the 5th element

January 28, 2015

the first 4 books of the Death Gate Cycle series is consistent with the Greek notion of the composition of the world: air, fire, earth, and water,  If one is ‘serious’ about the craft of writing, there’s no going beyond the classic reference of Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style.  Sure, some may find the sections on grammar quite tedious, but these are necessary building blocks in attaining a level of proficiency.

the good book

January 22, 2015

there are several books that I think my son should read (that I’ve read in one form or another.)  Not just because I think it’s good for him academically, help him read more advanced texts. or help him understand his roots better but, ultimately, assist in making himself better.  This is by no means an exhaustive list or in any particular order:

a.) Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterisimo (the English versions, of course – I’m not that cruel)

b.) Nation for Our Children

c.) The Spirituality of Imperfection

d.) Social Things (this doesn’t read as a text book)

e.) The Forgetting Room (One of his names is partly inspired by the protagonist)

f.) The Death Gate Cycle series (it’s a total of 7 books – the first 4 are independent followed by a trilogy that relates the “worlds”)

While books in themselves, don’t have all the answers – they’re a tool that helps us think more about things.


better days

October 28, 2014

To paraphrase an expression from the cancer community, you can either be bitter or better. Not to be melodramatic but the same applies to living with a disability.   I’ve felt both – more of the latter lately. All of us with a “problem” can be overwhelmed – there’s no monopoly for this it’s just certain cases are “easier” for us to understand. I know logically that statistically speaking, there are no “bad” days but it sure sometimes feels that way – so does it really matter anyway. Perception is often considered more than reality. Having a shitty day affects our mood – it’s alright to feel this way as long as we keep this to a minimum and are fully aware of our resulting actions (at least that’s what I tell myself) . I’m Human after all and not an Econ. I can’t always be rationale (although generally I think I am). I’m not always logical or an automaton despite my computing background. I’m no paragon of how to behave but I think (hopefully) I’m gradually getting better at accepting it. Like an addict you’re never completely “cured” – every day’s a struggle.

Things won’t necessarily get better as the day progresses but my attitude and how I can handle things can certainly improve. It’s hard for me because my worldview is closer to Marc Maron than it is to Polyanna. Like Jim Jeffries in Legit, I should learn to just make the “best” out of “bad” situations. In short, I should try not to be so grumpy all the time.

I felt like this before I acquired my disability and I feel it now. Some of my views have changed but not all of them – surely in my case it’s just not solely out of life experiences but exposure to others’ thoughts. I’ve used exercise as an outlet lately but have to write sometimes even if it’s difficult. The former doesn’t allow me to express myself and have a “voice.”


July 6, 2014

I’m not that smart or physically gifted but in the end this was a blessing.  It made me and makes me try harder.  While other people are much more talented, I feel I am able to achieve more due to their complacency.  They say “grit” is a better indicator for “success.”

I may not have had stellar marks at university but I felt I knew more than most of my batch mates.  I had other interests also occupy my time.  To have academics and IQ as the only measures of human potential is, to my mind, quite short-sighted.  Sure it is easier to manage what is tangible but it is not always the case that it is what is essential to the individual or to the organisation.

I used to enjoy playing basketball even if I was slow, short, and could not jump very high.  I used my brain to counteract my physical limitations.  We are so obsessed with winning that we often neglect that what is really important is we strive to better ourselves and we work toward realising our potential: it is about mastery and not success.  You say that is what a loser would say but we are so enamoured with being number one and top ten lists that we ignore the fact that certain things are beyond our control.  It is not an excuse not to try hard but whatever we attempt needs to be grounded in reality: the prayer for serenity is quite apropos.

My personal best is 33 straight shots made at the free throw line and 7 3-pointers.  But what I enjoyed most was passing the rock to help facilitate the scoring of others. My most creative pass was one that I dubbed ‘Not Necessarily Behind the Back’ which was called as travelling by the referee.  To this day I am still convinced that it was valid:  it was so new and different that it created confusion and understandably led to that call. In high school I was designated as a player-coach of a team that won the championship.   The clash of egos was our expected downfall but to everyone’s surprise we never dropped a game despite facing fierce competition. The players were so good that I had the luxury of doing a mass substitution:  replacing all 5 players on the court with the bench.  Juggling playing time was difficult but the secret of our “success” was that there was no pressure on a handful of players to always perform at peak efficiency. In contrast, my last 2 years were on a team that hardly won.  We were not supposed to perform as “well” being a bunch of “nerds.” We may have not been premiers but had heart and played to the best of our ability.  The point is to make the best of the cards you were dealt:  you may not always get what you want divert your focus instead to what is truly essential.

Do not get me wrong:  I endeavour to win every time I compete – it is just not my end all and be all. I still have fond memories of eventually winning a basketball game by 5 in spite of being down by 18 points with 5 minutes remaining on the game clock. That said, I remember distinctly losing 2 games: in both cases we were expected to lose.  In the first, there were only 5 of us (which we had trouble even achieving) but 12 3-pointers among us:  I think I made 3 of them.  We gave our opponents a good run but were defeated when 1 of our players fouled out towards the end of the game.   The other one was against a much stronger side. We slowed down the pace to an excruciating tempo.  They clearly wanted to run the ball and as a result were obviously frustrated with the speed of the game and made quite a few mistakes.  They eventually won but not with the huge margin they expected.

Society loves winners.  I am not saying you forego the rules and expectations:  you have to play the game if you want to get anywhere.  Just try to be conscious of the choices you make and be aware of the compromises and repercussions of your decisions.   I am not saying you should abandon idealism just learn to temper it with pragmatism.  Our desire to emulate certain people is an evolutionary imperative but it can be tricky given the culture of “celebrity” we find ourselves immersed in.  It is now difficult to be your own man more than ever.  I am not saying you should not be influenced by others; just be discerning.

Father and Son

June 20, 2014

I was mistakenly waiting for my son to grow up to share my thoughts and views. This allows me to do it asynchronously – even if I think he is not quite ready to take everything in but it allows him to get what he needs when he needs it. I can not wait until I change and be more expressive. I am not one to assume but I suspect the Internet will be around long enough for him to read it.  I am not dying (not that I know of!) but I feel I should write while I still can – if Life has taught me anything, you can not anticipate what the future holds; all you can do is try to hedge your bets as best as you can.

I am not that wise (I am not that presumptuous!) but my advanced age has granted me some life experiences.  That said, I am still learning.  I have always believed that you can learn from everyone:  what to do or what NOT to do.  Bits of these are available to my son not so that he can avoid “mistakes” entirely but he can make calculated assessments on what to commit knowing what the consequences are.  As Bill Gates once said, success is a poor teacher.  I know it is hard for parents (myself included) but children should be allowed to make their own mistakes – with the proper guidance, of course.  We, as a society, are so hung up on getting it right the first time that we often forget the importance of the process in arriving at the solution. They say youth is wasted on the young – I do not agree with that; they need the extra time to right the ship.

You can (and should) expose your children to different things.  You hope certain things stick but in the end it is ultimately their choice.  To paraphrase the poet Khalil Gibran, they come from you but are not you.  They have their own identity separate from your own.

I have been raised to expect greatness and there are pros and cons to this.  My expectations being so high can be viewed as both good and bad.  What you can achieve is often surprising but the immense pressure can be a burden.  Do not get me wrong, it can be exhilarating to accomplish things but it would not hurt to understand the reasons behind them.  In the end, what you do or have done is not as important as the person you are.

I may not always say it or show it but what is paramount is that he knows that I will always love him.

back to basics

May 1, 2014

Instead of the 3 Rs: Reading, ‘Riting & ‘Rithmetic, , I think it is necessary for schools to adapt what they teach in a post-industrial society.  Maybe something like Communication, Logic & Ethics is more appropriate.  In a world where professional ethics seems to be a mere afterthought, I think it needs to be integrated with all lessons.  I am not saying we should espouse a certain way of thinking but we could better equip each individual to reflect and think deeply about matters for themselves. I think much of scientific enquiry is divorced of more qualitative aspects.  I understand why people prefer more quantitative measures:  after all, they seem to be more objective and directly manageable.  Unfortunately, most vital things are more complicated than that.  Like most things there needs to be balance: they are not necessarily equal but both need to be accounted for.

brave new world

April 27, 2014

in a world of blogs, it was curious (and simultaneously heartening)  to encounter a young person taking journalism – albeit part of a double major.  The web is a double-edged sword: although it has granted a voice to those that would normally be able to participates, it has at times deteriorated into a shouting match and its accuracy is often questioned – look at Wikipedia.  There are pros and cons of anonymity and the wisdom of the crowd.  As in most things, balance is the key.

Rather than the traditional claim of a gate-keeping  role, the press needs to exemplify integrity and fact-checking without the red tape associated with it. It is hard yakka in a world where it is difficult to distinguish the wheat from the chaff – I guess it is wise to consider the source.


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