power up

April 19, 2017

had a recurring “nightmare” last night about people seeking any shelter they could find.  What’s weird is that I have a different dream each time I get up from bed but for some reason it just continued where it left off.  I thought I was not really bothered by the threat of nuclear winter but it looks like subconsciously I am.   This just illustrates how, often, control is not in one’s own hands.  Like my mum used to say:  you’re ok but other people might be “crazy”.

one fine day

January 7, 2017

my wife’s niece is getting married later today.

The Filipino tradition (Hispanic in origin ) arras (13 coins) presented by the bridegroom to the bride was rightly scraped by the couple and didn’t make much sense in the Australian context.  We shouldn’t be so beholden or precious with rituals and just welcome the nod to recognising heritage.  This type of symbolism should be changed to suit (or eliminated entirely).

My view on marriage is it shouldn’t be an outdated institution but a living-breathing social construct (that’s not for everyone and should be an individual’s choice and not dictated by societal convention) that’s adaptable to present realities.  In fairness, they did scrap “obey” from the vows.  Legal divorce in the Philippines (if I’m not mistaken, we’re the last holdout country) is a seperate issue.

There’s even a proposal for 10-year terms instead of forever.  This might not be the solution to the “high” rate of divorce but the conversation’s welcome.  Silver, Golden and Diamond anniversaries seem to be unrealistic  given wedding as teens is no longer the norm.

Do we now put to much emphasis on the day itself (encouraged by an entire industry) and not the upcoming unified life?

Full disclosure:  Have been married now for a little over 14 years


December 30, 2016

At business school, I was taught about clusters and diamonds.  Given the “horrendous” traffic in the Philippines, I think we need to consider other models which may co-exist with these.  Sure, zoning is a definite constraint but we need to plant local opportunities:  where “quality” jobs are available nearby instead of the CBD (where people need only travel within or to directly adjacent municipalities or towns).

This might spell a boost in employee productivity and this will definitely improve the quality of life of people.  A ‘win-win” as it were: we need to move away from “zero-sum” thinking.

This may not be in line with “conventional” wisdom but we need to try something different.

universal (soldier)

December 7, 2016

As an alternative, I wanted to study architecture at university but instead I took computer science at another institution: both interested me and I’m not sure why I chose one over the other. Afterwards, I was invited to teach at my alma matter.  I have since experienced a revolving door between academe and industry and at times having both feet on “contentious” worlds (perhaps, this is why I strongly feel “faith without works” is not enough).

I’ve always admired “good” design. Usability has always fascinated me and acquiring a brain injury has made me more so.  I am not a big disciple of fate but it’s only natural that I find Universal Design appealing. It seems to be a confluence of interests and experiences that is beginning to define my path.  Admittedly, I still have a lot to learn but at least it’s an option for me.

I can understand why heritage or old buildings have their accessible entrances at the back but there is no excuse for “newer” stuff – we shouldn’t be considered as second-class citizens (even when it’s not intentional).  It disturbs me when toilet doors are too heavy or they swing towards (or the space is too cramped for) our mobility devices – even if they don’t have personal experience with this, they should be made aware and conscious of these constraints.  Don’t get me started on physical environs that do not a disability toilet (or lavatories that are accessible) – rails allow us to use the facilities independently.  Some even use it because it’s more “spacious” when they don’t really need to – never mind some people with disabilities find it hard to hold it.  Toilets generally “smell” because people prefer to use it when they have to do a No. 2 instead of the standard allocated cubicle.  Moreover, some non-disabled users have the audacity to be upset when you enter (because they don’t know how to lock it) or are surprised when they encounter you patiently waiting for them to finish. Having a child of my own, I understand when parents accompany their kids when family rooms are not present.  It’s people that feel they are more important than the rest and who shouldn’t be made to wait their turn that gets my goat.

Where I’m originally from (I’m not aware of the law now but I doubt, it’s changed), an elevator was only required if there were at least five floors (I’m told that’s why our school building was only built with four).  I can manage stairs if my hands can “reasonably” hold onto the rails (it just takes me awhile and some effort) – what about most?  Are they excluded from these?

Some ramps have a “steep” incline (assuming one is in a wheelchair being pushed) – what about those who choose to propel themselves or ambulate independently?  It can not be simply for compliance sake but the spirit of is just as important as the letter of the law.  It should be because of compassion not coercion by government or regulatory bodies.

I’m not a fan of people who take disabled parking spots (when they clearly don’t need it) for the sake of convenience or because it’s nearer to the entrance (I’ve even seen one parked perpendicular occupying two slots).  They don’t want to walk “that far” – screw (pardon my language) the patrons that can’t walk.  It’s this type of insensitivity that can lead to resentment.

This is by no means an exhaustive list but one informed by my own negative experiences. Some people are just ignorant or not sufficiently exposed to the “everyday” plight of persons living with disabilities.  Our purpose should not to shame or guilt (tempting as it is given the number of a**holes) but to educate the public.

I am not an activist, by nature, (I like to think of myself as more of an advocate) but I can understand why so many rail against the traditional view of the medical or deficit model of disability.  Where I’m from, many with impairments are not educated and are kept home-bound (to spare stigma to the rest of the family in the guise of providing comfort).  Not surprisingly, I am a supporter of the social model: after all, disability is a construct or consequence of a society.  This is more pronounced as we shift from being a highly industrialised to an information-based economy. While physically we may not be the ideal, there are other ways we can contribute  – accommodations are typical but how things are designed in the first place can maximise our value-adding potential.  Trite as it may sound but the focus should be on ability and not disability.  I wonder how Darwin would have documented this evolution of species.

patience (is a virtue)

November 29, 2016

we are born with two ears and one mouth – having difficulties speaking has led me to listen more (but that deserves another entry of its own).  Common practice dictates that you should hold off for 24 hours on sending an emotionally (or alcoholic) induced e-mail, text or tweet (much like counting down from 10 or taking long, deep breaths can aid in dissipating excess emotion). If you still think it’s appropriate later on then go for it – I guess making it difficult to type has its perks and writing a post over a few days helps me to reflect and reevaluate more.  Despite my Vulcan-like demeanor, I exhibit more human behavior now. If I still really feel strongly about something, I can blog about it.  That said, my words need to be tempered by the saying: “it’s easier to condemn than to convince.”  Sure, sometimes it’s hubris but at times it’s simply therapy, expression or observation.  This is not a “manifesto” to abstain from commentary, it’s just one should be able to distinguish what one’s true purpose is.  Having a combination of these factors is not necessarily a bad thing:  it’s being conscious of what’s subjective versus objectivity that’s important.  Intentions (and motivations) need to be transparent.

A “wise” editor once told me that everything is political and that being apolitical is a political choice.  I’ve since embraced this tenet – after all, our thinking is not only a function of our genes but also of our experiences.  Sometimes it can look like I’m fence-sitting when I just don’t have enough facts or am considering the nuances – the devil is in the details after all.  The question I ask is how, if at all, does this affect me or my family?  Sure, I’ve got opinions about many things but does it really matter in the grand scheme of thing or is the motivation so that I feel better.

I used to think that it was “simply” a matter of quality over quantity.  But to paraphrase the Pulitzer-prize author, Jennifer Egan, one needs to write regularly, even badly at times, to be able to ultimately write well.  In this vein, I pour my writing into one document – not everything makes it to be published under my blog; not everything is meant to be shared with the rest of the world (some are best left as “inner” dialogue – look at the trouble Homer’s gotten into throughout the years).   That said, perfect can be the enemy of good so it can also be helpful to get something out there and not “oversanitise” or self-censor everything.  From experience, some comments can be constructively critical and useful for refining your thoughts and others you need to consider with a grain of salt (public spaces can be a great boon but also a huge bane at the same time – wisdom of the crowd vs. trolls and haters).

brave, new world

November 13, 2016

it’s quite “easy” to be an armchair quarterback and we can offer analyses until we’re blue in the face. Most people are obsessed with the wedding and not the marriage – sure I can be “calmer” as I don’t live in America but it also has repercussions for the rest of the world.  The reality is that the US election went as it did – I’m now more focused on the First 100 Days of the presidency as a harbinger.  The real question is what now?

America looking more inwards is an opportunity for the rest of the world.  Sure it will be difficult but, in my opinion, it’s not really fair of us to expect them to be the world’s “policeman” (despite in the past assuming and cherishing that role).  Maybe it’s time for us to say thank you and wean ourselves from our dependence.  We should accept whatever help they offer but not expect it – it’s neither their duty nor responsibility.  Instead of looking externally to save us, we should also look to ourselves to alleviate misery:  sure a helping hand would be great and much appreciated but what would it do for our “pride” if we can participate in the “solution”.

Many of us confuse the “idea” of America for the country – in my dealings US citizens aren’t the government and it’s not right to think they’re interchangeable.  They should be viewed as an “exemplar” and not a “savior” despite recent history.  Why do we continue to pin our hopes on a single country and not more appropriately on a consortium of nations?  Sure, we can’t discount leadership but should it only always come from one source? In my mind, we depend too much on someone else to solve all of our “problems.”

You’d think that after the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, the markets would factor in all eventualities but they crashed nonetheless.  It’s this type of fingers-in-the-ears and hopeful thinking that contributes to the growing disdain for globalisation and interconnectedness.

As David Brooks rightly points out: there’s a rise of “ethnic nationalism” worldwide partly due to “elitist condescension”. We need to stop making others feel stupid to show off our intellect or schooling.  It shouldn’t be about telling people what to think but enabling others to think for themselves.  It’s not always about being “right” and sanctimonious about it.  Case in point, it’s not that political correctness per se is wrong but it’s the shoving down other people’s throat while acting smugly that leaves such a bitter taste in the mouth for some.  We can learn a lot about human psychology.

My supervisor once taught me the phrase: “Local maxima, global minima”.  It’s unrealistic to rely on altruism when self-interest is hard-wired in our DNA.  Sure there will be some where character and principles will override baser instincts but they are few and far in-between.  Why are we even surprised when most people don’t act as we expect?  Admittedly, I’m occasionally guilty of this optimism – I’m just more conscious of it now.  Not to be one of those but I think we need to review how we educate our young: just basic literacy and numeracy are no longer sufficient.

Like Dr. King said: “The arc of history is long”; but one has to wonder: is this merely a hiccup in “experiment” of America or the beginning of the end of the project?

rock the vote

September 24, 2015

i am desperately trying to make sense of Philippine politics.   I’m certainly realistic enough to know that a single blog post won’t bring me full enlightenment but, instead, is an attempt to begin to make some sense of it.

In an archipelago of 7,100 islands, name recall is quite understandable (not that it’s an excuse) given the reach of radio. Political dynasties were partly enabled by it: after all, you’re more likely to vote for someone with a familiar last name rather than one you don’t know. Hopefully, the pervasiveness of cell phones and social media can provide a “dent” towards this as more information about the candidates becomes accessible. Granted, as was noted in the American President, you can bring a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

Another reason for the persistence of these political families is the wealth that they hold. They can afford more media buys and we can easily mistake this with free speech – this is a little more obvious in a developing nation. While voters have learned to accept the cash and then just vote for whatever candidate they choose. I suspect (although I don’t have proof) some of them are now resorting to other forms of shenanigans. Being richer doesn’t necessarily make you fit to rule nor does it help you to determine what’s beneficial to the community – winning an economic lottery doesn’t make you “better” than anyone else. After all, as my former advisor taught me: “Local maxima, global minima.” We are all prone to self-interest and What’s In It For Me (WIIFM) thinking.

I can understand why some voters have taken an anti-intellectual stand. Attitude is just, if not more, important than aptitude. “Evil” geniuses exist after all. The majority of the population has been burned by these “bright boys” in the past so it would make perfect sense to elect someone with similar sensibilities. What they sometimes don’t realise is that some candidates merely pretend to come from the same background or have their backs – when in reality it’s their own wellbeing that’s their priority. I don’t think this a solution either – is holding out for Plato’s philosopher-king a pipe dream for the country.

That said, I think there is too much reliance on an individual messiah: perhaps a by-product of religion and Western colonialism. It is much easier to hope that someone else is responsible for making your or your family’s lives better. I can not blame the population from thinking that way – their own life experiences point to that reality. I believe it is the existing social structures that make it so – the Philippine’s has a high power distance culture according to Hofstede’s work. While solutions may not come easy, I think a better understanding of the situation is required for possible remedies. We should be able to tap into the wisdom of the crowds. Granted, statistically speaking, there is no way to increase the size of the upper echelon, it is improving the awareness of those in the “middle” that is more important and may have greater flow-on effects for the nation – it is unlikely that we can directly produce “great” individuals, it is merely providing the conditions for more of them to flourish. It is the dependence on the few to raise us from poverty that is not completely scalable, in my mind.

Electronic Voting Machines can still be hacked – sure just not by anyone. Ballot tampering is now harder and requires a special skill set so it is presumptuous to think it is always a true and accurate reflection of the voice of the people. Sure it is a step in the right direction but it is foolish to assume it is a silver bullet. Has anyone even looked into the value-for-money thing since it’s a developing economy after all? Or is someone simply the beneficiary of a lucrative government contract. There is nothing inherently wrong with turning a profit – it is when it is at the expense of others when questions arise. What about Filipinos overseas?