - squeakers or croakers not accepted), or at least play an instrument.

I didn't think it would be very difficult - most guys in university could at least strum or pluck a few notes on a guitar. However, the wonderful man I had chosen to be my husband is totally tone-deaf. He plays no musical instrument, and can't sing at all. Even when our daughter approached him for a Twinkle-twinkle Little Star, he'd say "Ask mummy to sing" (and I almost always have to - that's why his job, instead, is cleaning the potty! *another smirk*) Once, I forced him to sing a song from the soundtrack of his favourite anime and recorded his singing. Everytime I played it, thereafter, he'd run to a corner, cover his ears and shout "la la la la..." to block out the awful sounds. About says all of his singing ability. But well, singing aside, he's a really good husband - does not smoke or consume alcohol or gamble or watch football (the last one is important, as MeeMee would no doubt agree also)

So there I am, always singing by myself, to myself. It is well that for most songs, I can do the female as well as the male vocal parts (though not as well as MeeMee can!). I'd been singing duets by myself so much that I'd even considered recording a song of myself singing a duet with myself. (Can't begin to imagine how awful it'd be, though)

I am not sure how MeeMee had fared in her quest for a musically-inclined partner so far (can he sing?). No worries, though, for even if we have duets for one for most of the time, when MeeMee and I get together, we can have Solos for Two. (now's the time you go "Awwww...")

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Resting Vocal Chords

For now, yes - my vocal chords indeed are resting very well. With no plans for karaoke so far, my guess is, my vocal chords will continue to rest pretty well until the next semester begins. For the past couple of years, my colleagues and I had developed the ritual of singing away the cumulated frustrations in-between semesters. I would say that these singing sessions were always most anticipated, given that singing is really a passion for me. Not that I only sing when I'm in the karaoke, but having a bunch of fun-loving people (who don't mind going off-key and off-rhythm) to sing, scream and laugh with certainly does make a difference.

Singing is really fun - although I don't know if I can say the same for those who listen to our singing.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Important Lessons

I've just returned from a 2-day 1-night team building camp (TBC) which consisted of half the staff of my faculty, including our Dean. It was rather physically and intellectually challenging, but very fruitful. I've learned some very valuable lessons, in addition to the how-to-make-teamwork-work.

A very important lesson: A weak link in a chain can break the chain - you only need one incompetent team member to pull the entire team's performance down, even if the other members are very capable.

An even more important lesson: Assistance, given along with unconditional motivation and encouragement can easily strengthen that weak link - instead of blaming and getting rid of the incompetent team member, the team can help him to strive to be competent, and excel.

I believe, that out of the four teams that we had in our TBC, ours is the only one who truly understood these two most important lessons, because we lived through the experience, and the wondrous realisation. Bravo, 'The Greatest' - we are truly the greatest, in the way we held ourselves up and together, never giving up, never complaining, even in the face of losing!

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Versions

Software almost always come with versions - so do books (although you call it 'editions'). That's understandable - new versions / editions of software / books contain additional stuff, updates and often, bug fixes. Fair enough. However, is it fair for music CDs to come with versions? It seems common enough these days.

I just got myself a CD last week, the second album of an 18-year old 'singing sensation' soprano from New Zealand (I won't mention her name, but there aren't many that fit the description). There are 12 tracks in it, which was already a slight disappointment, since her debut international album contained 14 tracks. Some days later, when I surfed into the artist's official website, the greater disappointment set in. There are FOUR (4) different versions of this album - the Japan, UK, US and 'international' version. Each version contains a different track list. The one I got is the international version. While it contains only 12 tracks, the Japan version has 15, and the UK version 16. But the extra tracks are not 'bonus tracks' (which recoding labels are fond of) - there are only about 9 common tracks between the Japan and UK versions. The US version, although also has 12 tracks, has only 11 of them common with the international version. Why? Beats me. No, it doesn't beat me actually - I am quite convinced that the many versions are released on the sole purpose of making more money. To collect all the songs that are released for this 'album', one has to obtain three different versions - the Japan, UK and US. Most unfortunately for me, the international version does not contain a single track that is unique to itself, and not available to the combination of the rest (someone show me a wall I can bang my head into!)

She's not the first, nor the only, to do this. My favourite classical crossover soprano, for example, has over 5 or 6 different versions of her last album released - each one with only 1 or 2 bonus tracks that are different from the others. Then, there's a 'limited edition' one which came with a bonus DVD, and an 'ultimate version' available only in Japan, with a track not available anywhere else in the world. Well, I don't blame the artist - I blame the management (it's easier on me if I don't think badly of the lady whose voice I love). The 'official' reason given for the releasing of so many versions of an album, is that fans in different regions in the world appreciate different bonus tracks. Excuse me? Some hardcore fans had to buy like 4 or 5 copies of the album just to collect all the bonus tracks - and that's not including the single CDs, which will usually contain a single, and probably 2 or 3 remixes of that single (a hardcore fan would want all the different remixes too!). That spells P-R-O-F-I-T. Lots of it.

I don't buy a lot of CDs, don't know much about the many recording artists that there are, but I firmly believe that most of them do exploit their fans using this 'versions' technique, although their true fans are the only ones who'd fork out hard-earned money for original music CDs. And what are the fans' rewards? "There are several versions! Collect them all!" Hmmmph! How about the pasar malam version for RM3 per CD? How do you like that?

Shedding my eye-patch just got a lot harder than I thought!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Many Happy Returns

Just as I thought this year's birthday is going to be the worst of my (censored) years yet, my bestfriend showed up (several days late, but nevertheless) with a gift and we spent a wonderful couple of hours hanging out at a cafe. It was simple but lovely - except for the few extremely embarassing minutes where my bestfriend requested the live band to sing 'Happy Birthday' for me.

Birthdays for my friends and I used to come with mandatory elaborate parties complete with food, games, a birthday cake (which was a MUST, since some of the cream on it must end up on someone's face), presents and - sometimes - a trick or two. At times, the elaborate parties were even extended to become slumber parties, without (or with very little of) slumber. In our Fifth Form, each one of us got a cool (some of you may term it 'nasty') trick from the rest.

My absolute favourite is the one where we hid in the birthday girl's room, close to midnight, on the eve of the birthday, and scared the wits out of her (who was coincidentally drowsy with want of sleep at the time). One of the conspirators, the birthday girl's cousin, woke her from her sleep and led her out of the room on the pretext that she was wanted for something. While she was out of the room, we slipped in quietly, found a dark corner / hidden spot each, and crouched down. And Kate (she often comments on this blog, if you don't know it yet) wore a set of false Dracula fangs, and stood behind the door. So there we were - all set, waiting for the poor birthday girl to re-enter her room. Once she did, we all sprang from our hiding places, growling loudly, while Kate stood still, shining a torch upwards to her face, showing the fangs and all. Boy, the effect was superb! The birthday girl jumped and screamed - and I bet her heart must've skipped a few beats too! But of course she calmed down pretty well after that and was thoroughly happy when we gave her her present: The X-Files Soundtrack CD (original one, not pirated!)

Those were the good ol' days. We have them no longer. For some years now, a few SMS greetings, or some e-cards would usually suffice to remind us of our age. Presents from loved ones are extras (thanks, bestfriend!). I'll write about how birthdays are celebrated during my college years some other time.

To conclude, many happy returns to me. :)

Monday, October 24, 2005

Erm~ Pardon Me?

It is exams season again; and it's all a tense monotony save for this email which came through today. As a semesterly reminder to all of us who will invigilate the exams, it goes:

1) When asking students to leave their bags and belongings, please DO NOT let them leave them outside as there were THREE theft cases just today. Let the bags be INSIDE the venue. If the student takes their personal belongings (purses, handphones, etc) into the room, the student MUST put them on the side of the table.

-- "...let them leave them..."? Well ok, bad writing habit, but we get what you mean.

-- "...the student takes their personal belongings..." Cool. 1 student is in charge of everyone's belongings

-- " the side of the table..." Wow, that's really asking for too much - how on earth are the belongings going to defy gravity to remain at the side of the table?

2) ...(bla bla bla)... Please be discrete and quiet as the students will probably be having exams.

-- I cannot imagine what else would students be having in Exam venues during Exams time if not having exams.

Now, who wants to slap my wrists for having just posted the contents of somebody's email on the Internet? :D

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Matters of the Heart

It's a complicated matter. Many a time (long time ago), I thought I could do without it. Then, after the first love (followed quickly by the first hurt) I realised that a life not shared with a loving other half will always be incomplete. The heart always yearns to love and to be loved in return, although the process of searching for and obtaining love is always something that I don't appreciate much. Why - being a girl, despite the FCS (female chauvinistic sow) image, you don't walk out there, confront the guy who caught your eyes, and tell him so. You don't grab every single opportunity (or make opportunities) to be with him and hope he notices you. You don't go to him with the sole purpose of flirting with him. At least, I don't. Probably that's why getting noticed by the guys who caught my eyes were extremely difficult for me.

In first year university, I was a little head-over-heels over a classmate, but he was only lukewarm. And then, he went from lukewarm to room temperature, and later, even lesser. And the worst thing was, all the while, I was still classmates with him, which meant I saw him very often, and had to painfully watch him getting increasing interested in another girl - coincidentally, a close friend. It drove me nothing less than crazy. My heart felt as if it would burst with yearning, and I filled pages and pages of diaries and scrap paper with lamentations and poems. And one night, being alone in the house (my housemates having all gone out somewhere) I was almost overwhelmed by thoughts of him, and wildly hoped that he'd give me a call. Then, I got something out to read, bumped into a few difficult words (when you read Austen, Bronte, Dickens and the likes, you're sure to bump into some), got my Oxford dictionary out and looked them up. As my habit would have it, I read also the entries within several pages of the aforesaid difficult words. As fate would have it, I read the definitions (not that I didn't know them) for fond, and subsequently, fondly. And there - second definition for fondly - "in a hopeful way that is silly or unreasonable" - and an example which went "She fondly believed he would phone her" - !!! - I was so taken aback, my brain literally froze for several moments. After the numbness subsided, I felt this very sensible, invisible hand knocking upon my skull "Wake up!". Don't you just hate moments such as these?

I'll repeat myself - it's a complicated matter!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

A Cause for Heartache

For the First-Aid component in the standard First-Aid and Nursing Competition of the St Johns Ambulance Malaysia (SJAM), a squad is made out of 4 persons, numbered 1 - 4 (and a reserve, Number 5). Upon reaching a scene of accident, Number 1 (the leader) will look out for possible hazards, and if determined none, will command her squad members (Numbers 2, 3 and 4) to approach the victim (posed by Number 5, during training sessions). After Number 1 identified herself to the victim, she will proceed to diagnose injuries, while Numbers 2 and 3 control bleeding on any visible open wounds, and clear obstacles which may be scattered around the victim. Number 4 would meanwhile, control traffic (if we're talking about road accidents) and also control the advancing crowd of bystanders (we'll usually get a lot of ke-pohs). Once diagnosis is complete and first-aid (bandaging, treatment for shock etc) given, Number 4 will call for the ambulance, giving specific details about the location, the victim and injuries sustained. In training, the "ambulance" never arrives later than 10 or 15 minutes after Number 4 makes the call, during which Number 2 will constantly reassure the victim, Number 3 keeping a close eye on blood circulation and such stuff, Number 4 keeping back crowds and traffic, and Number 1 supervising and assisting in all. If the squad does not have enough of bandages or equipment for treatment, they can entreat the crowd to part with personal clothing items such as jackets, scarves, neckties etc. for improvision, and the crowds would be most willing to comply. And if the victim's breathing and pulse stopped, CPR is administered continuously until either the victim is revived, or the ambulance arrives. Once ambulance arrives, trained, certified parademics will take over, and the victim is in safe hands. And that, is the ideal situation - the wishful thinking of all of us.

The real thing? Let me run through the entire first-aid-giving scenario again, putting in the practical elements. First, Number 1 and her squad members approach the victim, and Number 4 tries her best to control the traffic - however, given the Malaysian drivers' love for speeding and lack of concentration on the road (not to mention the over-confidence in excellent driving skills which they don't actually possess), probably a car (or worse, a bus or truck) would come head-on and ram into the whole squad, killing all 4 first-aiders and also the victim on the spot. End of story (errr... so fast?)

OK, assuming that doesn't happen. First-aid is given - and the squad needs something to control massive bleeding from a large, open wound. They were short of gauzes and bandages - so Numbers 3 and 4 would desperately beg the onlookers to give their scarves or neckties or handkerchiefs to save the victim - and of course, in our real-world, no one would give. Anyway still, assuming the victim does not die from a loss of blood, Number 4 would then ask a bystander to allow her to call the ambulance using his mobile phone. Assuming the bystander would comply (since emergency numbers don't cost), she would dial, and probably try a few more times before she got through. And then, her call would probably be transferred, or redirected, or put on hold; or she would be asked to call other numbers from a list which she would be given. Anyhow, after a lot, a lot of effort, she would get through to a hospital which is willing to send an ambulance. Then, the first-aid squad will continue to preserve the casualty's life, while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. They'll have to work extra hard, because the ambulance most probably will not arrive until 30-40 minutes later, minimum! So, if the casualty's breathing and pulse stopped, poor Numbers 1 and 2 would have to continuously perform CPR for more than half an hour, which by the end, would probably have Numbers 1 and 2 fainting themselves! Of course, Numbers 1 and 2 can take turns with 3 and 4 on the CPR thingy (which by the way, first-aiders must not stop performing simply because the victim does not revive - we are not doctors that can "declare someone dead"), but trust me, it's not as easily done as said. Anyway, say - finally the ambulance arrives. Those who come with it, are not paramedics, but half-pail-of-water hospital attendants who know no head or tail on how to handle an injured person. Chances are, the poor victim, so carefully supported by splints and bandages by the first-aiders, will be very roughly hauled up, and dumped into the back of the ambulance. Then, the attendants will do nothing but talk and joke on the way to the hospital, while the driver, feeling important that he is in an emergency situation, will drive like a mad man - going at top speed, sirens wailing, swerving to the right and left to weave through traffic, running red lights, flying over speed bumps... you name it. Our last concern, is whether the injured person can reach the hospital in ONE(1) piece. Horrible as it may sound - this is the reality of where we live.

SJAM works very hard to train its members to handle emergencies and to extend proper and professional first-aid. That is very noble - but what happens on the arrival of the ambulance (assuming it'll eventually turn up, if you've waited long enough) and the duty of preserving life and promoting recovery is passed on from the first-aiders to the ambulance staff who couldn't care less? Could there have been victims who could have survived, but didn't, due to the lack of concern, and the tidak-apa attitude of emergency services? If there are, how many? Very disturbing? Indeed.

Ahhhem! - Disclaimer - I am NOT referring to any particular anything. This post is not a personal attack on any parties *wink*

Thursday, October 6, 2005

Stupid Famous People

Alright, I am not writing about any particular stupid famous people here - I came across this phrase on the Internet, earlier today. And it got me mulling, as I have always done, whenever I come across interesting points in English grammar. As a rule, multiple adjectives (eg: big, red), when used to describe a noun (eg: dog), must be arranged in a fixed order:

opinion -> size -> age -> shape -> colour -> origin -> material -> purpose

That means, one must say "a big, red dog" and not a "red, big dog". (Cute Siamese kitten; large sleeping bag; creepy little spider; bla bla etc) However, if there one wants to use two adjectives of the same category (such as "stupid" and "famous") - how would the order be? Or would it be the same in either way?

Does "stupid famous people" mean exactly the same as "famous stupid people"? Seriously speaking, I have no idea - although they sound quite different to me. "Famous stupid people" seems to be describing people who are famous for their stupidity; and "stupid famous people" seems to be describing people, who are famous (for whatever reasons) who happen to be stupid also. Hardly convincing, huh?

We need Professor Blinking-Hell! :D

Monday, October 3, 2005

Creativity Gone Too Far

Last week I received a forwarded email from a friend. The subject was "Baby Biscuits" - and I have no idea if it meant biscuits for babies, or biscuits that are babies - mind-boggling? Yes, definitely. These are the pictures that were attached to the email:

Alright, first of all, they don't look like biscuits - all too real to be biscuits! But if they are biscuits (regardless of whether made for babies or sick adults) the maker must be truly sick in the head, especially if he meant these biscuits to be consumed - like all biscuits are. I mean - look - they are all cute, adorable newborns, and we're supposed to eat them because they are in fact "biscuits"??? It's so suggestive of cannibalism - "well, I can't eat real babies, so why not eat biscuits made to look like real babies?" It's crazy! I have seen many creative products before - those that are truly beautiful:

and those that are very funny:

- but the "baby biscuits".... Well, I have to say the workmanship is simply marvellous - fancy anyone could make biscuits like those - but the idea of eating them is absolutely nauseating. I seriously hope that the email was a hoax, and there are no such "baby biscuits" sold in our world. (Imagine this: "Hmmm... shall I bite off the head first or the legs first?") Arghhh!

Qualitative Research question for the day: What is enough? When is a lot (of creativity) too much?

Friday, September 30, 2005

The Re-Test-ers

I don't know what is so appealing about re-tests (a make-up test given to a student who, for some reason, missed the actual test) - I seriously don't. I make it very clear at the beginning of each new semester, and reiterate prior to each test, that a re-test, if given, would be more difficult to score compared to the actual test, because it consists of tougher questions, and usually, covers a wider syllabus.

And yet - for every test, from the beginning of my teaching career until now, for average-sized classes, there are bound to be those who'd strive to go for the re-tests! They'd approach me, some sheepishly, some otherwise, and casually mention "I missed the test", hoping I'd be a simpleton enough to reply with "So, when would you like to have your re-test?" Well, not me! I'd say, in a voice not lacking of sarcasm, "So....?" And then, where previously the students did not offer to explain why they missed their test, now, realising that I won't be giving re-tests freely as they'd hoped, they'd be brimming with "reasons"! They'd buy MCs, bring pathetic "explanation" letters from "parents" which they wrote and signed by themselves which their poor parents probably have no knowledge of, and tell long, lame stories of how they came about missing the class test. I'd been told this in my face - "What do you require? Do you want me to give you an MC? Or a letter from my mother?" What - am I now placing an order? Am I choosing the kind of evidence I would like to see for the excuse he'd given me? Jo March would say, "Christopher Columbus!"

I do not deny that there are of course, genuine cases where the poor student really fell sick on the day the class test is given - but I am also very confident that such cases are very few, to the extent of being insignificant. Those who like to skip tests (they don't "miss", they SKIP!) are likely to skip the tests for several subjects at once, even though the tests are conducted over a span of two weeks. Just a couple of hours ago, I saw a former student, whom I taught in the previous semester, who managed to skip Test 1, and took the re-test instead by providing an "MC", sitting alone outside the faculty, taking a re-test. I wonder who his unfortunate lecturer is. And I also wonder if this boy will again go for re-tests in the next semester, when he repeats my subject (needless to say, he managed to fail gracefully my subject in the last semester)

In conclusion - I can see why some students prefer to make up excuses to skip their class test and go for re-tests - to buy more time to do their revision (this is stated on the assumption that they do revise their lessons *grin*). But, considering the added level of difficulty and syllabus coverage - is the extra time gained actually worth it? I've never, yet, had a student who could pass his re-test. So, why do they still do it? Can't they weigh the pros and cons? Don't they even think about it?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

With All Fours!

No, not talking about crawling around on all fours - but performing on an organ, with all fours! I stumbled upon a video of Claudia Hirschfeld playing on the Wersi Scala electric organ, the song 'Harem', by Sarah Brightman (available on her album of the same name). I, of course, know that one plays an organ with both hands, and also both feet, but - pardon my being somewhat little-exposed to live performances - I have never seen anyone playing an organ to such an animated extent (the only person I recall to have seen playing an organ live, was my piano teacher; I was about 8 yrs old then)
Since the song started off slow, the performance was fairly on the average at first - Claudia Hirschfeld played with 1 hand and both hands alternately, her right hand leaving the keys frequently to press buttons on the control panels. As the song gradually increased in tempo, volume and the number of "instrumentations", her movements also increased in number and magnitude. For the first half of the performance, her right foot was almost all the time on a larger rectangular pedal - for volume fine-tunes I presume - and the other was stepping on the black-and-white pedals that resemble an octave of keys. After the bridge, however, 'Harem' took a turn for the incredible mix of strong dance-beats and elaborate ochestrations. That was when she started stepping on the key-paddles with both feet, as if her feet were playing a piece on their own, while her hands flew about the two-level keys and the control panels to constantly change the instrument sounds, so as to make up for the elaborate ochestration and numerous instruments used in the actual song. The result, is a song that is almost as impressive as Sarah Brightman's original (which was accompanied by a full ochestra).
What took me the most, is the fact that Claudia Hirschfeld could manipulate the keys, the controls and the pedals - all at the same time - while rocking her body to the rhythm and smiling at the audience! All her four limbs were dancing, each to its own choreography, but all synchronized to the same beat. And what more - she wore heels that were (to my best estimation) no lesser than 4 inches high! Bravo!

Talk about multi-tasking! Talk about parallel-processing! The only other such musical multitasking that wrought a deep impression in me, was that of Bert (Dick van Dyke) in the opening scene of Mary Poppins (1964), where he had all kinds of instruments tied around his body in the most creative manner - and he played them all at once, using his hands, arms, elbows, knees, you name it, and singing at the same time too. Incredible indeed - but that was in an animated movie - not live.
Qualitative Research question for the day: Ahhhem. Too in awe to think of one today.

Monday, September 19, 2005

The 'Deitel's

This matter's been on my mind for some time now, and it's irritating me to the extent that I have to write something about it.

I listen to Mix FM and Light & Easy. Every morning and evening, when people are rushing to and back from work, these stations kindly, and appropriately provide traffic information, presuming that drivers can actually avoid congestions if they knew where they're happening (I don't mean to sneer at this, but look - the same jams happen at the same areas every day - don't tell me the drivers don't know that; if they can find better alternatives, they wouldn't all be there, making sure the same congestions happen at the same areas every day!) Anyway, the announcer who gives the half-hourly reports, every morning and evening, Mondays to Fridays, simply gets on my nerves!

First of all, she is so nasal! (that's irritating enough, but I won't put the blame on her for it). She slurs most of the time, but she must not have realised it, because if she had, she wouldn't speak so fast, such that you'd have to strain your ear drums and auditory nerves just to understand her. And since the whole traffic-condition-reporting stuff is sponsored by DHL (the delivery company), the announcer has to mention DHL several times per reporting session - and guess what, she never sounds like she's saying "DHL". Everytime, it sounds like "Deitel" to me.

"Deitel"! The only Deitels I know are the ones who write textbooks for
programming! I used only "Deitel & Deitel - C++ How to Program" and "Deitel & Deitel - Java How to Program", but they have a wide range of others - on Visual Basic, C#, XML, Perl, Python, the Internet and World Wide Web, E-Business and even Operating Systems. How "DHL" can sound like "Deitel" is impossible to fathom. When I first heard it, I thought I'd mistaken - but after so many times, I am quite sure it is no mistake of my brain interpretation! That woman! Argh~

Qualitative Research question for the day: Why do listeners put up with a nasal, slurring, mispronouncing radio announcer?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

It's Nice to Write

It's nice to write in a diary because

1. I get to use all the cute, multi-colored pens, and to use a different color for every subsequent entry ;) (I have a weak spot for cute stationery!)

2. I get to write on paper with printed background pictures, in soft, sickly-sweet hues. Extra-indulging diaries even have the pages scented, for extra writing enjoyment!

3. Free-hand sketches, anytime!

4. I can carry the diary around with me, anytime, anywhere - no broadband / high-speed internet connection necessary

5. No restrictions on pouring out my deepest, darkest secrets, my most evil thoughts and comments on people I don't like, and simply, whatever I please!

It's nice to write on a blog because

1. I can do it at work, so long as I have a few minutes to spare, and my boss is not looking (well, my boss is almost always not looking at me anyway *winks*)

2. Whenever I make a spelling error I wouldn't be caught dead making, I can press 'Backspace', so that there is absolutely NO TRACE of me having made the mistake!

3. I get to post photos along with entries!

4. Fingers don't tire so much typing, as compared to writing with a pen!

5. I get to share a piece of myself with family and friends, even those who are physically distanced from me. :)

Mostly, it's nice to write because I love to write. That's all.

Qualitative Research question for the day: Can writing be a form of therapy?

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Haven't Wept Enough

My poor Bitbit passed away yesterday. Thank goodness I have a husband who is very willing to let me to wipe my tears all over his shirt. And thank goodness I have a best friend who gives very nice hugs to heal broken hearts.

Qualitative Research question for the day: Why do women get attached so easily and deeply to their pets? :(

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Msytery: Not Solved

I don't know what made my blog disappear after the post before the previous one... but republishing the whole thing seemed to solve the problem. Weird. To all of you out there - backup, backup!! :P

Don't be Cruel

A friend just sent me a link, via Yahoo! Messenger, to a petition to the Prime Minister to increase the fine for cruelty to animals, from RM200 to RM10k. Of course I signed it, and have decided to post it here. In case you didn't notice a link in the previous sentence, here it is again.

I do hope the petition will be granted, because I would soooo love to see my neighbours, an old man and his wife, get fined for mistreating their dogs. He has 2 - one called Happy (but I doubt Happy is really happy at all) and the other one (you're not gonna believe this) is without a name! I don't understand how someone can keep a dog for >10 years without giving it a name (right, this is no big deal in terms of physical cruelty, but imagine the major psychological effect on the dog's mental health!!!). While No-name seldom venture outside the compound of my neighbours' house, Happy occasionally run off to look for bitches (female dogs la), and would return with fight wounds (I assume he fought with other male dogs over the females). And then, instead on bringing Happy to a vet for proper treatment, or at least getting proper dog medication for him, the old man would simply bathe Happy in water added with Dettol, and splash yellow or purple solution all over him. Happy's fur is of pure white, but frequently splattered with spots of ugly yellow or purple, that would remain for very long.

In these few recent years, Happy's wounds on his ears have been infected so badly (obviously the yellow flavine did nothing for it) that one of it had almost rotted away completely. You won't see the remains of an ear there unless you looked really closely. Imagine the pain and discomfort Happy has to go through, his ears wounded, infected, and rotting away, while his "master" provided nothing more than yellow solution. As for No-name, he'd also gotten sick as of the recent years - the areas surrounding his eyes and nose were swollen and turned an ugly colour. But still, I doubt if the old man did anything for him - I don't think the term 'veterinarian' exists in his vocabulary.

Now, if denying the poor dogs proper medical attention is not cruel enough - here's more. Just recently, the old couple went away (on holiday, or otherwise, I didn't care to remember) for some days and left the dogs at home to fend for themselves - without any arrangements, even for feeding! We know because, their house being a corner lot, we're their only neighbours! The old man's wife requested my mother to help her keep any delivered letters, but mentioned nothing about the dogs. Sick! Subsequently, we gave the dogs some food every evening on our own initiative and, believe me, I know hungry dogs when I see two.

Other than his own pets, he also caused lots of gravity to the birds in our area. Between his front porch and ours, there's a hidden space where little birds love to build their nests and have their young. It is a lovely and sweet thing - but for this old man. Everytime a nest is almost done, he'd poke and prod with a pole until it fell down. And everytime I see that, I'd almost cry, thinking of the amount of time and energy (not to mention patience and love!) the poor birds spent in making it. I doubt if he would refrain from destroying nests even if there are baby birds in them!

Very cruel? Definitely. This is one of the reasons I dislike that old man so much. The other reasons? I'll write about those at another time.

Qualitative Research question for the day: Why do people over 60 years of age believe that animals have no feelings?

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

All About Competition

We all hate competition - especially those in which if we won, we don't get a prize. We hate it if younger (or older) siblings compete with us in everything. We hate it when parents make it seem like we have to compete with cousins (or their friends' children) academically or in other stuff. Why is it so? I've never truly given it a serious thought. Then again, at a glance, it could have everything to do with the fact that a person under constant competition with others could be under constant pressure to not be in the losing end.

One night, I was in a particular mood for Scrabble (ok, we don't have an actual set of Scrabble, rather, the cheaper brand of the game, called Vocable), but my husband wouldn't play with me because he had some unfinished work. And so, well, I played with myself. Yup, I did. I named myself leeyl1 and leeyl2 and proceeded until the board was full and only 5 letter tiles were left. And what I can say from the game of me against myself - it was totally enjoyable! First of all, since I know the tiles of both my 'personalities', I sort of complemented myself. 'leeyl1' didn't occupy a position which 'leeyl2' would want in her next turn, and vice-versa. One 'personality' would create a word-making opportunity for the other one whenever possible. Cool. So, the conclusion is, both leeyl1 and leeyl2 were able to place tiles and make words very smoothly, seldom taking more than 1 or 2 minutes' thinking. However, taking a closer look at the scores, I realised how poorly leeyl1 and leeyl2 did, compared to the usual leeyl playing against her husband!

Playing against myself, not wanting either part of me to lose to the other part of me, the whole game was compromised by the two sides not seriously competing with each other, even complementing each other at times. But when I play with my husband, all I have in mind is to BEAT him! I want to make longer words, better words, score higher points! And I do. In other words, I guess a little competition is a good motivation for all of us - it is simply up to us to take it from a positive point of view :)

Qualitative Research question for the day: How can a person be tuned to accept competition and benefit from its motivating powers?

Monday, August 29, 2005

A Reason for Joy

Just one of life's little pleasant things: Xiang xiang had left our fine institution for the more reputable MMU (though why MMU would want someone like her beats me totally) - and along with her, her extremely insufferable stench. So... yippeee! And to the unfortunate staff and students of MMU - believe me, I know how you feel being around her. I truly do!


The world we live in is full of them! Full of unspeakable, ruthless people who do atrocious things. The greatest of these - war, terrorist attacks and killings, murders - I must say I am very, very fortunate to have not witnessed live. But the lesser ones...

I went for an early lunch ('brunch' - the usual word) at McDonald's (trying to make full use of the discount coupons that will expire on August 31) with 4 of my colleagues today. Some of them went to buy food, while I waited at our table with some of the other food already bought. I was almost entering a pleasant daydream in that quiet and serene ambience when suddenly, there was a loud, piercing scream. I turned and saw a young Indian lady rushing out of the glass door, chasing a man. Out of curiousity, I hurried nearer, only to hear that the young lady's wallet was snatched by the man who ran away. One of McD's staff immediately ran after the thief. Two of my male colleagues, tall men with long legs, also ran after them. Sadly, all came back empty-handed and disappointed. The snatch-thief had a bike waiting for him, and the men couldn't know which direction he went. That was just too bad, and there was nothing anyone could do.

We then sat down to our meal, and talked about the incident. Stories spilled out - one of my colleagues had been a victim to a snatch thief, her mother was robbed of a necklace, another colleague's brother was robbed, her house once broken into, my room-mate had her handbag snatched from her once, and my own grandma was once robbed of her gold necklace. My colleague read about a man who owned a high-tech luxurious car, which could only be unlocked / started by his thumbprint verification, and the greed-filled villains actually cut his thumb off to get his car. Too much, too much! Do people no longer believe in hell, or reincarnation, or whatever religion taught, to instill the fact that 'what comes around, goes around'?

As if not enough, we have loads and loads of inconsiderate and irresponsible drivers creating little atrocities by the milisecond! The worst I have experienced so far - last week, I drove into a Petronas station for fuel, and by sheer lack of luck, there were many customers at the time, so I had to queue. I headed towards a pump with a motorcycle at it (since bikes use much less fuel, I reckoned I needn't wait too long for that guy to finish refueling). Then, a green car came up behind mine. The pump directly in front of the one I was waiting at had a bike at it too, so by the standard queuing theory with the standard FIFO queue, the green car should get to use the pump in front of mine, once that biker finished as well. So there we were, waiting patiently in the queue. The biker ahead of me completed refueling and moved on. I drove in place, got ready to buy petrol, and guess what - a car zoomed past mine, to the pump in front of mine where the other biker was finishing off. And well, it's not the green car that was waiting in line with me just two minutes ago! The poor green car was still waiting there, behind me. I could hardly believe my eyes - I have seen people cut queues during traffic jams, at the highway exit toll booths - but never, I repeat, NEVER at petrol kiosks! I, even as a bystander in that incident, was cursing that #$*%$&@ driver like mad. I can't imagine how I'd feel if I were the wronged driver of the green car. Too much, too much!

Qualitative Research question for the day: How can we rid our society of such despicable acts?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The How To

Everything is a study these days. People study on how to eat, how to sleep, how to talk, how to teach, how to do practically everything we do. Just last week, I attended a 2-day training on how to conduct research, qualitatively. It's amazing that there are people who research on the to best way to research! :D

So this man, the professor who conducted the training, was an old man with white beard and large glasses. He spoke averagely fluent English, but with a very heavy Malay accent. He was very good with the audience, though - he could remember names very well, and treated everyone with great respect. Whenever anyone asked a questions, it was a good question by him. Even the most stupid and silly things raised were given fair response. On the first day, the training went quite well. On the second day, however, the old man (I suppose) got quite full of himself, and sort of lost track. He discussed each point he was presenting in such great detail, with so many background stories, and theories and examples, that most of the people listening to him were bored. Master Sen (who sat next to me) was already fighting off sleep. But well, on the overall, I do think I might just benefit from the knowledge I'd gain. Afterall, the old man is indeed very knowledgeable - imagine someone who got his PhD several years before I was even born!

And now, for some research questions: Why do we constantly have unbalanced distribution of workload in this institution? Why are lady bosses so difficult to work for? Why are people who can't teach programming, or anything slightly more technical, still hired? (so many!) and yes... Why does Lao Yu like to 'suan' Ms B. so much???

Life is just full of questions. :P

Monday, August 22, 2005

My New Baby

My lion-head rabbit, Ada, gave birth to a (yes, just ONE) tiny baby last Saturday morning. It was very exciting for me because although I've seen many baby rodents (my hamsters used to multiply like mad... sometimes up to 6 babies at one go), it was my first time seeing a baby rabbit. As usual, it was pink, naked and had its eyes still closed.

Ada giving birth to a baby came as a shock to all of us in the family - she'd been separated from Java (my male rabbit) for at least a month already. On top of that, when I got the rabbits, the breeder personally told me that they don't breed easily like the local common breed (or else, she, as a breeder, will get rich very easily - those were her very words). So, when it happened (the birth, I mean), Ada was in her usual cage with Java. Now, the cage has a wired base and the poor baby, being so small, slipped through between the wiring and was trapped with its head on top, the rest of its body below. By the time my mother discovered it in the morning, it was cold as a dead fish, struggling and crying out. We had to use a pair of pliers to pry open the two bars of wire between which the little one was trapped and lifted it out. We placed the newborn in a separate carrier with Ada, but she was oblivious to it, ignoring the poor baby, and even stepping over it. I made a frantic phone call to the breeder (7.30am in the morning!) and she advised me to keep the baby warm (the poor thing being cold as a dead fish is a BAD sign!). So I restrained poor, agitated Ada, put the baby wrapped layers of tissue paper next to her, and waited for the baby to get warm. Thank goodness it worked.

Ada, being a first-time mother, is not the slightest interested in nursing the baby, so we had to hold her on her back and put the baby on her belly each time it was to nurse. Two days later, the baby had grown some very fine, downy fur on its body, and some very very fine whiskers. It is indeed a heart-warming sight. What is less heart-warming, however, is an injury on the baby's left hind-leg. It'd turned an ugly shade of brownish-black and horribly swollen. I suspected a fracture and yesterday, I took the little fella to the vet. The vet, a rather handsome-looking man, took a look at the baby and confirmed that its leg is broken. There was nothing much he could do though, considering the two-day-old being so very small. He then gave me lots of tips and pointers on taking care of the baby, including applying warm compression on the injured leg - but didn't charge me anything, since "he didn't do anything". What a kind gentleman. He also reassured me that the baby rabbit is very active and healthy. A good sign.

I had been thinking of a name for the baby for some time: Ada + Java = Ava? Eva? Too difficult to differentiate between Ada and Eva, my mother said. Before I thought further, though, my hubby had decided - we shall call it Bitbit. What a cacat name, but it sounds rather nice to the ears. :)

Bitbit it shall be, then!

Friday, August 19, 2005

Believe It

The failure rate for my one of my classes was a record high - a staggering 78.5%. Well, no big deal - the same batch of garbage managed a >80% failure rate for another subject.
Why? First of all, none of them were seriously interested in the subject (OK, this is forgivable, considering it's a subject about Intel microprocessors) - even the more hardworking ones were hardly interested. For every class (I mean, every single lecture), these people would be very nicely strolling into class twenty minutes late, as if without a care in the world. No amount of reprimand could change their ways.

One or two were really hardworking. There was this girl who was so hardworking that I am often impressed by the amount of effort she showed in the subject. However, she was hopelessly weak in academics. Then there were the 3 boys who loved nothing more than talking amongst themselves while I delivered the most technical lessons. And there were the trees and flower-pots who would stare at me expressionless all throughout. The remaining ones fall into peaceful slumber. Even those international students, whose parents must've paid a lot to have them here, didn't bother themselves with anything academic. Most of the time, I feel the the only one working real hard during a lecture is myself.

Well, it's over - for now at least. I'll think about seeing those failures again next year when they repeat the course.

Saturday, August 6, 2005

The Viva Voce

The viva voce, or the viva - a spoken examination for the project that spans 2 academic semesters, will determine if a student gets an honours degree or not. A student will be evaluated by 3 examiners - the "first", a high-and-mighty, "highly-qualified" someone who oversaw a class of 40-60 students for the entire span of their projects; the "second", a commoner lecturer who supervised and guided the student for the second of the two semesters for the project; and the "third", an independent academic who'd (hopefully) be free of any partiality or otherwise for the student. Each of us commoner lecturers (as mentioned earlier), will be assigned several of these students for supervision each semester, and at the end, there will be a chain of these vivas for us.

This semester, I had 6 students to supervise, and at the end, had 6 more to be the "third" examiner for. 12 vivas all in all - not as bad as those who had 15, but quite enough, as some others have only 5 or 8. Anyway, here's just a highlight of what happened (the tip of the iceberg!)

One of my students, a girl, never came to me for any advice or guidance throughout the semester, and met me only at the end to show me her end product. She'd came up with a system which combined the public key cryptography with hashing for secure file transfer. And it does just that (nothing else - no additional functions!) The system interface consists of a small dialog box (and that's all) and the cryptography works only for text files. And, ya - her hashing function does not work properly. When she showed me, it was just a week from her viva, so there wasn't much I could do for her, even though I knew there is no hope for such a product. I asked her if her "first" saw her system throughout its developement, and she said yes. So I asked what his comments were - and to my surprise, she said that he (shall we call him Mr A?) did not comment anything. Well then. On the day of her viva, this poor girl came to me early in the morning, and told me that her "first" told her that hers would be a borderline pass project, but only if she can fix her hashing function. But she couldn't. One can only wonder why Mr A didn't tell her earlier - if he intended to tell her at all. Of course, there was also no excuse for the girl's not bothering to consult with me, even though she had the entire semester to do so. Sad case.

Another student who worked on cryptography method was the most incredible Tai Chi Master I've ever seen. Tai Chi GrandMaster in fact. When questioned, he was extremely good at evading the main points questioned, twisting the words, giving excuses - anything, but provising straight, honest answers for the questions asked. Let me just quote a simple example - in his project documentation, there was a "preliminary studies" chapter in which he wrote in details about the characteristics and encoding and decoding steps of several encryption methods, which are not those which he implemented in his system. It was like telling someone all the goodness there are in apple juice, then serving him orange juice. It was totally out of place. When I pointed it out to the student, he gave me a long story on how he initially wanted to use the methods he studied on and wrote about, and then realised they were too simple for the project, so he decided to implement other methods instead (for the note - he wrote on 5 or 6 algorithms in his documentation, but implemented 5 other totally different ones). I said, in that case, he should've changed the content of that chapter in his documentation. And he gave me another long story on how the content were already written as phase reports, and there were no time for changes, and bla, and bla bla and more. Excuses, excuses!

The best one's gotta be the viva of this girl (who, although was not drop-dead gorgeous, was considered not-bad-looking lar) who came up with a system that can be run on a palmtop computer, and communicate with a mobile phone through Bluetooth, and receive and reply SMS. The system is supposed to be very useful for people who are in meetings, and could not SMS with their phones without appearing rude or anything (errr... ok, I'll accept that). The work was quite impressive and the little lady actually proved that she did most of the programming for the system. However, I was not convinced that the whole thing was a good, practical idea. For one thing, the communication between the palm (an HP Pocket PC) and the phone can be initiated by the palm only, which means it send a "query" signal to the mobile at fixed intervals to see if any SMS came in. And the time interval fixed was 50 seconds. This means that the poor handheld device is actually firing out a signal very much more often than there would be SMS coming in. Like, if within a half-hour time frame, 5 SMS is received, the palm would've queried 36 times for incoming SMS, with 5 affirmative and 31 negative responses. That's what I call seriously low efficiency. The student herself agreed to this point, and confirmed that a fully-charged palmtop battery would probably last about two hours only, running the system. She admitted she couldn't find a way to get around it (and to tell the truth, I had no problems accepting that from her, because at least she was honest about it). During the grade discussion, however, the student's "second" (let's call this one Mr B) tried a bit too hard in defending her. Coming from a man who is somewhat infamous for being very partial to members of the fairer sex, I probably shouldn't had been surprised. First he said that the palmtop has to initiate communication because it has greater processing power and can perform a lot more of complex tasks that a mobile phone can't, so it is logical that it sends the first command to the phone. I told him that to initiate a communication, the mobile phone does not need a complex command - just a simple signal, something of the nature of an interrupt will do. Then, what the palmtop needs to be doing, is to listen for this signal from the phone, which the phone will transmit only when an SMS is received - at least the palmtop battery wouldn't drain so quickly. But, Mr B said, the palmtop's battery will drain anyhow, if it is switched on all the time (which it must, for the system to run), whether or not it sends a signal every 50 seconds. (Is he stupid or what???) I told him, it makes a BIG difference (I widened my eyes at this part of the speech to provide extra emphasis :P ). Have you ever noticed that your mobile phone battery drains extra quickly when the service provider's signal is weak? Did you know why? I then told him why. He was quite for a moment, then said that what I had suggested (that the mobile phone initiates communication with the palmtop) could be impossible because not all phones would be equipped with the capability to do so, and probably only some very sophisticated phones could. (This man is confirmed to be stupid, or blinded by sheer lust for the girl) I told him, that is beside the point (I almost screamed it out) - the system is defined with a set of prescribed equipment with specified minimum features (like they MUST support a Bluetooth channel), so you can't say that a solution is not feasibly simply because you use a phone that can't make it work! I mean, if you want to argue in that direction, then I can say that since I am using a Nokia 3330 which does not even have Bluetooth embedded in it, the system is TOTALLY USELESS because it won't work for me! Then, Mr B insisted that my suggestion would not work, because the technology for it does not exist. At this point, I decided not to waste my time talking to a total moron who think with his balls instead of his brains. When the "first" (who, amazingly just kept quiet while Mr B and I debated - mostly because he's so empty in the skull that he has not the slightest idea what we were saying) asked about the grade that should be awarded, I simply said - WHATEVER. Yeah, I can't believe I said that. Whatever - whatever you guys wanna give, I'll just follow. Man, I was so pissed off. Nothing pisses me off like a stupid person who thinks he is so smart that he can't wait to show off just how stupid he really is.

I am really glad it's over - for this semester anyway.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


I am right now, watching the Hong Kong drama Series, "Hard Fate", every night at 9.30pm. The primary character, a jewelry designer (Flora Chan) fell in love with her employer, owner of a company trading jade (Damien Lau) - a publicly-known bachelor - only to discover that he was in fact, a married man with a 20-something-year old daughter. When I got to the part where he attempted to divorce his wife so that he could be with his new love (who was then pregnant with his child), the cruel reality hit me, and it hit me quite hard. A man, well into his fifties (as is Damien Lau in this drama series), is still capable of being charming and attractive, to much younger women (such as the character of Flora Chan, whom I suppose, is in her thirties). He is still able to give her child, and what with his accumulated wealth, is more than capable of providing her and their child a secure, happy life. But the probability of a woman of the same age (say, the estranged wife of the character of Damien Lau) to have the same qualities is very significantly lower. Like, who would find a woman in her fifties physically attractive? I don't mean those women who go for annual botox or lamb placenta treatment. I mean common women who work hard and long everyday, either in the corporate world, or at home raising children. And while men can continue fathering children until his fifties and sixties, any woman who wants to give birth after the age of 35 would have to consider the risk of high blood pressure, osteoporosis, the baby being a Down Syndrome or having other birth defects etc., etc. All of a sudden, I simply felt that the two genders of the human species were not well-balanced in terms of design.

Then I figured why some girls prefer men many years their senior. First of all, such a man is mature, has a fuller savings account, and most importantly, by the time you reached menopause, he can't be anything but bed-ridden.


Tuesday, July 12, 2005

A Disturbing Post

Read at your own risk!

I've just had a close encounter with, what I believe, must be one of the most horrible persons I have ever met in my life, so far. She does not talk reason, she does not accept facts and suggestions, and she repeatedly threw a senior management name at us in her effort to delegate the work that her staff are paid to do, to the lecturers.

I am talking about the head of the Exams Center (hereafter, EC). The EC is supposed to take care of the exams and grades and everything in that line. By definition, the lecturer's duties only include setting the questions, doing the marking and compiling the final scores. A few years back, the EC delegated the typist job to us. We must submit all the exam questions in soft-copies only (so they wouldn't need to do any typing!). For management and computing lecturers, that wouldn't have been too much of trouble, but imagine those teaching techincal stuff (with lots of formulas and Greek characters), mathematics, physics etc., it is actually A LOT of extra work - work that should be done by the EC staff! After that, they started giving the lecturers templates to type the questions in. This means, we all must follow a certain format in preparing the drafts, so that the EC staff do not even need to do any formatting once the questions are submitted to them. All they do are storage of papers, passing of papers from examiners to moderators and back, printing, and data entry.

Recently, even the data entry job is delegated to us, the much ill-fated. They presented to us this very lousy and user-UNfriendly system, and expect us to enter all grade components, scores, comments, etc., etc., by ourselves. (And no, they didn't mention that we would be collecting part of their salaries for our own). The system is seriously flawed, and when we pointed the flaws and loop-holes out, their big boss, the head of EC, dismissed everything by saying that "We spent a lot of effort over 5 years developing this system, so please bear with it", or "This is a direct order from so-and-so-senior-management-guy". After the pin-pointing of a LOT of faults and being pushed onto the losing side of the argument, she, the lady who I believe, must be one of the most horrible person I have ever met in my life, so far, changed tunes "You should not be saying these things to us because we are not the ones who developed the system!" Does she even have brains enough to remember that she mentioned about the "we" in all the previous "5 years of effort" phrases?

Indescribable!!! Hmmm. No, in fact I can think of a whole lot of words to describe this foul spinster. And here's the list - in alphabetical order: She is EXTREMELY


... and downright disgusting!

There. Anyone has anymore to add to that, please be my guest. I'd be honored!

Wednesday, July 6, 2005


Gentlemen in inverted commas. That's what they are. Big, grown men who never gives way to members of the fairer sex, but in fact, cut their way through the line of the ladies when boarding the bus or train. As if that's not awful enough, they show the same kind of 'gentlemanly courtesy' to pregnant ladies too. These kinds of things have been happening for as long as I have been working here. Just yesterday, as our bus came, several women, myself included, made a line for the door of the vehicle. The bus slowed, the lady who was first in line got ready to board the bus, and then (this came as no surprise to us) a 'gentleman' with big, quick steps rammed into the line from the right, pushed right past the aforesaid lady, and was of course, the first person to successfully board the bus. Incidents of this nature happen on a daily basis, seriously. Somehow, this time, I was irritated enough to decide to write something on it.

Other than their shoving-people-aside expertise, these 'gentlemen' are also very good at cutting queues, blocking people's views (especially during product / software demonstration, where an excellent specimen of the 'gentlemen' would position himself unashamedly between a group of smaller-sized ladies, and the demonstrator). There are still, endless instances of the 'gentlemen' being greedy, rude, bossy and disrespectful (extremely, extremely disrespectful) to everyone around them.

Enough? Not quite. Poor me (and others who think like I do) have also to put up with the loud, irritating, unintelligible conversations of the 'gentlemen', and their stinking up whatever room, coach or carriage they enter. I have only one thing to say to them - GO BACK WHERE YER CAME FROM!

Monday, July 4, 2005

A New Little 'Un

This is definitely a post on something of a lighter note. I have just visited the 2-week-old of my friends', whom my best-friend had announced over her blog. I first saw him on the day of his birth, and I must say, 2 weeks' milk-and-sleep (with occasional crying) does quite a lot for a newborn. He looked a teeny bit bigger, much much rosier, and definitely more active! And oh, he's got a name now. :P

We brought him a little something, as is customary, to welcome new babies. His mother looks considerably better and stronger too, which was comforting to some of my other friends who have not experienced childbirth. (A friend, who is still single, asked over and over "Was it very painful???") We took turns holding the little 'un. When it was mine, I just stared at him as he opened and closed his eyes, puckered his lips and made funny faces for a few minutes. Tooooo cute. And then - (surprise!) he relieved himself all over my jeans. (OK - no surprise probably) Of course I wasn't put off or anything - it's not like I've never had baby pee on me ever before. :D

It's been so long since I held a newborn. The baby in my arms felt extremely warm and comforting. Emotionally, especially. Well, nothing like a new, innocent life to remind us that this world is not all that bad, despite terrible things that happen out there, every day.

So here, I'd like to formally congratulate the new mommy and daddy on the arrival of the bundle of joy, and I'd like to thank the baby for his personal gift to me too. ;)

Sunday, July 3, 2005

Something for Nothing

That's right - when was the last time you did something for nothing? In fact, when was the last time I did something for nothing? We're all the same - humans - who wouldn't even think of doing something for nothing.

It dawned heavily upon me on Friday afternoon, in one of my classes. I was in the midst of explaining about an in-class activity which required the students to do some research on a given topic, then give a presentation on the information they obtained, when one guy objected to it, and rather strongly too. And why - because this "activity" will not be graded, it will not carry any marks. He was rambling on and on about why I would want to make them do something that does not carry any marks, and a hundred and one reasons why I should give marks for their efforts. Well, it seemed to me that he had quite forgotten the fact that he was enrolled in a franchise program, and what they were doing in the university which offered the program, we have to do exactly the same here (the lecturer at the university in the UK in fact, did confirm that his students had been doing this activity all along, it carrying no marks and all). It was no point explaining this to him, because, after I did, he still went on and on about the uselessness of this activity, and how the students will not gain anything (he means only marks) from participating and everything in that line, until the others were rolling their eyes back and were laughing. Probably he just can't accept the meaning of "franchise", or he could be one of those who would rather die than do something for nothing. (In the case of the research-and-present activity, he could actually gain experience, skills and knowlege in the end, but I guess he was only looking for marks)

So there goes my question again. When was the last time we did something for nothing? Charity? Well, how many people do charity because they want to, just because their hearts feel the need to? Definitely there are, but how many? Most people pray or worship, do charitable work, put a constant check on their words and actions - because they wanted to please God, whatever God they believe in. They didn't want to end up in hell, or be reincarnated as molluscs in their next lives. How many religious people were good because they want to? If God was proven to be non-existent, or if it was proven that only Heaven exists, and Hell didn't, and that everyone would go to Heaven no matter what they did on Earth, would people still be good?

Take for another example - friendship. We have friends because we want something from them. I always tell my bestfriend - we use each other - and she agrees. I want her companionship and she wants mine. Sometimes I would want her to do something for me, and sometimes she would want my help. We wouldn't be doing things for each other if we didn't need each other sometimes. It's a form of symbiosis. No one would want to be host to a parasitic "friend", would anyone? That's my point again - when was the last time we did something for nothing? When was the last time we did something good, because our heart is pure and good, and we know not otherwise?

So, do think about this post the next time you aplogise to somebody. Are you apologising because you really feel sorry for what you've done, that you regret your actions, and you never intend to repeat your wrongs, or are you apologising for other things? In Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, Rhett said to Scarlett - "You're in the exact position on a thief who's been caught red-handed and isn't sorry he stole, but is terribly, terribly sorry he's going to jail"

Monday, June 27, 2005

More on Waiting

This morning at 8 o'clock, I was there in my classroom, feeling really chilly and of course - lonely. The chairs, tables, locked-up computer, ceiling-mounted projector, whiteboards, pull-down screen, walls, doors etc. were great company, but not the main reason I went to class. So I sat down to wait, and it wasn't before 20 minutes' waiting, that the first guy walked (I could very well use the verb "strolled") in. And there goes 20 minutes of my life spent in idleness.

And I wonder, as I have wondered many years ago, when I was not quite a teen, that accumulated, how much of our lives we actually spend in idle waiting? The time we spent waiting to be picked up, for example, from school by a parent, or the school bus. I know I spent a lot of time waiting when I was in primary school, because I was fetched to and back from school by someone who at the same time ferried a few other children. So there I would be, waiting every morning and afternoon for the car to arrive. For most of my secondary years I had my own mode of transportation - my bicycle - but I still spent a substantial amount of time waiting every morning - for the friends with whom I cycled to school everyday. Oh, but I didn't need to wait for them going home in the afternoon, because no one would waste time dilly-dallying once the school's-over bell rings.

And I still spend lots of time in waiting, for various reasons, these days. For one, waiting for students, like I did this morning, is a norm. The bus and train by which I go home, require daily waiting. On top of that, we also wait for high-and-mighty employees with a "position" (the big shots ler) who looooove being late for meetings.

Well, there might be hundreds more reasons to wait, so I won't even start to attempt to list them all out. One day, perhaps, when I am really old, and can't afford to do anything else, I will attempt to compute the estimate of the total amount of time I spent in this lifetime, in waiting!

For the record, I am right now waiting for my kaki's to go breakfast (or, looking at the time now, I'd rather say "brunch") with. But I won't say I have waited in all idleness, because I had written a post, at least, although this couldn't be considered productive, from my employer's point of view. Right then, time to check my emails - hey, they could be work-related, for all you know! ;)

Friday, June 24, 2005

Attack of the Negative Aroma!

When I say the negative aroma, I mean the most truly, absolutely, extremely sickening, nauseating and revolting of smells ever experienced by my poor nose. And where does the negative aroma originate? Why, people, of course! I am talking about the worst of the worst of body odours. Imagine piling up the clothes that a sweat-a-lot man wore to a 3-hour gym session on a bed, covering the pile with a thick quilt, leaving it there, and then smelling the pile 3 weeks later. OK? The smell I mean to depict, is easily 10 times worse.

There are, in fact, several people around the faculty who generate this kind of atrocious aroma. The grand-master of bad smell (code-named: xiang-xiang gong zhu; abbreviated:xiang-xiang), however, sits rather near to where I sit, which is most unfortunate (for me!). These awful aromatic attacks that I am going to describe, come usually from her (yes, it's a LADY!).

If I am at my work desk and she comes back from lunch, I'll know it immediately because within milliseconds, the first of the foul, bacteria-laden molecules(ugh!!!) would waft over. Within seconds, I would be totally enshrouded by the disgusting smell. My stomach would start to turn and churn, and yesterday's dinner would be ready for regurgitation. Within minutes, if no action was taken to counter the attack, I would be oxygen-deprived, because my nose would have forbidden my diaphragm to expand for air intake.

To counter? I would either place my aromatherapy gel (scent of lavender, for stress-relieve) directly under my nose, or splash myself all over with mentholated medicated oil. Whenever I walk past xiang-xiang (which, unfortunately, we inevitably have to, sometimes) I automatically hold my breath. Automatically here, means, I actually do so subconsciously. A few others have also gotten themselves these aroma gels, for what I guess, pretty much the same reason for which I got mine. Those who didn't use aroma gels (or pot-pourris, or air-fresheners), and didn't complain about bad smells, were simply just too polite. I admire them. I have to admit I had even been tempted to present her a gift of soap, shampoo and deodorant!

Sometimes, when I think of it, I cannot understand how our very "tolerant" customers could withstand being in a closed room (with poor air circulation) with her! Probably all their olfactory cells were damaged during the first class itself! I mean, a skunk would hang its head in shame, if its infamous smell was compared with xiang-xiang's!


Since the last post, I have made some modification to the algorithm for simulating the performance of the LDPC codes. For one thing, instead of fixing the number of blocks of message to encode, transmit and decode per simulation, I have fixed the total amount of message bits instead (to 100,000 bits), and the number of blocks would vary with the code length (block size).

The first resulting curve, for n=10, was beautiful! Marvellous! I thought I should be on the right track now, finally! And then, I generated the curves for n=50 and n=100, and guess what - they showed higher BER compared to the n=10 curve. Now that's baffling! Larger block sizes should give better performance! What is wrong now?

And another baffling thing - since the total amount of message bits processed is fixed for all block sizes, the simulation time should not be increasing with increasing block size. But no, it does! For n=500, it didn't complete in 1.5 - 2hrs as did the simulation for n=10, n=50 and n=100. Yesterday, it went on for 8 hrs without getting even close to completion. I see no logic behind these weird occurrences!

I am, in every way, MYSTIFIED!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Over Half a Day

Yes... the simulation ran on for over half a day! It took a staggering 14 hours to complete. I went to bed at midnight - it was still running. I woke up at 3am to check on it - it was still running. I woke up again to check at 5 am - and thank Matlab it was done! I managed to save all data and the figure in all my grogginess and then went back to sleep, and then woke again at 6am for work! It was like having to take care of a little baby (waking up several times through the night for milk!) And voici - my graph:

Do you like it? I sure hope my supervisor does! :)

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Wait States

I am doing a channel coding simulation and ... an n=50-block size code using 100-interation decoding takes about twenty minutes to complete (on my AMD 2.8GHz with 512MB RAM PC). An n=500-block size code using 100-iteration decoding took 1 and a half hours. An n=500-block size code using 200-iteration decoding took 3 hours plus. Now, my n=1000-block size code using 200-iteration decoding is in its 8th hour of execution... and still going on. Gosh... how long do I have to wait? This had better give me a damn good BER vs Eb/N0 graph!

I hope my supervisor sees this post. OK - no, I'd rather not. :D

Sunday, June 12, 2005

On a POSITIVE note...

I just happened to think of a few good things about my line of work. Probably a poor attempt at self-consolation, but anyhow - here they are:

1. Dress & Decorum
We see customers (a.k.a. students) on a daily basis, but we don't need to wear 3-piece suits or cover ourselves in inch-thick make-up. Politeness and mutual-respect is standard procedure, but hell, if a customer screams at you, you shout right back.

2. Customer Demands
For the academician, the struggle to meet these demands almost does not exist. If the customers demand for more knowledge, more knowledge-based challenges, and lots of extra guidance and tutorials, we might have to work much harder to fulfill them, on top of our regular duties. However, our customers' demands are 99.9% of the time limited to early dismissal of class, extension of assignment deadlines, awarding of 'pity-marks' for tests etc., all of which we can flatly refuse.

3. Bad-behaving customers
This is the best part. We don't have to put up with fussy, bad-tempered and fickle-minded customers. If we didn't like what the customer is doing in class, we can scold him. Now, how many other jobs allow the service provider to actually reprimand the customer?

4. Your boss knows much much less than you do
Hey, if you're a subject expert in one field and your boss is a subject expert in another field (or, in no particular field :Þ) ... what else needs to be said?

5. Deadlines
Our deadlines (trust me, we have lots of them) always come with an unspoken tolerance of plus/minus few days. ;)

And lastly the campus char siew fan is quite delicious, really!

Thursday, June 9, 2005

The Wonder of Make Up

Yes - make up. Cosmetics. These little wonders can work miracles, and when I use the word 'miracles', I really mean miracles. I am sure any seasoned internet users would have come across pictures such as the below: (it's no wonder some women would not be caught dead not wearing any make up!)

Well, nothing short of fantastic huh? Impressed, aren't you? I wonder how a make over session like that can do for me. I can hardly imagine. Well, don't need to. My bestfriend and I went for a make over session some time ago, and we too, got some before and after photos. You can really see a difference here:

Whoa! OK - bad idea. :D