August 12th, 2006

krazy koati

I'll put the whole thing on ice

Enjoy National Day? Or at least hearing vague things about it from me? The New Paper had a shocking front page today: ``Pretty Fireworks, Ugly Behaviour.'' It seems that the fireworks-enhanced festivities for this year also brought out the worst in Singaporeans. According to the subhead, ``Over-Eager Spectators Jaywalk, Climb Railings, and Park Illegally'', and it teases, ``Organizers: We'll Cancel If ... '' You can virtually see the Mama Merlion, standing there with her plaid apron neatly ironed, tut-tutting, shaking her head, and just wondering why we can't have nice festivities.

One of my students, hoping to do an undergraduate research project for me, asked when we might meet today; I suggested 2 pm, since it has many important properties like not being in the morning. Around noon I started to wonder; had I met my other bunch of students doing a research project yet this week? And if I hadn't, wouldn't today be the day? And if I'd had any say in setting up the meeting time, wouldn't it also be 2 pm? When the first student showed up at 2 pm, I figured I didn't have a conflict, but it turned out yeah, I had them both coming in at the same time. Fortunately the one I e-mailed yesterday could wait until 3.

But it is the conclusion of ``Week Zero'', the orientation and registration week, and come Monday I'm supposed to pick up classroom keys and from Tuesday leap right into teaching. I'm trying out the ``notebook'' method of grading this time, giving students the option to forego doing homework and the midterm in favor of preparing projects on their own to demonstrate their mastery of the subject. I had this myself for a real analysis course, and I really got into it; and if it turns out to be a fiasco, at least I won't have messed up my old department irrevocably. One student's already declared he wants to take me up on the offer; he's a student I had last year. This poses the curious question: I know the sort of work he'll do, and the amount of effort he'll put into it, and I already know it'll be A-grade work. He must know it too. So ... is the notebook actually needed, for him?

Trivia: The orbiter Enterprise's first free-flight landing test lasted five minutes and 21 seconds before landing. Source: Space Shuttle: The History of the National Space Transportation System: The First Hundred Flights, Dennis R Jenkins.

Currently Reading: South: The Endurance Expedition, Ernest Shackleton.