October 10th, 2004

krazy koati

Let's all drink to the death of a clown

So the dinner was a fun affair, with a nice casual air that let me act like, well, me. It was a huge banquet hall, with a thousand attendees or so, and steady video playing. The hourlong cocktail and then several hours of dinner and programming (divided into seven acts, according to the program) gave me abundant material on which to comment. Among my observations:

  • The 75th Anniversary thing is counted from the founding of Raffles College, one of (several) schools which merged to make the modern National University of Singapore. Raffles College began teaching in 1928. They justify calling this the 75th anniversary because the inauguration was in 1929.
  • The official logo for the 75th anniversary is two stylized Saguaro cacti, with seven and five lobes. The Saguaro cactus was picked because from humble origins it takes on its impressive and majestic stature at about 75 years of age. They do not mention that Saguaros are not native to Singapore, and may well have never been in Singapore except possibly in botanical laboratories.
  • Professors, TAs, and administrative staff were given teaching honors, each with a picture -- the professors' pictures including quotes from student evaluations, e.g., ``makes BORING maths seem fun!!!'' -- and applause, which died very quickly whenever they announced the recipient could not attend. Many of these pictures were black-and-white underlit group head shots, making me wonder if they were giving teaching honors to the 1964 Beatles.
  • Before the buffet they blew out the candle at our table, and at nearby tables. They left lit the candles nearer the speakers' podium.
  • As the President of the university gave his (prerecorded) talk about how the faculty broke down the intellectual walls separating specializations, I noted the tables were color-coded by department.
  • In the 1950s the Mathematics Department built differential analyzers out of Meccano sets.
  • A video for the university's new (science and mathematics-oriented) high school showed how students will have hands-on laboratory experience, making measurements of plastic starfish replicas and such. My riff: ``Here, students work together to force a starfish to confess.'' (This got my best laugh of the night, and one person asking, ``You're pretty cynical, aren't you?'' -- I don't think I am, but I could write an essay on the question.)
  • At the high school they'll focus on small classes. They're also building an auditorium to hold 700 at once.
  • The lucky draw prizes included (second place) three days and two nights in Bali; and (first place) a home theater system. I think vacations, even short vacations to nearby spots, outrank consumer electronics and therefore their placement was backwards.

The subject line is prompted by the convention center somehow having acquired a Muzak version of the Kinks' ``Death of a Clown,'' a feat I'd have thought would defy natural law.

Trivia: Rutgers celebrated the centennial of its founding in 1870. It was founded in 1766. (The original charter was lost; the 1770 replacement was thought at the time to be the original.) Source: Rutgers: A Bicentennial History, Richard P McCormick.

Currently Reading: The Halfling and other stories, Leigh Brackett.