Goodbye to an amazing teacher

Throughout your life, you are shaped by the people around you, be it your family, your friends, your neighbours, your teachers, your coworkers… any number of people that pass through your life has the ability to make a tremendous impact on you. One such person who passed away recently was Mr. Leatham, my science/physics teacher for GCSE and A-Level.

Arguably, Mr. Leatham was a teacher who had one of the largest impacts on my schooling, having been my teacher for four out of the five years I spent at KGV. This meant that I spent anywhere from a couple of days a week (GCSE) to every day (A-Level) in a classroom with him – and those were fun times.

Somehow, a topic like air pressure became fun. He would tell stories about how he used to do demonstrations with vacuum hemispheres and how once, to prove how strong air pressure was, he would do a chin up with one of these… and as Murphy’s Law would have it, have that demonstration end with him landing on his back (“that was when I had a full head of hair”). How Newton’s 3rd Law might not be the best defence in court against punching someone in the nose. What the real definition of a micro-wave is. And of course, every A-Level student of his knows – or should know – about upthrust.

Once in a while, he would get a little bit cross with us – such as when we made a flame-thrower out of a gas tap – but somehow, he never lost his cool. Far from being furious at the table after the incident, he instead waved a hand over his face (changing from his annoyed face to his smiley-but-serious face), looked at everyone, and said “thou shalt not make flame throwers out of gas taps.”

In Year 13, there was a switch to a new timetable, where we would see every teacher every day. When he made that announcement to our class, it was news to all of us. Everyone groaned outwardly (yes, everyone in the room). However, I’m sure there were at least a few people who inwardly celebrated the fact that we would get to have physics every day.

To this day, I’m not quite sure about the genuinity of Mr. Leatham’s groan. Of course, he loved teaching – but we don’t quite know if he lost a few (of his few) hairs over the thought of seeing his wisecracking A-Level students every single school day.

It had been fairly well-known that he had been ill since summer of 2008, and his situation worsened earlier this year. Nonetheless, there was always hope that he would pull through, and that he would be once again seen on the grounds of KGV educating the next generation of scientists with his usual wit and flair.

3 June 2009 was indeed a sad day for all his life has touched.

Thanks again for being a great teacher. As a tribute – all of Mr. Leatham’s students… all together now:

“When an object is wholly or partially immersed…”

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I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas…

“… Just like the ones I used to know
Where the tree tops glisten
And children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow…”

I was at Bellevue Square a couple of nights ago – definitely one of the more posh malls around here – they have carollers walking around the mall and singing Christmas carols. In the centre of the mall, they have a little stage, and as I was walking past, they started singing this. And they had a gentleman with a deep voice singing the opening part too, with a striking resemblance to Mr. McMahon’s voice.

I can’t help but feel a little bit nostalgic of what Christmases used to be like, and the tradition of singing “White Christmas” back at KGV. Where the entire school would be crammed into the Hall – no matter how crammed it ended up being – and everyone would be standing up (or on their chairs) and singing. Maybe a bit out of tune, maybe a bit off sync – but all the same, happy that Christmas has come.

Incidentally, as I write, snow is falling outside. I guess over the past few years, I’ve learnt to love and hate it at the same time. When it’s out there for 6 months of the year, and you have to shovel it, and trudge in it to get to classes, it’s annoying. When it’s falling and the snow only sticks around for a couple of days, that’s a different story :)

This has to be one of my favourite times of the year.

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How time flies…

At Microsoft, it’s tradition to put out a pound of candy per year you’ve been working there, and I put out my first pound in late August. At the time, I was surprised that a year had passed already.

Well, it’s long past that… today I got the renewal request for my licence plate tabs… so it’s close to a year since I got my car too.

Where does the time go? Summer went by like the blink of an eye, and we’re now getting into the sleepiness of the Seattle fall/winter months. Heck, just today, I fell asleep in the afternoon for an hour.

Time flies… while the days go by so slow, the months seem to go by so fast.

Which is a good thing, I guess. This means that Christmas would be just around the corner and I get to take a vacation :)

And in any case, the past 6 months have been the most exciting in my life. A lot of it – indeed, a lot of life – becomes a big blur, but there are always some moments I remember down to the last detail. Those are the moments that make life worth living, that make you realize you’re alive, and that make you the person you are.

And I can’t wait to see what the days ahead hold :)

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Congratulations, KGV Class of 2008!

It’s hard to believe that it’s been seven years since the KGV Class of 2008 first stepped into KGV.

I remember vividly walking into a classroom of very shy P6′s and giving them a tour of KGV… every one of them shy and amazed at the size of the school that they were going to call theirs.

Then it was their first day of school… everyone showing up in their (then-new) blue and white uniforms, and sitting in the hall being addressed by Mr. Cocks to start off their high school lives at KGV.

Peer support at the time was lots of fun for me. 7P wasn’t the easiest class to deal with ;) , but I have to say, I enjoyed every one of the moments that I was their peer support leader – from Year 7 camp, and having the girls barbeque food for me to eat, walking around with a plunger for a good portion of the night, getting water dumped on me… to protection from certain people… to the "legalize cannibals" incident… to the "BIG CAKE" – to all our other weird and crazy encounters that happened during that year.

For some reason, it never felt like I was ever too far from the comings and goings of KGV (especially in Nightingale) – I was always kept informed of what was going on, or being asked for advice on how to deal with ever-changing crises of their lives, or just being told of random gossip that happened to be occurring in the hallways at school. Or even up to university applications – where to go? What to do?

I guess it only hit me very recently that – wow – they’re all graduating from KGV.

What prompted this sudden reminiscing: a few people, near the last day of KGV, said "thanks."

"For what?" I asked.

"For being our peer support leader. You made a difference."

I don’t know how much of an impact I made, nor on how many people. I guess it never occurred to me that I could make such a lasting impact.

I owe a heartfelt "thanks" to everyone in that year as well – I learned an awful lot being a Peer Support Leader – not only as an "official" leader, but well after that with my now-friends.

I guess the lesson to take away today… don’t underestimate the power of your actions.

Anyway… enough of this:
Congratulations to the Class of 2008!

Be sure to continue to keep in touch :) Facebook makes it almost too easy :)

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Of all debates…

Random topic: yesterday I got into a small debate with Da Sel (and today, with Vicky) about how many times the the "doot" noise is made when the doors close. Well, now I have an answer.

For as long as I remember, and yes, I do remember random things, the correct answer was 9:

請小心車門。Please stand clear of doors. doot doot doot doot doot doot doot doot doot

later, they changed the announcement:

請勿靠近車門。Please stand back from the doors. doot doot doot doot doot doot doot doot doot

Then at some point (2004?), they added Mandarin…

請勿靠近車門。請不要靠近車門。Please stand back from the doors. doot doot doot doot doot doot doot doot doot

Count ‘em – nine "doot"s. That stayed constant for as long as I’ve been riding the MTR.

Then, sometime last year, I discovered they added more of them… at first I thought it was just me, but then this time being in Hong Kong I made it a point to try to count them (I spend a lot of time on the MTR, so I get bored). Except that this time, it wasn’t a nice countable nine…

請勿靠近車門。請不要靠近車門。Please stand back from the doors. doot doot doot doot doot doot doot doot doot doot doot doot… (a lot more than 9)

I counted 20 or 21, and I couldn’t tell what it was. And so when this came up yesterday, I made it a point to actually find out once and for all:

  1. Recorded a door closing announcement
  2. Uploaded the file to my computer
  3. Analysed the results using Audacity

The result: 20 "doot"s.

Hopefully this settles any further disputes :)

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Windows Live Writer

I have to admit – usually I’m fairly sceptical of anything that purports to bundle itself with anything else, and I have naturally resisted anything that has an option to install itself as part of another package.

Imagine my surprise when I went to upgrade Windows Live Messenger and discovered it could be installed with a bunch of other Windows Live applications. Okay I thought, maybe I should give something a try.

I didn’t feel like installing the photo sharing service… and I have a distinct hate for any toolbar that installs itself to my browser, so Windows Live Writer seemed to be a candidate for install. I’ve read a lot about it in recent days, and people have been pleased with it in general. But I wondered, would it work with this WordPress blog?

Turns out that if you’re reading this post, it works very very well. It integrated immediately with the blog, and within a minute, I was up and running. I absolutely love how snappy the interface is, and how it shows me how this post will look like before I post it to the world. Spell checking is included, images can be inserted – basically everything you could do in the web interface, just easier. Plus, not working in a browser window is awesome.

So, now it’s three for three. Windows Live OneCare is also installed on my system and I really like it; Windows Live Writer is great to use, and Windows Live Messenger… well, doesn’t everyone use it (even if we still all refer to it as "MSN")?

Anyway, I’m pleased with this, and maybe I’ll end up blogging more since it’s become so easy. 

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Happy new year! Hope the year of the rat brings joy and happiness to everyone :)

2007 and the year of the pig was a year of incredible change for me, in so many ways.

My view on the world has changed dramatically after visiting Europe for a month. I reconnected with family and friends in Hong Kong after spending a month back home – and for the first time in summer since 2002.

Emotionally, I’ve gone through a roller coaster of elation, sadness; hope, apprehension; calm, concern. It’s been a long year, and tons has happened.

My circumstances have changed – no longer am i a student in Waterloo, but now working for the largest software company in the world in Seattle. Sometimes I still wonder why I’m here, not in Hong Kong or Toronto; was it worth it to completely uproot everything I had – again? I guess only time will tell, and the previous few times it’s been done, things have ended up fairly well.

Sometimes you feel a little down, or that things just aren’t going your way. It takes something to happen to make you realize your circumstances and to take stock of what you have. Today, something happened that caused me to reflect: I was buying stamps from the post office, but parked at Crossroads (across the street). As I was crossing the three-lane access road, something happened:

I was crossing one way; two people were heading towards me. A car was turning in from the road came in much too quickly – and hit one of the people facing me. The car was probably taking the turn at 25 km/h, and the woman landed on top of the car and was thrown forward – and the sound that she made on the car was one that I don’t think I’ll forget anytime soon.

I stopped to see if she was ok, the driver came by to check on her, and two others came from their cars to check. As luck would have it, the woman hit was okay – a couple of scratches and bruises, but nothing serious. But it makes you think. Had the driver been going a bit faster, the woman may have been hurt badly. A few steps further, that could have been me hit. Just a little variation in the circumstances here and there, and things could have been a lot worse.

So that’s my little bit of a post and reflection on how things have been the past while.

Maybe I don’t have quite everything I want here, but I have a roof over my head, a loving family (albeit far away), a great bunch of caring friends (here, HK, Toronto, Vancouver… and elsewhere), good health, and a decent job – that makes me feel like the luckiest person in the world right about now.

Happy 2008 and the Year of the Rat :)

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Two months…

Two months and then some have passed since I last looked at this blog, so I guess it’s time to post something up here…

1. My hard drive is still at the state it was… i.e., I still lost some stuff, but not enough to make me cry (too much) over it.

2. Hong Kong was an absolute blast. One month at home was just what the doctor ordered in terms of some R&R. Having spent some time with family and friends for a month back where I call (well, fine, it’s the best thing I have to) home was just nice. And it also felt good to have an ENTIRE MONTH of vacation for the first time in five years. Memorable events include:

  • Coke and Mentos experiment,
  • The Wii – and getting whacked by it,
  • Book fair,
  • Badminton,
  • Tutoring, or lack thereof,
  • SimplyLife (Festival Walk),
  • Lan Kwai Fong,
  • Ebineezers, and more Ebineezers,
  • Die Hard 4.0,
  • Harry Potter V (and making mad dashes through the mall),
  • The flight,
  • The chase for the minibus,
  • Hospital visits (don’t worry – I wasn’t sick) ,
  • Pool,
  • Desserts at Yee Shun (and how I made an idiot of myself),
  • Nomads,
  • Starbucks,
  • Walks along the harbour,
  • CPK,
  • Wearing something that was way too hot for the day, and outside,
  • Dinners everywhere with everyone

Thanks everyone for making Hong Kong awesome :)

And of course, in Toronto:

  • Badminton (although we only played a couple of times… :( )
  • The farewell dinner… thanks to all of you for showing up :)
  • Buffalo and getting the visa
  • Random phone conversations
  • Random places to eat
  • Weekend… “activities,” hangouts, and such
  • The Simpsons Movie
  • Stardust
  • Getting a G licence
  • … probably a lot more that I’m forgetting

And in Seattle:

  • Sleeping on the floor for 3 weeks
  • Social Security
  • Ikea – 3 times in 2 weeks
  • Getting lost in Seattle, Bellevue, and Redmond
  • … and Renton
  • … and by Tacoma
  • Costco and overspending
  • The toaster oven ;)
  • The 40-minute Ikea run (4th time)
  • Dim sum for the first time in a month (this weekend)
  • The table incident
  • Moving a TV by public transit

… I’m getting tired.

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UPDATE2: computer hard drive &*#$@-ness

Okay, so here is (approximately, from what I can tell) what has been lost:

  • Emails sent to * from the period 3 June – 8 July 2007
  • Contact info (e.g., phone numbers, email addresses) updated/added in above period
  • Convocation photos that were sent to me from other people
  • Some event pictures, if they were sent to me by means other than Gmail/Hotmail
  • About three word documents that I had typed up recently

I think the most important part is that some of my mail from Microsoft got lost (mainly stuff that I’ve responded to already though) – I’ll have to make sure I touch base with all of them again.

Much less than a total loss, after booting with a Ubuntu Live CD and mounting the volume that way and saving to another drive.

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UPDATE: computer hard drive &*#$@-ness

Okay, so here is (approximately, from what I can tell) what has been lost:

  • Emails sent to * from the period 3 June – 8 July 2007
  • Contact info (e.g., phone numbers, email addresses) updated/added in above period
  • Convocation photos that were sent to me from other people
  • Some event pictures, if they were sent to me by means other than Gmail/Hotmail
  • About three word documents that I had typed up recently

I think the most important part is that some of my mail from Microsoft got lost (mainly stuff that I’ve responded to already though) – I’ll have to make sure I touch base with all of them again.

Not a total loss. I’m relatively happy, although not as happy as I would have been had there not been such shenanigans.

And I highly recommend that you read Andre’s little piece on backups:

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