Saturday, June 27, 2015

Mid Year... Another One Come By

Time flies when you are busy... and crawls when you are not.

Busy is the word these days and so time tends to feel like it is whizzing past. Ringgit is at a very low point. GST is in full swing. Cost of living is high and everyone feels the pinch. And petty issues hog the newspaper. Sarong, towel and even a guy in a cute pink shorts denied entry to KLIA office to claim a lost baggage. What is becoming of the country that we dwell on the outward appearance.

The royalties seem to be a little different this time around. A dig into the archives of an old treaty highlighting the right to secede, pardons for the activists who took part in an unlawful assembly back in 2009, an idealistic young man just back from Geneva to face a possible jail term... there might still be hope yet for us.

Being stuck... ever feel like you are stuck? Feel that a lot too. Institutions around us feel like jailhouses actually. Inequality resides in even the most sacred of them too. How does one get out of being institutionalised for life? Yet everyone of us is a jailbird, one way or another.

Adolescents.. how is that I feel there is a general deterioration of everything. Met many parents over the week too and this stood out. There are more disappointed and a number of angry ones. The reason... their kids. Kids seem less able to empathise with the struggles of their parents. Parents too don't seem to be able to connect with their kids. Majority suffer from the lack-of-time syndrome. Tuitions, school activities fill one end of the spectrum. The busyness of life fills the other. 15-year-olds still go to after-school-daycare. Parents can't leave them at home. Fifteen!!! Babysitting still needed.

I've done some new things too this year, things I never thought I would do. Learned a lot about bricks and mortars. There are so many types of cements out there! Sat and watched cranes and mixers work. But skills... oh, they still do matter a lot. Attention to big and small stuff... they sap your energy and attention span too.

Mid year.. mid term at midlife. The coming of the autumn of life...

Monday, June 15, 2015

Keeping To A Standard

What does it mean? Standard? Yardstick? Rule? Law? Just watched a video on TED of a song presented by lifers, people with incarcerated with no hope of parole. 30, 40, close to 50 years in prison, for a wrong done. No hope out. Lifers... one might be excused for thinking that the word implies something that is eternal in a positive way.

Made me think. A sin is a sin.... big or small. Still a sin. No compromise. Yet we still measure them with different yard sticks. Made me think too. If all these ideas that we have are all just a brew made from the ingredients we put in.

This coming at the heels of the slew of comments of a gold medalist gymnast whose attire became a subject of criticism. Yet the same people reserved their comments when it came to cigarettes or footballers who are also not 'correctly' attired... if the same yardstick is used.

There are so many different standards actually.

Or we could just say all these are just efforts to strive for perfection, which all of us, I suspect, know will fail miserably. I guess some sins are just not pardonable. Pearly Gates and Hades work along that premise too, I supposed. There is always an if, a caveat, an exception.... So, these lifers are condemned a lifetime.

Haves and the have-nots, rich and poor, the leaders and the servants, one gender role and the other gender role.... there is always this great divide. Woe is the one on the other 'wrong' or lesser end of the divide.

Just some ramblings.....

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Of 3D Printing, Lego Bricks and Stuffs...

Teaching is so filled with help these days. I do formative and summative assessments online with my students. I keep in touch with my students via the communication network... email, What's App, iMessage.... I can't keep up with all the new apps. I collaborate with students in the cloud which comes in all kinds of names these days. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook.... the list seems endless... There are Dropbox, Box, Drive... again another long list. From the big bulky desktops, we have moved to chromebooks and who knows, perhaps tablets will be making their presence felt soon too. They are already in many places.

I use AppleTV to transmit lessons on the screen, write on little tablets instead of chalkboards. Mind maps make appearances with great ease because apps make it possible. Videos and animations too with great frequency. Students submit homework online. I still use the exercise books, though but they seem such a waste. Papers come from trees and we waste so many pages in an exercise book each year.

When I started teaching, cyclostyling was how we did the printing. You type on stencils with the clunky typewriter and had this red liquid which worked like an eraser for mistakes. It was a wow moment when dot matrix printers made their appearances at work places. Then came the laser printers. These days I mostly print my own worksheets. But most of the time, it's a mix of digital screens and papers. I try to minimise the use of papers whenever possible.

Then the Overhead Projectors came about.... followed by the visualisers and projection panels. Then as computers became more common, projectors made their presence felt. Chalkboards will probably be a thing of the past soon. LED screens, AppleTV,  Chromecast, smart tv and the most recent addition is the 3D printer. It is quite amazing what a 3D printer can do. From chocolates to titanium, these printers are able to print I have read. And they print even complete houses too, cars as well and homemade toys. As a kid, I think I never imagined such changes. Goes to show how small my world is.

My students play with Lego bricks, lego with brains, NXT, EV3... And these are for co-curricular activities. When I was a student, I knew only of one type of band and my school band was already quite special back in the early days in the sense we had a bagpipe section. These days kids in my school are spoilt for choice... 24 Seasons Drums, Chinese Orchestra, Brass Band and even a Symphony Orchestra. 

Lessons used to to teacher dependent within the four walls of a building. These days we have the world wide web to help us. All kinds of gurus reside there, in places like Khan Academy, Crash Course, UdaCity, Coursera and so on. If you want a visual instruction for a hobby, YouTube is available. We are even beginning to have our own homegrown versions. Recently students in Kedah were given access to Kedah ETutor where the video content is based on our very own curriculum.

However I guess too, if we are to ask the generation before us how it was like... I think their tale will probably be in the same tone too, albeit about different things. After all, theirs was a generation of huge leap in transportation and communication too....

But despite all these amazing development, I wonder too whether we have all become wiser and more resilient? Point to ponder. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Second Wind...

... or it could be third. I don't know. These days, I realise that the older I get, the less I actually know about the world I live in. We grow up, thinking that the paths that have been laid before us are known paths. I think they are not. Everything around us is actually more fluid than we know

Today, an earthquake hit Sabah. When we learned Geography in school, one of the things our teachers used to tell us was Malaysia is a country spared of natural disasters like earthquakes. The one natural disaster which we experience regularly is probably just the floods. But things have been changing. We experienced a tsunami when an earthquake hit Acheh back in 2004. And now an earthquake has hit one of our states.

One of the things I sometimes show my students is the computer simulation of earth's transformation in 5 billion years... a ball of nothing, ice ages, emergence of landforms, Pangea and the breaking of the supercontinent into smaller continents.... It is always amazing (and educational for me) to see their faces when they see Earth like nothing they have known. You see, I learned one thing watching these young faces. They are a product of a learning environment which does not teach these young minds that things are never always quite the same... though the behaviour that governs our actions may sometimes have some similarities.

Even the institutions that exist in our society, they have never been there all the time. Like life, they experienced birth, growth and death. But because we have only one lifetime, most of us think that things will remain the same... and so we pass on what we know to our children... Yet nothing actually is what they seem to be. Things will continue to change and evolve.

Recently researchers say gender equality was actually the norm in Paleo cultures. It became unequal when we no longer need to forage for food. Technology actually brought about gender inequality, it was postulated. At the turn of century we began to see the struggle for the emancipation of women.

The role of religions... It is interesting to read how they have kept dynasties in power and lent authority to those who claimed they were anointed mouth pieces. Empires have been built around religions. Wars have been fought over them too.

Feels like I am living in the Matrix....

Ramblings after an earthquake in Sabah....

Friday, May 15, 2015

A piece of ^%$#@*&

I have never been so cheesed off by another person but I think this has got to be one of those which serves as a good reminder that there are such characters....

Ever met a person who is so cocksure of herself that she is unable to be gracious at all? Every conversation to one who is so full of herself that she cannot see any wrong in herself... probably she deems herself the perfect almighty. I never expected such kind of person to exist... well at least not in the circle of people that I thought I knew.

A person who lies through her teeth, so delusional that she twists and turns her words and turns delusions into reality... her own that is and expects the people around her to swallow it all in. I never imagine that I would meet one, let alone see regularly. Makes me wonder if she has a psychological disorder.

Gosh... Some people just lacks the EQ so much that they read everything and everyone as either for or against them. Some people just are so filled with what they think is going right in their lives that they use it to snub others.

Such kind of people... they have this gift to drive you up the wall, as in really up the wall. And in the process maybe just pick up a few stones and hurl it at their directions. Such people are a danger to everyone cos they hold in their hands that sort of power to drive you to the edge and do something stupid.

And each time, after this behemoth show of might and delusions, when there is a need for your help, they come around and show you their nicest smiles and pretend as if nothing has happened. Shameless. And they push their way through like a bull on rampage. Such people prey on the 'niceness' of others by using the same methods to get what they want.

Makes you want to invoke a thousand curses... Sometimes when we get Older, we become a Loud and Grumpy person... A little power in the hands of one who can be delusional, lying, threatening makes such a person piece of @$%^& because they just seem to show their meanest streaks, even when they feel they are doing good. Putting this up as a public reminder to myself never to be like that.

(I supposed I have to congratulate this creature for pushing me over too...) Crappy, crap!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Teacher... He Do Me...

I think all of us are familiar with that phrase... it starts of as a self-preservation phrase, to get justice for a piece of injustice inflicted on us. Growing up in a family with one sibling just one year behind me, both my bro and I had our fair share of playing 'tattler'. Some of us outgrow this habit, many don't.

From 'He Do Me'... it evolves to tattling to a higher authority. Many of us learn from a young age the power of tattling. From addressing righting a wrong, we also learn that it can put us in good favour; and it makes others look bad.... Many of us would rub our hands in secret glee and gloat over our rivals' downfall from grace. 

We are supposed to outgrow that, but, I think we don't. It takes a big (wo)man to be able to do that I realise. Personal ambitions usually stand in the way of achieving that level of magnanimity. As we grow older, many of us learn to feign our ways through a lot of situations. It's actually hard to tell the difference between 'tattling' and 'telling'. But very often if we sit down and analyse, we can tell them apart too. It all boils down to intent. And intent is very telling.... add that to action, you get confirmation.

Tattling is a sign of selfishness too. Tattling is always for the wrong reasons. Kids tattle to parents. Students tattle to their teachers. Teachers tattle to the principals. Instead of 'he do me'.... we move on to, 'he didn't do this, she didn't do that.' We tattle for reasons only known to us... but most of the time, the tattling is for a selfish reason. Tattlers are poor leaders. Instead of addressing the issue, instead of taking time out to address and communicate, we go all the way up... to the power we feel that can put a person into the bad pages of a book.

At work I see tattling too... much to my chagrin and amusement because as adults, we are supposed to put to kids' tattling. Yet adults are no different too. 

Anyway, that's just us... I could go on to another good friend of 'tattling' called 'beh-kam-buan' who has a good buddy called 'jiak-chor'. When those two friends go hand in hand, 'tattler' is kept very busy all the time. 

Well, mom had a good solution... both tattler and the tattled one... we used to kena sama-sama from her. We learned quite early on that it wasn't worth our effort to tattle. It's much better to kerja sama-sama and understand that we're in this all together. You get more out of yourself and everything around you. I think her approach shows wisdom.

Ah.. what got me riled? To realise that from among the adults, the supposedly more sensible people around me, they tattle like the small kid who runs yelling to his mummy.... 'He do me'.... These people, they should not be positions of leadership because they are not really interested to build the people around them. What they are interested feels like this... building little pedestals for themselves... only.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

When the going is good....

... many of us tend to forget how to appreciate it. That's one of the lessons I learned this past week, after the demise of Lee Kuan Yew. I have 'followed' his 'life as a public figure' for almost all my life. It's something which can't be really helped because Singapore's history is so closely intertwined with ours, the proximity of Malaysia and Singapore gave many of us no choice. I have read his speeches, books, listened and watched him (the Internet is an amazing window) over the years. This past week, I revisited those media again to relive his moments.

While he was alive, especially after he retired, there were many who would jump at the opportunity to throw potshots at him. There are many Singaporean issues which have become the butt of many jokes. Yet as I watched again some of those old videos this past week, reread some of his speeches, took out the books he authored I had in my possessions, I am reminded of one thing too. Whatever we might say of him, Lee Kuan Yew was consistent in one thing... his unwavering belief in the principle of justice, one that is fair to all. Where he succeeded, Malaysia failed... We are still deeply communal based.

Death.... It sums up the worth of your life. If you are someone public like LKY, your whole life is played like a movie again. And you have many proofs to fall back on. It becomes possible and easy to dissect his life. And it makes a clear conclusion possible.

That is the one major plus of looking at something on hindsight. You get to see the whole picture of what made this man great. In being able to do that, you see a picture of one who has been a remarkably consistent leader. I can't think of any country like Singapore. Third world to first within one generation, a city state that is super efficient and safe. How many cities or countries can claim that honour? Small as it may be, this tiny dot south to Malaysia, is still a country to be reckoned with cos they have the wealth that does a lot of their talking too.

However when one works into the future and even if he is fortunate enough to have the gift of foresight, it is still quite impossible to see the whole picture. With just the foresight, it is a lot of conjectures. You have to just hope you know what you are doing and that whatever you are doing will be the right thing. But this premise of hindsight is a good thing cos with it, we can reflect on many things too.

In our every day lives, we tend not to appreciate the good things we have around us, when we still have them. Busy schedules, preoccupation with ourselves... we make excuses, we find reasons. The outpouring of affection at death... though it is an inevitable one.. it's another one of those reminders that come my way this week.

It's Cheng Beng season now.. we see outpouring of piety and affection too, to the dead. One wonders whether there was the same outpouring of affection for the deceased while they were alive. In death what is left with us are just rituals and memories. The latter fades after some time. And that leaves me  to wonder too if the act of carrying out these rituals make a difference to the dead. How many generations of Cheng Beng because it is all forgotten and the circle begins again?

Ramblings on the day rain came back again after so many dry weeks....