2003/04/22

Today we had our final exams for the course. There were 550 students, all taking their exams in a giant multi-purpose sports hall. Students were assigned a desk by number and roster and the some TAs and the lecturing staff were walking around during the exam to answer questions, etc. It was quite something. I haven't had a class of that size before, so it was quite an experience. Furthermore because of SARS, all of the students were screened by volunteer medical students for sickness and high fever before they were allowed to take the exam.

SARS is a fact of life here that is a constant headline and is making people go a bit nuts. I think we are all sick of hearing it. Two days ago, a person at the produce wholesaler that distributes vegetables to 70% of the market got hit with SARS, and the govít closed down the market. That means 70% less vegetables in Singapore. So itís affecting many people directly now, especially vegetarians!

2003/04/06

SARS, Part II

At the University, school is going on as normal but there are more contingency cases to worry about than usual. That's actually okay as with our class size of 500+ students, there are going to be contingency cases anyways, just more of them. There are some students that are using the media panic to go the health clinic and getting the doctors to give them medical absence to get out of exams. The doctors are wary of spreading any small probability of SARS, so that the medical leave is quite easy to get. In fact, as I said, I had visited HK at the end of March. The SIA 777 was quite empty both going there and back, easily less than a third full either way due to the scare. Coming back, I passed through customs with not the slightest of anything or inspection, and went straight to work the next day. However towards the middle of my second week back, the SARS scare in Singapore reached a new level with school closings, and the head of the department asked me to check with the university health clinic to see whether I was ok.

I was fine, no fever, no dry cough, no itchiness. But as a precautionary measure I was sent home for mandatory leave for two days. Since I have no access to a networked computer at home (that's on purpose, in case you don't know) I just took the two days to catch up on sleep and readings that I had meant to do for a while.

So I guess I should thank the media and the MOE for giving me two days off from email. :-)
SARS!

So many of my friends back in the US have been asking about the craziness about SARS. I thought I'd post a couple thoughts on it, given the concern.

I went to Hong Kong in the later half of March for a week. My cousin was getting married (first of my first cousins to do so) and since I was relatively close by, it made sense to go. Anyways, for reasons beyond much control, my parents could not attend the wedding even though they definitely wanted to. So, it winds up that I was in HK to meet my relatives for the wedding. During my 1 week stay in HK, I managed to visit CUHK to visit Wai Lam and Ee Peng and later to HKUST to visit Dekai Wu, Pascale Fung and Grace Ngai.

But I digress, the topic today is SARS.. During that week, the war broke out, and SARS became more of an epidemic in HK. I did see some people on the subways (especially the subways, come to think of it) that had face masks on. But the general populace was relatively unconcerned. I guess the ones that were stayed at home (and may still be staying home). It's odd because the relative probability of getting SARS is so much less than winning lotto, it seems silly to condition so much on it, at least the individual level. I think we should all enjoy cheaper travel in SE Asia in the next couple of months due to it. It will be the only advantage of the current media event.

SARS has caused Singapore to close down its elementary, primary and secondary, as well as its junior colleges (grades 12 and 13) for an entire week and a half, after some cases of suspected and confirmed illnesses were found in a couple of schools. Because of the high density and the highly infectious nature of the disease, the ministry of education (MOE) issued a school closing. It's not yet clear whether the school holidays are going to be shortened as a result (which is a great concern to the students, naturally). But the university and other government branches are opened as usual.

2003/04/05

Wow, so its been a long time since I've wrote anything. Been busy :-) It's already nearing the end of the semester and things are starting to wind towards the conclusion. We've finalized the final exam and given the course's practical exam, which is basically a two hour exam on a data structures topic. Seem to go remarkably well given the size of the class. Having 550 students sit for an exam with a computer and network connection isn't very easy.

Anyways, more later. Have to meet for Saturday night out. Going to try to find a climbing guide to Dairy Farm.

Gosh, have to get more research done too. Boy, falling behind.!

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