there appears to be a tendency of social media to focus solely on the good – there’a a plethora of “humble” brags and “unrealistic” posts.  i’m obviously not a big fan but i can understand why it’s worth it “following” certain people.  Don’t get me wrong – i’m all for democratisation and giving a voice to the traditionally voiceless but a lot of it is to me vacuous and inane palava (or palaver if you prefer) – not to mention the trolling and glaring divide.  i worked in ICT for a number of years prior to my ABI (Acquired Brain Injury):  technology can be a magnifier for “bad” and  not just a multiplier for “good” – in my experience, it’s a double-edged sword.  i believe posts shouldn’t be policed or censored (free speech and all) but people should be better equipped to discern the “wheat from the chaff” – a form of “natural selection” of sorts (if you will).  It would benefit from balance (like most things in life).

part of this is “processing”.  Some of it is “snobbery” (i’m only human after all).  That said, take from it what you will – i’m not narcissistic enough to discount any “unintended interpretations” of my writing.  My only caveat that it is partly out of need (and partly due to therapy) so it might not be most people’s “cup of tea”.

there’s undeniably some “good” occurrences recently.  Firstly, i’m nearly halfway in completing my online certificate in data science.  This will, “hopefully”, help me get into “gainful” employment again after being “sidelined in the wilderness” for over a decade now.  At times, I used to work a part-time job along with a full-time one – so being homebound was a “drastic” change.

over the last two weeks, i’ve been finishing online crosswords daily. It started with 2.5 hours but now i’m down to a little over 50 minutes usually and my best time is approximately 38 minutes.  i’m merely an amateur cruciverbalist who wants to improve and build up to something challenging like the New York Times Sunday crossword.

i’ve had no falls over the last several months despite my last two  SARA (short for the Scale for the Assessment  and Rating of Ataxia) tests showing slight deterioration.    i think this is mainly due to my neuro PTs’ advised interventions added to (or slightly modifying ) my daily exercise routine.  Sure the NDIS (Australian National Disability Insurance Scheme in case you’re not aware) is a source of much consternation and a bugbear to negotiate (even for mundane tasks) but thanks to it i can now afford to go weekly instead of monthly (which used to be the case).  I had several near-misses lately:  the point is I didn’t fall down where a couple of months ago i surely would have.  As in everything there is both good and bad – i’ve heard it referred as a major reform since MediCare:  there are obvious, signficant “teething problems” with its initial rollout but you can’t really fault the intention (it is the implementation where it falls down – pun intended ).

sadly, i’ve been binge watching a lot lately. Whether to “empty out” the numerous recordings on my DVR (Digital Video Recorder) or streaming over the Internet – i’m such a cheapskate that I only use free services (thankfully, Australia is quite “progressive”).  My  current darling is  “You’re the Worst” on SBS (Special Broadcasting Service) On Demand – the “Resume” function makes the bugs bearable.  I watched all episodes of the four seasons available on the web. I find the writing witty and funny (admittedly, i’ve got a “dark” sense of humour i liked the tv show Legit , i found the movie Pulp Fiction hilarious, and mostly laughed throughout the stage show, The Book of Mormon ). I enjoyed Seasons  1-3 ; S4 was ok (my “disappointment” with the new intro notwithstanding) and still will watch the last season (i’m curious how they will wind it down and then end it). i think Ricky Gervais was right to cap the UK  version of The Office after two series.  i use TV to distract from the thinking i do during the day – so “smart” and “subconscious” programming is much appreciated.  The last show made me think of the novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being although watching is supposed to relax me.  i sometimes read (with the aid of a magnifier) during ad breaks (i know this is counter to my intent but i can’t really help doing it).  i find it helps me think more broadly about things and i’m not limited to seeing things only in a certain way.

My Ph.D. has stalled and as of late i rarely write anything – and when i do i only mange a few words.  Maybe i’ve just “hit the wall” and i’m just tired given the number of years (when a lot of things usually pique my interest) and the effort to type compounded by my waning interest.  Maybe it’s not up to scratch given my exacting standards and past performances.  Maybe it’s my growing frustration with the admin required and my over reliance on altruism upon learning the hard way that it’s self-interest that often yields results.  Maybe it’s my substantially increased anxiety due to my health concerns or fast approaching conclusion of my candidature.  i suspect all of these factors play a role.  Thankfully i’ve got a supervisor who believes in me and my abilities – she’s doing what she can to make that path is still available to me.

i was told that walking outside would do some good – not only would it further develop my legs given a functional task but it would also expose me to fresh air and vitamin D.  I’m trying to incorporate this into my routine but admittedly i’m hesitant given my bouts with hay fever and uneven terrain and inclines.  On days when the pollen count is not too high, I go outside the front of our house to gradually acclimatise me to the irritants and eventually build enough strength to confidently tackle going around the block.

My speech difficulties have taught me to listen more to others.  My walking challenges have resulted in me losing weight (as the heavier i am, the harder it is to remain ambulant), made me appreciate more the challenge of getting robots to balance on two legs.  My greatly reduced typing speed has caused me to concentrate more on quality rather than quantity. As has happened in the past with other persons with disabilities, it has ‘forced’ me to adapt and strategise to perform common tasks.

It is easy for me to continue being negative: seeing silver linings does not come natural.  These are the cards i have been dealt and need to make the most out of them.  Admittedly, it still pisses me off when people whinge about what i consider to be “terminally trivial” things but i have to learn to focus instead on the things i need to do and how i can perform them better.  While the Chinese symbol for ‘crisis’ has been disproven to mean both ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity’ simultaneously, it is still useful to see both the  yin and  yang of things.

Advertisements

last night we relocated to another place for dessert.  As we were about to leave, i went to the toilet.  Unfortunately once i unlocked the door after using the facilities, the door wouldn’t open!  Not exactly ideal for one with claustrophobia.  i had enough composure to ring the mobiles of the people i was with. i called several times, several individuals but no one picked up.  It was not until my son looked for me after several minutes (but it felt like an eternity to me) that i told him i was stuck inside. i was so panicked that i considered climbing out the window without my walking frame but the blinds didn’t want to open (it was hard to know because i was already in a panicked state.  Between me pulling and my wife pushing we were able to open the door.  i’m not going to lie: it was a very harrowing experience for me – generally, i face my fears but that is one i have yet to overcome. i’ve been told that writing about is part of “processing” it.  While i’m generally “cerebral”, fears are by their very nature irrational – it is cold comfort to me despite statistical probabilities not to “catastrophise”.

btw, we informed the remaining staff member of the incident and need to look into the issue.

stranger in a strangeland (2)

November 17, 2018

i’m a sucker for good food.

and most of what I ate was tasty.  It reminds me of Melbourne (where I studied for a year) in that on almost all street corners you could get a decent cup of coffee (kudos to the Italians!), it was like that with food.  Not that the food wasn’t good in Melbourne (like New York, it clearly was influenced by the plethora of immigrants) but the food in Tokyo was something else (they have the most Michelin restaurants in a city in the entire planet after all).  If possible i prefer “cheap” grub (but like my sister says:  “Nothing is cheap in Japan) but i’m known for saving so i can spend for an “expensive” meal – i just value experiences over things.  To paraphrase Antony Bourdain:  good food is often simple food.

over there they seem to like their KitKat ™ (apparently this translates to the Japanese kitto katsu, meaning good luck or surely win   which explain its popularity) .  They’ve got the most assortment of favours i’ve ever seen:  strawberry, apple, Tokyo banana (a lot of their snacks have a combination of this fruit with chocolate), ube (purple yam quite popular in the Philippines) , wasabi (a type of Japanese horseradish), maccha (two variants of green tea – a “sweeter” one for the kiddies and a more intense one for adults),  miso (fermented soybean), sake(there were two variants of the rice wine alcohol:  Masuizumi or plum), and soy sauce.   Those were the ones we saw.  Apparently, there are also cherry; lemon; kiwi; mango; pineapple; maple; cappuccino; blueberry cheesecake; cookies plus; apple vinegar; azuki bean (more commonly known as the adzuki bean); apricot seed; baked potato; chocolate and  grilled potato; white peach; white and yellow peach; chocobanana; banana minis; bitter chocolate; i-stick (frozen dark chocolate);  pumpkin; baby pumpkin; sports drink; strawberry fromage (French for cheese); blueberry fromage, strawberry milk, French Bretagne milk; French salt; salt watermelon; fruit parfait; college tater (which i assume is a form of potato); double berry (a combination of blueberries and strawberries);  anko (red ben paste) and maccha; red bean paste; sweet bean paste; Yubari melon (a type of Japanese cantaloupe); Nasu Kogen (geographic highlands in Japan) milk; soybean powder; strong soybean flour; Houji tea (Houjicha is a roasted, Japanese green tea); jasmine tea; maccha milk; Muscat of Alexandria (a white wine grape variety); and brandy & orange variants. I’m guessing not all were ‘successful’ or that some flavours were only available for a limited time.  My philosophy has always been to try food – if you don’t like something then fair enough, at least you tried it (that’s why it took me awhile to taste rabbit because growing up I had them as pets – forget that they’re technically rodents).  I found the Tokyo banana and “dark” maccha okay but found the ube, wasabi, and “light” maccha too sweet (i suspect they were blended with white chocolate).  i missed out on trying the soy sauce and sake variants because of “quantity” issues.

we tried McDonald’s there:  not because we craved the familiar but because they are prone to localisation.  In the Philippines, they’ve got Fried Chicken (with rice if you want) and Spaghetti prompted (i guess) by the local competitor Jollibee (and as far as i know, the only place in the world where they are ranked second as far as hamburger chains go).  My wife & i had the Ebi (Japanese for shrimp) Fillet and my son had the Chicken Teriyaki burger. For dessert, we tried the Choco Pie (not the “white” one, the other one tasted like the hazelnut spread) and the Cinnamon Melts(it was good and “deconstructed” but i’m a sucker for a decent Cinnamon Roll)).

we ate at two places that our niece recommended: a sushi and a ramen place.  Both were “cramped” and my wife had to feed me (as I needed both hands to hold onto the tables there).  The sushi restaurant was like a sushi train in that there were no servers.  Instead, you ordered your item from a touch screen and it was delivered on one of three “tracks” (i think they must have corresponded to the price).  It was “good” and my son had seven plates.  i had more but “stopped” myself as i’m trained to eat a lot.  It was a “cheap” meal and you could tell as the rice easily separated from the fish (but i prefer sashimi from sushi anyway, although the hallmark of great sushi is supposedly the quality of the rice and not the seafood).  On the other hand. you had to pre-order your food from the ramen place using a vending machine.  you could even order the house ramen to take away – we didn’t as we didn’t want the hassle of dealing with fairly strict Australian Customs.  Both were off the beaten path and hidden away,  prospective patrons were unlikely to just wander off the streets of Shinjuku and the restaurants probably relied on word-of-mouth for custom.

i first had my taste of Uni (Japanese for sea urchin) at the “cheap”sushi place.  i also tried it at an “expensive” place.  Frankly, i’m obsessed with the uni  they serve in Japan.  It tastes different and MUCH better than the ones in the US, OZ or the Philippines (regardless of the price-point).  My working theory is:  since a lot more people order it in Japan so any stock doesn’t have to be stored for a long time so it is much fresher and, therefore, tastier.

i gained some weight because as my wife puts it:  what i had in a day, i’d usually consumed in a week.  She noticed more as she had to push me around.  It was not until i got back to OZ that the difference was obvious to me:  i became heavier there but at least the kilos seemed “distributed”, here i get a “ponch” on my tummy first.

aside from seeing the sights, we try to “eat like locals” when we can – i think it opens your mind further.  As Andrew Zimmern puts it:  “Food is a passport to adventure”.  And to paraphrase the late, great Anthony Bourdain: Travel changes you.

TBC

 

 

 

stranger in a strange land

November 9, 2018

we were recently in Japan for my wife’s conference.  she usually doesn’t bring me and my son but my in-laws were also overseas – while I can manage on my own (admittedly, with some difficulty), I can’t look after my son and all his needs.  It was a holiday tacked on to a business trip.  There’s a lot to unpack so where do I begin.

language problems were common so my wife had great difficulty arranging for an accessible room for me.  Once she said “accessible” and got “accessi” as a clarification. Another time, she mentioned with enough space to accommodate a “wheelchair” she was told that there was no “chair” in the room only a “sofa”.  Apparently, they refer to it as “barrier-free” over there but knowing that fact didn’t really help.  Thankfully, she had a relative there that could speak the language.  She facilitated the search but some things were still lost in translation.  We managed to get a room that fit all three of us (instead of the two rooms that seemed at one time, the only option for us).  However, they could only manage a short, plastic stool instead of a shower chair so my wife helped me to sit down so I could shower by myself (and not have to get her wet in the process). To some extent, this reminded me of a few of the challenges that we faced in US hotels.  One of the “accessible” rooms was on the ground floor but there were only stairs entering the hotel – luckily there was a rail i could use to go up and down.  Moreover, my wife had to help me shower.  There was another room were the bathroom was suitable but getting there on my own was problematic: a bed effectively blocked my path.  There too was no ramp at the hotel’s entrance but there were also steps and a rail for me to hold onto.

most of their street cuts were too “high” – so my son and I had to help my wife get me on the pavement as my combination, “lighter”. travel walker/wheelchair doesn’t allow for “self-propel”-tion. And, most lifts could only hold me and my family (did I mention I’m claustrophobic and try to avoid elevators if possible – I know, ironic for someone who has difficulty walking and can’t use escalators or travelators) as well as difficulty getting me out of typically-narrow hallways.  That said, we took trains most of the time (as taxis were really much more expensive but occasionally depending on the destination we didn’t have much choice ) because all platforms were (eventually) reachable via lift(s) (granted some were outside the station, some times you had to take more than one, some escalators could be made wheelchair-friendly with the assistance of staff (a first for me) and it’s not for people who are easily lost/poor at directions) and there were prominent “gaps” on to and off a few trains.  But this was better than our prior experience, as we learned first-hand, there were only a few elevators (only select stations had them and they weren’t always working) on the New York subway.

In 2020, Tokyo will host the Paralympics.  In my mind, that’s both good and necessary.  Usually, hotels have only one or two barrier-free rooms despite UN WHO stating that about 10% of the world’s population identifying as disabled.  Sure, not all of them require mobility or sensory aids but that’s still grossly disproportionate.   We missed the mad-rush for hotels in making rooms more accessible by a month.  Like America, the intention is there.  It only goes to show that it’s only not just an issue of wealth or access to technology but about education.  Originally I was upset  (admittedly, i still sometimes do in very extreme cases but you shouldn’t hold it against people for their ignorance but inform them of the proper “etiquette” (and the often unintended consequences of their actions).  Say what you will about Australia’s shortcomings when it comes to disability but i’m yet to find another country that does it better.

 

TBC

 

aspiration vs. inspiration

October 23, 2018

it might just me being pedantic but I prefer the latter term. Sure, there’s a need to be careful that it’s not presented as ‘inspiration porn’ (as it’s known in disability circles).  In my view, if it makes you want to become a better person and it’s not a short term thing then that’s fine with me. It’s the temporary fixes that I’ve got issues with (I know the rules of grammar state you’re not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition but sometimes it just reads and sounds better).  It’s when people look at others in a worse situation to (effectively) feel better about themselves or their lives.  If you had empathy (in my mind at least), you’d feel sadder and not necessarily more thankful – I’m not a very positive person but that feels like the focus is more skewed towards the negative – like the schadenfreude people get from reality tv or the internet.

I consider (big surprise) Prof. Stephen Hawking to be inspirational but not aspirational.  I’m nowhere as smart as him (nor do I pretend to be anywhere close). It’s unrealistic reference points that seem to me the source of so much unhappiness and ‘malcontentment’.  Be your  best self, not what ‘others’ expect you to be (much easier said than done).  Measuring up to certain aspects of him (he’s only human after all and thus imperfect) is foolhardy.  To paraphrase from the book:  “The Spirituality of Imperfection”, it’s not about the outcomes wise men achieved but seeking what they sought – it’s more of the process of ‘enlightenment’.

There’s always a danger with role-models:  emulation is desirable but putting someone on a pedestal can easily morph into ‘blind’ (pardon the pun) idolatry or ‘paragonism’.

(bridge the ) Gap Year

October 22, 2018

i first heard the term ‘gap year’ when I migrated to Australia. It’s supposed to be a respite after Year 12 before college (or as they call it here: university).  A year of ‘rest’ from school is a luxury and culturally antithetical from an Asian, developing economy such as the Philippines.  I do believe that this is beneficial to one’s mindset but maybe this is a result of how formal education is currently structured – maybe having social justice integrated with the curricula is more effective.

Bridge The Gap is essentially a movement to help address the inequalities that exist in Australian society:  it seeks to make Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander’s outcomes similar to that of the Caucasian population as the disparities are obvious.  Regardless of how you feel about the issue, a more general philosophy of empathy for societal challenges may shift our definitions for success and progress.  There is one I found with some aspects sort of the same but what I’m proposing is non-prescriptive and ‘decontesualised’ making it more applicable to most countries and subject to what’s realistic for the individual.

The idea still needs to be threshed out (and the subject of some blog posts) but I think it’s an idea worth exploring further.

2 princes

June 6, 2018

sorry. i was MIA but I had a few personal issues to contend with. I’m sort of back.  That said, my posts will be “irregular” over the next few months.  I need to reserve most of my time and effort for my other blog for my studies.  You may wonder why I maintain two.  It’s because most of the ideas there are not yet ready-for-prime-time and aren’t up-to-snuff  yet to be shared.

It’s partly a quality kick but mainly because you can’t serve two masters well.