Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Monday Oranges - Prelude

It's nice to be able to wake up at my own time for once, not at some ungodly hour where ghosts get arrested by Hell's Guardians for staying out past the curfew (or get roasted by the first rays of sun if they actually can avoid the guardians. Either way, it's not worth it).

I'm writing about Monday but publishing this on Tuesday. So there. I didn't talk about the day before it was over.

By the time I got out of bed today it was 10+. I went about the usual Netichores - emails and RSS feeds. I was considering since Sunday night buying Campbell's Cream of Mushroom, evaporated milk, cheese maybe? and making my own lunch. But I figured that if I wanted to be so elaborate about it, nasi lemak was still cheaper. So that I got and ate, accompanied by the latest episode of Ugly Betty. I'd not reached my 5th mouthful when my phone buzzed and Ian asked if I wanted to have lunch.


Well too bad. So we met an hour later instead, where I accompanied Ian to the Audio Technica office to get his earphones repaired. Excited about the headworn microphone set I enquired about it. It was $600. Without accompanying equipment (transmitter/receiver amp etcetcetc.) I only want one to plug into the PC dammit. I think it's time to visit Sim Lim... well the other one with the hardcore electronics stuff.

We went to our usual pool haunt at Parkway Centre, but only lasted two games before we were thoroughly out of it. So out of the blue we decided to visit Victoria School. Which I'll continue in the next post because it deserves a chronicle of its own.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Revision3 Publishes Layout Change

After much inside-joke giggling from fellow podcasters NTT and Jerrick, I decided to be a thermometer and subscribe to Revision3 show(s). The only two I'm interested in are Diggnation, of course, and the Totally Rad Show. I had finished Diggnation and moved on to TRS when I wanted to check something else out at a slower point of the episode, when the site indicated that it was down for upgrade. It's amazing how quickly I forgot it, until I wanted to link my friend to Diggnation and so opened another window.

After that I was careful going about the TRS episode page, because I knew that if a careless click brought me out of that page, I was never going to see it again. Waiting until TRS was going into the ending chores (sponsors and email), I screenshot the old page before refreshing to its new page. Here's the difference.

Previous TRS Ep 43 page
New TRS Ep 43


First thing one would notice would be the comparatively large-ass player. I estimated the new player to be about 2.5 times larger than the old one. There's a big change there. 555x337, according to the official news post about it. Instead of the standard black-green layout that colored all R3 shows previously, each show has a distinct look of its own to differentiate itself. Good call to make put viewers into better show-related surroundings, rather than feeling like you're looking at different sides of an otherwise similarly red-colored die. Sharing and downloading options more accessible and more obvious. The expansion of the blog body also stretched the page out more, which explains why I had to take two screenshots to do the new layout justice where the old one could comfortably be captured in one.

The news post touts easier navigation from a neater layout, but it is indeed arguable as put forward by NTT that it looks quite cluttered. Perhaps enough comments would make them change it accordingly.

Personally though, who cares. In both layouts you could say that the page elements were centred around the player, but that statement's brought to a whole new dimension in the new design. And I have to say, R3's videos are clear and easy to read even with the small screen, but the new big screen is a welcome relief to our monitor-strained eyes.

For more details, check out the news post here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Serving in Children's Church - One Year On (well, a little more)

As I was doing my usual round around the toilet, using my arguably large presence to make sure the boys don't spray their liquid waste on their friend's DS Lite (I was about to get my last gym badge you ash-hoe!), I heard several voices raised in an excited, typical sabotage-mode way, yelling "EEE YOU ALL GO IN TOGETHER YOU GAY AH EEE!"

I immediately made a bee line (to the best of my ability without knocking into the pillar or upsetting the orchids) towards the voice and as expected, upon seeing me, the boys started yelling it all over again. Apparently 3 guys dashed into the large handicap cubicle and locked themselves in for a jolly good time.

3? What the hell.

So I stuck my hands in my pockets and waited patiently outside the handicap cubicle. When it unlocked I caught the boys who, upon seeing me, very smartly tried to split, but oh I was prepared.

My ministry leader taught us that to get it into the kids' heads, we had to squat to look at them at eye level, not talk down and yell.

I totally forgot about that. It's hard, really, when your mind's split between discipline and ensuring ever-excited boys don't run slip and split their head on the edge of a pillar. It was only about 10 seconds (oh that's long I tell you) into my disciplining when I realized that the boys who ratted were standing behind me grinning triumphantly at the offenders. But for some reason which I thank God for they reacted immediately when I gave them half a second of attention and told them to bugger off (effectively, anyway).

As I grilled the 3 kids (Why? Why all three of you together? I want to know why.), I noticed...

Drops of water on their faces.

When I told the teachers later at debriefing, I must have given a disgusted look, because ministry leader piped, "We'll take it as water, not... you know..."

Later I had another chance to practice the eye level technique after a kid persisted in having a very lively chat with his friend even after two warnings from me (a more generous number than the usual one-stern-warning-and-out). And it was a textbook performance, until the kid gave off SERIOUS gonna-cry vibes. And that resulted in me having to pull the I'm-not-angry-with-you-but-I-want-you-to-know-that-... line earlier than the usual. On hindsight I should have noted his name and thanked him for his attention after that. I'll do that next time.

It's been effectively one year since I joined Children's Ministry, and I'm sorry to say that even now my team leader is preparing for my leave. Barely a year and a half. I love children, I still do, and unless a child walks in and kills my whole extended family with his bare hands I should think that I always will love children. But in the long run, or future proofing as the geeks call it, my heart was quite clear about the fact that it would prefer audio engineering to childcare.

One of the main things I've learnt during my short time in this ministry (1.5 years is short when you serve once every 3 weeks) is drawing a line between being friendly and approachable, and being firm. Slowly I went from "Um hey there, please don't do that, no don't do that, ahh..." to mastering the snap finger-point-stare. It sounds really cold and authoritarian, so the trick is to not give an I-keel-you! stare, but do something to the effect of a light smile and a shake of the head. Besides, I don't wanna eclipse the preaching teacher. And the snap-point-stare is a fantastic solution to my chronic fear of severing a child's (or several's) arteries by tripping and falling on him (them).

That is not to say that I'm a one-look-silencer of course. Just because one's learnt to be firm doesn't mean one can control children. Granted, the intelligence of children nowadays make me feel like a retard when I was that age, but we still often expect too much of them. Expect them to understand the complexities of situations that less than three years ago we were still struggling to comprehend ourselves. Nevertheless I'm thankful for the amount of stuff I've learnt myself in church.

I've also had plenty of time to think about what irked me in Children's Church. Chiefly, alot of things said by teachers are oversimplified truths, to the extent that I seriously wonder whether it would cause harm to the children's worldview. Now let me make clear that I don't claim at all to know much, if any, about childcare education, and once again maybe I'm overestimating a child's intelligence, but if they learn such opinionated truths (which I shall refrain from giving examples of to prevent any more complications than those already threatening to present themselves), how exactly are we different from those who maintain themselves by putting others down? Is that the only sort of simplification a child's mind can handle? If it is, have educators considered how it could affect their objective view of situations in the future?

That said, if one were to tell me (with proper academic evidence) that children's reasoning and comprehensive capacity peak at a level which to more mature adults seem terribly subjective, and that this will not actually affect them adversely in the future, given that the appropriate teaching methods are waned and waxed accordingly, then gee whiz I have no problem at all.

Who said teaching a child was easy? Plenty of fine fine lines to toe.

A hug and smile can solve many many things in this cruel world. But it can't solve every single thing.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Cab Fare Hike - From the Cabbie's Mouth

Sometime ago (this topic is from an enormous backlog of posts-to-be), around Christmas, I was at my cousin's place, where we had a fantastic lunch involving the Ikea do-all sauce and marine poultry and quadruped meat, and where I experienced the divine power of the Nintendo Wii. With a huge bag of leftovers to carry, I took a cab from Punggol back to Tampines. And I asked the driver about what the increase has done for him and his colleagues.

I got a hollow laugh in response. He was very straight with me about it. "What to do? We depend on airport and Orchard Road."

"But the airport queue is so long."
"Better than driving around looking for customers! Diesel expensive you know!"

Just what are the cab companies trying to do? They aren't helping their employees, and when more enterprising (or desperate) employees waive surcharges, they shrug at first only for someone else to say it's wrong later.

Do they really enjoy twisting people around their fingers like that? I'm not ready to believe they are such cruel creatures, but the image we are all seeing now (or I am), is as such.

You cannot see both the front and back of the person at the same time.

Not without a mirror.

Finally Upgraded to Gmail 2.0!

If you listen to 65bits, or if I consider you a fellow geek, you might have heard me bitch about not having been upgraded to Gmail 2.0. It's not so much that it's fantastic or anything, although the improvements are more than welcome, it's just a classic he-has-I-want thing. I was beginning to seriously consider Daniel's theory-in-jest about a Google engineer hearing me complain on 65bits and then gathering his colleagues around his desk to watch him denying my account an upgrade.

So how did I get it? Tired of being left behind, I sought netizenal interference (it's not accurate. just sounds right) from the Gmail help pages. I finally got a clue when they mentioned that "we take time to get our new features rolled out to everyone, but it helps if you are on IE7 or FF2 with English (US) as your language. After digging around on the community forums confirmed this, I had a suspicion and dashed back to my Gmail page to check.

My language was set to English (UK).

This dates back to three years ago when it was my opinion that I grew up learning British English and that that's what should be stated should a situation call for it.

Who cares now? I spell colour as color without flinching. That's what 3 years US education does to you. And not that it's a bad thing.

I would rather like to label it as progress, actually.