Saturday, July 31, 2010

In lieu of a To-Do list: an I-Did list.

This week I researched:
  • Verbs used in Bloom's taxonomy. (I was setting an exam paper.)

  • Making inferences. (Apparently it's a reading skill that needs to be taught. Who knew?)

  • Weird laws all over the world. (It was connected to a text we read in class.)

  • Free presentation software. (Prezi is cool, but web-based -- you'll need to purchase the software to run it off your hard drive.)

  • Teenagers and their cellphone usage. (Had to come up with survey questions for a student research project.)

  • The efficacy of praise and compliments. (Write-up's on my official blog... no link. If you don't know the URL, ask me.)

  • Using comics to teach English. (In preparation for showing a bunch of workshop participants how to make a comic strip using an online comic strip generator.)

  • Techniques to be employed in the bedroom for maximum marital happiness. (Kind of an accident, I stumbled upon one article, and with the Web, one always leads to another...)

  • Mother Teresa's dark night of the soul. (Needed to reference it in a blog comment!)

  •'s Open Salon opportunity to write on the site. (Would bring more exposure but not sure how my stories would fit, as I'm not American. But damn, some good writing there.)

  • Copyright notices and Creative commons licences. (I really wanted to use that onion picture two posts ago.)
No wonder I feel like I've been going at breakneck pace all week. *pants*

Friday, July 30, 2010

Choosing joy

I see life as a series of choices. Much like Frost's poem The Road Not Taken, I think throughout life we all have a series of choices to make. The problem with choices is having to live with the consequences, of course.

To use myself as an example: I try to remember that I'm single because I chose not to accept any of the guys who came along, for what I considered good reasons at that point in time. Sure, I have no control over whether I'll get to meet someone I'd consider a "good fit" (for lack of a better term), but in a way, it's still my choice to be single right at this moment.

"But," you might say, "sometimes we have no choice!" Thus the saying that you can't choose your family, but you can choose your friends. In such a case... we have a choice in how we respond to the person or situation, right? As such, I don't believe there's ever a time when one truly has no choice whatsoever.

So sometimes, I hear people complain, and I think: That was your choice. Friends gripe about their jobs, but continue to stay in a place that they claim makes them miserable. While I empathise with their distress, I find their sense of helplessness puzzling, because the power is in their hands: They chose to take the job, and with every passing day, they're renewing their choice to stay on at the company. Of course, this can be a rather simplistic view if you factor in financial responsibilities, especially in cases where there's a family to feed and a mortgage to finance. But even if one chooses to stay at a job for those reasons, the fact is, you've still made a choice.

The thing is, we often look at our choices and think we have no choice at all. Rejecting one choice for another because the former looked unpalatable or impossible doesn't diminish the fact that a choice has been made. I like thinking this way because it means I'm responsible for my own well-being and happiness. It means I'm not giving anyone the power to make me unhappy. Unfortunately, it also means that if I'm unhappy, I only have myself to blame!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

When I grow up, I wanna be like them

Yesterday I read this in a friend's blog: "They didn't belong in that sacred pantheon of your heart." Lack of context notwithstanding, all of a sudden I found myself greedily covetous of that sentence -- and my friend's writing skills -- because never in a million years would I have managed to come up with a turn of phrase like that.

In the same vein, I found this blog a few days ago and have been wildly jealous ever since. Everything flows so beautifully (overlooking the slight overindulgence of italics) and reads almost like poetry.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Onion Head

Onion Head
Originally uploaded by photongina
People are like onions. Not in the sense that some have B.O. or are drenched in perfume; nor in the sense that they make you cry (at times). But in the sense that there are so many layers to them.

Another analogy -- and a prettier one -- would be to say that people are like diamonds, with many facets. Depending on the situation or the role they're playing, you get to see a different facet.

But I like the layer analogy better because sometimes certain aspects of the person are hidden so deep that nobody gets to see those. Perhaps even the person himself is unaware of what is buried there. The inner core that we all have is exceedingly private.

So whenever I look at people, especially if I'm waiting in line and have plenty of time to look around and observe, I wonder: what lies beneath the surface layer? When I see a businessman stride briskly past me, speaking into his cellphone, totally focused on his call, I wonder what he's like at home, what he's like when he's chilling with friends, what drives him, what makes him get out of bed every morning. Who is the man beneath the suit?

We take each other at surface value a lot of the time. But consider a colleague, for example. The person with the calm, professional demeanour you see at the office -- that's not necessarily the same person she'll be at home with the kids. And it probably won't be the same person she'll be when she's alone with her husband. It's also not the same person she is when she's visiting with her parents, or when she has some quiet time to herself. Oh, in essence she'll be the same; I'm not saying she has multiple personality disorder. But the way she chooses to express herself, respond to people, react to situations, these might change. Not so much swapping one mask for another, but swapping one role for another. Each role brings out a different side of her, in fact requires her to be different.

That's why people are endlessly fascinating. You can never know a person as well as you think you do. They can (and occasionally do) act in ways you consider "out of character". The truth is, it isn't out of character. It's just one more layer being revealed, a layer you never saw before.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Not quite a sunflower!

Today I bought myself a single red rose. It's something I do occasionally. Roses are my favourite flower, and the deep red rose -- almost maroon -- always draws my eye. Perhaps due to its associations with romantic love.

For some reason having a red rose sitting in a crystal vase on my desk speaks to me of hope. It soothes my soul in some way, acting as a reminder that there's beauty in the world all around me, if I choose to look. It whispers to me that if God could put that much attention and detail into a single lovely flower, how much more must He care about me. I can almost imagine His potter's hands shaping each delicate petal, pausing every once in awhile to run His fingers over the soft velvety surface.

And think about it: a flower doesn't have to do anything, just be. It just is. Here today and gone tomorrow, yet it brings such joy to the heart. So I'm reminded that I don't have to do anything. I'm God's child and He looks at me with joy. He loves me. Just as I am.
The Lord your God is with you,
He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with his love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.

Zephaniah 3:17

Monday, July 26, 2010

A tiny miracle

I don't understand how anyone who has held a baby can believe there is no God.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Hidden power

When Sivin (my pastor) first showed us this video in August 2008, it nearly brought me to tears. It demonstrates to me the power of words: words can be used for good or evil, to build up or tear down. I've always believed that a single word can make a world of difference to a person, whether positive or negative. In my experience, sometimes the most casual, throw-away statement remains in a person's consciousness for years. I've met people who told me, "You said such-and-such" and I don't even remember saying it.

I think it's important to be careful with our words, because they contain so much hidden power. We've all experienced this -- when what was meant to be a teasing jab felt like a dagger going clean through your heart. A bit melodramatic, but yeah. Conversely, the right word, uttered at the right time, can be truly life-giving.

You, by Amena Brown

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Lunchtime adventure

When I was preparing to go out for lunch with KW this afternoon, I thought, Hey! Why not wear one of those shoes that haven't seen the light of the day in awhile?

It seemed like a good idea till I had parked my car and was walking to the lunch venue. Then things started falling apart... literally.

I made it into the restaurant, found my table, and tried to inspect the shoes without looking like I was inspecting them -- especially as KW was already seated and waiting for me. With a sense of chagrin and reluctant amusement, I realised I'd never make it out of there in those shoes.

After lunch, a request for a plastic bag met with blank looks from the waiter, so I had to show him the shoes and explain why I wanted a bag. Of course I could have simply walked off and left them under the table, but I didn't think that'd be very nice! Meanwhile, KW was aghast at my intention to walk out of the place barefoot. But in my experience, if you do anything with aplomb and chutzpah, you can get away with a lot. No one will notice. If you act awkward, that's when you draw attention to yourself. Besides, I knew all the floor surfaces would be either tiled or cemented; the only somewhat rough surface to be negotiated would be the road.

At least now I have one less pair of shoes to feel guilty about not wearing!

Eureka moment

One of the challenges of not having had teachers' training is not being so aware of some pedagogical matters. Things like Bloom's Taxonomy, for example.

(Click image for larger view)

Like a lot of sociological stuff, it seems like common sense and a smart person -- or, *cough* teacher *cough* -- would instinctively apply this. Logically you know that recall is not enough; students need to understand, not simply memorise, and they need to be able to apply what they've learnt. And, following that, they need to build on that knowledge, using it as a base for comparing and judging other information, critiquing and drawing conclusions.

It's quite cool sometimes how these scientists break everything down and manage to explain it. Although it can also be frustrating because they can seem a little obsessed with details. The traditional way of teaching/learning -- theory first, then application and practice -- ought to be effective because if a student understands, he should sail through the practical side of things, simply applying whatever he has already learnt; but I think if we do the practice first, then learn the theory, you really have lightbulb moments. Like, aha! So that's why this is the way it is!

I love those aha moments. Can totally understand why Archimedes jumped out of his bathtub yelling eureka!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Tabbing away

Err... oops?

I forgot to add yesterday that when I click on links in Firefox 3.6, it's disorienting to find new tabs opening right next to the active tab rather than at the end of all the current open tabs. I'm still running Firefox 3.5 in the office but my home PC has the latest version, since I just did a fresh install of everything.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tech news and gripes from the Sunflower.

Some geeky stuff to bore all my poor long-suffering readers to tears:

  1. My system tray is sending up an "Ethernet: A network cable is unplugged" pop-up every 10 seconds or so. It is BLOODY ANNOYING. I unchecked the notifications thingy in Network Connection - Properties but it is still doing that. If the connection is dropping, it seems to be recovering fast because I don't notice any problems surfing the Net. Not sure if it is something I ought to be worried about.

  2. PC reformats are so annoying. The Asus PQ5L motherboard comes bundled with Realtek ALC1200 audio and I'm having trouble getting the mic volume to behave. I had problems the last round too but of course by now I can't remember what I did to get it to work. The volume's so low that the graph thingy in Audacity is flat. Gaaah. Realtek takes over all the mic controls so you have to go through their Audio Manager instead of using the WinXP controls. *tears hair out*

  3. Managed to successfully edit an animated gif in Gimp yesterday and feel very proud of myself :p  Not used to working in layers (I use Irfanview for simple cropping & resizing, and Photofiltre for other image editing) but I looked at an online tutorial on how to create an animated gif and from there, managed to edit the one I had. Woohoo!

  4. Have been researching free mind-map software and comic strip generators for work. Comic strip generators all tend to be browser-based but there's quite an array of mind-mapping apps out there, both software and browser-based. I get excited when I see a good app that's both pretty and easy to use. *feels super geeky all of a sudden*

  5. In a shocking development, Erna, my friend and unofficial tech support for my only remaining self-hosted blog (as opposed to blogs like this one being hosted by Blogger) has switched to Movable Type. She kept extolling the wonders of Wordpress to me and scoffing at me for sticking to MT, which I've used since mid-2003. Well, she moved off WP, gave Expression Engine a try and is now running on MT. This amuses me greatly.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Where is the solution?

Alpha tweeted this fable about "the good Christian girl". It sounds eerily familiar, especially the voices of those knowing ones.

To quote Mr TDH: "There must be a better way. Right now it's all hit-and-miss." His contention is that the church isn't very helpful, and largely leaves it to chance: if you're lucky, you meet someone, he likes you, you like him, you date, you get married. If you're unlucky, you don't meet anyone; or you meet someone, you like him, he doesn't like you, and nothing comes of it.

I don't know how the church could help in this area, though, and neither does Mr TDH. Nobody seems to have the answers. All the "answers" given by those knowing ones are the wrong answers. I know, because I've heard a lot of them!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Practising (heroic) self-restraint.

*grits teeth*

I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate.
I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate.
I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate.
I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate.
I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate.
I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate.
I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate.
I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate.
I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate. I will not retaliate.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Desktop wallpaper

Can't think of anything to write, so decided to show my desktop wallpaper :p

Current work desktop:

Previous work desktop (Oct 2008):

Previous home desktop (right now it's blank, I just reformatted the PC):

I like flowers a lot. You'd never have suspected, right? :p

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Behind every great man...

Patched up one of the holes in my literary education by reading James Herriot's All Creatures Great and Small this afternoon. Yes, yes, I know. It was indeed a grave oversight. But it's fixed now.

My writing has been deteriorating, I can feel it; when I mentioned this to my immediate boss, he said that's because I've been reading too many student scripts. I can well believe it. The other day I was grading essays on the topic of arranged marriages, and caught myself wondering if there is an i in arranged... as in, "arrainged". Horrors!

My boss further said that the only way to remedy that is to read more. So, being an obedient employee -- *cough, cough* -- I'm taking his advice.
*      *      *      *      *      *

For some reason I got interested in Herriot's wife. In the book, he says they spent part of their honeymoon going around farms and testing herds of cows for tuberculosis, so I thought, "Man, this woman sounds like one of a kind. I can't imagine any other woman taking that sort of thing very calmly!" Imagine not turning a hair when your husband has to spend part of your honeymoon working, and you have to follow him into barns and fields with splotches of cow poop, to help him take notes as he does that work!

I wondered how much of the book was autobiographical, so I looked it up. Apparently that really was what happened! Not only that, I discovered that his wife had an important role to play in his success as an author because it was she who'd encouraged him to write his first book. Wikipedia says he'd always wanted to write but couldn't find the time, and he finally started because his wife urged him to do it.

Reminds me of something I read recently in Shaunti Feldhahn's book, For Women Only. Discussing the results of a couple of surveys she conducted among 800 men, she says many men revealed that they secretly feel inadequate, like an impostor; they're trying their best, yet at the same time afraid that people will find out they're merely faking it, that they don't really know what they're doing at all. And she said if a wife provides affirmation for her husband and helps her husband feel like he can safely be himself with her, he'll be able to become all God intends him to be.

Sounds like common sense. Shaunti does delve into more detail about how men would like their wives to respond; I won't go into all that here, but I kept thinking how nobody would ever have heard of James Herriot if his wife had not given him the support and confidence to start writing. After all, it's hard to brave rejection when you're a first-time author sending your manuscript around to agents and publishers. And, considering he had a busy veterinary practice, it must have been hard for him to find the time to write, too. She must have been a pretty extraordinary lady, I think.

Friday, July 16, 2010

On waiting

Maura Kelly comments on Marcel Proust's work:
    His narrator (conveniently named Marcel) can help a reader to re-live the emotional experience of longing in a way that makes it feel deliciously exquisite -- the way it can in childhood (think of the wonderful anticipation you used to feel on a happy Christmas Eve, or even how you would almost burst with the most enjoyable impatience as you waited for those brownies to come out of the oven).
    By the time we get to adulthood, however, whatever pleasantness we used to associate with waiting often gets subsumed by anxiety: Will he ever, ever call? Will I get the job? Will I ever write -- or sell -- my novel? Because in childhood, we wait for things we know are coming; in adulthood, we don't know if so many of the things we are waiting for will ever come.

And it's true what she says -- not about Proust's writing because I certainly couldn't comment on it, not having read it -- but about waiting: because as an adult, you realise there are so many factors, elements, conditions out of your control. That's why I believe in carpe diem, seizing the day... you change the things you can, because there are are enough things you can't. So instead of sitting there and mourning about what you can't make happen, do something with what you can.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sounds like...

Lightbulb moment: Conceiving the idea of a website that analyses people's writing and matches their writing style to that of a well-known author.

Genius: Writing the code to execute said idea.

Irony: Margaret Atwood trying the site and discovering she doesn't write like herself. ("Oops," said the guys behind the code. "We'll make sure to train the database with more of her works.")
*      *      *      *      *      *

I apparently write like David Foster Wallace, whom I'd never heard of. A Guardian article describes his writing thus: "He wrote long books, complete with reflective and often hilariously self-conscious footnotes, and he wrote long sentences, with the playfulness of a master punctuater and the inventiveness of a genius grammarian."

Well, that doesn't sound so bad, does it? I think that writing analysis website is simply trying to tell me that I'm wordy. The New Yorker comments that Wallace "conjured the world in two-hundred-word sentences... his prose slid forward with a controlled lack of control that mimed thought itself." Michiko Kakutani, writing for The Guardian, was less kind, describing Wallace's novel Infinite Jest as "a self-indulgent book badly in need of editing... clocking in at an unnecessarily long 1096 pages", although she did add that it was "some wonderfully powerful writing". Ouch.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Someone recently suspected me of being a geek in hiding. (Hi, Django! :p) When I mentioned this to Mr TDH, he replied, dead-pan, "Gee, I wonder what could possibly have given them such an idea!"

My former housemate used to call me a closet geek and laugh at the fact that I was geekier than she was... she, an IT graduate who didn't use any of her IT knowledge.

Looking at the diagram below, I think I'll take it as a compliment ;)

image from The Great White Snark

Monday, July 12, 2010

Words to live by

Someone recently asked me whether I have a motto. Sure, I'm a walking bunch of clichés :p
  1. Carpe diem. (And, in line with this, "Try everything once".)

  2. Don't sweat the small stuff.

  3. Do as you would be done by.

  4. You only live once. (Especially applies to food choices :p)

  5. Live without regrets.

  6. Build up, not tear down.

  7. People are important. (By extension: "Money is not everything.")

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Counting my blessings

Today I am thankful for:
  1. The bestest brother in the whole wide world (yes, I know that is not a word!)

  2. Bosses with a sense of humour (a somewhat rare breed)

  3. Students who laugh at my jokes :p

  4. Brave housemates who trust me with their cars

  5. Appliances that all work the way they are supposed to work! (vastly taken for granted)

  6. Parents who care (even if it's expressed in criticism... *sigh*)

  7. Being able to enjoy a game of Scrabble online! (and beat my opponent flat! *immodest grin*)

  8. Generally good health (also commonly taken for granted)

  9. Colours and words

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

How great Thou art!

Such a pretty sky this morning! The picture doesn't do it justice. The clouds were a very light pinkish-blue as I drove to work, but by the time I arrived (7:15am) the sun was rising fast and the mystical early-morning tinge was fading. I hopped out of my car and rushed to the rooftop of the building to get this photo. But look at the cloud formations!
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of His hands.

Psalm 19:1

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

On trust

Human society would not function without trust. We loan things to friends, we take to the road assuming our fellow drivers are not suicidal, we get on airplanes piloted by people we've never seen before, and, when asked to sign something, we rarely read the fine print.
--Drake Bennet, Confidence Game

At least I didn't lose anything irreplaceable, eh.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Not always strong

Tonight this is true:

The Warrior is a Child by Twila Paris


Sunday, July 4, 2010

He said it

Me: I don't understand the third commandment of the 10 Tech Commandments.

Mr TDH: Thou shalt not adopt early, nor install version 1.0? What's not to understand?

Me: I thought you geek types all love to be bleeding-edge and use software in beta!

Mr TDH: That's why it's a commandment. We have to be saved from ourselves.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


Blimey, I have 50 tabs open and I can't figure out where the music is coming from! I will strangle that webmaster/blogger. GAAAAH!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Dancing words

Not sure if I've lost my mind; I've just signed up for a 10-session creative writing workshop with the renowned Sharon Bakar. It starts July 31.

The "lost my mind" bit is because my Master's thesis is STILL not done. Maybe the creative writing will spill over to thesis writing?