March, 2002

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A Time For Reflection

The students in my lecture groups will notice that I bring a pint-sized notebook – a Toshiba Portégé 3480 – to school, although aside from the smaller Software Engineering lecture groups on Thursday and Friday afternoon , it doesn’t ever seem to see use during the lecture itself. The reason for this is simply that teaching via a Powerpoint presentation off the notebook works only for me if the lecture group is small – since I have to mostly sit down when I lecture in this mode. In either case, while watching my Thursday evening lecture group do the mid-semester test, I finally decided to write some notes reflecting on recent events since the closing months of last year.

The tumultuous events that took place in our living world, particularly the horrific images of two airliners filled with passengers slamming into a commercial district – which even after six months still affect me a great deal, and the spate of violence seems to continue even to right now. I remember years ago when I was still schooling my remarking to my Godmums that I wish that all the world’s terrorists would gather at a stadium and have it out with each other instead of killing bystanders and innocent civilians just to prove a point; and I would be the first in line to buy a ticket to watch the show. My Godmums then added that we would then take all the proceeds and build orphanages with them. Perhaps the thing that was most reminded to me in the wake of the 9-11 incident was the single-mindedness of the human person when set to a purpose – that when cast he will pursue with his entire being with no care for the circumstantial damage his actions will cause.

As some of my closer colleagues will know as well, there was also high drama being played out at school last year that nearly resulted in very large changes to my responsibilities at work. The matter was a culmination of many things – and without exposing too much detail to the few students whom I’m sure read their lecturer’s rants here – it has fortunately been amiably concluded, though not without leaving indelible impressions on myself. In the words of a kind friend – a senior director at work – who wrote words of sound advice to myself, he said that sometimes in the most practical sense, it would be simply easier if I exercised restraint in voicing out my concerns; and that exercising this restraint and holding my peace would not make me a lesser person.

Also, just a few months ago, that friend from NTU – mentioned in the story “Keeping Late Nights” below – caught up with myself again, and we were speaking to each other quite a bit over several weeks. I was certainly thrilled to hear from her again, and that she had been well. However, like before – we were speaking barely for less than a month before we ended up arguing again. The circumstances of the disagreement was in my opinion really trivial, but I was nonetheless still distressed when she said sarcastically that I was using my “debating skills to win the argument, as usual”, and that how could I live as a human being if I “lacked the ability to feel emotion?” I was greatly upset at her words, but left it at that – and since then she has not spoken to me again, although I have ventured just one email to her. Truth to tell, I have been and still am tremendously fond of her, and whether this circumstance has been a result of my own actions or not, I am still just bewildered why the two of us can’t be better friends than this.

I was recently in NTU as well – and will be again this coming Saturday – to adjudicate in the 2nd Dorothy Cheung Memorial Debating tournament. I remember the late Professor Cheung well, even though my association with her only took place in my final year in NTU. It was also delightful to watch young adult debaters spar with one another, and watching them reminds me of my own debating days in Junior-College and in NTU, and certainly alleviates the difficulty in adjudicating the debate itself! Whoever says that preparing a case and presenting a 7 minute speech is hellishly difficult, let that person try listening to eight times that over the course of a single debate, adjudicate, and at the end attempt to present a verbal assessment that would not result in him lynched by the losing team!

Well – the growing sounds of paper rustling and body weights moving around their seats indicate that my students are about done with the test paper. Time to go. :)