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Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Module Feedback / The ISD in NUS / An exchange student on Singapore / Bartok / Adium and other Mac software / Collaboration in the Sciences vs the Arts

"A good friend can tell you what is the matter with you in a minute. He may not seem such a good friend after telling." - Arthur Brisbane

Random Playlist Song: Trevor Pinnock - The English Concert and Choir: Handel - Messiah - And The Glory Of The Lord Shall Be Revealed (chorus)

And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

I always heard it as "and all men shall sing together"

Random Trivia bit: "Obi" is the name given to the sash worn on a Japanese kimono.


9 hours to my first exam in 3 years :)

The more philosophy MCQs I do, the worse I get at them. Woe, woe.

On the other hand a friend got 1/20 for one of the papers, so.

On module feedback for some module:

Professor: Thank you very much for your feedback. No test or exam is perfect and the mid-term test could certainly be improved (ideally there should be no tests ! but we havent reached that stage yet ).

First some general comments on the objective of the test. There were two objectives: 1) A test of basic skills/concepts mastered and 2) A test of critical thinking and ability to resolve unfamiliar problems.

For the first, some elementary questions were set. For the second the questions were still elementary (in the sense that no specialised technical knowledge was required) but required the student to think critically and deal with ambiguity.

Now let me take this opportunity to make some general comments on the education system and my observations on how some students study. These comments are for the general reader --- specific comments to your feedback are separately made below. It is unfortunate that many students get stuck in the "A level" mode for the rest of their lives (yes its the fault of MOE which forced them to go through 12 years of that system, but you can always break out --- and thats wht we expect of USP students). To do well up to A levels (especially in science) all you have to do is memorise a lot fo jargon and solve many problems from your 10 year series, and you are set to score A's.

Things are different at the university level. Although some departments in some faculties still have such exams, here in the Scholars Programme we dont. The objective in USP modules is not to simply see if you have mastered some technical skill which you can reproduce in an exam but to also see whether you can use those basic skills to solve other probelms, maybe in unfamiliar contexts, and whether you can think critically.

Of course to acheive those goals, one must first master some basic skills (especially in science and maths modules). But I am not interested in asking students to ONLY solve technically difficult problems like what they would typically get in their home faculties (for science and engin stduents) but rather how they could also sensibly and logically handle some ambiguity.

How does one "study" for such modules then ? Well certainly not the A-level way. The only way is to think critically about what is done and said in class (and not just note it for exam studies), to discuss, to ask questions, to read, to clarify, to experiment etc.

I know of some USP students (those from previous years who I know well and who i have spoken to) who still spend most of their time memorising "model answers" . They then are disappointed that the questions didnt test them on all that. Well, welcome to USP I tell them !


Someone: did u know the isd has students working for em here?

Me: I can guess
but how do you know?

Someone: heh privileged info? i have relations in high places
its not really a secret

Me: what do they do? monitor dissent? keep track of the singapore heartbeat?
it's one of those things you suspect are urban legends lah

Someone: oh its not. they monitor the societies, organisations, high profilers for any signs of dissent ;P
of course they don't say that. its 'maintaining national security'
blah blah

Me: aiyah same thing


Cherie's student exchange friend on Singapore:

"What I've Learned"

Singapore is like any other Asian countries that is controlled by a family, even though on the surface, it doesn't apparently to be so, but in reality, it probably is, so good luck Mr. Lee.

Cashcard is probably the most useful medium of buying coffee/coke/tea via vending machines, no need for change, just stick it in, bam, wham, thank you cashcard.

Singapore Girls in this part of the world, due to some high expectations I donno why are probably like your average girl anywhere else but the typical girl is your "killer ass legs + long dyed brown (shit) colour hair + big eyes + those madass hot pants + tank top" and the initial investment is higher and you are required to make her laugh before anything else goes, so godspeed fellas.

Singapore Guys all knows how to handle a grenade, m16, rocket launchers, then again, I realised they are no where as humourous as rest of the Asia counterparts. So ladies, if you want to feel protected, Sing guys are the way to go.

Corporate Finance is no longer a subject, for me it became a passion here, the other day, I've explained dating and society in terms of Corporate Finance, e.g. a tender offer is like being friends with all her friends and then ask her out with the support of her friends, I mean shareholders. Singlish is a merger between chinese hokkien, mandarin, english and malay.

No Laptop is fine with me, except occasionally, I would have to wake up at 7 in the morning to come to the library and check my email. Other than that, its actually a bliss, I've been reading more and I've had more time to myself. (Shut up Mike)

Staring in Singapore is so common with guys its not funny, its like a mark of territory for these dudes, its all good, you taught me well. I know exactly what eye to give you when I don't want you around.

Durians smells and is somewhere ranked in my fruitionary as not acceptable or next to faeces.>< Toilets are still disgusting as well. I am actually looking forward to using normal toilets again. God help me.

Shopping? One advice, Singapore is one big shopping centre, and all the Jap department stores are a rip off.

Ipod? Three Words: "I'm in Love"

PGP (WHERE i stay!), what a ghetto community, its been a pleasure people.

Ze Swedes is probably the biggest group of metrosexuals I've seen in my short existance, an example we should all follow, and note people, they weren't kidding when they said they got an alarming number of beautiful women. I am thinking about Haull Ass and migrate myself as a Fob!

What I can't stand is probably when my classmates thinks that I can't understand chinese, I mean com'on, I am the biggest F-O-B in UNSW. Ah, my new nick name: Beijing's Favourite Son.

Jay Chou's new album is the only music that I've been listening to recently, yeah, I am getting a bit sick of it as well.

Leaving to me came too late, I want to get it over with and leave Singapore.

I will miss Hawker centres, the food were the best and I am not exaggerating at all.

I will not miss however hawker centres that charges me SG$5 for chicken rice though.

A balance of between Modern and Ancient civilisation? go to Ubin Island and check it out.

Lah is one over-rated singlish word here. True singlish uses the following: "makan" (Eat), "Bang se (stood up), ending with right instead of Lah, "Obviously," "Kua Diu Gui" (I just saw a ghost), Ang Mo (WHITE dudes), Cho Bu (Hot Chics), An Liens (Plastics) Ah Bengs (my homes)

Singapore in one sentence: Its painful losing to HK wasn't it?

Singapore experince in one sentence: Close but no cigar


Someone: bartok is shit hahahahahha

Me: haha yah that's why I don't listen to him

Someone: we used to laugh that our classmate who only played bartok and chose it because she had fat and heavy hands and it was perfect for bartok


Someone was gushing to me about Adium, a multi-IM platform client for the Mac.

I had a look at the X(tras) listing, and sure enough, of the 49 pages of plugins/add-ons, only 7 were of plugins that added *real* functionality. The other 42 were of flashy but useless add-ons that added no non-cosmetic value to the application.

How typical.


“All the same, the laws of nature have mistreated me constantly, more than anything
else in my life.”

- Dostoyevsky’s The Underground Man

This reminds me of my mother, who thinks that the whole world is out to deliberately spite her.

Keywords: Dostoevsky, all my life, notes from the underground, against me, conspired, forces of nature


"Another intriguing aspect of mathematics that seems to distinguish it from the arts and humanities is the extent to which mathematicians, like scientists, collaborate in their work. A very large fraction of the articles published in the research journals of mathematics have multiple authorship. Such collaboration is rare in the arts unless it arises through a rather strict demarcation of contributions, as was the case with Gilbert and Sullivan’s operettas, where one of the duo composed the music, the other the lyrics. There are also some instances of painters who specialize in producing background landscapes on which others paint human figures or animals. As one moves farther away from realist to abstract painting, this division of labour becomes less and less feasible. But in science and mathematics the collaborative process often goes much deeper to entwine the authors in a process of dialogue and mutual criticism in which they are able to produce a result that could not have been even half-reached by one of them. Perhaps we should regard this distinction between the arts and the sciences in the same way as we do the fact that the same scientific or mathematical discoveries are often made ‘independently’ by different individuals but artistic creations are unique. Is it evidence that the sciences and mathematics are dominated by a strong objective element that is independent of the investigator(s), whose role is primarily that of discovery? The artist or creative writer, by contrast, is offering an almost entirely subjective creation that emanates from the creative mind of the individual. Indeed, it is this non-objective element in the creative process that is so attractive. It is inherently unpredictable and unsystematic."

- John Barrow, Pi in the Sky

I love these random gems.

Disclaimer: I didn't actually read the book.
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