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?