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21-30 November 2002

27 NovDVDs/Education Debate
24 NovRichard Lim's take on Wit
24 NovThe Log of your Life
23 NovEllen Feiss Interview
22 NovThe poem behind Enterprise's "Rogue Planet"
22 NovUndercorrection
22 NovOverture to Don Giovanni
22 NovWordSpy

DVDs/Education Debate

27 November 2002 11:23 PM SGT

For the next few weeks or so I might be blogging less because I have just bought tons of great DVDs!: Once & Again Season 1, Star Trek: The Next Generation Seasons 1-4, & Band of Brothers. & they cost a bomb too. :-(

Something about the ongoing parliamentary debate on the proposed changes to the Upper Secondary & JC education system (last post): it seems the focus of concern from MPs would be the potential of elitism when the schools with better-performing students allow their students to bypass the O & A Level examinations. & there's the nagging concern, despite MOE's reassurances, that with more subjects & the new project work, the JC students will have a heavier workload. Well a multidisciplinary approach should call for some sacrifices right? I also have the feeling that much of the initial outcry is mostly knee-jerk reactions against change; we are all naturally hesitant to embrace big changes, even if they may be sorely needed. Caution's good, but too much becomes inertia. Plus there are the stereotypical results-chasing, kiasu Singaporeans that just don't get the hint that the world has changed.

Anyway there is much coverage of the whole direction of education in this country in the Straits Times & some at Channel NewsAsia. There is much wise commentary from the MPs on how we can - must - go beyond the infrastructural changes (which are good, but...) to seize the chance to educate, not to merely produce economic units but to instil ideals like creativity, critical thinking & morality into future Singaporeans. Perhaps everyone, not just the MOE & the schools, need to think about their role to play: parents, teachers, students etc.

Richard Lim's take on Wit

24 November 2002 10:31 PM SGT

When the flesh betrays, intellect alone can prove inadequate: today in the Sunday Times, Richard Lim's summary & review of Wit (Sunday Times: I'll die another day). See my post on the movie.

Addendum: Richard Lim's website has many of his previous published articles.

The Log of your Life

24 November 2002 5:18 PM SGT

New Scientist: Software aims to put your life on a disk, about an ongoing project at Microsoft's Media Presence lab in San Francisco to develop a surrogate brain to store images, videos, text & other media of your life. Imagine if an integrated system could capture everything you said, heard, watched, did, so that it could be easily referenced & used for anything between making sure you haven't told the same joke twice to providing an impeccable historical record of your life to your descendants. Of course there has to be near-flawless security for this for it not to become a privacy disaster, but allow me to imagine...

A really accurate, searchable store of events could also help us preserve our experiences more vividly for posterity. Doug de Groot, who works on computer-generated beings called avatars and other types of digital "life" at Leiden University in the Netherlands, says Bell's system could eventually form the basis for "meet the ancestor" style educational tools, where people will quiz their ancestors on what happened in their lifetimes.

- New Scientist: Software aims to put your life on a disk

As it is, I find I am unable to remember things like what books I've read or what movies I've watched just, say, 2 years ago, & what I gained from them, because I'm too lazy to write them in a diary which, anyway, is not easily searchable & contains only your opinion of the events at the time. Of course there's a place for this - like a perspective of what the teenage version of you were as you leaf through the pages 20 years later - but I would really appreciate something that could bring together objective facts like conversations, video & so on. I already keep logs on the books & movies, by the way, but I think it would be cooler if I used a digital camera or webcam to create snapshots of my life every month, perhaps. It's scary that I can only remember bits & pieces of the first decade-plus of my life, nothing more.

It's all a battle with the passage of time & the inadequacy of human memory. The Ozymandias complex? haha.

Ellen Feiss Interview

23 November 2002 11:12 PM SGT

The Ellen Feiss craze, with T-shirts & lookalike contests & all, simply had to have this one: an interview with her! (Brown Daily Herald, the college newspaper of Brown University). Also see the Wired article; apparently there's been a lot of publicity by the Herald on campus.

She's sort of blase & amazed about the whole thing, not unlike her attitude in the Switch ad, & how she's coping with fame (quite well, it seems). Another interesting thing is that they seemed to have gotten people off the streets - according to her, she's the classmate of the director's son, Hamilton Morris - & she has a problem with her Windows PC serious enough to warrant the Switch. Is it as widespread as it seems?

Lastly the Slashdot post on the interview, & some lively discussion on side issues like Mac OS X vs Linux & the teenage propensity to use the word 'like'; like my propensity to over-use the ampersand :-(.

The poem behind Enterprise's "Rogue Planet"

22 November 2002 5:23 PM SGT

It's somewhat embarrassing but I'm a sucker for shows that invoke poetry, be they good or bad (see Wit (Donne) & The Dead Poets Society (Thoreau), for instance). It seems to give the show added profundity, although I know this is usually also shameless manipulation on the part of the writers. In an episode of Enterprise I watched recently, "Rogue Planet" (synopsis; the term refers to a planet that has been knocked out of its orbit with a star), Archer meets a character whom he thinks is his visualisation of a woman from a poem by Yeats he remembers fondly from his childhood. This poem (The Song of Wandering Aengus) is about a man who catches a fish that turns into a beautiful woman, then disappears. The man spends the rest of his life searching for the woman, for his vision of perfection, but never finds her.

Undercorrection

22 November 2002 4:59 PM SGT

An extremely intriguing study (New Scientist: Eye correction is seriously short sighted) suggests that the common practice of undercorrecting for myopia (prescribing lenses to let the focused image fall in front of, instead of directly on the retina) & has worrying implications, personally as well since I happen to be one of those who are severely short-sighted. Of course, as with all studies, we need to be slightly cautious & await further experiments that may or may not verify the finding.

Overture to Don Giovanni

22 November 2002 4:54 PM SGT

Today I'll be attending the SSO Concert (still at the Victoria Concert Hall; the SSO will be moving to the Esplanade permanently only next year): the main piece on the programme is Elgar's Violin Concerto, but I'm actually going for the overture to Mozart's Don Giovanni (ref: overture: An instrumental composition intended especially as an introduction to an extended work, such as an opera or an oratorio). I haven't actually watched or heard the entire opera (from what I've read it's the dark comedy of a promiscuous nobleman & his comeuppance); it's just that this piece is part of my Mozart compilation, & while it is great, it has also become the music I hear in my mind during Maths exams. Yeah I know it's eccentric (& believe me, I have many more eccentricisms) & has nothing to do with the music or the opera, but I think it's because of all those very-late-night studying where I played the CD.

WordSpy

22 November 2002 4:49 PM SGT

WordSpy has a great newsletter for neologisms, helping to keep the English language as lively & interesting as ever before. Some coined words I like: Fifth Amendment capitalist and helper's high.

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