Sunday, September 27, 2009


Listening to: cookies being devoured (by myself)

I've grumbled a bit about 'everyone' getting married, I know. But I have to say, with each wedding I've been invited to so far, I've been made to feel really really special. It may not be anything more than a nice gesture on the couple's part, but it's made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. The fact that these people value my friendship so's a bit hard to believe, to be honest. With every metaphorical turd that's flung in my direction, it's moments like this that make me think I must've done something right along the way.

I guess that's what friends are for, eh? :-)

Friday, September 25, 2009

"The Art of Being Arty" and other mildly entertaining anecdotes

Listening to: 'How Come You Don't Call Me [Neptunes Remix]' by Alicia Keys ft. Justin Timberlake [Songs in A Minor]

Typing a blog post at the cinema again. Not your bog standard Vue this time, but the much more sophisticated Arts Picturehouse (cue 'oohs' and 'aahs'). Why sophisticated? Well for starters, they let you bring booze into the theatre...and in glasses too (as opposed to a well-concealed brown paper bag). And then there's the reason I'm here tonight - the Cambridge Film Festival. Yes, very posh I know. Oh well, the movie's about to start so I'll type the rest from home.


Now, where was I? I suppose I'd better give a chronological account of my day. Or at least the out-of-the-ordinary bits. Was chatting with labmates in the morning, and as usual, I was accused of bullying them. I asked them why they don't bully me in return, and one of them said "but you're so lovely and nice...until we realise that you're actually not". Heh. But it's OK, we all love each other really. Honest!

In the afternoon, I helped out with the Cambridge Alumni Weekend celebrations, by taking some alumni on a tour of the department. Oh wow, I've never seen outsiders show so much interest in what we do! They asked so. many. questions. And none of them were superficial. I'm talking proper intellectual discussions. As an academic I was thrilled to see non-academics take such an interest in scientific research; as a tour-guide I was panicking that we'd be late for the post-tour presentation! It was interesting to hear these people talk amongst themselves about our research. I think when you spend enough time in a field, the 'wow factor' fades and you take things for granted. Listening to our research being called 'fantastic' and 'amazing' made me proud. Of course the post-tour talk was something else altogether. How many 83 yr-olds do you know that can give a presentation about work that they're currently involved in?! Sigh, JFD is a legend.

After the talk was done, I went back to the office to check on the cricket (more on that later) and then headed over to the cinema. The movie I was so interested in seeing was none other than Machan (to those of you who have probably seen it a million times already, yes I know I'm late, get over it :P ). In a word: wow. Had I seen the movie without the context of the film festival, I never would've guessed that the director was someone foreign to Sri Lankan culture. I suppose Ruwanthie de Chickera's script had a lot to do with that, but still. The director was present for a Q&A session after the screening, and he said that he hadn't wanted any Western influence on the narration of the story. I think he achieved that perfectly. There were parts of the movie that made me choke up, possibly due to homesickness...or maybe I'm going soft, who knows. And of course when you grow up with Doo Daruwo on in the background, Iranganie Serasinghe becomes family...I almost let out an audible 'aww' when I saw her on screen.

Machan presented a very serious problem in a very 'real' way. None of the depressing melodramatic 'woe is me'-ness that you get in a lot of 'serious' films. On the contrary, I was laughing through most of it. It reminded me a lot about how ordinary Sri Lankans deal with adversity. Our happy-go-lucky attitude is both our greatest strength and our greatest weakness. And then the tourists. During the Q&A session, someone asked why the tourists at the hotel were depicted in a purely negative light. Part of me wanted to turn around and remind him that the rest of the world doesn't necessarily see the West as the dog's bollocks, but the rest of me told me to shut up (thankfully). The director said that he merely portrayed what he had witnessed during his stay in Colombo. Nuff said.

Anyway, after being thoroughly impressed with the performance of the Sri Lanka National Handball team, I came home to be equally unimpressed with the performance of the Sri Lanka National Cricket team. Why oh why did we have to lose to England?! Now that'll be the main topic of conversation at my labmate's bbq tomorrow. much for not being bullied.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Mummy (and Daddy) Cool

Listening to: 'Like You'll Never See Me Again' by Alicia Keys [As I Am]

I told my mother about this blog about a month ago. Blogging had been discussed before (I recall being asked what a blog was, and if I had one), but never in detail, and never in the context of the 'online community'. It was perhaps the community aspect of blogging that prompted me to tell her; I've always been very close to my parents, and the idea of excluding them from something that had become an important part of my life seemed somewhat unnatural. I haven't told her where it is, but then she hasn't asked either. I probably wouldn't tell her if she did ask, but that's a non-issue at present.

I must admit, I was a bit apprehensive. A part of me was anticipating the "but there are freaks on the internet!" response, and I was expecting some disapproval of the whole 'clandestine blogger rendezvous' thing. However, I was to be pleasantly surprised! My mother was happy that I was communicating with people outside the Cambridge bubble, completely trusting of my ability to judge character (go figure!) and perhaps most of all, thrilled that I was singing again. It's interesting to note that my parents give my 'online' friends the same attention that they give my 'offline' friends (especially considering that even I'm not sure how the whole 'online friend' thing works).

And boy, do they give my 'offline' friends a lot of attention. I'm pretty sure some of my friends chat more to my parents than they do to me. And I heard many stories about them from my friend's wedding last month...they seem to act more my age than I do! I've lost count of the times I've been told that my parents are 'cool', 'fun', 'easy to talk to', or something along those lines...naturally I'm the only one that's witnessed the 'strict disciplinarian' side :D

I was watching them today, waving at me on skype while being rather cutesy with each other. They were telling me about their escapades on the internet, and we were discussing the cricket, tennis and Whitney Houston's comeback. And it occurred to me, they really are 'cool' (albeit a tad embarrassing, at times), and I am really really lucky.

I'm not sure if it's just a bad case of homesickness, but I felt an urge to blog about them now. So there you have it.

OK I'm gonna go dry my eyes now.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Intimidator

Listening to: 'My Baby Just Cares for Me' by Nina Simone [Little Girl Blue]

Yes I think that would be a good supervillainess name for me. I can picture it now:
Scarier than a nightclub bouncer.
More stern than a menopausal schoolmarm.
And able to repulse South Asian men with a single glance.
Look, down the supermarket aisle!
It's a geek!
It's a freak!
It's The Intimidator!!!
Yeah yeah I know it's tenuous...humour me, please?

But seriously, what is with the Sri Lankan guys working at the supermarket?! Is reciprocating a smile from a girl from their home country a violation of their contract or something? They've handled my credit card so they've seen my surname...I'd say it's pretty damn obvious where I'm from! I'm not asking that we become best buddies...if that had been my intention, I would've initiated a conversation a long time go...but is returning a polite pleasantry too much to ask for? Honestly!

It brings back memories of parties I used to go to in Colombo. Horrid affairs. I'd get introduced to a guy and I could predict how long it'd take him to find an excuse to disappear. OK I can handle that once, maybe twice...but every frikkin' time?!?!?! And of course it only got worse after coming to Cambridge (as I mentioned waaay back in this post). It got so bad that once when I was on holiday in SL, I was invited to a party and I asked my parents to make some 'plans' so I wouldn't have to go.

So yeah, I guess it's nothing to do with the supermarket guys. Or the Cambridge phenomenon. It's Ms. Supervillainess over here that's got all the issues. Who would've thunk it, eh? Gah.

Meh. I'm outta here. I've got people to intimidate.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Running on empty

Listening to: 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough' by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell [United]

Rafa just got thrashed by Del Potro 6-2, 6-2, 6-2. I think I still have a pulse, but it's hard to tell. So sad. The thing about Rafa is, you know he does his best. Always. And it was pretty obvious that he wasn't 100% fit throughout the tournament. So you can't be mad at him. He'll be back. He'll keep trying and one day he'll get there. He won't let the US Open become to him what the French Open was to Sampras.

I was supposed to go to work today. I'm supposed to be doing an experiment now. Instead I stayed at home and made an omelette. With bacon and jalapeƱo peppers. It was good.

I haven't done a cover for a while. The duet with Gehan was posted almost a month ago, and that was long overdue to begin with. And apparently the last time I posted a solo cover was in April. It's September now. I think of all these songs and then I can't be bothered. Too much effort required. Would sound shit without accompaniment. My vocal chords have retired. The excuses are endless, really. empty end to an empty day. Why did I wake up? Oh yeah, the omelette.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Listening to: Radio 1

Last night's US Open Men's Quarterfinal between Rafael Nadal and Fernando Gonzalez was suspended in the middle of the 2nd set tie-break due to rain. I've been having a look at the comments on the US Open website and two themes caught my attention.
  1. Get a roof! - The US usually laughs at Britain for being old-fashioned, stuffy and generally uncool. So maybe they still wear white at Wimbledon, and maybe it's all about the traditional formalities (bowing/curtsying to any member of the Royal Family was only discontinued in 2003)...but after the retractable roof was installed over Centre Court, there's no way you can call us 'uncool'. Maybe it's just me, but I let out a little giggle when I read the comments telling the USTA to take a page out of the All England Club's book. Really, if they're gonna have such a tight schedule, there should be a much better inclement weather policy. Tsk tsk USTA.
  2. What a rip-off! - The plan is, the Rafa-Gonzo match will be recommenced after the completion of the Kim-Serena Semifinal. There are quite a few issues with this.
    • According to the BBC website, it's raining in NYC and start of play will be delayed by at least two hours. How many more delays can we afford? While I accept that Kim and Serena shouldn't have to suffer because it rained last night, I don't see why Rafa and Gonzo should suffer either. As far as I'm aware, only the Arthur Ashe stadium is being used for matches today (apart from some peripheral courts for doubles/girls/boys matches). Why not use the Louis Armstrong stadium for the Rafa-Gonzo match? And what about Wozniacki and Wickmayer? They're gonna have to wait till this 'extra' match finishes to get on court for their Semi. And considering the first two sets have been tie-breaks, I'll bet they're in for a long wait. How is that fair?
    • What do you mean my ticket isn't honoured? Or maybe that should be 'honored' (heh, Americans). According to the website, tickets that were valid for the Thursday night session won't be valid for the continuation of the Rafa-Gonzo match. This has got a lot of fans riled up, and with good reason. Unlike Wimbledon, it appears you can buy tickets for a specific session for the US Open, so presumably the people who got tickets for Thursday night actually wanted to see Rafa and Gonzo. Now in my mind they could've issued last night's audience with special passes that would allow them in for the Rafa-Gonzo match but not any of the others being held today. That would've been even easier if it was being played on Louis Armstrong. But nooooo...the USTA in a display of infinite wisdom is denying all the Rafa/Gonzo fans and frustrating all the Wozniacki/Wickmayer fans. Way to go.
Anyway, what to do. I'm more than a bit concerned about Rafa's fitness, but we'll see. I'm currently awaiting the start of the Kim-Serena Semifinal, which should be good. Clijsters has had a dream comeback to the professional circuit, and it would be lovely to see her beat Serena. But only if it STOPS RAINING!!!!!!!!!


Monday, September 07, 2009

My philosophy of teaching

Listening to: 'End of the Road' by Boyz II Men [Cooleyhighharmony]

I’m currently applying for a place on the Teaching Associate Programme here, and a major part of the application form involves me detailing my philosophy of teaching. Yeah I’m not entirely sure what that is either. Well I am, kinda…it’s just that all these ideas are floating around in my head and the last time I wrote a 500-word essay was… … …you get the picture :D. Anyway, I was procrastinating over the application when Whacko talked about education in his Going Global blog (thanks for the timely - albeit unintentional - kick up the backside, Whacko!). So when I escaped to London last weekend, I took with me a print-out of his post for inspiration and a notebook, and used the train journey to jot down my thoughts. The result was a multitude of bullet points and fragmented sentences, with no continuity whatsoever. Joy. Now with the deadline looming, I have no option but to sit down and force myself to collect my thoughts. Here goes.
For those of you not familiar with the Cambridge undergraduate system, supervisions are small-group tutorials designed to complement the standard large-group lectures. I haven’t lectured yet, but I have been supervising undergraduates for three years (eek!).

If I were to summarise what I believe to be the role of a teacher, it would be to equip students with the skills they require to achieve their potential. This requires dissemination of information in a manner that enables students to understand what they learn, understand its relevance, and use it when necessary. In my experience there are four objectives that must be achieved in order for a teaching experience to be successful. They are detailed below.
  1. Instil enthusiasm

    In order to make the student receptive to the subject being taught, it is necessary to instil enthusiasm in the course and the lesson. Looking back on my personal experience, the majority of university courses that I performed well in were taught by lecturers and supervisors that were visibly enthusiastic about their subject. They created a relaxed, interactive environment conducive to learning, and encouraged discussion where appropriate. They also highlighted the relevance of their subject outside the classroom, thereby giving the student added incentive to pay attention.

  2. Promote understanding

    The Cambridge ethos has always focused heavily on mastering the fundamentals, and with good reason. Given the current rate of scientific advancement, engineering practices are rapidly evolving, but they are still based on the same scientific principles. It is therefore important to ensure that students are comfortable enough with the basics, so that (in keeping with Cambridge tradition) they may go on to be at the forefront of technological development.
    It is also important to acknowledge that intelligence and ability vary across the student population. It is the teacher’s responsibility to develop an approach that maximises the individual student’s chance of understanding the topic. I do not believe that there is a ‘one size fits all’ method in this respect. This is especially true in Engineering sciences, where there is a healthy mix of highly theoretical and practical modules. In my previous supervisions, some of my students have been able to grasp a certain concept directly from the lecture; others have required me to explain the same concept in one or more alternative ways.

  3. Assist retention

    While the teacher should make it easier for the student to understand their subject, the student has the ultimate responsibility when it comes to the retention of knowledge. The teacher can, however, improve the student’s chances at the examination by carrying out continuous assessment via examples papers, issuing revision sheets, going through exam papers from previous years, tying the course content into that of other courses to establish relevance etc. These are all methods I have used in my supervisions. As someone who has been a student on the courses that I supervise, I feel I am also able to share my personal experiences with my students, which will hopefully aid their exam preparation.

  4. Bolster confidence

    The purpose of an Engineering degree is not purely academic. It is important that once students have studied each course, they are able to use the knowledge thus gained as professionals in the field. There are many students, in my experience, whose technical knowledge is more than adequate; however they lack the confidence required to display this competency. It is a supervisor’s responsibility to recognise these students and encourage them to engage in discussions, explain concepts to less able students, and become more confident in their own ability.
It is my belief that a teacher that keeps these points in mind will be in a position to have a positive impact on their students. However, my opinion is based on three years of supervising experience, and I am well aware that I too have a lot to learn.


So erm, yeah. That’s what I think. Hopefully they'll like it. As far as I'm aware it's not something that'll affect whether I get on the programme or not, so let's see. It’s 2.50am now, and I cannot stress enough the relevance of this PhD Comic. Me go sleep now.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Love is a tagfest

Listening to: 'Have a Nice Day' by Stereophonics [Just Enough Education to Perform]

I've been tagged by the Divine Lady herself. It took me a bit of soul-searching to come up with something, and in the process I discovered that I've turned into a cynical old fart. Oh well.

Anyway, on with the tag. Love is... amazingly corny comic strip that's been going for almost 40 years!

If you want more, see GoComics
Sorry, I couldn't resist :D.

Jokes aside, I tried to think of a definition and all I could come up with was this...

...everything my parents share with each other and with me, and I with them.

Open tag, and I dare you to try and beat TheWhacksteR's definition ;-).

Friday, September 04, 2009

Joys of TV Science

Listening to: 'Sweetness Calling' by She Hit Me First [-]

I'm doing an all-night experiment and I've just finished watching two episodes of CSI:Miami online. I have one comment, presented perfectly in this comic:

Sigh, Hollywood.