Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Monday, November 28, 2011
The one improvement that I saw in the last one month is Environment Idaman workers digging the drains... but not the ones near my house. Years ago, the drains would be cleared quite regularly. These days, to catch people clearing them is a bonus!!! After the flood last year, I dug the drain outside my house and came up with a few wheelbarrows of sand, rocks and soil.... goes to show how poor the maintenance has been.
Anyway, maybe 4 years from now, when this post is revisited, things might have improved by leaps and bounds. Or if it further deteriorates, then we can always point finger to the holders of the concession... UEM, Metacorp among the main partners... companies seen to have major cables.
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Anyway, we had an interesting conversation on his current preoccupation with watches. A watch is more than a timepiece. There is a watch for every occasion and situation. Sports, casual, formal and so on. People collect watches because they are fascinating and each one represents the era that they came from too.
These are second or third hands... all in still in good working order.
Old watches... I bet each one has their own story to tell if they can speak.
Monday, November 21, 2011
Other Half says I am an Apple evangelist... LOL! I've been buying for or convincing my friends and family members to get for themselves either the iPod or iPad ever since I started using them. And I have found many good uses for them. No iPhone in the list cos I didn't see the need in it earlier but I'll be getting the 4S.
Anyway, for most people, an iPad should suffice, unless you have needs for a smart phone. For those of us in our presbyopic years, the phone screens are too small for comfortable reading. Moreover doing stuff on a bigger screen is way easier for senior newbies. The mouse on the PC is rather daunting for them. And these are the lessons I learned...
Give a person something, but if that something does not meet a need in his life, for whatever promises it might hold, it is useless.
My oldest iPad convert is into her mid 70s. She got convinced to get one because she was captivated by references which she can make on the Bible apps. There is a new zeal in her to study in depth because she sometimes gives sermons over the pulpit. Bible study is a breeze because multiple references can be made easily. Also, many apps have Bible Reading Plans and Devotionals incorporated, making it a one-stop with options of font size, brightness and background adjustments. You can't do all those on a printed book. And so she became willing to try to figure her way around this new gadget because it fills a need and in part too because Other Half and I availed ourselves to be there for her; to get it for her and to show her the ropes.
I had the opportunity to show her the other functions in my first session with her... I saw her eyes light up when I showed her how she could see her children and grandchildren's photos on FaceBook. She began to see that there was much more this new gadget could offer her. It's very much like introducing the Gospel to someone. First, see the need, then the act to accept/receive. And once that door is open, then one will find more relevance and beauty. But first one has to see the possibilities. And opportunities must be provided to learn, serve, etc.....
I have another friend in her 60s who wanted very much to share her photos on FaceBook with her family members. She had found the PC daunting.... There is a pull factor but there were barriers too sometimes we need help to overcome the barriers. I always assure these senior friends of mine that I am only a call away.... Being in the family of God is supposed to be like this too.. but sadly we often fail here. There are daunting moments and trying times, we are supposed to be there for each other, go the extra mile but sometimes it's hard to do because it means giving up some things which are dear to us, sacrifice. To create a strong sense of belonging, more is asked of us.....
One of the things that I have noticed among us, adults is we are always fearful that the computer will crash if we press a wrong button. And when that happens, we might have to send it to the shop. It costs not only money but worries as well. But when I tell them that it's okay to try and will help them out, some actually let go of their fears and learn to use their tools really well too. I've another friend who would not hesitate to call me whenever she ran into problems... sometimes even appearing at my doorstep at night. Service. Very often we think people are not ready and so we do not give them the opportunity because we think they might not be able to handle it. Or maybe we hang on because we want to continue to feel relevant. The thing is we forget that if we don't provide the time and space to try, they'll never be ready, they'll never be good... simply because we keep waiting for them to be ready. And they never will because we actually shackle them. I think it's okay to 'bungle' up a bit... we just need to be there to hold them or guide them a bit. Encourage or even be critical in a positive way.....
Anyway, being an iPad 'promoter' has its own rewards. I enjoy seeing faces lighting up. I like to know that in some way, I have helped chalk up some happy moments in their lives when they can Skype their children, read a book, organize their photos....
We recently got another iPad for Other Half. The oldest iPad in the house now is shared by our kids. These days, I do mind maps of stuff for my kids and dropbox or email to them for quick reference. Scanned materials find their way there too for easy reference. It's a breeze cos I no longer need to print them out or sit at the computer with her. My son asks me for points for his PA and our discussion is paperless.. from wherever I am in the house, and I will email it to him. He has begun putting his notes in the iPad. It's easy and convenient... one tool, everything that has been digitalized can be put in.
And this! A page from Son's childhood.I was pleasantly surprised when I saw Putt Putt in the App Store. Suffice to say, we bought it. Brought back memories of those days when Son was just a preschooler. We'd sit with him at the computer and help him solve the puzzles so that Putt Putt can save the day. 8) My girl enjoys it too. The graphics are not HD but it's still nice game for kids. Better than those mindless games that are aplenty these days.
The iPad is changing the way we interact with our world. Who would have imagined that after all the flops before it. And it has also taught me a few lessons about life too...
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Having volunteered my time for a visually impaired friend during my varsity years makes me appreciate these functions even more because as I worked with him, I understand the limitations posed by their lack of sight. But it also made me aware I of the technology involved and how it has evolved over the years. For the visually impaired, they depended a lot on the sighted to read for them. But the computer age changed all that. By the time I graduated, I remember seeing scanners and computers at the library for the use of the visually impaired. Scan and OCR and there were softwares that could read for them. It freed them of the need for us, the readers.
When I helped to set up a computer lab for the visually impaired students some years back, equipment had to be procured from the States. They had been some improvements but they were still cumbersome to use. The iPad is liberating.... and I think Apple did good in making sure that this technology works so well for them, even though the visually impaired group is a small one. Apple deserves one up for this effort.... Kudos to Jobs! I tried navigating without the help of my sight and found that I could.... Amazing!
With Voice Assist, I can make the iPad read for me as many time as I want the words in the mind maps too! That's as good as any teacher I'll get for sure. The iPad has enabled me, with a half-baked command of Mandarin to do the mind maps! Awesome!!! I would not have dreamt of this 5 years ago!
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Next year trial runs will be carried out in 4 states for a 9 hour work day for teachers; basically it means for the morning session, it will be from 7.30 a.m - 4.30 p.m. For schools with afternoon session, it will be from 9.30a.m. - 6.30 p.m. Afternoon session still exists, years after the government supposedly went on a school building spree.
The Deputy Minister of Education said that one reason for this 9-hour work day trial is to ascertain whether teachers work too few hours. Perhaps regulating the hours would be good for us. Once the work day ends at 4.30 p.m., work ends and no more Saturdays for meetings and other activities. After all, the civil service operates on a 5-day week now. And an official 9-hour work day should also mean there is no need for sports activities in the evenings or the need to take students for competitions which run after working hours and over the weekend. Many teachers might actually find their weekends freer.
Teachers should also be subjected to breaks like the other civil servants. I wonder whether that means that teachers will have more flexibility of going in and out the school. 8)
NUTP is already up at arms. I bet many teachers too. And some are already using this as election fodder. Foremost would be the issue of co-curricular activities. Can we hold games like football, netball, hockey, volleyball in the hot 3 p.m. sun? Our schools are not equipped with halls. Most schools don't even have decent and clean toilets, let alone shower facilities. Canteen food is horrible in most schools. Staying back until 4.30 p.m. means that kids would be taking at least 2 meals at school.
It'd be interesting to see how this develops. I get the feeling that the authorities are looking for a fix to problems in our education system. Are all these fixes going to work and bring about change for the better? Good work ethics are becoming relics of the past. We seemed to be pushing all the buttons for a quick fixes but they don't seem to get the required results. Just look at how the PPSMI was implemented. After so many years, the Minister admits that a very small percentage was actually teaching Math and Science in English all these years. It's no wonder that PPSMI failed. The authorities never ensured that it was carried out as planned. Even right now... has anyone actually bother to find out what ails our education system? For as long as we cannot bring ourselves to admit the root of the problem, we'll continue to try to fix it with measures which we feel are measurable and quantifiable.
9 hours.... many teachers are already doing that if you consider taking home books to grade, preparing lessons out of working hours 'work'. As it is, many morning sessions are ending between 2.30 - 3.00 p.m. And we do not have the luxury of an hour set aside for lunch break. For some dedicated teachers, they are involved in training students for athletics and games. But then again, there are many too who seem to have nothing to do too....
Update 20th Nov, 2011
With one 'edict' the DPM aka Minister of Education declared that he had ordered the JPA to cancel this 9-hour thingy...
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
...and another school year coming to a close, soon. Been a busy week somewhat, as end of the year usually is for me. Tables and chairs to arrange, slips to print and stick - exam season. Also the preoccupation of flood everywhere. The alerts are out. After last year's flood and the current flooding in Thailand which has been hogging the news for the last few months, I guess it's understandable why everyone is jittery. News of flood can be found everywhere... I don't know whether it's because we are so connected these days that we read of similar events happening in tandem. And we've been having some freakish storms too.
Changes are afoot too where work is concerned. Form 1 kids get only 1 year-end exam from next year onwards. I don't know whether this is for the better. But if I were a parent of a Form One kid next year, I'd be keeping a close eye on my kid's progress. Can't leave it to just the teachers. I wonder too if the students will be motivated enough to learn without apparent assessments.
Just finished another round of movie editing for a friend.... with iMovie it's a breeze as long as the materials are there. And Mandarin learning is still ongoing. I'm moving on to varied materials. And as usual, I'll gush about the role of my iPad as my number one Mandarin teacher.
Other Half and I made it to our 20 years! Hurray! And for each year that we've had, I am thankful. I could not ask for any better.
Personal lessons as usual were plenty. I'd like to think that I learned them well but that's not possible. Just as in I teach the kids that history is coloured by bias and perception, those lessons that presented themselves would be dotted with them too and it would be mine. Plus our need to be right always stands in the way and they clutter our paths.
One more week to go! I am looking forward to the long break. Going too long, running like a clockwork most of the time requires effort. Not that I am complaining because I think I'd do them all over again. I've learned lots. I've pushed my own limits, gone into territories which I may not have gone. How way leads on to way.... Every journey takes you through its own myriad of paths. Sometimes you come out of it scathed. Other times, you get bruised. Yet, there are times when you think you are beaten. Then there are those moments when only you can feel that sort of quiet triumphs, which for most part is made possible by those tiring, scathing and bruising moments.
Have not been writing lately. The gray matter is sapped most of the time of late by other pressing attention.
Sunday, November 6, 2011
Apparently a 'No' by a political leader does not mean very much. For months, various parties have been asking that the government re-look the decision to abolish PPSMI. The DPM cum Minister of Education said no; adamantly and with the air of finality most of the time.
Then on the day when we were supposed to get more news about the MBMMBI (Strengthening of Bahasa Malaysia and English), a turnaround. PPSMI will continue after all, albeit for those who started their education while it was still running; meaning those from Year 2 onwards will get to finish their education with Math and Science in English. I guess the many parents of Year 1 students will be hopping with unhappiness now.
So, my kid gets to continue to be taught with the PPSMI. I should be elated but I am not. My concern remains the quality of instruction in English and also the marking of her public examination scripts later. There is a 'generation gap' of poor English command of the teachers. Try as the MOE did to upgrade their English, it is still not getting far. We have been seeing some statistics in the last few days why PPSMI should be abolished. And one was a low percentage of teachers are incompetent in the language. And that is why my elation is muted... and also why I think we should bring back English medium schools.
The government and nationalist claim that the medium of instruction needs to be in BM for national unity. But that argument has many faults. Our schooling system. Chinese and many Malays who want 'better' quality education flock to send their children to Chinese vernacular (national type) schools. The national schools are predominantly made up of Malay students; in the Peninsular. Integration? Nation building? How to have nation building when schools are made up of almost single race?
The need for BM is rather minimal out of the civil service; and it's generally difficult for non-Bumis to get into it, attested by the low percentage of non-Bumis in it now. One can get by with all sorts of dialects and pidgin BM (bahasa pasar) in one's small world - since that seems to be the objective of our having so many types of school along racial lines. Each race feels compelled to preserve their culture and heritage. If everything is done in the best interest of everyone, I think this siege mentality would somehow be reduced. Look at America or even Peru and so many other countries where assimilation is total. It's hard not to come to a conclusion that the we have been divided and ruled so that a certain group can continue to remain in power. Power is now considered a privilege and not duty to serve.
So, coming back to PPSMI. It's been an interesting few days. Through the discussions on FB, I've learned that the growing middle income families are now more aware and concerned for their children's education... and this cuts across racial lines. I read of the Johoreans who send their children over to Singapore to be educated and how their parents take courses to upgrade themselves so that they can coach themselves. I've read of how those in other cities are toying with homeschooling and international schools. Different races, backgrounds, and there feels like this consensus that our education system is not getting any better, and that those who go through our education system are not well-equipped for the working world.
The voices of those without the means to express themselves via digital technology are not really heard and they continue to be made used by politicians. This PPSMI latest announcement is by no means a solution because it still leaves our education in 2 worlds. There needs to be a revamp, that's for sure. But whether we have a government who has our best interest at heart remains to be seen...
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
November is here... the term is coming to a close. Have not been blogging as much lately because I am preoccupied. Will be blogging about that preoccupation soon.
But last Saturday, we squeezed in some time to go shopping. It's been a while since I went shopping like this; have time to amble down the aisles and take my own time to check out things. My friend says going shopping with me is a whirlwind affair. In part, it's because whenever I do go shopping it's mostly for essentials and have limited time. I find myself wishing for more hours in a day. Wishful, of course.
But we got this at Jusco. Lemon balm herb.... We got this small pot and have replanted it, hopping that it would propagate.... 8) We still have not given up on trying to plant some of our food. Out in the garden, my salad is growing, and cucumbers too. And of course, I still have my faithful long beans.
Then we went to ACE Hardware, which of late has been one of our favorite haunting places at Queensbay; for a simple reason. It is possible to get stuff which we normally don't find in our local hardware shops... like natural oils to preserve your wooden furniture.
What got me a little more excited than usual was this..... A disposable wet wipe... which squirts out the floor cleaner liquid. LOL! Been thinking of such a contraption. I rarely use the broom to sweep the floor in the house these days. Ever since we got the robot vacuum, I've realized that sweeping basically doesn't clean the house much. The fine dust gets stirred up and floats around till the air stills and then settles down on everything. You will be worse off than before you began.
For the places where the robot vacuum can't go, I use the floor wipe. The floor stays clean longer and I need not mop it that often; which comes in really handy at those times when my day help goes on her quirky and temperamental absences. I tried this contraption after I fixed it up. Not bad. Now to see whether it lasts. One problem though, I can't get refills here. So, the bottle better last... as in not break. 8)
I belong to a generation of working women who are expected to be 'super' women. We hold 2 jobs; the regular one like the guys and another one at home. Both are demanding and juggling between the two worlds can be rather tiring. So 'super' women need super tools to help them save energy and time, both of which come in limited supply. And this one would qualify as one, I think.... one of my super tools. It complements my swivel mop very well. LOL!