Thursday, July 31, 2008

Last Official Day of Work

Well, that's it for my time as an official teacher of MOE. Today was my last day as a teacher at SAJC, and it's now full speed ahead for my studies to get a Masters of Public Policy degree at the Lee Kuan Yew School.

The stats test today, BTW, was horrible. Utterly false advertising that got everybody thinking that it would maths - algebra with maybe some functions? Instead we got a horrible crash exam in statistics. What the heck is the Empirical Rule? I would know it if somebody had told me to study it, but we were wholly unprepared!

In fact, this is the first Orientation I know of that has already involved 2 assignments and a test. Wow. Talk about getting 'qieh' upside down.

With all the things happening , I'm still trying to get over the fact that I'm not a teacher anymore. Oh, to be sure, I'll probably be looking for tuition offers, preferably from my former students. But it's just not the same as standing in front of 600 students to deliver a lecture, and the thrill after it all when you KNOW you've done a good job of explaining the content(more or less). I'm applying for relief teaching, and when my timetable is settled I'll be sending it to my subject head, so I'll still be around in SAJC as a sorta advisory/reserve/backup role.

The year end gaming convention has been called off, but the textbook is still on, and my collaborator in Australia is getting ready to burn, and so should I.

So that's it for the time being, as if it wasn't enough. Studies, the project to set the J1 H1 Chem paper, the textbook project, and tuition. Argh, I should learn to say no the next time round...

Friday, July 18, 2008

Choral Conductors in Singapore

When talking to an aspiring DSA applicant, she asked about our practice schedules, and when I told her, she commented that she checked with the other JCs, and they're virtually daily practices. I retorted by saying that I don't quite believe that, and I made the offhand remark that certain conductors probably aren't that sort. She specifically mentioned Meridian, and I thought it was Zechariah Goh in charge, because I vaguely remembered somebody telling me that. And he certainly doesn't seem the harsh taskmaster kind.

But still, I wasn't quite sure, so I decided to refresh my memory, and checked online. Actually, Chee Foon was still in charge of MJC Choir. Then I thought about the other conductors who're around the same age as I am, and then it hit me: they were ALL guys.

Just a quick list of those I know: Albert Tay(SAJC, of course!), Terence Toh, Low Shi Howe(TPJC, now studying overseas), Yong Chee Foon(MJC), Leslie Tay(IJC, now studying overseas). Just about the only young female conductor I can think of conducting at the JC level is Ms Ong from NYJC, but I've never met her, while I've had either worked or sung with most of the guys mentioned. I've worked with Albert at SAJC, sang under Terence at NUS, and Leslie was my bass section leader back in NJC. Chee Foon kinda knows me because I make trips down to his shop to collect/purchase scores, and Shi Howe is the only one I've not really talked with.

Why is it that most of the young conductors are male? Something in the water, or the style of music now promoted by the experienced conductors like Nelson Kwei, Ms Lim et al? Heck, I don't remember Nelson ever taking in a female protege!

On the Horizon of the Azolla Event

It's pretty well known by now that CO2 levels in the atmosphere has been increasing slightly. And by slightly, I mean relative to (pre-)historical levels. Current levels are 390 ppm by volume, and global warming hysterics are running around warning that the sky might fall. Yawn.

In fact, the CO2 level in the Triassic period was 1750 ppm, and take note of this: the polar regions did not have glaciers, and were warm and temperate regions!!! In fact, cold blooded vertebrate such as reptiles were able to live at the poles, which is impossible today.

CO2 levels declined slowly during the Jurassic period, and during the Eocene period, a sudden(even catastrophic) bloom of a freshwater fern Azolla broke out in the then-not-as-cold Arctic Sea, in what is called the Azolla event. The fern consumed huge amounts of CO2(from 3500 to 650 ppm!!!) from the atmosphere, and sank to the bottom of the sea, where they were incorporated into the bed sediment and locked in with their corresponding loads of carbon. The decrease in CO2 levels and corresponding greenhouse effect caused the Earth's climate to change from a 'greenhouse' to an 'icehouse'. This also caused sea levels to drop, obviously.

CO2 levels continued to decline, until they were barely above the 'suffocation' level(200ppm) for plants. In fact, we are in a global ice age, though you would not have guessed it judging from the idiots in the media and pseudo-scientific institutions warning of anthropogenic global warming.

Where am I going with all this? All this is just evidence that Earth's environment can easily deal with hotter climes, and in fact may be a good thing, as higher CO2 levels will encourage biosphere growth, especially for plants and cold blooded species. It's also an indicator that perhaps we have less to do with increasing CO2 levels as we thought. And finally, I don't feel it's a big problem. Warmer temperatures on Earth would probably mean less deaths due to extreme cold(more people die every year from cold weather than from hot weather). Ocean acidification? If it's not a problem millions of years ago, it's not going to be a problem now either.

The only possible drawback that should be taken into account would be geological factors, especially considering the erosion of the continents hundreds of millions of years after the Triassic. Back in the prehistoric times, some of the continents were virtually submerged, like Europe, for example. Further denudation of shorelines in the millions of years since would probably mean a decrease in the land surface of Earth. Which is obviously not a good thing. Substantial energy would need to be expended to construct barriers against the sea as the sea level rises.

As a matter of fact, the greatest limitation and danger now facing human civilization is not global warming, global cooling, or whatever. It's access to cheap energy. Give me a cheap and plentiful source of energy, and anything becomes possible. Let's hope the Polywell fusion reactor pans out.